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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Monthly Book Roundup: July 2015

I love books. Maybe you know this about me, maybe you have no idea who I am. But reading is how I spend most of my time that isn't cooking, watching YouTube videos, or drinking. I sadly don't have many friends who share my passion for books, and those that do don't really read the same books I do. So this blog is my main outlet for talking about all the books I read. I guess there's a lot of them. More than average but for a "booky" I feel like it's maybe not that much. I get through one or two books a week on average and sometimes it can take me longer. Honestly, those people who read 200 books a year confuse me because who has that time? Are you literally always reading? Do you just skim? Are you lying to me?

Anyway, I've decided to write more about books and give monthly summaries of what I have read. I'd like to write more detailed book reviews but, quite frankly, I'm lazy. So this is what you get. These overall impressions about books that I read once a month.

Also, please suggest books to me. I may spend just as much time trying to find books as I do reading some days. It's a constant struggle.

This month I made it through seven books plus one book I am going to most likely end up dropping because, well, I'll explain later.

An Ember In The Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Young Adult Fantasy, Dystopia, meh

I really hesitated about reading this book. I had a feeling of the sort of book it would be (your standard YA fantasy romance nonsense) but the "ancient Rome" reference plus some rave reviews made me give it a try. It was okay. I have read worse and I actually ended up finishing this one. It just has many of the issues that I have with this whole area in general. Love happens too quickly for no reason. Thankfully, the love isn't a main focus of the book but it is there and it is annoying if that sorta thing bugs you.

The other issue I have is the characters. There is a very interesting character who has some very cool stuff going on but she is sadly a secondary character. The male point of view is okay, he's interesting and engaging and didn't bother me, but the girl was just... ugh. Maybe because I am an only child I don't "get" her obsessive need to do ANYTHINGGGGGG to save her brother. But she just seemed foolish most of the time. I wish the above interesting female would have been the main and this stupid girl who made herself a slave would have just been thrown away. Boooooo.

Rating: 2.5/5 Read it if this is your thing.

The Novice

Author: Taran Matharu
Young Adult Fantasy, magic! dragons! or... pokemon! I dunno.

I read this book because it was like Harry Potter meets Pokemon and I am really glad I did. The main character was interesting and not annoying at all. The premise was (while not totally unique) really engaging. And I just really enjoyed reading about this world. It went by quickly, I read the book in two or three days, and I wasn't bored at all while reading it.

Yeah, there are cliches throughout the book and the whole "magic school" thing has been done to death but I am really kinda into that thing. Maybe it's because Harry Potter is what started my reading journey, maybe it's because that little bubble can just be nicely developed. I dunno. But it was a really great little book, though definitely geared towards the younger crowd.

Rating: 4/5 stars. A great young adult book, though a bit on the young side

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness
Science Fiction Dystopia, Journey, Thriller, Gory

This book has been on my Kindle for three years. My Goodreads account says I started this back in March 2012. This isn't because it's a bad book, it's because it SOUNDED like a book I would't enjoy. Oh a boy goes on an adventure with his talking dog... so interesting. I wanted to read it because of the reviews but I just.... couldn't. I'd find another book and I would read it instead and now it's three years later and I finished the entire series in like a week and a half and I hate myself for taking so long to read it. Seriously.

The book is a lot more than it appears in the beginning. The world is so weird and interesting and alien yet familiar. The whole "you can always hear my thoughts" thing is addressed in such a way that it doesn't seem annoying. It is perfectly balanced between helping and hurting the main character. The book is so smartly done and I just found myself in love with it instantly.

Rating: 5/5 Read this book now I don't care what you're reading just do it.

The Ask and the Answer

Author: Patrick Ness
Science Fiction Dystopia this is a sequel to the last book just look there but I will add ~love~

This book is maybe better than the first one in the series. It really is. Which is rare. Even with the inclusion of ~love~ which made me dislike Catching Fire when compared to Hunger Games. Again the characters are great and the new conflict just adds a whole different level to the book. You really get to know the place you are in and see the growth of the characters.

