Book Reviews: June 2019

I finally got back into the swing of reading in June, thanks to having nothing on my calendar! May was weirdly busy so it was nice to be able to just get some stuff off my to-do list and chill in the evenings.

Very minor spoilers are in the reviews below.

My eight June books were:

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

  • The Chronicles of Narnia #1-7 by C.S. Lewis


DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? BY PHILIP K. DICK

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a classic in the sci-fi world. Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, is on the hunt for androids - who look just like humans - that are determined to survive.

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Androids is always on those “must read sci-fi” lists, which is why I picked it up, but somehow I’ve managed to avoid spoilers so I went into it with no expectations. (I also watched Blade Runner for the very first time after reading it, so the movie never spoiled it for me either.) I think this is the type of book that was mind-blowing years ago but after watching shows like West World and Altered Carbon first, I’ve become a bit immune to the human/robot thing.

The part where it seems like the androids might have captured Deckard (at the police station) was my favorite part. It was the most tense action sequence in a book meant to be more thought-provoking.

There were a lot of threads that seemed to be left hanging - or not so much hanging, but I expected to go deeper into them. The emotion changing machines, Mercerism, and fake animals were all the focus at some point but then it would jump to the next thing and I felt slightly unsatisfied. By the end I was a bit confused on whether that empathy test was any good, but that’s okay because it seems like I was supposed to feel that way.

Once I finished it, I realized I adore the title. It’s kinda brilliant how well it sums up the themes. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? might be my favorite book title of all time. I recommend for all the sci-fi lovers of the world.

Rating: 3/5


THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (#1-7) BY C.S. LEWIS

I’ve read all the Narnia books several times before, but it’s been years and I wanted to get into something mindless and entertaining. The books in my set are all about 200 pages; each one took me a day or so to get through depending on my mood.

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I prefer reading these in chronological order, not publishing order, because that’s how I read them the first time I went through the series. The numbers I reference will be chronological.

Narnia used to be one of my favorite series. I still love it, and I respect the Christian themes Lewis incorporated into these novels but I prefer books #3-6 now because he’s wayyyyy more subtle about religion than he is in #1, #2, and #7. As a kid, I didn’t really notice it as much but as an adult it’s a bit heavy handed to read; #1 is creation, #2 is Jesus and the resurrection, and #7 is end times and Armageddon. The middle four are just adventures with Aslan popping up here and there so you get more of the fantasy and less preaching. Narnia truly is a gem in children’s fantasy literature, so it’s probably unfair of me to even say this because Christianity is the overarching theme and Narnia wouldn’t be the same without it.

A quick note about each one is below.

#1) The Magician’s Nephew is the Narnia creation story, and I like the backstory of the Witch and the wardrobe. You even learn about the lantern here. Uncle Andrew is a giant dick.

#2) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the most well-known of the series but it’s not my personal favorite. The chapters when all four kids first enter Narnia are absolutely wonderful, though.

#3) The Horse and His Boy is my favorite in the series as far as plot goes; I love the runaway story and Aravis but I was turned off by how Lewis represented the Calormen. Hwin is the real MVP.

#4) Prince Caspian has all four Pevensie children back again, and I kinda prefer this part of their adventure. They’re legends and slowly start to act like it and Caspian is tied with Lucy for my favorite human character. (Bringing up West World again…I did NOT realize that Ben Barnes was Caspian until I looked up clips from the movie after this re-read. He’s so hot as Caspian but Logan sucks.)

#5) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has a million little adventures in one story, making this one the most fun to read. Reepicheep and Eustace bonding makes me smile.

#6) The Silver Chair has Puddleglum and he might be my favorite Narnian character of all. Bism and the Underworld are pretty fascinating, too. Maybe we’ll get to see more of that if we ever get a Narnia TV series.

#7) The Last Battle is the worst book in the series, in my opinion. At least there’s a unicorn.

Overall this series is lovely, it’s a classic for a reason. But I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up two things I’d noticed reading as an adult.

First off, the Calormen. Their whole portrayal is pretty racist. In the entire series there are only two “good” Calormen - Aravis and the soldier in #7. They’re the dark, devil-worshipping bad guys. The Calormen wiki page says that the name probably came from the Latin word “calor” for heat and they live in the desert so I’ll give Lewis a pass there. (Instead of them just being a letter off from “colormen.”) But name aside, it’s bad. In #7, the main group of characters literally use black face to disguise themselves.

