ARC Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

My Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication Date: September 5th 2017

Page Count: 372

Description

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Overall

This is a creative, fairytale retelling of a combination of Snow White and Frozen. Doesn’t that sound awesome! It markets itself as a feminist fairytale and I would agree because I found the two leading female characters to be quite strong and empowering. I generally enjoyed this story, but I couldn’t give it a higher rating because I did have a few issues with it. Mainly, it was because the middle of the story seemed a bit slow. It didn’t seem like that much action was going on and the plot kind of dragged. However, when I began to reach the end, it started to pick up and I was able to get more engaged in the book. I also thought that the writing was a bit simple and didn’t leave much for the reader to assume. Overall though, I liked the concept of this book and the creativity behind the retelling.

Creativity

To be honest, I didn’t know that this was a snow white/frozen retelling going into the story, but once I realized that it was, it was nice seeing all of the connections that were made. I appreciated how clever and creative the storyline was. It seemed like all of the details fit together well, however, I would have liked to have had a little more detail on the magic in this world and the rules behind it. I think to compensate for the lack of magical background, the story tried to stay more centered around the development of the characters. Character development is something this book did very well. I liked how none of the characters were all good or all bad. They each were flawed and complex people in their own way. If you like books with good characters, then this is the book for you!

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Mina

Mina is the stepmother of the princess, Lynet, and the queen of the kingdom. I really enjoyed Mina’s character. I thought she was very complex and well thought out. Throughout the story, she was forced to grapple with either becoming evil and letting her father win or letting love win. I really liked the relationship between Mina and Lynet because we get to know their backstories and how they came to be so close to each other. Mina was a refreshing spin on the classic evil queen.

Feminist Fairytale

The book has alternating points of view throughout the chapters from both Mina and Lynet, and this was definitely the way to do it. Both of these characters were able to show their growth and how they became stronger from their setbacks. A feminist fairytale is a great way to describe this because there was no prince sweeping in to save the day. Everything was up to the cleverness of the two female characters. There was a romantic relationship between Lynet and another girl and I thought this was quite nice because you don’t see that represented very often in books. Nonetheless though, romance did not take over the plot.

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Conclusion

If you are looking for a retelling story to read, then I think this would be a good one. It didn’t blow me away, but I appreciated its creativity. Even though I probably wouldn’t pick it up again, I have a feeling that other people might really enjoy this depending on their reading tastes.

I won this arc in a giveaway from Flatiron Books, but all of the opinions in this review are my own. 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass releases on September 5th 2017 so be on the lookout for this book soon!

Book Tag: Reading Habits

I have never done a tag before and they looked fun, so I found the Reading Habits tag. Hopefully, with this tag, you guys can get to know me a little bit better. I know that every reader is different and has different reading habits so here are mine….enjoy!

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

I have three places at my house that I always end up reading and they include my bed if it is at night, the living room couch if nobody is home (otherwise it can get loud), and the front porch if people are home and it’s not freezing.

Bookmark or Random Piece of Paper?

I would totally use a bookmark if I had some and they were easy to grab when I needed them. However, in reality, I use anything from scraps of papers to old rubber bands to mark my books. I just use whatever I can find and don’t give it much thought!

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?

I sometimes like to try to finish the chapter I’m on before I stop, but its not a big deal if I don’t. The exception to this is if I am in a really really good part. Then I don’t want to stop for anything!

Do you eat or drink while reading?

I really like having tea by me to drink while I read, but I can’t eat and read at the same time. That is too much multitasking for me to handle!

Multitasking: Music or TV while reading

Anything with words being said will distract me and I won’t be able to read. I do occasionally like to listen to music without words while reading though. I actually have a post called Beautiful, Wordless Music for Reading and Studying that has some of my favorites for when I want to read with some background noise.

One Book at a Time or Several at Once?

A lot of the time I’m only reading one at a time, but on occasion I will pick up two.

Reading at home or everywhere?

