Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Whistling Women by Kelly Romo

Whistling Women by Kelly Romo. Lake Union Publishing, 2015. 404 pages. Ebook. 

**I received a copy of Whistling Women courtesy of NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing.**

Whistling Women is a story centered on two sisters, Wavey and Addie, who have had a troubled history together and no longer speak or see one another. Addie has joined the Sleepy Valley Nudist Colony in San Francisco while Wavey has remained in San Diego to raise her two daughters, Mary and Rumor. Addie's nudist colony, however, decides to join the 1935 world's fair in San Diego as a nudist exhibition that people can pay to view at the fair, which of course is extremely controversial in the year 1935. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Whistling Women is told in a somewhat leisurely pace, but it is still gripping and hard to put down. Each of the women in the novel were multi-dimensional, and Romo shows great dynamics and complexity within each character as the story progresses.

The story is told from the perspectives of Addie and Rumor, Wavey's youngest daughter who is sixteen years old. The perspective of Addie switches back and forth between the present year, 1935, and brief excerpts of her past in order to explain her and Wavey's complicated relationship and falling out in 1918, as well as a bit of background about Addie's upbringing. Rumor's perspective is told entirely from the present 1935 perspective. I struggled a bit with remembering exactly how old Rumor is, but I think that this is likely more of a product of the time period than the Romo's writing. Rumor is fifteen years old, but due to her innocence and way of speaking I often felt she was much younger; however, her bravery and brash actions are certainly those of a teenager. I also would have loved to read more about Wavey and Mary, as I feel that they had deep personality struggles and changes that I think would have been intriguing to read about in more depth.

Addie is an though-provoking character because although she does not appear overly strong-willed or outgoing, she is in fact part of a nudist colony, something that, at the time, was extremely subversive and controversial within many societies and likely would have taken a certain amount of courage or care-free attitude to take part in. From the beginning, we can see that Addie is lost. Though she considers the nudist colony her home, she knows that she can't stay there forever and will eventually be pushed out, but she also has no idea where to go or who she belongs to. Her past haunts her and is the cause of inability to fulfill her desire for a stable, loving, family. 

Rumor, however, is strong-willed and rebellious from the start. She sneaks away to visit her Aunt Addie, sneaks off the Fair, and is generally more adventurous than her sister, Mary. She is still a shy and rather demure girl, but she is also willing to fight for what she wants and believes is right. 

This novel was entirely enjoyable and acted as a complete, satisfying story. However, there are a quite a few characters and events that I would have loved to have more information on. For instance, there are a few moments mentioned from Addie's past that make me wonder what more could have been explained, or certain gaps in time that I would have loved to hear more about. There were also some characters, such as a young boy named Daniel from Addie's childhood, that I would have loved to hear more about, for he was mentioned in an important way, but there was no elaboration. He may not have had a larger role than that in Addie's life, but I felt that there was more to say about him.

Overall, I am giving Whistling Women four stars, as I was truly entertained by the story and found myself enraptured in the characters and their complex lives.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates. Picador, 2015. 352 pages. Softcover/paperback. 

I am a major sucker for books like Black Chalk, and by that I mean books that center around a group of friends at a college or boarding school that become involved in some secret club or game or something oddly unnerving and mysterious - something that just expels mystery and darkness and secrets, whether in an overtly obvious  or hidden manner. Black Chalk did this perfectly.

I'd first like to say that The Secret History by Donna Tartt is one of my absolute favorite books, so when I read the back cover summary for Black Chalk and found a distinct-yet-subtle The Secret History vibe, I became extremely excited to read it. Of course, this made me nervous that it would not live up to my expectations, but thankfully, it exceeded them.

In Black Chalk, six Oxford University college students decide to create a game for the them to play. This is not just any game, however, for this game has high stakes and high money attached to it; it is, quite simply, a game of consequences. These consequences, of course, range from the mild to the extreme and are meant to be more psychologically difficult than physically challenging or any other manner.

Black Chalk is written in alternating viewpoints and is divided up quite intricately; some sections are written in a form of third-person narration, while others are first person, though I won't say who the first person narrator is because this is a rather vital part of the book. Because of this, actually, I'm going to try to keep key plot points and summaries of Black Chalk to a minimum, because honestly, just about every aspect of this book is important to the story, and half of the entertainment and thrill value is in reading along and discovering the various secrets and hidden meanings delicately placed throughout.

That being said, Yates has a very distinct writing style. At times, it is elegant and free-flowing with breathtaking sentences and deep musings. Other times, it is abrupt and sharp in order to match the current tone or setting of the story. However, these two styles are written in such a way that everything flows in a smooth and effortless manner as a result. There are almost constant twists and turns throughout the story that definitely kept me on my toes and increased my enjoyment immensely simply because most of them were sincerely surprising and unexpected. There were many times where one little sentence would be uttered, or one thing would be explained and I would have a mental (or verbal) "ah-ha" moment and sit back, smile slightly to myself, and shake my head as I tried to work out this complex story.

Yates' characters are all wonderfully vibrant and quirky, and each one harbors deeper personalities than they let on. We have Chad, an American student studying abroad; Jolyon, a quick-witted and charismatic young man; Jack, a humorous-to-the-point-of-offense friend; Mark, a perpetually sleepy friend; Dee, an eccentric young woman that vows to commit suicide once she has written her five hundredth poem; and lastly, Emilia, the studious and most innocent of the lot who attempts to keep everyone in line. Together, this cast of characters makes for hilarious and witty dialogue, of which Yates give us plenty of material. If it weren't for how charming and sophisticated the dialogue is between these friends, I might have gotten annoyed by the sheer quantity of it at various points in the novels. However, Yates' sharp tongue - or pen, rather - keeps it lively and a thrill to read. These characters also provide an abundance of emotion and drama as a result of such strong-willed characters.

Overall, I am giving Black Chalk five stars and will be adding it to both my favorites shelf on Goodreads and my 'Top Books of 2015' post. I found Black Chalk extremely hard to put down, and it allowed me to delve back into those feelings I experienced while reading The Secret History and A Separate Peace. I really cannot recommend it enough.

You might also like:
Slade House by David Mitchell
Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

  The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.  G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015.