This book was very dark and it isn't a happy book at all. But at the same time you just can't help but keep hope. You'll understand if you read it!

Rating 5/5 just buy both of the books when you get the first one

Monsters of Men

Author: Patrick Ness
This is the third of the last two books. I am not writing the genres.

Now, as much as I loved the first two this book sort of... lost a bit. The points of view change so quickly that I really didn't feel like I could get into it like the last two books at all. The vibe changed, the pacing changed, everything changed and I didn't enjoy it.

The story was still good. Though the ending was a bit "meh" and while the epilogue thing was great the actual ending made me very angry. I dunno. I feel like when you read this book just stop 90% in and make  up your own ending. You'll be happier that way.

Rating: 3.5/5 DISAPPOINTMENT!!

A Head Full of Ghosts

Author: Paul Tremblay
Science Fiction? Horror, Thriller, this book should be more disgusting!

This books description sounded so good! Oooooh, a reality TV show about a family trying to get their young daughter to not be possessed when she really is just schizophrenic? Gimme the book! I love creepy weird things. I like being made uncomfortable. I like books that make me react.

This isn't that book. It was boring and so much of it just seemed pointless. It had so much potential to be AWESOME but was executed so poorly. I skipped so much of the "present day" stuff and just went to the past to read about the creepy sister who wasn't really even creepy. I dunno, maybe my expectations were wrong in this one. The narrator just didn't help things at all.

Rating: 3/5 stars If there's nothing else you wanna read I guess this is okay...


Author: Blake Crouch
Science Fiction, thriller, snooze

This book was just average. Nothing special about nothing bad about it. I feel like the entire three books could have been made into one book and 2/3 of the content of this guy cut out. The 10 episode series made off of this book is obviously the way it should have been done.

Watch Wayward Pines, don't worry about reading this. Not worth it.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars If you really love mystery go for it, but that's about it. Watch the show!

More Happy Than Not

Author: Adam Silvera
Young Adult Drama Boring Why?

I need to stop reading these sort of young adult discovery books. I just don't care. I don't relate to the narrator and I find it boring unless there's a lot going on. And in this book there's not a lot going on. Let's play manhunt for 15 pages!!!

Rating: dropped at 25%

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Little Known Japan: Sapporo Outings Moerenuma and Art Park

Sapporo is Japan’s fourth largest city after Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. It is the northernmost of these cities and you’re gonna have to travel a ways to get here, but it’s a fantastic city. I’ve been all over Japan, and there’s nothing quite like it. The people are very friendly and interested in you, the food is amazing, and the area around it is beautiful. It’s famous for skiing, having hosted a winter Olympics way back when, and has a relatively mild summer for Japan. You can get a roundtrip ticket from Tokyo for under $100 in the off-season and it will only take you two hours to fly here. Not to mention the ferry you can take or the train (though those will eat up a day of your time).

Sapporo has a lot to offer, mostly in terms of unique outdoor experiences. And here I would like to highlight two of them. This year I have visited two of Sapporo’s more famous parks, the architecture park of Moerenuma and the Sapporo Art Park.

Both are a bit out of the way, requiring you to travel to the end of the line on different subway lines and take a bus for the better part of thirty minutes, but they are both places you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and are worth a visit.

Moerenuma is north of the city, you’ll need to take the Toho line to Shindo Higashi station and then the Chuo Bus numbered Higashi 76. There’s other ways to get there but this is the route I took. Total travel time from Sapporo Station will be about 50 minutes.

You’ll get off the bus and think “where’s the park, there’s only farm?” but if you head across the street you’ll find the entrance, when you walk over a bridge you’ll be greeted with lush green and interesting looking manmade mountains.

The park opened in 1998 after nearly twenty years of construction. The park was designed by Isamu Noguchi, who was a Japanese-American sculptor. The park is perfect for a picnic with many trees to sit under and enjoy the huge sculptures that surround you.