I can read anywhere! I don’t know how else I would be able to get a lot of reading time in.

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

I can honestly say that I don’t do this!

Breaking a spine or keeping it like new?

If the spine is broken so much that its hard to read, then no. But if it is only broken a little, then I think it has just been well loved!

Do you write in your books?

Not in library books or e-books of course, but sometimes I make notes in the books I own. I don’t mind people writing in books. I think its fun to get used books and see that somebody else has written a little note about a line that they liked/disliked. Its kind of like a secret message system.

 

I had way too much fun making this tag! If you think you would have fun doing it too, then consider yourself tagged. I’d love to see what other people’s responses are to these questions, so let me know if you decide to do it!

 

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My Goodreads Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description

Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

Overall

This book is a nonfiction book and I rarely if ever pick up nonfiction books. I would have read this book for a health sciences class that I almost took in high school, but I didn’t end up taking the class and therefore, never read it. However, I heard a lot of people raving about it and knew that I had to pick it up at some point. I finally did and I’m so  happy to report that it was such a good book! This story was fascinating and I couldn’t believe that I didn’t want to put it down. I was in a reading slump before I read this and I cannot believe that this book got me out of that slump (seriously, who would think that a nonfiction read would get me out of a reading slump??). I feel like I learned so much from this book in regards to medical ethics, cell culture in labs, and the debate over informed consent when it comes to using a person’s tissue samples for medical research. I hope to someday go into a medically related career (not sure what yet) and I think this book will really benefit me as I go on to college to study science. In fact, I feel like this book is a must read for anyone who is thinking about going into the medical field. It made me want to read more books that deal with medical topics and to learn more about current scientific issues.

The Importance of HeLa Cells

I had absolutely no idea the immense role that HeLa cells have played and have yet to play in scientific research. Some of these things include developing the first polio vaccine, helping scientists discover the 46 chromosomes in humans, helping determine that HPV causes cancer, helping to study the effects of radiation, helping develop treatments for Parkinson’s Disease/ influenza/ leukemia/ hemophilia, helping in research on what causes aging, and many other things. HeLa cells are used around the world and yet they were taken from one woman, Henrietta Lacks, who was a black woman in America. She is one of the most important people in medical history and she never knew that her cells were taken from her for research.

The Issues of Informed Consent and Compensation

I think this book showed us very well how much trouble the Lacks family went through due to Henrietta’s cells being used so widely in research. They were never compensated for their mother’s contribution to science nor were they told much of anything that was going on at all. The family went through a lot of distress from not being told much about the uses of Henrietta’s cells and it really made me feel bad for them. I learned a lot about how important informed consent is in today’s society because in the 50’s it wasn’t a thing and it caused a lot of problems. I also learned how complicated the topic of compensation is in the world of tissue/cell research. On one hand, the book shows us how hard it was on the Lacks family to not have benefitted from their mother’s cells, but on the other hand, it shows us how hard it would be to compensate every person for their contribution to tissue/cell research and still make progressive advances toward scientific discoveries. This story made me think a lot about how steps toward compensation for the use of a person’s cells in research should be handled. If you want to be in the know about this very important debate in science, then read this book.

Structure of the Story

This story is structured around the journey that the author, Rebecca Skloot, takes in gathering all of her knowledge on the subject. Some of the chapters are just the story of Henrietta’s life, while others follow Rebecca’s interviews with members of the Lacks family and other important people related to HeLa cells. I personally liked the way that this was set up because it made me feel as though I was going on the research journey with her and discovering things as she did. I also really appreciated the fact that she kept the dialogue of the characters exactly how they would speak in real life. This made it feel very authentic.

Quotes

“She’s the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”

“When he asked if she was okay, her eyes welled with tears and she said, “Like I’m always telling my brothers, if you gonna go into history, you can’t do it with a hate attitude. You got to remember, times was different.”

“Black scientists and technicians, many of them women, used cells from a black woman to help save the lives of millions of Americans, most of them white. And they did so on the same campus—and at the very same time—that state officials were conducting the infamous Tuskegee syphilis studies.”