As The Wrath and the Dawn was preparing to be released, the hype surrounding this novel skyrocketed and continued to do so for weeks after its release. During these times, I heard nothing but great reviews, and the summary sounded great, especially due it being a Thousand and One Nights retelling, so I finally got my hands on it. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this nearly as much as I had hoped.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of the Arabian Nights that centers upon the Caliph of Khorasan, Khalid, who is known for taking many new wives and having them killed by the morning after their wedding night. Shahrzad is a sixteen-year-old girl who has lost a dear friend to Khalid, and vows to willingly become his next bride in order to take revenge for her friend and all of the women Khalid has killed. And then, of course, there are a variety of complications and events that make this a much more involved story.

I wanted to like this so badly, I really did... but I just didn't. The writing was beautiful, but the content of the story did not match the quality of the writing itself. Retellings are supposed to be imaginative and colorful, and this simply wasn't either of those. I felt very detached from the dialogue, characters, and plot, and I felt like once I was finally beginning to get to the meat of the plot in the very last few pages of the book - poof, it was over.

One of my biggest issues was with the magical elements that were so incredibly sparse throughout the story; they almost acted as a tease. There was enough magic to make it noticeable and, of course, useful, but it was severely lacking. It was used so briefly that I was left wondering what its purpose was and why it wasn't brought in sooner. Khalid's issues with magic seemed odd, and Shahrzad's own traits were hardly developed and only created more questions. The only good side to this is that there are plenty of topics to cover in the second novel.

The most disappointing thing is that Shahrzad is all talk and no bite, which I both liked and disliked. It's realistic, because many people (including myself) often talk fiercer than we actually are. However, in this book  and with this character, I expected more. She vows and threatens to kill the caliph to avenge her friend countless times through the story, but I don't recall her every making one serious attempt. She considers it and even "plans" out ideas to assassinate him, but she never does anything. She doesn't even start to carry out a plan and stop - she just doesn't do anything at all. It's incredibly frustrating. It's not that I'm so desperate for bloodshed and murder, but that that's what I was promised and would have actually made this book interesting. Also, if you're planning to kill a king, do not draw attention to yourself by showing your strengths - such as great archery skill - and stop being so defiant and breaking rules!

Also, I did not understand the relationship between Shahrzad and her handmaid, Despina. There was just something that never really worked between, and despite their banter that I think was meant to be endearing, they didn't ever fit together. I couldn't always discern the meaning behind her snide comments to Shahrazad either, but maybe that was just my misunderstandings.

Oh, and what about Shahrzad's original boyfriend? He appears to have been totally forgotten. She was 'so in love' with him, but spends some time with the caliph and suddenly forgets about him and no longer cares for him. But then we have Shahrzad and the caliph, but their chemistry was.. odd. I felt like we went from zero to hundred in no time, and it simply did not flow or convince me in the slightest.

Despite all of this, I did somehow manage to finish this book, which is interesting because I'm not the type to waste my time. I think the saving grace to this book was Ahdieh's prose, which was wonderfully descriptive and smooth. While this made The Wrath and the Dawn a readable novel, it created too much focus on irrelevant details that weren't necessary to the story.

Will I read the sequel? Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm not particularly convinced by the this one, but Ahdieh has left plenty of plot points to delve into for the next book, so I'll probably give it a shot. Overall, I have to give The Wrath and the Stars two-and-a-half stars because it simple was not a solid book that I enjoyed or felt had more going for it. However, if you do enjoy some dramatic romance and lovely writing, then perhaps you should still give this book a chance - everyone has different opinions, and there are plenty of people out there who did actually love this book.

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You might also like:
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Hidden Huntress by Danielle Jensen

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Top Books of 2015!

After reading so many good books this year, I can't help but want to share them with everyone, so I have decided to create a best books of 2015 list or you all!

First up, we have my favorite books from this year were just released this year. (These are listed in no particular order.)

Best 2015 Releases:

1. Slade House by David Mitchell
I really don't want to say too much about this book, so I think the best way to lure you in is to say that this centers around a house on Slade Alley that only appears when it is ready to feast...
This is a short read made even shorter by how compelling it was and easy to get through. This is the first book I've read by David Mitchell and his writing and storytelling just blew me away.

2. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (review to come)
I read this immediately after finishing The Diviners and it completely lived up to its predecessor. Libba Bray drags you into her full-fledged 1920s setting with complex and strong-willed characters that are so unique and full of life that you never want to stop reading.

3. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashley Vance
Even if you don't give a hoot about Elon Musk or know who he is, this is still an incredibly fascinating look at a determined man who will stop at pretty much nothing to get what he wants done. Ashlee Vance writes in an extremely readable and entertaining manner that made it impossible to put down.

4. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
This was one of the top YA fantasy releases this year - and with good reason. Sabaa Tahir has created a brutal alternate world modeled after Ancient Roman elements, and within it we delve into the lives of a slave, Laia, and a soldier, Elias, where the two eventually become intertwined in each other's individual quests.

5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
If you love Throne of Glass, you'll probably love this one also! Sarah J. Maas does not disappoint with her first novel in a new series that embodies a wide-ranging cast of characters, each with their own strong and unique personality. I really enjoyed this one and breezed right through it thanks to Maas' vivid writing and compelling plot.

6. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I loved it! I've been burned out on the whole 'dystopian' genre for a while, but Atwood has brought it back with a vengeance. This is fairly short read, but it is still extremely gripping and deeply complex as we discover what happens when a society attempts to become 'perfect.' We all now how that normally goes, don't we?

7. Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates
I just recently read this one and I had to add it my best of 2015 list. If you like The Secret History, then I highly recommend you give Black Chalk a go. This story is centered around six college students who develop a game to play that ends up wreaking much more havoc on their lives than they could have ever imagined.

Best non-2015 releases:

1. The Mysterious Benedict Society (review to come)
I always like to add in some middle grade books to my reading each year, and this was the perfect addition! Trenton Lee Stewart has created such a unique and delightful world with dynamic, engaging characters to match. If you like A Series of Unfortunate Events or intelligent, quirky children, then this is the perfect book for you as well.

2. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Modeled after H.G. Wells' masterpiece, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a haunting yet beautiful story of a young girl who discovers that her father is not the misunderstood scientist that she thinks she is. Megan Shepherd has expertly retold this story, and I absolutely loved it.

3. The Diviners by Libba Bray
I picked this one up because I kept seeing rave reviews for the recently released Lair of Dreams. First off - wow! I was not expecting this book to be so good, mainly because I did not really enjoy Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy, but I was extremely wrong! Bray has developed such a complex storyline with a rich array of diverse characters in a strong 1920s theme. Highly, highly recommended.

