Friday, June 14, 2019

Summer Reading Recommendations Pt. 2: Graphic Novels. Comics, & Manga!

Part two of my summer reading recommendations series (find part one here!) is all about comic, graphic novels, and manga! Whether you're traveling, going out, or just trying ot make it through a hot day, you can't go wrong with picking up a visual-based form of media to keep you occupied. I've been meaning to expand my reading of graphic novels and the like, but there are a handful of ones I've read that I've loved, so without further ado, let's just jump into the recommendations!

The Sandman Omnibus, Vol. 1The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
The Sandman is the universally lauded masterwork following Morpheus, Lord of the Dreaming--a vast hallucinatory landscape housing all the dreams of any and everyone who's ever existed. Regardless of cultures or historical eras, all dreamers visit Morpheus' realm--be they gods, demons, muses, mythical creatures, or simply humans who teach Morpheus some surprising lessons. 

Upon his escape from an embarrassing captivity at the hands of a mere mortal, Morpheus finds himself at a crossroads, forced to deal with the enormous changes within both himself and his realm. His journey to find his place in a world that's drastically changed takes him through mythical worlds to retrieve his old heirlooms, the back roads of America for a twisted reunion, and even Hell itself--to receive the dubious honor of picking the next Devil. But he'll learn his greatest lessons at the hands of his own family, the Endless, who--like him--are walking embodiments of the most influential aspects of existence..

I had to include the Sandman series because, well, it's no secret that it's my favorite at this point and I think it would be an awesome series to tackle during summer!
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Whiteout Volume 1 - The Definitive EditionWhiteout by Greg Rucka, Steve Lieber
You can't get any further down than the bottom of the world - Antarctica. Cold, desolate, nothing but ice and snow for miles and miles. Carrie Stetko is a U.S. Marshal, and she's made The Ice her home. In its vastness, she has found a place where she can forget her troubled past and feel at peace... Until someone commits a murder in her jurisdiction and that peace is shattered. The murderer is one of five men scattered across the continent, and he has more reason to hide than just the slaying. Several ice samples were taken from the area around the body, and the depth of the drilling signifies something particular was removed. Enter Lily Sharpe, who wants to know what was so important another man's life had to be taken for it. But are either of the women prepared for the secrets and betrayals at the core of the situation?

I love any story set in the Arctic and this graphic novel did not let me down at all. If you like some mystery, this is would be a great pick!
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Anne Bonnie #1: The Journey Begins #1Anne Bonnie by Tim Yates
Pirates, magic and adventure collide in this action-packed all-ages series from Blue Juice Comics and Tim Yates. The Great Sea is still in chaos after the mysterious disappearance of the Pirate Queen Anne Bonnie, and danger lurks over every crest. Join Ariana aboard a stolen magical pirate ship on her quest to become the world's greatest pirate. Along the way she'll make new friends - and enemies - and learn what being a pirate really means.

"Pirate, magic, and adventure"--what more could you want? Anne Bonnie is a such a fun comic that would also be a great pick for younger readers as well. I've only read the first few of this series, but I definitely plan to pick up more in the future. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Lone Wolf and Cub, Omnibus 1Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1 by Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima
Shogunate executioner Ogami Itto is framed as a traitor by the agents from a rival clan. With his wife murdered and with an infant son to protect, Ogami chooses the path of the ronin, the masterless samurai. The Lone Wolf and Cub wander feudal Japan, Ogami's sword for hire, but all roads will lead them to a single destination: vengeance.

I haven't had a chance to read too far into this series yet, but it has to be one of the most interesting mangas. It's incredibly complex and deep with incredible characters and a fascinating historical setting. If you have any interest in following the story of a samurai assassin and his son set in a feudal-era Japan, you have to pick this one for your summer reading (or, well, any season).
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile (Fables, #1)Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown's sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf (Bigby Wolf), to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

Fairy tale characters are thrown into the modern-day world and it's pretty much as great as it sounds. This is imaginative, expansive, and is sure to keep you engaged with its clever ideas. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
ODY-C #1Ody-C by Matt Fraction, Christian Ward
An eye-searing, mind-bending, gender-shattering epic science fiction retelling of Homer's Odyssey starting with the end of a great war in the stars and the beginning of a very long journey home for Odyssia and her crew of warriors. The journey to Ithicaa begins HERE, by Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals) and Christian Ward (Infinite Vacation, Olympus).