Please read this book, I highly recommend it!

How I’m Bringing Books to College

As a book lover, I know that it is expected of me to be taking at the bare minimum, at least a handful of my favorite books with me as I begin college. However, due to the small cramped space that I will soon be living in (a college dorm), I have decided to take a more minimalistic approach when it comes to bringing books. Listed below is what my plans are for reading in college. Hopefully this will give you some ideas for what to bring to a small dorm if you are in the same situation as me!

My Kindle

A Kindle (or any other e-reader) is the perfect thing to use if you want to carry a lot of books with you without taking up too much space. With my Kindle, I can have tons of books with me on one small device. It is definitely coming with me and is already loaded up with some titles that I am looking forward to reading!

My Laptop

This has kind of the same reasoning as to why I’m taking the Kindle (space issues and its already coming with me anyways). However, I thought I’d mention it because a lot of people probably wouldn’t think about it. I recently finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by reading a lot of it on my laptop. I have never read a book on my laptop before, but I kind of enjoyed its convenience. I definitely won’t use it to read all of my books, but I can certainly use it for some!

The Library

Since I’m not bringing a ton of books with me, I will definitely be utilizing the library for a lot of my reading. I love the convenience of reading books on a device, but I also need to have physical books to read. I love both ways of reading, however, I would never be able to sacrifice holding a book and turning the actual pages!

1 or 2 TBR Books

I figure that whatever books I am currently reading at the time of my move in will be coming with me to stay. I don’t think this is going to be too much of an issue since I can always send them home if I want. I have to be honest though… I’m sure over the course of time, I will accumulate more, but this is what I’m starting out with.

I really hope this list helps give you some ideas about how you are going to take books to college. Or if you aren’t going to college, these could be good ideas for taking a more minimalistic approach to how you store books in your home. Either way, I would love to know whether or not this helped you and what you think of my plan!

 

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

I had a lot of trouble rating this one. When I first finished it, I remember being very impressed by the ending so I wanted to rate it really high (4.5 stars). However, I decided to give it a day and let it digest, but now I am conflicted. I like to keep my highest book ratings (my 5’s and 4.5’s) for books that I know will stay with me for awhile and I’m still not sure whether or not this one will. Nonetheless though, this story was really good and I’m really glad I picked it up. Here is what this story is about….

Description

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Will this Story Stay With Me?

As for whether or not this story will stay with me… I guess the only way to find out is with the passing of time. In the meantime though, I don’t want that to be a deciding factor over whether or not YOU should pick this one up. I think this is the perfect book to read if you want a terrifying story that will make you genuinely fearful for the main character. I would suggest reading this around Halloween time because I think that would be fun. So please just know that this was a great book and that I highly recommend it.

Overall

I think the biggest thing I got from this book is that there are no limitations in this world! I came to this conclusion from the story and just thinking about how Neil Gaiman’s mind came up with this storyline. Seriously, how in the world?? It kind of makes me wonder if he had some sort of nightmare one night that gave him this idea. I say this because, that’s what this book felt like to me— A nightmare that I might have had as a child (or now too I guess). However, I really shouldn’t have been surprised by this since this is Gaiman’s specialty. This book was whimsical, mystical, terrifying, fairytaleish (not a word), and unique. Man, that’s a lot of adjectives, but honestly I can’t describe the story using less. I have now read his books Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and this one. And I definitely want to read more.

 

The Feelings I Felt While Reading

I felt a combination of fear, hate, trust, and wonder while reading this. The characters seemed really real and I am only realizing now as I sit down to write this review that the main character didn’t even have a name! That is crazy and I feel so stupid for only realizing this now! I suspect that this was done on purpose in order to make it feel as though the reader is experiencing everything personally and it totally worked! I genuinely felt like I could trust Lettie with my life, that the Hempstocks would keep me safe, that the parents couldn’t be confided in, that Ursula would destroy my happiness, and that I should feel guilty for letting go.

