Page Habit Review

My fascination with subscription boxes continues.  Instead of a food box, this time I asked for a book subscription box from Michael for Easter called Page Habit.

There are so many book subscription boxes to choose from.  There are ones that only send books for you to choose.  And there are several that have bookish items that sometimes follow a theme and sometimes do not.  Each box has a kind of gimmick to it.

Page Habit has two “gimmicks,” if you will.  First, with each box, they donate towards children’s literacy.  In my particular box, Page habit partnered with Books for Africa to donate books to the Kiangua community in Kenya.  They gave a little information about the area’s statistics.20180411_152611

The other “gimmick” that Page Habit has is that the book in the box is annotated with small notes from the author.  So, as you read through the book, there will be these little notes on certain pages that tell you what the author felt while writing that particular piece of the story (all of the annotations are put on post-it notes so your book is not actually written in unless you want to write in it).  Also, the book is going to be one that has come out recently.

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In this box, I received the book The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, a YA contemporary written entirely in poetic form that was released in March.  I really liked this kind of storytelling, and it was perfect to read this month since it’s National Poetry Month.  I will probably have a review on my blog at some point in the future.

But that’s not all that it’s the box.  There were several other items included.  A letter from the author.  A pad of adult coloring pages.  A cable photo hanger.  A bookworm beanie.  Stickers.  And a Page Habit bookmark.  I was impressed with the selection of items as well as the quality.  The only item I wasn’t really interested in was the collection on stickers, but the rest I’m definitely going to use.

I got the YA box, but they have other genres as well – literary fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, romance and historical fiction.  They also have quarterly boxes for YA (young adult), literary fiction and cookbooks.  The monthly boxes are $30.  If you want to try it yourself, you can use this link.   It is a subscription service, so it signs you up to automatically get one each month, but just like Hello Fresh, you can skip months that don’t pique your interest, and you can change genres if you like.  You get an email before the next box comes out describing the next book.  They don’t tell you what the title is, so the surprise isn’t ruined.

I really liked that there is a cause behind this box, plus the annotated book is a plus as well.  And it’s a neat way to be introduced to books you might not have heard of or may not have picked up.  It’s a definite recommend from me!

 

 

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Children of Blood and Bone: A Review

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly entertaining and beautiful story set in African mythology (West African, I believe). I love mythology, but I had never really been exposed to mythology from this part of the world, so it was a real treat. Besides that aspect, the story itself is an epic quest adventure within a vibrant world with an amazing cast of characters.
The writing is told from three perspectives. Zelie, a diviner. Amari, a princess. And Inan, a prince, and brother to Amari. Diviners are known for their white hair and silver eyes. They would have inherited magic if it did not mysteriously disappear from this world. When magic disappeared, all of those who had already had magic when it disappeared were rounded up and killed – including Zelie’s mother – in the Raid. Amari and Inan grew up in the palace. Their father was the one who initiated the Raid and taught them that magic was evil.
The story begins when the magic starts to resurface, and the king is bent on snuffing magic out again, no matter the cost. There are themes of how power and strength are defined. As well as what is truly evil or not.
The characters in the story are so diverse and flawed. They each face their own cowardice and don’t always make the right choices, which can affect outcomes beyond themselves. Even when motivations and intentions are pure, decisions can still be wrong.
One aspect of the writing that I really enjoyed was the use of chapter lengths. The author would write longer chapters when deeper issues and themes or descriptions of worlds were being discussed. But, when the plot picked up or there were fight or action scenes, the chapters would get shorter. It felt like you were rushing with the characters themselves.

There wasn’t a lot of profanity as we know it. A diviner was referred to as a maggot which was a slur. They also had blasphemous words, like Skies or Oh my gods, which would be different words in our culture, but used the same way.
There was one sex scene toward the last third of the book, but it wasn’t graphic. A lot of it was implied, but it would not be hard to know what was implied.
There is a lot of violence in the book. Lots of people are killed, by sword or magic, and some of those deaths and fight scenes are pretty detailed. There is a lot of talk about scars that different characters had.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be knowledgeable in West African culture to understand what’s going on, what’s important, and what’s impactful. I can see some glimpses, some foreshadowing into the next book, which I’m not sure when that would come out, but I’m definitely going to put it on my list!

Anna and the Swallow Man: A Review

Anna and the Swallow ManAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book for Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 12, 2018). The story takes place mostly in Poland from the perspective of a girl named Anna. At the beginning of the story, she is 7 years old when her father, an academic professor, leaves for work one day and is taken by the Nazis to an internment camp. The friend that he leaves Anna with is unable to care for her, so she finds herself on the streets where she meets a mysterious man she calls the Swallow Man. She follows him outside of the city and that’s where the adventure begins.
It’s written in the 3rd person, though it is all from the perspective of this little girl. There are only a few times that the author breaks that fourth wall to explain something, such as the fate of her father early in the story. Other than that, we are only privy to her knowledge of the world around her, which is limited by what she understands.
The story covers several years of the travels of Anna and the Swallow Man, so she does grow up throughout the story. The writing doesn’t change, really, to reflect that, though the conversations and interactions with others do as she physically matures. Also, her perspective of the Swallow Man changes throughout the story as she grows up, and we do see some transformation that both of these characters go through on this adventure.
The plot is pretty fast moving. They interact with various parts of the war and witness several of the well-known Holocaust events, but a lot of it is again taken from the perspective of a young girl. She refers to these factories and encampments that keep popping up that the Swallow Man tends to avoid, but concentration camps are never really named that in their travels. So, having some basic knowledge of the Holocaust can help pick up on a few of these clues.

