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Rainy Day's Books, Video Games and Other Writings

Confessions of A Reader #3: I Don’t Read Books Because They Are Popular

Popular Science Fiction Fantasy Books

Hello everyone! I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. I didn’t mean to take so long to write on here again, just really couldn’t think of anything to write and am dealing with some personal things right now. Either way, I’m back with another confessions post that I hope you all will enjoy.

For this confessions post, I’d like to say I don’t read books because they are popular. What I mean is that I don’t particularly like to read the books everyone else is talking about. Not unless the story, plot or something else in it makes me fascinated enough to want to check it out right away and see what the fuss is all about.

I’ve actually come to discover for the most part that I don’t particularly enjoy reading the books considered popular in the world today. What’s made me come to this realization is my review of The Girl On the Train, my experience with reading The Handmaid’s Tale so far and looking back at my experiences with reading other popular books. For those who haven’t read my book review of The Girl on the Train, I can tell you I wasn’t particularly fond of that book. I found none of the characters  likeable and the plot was terribly formulated even though it definitely kept me reading until the end. It was a disappointing read for me and left me really looking for another book to make up for it. My experience with The Handmaid’s Tale so far hasn’t really been any better. I don’t know what it is in particular about this book I’m not enjoying, I just know I’m not enjoying it because I’ve already stopped reading it and am in no hurry to continue where I left off. Now when I started reading this book, I was excited to see where the story would take me. I didn’t have any thoughts or opinions before that made me believe I wouldn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t until I started reading The Handmaid’s Tale that I realized I wasn’t enjoying it quite as much as I was hoping for. I’ve had this same experience with other popular books in the past where I tried to read them and I just wasn’t into what I was reading. One particular book that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings. I’ve tried getting into these books on several occasions only to stop reading at around the same part of the story. Like my experience with The Handmaid’s Tale, I’ve tried getting into these books only to find myself stopping and not wanting to continue where I left off.

Confessions of A Reader #3 The Handmaid's Tale Book Cover
The book I’m currently trying to finish reading. It’s not my least favorite read, but I’m having a hard time really getting into it. Image can be found here.

There are of course exceptions to my preferences, like my love for the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones. I’ve enjoyed reading all of these books, but for other reasons that had nothing to do at all with their popularity. Each of these books made me feel like I could be in the world the author was describing and made me feel like I was a part of the character’s journey. I also discovered my love for these books right before their popularity, at a time when other readers had their sights on enjoying other books.

I’d also like to bring up classics in this discussion. The books which are by authors that everyone seems to have read at some point in their lives. These books get read due to required reading for school, or because you as a reader want to check them out yourself due to your own curiosity. The reason I want to bring these books into this discussion on reading books for popularity is because these books are just as popular among readers today. What I’ve come to discover when it comes to me reading classic books is that I either like what I’m reading or hate it completely. It’s a lot like when I read popular books that I don’t enjoy them because I have a hard time reading them. But sometimes I hate them because I don’t like the characters. Like whenever I had to read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights for one of my college English classes. I was interested in reading it, but found that I didn’t enjoy it because I really hated all of the characters. So I found myself unable to get into it.

However, I’ve also found a lot of classic books that I do enjoy reading and would definitely read again. Some of my favorite classic books are Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I’ve also enjoyed reading some of Shakespeare’s works with Macbeth being my favorite of his works that I’ve read so far. All of these books I enjoyed at a different time in my life and for different reasons too. Dracula is a classic I enjoy because I love the unique way the story is told and I enjoyed reading a story that I can thank for bringing vampires into the world the way we see them in stories today. I love both Pride & Prejudice and The Great Gatsby because I find both books to be just really great stories. With both of these classics, I had no trouble picking them back up and wanting to continue to explore the world that could be found within each of their pages.

But at the same time, there are still a lot of classics I have yet to read. The classic books that come to mind for me are books I personally hope to one day read because they all sound like something I might possibly enjoy. These books include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

However, despite the amount of classic books I hope to one day read, I don’t want to read any of these books or any other books because of their popularity. I like to read books because it’s something I enjoy.

What about you, my readers? How do you feel about popular books and classics? Are there any in particular you are interested in reading? Please leave your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.