Quotes

There were a lot of really great quotes in this story and here are some of my favorites:

  • ” Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one in the whole wide world.” She thought for a moment Then she smiled. “Except for Granny, of course.”
  • “Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”
  • “Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

 

10 Reasons Why I Started This Book Blog

   So apparently it is National Book Lovers Day! I didn’t even know that was a thing, but since it is, I thought it would be fun to do a post in honor of it. I just recently started this book blog and I can’t believe I didn’t start doing this earlier (it is so fun). Here are some of my reasonings for why I decided to take the plunge and join the book loving community on the internet….

  1. I have been watching booktube, reading book blogs, and following bookstagrams for probably 3 years now and I figured that I might as well join in
  2.  I thought that it would be nice to get to know other people who post about books and love them just as much as me!
  3. I wanted to be able to share my book recommendations, so that I could help other people find something good to read. I found a lot of my favorite books from the people that I follow and that really inspired me to do the same
  4. I wanted a place where I could write book reviews/share my thoughts and hear other people’s opinions
  5. I find it really fun to take pictures of books…. this could be weird to some people, but I’m glad it’s not weird in the book blog world
  6. This blog encourages me to write more
  7. This blog encourages me to read more
  8. I like the fact that I am able to be creative with the things I post
  9. I wanted to challenge myself to learn new things about blogging and think critically about what I’m reading
  10. I still can’t get over the excitement of having other people read what I write. So if you are reading this post, please know that you have made my day:)

Are any of these reasons why you started your blog? If not, what were your reasonings? Let me know in the comments!

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Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Goodreads Description (shortened version):

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

Overall

I really enjoyed this book. It was mystical, magical, and enchanting. Basically, this book was right up my alley with things that I enjoy in a book. It made me feel like magic is real and it had quirky/unique characters. I loved Bailey and I thought the idea of the reveurs for the circus was really cool. The reason I couldn’t give this one four stars though is because I think I read it too slowly for all of the details that were needed to be remembered (I was in a reading slump). There were a lot of confusing things in this story, but I am hoping that this was done on purpose. The competition taking place in the circus is supposed to be very unclear to the two main characters (Marco and Celia), therefore, it is very unclear to the audience as well. I don’t have any problem with that though! I think that is what helped make the story so magical, because magic should not be able to be explained. However, the switching between different times and the foreshadowing (especially when some characters knew the future) messed with my mind a bit. I think I might need to read this one again sometime in the future, now that I have a better understanding of it. Maybe then I will have a better experience.

Trusting the Reader to Assume Things

I’ve never thought about this aspect of a book before, but for some reason I thought that this book did a really good job of it. The Night Circus is supposed to be a giant enigma, therefore, if Morgenstern would have had the characters explain everything that they were thinking and talking about, then the story would not have been the same. There were a lot of places in this story where I just had to infer as to what the characters were trying to allude to and I kind of enjoyed that.

Atmosphere of the Story

The atmosphere and the setting of this story is almost incomparable to anything I have read before. The creativity behind what was inside each of the circus tents was so fun to read! I will admit though, that I did lose focus while reading the descriptions of a lot of the magical places and had to go back and reread them. This is because I’m not fond of reading too much into the setting of places in a story. However, I think it says a lot about the book that I did find reading about the circus enjoyable (whenever I was able to focus).

Quotes

There were a lot of quotes in the story that I really liked. Here are a few that I marked…

  • “People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told they see.”
  • “It is too difficult to see a situation for what it is when you are in the middle of it,”Tsukiko says. “It is too familiar. Too comfortable.”
  • “People don’t pay to much attention to anything unless you give them reason to.”
  • “I am haunted by the ghost of my father, I think that should allow me to quote Hamlet as much as I please.”
  • “And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur […]”

Conclusion

I feel like I have been really lucky lately because I can’t think of any bad book that I have recently read. Thankfully The Night Circus didn’t break this streak!