Secondly, I have issues with how Susan ended up. Apparently kids were worried about Susan and Lewis wrote letters back in the day telling them she would (likely) eventually reach Narnia heaven on her own, but let’s focus on what’s actually in book #7. I don’t have a problem with her being excluded IF the only reason had been her pretending Narnia wasn’t real. She did that, and was rude to her siblings about it. Okay, that’s fine. She’s in denial, so she doesn’t get to visit. BUT! BUT! All her siblings and the other non-Narnian humans also look down on her because she’s interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations.” Is this some mild slut shaming from Lewis? Vanity is not a great thing, but Susan sounds like a completely normal teenager to me. She’s one of the four great heroes of Narnia and she was an adult there - so why can’t she enjoy adult things in England too? And after all that, HER ENTIRE FAMILY DIES IN A TRAIN CRASH AND SHE’S ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD! But fake Aslan somehow makes it to Narnia heaven, so apparently everything is fine.

Honestly I think the above things simply come from the fact that they were written by a white, religious man in the 1950’s. At least this is a sign society is (slowly) progressing. I hate book #7, but the other six are lovely, cleverly written stories that will stand the test of time.

Ratings: 4, 4, 3.5, 5, 5, 5, and 1 star respectively.

Book Reviews: May 2019

This is the second month of 2019 where I only read one book. (!!!!!) I spent ten days traveling in Virginia and a Parks & Rec rewatch took up my free time when I was home.

My one May book was:

  • A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A PRINCESS IN THEORY BY ALYSSA COLE

A Princess in Theory is a modern day romance that follows Naledi Smith, a grad student and waitress, as she struggles to balance her job with her desire to grow in her career. Unbeknownst to her, her new coworker is actually Prince Thabiso - and they have a history that she doesn’t remember.

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I don’t read many romance novels. This one was put on my radar several months back when I was listening to a podcast and the host was raving about it, plus I’m trying to make sure I read plenty of books by POC authors this year. I was curious about the last time that I read a true romance novel, so I went back through my Goodreads. All I could find for the past two years were Eleanor & Park, Crazy Rich Asians, and Outlander. (Ironically, all of those I rated 2.5 or 3 and rounded to 3 on Goodreads if needed. That appears to be the highest rating I give romance.)

Even though it’s not my usual genre, I did enjoy it. It’s basically The Princess Diaries meets Wakanda. It’s also pretty contemporary, with phrases like “his eggplant emoji” sprinkled throughout. The main thing that kept me from rating too highly was that I could sense every plot point from five chapters away, but I liked Ledi’s character enough that I didn’t mind too much. She was the reason this romance worked for me.

Thabiso was a bit unlikeable at first, but that quickly changed and he turned into The Perfect Man. I was fine with that, because it quickly became clear that Ledi’s personal growth was the focus. The best moments were Ledi opening up to Thabiso, setting boundaries with Portia, and shutting down Brian who was the actual worst.

I recommend A Princess in Theory for those who enjoy contemporary romance. Since I’m more of a fantasy/scifi girl, this is the type of story I prefer to just see the movie of instead. Netflix, please pick this up.

Rating: 3/5

Book Reviews: April 2019

I’ve only got two books to discuss for April since a lot of my mental energy went to the first half of GOT Season 8. (I’ll share my thoughts on that later…maybe…) I’ve also been in one of those “I don’t even know what I want to read” moods for about two months now, so at the beginning of April I did an Insta story asking for recommendations. I’m on the library waitlist for all of those so hopefully that gets me fully back in reading mode.

Both of the following reviews are a bit spoiler-y, but nothing that should ruin the book for you.

  • I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

  • Lost Stars by Claudia Gray


I CAN’T DATE JESUS BY MICHAEL ARCENEAUX

I Can’t Date Jesus is a collection of essays by Arceneaux that describe his journey as a gay black man and his relationship with family, other men, and the religion he grew up in. The title is originally what grabbed my attention.

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I am neither gay, a man, or black, so much of this book I couldn’t understand personally. But that’s why I’m glad I read it, because Arceneaux was very open with his experiences.

My favorite part was the beginning where he focused on his relationship with religion. I grew up Baptist, not Catholic, but I found myself nodding along with a lot of it. Honestly the only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read was that all of the dating stories got a bit redundant. In the 40-80% section of the book, each story seemed a lot like the one before and I started to lose track of names. Each chapter was still pretty funny overall.