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I really have no words to describe this. But finding the words to describe books is sort of what I do, so I'll try. Tartt employs her mad stream-of-consciousness skills throughout this huge, exceedingly intricate, and well-developed novel.

5. The Paying Guests b y Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests is a hefty novel, both physically and mentally. Frances Wray and her mother have decided to take in boarders in their house in the years after the war in order to pay for their expenses. And this is where the drama all unfolds. I am saying nothing else because it is best left to find out on your own. Just read it and be prepared for intense events.

6. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami's intricate magical realism elements are strong in this book, and are complete with plenty of cats - talking cats! - and cooking. I can't help but love each one of his books, and Kafka on the Shore was just as good as all the rest. I absolutely love the way he delves into the human mind and sort of plays around with our thoughts and emotion. Oh, Murakami...

7. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
I'm a pretty big fan of Edgar Allan Poe, so when I saw this fictionalized tale about Mr. Poe himself and his wife, I had to pick it up. This story is told from the perspective of Frances Osgood, an aspiring writer who observes Poe and his wife and becomes caught up in the midst of their mysterious lives. Cullen has a hauntingly beautiful prose makes this a breeze to read!

8. The Kindly Ones, Sandman Vol. 9 by Neil Gaiman
The concluding tale (at the time) to Neil Gaiman's illustrious Sandman series, and also one of the best, though it would be absolutely impossible for me to pick a favorite from the bunch.

9. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
A devastatingly beautiful tale of two sisters struggling to make their way in the United States. This tale will give you strong emotions as you journey with these two sisters and their new struggles in America. Despite the many hardships they face, and despite the many times they may have almost hated each other, they know they're always sisters and will always be there for one another. Seriously, it's a great book.

10. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
See, I'm not lying when I say I have a problem with Murakami.  I just can't help but love everything he writes - at least not yet, anyway. (*sweats nervously at the thought of reading a bad Murakami book* - does that even exist!?) Not as many cats as Kafka on the Shore, but still plenty of cooking!


The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
The Wolves in the Walls is one of Neil Gaiman's finest books for younger fans, as its wonderfully creepy and charming at the same time and will definitely keep you flipping pages! The illustrations are also the masterful work of Dave McKean, who has done other artwork for Neil Gaiman's work, such as Coraline, and is wonderfully haunting and unique, a perfect fit for Gaiman and this book.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Tragedy of Fidel Castro by Joao Cerqueira

The Tragedy of Fidel Castro by João Cerqueira. River Grove Books, 2012. 188 pages. Ebook.

**I received a copy of this book from the author, João Cercqueira, in exchange for an honest review.**

This was a hefty read. Not in length, as it comes in at a slight 188 pages, but rather in content, for this book is overflowing with political and religious satire and complex writing. 

You are warned that this is a fictional book from the very start of the novel, and that fact should definitely not be forgotten. This is a very hard book to summarize, so I will provide a link to Goodreads for those who wish to read a quick summary of the book before continuing this review. If not, let's dive in!

The main characters of this book are JFK, Fidel Castro, God, and Jesus - but none of them are the real people they're modeled after since this book is extremely satirical, and I certainly found myself laughing along the way at their antics. Just the thought of Fidel Castro and JFK in a heated out-gifting war is hilarious. Our immediate introduction to this book is a bit daunting and some disorienting as we try to figure out exactly what Jesus and God are doing and talking about, but eventually, as Fidel and JFK are introduced, we are slowly introduced to the main story and themes themselves. 

This is not a light, easy read - this is a book where every single sentence is important and holds important meanings, and some of these sentences are long. These sentences became a bit hard to follow at times and I often found myself rereading sentences or paragraphs to make sure I understood what was being said. I've read a fair share of satirical books and publications, but never anything quite like The Tragedy of Fidel CastroCerqueira is an obviously talented writer who knows exactly what he wants to say and wastes no words in saying it. 

Cerqueira is fair in his satire, for he takes aim at the capitalism of America, the communism in Cuba, people in general, and a fair amount of different religions. Everything was equally up for the mocking, and I loved it. He incorporates striking elements of magical realism that truly lights up the novel and brings life to it. 

This isn't exactly a book that I would pick up for pleasure, however. This book is definitely not for anyone, but if you're feeling snarky and mocking and want some good satire, this is a great book to pick up. Overall, I am giving The Tragedy of Fidel Castro four stars, for although is wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I still greatly appreciated the strong themes and writing, as well as the intricate characters Cerqueira has created. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Update from upcoming YA novelist Sacha Rines!

Back in early September, I wrote a mini-review of three sample chapters from an upcoming YA novelist Sacha Rines. Well, a little over a month later I received another email from Rines informing me that she had finished the draft and would like me to do a review of the full manuscript, which I was excited to do, so here it is!

The remainder of this story was just as enjoyable as the beginning. Venia is as sarcastic and snarky as always, and I loved every page of it. What strikes me the most is how relatable Venia is. I really felt like I was in her thoughts and had a solid grasp of her personality and who she really is as a person. It made me want to be her friend because of her wit, realistic outlook, and lively commentary.

As she continues the story, the pacing continues to be upbeat and moves at a quick pace, but this is still a fitting style for the story, and I never felt lost or confused in the plot. There is a greater amount of detail added into the story that provides more information important to the understanding of the story. Rines continues to develop the special gifts of her characters, and she does so in both entertaining and informative ways. Creating any sort of new world - especially one that includes special gifts, talents, or magic - is always difficult, but Rines pulls it off with grace - and a great deal of humour. This is the perfect book for you if you enjoy humor and lightweight plots. However, this doesn't mean that the characters are lightweight, as they are, in fact, quite complex and multi-dimensional, which is what can truly help to bring a story to life.

Rines' voice is as strong as ever, and her characters continued to delight me. As a draft, there are still some areas that could use a bit of strengthening, and there are a few minor mistakes here and there, but I find this to be completely expected and it truly did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Overall, I'd give this story four stars for it style, plot, and engaging characters, but three stars in regards to its overall construction and grammar. I hope everyone else has the chance to read this story soon, so stay tuned!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman. Harlequin Teen, 2015. 384 pages. Ebook. 

