Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Girl in Snow

(Caidyn)

DNF at 15%
1/5

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster.

My personal rule is to stop reading a book I don’t like at 15% if I’m not sure about it. This book was no different for me.

While the writing was purely gorgeous and I think that the characters were interesting, I couldn’t stomach the way it was told. Three POVs that may or may not link together — I’ll never be sure if they do and that’s fine by me — and span from Cameron, a boy obsessed with the murder victim; Jade, a girl who is just an angry teenager; and Russ, a police officer assigned to the case.

I found none of them interesting. Cameron was, admittedly, the most interesting. He was a stalker and the biggest candidate for being the murderer. He also just struck me wrong. I don’t care that he’s watching people? Just stop it. Jade annoyed me the most. Holy hell. Just picture a model from Hot Topic and the attitude you had as a teen and that’s her character. That’s it. I didn’t care to find out whatever backstory she had with some guy involved with the murder victim. Russ… I don’t know. I don’t care.

Writing good, story not interesting. It struck me as YA when it was definitely not YA thanks to mentions of sex. (Also… why all the sex? Pointless to the development of the story.) This seemed more like a character study of uninteresting people framed around the drama of a murder investigation without feeling any shred of suspense about who the killer was.

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6)

(Caidyn)

4.5/5

It’s no secret that I love Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. It’s fantastic and it’s even better that I don’t technically have to remember the last book in the series since they’re all separate. Great for me and my brain that forgets series quicker than I’d like to admit.

Like everyone else who’s reviewed this book, it focuses on Antoinette Conway who was introduced during the last book. She’s partnered with Steve Moran, the focus of the last book. They get thrown a case, seems an open and shut one. A simple murder of Aislinn, a pretty girl, probably done by her boyfriend that she was preparing to have over. Then, the plot deepens when Lucy, Aislinn’s friend, tells them she was involved with a married man.

From there, it tackles a topic that’s been in the news quite a lot. And, sadly, I can’t get into it since it’s a bit of a spoiler for later things, but it’s a constant thread throughout the whole book. Or the threat of it being a thing.

This wasn’t French’s best book by any means. I found it boring and, sometimes, annoying. There wasn’t a lot that happened and I found Antoinette pretty annoying. She constantly had her guard up, making me wonder what had happened to make her view the world so badly. The case was interesting but slow moving. Antoinette’s mistrust ran so deep that I wanted to know why she was like this. However, it wasn’t adequately explained for my liking and there wasn’t a proper wrap up to the case. Much like real life, but I wanted more.

Other than that…. I just want the next book. I want to know who it’s going to focus on since there are a couple of people it could be about. Even though this wasn’t her best, it’s still good and I want to know what’s the next chapter for this series.

Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death by Adrian Owen

Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death

(Caidyn)

4/5

The gray zone. A thing that no one has really heard of but everyone would know once they hear me say “vegetative state”. That’s what the gray zone is. People who are somewhat responsive or completely non-responsive to the world around them. It’s something most people are familiar with, the topic that sparks so many debates about the right to life or the right to die with dignity. It’s a really hot topic.

Adrian Owen is a neuroscientist whose research focuses on the people in the gray zone. Mainly, his research focuses on how to bring people out and how to know whether people are conscious of what’s going around. It’s a huge topic. Do these people know what’s going on or are they completely gone? Dr. Owen takes this topic, his whole life’s research, and tries to condense it into something that’s understandable.

The only experience I have with consciousness is a very short lecture that a classmate did for an honor’s project in my behavioral neuroscience course. Everything went above my head. Consciousness is a difficult concept since it takes multiple forms. We can be aware of our surroundings, but we may not understand ourselves or be able to introspect. Emotions may not show consciousness since dogs show emotions, yet do they have the power to introspect or form complex mental maps of words, topics, or relationships.

Dr. Owen explains all things related to consciousness perfectly. He makes it easy despite having the ability to go way above everyone’s heads to reach academics who, like him, spend their lives researching it. He’s come into contact with doctors, psychologists, fellow neuroscientists, and philosophers.

