Monday, July 30, 2018

Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi
Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)
By Tahereh Mafi
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Juliette is now supreme commander of The Reestablishment, ruling over all of the sectors of North America. She quickly finds, however, that the position entails so many more responsibilities than she ever imagined. Juliette also faces a possible threat from the other supreme commanders around the world for all of the upheaval she’s brought upon The Reestablishment, which seems determined to never release its hold on her.

Review: The continuation of series after they officially conclude makes me a bit apprehensive, especially when it’s a series that I absolutely loved, like Shatter Me. While what was then the final book, Ignite Me, left a few things unresolved, I was still satisfied with how the series ended. The news that there would be three new Shatter Me books gave me mixed feelings. I would never, ever say no to more Warner, but what if the new trilogy wasn’t as good as the original?

My skepticism was completely unwarranted because Restore Me turned out to be the Shatter Me book I didn’t know I needed. Reading this made me realize how much I’ve missed Tahereh Mafi’s gorgeous prose, Kenji’s hilarious snark, and Warner’s—well, everything about Warner. Since we’re discussing my favorite character in the series, both Warner and Juliette have POVs in Restore Me. EEK.

Reading the first page of Restore Me was like catching up with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. I devoured this book, which is a very, very rare occurrence these days. Restore Me was that good. “Good” doesn’t do adequate justice here, not even close. This was an absolute page-turner that I flew through.

While reading the original trilogy, some aspects of the world-building didn’t fully materialize for me, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the series. Restore Me fills in some of those gaps, particularly regarding The Reestablishment. The rest of the world’s supreme commanders play a significant role here.

We also get a bit of backstory for Kenji and see Warner the most vulnerable he’s ever been. Restore Me is full of revelations that test Juliette and Warner’s still fairly new relationship. I felt for all three of them at various times, but the excerpts from Juliette’s journals that she kept while locked up in the asylum were thoroughly gut-wrenching.

Although Restore Me was an intense, chilling read that destroyed me in its final pages, I’m beyond elated that the series is back. Mafi brilliantly and seamlessly picks up her story where she left it in Ignite Me. It’s as though the series never ended, and we’re watching Juliette cope with the aftermath of the events in book three. If you’re at all wondering if Restore Me is worth a read, the answer is an unequivocal Y-E-S.

All in All: My favorite read of 2018 so far! Everything and everyone I loved about the previous Shatter Me books return, but Restore Me is in no way a rehash. The world expands, the characters continue to grow, and the Kenji one-liners are priceless.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray
Defy the Worlds (Constellation #2)
By Claudia Gray
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
Source: YALLFest

To Sum It Up: Noemi has returned to her home planet, but despite all that she’s done to try and defend Genesis as its battle with Earth continues, she hardly receives a heroine’s welcome. Instead she’s treated as an outcast for seeing so much more than a machine in Abel, the prized creation of the legendary scientist Burton Mansfield. Abel is still traveling the galaxy and has even assembled his own crew, but when Mansfield uses Noemi to lure Abel to fulfill his purpose, Abel doesn’t think twice about the sacrifice he will have to make to save Noemi.

Review: Defy the Stars was one of my favorite reads of 2017, so I was very, very much anticipating diving into the sequel, Defy the Worlds. The first book blew me away with the story of Noemi Vidal, a fighter pilot whose home planet, Genesis, is locked in a battle with Earth, and Abel, a mech whose programming is so sophisticated, sometimes it’s difficult to believe he’s not human. Mechs are a huge part of Earth’s strategy to defeat Genesis, and so Noemi’s first impression of Abel was less than favorable. Book one saw Noemi’s attitude toward Abel shift significantly, as they traveled from planet to planet trying to find a way to help Genesis.

The second book finds Noemi back on Genesis, where she’s become an outsider for seeing Abel as so much more than a mech. Abel, meanwhile, has assembled a tiny crew and is once again traversing the planets of the Loop, albeit with caution as he continues to try to evade his creator, Burton Mansfield. Mansfield built Abel for a sole purpose—to house the scientist’s brain after his death. With Mansfield ever closer to that point and desperate to find his “son,” Abel must always stay one step ahead of a man whose genius makes that task seemingly impossible.

Defy the Worlds wastes no time plunging Noemi and Abel into intense action. Earth deploys the deadly Cobweb virus, which Noemi survived in the previous book, against Genesis, and Noemi’s attempt to get help ends up in her capture—by Mansfield and his daughter, Dr. Gillian Shearer. They use Noemi as bait to draw Abel out, knowing that he’ll do anything to save her.

I happened to be watching the first season of HBO’s Westworld while reading Defy the Stars, and by another stroke of coincidence, I read Defy the Worlds during season 2 of Westworld. I’m fascinated by how both the books and the TV series examine how close a machine can come to being human and all of the ethical issues that question raises. Defy the Worlds takes mech tech even further, with Mansfield’s latest iteration offering potential immortality. That is, only to a very select few in comparison to the size of the galaxy’s population. I love how deep this series is, exploring the possibility that a mech might have more humanity than an actual human being.

Although I very much enjoyed reading about Noemi and Abel again, I did feel that this was slower paced than book one. Defy the Worlds was still an excellent read, though, with plenty to love, including some fantastic character development for our two protagonists. The book left off on a hell of a whopper, which makes me all the more eager to get my hands on book three.