You’ll find a glass pyramid on the eastern side of the park that houses a small museum to Noguchi as well as a great view of the surrounding neighborhood.

Secondly is Sapporo’s Art Park. A twenty minute bus ride from platform two at Makomanai station on the Namboku Line will get you to this art gallery art park hybrid. The day I went was to see the Star Wars: Visions exhibit with some friends. The art gallery hosts random exhibits throughout the year and entry fees vary. The constant attraction is the sculpture garden, which was only an extra 100 yen added onto the fee of the Star Wars exhibit. Just entry to the sculpture garden will cost under 1,000 yen.

There was also a small gathering of local artists selling their goods outside the art gallery, where you can find some unique Japanese souvenirs and support local art. The park has a number of other attractions, but I didn’t have a chance to see them as it closed around 5:30.

The sculpture park will take you at least twenty minutes to get around, and you can easily spend an hour wandering around the dozens of pieces.

While much of the year Sapporo is covered in snow and very, very cold. The few months we get of warm weather are generally jam packed trying to enjoy all the city has to offer before the cold sets in again. The people of Sapporo really appreciate the summer, and you can see that value in the events that happen this time of year that try to get the most out of their few months free of snow.

July and August are my favorite Sapporo months, and I am glad they will be my last. Go out on the best note possible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Little Known Japan: Furano-Biei Flower Farms

Two weekends ago I went on a trip with a few of my friends to a famous farming town two and a half hours north of Sapporo. It’s called Furano and its specialty is growing flowers. I had been there a couple years back, when I stilled lived in Atsuma and a friend had a spare seat in her rental car, but the weather was rainy and we had missed the lavender blooming, so I had always wanted to go back there.

A couple weeks ago I decided to try. I sent a message out to a handful of friends and organized a rental car and Saturday we were off. It was a great trip that went off without a hitch and the weather was perfect. I realized how much I enjoy roadtrips and it is now my goal to do more of them!

The day started at 9am and we got our rental car. I was the navigator and Allie, who I went to Vietnam and Cambodia with, drove us. I was planning on driving but I didn’t realize that my Japanese license expired back in March rather than the three year mark of me getting it. Nice job assuming, Kaley.

The drive itself was beautiful. We took the backroads to avoid the exorbitant prices of Japanese toll roads (only would have saved us 20 minutes) and the winding mountain roads and scenic farm towns we passed reminded me just why I love Japan and why I have stayed here for so long. It’s easy to forget when you spend your days in a concrete jungle.

The weather was so nice that I rode with the windows down. Until a carpenter bee decided to fly into my face and end up on Allie’s leg. Props to her for not freaking out and bigger props to Sevy for grabbing the thing with a tissue while I was frozen in fear and confusion.

We started about thirty minutes north of Furano in Biei, where we had lunch at a beautiful little cottage at a potato farm famous for their beef stew called Blanc Rouge then headed back south to Shikisai No Oka, a flower farm located on some rolling hills.

When I came two years back the blooming season for the flowers was in full swing, it’s a shame that the lavender and most of the other flowers aren’t in sync, but we can’t really expect to control nature now, can we? Regardless, it was still a beautiful place and there was something more exciting than flowers.


I love alpacas. I think they are just the funniest and cutest animals. Their long awkward necks, fluffy bodies, and hilarious noises just get to me. And I have a collection of random alpaca cuteness all over my apartment and desk.

Though, the saliva warnings scared me a bit.

They’re animals and you can’t expect everyone to be perfect. Even an alpaca.

After we finished up in Biei we headed down to Furano itself and the main stop, Farm Tomita. This place is very busy as there’s only really two weeks in a year where the lavender blooms, so the Chinese tour buses were out in full force. I can confirm that Chinese tourists are the worst tourists. They’re just loud and rude and travel is large herds.