There wasn’t really any profanity that stood out, but the book did have some adult themes. As Anna’s body matures, there are implications from some of the men they encounter that suggest how womanly she had become. Also, there is a scene towards the end where she has to undress in front of a man in order to obtain something she needs. While there was no touching, the whole scene made me feel uncomfortable.
Also, there is a lot of violence and death. None of it was particularly graphic, most of the violence was done off screen, but there is a lot of death, which considering it was World War II and the Holocaust in Poland, it’s too be expected. It was interesting how Anna interprets the death that is happening around her.

I think, overall, it’s an excellent but hard read. It’s the kind of story that starts out quite light and calm and evolves into quite a dark story by the end.  Not normally a book I would pick up, but definitely a good read for this particular time of the year.

Library of Souls: A Review

This is actually the third book in the series, as I mention at the beginning of the review.  I don’t have an actual review of the entire series, but if I were to give this series a rating, it would be 4 out of 5 stars.  I didn’t enjoy the second book as much as the first and third.

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know why I waited so long to complete this trilogy. I had read the other two books when they came out, but for some reason, I didn’t pick this one up until this year. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the end of this trilogy.
The author, Ransom Riggs, wrote this story based on old photographs that he had collected over the years. It’s a story about a group of people named Peculiars, each having a special power like super strength, or the ability to create fire from their hands or be invisible. Within the story, these peculiars tend to hide from the public (or normals) in these time loops created by ymbrynes, women who can turn into birds and are the caretakers for peculiars. The trilogy follows the main character, Jacob, as he discovers this world, discovers his place in it, and ends up going on an adventure to save not only peculiars but the world in general.
The writing is well done as the stories incorporate various photographs sprinkled throughout the book. Although, by this third book, I was less interested in the pictures as I was the story. Compared to the other two books, I felt that this final book was very plot driven, very action driven. The story moved very quickly, which I think was easily done since the other books were more descriptive and world building.
The character development was very transparent in the final book. Jacob even starts to refer to himself as two different Jacobs, the old one that was unsure and indecisive, versus the new Jacob who was more confident and brave. The relationship between him and Emma also evolves throughout this last book, and I really liked the way it ended for them as well.

I don’t remember there being any significant use of profanity. Also, the sexual content was very mild – there were a few kisses and a moment when two characters fell asleep together (but all they did was sleep). I think the time period that the peculiars came from affected their behavior in that department.
There was a lot of violence, as this was the final showdown between the good and bad guys. There were some details on experiments done of peculiars, drug addiction (although it was a drug called ambrosia), and lots of blood, broken bones, and cuts. But even so, it was handled pretty well and was pretty mild.

I definitely recommend the series. It was a fun read. I know that the first book was made into a movie, but it is not very much like the movie at all. The relationships are all different in the book and movie. And I don’t see how they could have continued making those into film especially with this last book. But this is a definitely a favorite series of mine!

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: A Review

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This author was recommended to me by a friend. I wasn’t sure which book I wanted to read first, but I thought that this compilation of essays that were published in various magazines and publications would be a decent place to start. Overall, it was okay. I will probably try to pick up one of her fictions later on in the year.

The essays were not in published chronological order, but they seemed to move through her life from when she was a child wanting to be a writer all the way into her present marriage. The writing touched on various highlights, such as the controversy of one of her books to her first marriage, subsequent divorce, and journey into her second marriage.

My favorite essay was the one called On Responsibility which introduced her relationship with her grandmother who had dementia and her relationship with her dog. I can personally relate to both of these experiences.

My least favorite was The Getaway Car, which was her journey to becoming a writer, filled with a lot of advice to those who may look into that career path. I didn’t really have any connection with her other writings which probably made that particular post slightly boring.

She is funny and honest and, at times, blunt with her writing, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a first read for this author. Hopefully, in reading her other work, I will have a better understanding and connection to the material I read in this book.

How to Stop Time: A Review

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

This was the book that I mentioned in my February Favorites post.  Here’s the full review!

How To Stop Time is an Adult Fiction by Matt Haig. It’s a beautiful mixture of historical fiction and a little bit of intrigue and mystery and romance. I picked up this book because I wanted something that had romance in it, and the tagline was “The number one rule is don’t fall in love.” And I was hooked. Also, I got a version that features illustrator Chris Riddell. I don’t have many books (Adult or YA) that have illustrations in them, so it was neat to see the words come to life alongside the gorgeous sketches.