All in All: Defy the Worlds was a very solid follow-up to Defy the Stars and definitely worth the wait. I didn’t find it as fast paced as the first book, but otherwise it was awesome to be back with Noemi and Abel once more.

Monday, July 16, 2018

ARC Review: Competence by Gail Carriger

Competence by Gail Carriger
Competence (The Custard Protocol #3)
By Gail Carriger
Format: eARC
Source: Author
Publication Date: July 17, 2018

To Sum It Up: The Spotted Custard is off on another adventure, this time in search of vampires in Peru. The airship’s crew must first, however, solve the rather pesky problem of a helium leak. It’s up to the Spotted Custard’s always dependable purser Primrose Tunstell to help find a way to save the day. Meanwhile, back on board the airship, Prim’s twin Percy just wants to be left alone with his books instead of dealing with the mayhem that typically follows wherever the Spotted Custard goes.

Review: It’s been a while since we last checked in with the motley crew of the Spotted Custard, but the newest installment in Gail Carriger’s The Custard Protocol series was absolutely worth the wait! I didn’t realize how much I missed this group of adorably quirky characters until I started reading Competence.

The title is very fitting here, as the novel focuses on Primrose Tunstell, probably the most reliable member of Captain Prudence Akeldama’s crew. Prim is practical where Rue is whimsical, and so the two best friends balance each other out very well. Prim is also like a mother to practically everyone on the airship, and you truly get the sense that the crew is one big family. It wouldn’t be a family without some dysfunction, of course, but even with so many different personalities on board that are often at odds with one another, they’re at odds in an endearing way.

Competence also puts Prim’s brother, Percy, in the spotlight. The Tunstell twins could not be any less identical, with Prim the epitome of etiquette and Percy happiest in the company of his books. I have to say, I found Percy’s pedantry and aversion to human interaction quite amusing. There were many laugh out loud moments involving just about everybody aboard the Spotted Custard, and the riotous humor is one of the reasons why I love Gail Carriger’s books so much. She has such a knack for writing witty phrases. The banter between the characters is especially scintillating.

While there is a story line centered around a hive of endangered vampires in the Andes, the novel belongs to Prim as she tries to sort out where her heart seems to be leading her versus what society expects of her regarding marriage and family. Fortunately for Prim, she’s surrounded by a family that loves her for whoever she is and will always welcome her home on board the Spotted Custard.

I can’t rave enough about how brilliantly the characters in this series have grown. They’re the backbone of the books, and Competence was another delightful escapade with this lovable bunch.

All in All: Competence was such a fun read! Prim’s character development is the standout here. The view from Percy’s perspective is also a blast. The ending sets up the final Custard Protocol book perfectly, and I eagerly await its release!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Book Loot (32)

Even though I've been barely reading, as painfully chronicled in my mid-year rewind post, lol, I've somehow managed to accumulate new books. I went a little 1-click happy with some eBook deals, and I also had some Amazon rewards points to use.

I read a sample of My Plain Jane through the Epic Reads newsletter and HAD to get it, even though I still have to read The Lady Janies' previous collaboration, My Lady Jane.

In a rare venture outside of fiction, I've recently added not one but TWO nonfiction titles to my shelves. I'm a Simpsons fangirl, so Springfield Confidential is a must-read. Having grown up reading the Little House books and watching the TV show, I'm very eager to read Caroline Fraser's Prairie Fires, which I'd seen some rave reviews for.

For Review:

Competence by Gail Carriger
Many thanks to Gail Carriger!


The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
I absolutely LOVE the cover for this!


My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton
Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss with Matthew Klickstein
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Monday, July 9, 2018

2018 Mid-Year Rewind

At very long last, I've gotten around to writing my mid-year rewind post! Not that there's much to look back on—eek!

So far, 2018 has been a year of lots of intent to read/blog but almost no actual reading/blogging. I can barely stand to look at my Goodreads reading challenge progress because there's barely been any progress.

A few months ago, what I thought was a really bad reading/blogging slump was starting to turn into an overall life slump. Not only did I have zero motivation to pick up a book or write a blog post, but I had zero or almost no motivation to do any things that I once enjoyed. That raised a pretty big red flag, and it was time to seek some help.

Going to the doctor gives me extreme anxiety, but I was more frustrated with how I felt and how I was living—or not really living—than I was fearful of the doctor's visit. I ended up being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, of which one of the symptoms is depression. Another is feeling tired, which I absolutely was almost all of the time. Most nights I was falling asleep on the couch the minute I sat down, so forget about trying to read a few pages. Being exhausted didn't strike me as odd, though. I figured it was just part of getting older, allergy-related, etc.

I've been taking medication for about a month now, and while I've been slowly finding enjoyment in reading again, I haven't yet noticed a significant improvement in my energy level. From what I've researched, it can take some time 1) for the medication to take full effect and 2) to find the optimal dosage. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very patient with . . . being a patient, lol, and remaining calm in the face of being at the mercy of how I feel day-to-day has been a huge challenge.

I've really, really missed hanging out in the book blogosphere and am trying to pop in whenever I can. I hope you've all been enjoying some great books this year and that you have a fantastic rest of 2018! ♥