**I received a copy of Legacy of Kings courtesy of Harlequin Teen**

Legacy of Kings has left me with so many mixed feelings. To begin, I'm a classics major, so anything having to do with the Ancient Greeks immediately grabs my attention. I also have a weird obsession with Alexander the Great, so when I heard that Legacy of Kings was centered on Alexander, I was hooked. Then, when I received an email from from Harlequin Teen offering me a copy in exchange for an honest review, I was excited to finally read this book.

Unfortunately, things didn't go too well.

This is not a book solely focused on Alexander; instead, he is only one of many characters whose perspectives we are shifted between. Also, just as a side note - do not go into this thinking it is historically accurate, because it simply is not. That wasn't a problem for me, as I knew this is in advance and wasn't expecting accuracy - it is fiction, after all - but I know this bothers a lot of people, so I thought I'd throw it out.

Legacy of Kings got off to a rather slow start, but after a while it finally picked up a bit and I found myself beginning to enjoy the story. However, this was somewhat short-lived because as I begin to get further and further into the story, I found myself struggling to finish. I feel that Herman could have developed some of her storylines more, which would drag the reader in just a bit more. The plot itself was interesting, but there was too much going on to actually enjoy or understand it. If it had been cut down into only a few of the plot lines, it would have been much more enjoyable. As soon as I began to understand and get into one thing that was happening, it suddenly switched over to another event.

...which leads me to the next point. Too. Many. Characters. I had a difficult time keeping them all straight. In all, we have perspectives from Alex, Heph (Hephastion), Zo (Zofia), Cyn (Cynane), Jacob (no nickname), and Kat (Katerina). (Okay, what is up with all these nicknames?) While each one had an interesting story, I couldn't quite bring myself to care all that much. There was way too much going on and things became much too convoluted. It takes a certain talent and method of writing to have a large cast of characters and also be successful - George R. R. Martin, for instance - and I'm sorry to say that it was simply lacking here. There was, from my perspective, very little order, and everything simply felt too muddled; there was too much abrupt switching.

Despite the issue of too many characters, I do think that Herman crafted their personalities with great care and tried to develop each one's unique viewpoint. The female characters, however, seemed almost slightly too similar, and in the beginning I had difficulties finding enough distinctions between each character. As the novel progresses, however, Herman successfully develops each character's personal qualities and gives each one their own story to tell.

I did, however, enjoy all of the immense details and time that obviously went into the creation of this novel. Herman took so many great elements from Ancient Greek culture and incorporated them into an intricately developed novel. Regardless of my enjoyment of the story itself, Herman still constructed an exceptionally unique setting and atmosphere.

One last extremely minor and personal issue I had with this book was the use of the nickname of 'Alex' for Alexander the Great. I know this is largely irrelevant to the story, but this nickname doesn't really work for me because it simply takes too much away from who he is; the name 'Alexander' holds so much power that the name 'Alex' simply lacks.

Overall, I was disappointed. I expected a lot more from this book. I think maybe I had too high of expectations. I can't say the book was bad, as it was a truly unique and exciting plotline, I just feel that the execution was strongly lacking. As a result, I am giving Legacy of Kings three stars. While it wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, it was still an interesting and carefully crafted novel that I cannot help but recognize.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle

**Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye will be released Tuesday, November 24th!**

**I received a copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye courtesy of NetGalley and Quirk Books**

Throughout my yearly readings, I like to try to incorporate some fresh and interesting middle-grade books into the mix, and I always end up having such a blast diving into each imaginative new story. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye was a perfect addition to this category, and a wonderfully crafted middle-grade book!

Warren is an orphan living at the Warren House, a once bustling and popular hotel that has since fallen into disrepair after his lazy Uncle Rupert and villainous Aunt Anaconda take over control. His Aunt Anaconda, however, believes that a mysterious item known as the all-seeing eye is located somewhere on the property and will stop at nothing to find it - even if hundreds of unexpected and strange guests begin pouring into the hotel in order to find it as well. It becomes a race between all of these characters to discover the all-seeing eye, though Warren is the only one that means to do so in order to protect his family's legacy.

Warren the 13th is overflowing with vibrant, unique, and exciting characters - I can easily promise that you will never be bored. The illustrations are wonderfully whimsy and quirky, and there is no shortage of  crazy and unnatural creatures.

Warren himself is a hardworking young boy who wants nothing more than to reinstate the beauty and splendor of this once-great Victorian hotel. He is the hero of the story, though he doesn't act like any typical heroic trope; instead, he simply acts like a responsible young boy attempting to do his best to help out at the hotel where no one else works, all without many close companions to keep him company.

Aunt Anaconda is the perfect villain in any middle-grade story, and kids of any age will have a fantastic time hating her and rooting for Warren. She's spiteful and full of disdain, which makes for an exciting time. The rest of the cast of characters are equally intriguing, and I particularly enjoyed Warren's interactions with each one, whether brief of extended. For me, these interactions allowed Warren to meet new people, form some new bonds, and also truly allow the reader to get a sense for who Warren really is and why he wants to keep his hotel together - he wants to bring back all of the unique guests that brought the hotel to life. 

The illustrations were an amazing addition to the storytelling; they were interwoven in such a unique and quirky way that truly fit the overall atmosphere of the book. Though I was still able to enjoy the illustrations perfectly fine in ebook format, I can only imagine how lovely the physical book will be!

Overall, I am giving Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye four stars for its quirky charm and delightful storytelling! The storytelling is perfect, the illustrations and text arrangements are engaging, and the characters are all exceptionally charming and inventive. This would be a great book to read with or to kids, or even on their own (don't worry, I don't see anything wrong with adults reading books for younger audiences)!

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Friday, November 6, 2015

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd. Balzer and Bray, 2013. 464 pages. Ebook.

I've had this book sitting in my Kindle for quite a while now, and I can't believe I didn't read it sooner.

 I subscribe to daily Bookbub alert emails, which sends daily or weekly digests that highlight Kindle books that are on sale for $2.99 or less (I actually recommend it if that's something you're interested in). Now, you do have to sift through these sometimes to find the real gems, but when you do, it's totally worth it. For instance, The Madman's Daughter.

Just the summary alone had me hooked. It's an enticing story inspired by H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, and boy, did it deliver. There were so many parallels to the original, yet also so many differences that that made it an absolutely perfect balance overall. I thought this brought a delightful twist to Wells' original haunting page-turner, and I had a hard time putting it down.