Book Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Two star-crossed magicians engage in a deadly game of cunning in The Night Circus, the spellbinding bestseller that has captured the world’s imagination

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Before I begin with my review, I’d like to quickly thank Shalzmojo for her review of The Night Circus, which can be found here. If she hadn’t written about this book, I don’t believe I would’ve been inspired to read this book recently.

Her review made me interested in checking out this book to see what it was all about. And I’m glad I did because I enjoyed each minute I spent inside Le Cirque des Rêves. I found this book to be such an enchanting read for me. I know it was due to the author’s vivid details about the circus, which allowed me to feel like I was actually there. I felt like I was in a circus of my own imagination, like I was seeing all of the tents mentioned and experiencing those same feelings and emotions. It felt really real to me and I couldn’t get enough of it. I also loved that this circus was only open at night. I feel like that truly added to the enchanting magic I felt when it came to the circus.

Besides the circus itself, I loved how magic was implemented into the story. It was fascinating to see magic coinciding with circus performances. I feel like it opens up you as the reader to the possibility that a magician’s tricks are actually real, not at all something fabricated. It isn’t at all an illusion, but something real that can be done. I also loved seeing the competition between Celia and Marco while learning more about their character background. I loved seeing both of them creating masterpieces in the circus for others to explore and enjoy and how they both collaborated together on tents.

As the reader, you also saw how Celia and Marco’s magic affected the other characters. I really enjoyed seeing that in The Night Circus too because it shows that magic has an effect on us all. While in some ways it was unfortunate how it impacted their lives, I was glad to see how important their part in the circus played into the events that transpired. I also loved meeting these other characters too from the different points of view the narrative took. I feel like multiple POV’s added a lot more to this story than it does to most of the other books I’ve read. You learned more about the circus from these characters and I enjoyed seeing how it changed their lives.

I both loved and hated Celia and Marco’s relationship. What I loved about it is that you could tell there was a connection between the two of them so much that it caused physical sparks to fly. I also loved it because I love both of their characters. They both have different backgrounds, which I found interesting because they both turned into powerful magicians. But I also hated it too because I felt like it was obvious that they were going to fall in love with each other. To me, it also felt like it was an instant love connection even though they didn’t really start being with each other until after the competition went underway. It wasn’t something I was particularly keen on happening in the story, but at the same time I had moments where I enjoyed seeing their love grow.

However, I do have some criticisms for The Night Circus which contributed to my four star rating. While I enjoyed all of the details Erin Morgenstern put into making this circus come to life, I still feel like I needed more from the story than was given. For instance, you as the reader don’t really learn all that much about the competition between Celia and Marco. You get all the information the main characters know about it, but you don’t truly learn all that much about the competition. Like knowing how long these competitions have been going on, who started them and why. I also didn’t as a reader feel like it was all that much of a competition. It was more of an endurance test to see which one of them could last to perform the most powerful magic.

I also feel like I just needed more of the circus as a whole. I feel like I need to know more about the minor characters who played a major role in creating Le Cirque des Rêves. I was curious about them and their role in the circus, but I feel like you as the reader don’t really get to know them as well. I also wanted to learn more about the other circus tents that weren’t heavily talked about in the book. I wanted to see the whole circus, not just the tents that played a crucial role in the storyline.

But at the same time, there were some characters whose stories I didn’t really care all that much about and would’ve been perfectly fine without. Bailey was a character with an interesting storyline, but I didn’t really care to hear that much from him in the story. I know his role in the circus is important and completely understand why he’s in the book. But I was more interested in hearing from the other characters in the story about the circus and why they love it so much.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of the way The Night Circus ended either. I completely get why Celia and Marco make their decision, but at the same time I don’t think it was the way the story felt like it needed to end. I understand it but it just didn’t feel right to me for some reason or another.

Overall however, The Night Circus is an enchanting and delightful read. One of my favorite books I’ve read this year so far because the circus felt so real to me that I felt like I was physically there. While I wanted more from the storyline, from the story itself to the characters and the competition, I still enjoyed reading this book all the same and was sad when I finally turned the last page.

Book Review: I Am Watching You

I Am Watching You Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

What would it take to make you intervene?

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realizes they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.

I Am Watching You is an interesting read, filled with mystery and suspense. It’s not my favorite book of its genre, but it was a nice quick read that I felt like I needed.