I got some ice cream, cantaloupe and lavender swirled together into perfection, and as I was waiting in line an old Chinese lady just shoved me out of the way to look into the drink cooler before walking off. There was a line of ten people behind me as well. Rude.

Farm Tomita was beautiful, the lavender were perfect and the weather even moreso. Though it was hot for the first time since, well, last year. I realized that Sapporo has removed any ability I have for heat adaptation and my move back to Florida will be a warm one. Though we have air conditioning in Florida and springs and beaches so I guess the heat really won’t matter too much.

After we got done looking at the flowers we headed over to the melon house where I bought the tiniest melon smoothie for far too much money. Melon in Japan is beyond expensive. A cantaloupe will cost you $15 and a honeydew $8. The only time I eat it is if I get it for school lunch, which happens a few times a month in season and I actually got some good cantaloupe this Monday.

By 5 we had to head back to Sapporo, to drop off our rental car by 8. The drive back was much the same as the drive there, though the windows stayed up and the setting sun was in our eyes. We got the car back with a full tank of gas ten minutes before it was due, so I consider it a success.

One of the main reasons I love living in Hokkaido also makes it difficult to enjoy living here. The island is largely farm land and nature, and the train lines go to only a few major cities. If you want to go anywhere it will take you ages (Furano is only 120km away from Sapporo), but the drive will be beautiful and a large part of your journey. We only spent four hours total in Biei and Furano and six in the car, and it was nice to just enjoy the beautiful mountainous country of Japan for a day, and really appreciate the country I have called home for the last four years.

I highly suggest renting a car and spending a few days driving around Japan, rather than sticking to the main cities. Japan actually goes from urban to rural really quickly, and you can experience the more rustic Japan easily in a day trip outside of Tokyo or Kyoto or Osaka. To me, that’s the real Japan. That special part of Japan that lets you really understand the country.

All photos are taken by me. Please don't use without permission. I hold all copyrights.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How I Get The Perfect iPhone Photo: SITS Photography Challenge Days 1 and 2

For my birthday this year I bought myself a Nikon D3300. I've wanted a DSLR since high school but never really had the money saved to get one. Moving to Japan was expensive and moving around Japan was expensive and living in Japan is expensive. So it took me this long to buy one. Since I've gotten it I have tried my best to practice with it. Taking it to Vietnam and Cambodia, exploring around Sapporo, taking trips to surrounding villages. Mostly I just fiddle with the settings until it looks halfway decent and polish it in Photoshop.

Last week I got an email about the SITS blogging photography challenge and decided to give it a try. My time difference makes it a bit difficult to participate as I would like, since the challenges are usually posted right as I get to bed, but I am trying my best!

Day 1 was about composition, something I am familiar with thanks to the photography class I had in high school which spawned my desire to get a DSLR. And day 2 deals with phone photography, an area I am definitely lacking in thanks to only having an iPhone 4 (did I mention it took me six years to save for a DSLR? Yeah I ain't got money for new iPhones all the time). Thankfully I'll be getting the newest iPhone this September when I move back to America. You don't know how much I am looking forward to getting it! I can't get iOS 8 on this, which means many apps I want I can't have (VSCOcam being one that many people use to edit photos). Not to mention it's just small and slow. It's been a great phone but four years is definitely the most it will last.

I had some free time at work today (which really isn't anything new... Six days left!!!) and decided to try and play with my phone a bit. Japanese phones actually have permanent shutter noises thanks to all the perverts but I downloaded a manner camera which silences it, though it's a bit slow and I think the photo quality lessens. Another reason I don't use my phone much!

I started by setting up what I wanted to shoot. I decided on a colorful image of my pens with some Sailor Moon stuff thrown in because... I like Sailor Moon.

The background was a bit boring so I tinkered it a bit, then decided to work on the angles that I was using.

I really liked going from nearly a top down point of view, but the background was too cluttered for that.

I decided to change the angle to more of a sideview, and began snapping away.