If you want to keep your visual reading materials "classic," then why not pick up something with origins by on The Odyssey? This is a weird take on the classic story and I'll be honest, it's pretty crazy and a little confusing at times, but it's also pretty fun and has some really great illustrations.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Finder Library Volume 1Finder by Carla Speed McNeil
Lose yourself in a world beyond your wildest dreams… 

Since 1996, Finder has set the bar for science-fiction storytelling, with a lush, intricate world and compelling characters. Now, Dark Horse is proud to present the first four story arcs of Carla Speed McNeil's groundbreaking series in a single, affordably priced volume! Follow enigmatic hero Jaeger through a "glorious, catholic pileup of high-tech SF, fannish fantasy, and street-level culture clash" (Village Voice), and discover the lush world and compelling characters that have carved Finder a permanent place in the pantheon of independent comics.

This is another one that's pretty cemented in the "weird" category, but it's also a bit of a classic and for good reason. There weren't a lot of good summaries for this readilt available online, but it would be very worthwhile of your time to check out. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Promised Neverland, Vol. 1The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai, Psouka Demizu
Life at Grace Field House has been good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious foods and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems… 

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.

I read this earlier this year and had such a blast. It's dark, full of surprises, and definitely a bit creepy. It's easy to fly through this one!
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1 (Fullmetal Alchemist, #1)Fullmetal Alchemist by 
Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg...and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders...even to kill. Except his powers aren't unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher's Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are...

Most people are probably aware of Fullmetal Alchemist or have at least seen the manga, but I still thought it'd be a great pick for some summer reading! It's adventurous and has some truly memorable and compelling characters.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Have you read any of these? What manga/graphic novels would you recommend?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Review: The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey

The Grand Dark
The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey
Harper Voyager
Publication: June 11th, 2019
Hardcover. 432 pages.

About The Grand Dark:

"The Great War is over. The city of Lower Proszawa celebrates the peace with a decadence and carefree spirit as intense as the war’s horrifying despair. But this newfound hedonism—drugs and sex and endless parties—distracts from strange realities of everyday life: Intelligent automata taking jobs. Genetically engineered creatures that serve as pets and beasts of war. A theater where gruesome murders happen twice a day. And a new plague that even the ceaseless euphoria can’t mask. 

Unlike others who live strictly for fun, Largo is an addict with ambitions. A bike messenger who grew up in the slums, he knows the city’s streets and its secrets intimately. His life seems set. He has a beautiful girlfriend, drugs, a chance at a promotion—and maybe, an opportunity for complete transformation: a contact among the elite who will set him on the course to lift himself up out of the streets. 

But dreams can be a dangerous thing in a city whose mood is turning dark and inward. Others have a vision of life very different from Largo’s, and they will use any methods to secure control. And in behind it all, beyond the frivolity and chaos, the threat of new war always looms."

The Grand Dark is an unpredictable, enthralling read full of thing you won't see coming. After finishing the book, I noticed on Goodreads that there are quite a lot of mixed reviews for this and I find that rather disappointing. There are definitely some areas for improvement in these pages, which I'll discuss later in my review, but there's so much more in the way of exciting ideas and engaging characters that made this extremely enjoyable for me. This is a book that will absolutely keep you on your toes.

The world-building in The Grand Dark is strong and introduces a rather gritty location on the heels of a The Great War which has left the city rife with dirt, disease, and a slow recovery. Based upon the names of various places within this book and the usage of 'Herr' and the like, it also has what seems to be a German influence on the world, though I'm not sure exactly what the inspiration for this was. Within this book we mainly visit Upper Prozsawa and Lower Proszawa, both places that our protagonist, Largo, visits on a regular basis due to his job as a bike messenger/delivery man. This is a setting with advanced AI types of technology as well, such as delivery machines that deliver to businesses and that Largo fears will eradicate his own job, as well as 'Maras' that are human-like robotic beings that can act as assistants, cleaners, door openers, etc. There's also the Grand Dark itself, a rather odd sort of theatre that uses puppets to act, but still manages to be extraordinarily gruesome, shocking, and violent. I'm madly intrigued by the Grand Dark and would happily read a collection of stories just about it.