The story follows Juliet Moreau, whose father is the infamous Dr. Moreau. Dr. Moreau has been driven out of the country after his controversial experiments become public and he faces great public shame and potential legal conflicts. Juliet is left alone - her mother eventually dying of illness - and is forced to find work wherever she can take it, as her father's disgrace has also left her in disgrace and ill favor of society. Through unexpected events, she ends up on her father's island with Montgomery, her childhood friend and servant, and Edward, a shipwrecked man they take aboard on their journey to Dr. Moreau's island.  Once on the island, Juliet discover that her father has not discontinued his experiments, but is still working steadily away at things she never imagined...

Simple put, Megan Shepherd is master storyteller. Though the plot was somewhat predictable at times, it was also done so in a way that was almost unpredictable. I know, you probable think I sound rather contradictory, but hear me out: have you ever read something that seems familiar, yet is entirely new, or you feel like something is going to happen, but you don't know how or when? That's how I often felt while reading this, and it was perfect. I felt so engaged and enjoyed every gory and unnatural twist and turn that Shepherd threw at me.

It definitely had its gruesome moments, but they weren't excessive or unwarranted; they fit perfectly in each place and brought just the right amount of creepiness and horror to the narrative. This is a psychological journey as much as it s a battle for survival on this island filled with unnatural beings.

I found Juliet's personality quite likable; she was headstrong and determined in a way that I don't often see. She may have turned a blind eye in the beginning to what her father was doing, but once she was faced with facts, she accepted them and acted accordingly. Though Juliet did make a few impulsive moves (what main character doesn't?), she didn't do anything exceptionally stupid, which often frustrates me with headstrong, stubborn female protagonists. I found her incredibly intelligent, and I absolutely loved the internal struggle between giving into her scientific-minded side versus her more rational, ethic-oriented side. I thought it brought up an important topic and discussion on the morals of science - how much is too much? at what point does science cross a 'moral' line? is there a line if it's all for the sake of knowledge and advancement?

Montgomery and Edward were also two captivating gentlemen, and I enjoyed slowly unraveling their personalities and actions to find out more about them and how they became the men they are. The romance between Montgomery and Juliet as well as Edward and Juliet was a bit strong and it could have easily been removed, but it was an interesting element that created a more developed and complex storyline among the characters - though it did create the dreaded love triangle.

We also have Juliet's father, the madman himself. I actually don't want to discuss him too much because I feel as though he is one of those characters that you really have to experience yourself. However, I will say that Shepherd did exceptionally complex work in creating his character: he is at first  depicted as a loving father enraptured in science, but slowly revealing his true, inner nature and inability to deduce when science goes too far.

This ended up being the perfect Halloween read. It was truly spooky, and I found myself becoming so absorbed in the creepy, unexpected happenings of the story that I hardly noticed the time fly by - though I did, however, notice when absolutely anything around me moved or made an unnatural sound; it's very easy to get sucked in, and I certainly noticed an eerie atmosphere surrounding me as I read it.

Overall, I am giving The Madman's Daughter the big five stars! I had such a great time reading this, and I was absorbed from page one: the plot was intriguing and complex, the characters were well-developed, and it kept me both entertained and in suspense.

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You might also like:
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House will be released Tuesday, October 27th - just in time for a perfect Halloween read!

Slade House by David Mitchell. Random House; 2015. 224 pages. Hardcover/Hardback.

**I received an ARC of Slade House courtesy of NetGalley and Random House**

First off, I want to point out that apparently Slade House is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks, which I have not yet read. This did not appear to impact my enjoyment of the book at all, but I can see how having a more solid understanding of the world may lend to a bigger appreciation of the story and understanding of certain terms, especially in some areas near the end.

Secondly, I am keeping this review fairly brief; I think Slade House is best read when you don't know much about it going into the story, so I don't want to go too in depth about the details.

I loved this book immensely! I enjoy a good scary story, but I'm slightly picky about them. I'm not a big fan of excessive gore, violence, or gross factors that are so prevalent in horror books and movies. It's not that I mind violence, as it works well in many books, but it so often becomes overused in scary stories. I'm more of the psychological thriller fan; I prefer to have my mind messed with. I think the creepiest and scariest books occur when thing are left unsaid, or when the creepy factor is so subtle you don't realize it, and when you do you're so unsettled you don't even know what to do. Think House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski or The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Slade House fits this mold exceptionally well, which made it an extremely enjoyable read.

I will briefly sum it up as this: Slade House spans five decades and centers on a house that come and go every nine years, luring in only those who are useful. I don't want to say any more than that for fear of giving anything away.

I finished this book in a matter of days; I simply did not want to put it down. As mentioned, it masterfully covers the years from 1979 to October 31, 2015, and is told in such a way that each decade and its character's perspective is immensely gripping and interesting. Mitchell has created such an engaging, unique world that becomes entirely tangible to his readers. In order to enjoy this book, you do have to suspend your belief at times, but the best part is: so do his characters. Everything is whacky and uncertain, and you just have to hang yourself in suspense while you wait to see how everything will work. With each new character that is introduced, I felt a tiny sense of foreboding that slowly grew as each one began to make their ways towards the tiny little alleyway that would lead to Slade House. Each character has a very unique personality and background, but each one seems to make the same mistakes and sets off a similar chain of events, which I found quite interesting to explore.

I think this is a book that is perfect for going into without knowing much about it. Much like Slade House itself, you just have to stumble inside and become lost as you attempt to make sense of where you are and what you're reading. So go ahead and sneak in through that tiny little iron door on Slade Alley and immerse yourself in this new, disconcerting world.

Overall, I am giving Slade House the big five stars! I had such a great time reading this book and I flew right through it, entranced the entire time. I would recommend this book to anyone in need a good spooky house story or a bit of psychological intrigue.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan

**Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan will be released Tuesday, October 27th!

Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan. Scribner; 2015. 256 pages. Ebook.

**I received a copy of Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan courtesy of NetGalley and Scribner**

Have you ever found yourself wondering about the Philosopher's Stone and the myth of its 'powers'? What about love potions and sleeping draughts? The effect of moon phases? Look no further, because Science of the Magical explores all of that!

Science of the Magical is by far one of the most entertaining and enjoyable nonfiction books I have read all year. Matt Kaplan is truly a master at creating a lively and engaging narrative that combines science with ancient history, mythology, and folklore. Kaplan's purpose is to describe the scientific accuracy and origins of these myths. What I really appreciated about his writing was that he didn't try exceptionally hard to make the scientific aspect fit, and he also didn't poke fun at the origins of some of these ideas, whether they seem silly or not.