I didn't really like the reflection of the lights on the table, so I tried to get some without them in it.

Which proved difficult when trying to get a somewhat decent composition going... 

So I ended up dealing with them and changing the background to be a bit darker, and this is my final image! 

You can see a higher quality image by clicking on the photo!

 As you can see, it takes a lot of different shots to get the "perfect" picture. When you watch shows like Top Model and the contestants have like 100 frames to get one good image this point is really drilled home. So many little details go into making a great picture, and you really can only learn what those details are by practicing. Phone cameras are a great way of playing with different angles and backgrounds, as the limited settings narrow your focus down a lot. You're no so concerned with ISOs and f-stops and apertures and just really focused on the image you're taking a picture of. I think great photography comes from the ability to understand what you're taking a picture of, and not using fancy settings and editing to mask what flaws it may have.

What is your photo taking process like? Do you pay attention to these little details like I do? How many pictures do you usually take before you find the right one? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear about it!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cambodia: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

It’s been a while since I have written about my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. It was so long ago now that I feel a little silly typing it up after so much time. I’ve decided to put both Cambodian cities in the same post, as there really wasn’t that much difference between the two.

Our first stop was in the capital of Phnom Penh. The city was much larger than I expected, mainly because Hanoi has completely thrown off any expectations I had previously. It felt like a huge metro area with large roads, regular grocery stores, and an easy to follow layout. The hostel we stayed at was located right near the royal palace and pretty much everything else I wanted to do in the city.

Central Market in Phnom Penh
The first thing I noticed, however, was the heat. I am from Florida so I am no stranger to the all-encompassing humid kinda heat that you get in more tropical climates, but I’ve lived the last couple years in Sapporo where you’re in a jacket ten months of the year, so my body is out of practice with heat. And boy, does Cambodia really know how to do heat. The worst part is that there is very little escape from it when you’re outside, the tree lined roads of Vietnam aren’t a thing in Cambodia and walks around town are just you and the sun and heat. I mean, it’s beautiful out there with the cloudless skies but that just means it’s always, always hot.

Thankfully the hostels will have air conditioning in the room if you do it right, the hostel we stayed at in Phnom Penh was really nice and we ended up with an entire female dorm to ourselves. It was cleaned and the staff were really nice. Cambodian people are just really nice. They want you there, which is a big difference to the Vietnamese. The Cambodians have realized just how valuable foreign tourism is to their country and they are doing every single thing that they can to ensure it continues. The Vietnamese also embrace the tourism but in a very aggressive way. The Japanese, on the other hand, only want foreigners to stay in their nice little foreign bubbles, in my experience.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

In Phnom Penh the pace slowed down a lot, which isn’t hard coming from Hanoi. We went to the Royal Palace which was amazingly beautiful, but where I learned that the Heat is going to be an issue on this trip and that Water is my new best friend in the entire world. It doesn’t help that when you’re going to 90% of the tourist spots in Cambodia they double as a sacred place, which means your knees and shoulders should be covered. Which means you’re wearing way more clothes than you would like to. Shawls aren’t really acceptable either. So you’ll be walking around these amazingly beautiful places that you’ll likely never see again and half your focus will be on “man, I really don’t want to climb those ten steps into that hot palace building but I gotta do it, oh goodness why is climbing ten steps so difficult where is my water bottle. I made it! Thank goodness I made it. Now I need a rest.”

There was one point at the Royal Palace where they have all these chairs and fans set up (because people have to remove their shoes to go into the hall) and everyone is just sitting there by the fans and you can tell you’re all in this miserable heat together. This was also when I realized that even surrounded by foreigners I stand out as a foreigner. In Japan, I am usually one of only a few foreigners in an area. Maybe walking in a busy shopping area I’ll see a few others, but we’re a huge minority. At these spots I was visiting I would say that it was usually half foreign tourists and half domestic. Yet, I constantly attracted the attention of the natives. I didn’t really expect this to happen because I was constantly surrounded by people who look very similar to me, but for some reason my “foreignness” is extra special. My height? My extreme paleness? My beauty? I don’t know. But it was something that really surprised me. Because in America I have always just felt very “average” (outside of being a six foot female…).