A big part of the first half of this book follows Largo on many of his delivery runs and I loved these parts. This is the portion of the book where some of Kadrey's world-building really shines because we gt to explore different portions of the city (Lower and Upper), including both the shady, the scary, the weird, and the extraordinarily rich. These runs were just a lot of fun to me, both because we got to explore the city and also because of the interactions Largo has with his boss and those he has with people he runs into on his deliveries. Kadrey excels at writing sharp dialogue with subtle wit and sarcasm.

I really liked Largo as a main character. He was very normal and grounded; he's not overly self-deprecating about himself, he has a steady girlfriend who he's madly in love with, and he has a not-great-but-not-horrible job where he's a pretty good worker (minus some drug issues). He doesn't undergo any extreme development in this book, but he does still experience a good amount of growth in smaller, more subtle ways that really made his character a compelling one. There are some other colorful characters in this book in addition to Largo, such as his boss, Herr Branca; his girlfriend, Remy; his friend Parvulesco and his boyfriend, Roland; and a few other coworkers and friends of friends that keep things interesting. I thought that characters seemed to be one of Kadrey strong suits in this book, as I found myself really interested in each and enjoying how unique each person's personality was.

Largo and Remy's relationship was one I really enjoyed as well, partially because I love when a book starts out with the protagonist already in a strong, loving relationship. They have a certain level of freedom with one another that refreshing, but at the end of the day they were unfailingly loyal to one another and wouldn't betray one another's trust. Kadrey does

As much as I enjoyed The Grand Dark, it was not without its faults, either. The first issue that arose for me was mainly the inconsistent pacing, as the first half of the book had a really nice, slower pace that seemed to work well, but at some point in the latter half of the story it just sped up at an awkwardly rushed pace. Once one particularly semi-surprising event happened, everything just started snowballing after that in a fast-paced way that just felt like too much was going on too suddenly. The Grand Dark has multiple plot threads that run throughout the entire book, all of which do eventually tie together in the end, but they just didn't always mesh that well throughout the story itself. There were also a few particular types of "reveals" that felt like they came out of nowhere, but they still fit so I just felt a little mixed on them.

My only other issue is with the technological components in this book, such as the maras and various details littered throughout about the tech in this society. I really liked how Kadrey crafted all of these things in the world, but I also feel like they weren't incorporated quite as well as they could have been. I struggled to place exactly what sort of innovative period this story was set in and it didn't make sense to me why they had some things, but not others. It's the type of setting that's advanced in a lot of ways, but still fairly like our world in others as if caught between two time periods. This also sort of overlaps with my confusion surrounding The Great War that seems to be the big backdrop for the events of this book. I needed more about the war and the people involved, including more information on what sort of world lay outside of Upper and Lower Prozsawa.

Overall, I've given The Grand Dark four stars. I really debated if I should lower it since I did have some issues with this book, but in the end I still really enjoyed it and had a blast reading it, so four stars feels like a fair deal.

*I received a copy of The Grand Dark in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris & The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is: 

The Blue Salt Road
The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris
Publication: 23rd, 2019
Hardcover. 215 pages.

"An earthly nourris sits and sings 
And aye she sings, "Ba lilly wean, 
Little ken I my bairn's father, 
Far less the land that he staps in. 
(Child Ballad, no. 113) 

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man. 

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there - without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed. 

Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale."
This sounds beautiful and magical and I'm really excited to check it out. I love that there are illustrations in this as well!

The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow, #1)
The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson
Publication: July 9th, 2019
Sourcebooks Fire
Hardcover. 352 pages.

"In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life...until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything. 

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother's death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost. 

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them."
I have a weird love for crows, so the fact that this has "magical, elemental" crows just calls out to me (or should I say 'caws'....I'll let myself out). I love a good sibling relationship, especially when it's two sisters looking to do something big. Can't wait to check this out!