Arceneaux did get political at times, but not often, and I didn’t mind at all because I share his more liberal beliefs. I also really appreciated his honesty about his relationship with his parents; even if you have the most wonderful parents in the universe there are still going to be moments of strife that are hard to talk about. Arceneaux didn’t hold back, and the end of the book focused a lot on their current relationship (and their reaction to his coming out) and it had a positive tone that I found encouraging.

Now to share some quotes:

“How can you be obedient to dogma you’ve found oppressive? How can you cling to tradition and exalt a vision of God that minimizes you and expects you to suppress what is innate to you? Is it not an exercise in futility to place your faith in a belief system that doesn’t completely believe in you?” (Arceneaux is, of course, referring to being gay, but as a woman who grew up constantly hearing “the man is the head of the house/women can’t speak in church/women must be modest so they don’t tempt men” this really resonated with me. Just to be clear - I’ve mentioned this in reviews before - but I no longer relate to the denomination I grew up in.)

“It sounds like you’re waiting to die to live. You can have a bit of heaven now before life here ends.” (Said by Arceneaux to his mom.)

“When I rejected the religion I was raised in, I struggled, because I didn’t formulate any other belief system. That is no longer the case. I do believe in a God, but more than anything, I believe in me.”

Rating: 3.5/5 (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)



LOST STARS BY CLAUDIA GRAY

Lost Stars follows Ciena and Thane, two Imperial recruits, as they finish their training and begin serving the Empire.

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This is only my third novel in the new Star Wars canon, the first two being the Thrawn books. I’m used to Star Wars media that focuses on the core characters, but I enjoyed being introduced to totally new people and planets in Lost Stars.

My main complaint about this book was that it relied too heavily on the events of the original Star Wars trilogy. So many chapters were just a rehash of the OT movies with a slightly different perspective from Ciena and Thane, but at least characters such as Luke and Leia were only mentioned in passing. Vader was also mentioned which I liked, he was mysterious and properly evil here. One minor dislike was that there were a lot of phrases that felt out of place: “hang out,” “badass,” “dumb-ass,” etc. It just doesn’t feel very Star Wars-y when those words are used. Also, is “tenday” suddenly a way the SW universe measures time?

The strongest parts of the book were about the Imperial Academy training and how Ciena and Thane survived after the Battle of Endor. I liked Thane’s evolution the best, from his time in the academy to his Rebel recruitment to becoming a genuine believer in his new cause. After Endor, I had some sympathy for Ciena (who stayed with the Empire throughout the book) because her worldview from this earlier quote had been shaken:

“Nobody ever knows the whole truth. That’s why promises mean something. Otherwise they’d be too easy, don’t you see? We look forward to the unknown future and promise to be faithful no matter what comes.”

I didn’t have too much sympathy, because she should have figured out sooner what the Empire was, but her progression helped show how so many people could have supported Palpatine. I was rooting for her and Thane to have a happy ending, and Gray did leave room for a follow-up novel so maybe we’ll see what happens to the couple. I’d happily read the sequel.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)

Book Reviews: March 2019

March wasn’t a very active reading month for me. There were almost two weeks in between finishing the last 400 pages of Oathbringer and picking up another book. Sanderson always puts me in a reading slump, plus I started my millionth Game of Thrones rewatch to prep for Season 8 (!!!!) so that took up most of my free time. Everything I read after Oathbringer was quick to get through.

All reviews (especially Oathbringer) have spoilers - you have been warned.

  • Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives #3) by Brandon Sanderson

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  • Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series by Charles Soule

OATHBRINGER (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES #3) BY BRANDON SANDERSON

Oathbringer is the third installment of Brandon Sanderson’s ten book Stormlight Archive series. After finishing #3, I am very grateful I read the Edgedancer novella (#2.5) first. It’s not necessary, but I highly recommend reading in that order.

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I’m honestly not sure what to say about this series at this point. It’s quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Oathbringer focused on Dalinar’s backstory; which I loved, and I’m glad we got it in book #3 because it made “You cannot have my pain!” so powerful. It wouldn’t have been such a strong ending without knowing all Dalinar had suffered - but more importantly, all the suffering that he had caused.