National Museum in Phnom Penh

That being said, none of the tourist spots you will go to in Cambodia will have air conditioning. It’s a very hot experience. Pretty much the only time you will have any relief from the heat is when you are in your hostel or in a large, modern shopping complex. The markets are outdoors, the museums are outdoors, the temples are outdoors. So you need water, lots of water.

Now, in Vietnam water was cheap. Like the kinda cheap you don’t really even think about. You may your pennies for the huge water bottle and you drink and drink and pay pennies for another. In Cambodia, though, you can pay almost a dollar for 1.5 liters. Now, that doesn’t sound like much compared to bottle water in the States or even Japan, but when your ONLY option for water is to buy it, and you’re drinking maybe 6 liters a day of the stuff, it adds up. That was probably the biggest downfall, how expensive the water was.

In Phnom Penh we had the chance to take a day trip out to, what I would consider, one of the most moving experiences I have ever had traveling. I’ve heard references to the Khmer Rouge growing up, it’s a name I am familiar with but I never really knew why it was familiar. In Cambodia I learned a lot of the history of the country, which is one of the very important parts of traveling to me. I want to learn about the country I am visiting, not just visit a bunch of tourist spots because I can. There is an entire country of people who have histories that are just as detailed and important as my own countries. As an American I think this is a very important thing to do, because it is very easy to just get caught up in the influence America has globally and not really realize that there is an entire world of people outside of your own country.

Mass graves at the killing field
This day trip we took was to a killing field. For some reason the name didn’t really have the impact that it should have when we first started the trip. I’ve watched countless Holocaust documentaries and I have studied the awful things other countries did during WWII. But, it’s always had this distance behind it. We got to the killing field and they have these audio guides for you to take for free. You put the headphones on and suddenly you’re in your own little world. The sun is shining and the sky is blue and this man’s voice comes on and he just starts telling you all these awful things that have happened right where you’re standing. Then you walk on when he tells you to and you realize all those holes in the ground? Those didn’t have one body in them, not even a dozen bodies, they had hundreds. Each of the dozens of holes had hundreds of bodies in them. Then there’s warnings to step carefully because bones get brought to the surface every so often. And that tree? That tree is where they bashed the heads of children.

It’s a dark and it’s a devastating and it’s an awful, awful place. But it’s important. It’s important to see what can and has happened, just what we are capable of if we’re not careful. It’s so weird, knowing that people were trapped where I was walking, and I can just look over a fence and there is this huge open area of green with cows grazing. It seems so beautiful and peaceful until you realize that where you are standing someone died. A lot of someones, really.

I think it is important to note that the things that I enjoyed the most out of the trip were usually the things that I didn’t plan to do. The food tour in Hanoi was a last minute addition as was the trip to the killing field. I do a lot of planning for traveling, but I always make sure to leave plenty of time to do things that I didn’t realize were an option, or that maybe sounded horrible on paper (“Why would I want to visit a killing field on my vacation???”) but after hearing everyone I talk to say how much I have to do it, I add it in. I think that balance of planning and free time is crucial for a great trip.

Pub Street in Siem Reap
Siem Reap was the next city, and most of that time was spent at Angkor Wat, which I will write in my next Vietnam and Cambodia post. Siem Reap was a fun city, and I think it is a complete tourist town. The only thing that city really has going for it is Angkor Wat and it shows. Pub Street had more cuisines from around the world than I have seen in a long time, and there are foreigners everywhere. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t speak some English and it just feels really comfortable.