The information presented throughout this book is the kind that makes you turn to the nearest human in your vicinity (or move to a location where there is a human in the area) and say, "Hey, did you know?" or "Wow, listen to this..." My poor mother said she didn't mind, but after you've done it for the twentieth or so time, you start to wonder if she really means that. Kaplan introduces such a wide variety of magic and myths that the book easily flows from one topic to the next. Almost all of these supernatural ideas have a natural or almost scientific origin that led to their creation, and it is extremely fascinating to discover this backstory.

Overall, Science of the Magical will be receiving four-and-a-half stars. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who's even slightly curious about magical and mythical things. Similarly, you're looking for something funny and informative at the same time, here you go! This would be perfect for anyone who just needs a good book to read and enjoy, because Kaplan will definitely give you that.

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You might also like:
Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku 
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff. CreateSpace; 2015. 346 pages. Ebook.

**I received a free copy of this book from the author, Alexis Radcliff, in exchange for an honest review.**

Prior to the email I received from Alexis Radcliff, I had never heard of this book or the author, so I was in uncharted territory, something that can be either surprisingly pleasant or decidedly unfortunate. After reading the synopsis provided, however, I was definitely intrigued and knew that I would be reading this book - and it turned out even better than expected!

Quick note: this book is one of those where it's hard for me to discuss it too extensively for fear or revealing any spoilers, so I will try to be as detailed yet spoiler-free possible so as to avoid revealing anything too important.

A Vanishing Glow is set in a land that is spilling over with revolutionary vibes and political unease. Jason Tern arrives in Ghavarim in order to become Lord Tern, the right hand man to his childhood friend and soon to be crowned king, Nole Ryon. Meanwhile, Nilya has joined the Crimson Fist as a sapper, where she ends up embarking on a journey never expected with a companion she did not ask for.

To begin, if there's anything that Radcliff does really well, it's create and develop characters. As mentioned above, Jason is a young noble who travels to Ghavarim where he is about to become Lord Tern. What I really appreciated about Jason was that although he was an extremely intelligent, observant, and resourceful man, he certainly had his flaws. Jason is, to be blunt, a bit hotheaded and tends to let his emotions guide him at times, which I found to be very authentic and a common manner for many people to act in intense situations. At times, I felt somewhat annoyed with him, for he came off a bit overly confident and overly bullheaded at various points throughout the story, so I was actually glad to have that bit of complexity.

Nilya is a fierce woman intent on creating and doing big things with her talent; she wants to stand out and be respected. When we are first introduced to Nilya, we see only her intelligence, stubbornness, and determination - which are all great qualities, though somewhat one-dimensional. However, as the book progresses we are privy to much deeper mental struggles that Nilya deals with, creating a wonderfully well-rounded and intriguing character. I was very intrigued by Nilya, for as bold and determined as she is, she's also very sensitive and compassionate; she knows where her principles and morals lie, and she tries hard to stick to those.

Another thing I really liked was the dual point-of-view. By now it's probably pretty apparent that I'm not always a big fan of multiple POVs, but I was pleased to find that it worked extremely well in this book.Jason's POV gave us more of the noble and aristocratic POV; we got to see how things were working in the upper levels and within the monarchy itself. With Jason, though, we are also able to see a "hidden underworld" where people definitely do not act in accordance with the laws set up by the nobility. However, Nilya's perspective is of the lower class - the Crimson Fist (Ghavarim's army) to be precise. Nilya meets a fellow travel companion who is not a fan of the monarchy and upper class, so I enjoyed being able to see the differences between the two sides of the coin. I also found it interesting to see how different lands had adapted to various 'modern' mechanisms and ideas, and other were still considered 'backwards.' For instance, the upper class and nicer areas employ the use of Mystech for things like electricity, whereas other places still use candles and less advanced 'technology.'

Radcliff does a wonderful job of weaving in a mixture of fantasy, tech, steampunk, and political intrigue into this delightfully fresh and exciting book. I loved the mix of technology and steampunk mechanisms with magical elements, as it's something that I've rarely - if ever - had the opportunity to experience before. Radcliff has created a very vivid and extensive world, filled to the brim with political scandal and intrigue. There are twists and turns at every corner; Radcliff definitely keeps you on your toes, which made for an exciting trip. Now, I tend to get a bit muddled up in fantasy novels that have a vast amount of politics, unique world intricacies, etc. (here's looking at you, Steven Erikson), but Radcliff did a very nice job of creating and conveying her creation in a readable and enjoyable manner.

One of the aspects of this novel that was most interesting to me was how the relational and sexual aspects of society operates. Until a man and woman are 'joined' (which I assume is basically the equivalent of our marraige?), they do not have any form of relationships with those of the opposite gender as we normally do, but instead have 'bedfellows' with those of the same gender. If you were involved in a heterosexual manner with someone who you are not 'joined' to, you are referred as a 'breedlust,' and this is extremely frowned upon. I'm really hoping that subsequent books delve a bitter deeper into this world and its customs!

I can certainly see where this book could use some development, but on the whole I felt it was a very solid, intricate, and engaging story that any fantasy or steampunk fan would enjoy.  There are so many places and ideas that Radcliff can and will hopefully explore in any subsequent books, so I will definitely be sticking around to check out the next book in the series!

Overall, A Vanishing Glow provided a thrilling and entertaining ride through a well-developed land with many diverse characters, and for that I am giving it four stars. As stated above, I would recommend this for anyone who likes fantasy, steampunk, or simply a entertaining book with interesting and unique story lines.

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You might also like:
Azurite by Megan Dent Nagle
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cleopatra's Shadows by Emily Holleman

**Cleopatra's Shadows will be released Tuesday, October 6th!**

Cleopatra's Shadows by Emily Holleman. Little, Brown and Company; 2015. 352 Pages. Paperback/Softcover.

**I received an advance review copy of Cleopatra's Shadows courtesy of NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company.**

So you're walking along, browsing the aisles of the bookstore when you see Cleopatra's Shadows hanging out on the shelf looking enticing. You think, "Hm, Cleopatra? I'd like to know more about her, let's see what this is about." This is where you go astray, because this is not a book about Cleopatra - it is about her two sisters that are so often forgotten about and overlooked. This is something new and exciting, with a wonderfully exciting new concept and area to explore. So let's dive in!