This conversation has touched most people in some way. Having to make a choice about a relative or a friend doing the same. Debating something like this in a class. However, this book gives a very unique spin on it by looking at his research that examined people who came out of the gray zone and recovered their abilities.

While this book is definitely specialized and I read it because I find psychological topics fascinating — and I’m half tempted to suggest it to my advisor since he loves biological psychology — it’s incredibly accessible. You don’t have to have any past knowledge on this to enjoy it.

Finding the Lost Art of Empathy: Connecting Human to Human in a Disconnected World by Tracy Wilde

Finding the Lost Art of Empathy: Connecting Human to Human in a Disconnected World

(Caidyn)

2.5/5

I got this book from my library on impulse. It sounds interesting and it’s sort of framed like a self-help book from the title. I’m all for empathy, too. I could care less about sympathy, although it has its places, but empathy is where it’s at. For those you don’t know, empathy is the whole “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. It can either be feeling that emotion with them (affective empathy) or you can identify what they feel without joining in (cognitive empathy).

However, let me tell you this. Because this was my biggest problem with the book. They did not advertise it for what this book is. They don’t put anywhere that this is a Christian book. I had to read the description on Goodreads to find out that this is written by a pastor. I don’t have a problem with books targeted specifically for Christians. What I have a problem with is not saying that it is. Because it assumes that everyone reading this is a Christian and believes in God and Jesus and all of that. Hell, even my Catholic university doesn’t do that. Most of the population is Catholic or at least Christian, but they don’t assume everyone is.

If you aren’t Christian or don’t believe in the Bible, this book will not help you. Everything she frames is all put around Jesus’ works. Now, I believe that Jesus was a great person and that he was revolutionary with his teachings when you look at ancient Judaic practices. I love Jesus, quite honestly. However, I don’t believe that he was specifically the Son of God or that he’s our savior or anything like that.

But, Wilde kept going on and on about him saving us through empathy and his last moments were full of empathy and all of that. It’s very Christian when she could have left that out. She also could have brought in other religious viewpoints or pointed out the similarities in religions. She didn’t. And without putting on the cover or in the subtitle, you wouldn’t know that it’s Christian unless you read it like I did and suddenly discover a whole lot of God being talked about.

It also felt very aimed towards women since all of her examples were focused on women as if men don’t need help with empathy and connecting. Again, it’s leaving out a huge target base. I don’t think that was purposeful, but it annoyed me even more.

There are some good take away points from this book, but it was marred by theological talk since she assumed a Christian audience that she was comfortable with.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology

(Caidyn)

5/5

So, this is my second time reading it. You can find my full review for it here, which includes full reviews for every story in the book. I decided to just indulge myself and listen to it since I knew that Neil Gaiman would be reading it. Let me tell you, if you haven’t listened to Neil Gaiman narrate his own work, then you haven’t lived. Not only is he a natural storyteller in general, he’s an amazing narrator. You can’t imagine how great it is since he goes all in with accents and voices. It’s fantastic.

Since I’ve already done a full review of this book elsewhere, I’m not going to bore you with the details of every single story in it. Just after my second read, I’ve decided which stories are my favorite to read.

The funniest story is Freya’s Unusual Wedding. It’s a very unusual wedding since no one gets married and, least of all, Freya doesn’t get married in it. I mean, what’s that? What a wrong title. But, seriously, it’s hilarious. I always have to cut myself back on laughing so I don’t look even more like a weirdo than I already do.

The saddest story is The Children of Loki. You might be wondering why if you haven’t heard it. Technically, it’s just a story to show what Loki can create, the chaos and mischief that gets passed onto his children. Doesn’t mean it’s sad. However, one of his children’s stories is sad and gets to me each time. It makes me hate the gods for what they did.

The most poignant story is Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods. It’s trippy like Revelation in the Bible (which I’m 100% convinced they wrote while high on acid) yet it ends with a beautiful point about how the world keeps turning. Worlds die. Civilizations crumble. Yet the world keeps going. Time continues moving.