We stayed at a hostel near the night market and Pub Street and I think that is the perfect place to stay. Angkor Wat is a ways out of the city proper, so you’re going to have to travel to get there regardless. Might as well stay where all the fun stuff happens! When we weren’t at Angkor Wat we were walking around, and we managed to get a massage which was well worth the break. But there really isn’t much to do in the city itself, so I don’t suggest allotting too much time outside of Angkor Wat.

This house is on a lake

We did make a trip over to Tonle Sap, though. While the trip itself was slightly weird due to the two of us being the only two people on the entire river boat with a crew of nearly ten and a sick sea boat driver, the actual lake lake itself ("sap" means "lake") was fascinating. It is covered in a floating village. People just live there, floating and fishing in the middle of SE Asia's biggest lake. In the rainy reason I believe you can even travel between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh via this lake.

Cambodia, while hot, was a great experience. It's a very simple country and the people are very nice and welcoming. Maybe one day I will make it back to Cambodia, I could see myself returning there, that's for sure. Maybe not in the hottest month of the year, though!

All photos were taken by me. Please don't use without permission, I hold all copyrights!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mid-Year Book Reviews

Now that June is finally over, I thought it would be a good time to give a mid-year update on the books that I have read so far. As I write this, I have finished 23 books to completion and dropped another 7 after starting them. This year has been a bit difficult for me book-wise, as I have found myself either loving or hating most books I start. Maybe I’ve just turned into a tough critic, I don’t know!

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read, in order of rating. After that you’ll find a short list of “awards” to certain books.

5 stars (must read)
The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty – Amanda Filipacchi
The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
Red Rising – Pierce Brown
Golden Son – Pierce Brown
Uprooted – Naomi Novik

4 stars (recommended)
The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Firefight – Brandon Sanderson
Prince of Fools – Mark Lawrence
Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
The Wrath and the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh
Dar Four – Sara Lotz

3.5 stars
Shadow Scale – Rachel Hartman

3 stars (good, but slightly disappointing)
A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab
The Invasion of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
Crimson Bound – Rosamund Hodge

2.5 stars
The Young Elites – Marie Lu
Mosquitoland – David Arnold
The Perilous Sea – Sherry Thomas
An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir

2 stars (has readability but I didn’t enjoy it)
Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde
Delicious Foods – James Hannaham dropped at 50%
My Heart and Other Black Holes – Jasmine Warga dropped at 20%
The Red Pyramid – Rick Riordan dropped at 20%

1 star (don’t bother)
Lois Lane: Fallout – Gwenda Bond dropped at 10%
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell dropped at 10%

The Mini Awards

The Best So Far: The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi
I was reading this while traveling around Indochina. My travel partner would often hear me just start giggling like crazy to myself at the absurdity of this book. It was such a delightfully unexpected book, and was nothing like I expected. I read it very quickly given the circumstances and I still remember the joy it brought me. You have to read this! It’s the perfect example of an author not taking themselves too seriously.

The Most Surprising: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The cover didn’t really capture my attention, the blurb was mediocre at best, but after reading a few reviews I decided to give it a try. And it ended up being one of the quickest reads of the year so far. It was such a great little gem, and I love that it’s just one book. The characters were great, and I found myself just longing to get back to reading it. I feel like this book would be much more popular if it didn’t give off such a juvenile feel.

The Most Disappointing: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
The author’s previous novel, Vicious, was one of my favorites. I loved the characters and the unique take on the superhero genre. I came into this book hoping for more of the same and was just left feeling really underwhelmed. It’s still a good book, I just had far too high of expectations.

The Worst So Far: The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas
I’m only basing this off of the books I actually finished, and it has to be this one. Not only was it disappointing, I was barely able to make it through. It’s the second in the series. Apparently I really enjoyed the first one, though I honestly can’t recall why anymore. It was such a lackluster anything that I honestly can’t even remember a thing about it. That’s not very good….

Hope the second half of the year picks up a bit as far as books are concerned! Let me know if you have any I should read or if you have read any of the books I did with similar or difference impressions!