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is: Unpopular Bookish Opinions

For some reason, I thought this topic was going to be hard, but once I started thinking of a few unpopular opinions, the rest just started barreling into me. I tried to narrow it down and stick to ten as possible, but apparently I have a lot of thoughts. These are listed in no particular order. As always, I hate to make a 'disclaimer,' but do note that while I do hold these opinions, I am in no way judging you or angry at you if you hold the opposite ones. Differing opinions make life fun and exciting! I in no way mean any offense with any of these opinions. Now, let's get to it!

1. I don't actually like giving star ratings out of five. 
The only reason I use a five-star scale is because I used Goodreads before I started my blog and it also just seems like a more universal scale in general. Five is simply too limiting overall and people often have differnet opinions on what stars mean--especially three stars. If I were to start my blog over, I might start rating on a scale of ten.

2. I don't really care if a series is unfinished or doesn't have an end date in sight. I don't even check for this when starting one.
I see so many people refusing to start a series because it's not finished and I get it. It's hard to wait when you're really into a story and then you just have to put it all down and then try to remember everything for when the next book finally deigns to be published. I get it. But I personally don't care. There are so many books out there that I have no problem waiting because I know I'll always have something else to read. I've actually started using a book journal to jot down thoughts/important plot points when reading now so I can refresh myself for the next book and it's been working extremely well. Plus, the biggest and possibly most important thing to me is that if the first or second book in a series doesn't do well and sell enough, there might not even be additional books in the series. Books need to sell and show the publishers they are doing well in order to keep selling. And obviously I want authors like Rothfuss to finish, but I also just don't feel a huge sense of urgency--it'll get here when he thinks its ready and I trust him so that's good enough for me.

3. Classics are good and have their place in literature, but there is nothing wrong with disliking them or not wanting to read them. This also applies to nonfiction. 
Classics can be awesome. I love a lot of classics and I genuinely enjoy them as well. Same goes for nonfiction. But you know what? They aren't the be-all and end-all of literature. If you don't like them, you shouldn't feel like you have to read them. People that read classics/nonfiction like to make general fiction and 'genre' readers feel bad, but that's just close-minded and frankly unfair thinking. Most of our 'classics' are from white European authors, so honestly, I don't blame anyone who might want a different perspective. I'm not denying the influence of many of these classics on some modern literature, but I'm here to say you should read what you want to, whether that's classics or genre fiction or poetry. (Honestly, this might not be an unpopular opinion in the book community I'm a part of, but I see it outside of it, so that's mainly why I'm including this.)

4. Deckled edges are better known as the devil's edges to me.
I can't turn the pages! I don't know if it's just because I have super dry hands or if other people also have this problem, but it's the most frustrating thing. I like the idea of adding some design to a book, but it's so obviously fake that it doesn't feel 'old' or special to me. I'll still buy books that have deckled edges, but I won't be happy about it.

5. I don't care at all about organizing my books in a specific manner (such as alphabetical order, rainbow, etc.).
Note: Not my bookshelf
I've known some people who are super strict about having books in either alphabetical order or sorted by genre or some specific organizational method, but I just..don't think I care? I basically just do it how feels right to me, it's very 'vibe'-based. Certain books just feel good near others, I really couldn't begint to describe how I have mine 'organized' (as in, organized chaos), but it works for me and I know exactly where everything is. No one else will find anything, but I will! (Lately, I've also run out of shelf space so when I do get shelf space it's really just first come first serve or my favorites/nicer books that get the privilege. I hope one day all my books get a nice piece of shelf space.)