The story that shows Loki being Loki best is The Treasures of the Gods. Another good mention is The Master Builder. Basically, every story shows something with Loki since I have a feeling Gaiman loves him, but those two stories really show him at his best/worst… depending on how you look at it.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

cover-for-queens-of-geek-by-jen-wilde

“Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe everyone is just as on edge as I am. Maybe they just know how to hide it better – not just from others, but from themselves.” (204)


(Chantel)

Edit 07/11/17: I completely failed to mention that Caidyn bought this for me as a birthday gift, and as a friend and blog partner he knows me well. 

5/5 – I fell in love with this book immediately. This is a novel about three best friends from Australia who go to SupaCon (think Comic-Con), which feature two different perspectives and two love stories. Charlie is a Chinese-Australian YouTuber who is an up- and-coming actress and is openly bisexual. Taylor is her best friend accompanying her and she is plus sized, autistic, and has anxiety. There is so much representation in this book and I even think that Jamie, the third character in this best friend trio is Hispanic but there’s only a slight hint to it. That doesn’t even include Charlie’s love interest Alyssa who is black. Some might disagree, but the overwhelming amount of representation didn’t feel forced. These felt like normal people to me and I could absolutely relate to some of the things both Charlie and Taylor were going through in the book.

There is so much representation in this book and I even think that Jamie, the third character in this best friend trio is Hispanic but there’s only a slight hint to it. That doesn’t even include Charlie’s love interest Alyssa who is black. Some might disagree, but the overwhelming amount of representation didn’t feel forced. These felt like normal people to me and I could absolutely relate to some of the things both Charlie and Taylor were going through in the book.

This book was written for someone like me. By that I mean, I’m a pop culture fanatic and I’m a huge fangirl, just in the last year alone I went to two comic-cons in my hometown and I’m going to another this year. I love the fandom culture and I felt like a convention was the perfect setting for a book.

I also love queer books as has been made clear several times on the blog and in the books, I review, but I felt like this book was more than just “a queer book”. I absolutely think queer characters are important, but the fact that one of the main characters is bisexual isn’t a huge deal. It’s just part of who she is. It was way more about fandom than anything. That being said, I was a sucker for both romances. The building romance between Taylor and Jamie was adorable. Whereas, Charlie and Alyssa’s romance was heated.

Back when I reviewed Every Heart a Doorway, I talked about how important representation was, especially when it’s done right, and how I’d forgotten that. This book just hit that home even more.

I definitely related to Taylor’s social anxiety and conventions are places that have large crowds. That’s overwhelming sometimes and exhausting to navigate. This felt very authentic and that’s because this is own voices when it comes to bisexual, anxiety, and autistic representation. I felt like it was handled very well.

This book tackles issues like biphobia, anxiety, autism, self-esteem, and body image but overall, I felt this was a feel-good book and I haven’t been so happy reading a book all year. It’s not perfect, some might say it’s cheesy or predictable, some of the plot points were too convenient, but I wasn’t concerned with this book’s plot. It was about the characters and how I related to them. This was a very personal book for me.

Close Her Eyes by Dorothy Simpson

Close Her Eyes

(Caidyn)

3.5/5

After such a promising start of a very religious man’s daughter going missing, then being found dead, it slowly went downhill. There were times when I wasn’t able to follow what had happened in the past pages or there were things that were stated that didn’t connect for me.

I think that’s because I had just come back from vacation when I started reading this. A vacation when I got up at 4AM to get a bus to the airport and I was exhausted since I got no sleep. So, having concentration wasn’t my key thing. It was interesting and I still really loved the characters. Thanet is great and since this is the fourth book in the series, I know that I missed some stuff since his wife is suddenly studying to be a nurse and Lineham’s married with a kid on the way. So that messed with me because things changed that I hadn’t expected. My own fault since I should have just gone for the second book in the series.

However, the tone was still the same. Everything was logically laid out and it made sense when it came down to it. I had hedged my bets on someone else so I was wrong when it came down to the killer. But, for anyone who is triggered by the following things or doesn’t like reading about child molestation, statutory rape, and uber religious family abuse, be warned. It’s not really described, but there are mentions of it that could be a problem.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

(Caidyn)

4/5

I don’t talk much about my job. And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with food. My friends hear me rant about my work but I won’t get into that today. Where I work, I can listen to audiobooks. That’s how I get so much reading done. For about seven hours a day, I listen to books. This one was no different. I had to watch a Ted Talk of hers for a class I’m taking this summer and I finally decided to take the plunge. Knowing that I don’t have a lot of time, I went for an audiobook and this was the only downloadable one my library had.