I liked the humor in this installment. Kaladin worrying about Syl hanging around whenever he eventually got a girlfriend and he had sex, Pattern’s “No mating!”, and every single scene Lift was in were all really funny. I generally read with a resting bitch face, so if I crack a smile when reading that’s equivalent to actually lol-ing in real life. I smiled a lot.

Sanderson has got to the point where he writes mental illnesses very, very well, while at the same time managing to keep his character’s illnesses from being their one defining trait. Depression and alcoholism are prominent, but the one that was most interesting to me was Shallan’s issue. Dissociative identity disorder is probably the best term, but the most intriguing part is how it fits into the world building. Are all of Shallan’s order members like her? Is it really a “disorder” thanks to her upbringing, or is that just what happens to Lightweavers? Who is she, really? And most importantly - is she really worthy of precious Adolin?

Stormlight Archives is just…everything. I’m all caught up now and I’m dreading the long wait until book #4, but I trust Sanderson. Even though I’ve been emotionally damaged by other authors (cough GRRM), I have complete faith that Sanderson will see this through.

And for fun, a few quotes I thought worthy of marking:

“Hesina clutched her infant child in her arms, and her expression was one of pure delight, an awespren bursting around her head in a blue ring.”

-Page 90 (Y’all I cried at this moment.)


“Would you defend them, after what they did to you?”

“They’re my people.”

“That’s no excuse. If one of ‘your people’ murders another, don’t you put them in prison? What is a just punishment for enslaving my entire race?”

-Page 314 (Just to note if you’re reading this and haven’t read the series, “race” here isn’t referring to black or white humans. The speaker is non-human. Sanderson does a great job of making his story’s moral issues reflect the real world.)


“They will try,” Jasnah said, “to define you by something you are not. Don’t let them.”

-Page 401


“Relax, grandpa. Steal the rock. I can do that.”

-Page 1109

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

ELEANOR & PARK BY RAINBOW ROWELL

I won Eleanor & Park in a Goodreads giveaway a couple years ago and figured it was high time I started it. After my Oathbringer reading slump, I didn’t want anything mentally taxing.

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Eleanor & Park started out promising but about one third of the way into the book I lost interest. Every interaction between the two characters seemed the exact same. They never really progressed beyond “I have a crush and it’s exciting.” There were a few cute moments I loved, like the two sharing comics on the bus and excitement over their first phone call.

Some things weren’t addressed fully. Was Tina the one who flushed Eleanor’s clothes? It was never really confirmed. I guessed who was the writer of the creepy textbook notes about halfway through, and although those came into play at the very end they felt underutilized in 90% of the story. I thought that dynamic with the stepdad could’ve made the story better if it had been fleshed out just a bit more. Park being Asian was something else I had high hopes for but it would only be mentioned quickly and the characters would move on. I like reading about mixed race relationships, being in one myself, so I wanted more.

I hesitate to say “do not ever read this” because I know some people really like YA. I tend to like YA better if it has a fantasy or dystopian element to it; I think I just need to give up completely on contemporary YA. It does nothing for me, unless it’s something like The Hate U Give which I thought was great - T.H.U.G had a purpose and excelled at it. But if you like the YA genre overall and romance you’ll probably like Eleanor & Park better than I did.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)

DARTH VADER: DARK LORD OF THE SITH BY CHARLES SOULE

This is a different comic series than the one I reviewed previously. That series (Darth Vader) takes place between Episodes IV and V, while this one (Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith) takes place right after Episode III. Yeah, the names are confusing. I chose to buy Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith in the paperback volume version, so that I don’t get it confused with the other, which I bought in single issues.

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I’ve only read the two Vader series, but I’m enjoying the new canon comics so far. They add a lot to the Star Wars universe and my man Vader is a badass in them.

My biggest complaint about this series is the artwork in Volume 1. It was very cartoon-y, almost a bit childlike. I mean, I know these are comics, but the art in the other series was wonderfully dark. Thankfully, Volumes 2-4 had a different illustrator and I was very happy with the change.

My favorite Volume was 4, because Vader’s fortress is just so evil and sinister; I loved getting the backstory on how he got it. The possessed Sith helmet was also an interesting idea that I liked a lot as a plot device as I was reading, BUT I’m THRILLED about it now that the Episode IX trailer has been released. Maybe that laugh we heard at the end of the trailer will come to us in a similar way? *chills*

Rating: 4 of 5 stars for Volumes 1 & 2, 5 of 5 stars for Volumes 3 & 4