6. There is a huge problem with some readers (especially in the YA community) labeling books 'problematic' simply because they don't line up immediately with what they want it to say. These days, I almost like it when books become 'controversial' because it shows that people are being challenged and discussions can be sparked about this.
Okay, I had a really hard time figuring out how to word this one, so let me explain this better.
This is an issue that mainly pops up on Goodreads, Booktube, and book Twitter (again, specifically usually in the YA Twitter community, which I generally avoid, though it does spill over). Some of the ways in which books have been attacked--and the frequence in which it happens--has me imaginging that some readers read books with a pitchfork sitting next to them, ready to attack an author for any thing they don't agree with. Look, life itself has problematic issues all the time. Why shouldn't books also tackle those topics? I often see this happen when a book has a bigoted or generally unlikable protagonist who has controversial beliefs and readers will simply stop halfway through the book and claim that the entire book is racist or homophobic or whatever it is. Everyone has a right to stop reading books they don't like or that bother them, I do not have a problem with that, but my problem is when they then tell other people not to read the book. One example would be the whole The Black Witch by Laurie Forest fiasco from a couple years back. The main protagonist is indeed racist against others and has judgmental notions about various ways of life.. in the beginning. She says bad things and she does bad things, but that's the whole point of the book--to show what it's like and how that sort of person can change and grow and develop into someone better. It baffles me how books like this are treated. There's a huge difference between characters/narrative voice and the author's personal voice and I think people need to remember that. As long as the book isn't showing that doing or believing in harmful things is good (there are usually consequences), then I think they are great ways to open up dialogue about these types of situations in real life as well.

7. YA could use a few more male protagonists. 
The majority of my reading is usually made up of 'adult' fiction, but the majority of the YA I do read is almost exclusively fantasy, so I can't entirely speak for other genres in the 'YA' umbrella (I'm not even getting into my thoughts on the 'YA' label), but I've found that 99% of the ones I read have female protagonists. I totally understand why this is and that we do need more female protagonists in general, especially in adult fantasy, but I kind of wouldn't mind having some more main male perspectives. I'm mainly directing this towards YA because adult fantasy is overflowing with male figures and I just don't see it as much with YA. I was just trying to think of YA fantasy books with male protagonists and all I could of think of was Scythe and the Unwind series, both by Neal Shusterman. This isn't a huge issue or anything, but I do think it would be nice to add in a bit more to the mix, even more nonbinary characters would be great, though I feel like I've started to see a few more here and there popping up with the latter so that's pretty encouraging already.

8. I keep almost all the books I read, even if I hated them.

This is one of those unpopular opinions that I almost feel nervous about, especially in this age of 'unhauls.' My dream is to one day have a house (which, living in California, that's problably the hardest part of this dream! 😕) with a library where I can just have shelves and shelves of books. Read, unread, loved, hated, all of it. I want to be able to think of a book I like and pick it up anytime to re-read (plus, if I spent money on it I hate to just toss it out right away). I want to be able to have enough books that friends and family can come in and pick up a book to borrow, or maybe they've heard of a book they want to read and hey, I have it! I'm still going to be, uh, picky about some of the books that I won't lend out, but for the most part I just want books around. I want my husband and future kids to have the option to browse through so many books, even books I didn't like. I don't want them to just be mirror images of me and my taste, I want them to read widely, to challenge me with their own opinions.  The main reasons I'll donate books is if they're actually bad or harmful, I genuinely don't care about it at all, or if it's one I got unsolicited or I just didn't realize what it was about when I got it.

9. Most really old books don't actually smell good. They smell musty and give me headaches.
There are a few types of older books that don't smell horrible. But for the most part those really old books just are awful. I usually keep them all on a separate shelf together because I don't want my newer books to smell bad. I'm majorly allergic to dust and I swear old books are just made of dust at this point. I love them, but I'm pretty sure they are trying to kill me.

10. If a series 'doesn't get good' until the second or third book in a series, then it probably isn't the best series ever and I wish people would stop trying to shove it down other people's throats.
The number of times people tell me to keep reading Malazan because 'it gets better in the next book' or 'you'll appreciate it once you finish the series' is too. damn. high. I'm not going to keep reading a series that confuses the hell out of me in the hopes it will get better. I don't like being 100% confused for 100% of the time. There are too many other books out there that I can actually, you know, follow. Now that I think about it, maybe this unpopular opinion is really just about Malazan and I don't care about waiting for a series to get better...

And because most of these weren't book-specific, here's two bonus book-specific ones that are really going to be unpopular: 

I do not like To Kill a Mockingbird and I find it highly overrated. 
Look, I'm not saying it's a bad book and that's awesome if it's your favorite--I'm not judging you! I just didn't enjoy it at all and could never consider it the best American novel, even from an objective point of view. I understand it's importance when it was published, but at this point I just don't get the appeal.