One of the things this book has going for it is multiple points of view from different characters who played a major role in the disappearance of Anna, which I both loved and hated. I found switching between the perspective of different characters in each chapter interesting because it made me yearn to find out more about what happened to Anna and the people she cared about. But at the same time, it annoyed me too. What annoyed me about it is that there were too many characters whose perspective we were hearing from. It also didn’t really add anything to the story either other than creating more suspense over who could’ve taken Anna. I think I would’ve preferred to only have the perspective of the two characters who played a major role in the storyline, Ella and Sarah. Not only because their perspectives in the story were the most interesting to read, but because they actually contributed to having more information on what happened. Plus, we didn’t really need Matthew and Henry’s point of view because neither of their perspectives contribute too much to the overall storyline.

I did enjoy reading I Am Watching You though because I found the story to be interesting. There was so much mystery surrounding Anna’s disappearance that I really wanted to find out what happened to her. I wanted to find out what secrets Sarah was keeping and to find out who was leaving the postcards to Ella. This book had so much mystery to it, making it a page turner for me because I wanted to find out the truth. Even if the truth of everything was too ugly to handle.

But at the same time, when I finally finished reading this book, I was disappointed. The story was interesting enough to keep me turning the page, but didn’t fully deliver. I think what made me disappointed in reading this book is that there are no hints at all to who the antagonist is going to be. Every time I thought I had an idea of who was responsible for Anna’s disappearance, the person was cleared of having nothing to do with her whereabouts. Then when we finally do find out the truth, it completely catches me off guard. It’s not at all a character we’d expect, a person with motives that nobody had any inkling of a clue about. The clue that reveals who really took Anna isn’t revealed until the end, almost as if the author had no more story left to tell so she just put it in the end to get the reader turning the page. So I was very disappointed when the mystery of this story was revealed to us because it just didn’t make all that much sense to me as a reader.

Another aspect of I Am Watching You that I didn’t enjoy was the overall storyline itself. It’s interesting, makes you want to turn the page. But with each different character’s perspective, certain moments in the story start becoming repetitive. It’s also very rushed, especially after the anniversary of Anna’s disappearance. You find out more information about what happened, secrets are revealed. But none of the secrets or information you find out is really that revealing to where Anna could possibly be. For example, the information Sarah was keeping secret wasn’t really that big of a reveal to the reader. It wasn’t anything that would’ve really helped the police have any clue as to where Anna had gone because we already knew she left Anna on her own while in London. I do feel sympathetic to her because of the other information she reveals to us, but none of that really helps find Anna.

While I Am Watching You is an interesting read, filled with a lot of mystery and suspense, that’s all it really is. It’s a good quick read, but will leave you feeling disappointed at the overall storyline and at the final reveal of what happened to Anna. Getting multiple perspectives of the story from characters who knew Anna adds another layer to the story, but is often repetitive, making it more of any annoyance than anything else. I enjoyed reading this book, but was overall disappointed when the truth of what happened was revealed.

 

 

First Impressions: Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery

Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery One

For the past couple months, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery to come to the Apps Store on my IOS. As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I was really excited when I first heard this game was coming out. Now that it’s out here, I’ve been excitedly playing it in between completing other tasks at home.

For those unfamiliar with the release of this game, Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery is a new Harry Potter mobile game where the player gets to go to Hogwarts. As a Hogwarts student, you get to attend different classes where you earn different attribute points and if you successfully complete the class, points for your Hogwarts House. Along with attending classes, the game allows you to explore the Hogwarts grounds in order to complete the main game storyline.

From what I’ve played of the game so far, your character has an older brother who’s been missing since being expelled from Hogwarts. He’s expelled from Hogwarts because of his obsession with the Cursed Vaults, which your character decides they want to learn more about in order to find out what happened to their brother. So with the help from friends you’ve made at Hogwarts (Rowan, Penny and Ben, the first set of characters you’re introduced to during your first year), you set out to find out more about the Cursed Vaults and to find your missing brother.

I find that this plot in Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery is one of the many reasons I’ve been enjoying this game so far. It’s not too complex of a storyline, but enough to get me interested in playing this game to see where it goes. I’ve also enjoyed it too though because I finally get to play as a student who attends Hogwarts. Since I fell in love with the Harry Potter series, I’ve always wanted to be a student at Hogwarts, and this game allows me to do just that.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery Me Sorting Hat
Me during the Sorting Hat ceremony, where I choose Ravenclaw to be my house.