This book was a very nice diversion from the constant focus on Cleopatra; instead, as stated above, it follows her two sisters, Arsinoe and Berenice. The book alternates perspectives between the two as each struggles to deal with their newfound situation after Cleopatra and their father suddenly set sail and depart from Alexandria for an unknown amount of time. Berenice struggles with acting as a strong female leader; her goal is to keep Rome out of Egypt - which is, of course, much harder than it sounds. She must learn how and what decisions to make, who to trust, and whether or not to listen to her many advisors. Now under Berenice's rule, Arsinoe must submit to Berenice's authority and act loyal to Alexandria, whether she truly feels loyalty to her sister or not. Arsinoe, however, is also extremely close with her sister Cleopatra and is devastated by her leaving, praying that she will soon return for her and not leave her.

One of the large aspects of this novel focuses on Arsinoe's struggles with feelings of inadequacy, realizing that she has always been just the regular, leftover sister that isn't as important. As the title states, she has always been a shadow of her elder sister, Cleopatra. Even Berenice has faced this dilemma, despite the fact that she is now the current ruler of Alexandria since the rest of her family has left. I think we are meant to like and relate to Arsinoe more out of the two, but I almost preferred Berenice; Arsinoe was rather unlikable and hard to sympathize with. Holleman could have made these two sisters shine and move out of Cleopatra's shadow, but unfortunately she failed to do this, making each of them rather lackluster and uninteresting.

The time period that Holleman chose to write about is incredibly engrossing, because it is a time where much less is known about what occurred in history, and it is also not quite as popular as most others - likely because most books and research tend to focus more on Cleopatra. I appreciated Holleman's portrayal of Cleopatra, Berenice, and Arsinoe - historical facts and insights tend to get slightly fuzzy when it comes to the nitty-gritty of these women and their personalities, so I admired how she decided to mold and depict each of them for her novel.

Holleman's narrative voice is very fluid and light. Despite its slow pace, her writing does draw you in and make you interested to find out the conclusion of each sister's struggle. Her writing is not exceptionally thrilling or action-packed, but is instead written with a much more calm, dramatic flair that leaves the reader with a deeper and more reflective feeling.

One of my biggest problems with this book, however, was the lack of plot. This is tricky for me to explain, because while there are defined issues that each sister must figure out and resolve within the story, there also isn't much substance. Their issues do not seem to have definite answers or resolutions, and I often felt that the story was just moving along with no clear direction. It felt as if Holleman was just writing random events that seemed to only take place in order to add more to the novel while she tried to figure out exactly what she wanted to happen. There was too much 'fill-in.'
 I also felt that there was a bit of a random, unnecessary turn of events near the end regarding Arsinoe that did not seem to fit with the rest of the story, but I don't want to go into that too much due to spoilers.

Overall, I am giving Cleopatra's Shadows three-and-a-half stars, because although it was an interesting book, but it was missing many elements that make it deserving of a higher rating. If you enjoy ancient history, historical fiction, or political intrigue and the inner workings of court, then I highly recommend this book to you!

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If you like this book, you might also like:

Helen of Troy by Margaret George
The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart goes last will be released next Tuesday, September 29th!

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.

I feel as though I should start off by that saying that this was the first Margaret Atwood book I have ever read. I always hear how remarkable The Handmaid's Tale is, along with many of Atwood's other books, but for some reason I just never got around to picking any of them up. I'm not sure what was preventing me from reading one, considering she's often touted as the queen of dystopian literature, but somehow there was something preventing me from diving into one of her novels. So when I got a random package from DoubleDay books with an ARC of Margaret Atwood's upcoming release, The Heart Goes Last, I took it as a sign to break my Margaret Atwood virginity. 

I knew pretty much nothing about The Heart Goes Last when I received it, so I immediately looked it up to find out more. From what I have gathered, this novel is either related to or continued from her serialized Positron series, published by Byliner. However, there is no indication that one must read the previous Positron serials; I had no prior knowledge of any of this before reading, and I enjoyed the it just fine without that information. 

The Heart Goes Last is set in a dystopian future, where a young-ish couple, Stan and Charmaine, are struggling to survive; they currently live in their car and attempt to live off of Charmaine's meager wages as a waitress. However, a new experiment has begun in their community that is attempting to make people's lives easier. Participants in this new experiment will be given a house, employment, and rather pleasant lifestyle - but only for a total of six months a year. The catch: every other month each resident must spend their time in prison, while an alternate couple - who just completed their month in prison - takes their house for the month. The goal is, of course, to create a perfect society (we know how that tends to go). 

I was drawn into this book from the very beginning. However, I will admit that I felt a bit confused about what was going on at first, but fortunately there was something extraordinarily captivating about Atwood's writing that made me keep reading. It turned out to be an incredibly engaging story - so much that I finished it in about two days (which is likely partly helped by the fact that it's a fairly short book as well). This is also important to note because I have gotten pretty worn out from dystopian novels, but this one was a refreshing take on the genre.

Charmaine seemed to me to be the more stereotypical 'woman in dystopia' character and is much more gullible than her husband. Despite this, I see her naiveté nature as her deep, desperate plea to have a normal and happy life. And truly, that's all she wants: to be happy. It doesn't seem to matter just how gullible Charmaine needs to be for this to happen - she is fully willing to shed any doubts or questioning she has in order to enjoy this new life. 

Stan, however, is a bit more skeptical. From the start, he has a sort of inkling that this isn't going to go as it should. His brother, the ever untrustworthy screw-up, even warns him to stay out of this place. But Stan, being the good husband that he is, wants his wife to be happy, so he placates her and agrees to start the experiment. 

Stan and Charmaine's marriage was really interesting to explore. They weren't exactly passionate about one another, but their bond was incredibly strong - even when it appeared to be the opposite. Physically, they seemed to have a strong sex life, engaging in sexual activities often; however, it was also lacking in passion. Stan often commented how he was bored, and after finding a lipstick-printed note from what he thought was the other couple, he began to constantly fantasize about being much more passionate with the other woman that he had never seen. Stan wanted a life that wasn't so dry and pastel-colored, he wanted vibrancy and flames, like the lipstick color on the note. In my opinion, this is what ultimately drives and motivates Stan. He realizes that he isn't happy and that he does want out of his boring, uneventful life. 