I don't hate Holden Caulfield.
I don't think he's supposed to be a character you fall in love with. He's a kid with a lot of problems in his life and he's just trying to live and survive with them. Maybe I just don't hate it because I was also a pessimistic kid who complained to themself a lot, but for whatever reason he doesn't bother me so much. It's not that I love the book, I just think it gets too much unfair hatred directed towards it.

Well, those are my unpopular opinions! Do let me know your thoughts on these and/or some of your own bookish unpopular opinions!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

The Girl in Red
The Girl in Red by CHristina Henry
Publication: June 18th, 2019
Paperback. 304 pages.

About The Girl in Red:

"It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago. 

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. 

Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods...."

Over the past couple years, Christina Henry has slowly moved her way up to become one of my favorite authors. Everything I've read from her has been fantastic and The Girl in Red is no exception to that. The Girl in Red is a loose red riding hood-inspired post apocalyptic tale that is just a gritty as some classic fairy tales (meaning: full of grit and intense themes) and as smart and involved as I've come to expect from Henry's books.

This story takes a modern twist on the Red Riding Hood story, though our protagonist is still called Red, wears a red hooded jacket, and is indeed on her way to grandma's house and must avoid a variety of threats and predators on the way. The difference--other than a modern setting--lies in the fact that endless amounts of people are currently dying in the world from an unknown disease and Red is now entirely alone on her journey for survival.

The book alternates chapters between 'Before' and 'After' sections, referring to the time just before the world fully changed and the virus wreaked havoc and the time after everything happened when Red is now traveling alone. I found this setup a really compelling one that slowly brought everything together as the story progressed. Each Before or After section unveiled something crucial to the plot by carefully revealing more and more about Red, her family, and the state of the world as the disease went from mild outbreak to fully-fledged outbreak that caused mass death.

Red is a character that I don't think I'll be forgetting anytime soon. She is incredibly intelligent and plans to do nothing but survive. I've met some determined characters in my reading life, but Red really stands out as someone more prepared, resolute, and unwilling to die than almost anyone I've read about before. The way she reacts to the virus and how to avoid coming into contact or contracting any part of the disease made my heart sing because of how educated and firm she was. I am personally a bit of a germaphobe with some mild OCD and for some reason reading about Red and her rules for survival just made me feel so connected to her and understand her feelings towards the entire situation. I also admired her bravery and willingness to do pretty much anything she had in order to protect herself and her family.

Red comes across as a bit of a know-it-all who thinks she's smarter than everyone around her, but the thing is--for the most part, she often is. However, it's because she's done research and is also willing to admit when she's unsure of something. She didn't really come across as an arrogant character to me, but rather one that simply had a goal and the confidence to achieve it, though in fact a lot of her bravado seemed to be more of a cover up for her own fear than actual certainty in everything she did.

I've grown to really enjoy post-apocalyptic types of stories over the years and I thought this one had a particularly compelling premise and execution. I can't say much about the disease present in this because of spoilers, but suffice to say what I thought was a simple singular issue turned into something much more intense than I could have imagined--and much creepier. I love the directions Henry took this story and how she showcased various aspects of humanity in a crisis.

The Girl in Red has an ending that I both expected and found too abrupt at the same time. I love how it ended and think Henry did it in a great that leaves plenty for the reader to continue to wonder about, but that also wraps up the most essential components of the story and gives some good closure. Would I love if there was a sequel or more to this story? Absolutely, yes! Is it necessary and am I satisfied with what we do have? Also yes.

Overall, I've given The Girl in Red five stars! Every time I had to put this book down I found myself constantly yearning to pick it back up again. I was never bored and always hooked by Red's narrative. If you like strong characters and/or post-apocalyptic stories, this is definitely for you.

*I received a copy of The Girl in Red in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

You might also like:
Lost Boy by Christina Henry
The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Friday, June 7, 2019

Summer Reading Recommendations (For Vacation!) Pt. 1: Adventure!