I’m also enjoying this game because it’s not too complex of a game. The controls are pretty simple, it’s mostly just pointing and tapping to get from one area to the next. The same with classes too where you just click on what’s highlighted in blue until you’ve completed that particular task. It’s also very slow-paced because a lot of the objectives you complete (classes included) involve using your energy under a certain amount of hours until you collect a number of stars. Once you get the number of stars you need, you then can actually take the class and learn a new spell, potion, etc.

As your taking these classes and progressing through the game, your character also gains attribute points. There are a total of three attributes that you can level up: courage, empathy and knowledge. Courage represents your bravery, empathy represents your ability to understand others, and knowledge represents your academic aptitude. None of these attributes have any real bearing on the decisions you make in the game at this point in time other than being able to say certain things to people if a particular attribute is at a high enough level. But I love all of these features and how simplistic this game has turned out to be because it makes it a very relaxing experience to play. While you’ll have to do a lot of waiting to get your energy so you can continue with your lessons, I don’t particularly mind because I use that time to do something else while waiting for my energy to refill.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery My Character Attributes
My character in Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery. Even though I’m a Ravenclaw at heart, in this game I seem to have an easy time leveling up my courage and empathy more so than knowledge.

While I love playing Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery, there are some things this game does need that would improve it for me. For one, I think it would be nice if there were more clothing and hairstyle options for your character. From what I’ve seen of the clothes, there is a lot left to be desired. None of them are things I’d honestly really wear, and the things I do tend to see that I like require more gems or coins than I currently have. It would actually require me to spend money on this game to buy them. While I wouldn’t necessarily mind spending money on this game, it has to be something really worthwhile for me to consider it. And right now, there’s really nothing in the game currently that I find worth me to spend my money on. So for now, I’m sticking with wearing my Hogwarts house robs until I can afford clothes for my character I actually like. There also aren’t a lot of hairstyle options for your character when you first start playing the game. It isn’t until later on that you unlock more hair options. But like with the clothes, those hair options require more gems or coins than I can afford, and I’m perfectly fine with the hair my character has right now anyway.

The one thing everyone who’s played Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery believes needs to be improved in the game is the energy system. While I agree in the sense that the wait time for energy needs to be reduced a little, what I really believe would improve this game immensely is if the game was a little more interactive. I think it would be cool if there were more things you could do in the game while waiting for energy for classes, whether it be side objectives to complete that give you attribute points or fun games you can play that level up your character. I think for me what would make this game exactly what I want it to be is if we as players could control our characters and if the choices we made in the game had an actual impact on the plot in the game, whether it be differences in house points we gain or lose or the people we become friends with and the spells we learn during classes. I want all of these different features in this game because I want it to feel more like I’m attending Hogwarts myself rather than it feeling like I’m just playing a game on my phone. I also think it would be nice to have games you can play while waiting for your energy to refill because it would give players something fun they can do (if they so wish), but it would also give them more opportunity to work on their attributes and leveling up their character.

Another feature this game is missing that would make it a really great gaming experience for me is a Sorting Hat quiz. While I don’t necessarily mind being able to choose the Hogwarts House I want to be in (since in the books, the Sorting Hat does say it’ll take the house you want to be in into consideration), I like the idea of taking a quiz to see what house I’d be placed in. While I know for people who identify with a certain house that might cause problems, I love taking online quizzes to see what I get and I think having one here would’ve been another way for people to see if they truly belong in the house they want to be in. I also think for a lot of people it would just confirm for certain the house they identify themselves as being in and would make playing this game feel even more like we’re attending Hogwarts.

So while I’ve enjoyed playing Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery, there are a few features I believe need to be implemented or improved for this game to be the Hogwarts experience I want for myself.  But I do believe this game is making a great start in creating a Hogwarts universe that all of us who love the Harry Potter series can be proud of.

What about you? Are you currently playing Harry Potter Hogwarts Mystery? If so, what Hogwarts House did you choose and why? And if not, what Hogwarts House do you associate yourself with and why? What do you like about the game so far and what do you think about the game can improve? Please leave a comment below because I’d love to hear from you.

 

First Impressions: Sword Art Online: Integral Factor

Sword Art Online Integral Factor Image One

I’m sure those who follow my Instagram account aren’t surprised to see this game pop up as my next video game review. I’ve been playing it for the past week now and I can honestly say I’m hooked to it right now.