This book plays with a lot of themes, emotions, and situations that are ordinarily pretty crazy. For instance, people who are deemed 'troublesome' are quickly sent to be euthanized; this, of course, is a huge secret that no residents know about, other than the one who performs the euthanasia. Residents are also under surveillance 24/7, whether they realize it or not. I really enjoyed how Atwood wrote in a style that was serious and not serious at the same time. The character are almost unbelievable due to how eccentric they are, but it is that eccentricity and oddness that draws you in and attaches you to each distinct character. The book plays with a vast amount of far-fetched ideas and plot events, but it still makes for an incredibly enjoyable read. And as far-fetched as some of these ideas are, it's frighteningly possible to imagine it happening in our own societies, and I think that is what truly hits home about this novel. While the book is amusing on the outside, it has many elements that convey a darker tone about society that can be found written between the lines of every page.

Overall, I am giving The Heart Goes Last four stars due to its wonderfully engaging and intriguing storyline, which is perfectly matched with Atwood's delightfully quirky and blunt storytelling. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good dystopian book (along the lines of 1984, not The Hunger Games), or anyone who simply enjoys something refreshing and entertaining.

And don't forget! The Heart Goes Last will be released on September 29th!

If you like this, you might also like:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
On the Beach by Nevil Shute

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance

This book sparked a huge amount of talking points, so I did my best to narrow it down as much as I could, but be warned: this is still going to be a rather long review.

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance. Ecco; 2015. 400 pages. eBook. 

Elon Musk: the man behind some of the greatest and most innovative companies of our time: Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, and maybe even the Hyperloop one day. Subtitling his biography with 'Inventing the Future' is the best and most accurate description I could possible think of for Musk because, essentially, that's exactly what he's doing.

Prior to reading this book, I only knew bits and pieces about him from snippets I would read in magazines, newspaper, online article, et cetera. I wanted to know more, so when I saw this book and saw that it seemed to have good reviews citing its objectivity and accuracy, I felt that it would be a good starting-off point for learning more about this determined and bullheaded man.

I'd like to start off by saying that Vance is a brilliant biographer. I have read my fair share of biographies, but I'm not sure if I've ever read one that was as equally engaging and entertaining as it was informative. As fascinating as biographies can be, I always - almost without fail - find myself losing interest at some point, whether it is because the author has gone into some minute detail that I don't particularly care about, or because their writing just simply seems to get distracted and bogged down by facts and figures. Vance masterfully avoids falling into this trap of biography-writing, and instead keeps everything snappy, to-the-point, and full of striking details. Now, this could be helped by the fact that Musk is such a unique and controversial figure, but Vance still works some wonderful writing charm of his own to complement his subject.

Not only has Vance crafted a wonderfully detailed and interesting book, but he has shown immense thoroughness and a stubbornness of his own in order to make this book happen. As Vance relates, Musk is not exactly a fan of the media, and therefore does not want many things - especially books - written about him - and definitely not if he doesn't have much say in what is written in said book. Vance, however, continues on, impressing Musk enough with his eagerness and determination that he is given the approval to write this book on his own. With that, let us move on the man himself: Elon Musk.

Musk is not afraid to take risks. He is the king of coming up with what appear to be crazy, futuristic, impossible ideas that no one believes in - but the most exciting part is that he almost always does pull them off, no matter what it takes (and that is not an exaggeration). All it takes is a stubborn, ruthless, persevering, and exceedingly intelligent man.

Musk has a blunt, straightforward attitude that should be admired as much as it is feared. The thing that is most striking about Musk is that he knows what he wants and he goes for it; I find this extremely admirable. He doesn't stop at anything anyone says or at any dilemmas he runs into. Now, sure, he might be a bit harsh and completely alienate or frighten his employees, but that's because he has the bigger picture in his head. He knows what he wants done, and he knows what it takes. Musk is not one to sit around toying with vast amounts of scenarios on how to get things done; he wants answers, and he wants them fast. As one employee of Musk has stated:

"If [Elon] asks you a question, you learn very quickly
not to go give him a gut reaction. He wants answers that 
get down to the fundamental laws of physics."

Don't expect sympathy or friendly conversations if you work for Musk; instead, expect to work hard. But, you should also expect to make history and create things that no one ever believed could be created. Musk is also an avid learner whose goal is to not only make great inventions, but to constantly learn more about what he is doing. He was cited as almost constantly quizzing engineers working on rockets at SpaceX, not to test that they knew their stuff, but so that he could learn everything.

On a personal level, Musk is not the warmest person you'll meet. He seems to rank up with other geniuses like Steve Jobs who, although brilliant, aren't exactly friendly people. I won't go into his personal life too much, as I feel that is better left for each reader to discover, and I don't particular want to overshadow or take away from his accomplishments; however, I had a hard time liking him as a person. Now before you all get mad at me for foisting my opinion and focusing on his personality, I want to make it clear that I'm not saying it's important to like someone as a person in order to respect or admire them. I'm merely saying that despite my immense awe and admiration for Musk, he's not exactly someone that I think I would enjoy spending time with. Would I like to hear about his ideas? Sure. Otherwise, not so much. His attitude towards women bothered me at times, and some of his actions towards his peers and employees were also not entirely admirable, and those qualities force me to keep Musk at a human level and not place him up on some godlike pedestal.

Although Musk is often portrayed as somewhat coldhearted, he does have some great qualities, and also has many quirky personality traits that are quite interesting to discover. For instance, he has a tendency to narrow in on minute details that most big companies would not see a problem with. For instance, a favorite part of mine is when Vance copies an email that Musk sent to employees regarding acronyms that were being used around the SpaceX factory, which contained a subject line reading "Acronyms Seriously Suck." In it, Musk bluntly and forcefully states that any and all acronyms that are not obvious and already in place must stop being used immediately, as it becomes much too complicated to figure out what people are saying, and "no one can actually remember all these acronyms... This is particularly tough on new employees." While this seems like an incredibly small and unimportant issue, it actually makes quite a lot of sense; these acronyms that were meant to increase productivity were actually slowing it down, which Musk explains: "The key test for an acronym is to ask whether it helps or hurt communication." Productivity is one of the most important thing to Musk, and that is exactly how he thinks.

Overall, Elon Musk: Inventing the Future will be receiving four stars, as it was extremely informative and entertaining, and it was definitely a great read for me. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys biographies, technology, Elon Musk, or simply an education and engaging read.