Tom Hazard is the main character and narrator of the story. He has lived for over four hundred years due to a condition that makes him age slowly. The story interweaves between his memories of the past and present day that explains a lot of his motivations throughout the book. This has been one of the most seemingly realistic immortality-esque stories I have read. He isn’t rich or overly talented or charismatic, any more than any other human person, which makes him very relatable even though his condition and life are not. Other people with his condition are not completely like him. Similar, yes, but their own complex personalities and perspectives shape who they are. The “immortals” of this story are each different and have chosen different paths.
The women in his story are probably my favorite part. His mother, wife (Rose), daughter (Marion), and a present-day woman he meets while teaching history in London (Camille) are each different and complex. We don’t know everything about each character since it’s told from his perspective, but they are each painted as flawed yet beautiful people who affect his journey.
It’s written in the first person, from Tom’s perspective. We see his conflicting thoughts, his memories from the past and the present day situations in an effortless flowing narrative. The sections are short, as they flip from present day to various places in the past. And there are so many good quotes from this book. I felt like I could highlight several lines.
So, I don’t feel like I can write much about the plot without spoilers. After losing his mother and later his wife, Tom learns that his daughter might have the same condition that he does. He goes out in search of her and comes across a society of people like him. He joins this society in hopes that they will use their network to find his daughter, but in the meantime, he has to follow their rules – don’t fall in love, move every eight years, do whatever Heinrich (the leader) asks of you. As the story opens in present day, Tom is starting to question staying with this society, but fears what might happen if he doesn’t.
The overall themes of time and relationships are beautifully explored. I don’t want to get into specifics because, you know, spoilers, but the author actually does answer the question of how to stop time.

There is profanity used throughout the book, especially with some characters. It is actually a descriptor for a couple of the characters. And talked about deliberately (like, it’s acknowledged that the character cusses a lot).
There isn’t a whole lot of sexual content, at least none really described. A few kissing scenes here and there, and a reference to some sexual harassment that a couple characters endure. But in the sexual harassment section, it is alluded to, and then Tom goes and punches him in the nose. Nothing graphic
There is some violence. Tom is asked to bring people into the society, and if they don’t want to come, he is supposed to kill them. Tom is shot at one point. And of course, there is death throughout the story as people die and he goes on living. But none of it, I felt was too graphic.

At first, I was going to give this book 4 out of 5 stars because I enjoyed the story and flow well enough. But the ending was so good and as I was reading it, I realized how it had all been building up to this. I got emotional, and that bumps this up to 5 stars for me. It’s a wonderful read about life and time and relationships. I would definitely recommend!

The Hazel Wood: A Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

This is a dark fantasy YA book. I didn’t realize just how many dark fantasies I would be drawn towards this year. But I definitely give this one 4.5 stars. Not quite one I would pick up again, but I did thoroughly enjoy.
Alice is the main character. She and her mother have been traveling from place to place for most of her life. She has never met her grandmother, an eccentric recluse who is best known as the author of a book of dark fairy tales (which is a book Alice has not been allowed or able to read). They find out that her grandmother has died on her estate called The Hazel Wood. Shortly after, Alice’s mother is kidnapped and sends Alice a message not to go to The Hazel Wood. Alice goes after her, with the help of a fellow student, Ellery Finch, who is a huge fan of her grandmother’s fairy tales. Using the stories as clues and insight, Alice finds herself getting closer and closer to The Hazel Wood, and more truths are revealed.
The measure I use for character assessment is whether or not I care about the characters. I definitely got caught up in the stories of Alice and Ellery. The transformation and growth that Alice goes through are really well done. Ellery, not so much, but is still a character I wanted to know more about. The rest of the characters, which I don’t really want to go into without spoilers, are not quite as complex, some being used to move the story along, but I liked how they were used.
The plot has twists. Some I figured out pretty quickly. But even the ones that were predictable, I liked where the author took them.
The writing at times could get convoluted, but it was absolutely beautiful. The imagery was harsh and gorgeous at the same time. Weaving fairy tales into real-life situations made the whole story seem like a fairy tale, itself. And I loved the concept of using the fairy tale structure, especially towards the end. Also, some of the dark stories that were written by the grandmother are shared in the book. I thought that was pretty neat as well.
There is profanity in the book, particularly with one supporting character. I don’t know if it was absolutely necessary or not.
There is not much in the way of sexual content. I didn’t feel like there was a strong romance in the book. Alice is briefly kidnapped as a little girl, and people who find out tend to ask whether he touched her (which he didn’t).
There is a lot of violence, being a dark fantasy. The fairy tales that are shared are violent. Alice has a gun pulled on her. There are deaths and mentions of death. But part of the story is actually fighting that violent nature.
Overall, I would recommend with the caveat of the amount violence and profanity. Though I felt like the profanity is minor, and the violence is necessary to understand the plot and character development. Really entertaining read.
I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!