I've been in the process of planning a vacation with my husband over the past couple of months and of course, as a reader, one of my big questions is: what book(s) do I bring!? It's hard to know if you'll have time to read, what mood you'll be in, or what sort of space you'll have for books. I still haven't decided what books I'll bring, but it did inspire me to create a mini summer/vacation-themed recommendation series. I'll do these for the next few Fridays with various themes, all centered around books that might be good to bring on a vacation. This week, I'm sharing books that have adventurous vibes with fast-paced plots and plenty of action because sometimes when you're busy or on the road it's nice to have book that are quick, easy, and entertaining reads.

I also just have to add that although most people who are either out of school already or don't have kids tend to just vacation at any time of year (one of the downsides of leaving school as an adult is no more summer vacations, am I right?), I thought a vacation theme still fit well with the summer season, so I'm running with it!

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1)The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it's already been stolen. 

London's underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself...

This is about a woman who goes on mini-adventures to track down books. It's a ton of fun and has so many clever references to books and various literary ideas that makes this a really easy and exciting book to dive into.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands #1)The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man's-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs.

But as Jackal is soon to learn, his pride may be misplaced. Because a dark secret lies at the heart of the Bastards' existence - one that reveals a horrifying truth behind humanity's tenuous peace with the orcs, and exposes a grave danger on the horizon.

On the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal must scramble to stop a devastating invasion - even as he wonders where his true loyalties lie.

I never knew how much I needed a story about half-orcs that ride hogs (instead of horses) in my life, but now I can never go back. This book is packed with excitement and various adventures with memorable characters and I think it'd be the perfect pick as something to jump into anytime.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Spellslinger (Spellslinger #1)Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
Magic is a con game. 

Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage's duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is gone. As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi - a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She's difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen's only hope...

Whenever I'm trying to think of fast-paced, easy-to-get-into books, Spellslinger is almost always the first one to pop into my mind. This book's plot is constantly moving forward with very little downtime and has some great action-heavy scenes packed throughout.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
      The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.
     But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
      Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Illuminae is an intense sci-fi told in a mixed media format that reads way quicker than any 500+ page book has any right to be read. This one is extremely easy to fly through and find yourself lost in without struggling to get situated in the world.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

LexiconLexicon by Max Barry
At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics—they are taught to persuade. Students learn to use language to manipulate minds, wielding words as weapons. The very best graduate as “poets,” and enter a nameless organization of unknown purpose.
They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets. They said it was because she's good with words.

They'll live to regret it.

They said Wil Parke survived something he shouldn't have. But he doesn't remember.

Now they're after him and he doesn't know why.

There's a word, they say. A word that kills.

And they want it back . . .

I read this a while ago, so my memory of exact details is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember this was one of those books where you never really have a chance to catch your breath. This premise where words can be used as actual weapons is a fascinating one and makes this book a great pick for a fast-paced vacation read.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
The Book of Air and ShadowsThe Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber
A fire destroys a New York City rare bookstore—and reveals clues to a treasure worth killing for. . . . A disgraced scholar is found tortured to death. . . . And those pursuing the most valuable literary find in history are about to cross from the harmless mundane into inescapable nightmare.

From the acclaimed, bestselling author of Tropic of Night comes a breathtaking thriller that twists, shocks, and surprises at every turn as it crisscrosses centuries, from the glaring violence of today into the dark shadows of truth and lies surrounding the greatest writer the world has ever known.

This is another one that I don't remember the fine details of, but if you like books like The Da Vinci Code, The Rule of Four, etc. (all great 'plane reads'), then this is the perfect book. It's fast-paced, full of twists, and is the perfect thriller to keep you occupied. 
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years

I couldn't not include this--what better book to sit down and relax with? It's compelling, amusing, and a classic adventure.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Blackwing (Raven's Mark #1)Blackwing by Ed McDonald
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall's 'Engine', a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery - a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic's defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic's bluff.

If you like your adventurous books more on the grimdark fantasy side, then you might want to pick up Blackwing! This is a shorter book and has a really fascinating (and rather horrifying) setting with tons of action to keep things fresh.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound
The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1)The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales.
The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

And lastly, if you prefer some middle grade--or need books for middle grade readers--you can't go wrong with the Land of Stories series! This is about two young kids who are transported to a land inspired by fairy tales--and the action pretty much never stops after that.
Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Have you read any of these? What adventurous books would you recommend for a vacation read?