The second point about my job: We’re very food oriented. I don’t work in the food business, but we have a full functioning kitchen. Fridge, two microwaves, sink with maybe a garbage disposal, dishwasher, bread maker, panini press, and I think a portable stove for when we need that since we don’t have it. Oh, and we often have potlucks and all that.

This was probably the worst choice to listen to. I had to eat or else people would find it weird, yet I was nauseous/uncomfortably full for no reason. However, that only happened three times. Out of this whole book about death and cadavers, only three chapters made me nauseous. Decomposition, medical cannibalism, and burial specifically. Those got to me, but it’s not a book for the faint of heart. Most of the time, I was just able to push back the things that grossed me out because they were super interesting.

The gross factor aside, this was a great book. It would have been better if Mary Roach ready it to you, but oh well. The reader tried to capture the humor, but it didn’t always work out. I still found myself laughing or smiling because, even if the reader didn’t get it, I could tell there was deadpan and sarcastic humor there.

In sum: This is a good book. Funny to break the tension that this topic brings up. But not too funny. There are points that are grosser than others. I doubt that people will get grossed out at the same points I did, but it’s chock full of things that could be nauseating to others. Still good, just be careful if you have a weak stomach.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

(Caidyn)

5/5

I think that this is probably the best nonfiction book that I’ve read this year. Seriously, that good. And it’s so prescient given the times that we live in. Throughout the world, it’s changing. I’ve said to my friends and family multiple times that it feels like we’re either in the 1930s or the Cold War all over again. And not in a good way. This time, it feels as if we’re on the opposite side.

Since I’m an American, this is especially American-centric. Plus, this book is just focused on the political climate that just gets worse and worse every day. It’s to the point where I have no clue what news will come, but I can only guess that it’s going to be bad. I’m more shocked anymore when something doesn’t happen. Isn’t that worrying?

That’s what this whole book is about, really. It’s very short, just over 100 pages, and it sums up 20 examples of things about tyranny and how to stop it in whatever country you live in. Again, this is focused on America. Along with the lessons, this book gives examples of when things are going wrong. From history and from America’s current political climate. In some cases, it gives historical examples of when it almost got to tyranny and how the people in the country stopped it. Mainly, it gives tips about what you can do to stop it. What you can personally do rather than just talking about a whole country’s uprising. Because the individual can do so much.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought that I would. It’s impressive and it packs a punch considering how short it is. This is definitely a book I want to own a physical copy of just so I can reread it and annotate some.

The Night She Died by Dorothy Simpson

The Night She Died

(Caidyn)

4/5

The only reason I read this book was because it was a freebie on Netgalley. What better could I get? An old, established mystery series that’s for free on there and I can just read them. (No clue if they’re still like that, actually. But check them out if they are!)

Even though I double checked that this was the first book in the series, it had a great feel to it like it was established. As if all of these people had a few books before where they were created. That takes such skill that I was seriously impressed the whole time I read it. I had to convince myself this was the first book throughout the whole story. Even now I’m shocked by it.

Even then, the plot was pretty interesting. There was also a slight nod to Holmes by having the last name of the murder victim being Holmes. I kept going back and forth with theories as the story developed, keeping me guessing about who it was. In the end, I gave up and just went along for the ride. That kept it really fun for me since I’m a huge fan of mysteries that keep me guessing whether or not I ultimately figure it out.

My only critique is that it took forever to get off of the ground for this book. I didn’t feel truly sucked in until about 30% in when the plot really started going. I wish it had sucked me in immediately, but it took a bit to get used to the story and have characters straight. Even though there was very little telling me about them and more showing me – which is the best way to do it – it still took a bit of time.

Definitely an impressive first book. I was more than impressed by it.