For those who are familiar with the anime show Sword Art Online (also known as SAO for short), Sword Art Online: Integral Factor is a mobile role-playing game. This game centers on the beginning plot of SAO, which involves the main characters in the anime trying to clear all 100 floors of Aincrad in order to escape the game. But now you are one of the people in SAO trying to get out of the game too.

As someone who’s a big fan of anime (and SAO in particular), I’ve really enjoyed playing this game so far. It has the look and feel of the SAO universe and its one of the first role-playing games I’ve truly enjoyed in a long time. I think part of the biggest appeal for me is that I was actually able to create a character that closely resembles my real life appearance. My character doesn’t look exactly like me (because there aren’t too many games where that’s possible), but I found the appearance I was able to make for her closely resembled my real life self.

Sword Art Online Integral Factor Avatar Image One
My avatar in Sword Art Online: Integral Factor. At the point I took this picture, I was on the 2nd floor in the game at level 19.

I’ve also enjoyed playing Sword Art Online: Integral Factor because the fighting and game play is so much fun to me. In this game, you can equip your avatar with two different weapons and switch between them during fights. Each weapon has different skill sets that you can get as you complete quests, and you can equip those skills in order to gain an extra attack against monsters. I find that fighting these monsters using these skills can be quite a bit of fun. As someone who doesn’t particularly like grinding in games all that much, I really don’t mind it a bit whenever I’m playing this game because fighting these monsters is actually a bit more of a challenge than in most other role-playing games I’ve experienced. Especially when you enter the dungeons where you have multiple enemies attacking you at once. It makes this game that much more of a joy because it challenges me to be a better player and to continue leveling up so I can clear the floor. I also like that you have more than one weapon you can choose from. This allows you as the player to be able to become skilled at using more than one weapon during fights, which I think is a good skill to have in this game. I like it because I was able to find early on which weapons I enjoy using, but I also have the chance to use other weapons too if I want.

I especially like that clearing floors in this game isn’t easy. I’ve been playing this game for a week now and have only made it to the 4th floor. It allows you as the player to see exactly why it took the original SAO players so long to progress. But I also appreciate it because I love playing games that are a challenge to complete.

What I think makes up for it, however, is that you as a player do have the option to join other players and form a party. As someone who’s used to playing games solo, I like that if I so wanted I could join a party because it definitely would make clearing monsters in dungeons so much easier. While I’ve yet to really use this feature (I’ve only been in a party truly once so far since I started playing), I like being able to interact with others who love SAO and want to fight together. I don’t really get the chance to play video games with other people that often so it’s nice that I have that option if I so choose to do so.

Another thing I like about this game so much is that it allows me to be in the SAO universe and interact with the characters from the anime. Ever since I watched SAO for the first time, I’ve always wanted the opportunity to explore that universe, see the monsters Kirito fought and try my hardest to help clear each floor. Now that this game is out, I get to do just that, even get to talk to the characters from the anime. Even better, some of the choices you make in the game change the outcome of the original story line. And I really like that because you can save characters that were originally killed off in the anime. I also like that you get to explore the SAO universe because you actually get even more story line content in this game that you haven’t seen before. With each floor you clear, you learn more about Aincrad, get to do quests that you didn’t see in the anime.

I think my favorite thing about this game overall though (well besides playing this game, of course) is getting to see the SAO universe. I love getting to explore each of these floors in this game, especially the moment when I defeat a boss and get to see what the next floor looks like. I like this particular moment in this game because the SAO universe in this game is graphically beautiful. I find that each floor is beautiful in its own way and can’t wait to see what the next floor looks like.

Sword Art Online Integral Factor World Image One
Me at level 42 whenever I get to the 4th floor for the first time. So far, the 3rd and 4th floors are my favorite floors graphically in Sword Art Online: Integral Factor.

There are however, some issues I do have with this game that if cleared up would make it a much more enjoyable playing experience. The biggest issue for me when playing Sword Art Online: Integral Factor is lagging/freezing during game play. I’ll be fighting a monster on one of the floors and notice that its health isn’t going down, even though it’s clear that my attacks are hitting it. So I’ll reset my game, which usually results in my character losing a majority of their health, sometimes even dying. I’ve actually died a couple times in the game because of this problem and it’s really frustrating to deal with. I’ve also noticed from the one time I was able to really join a party that most of the conversation I had with my party members somehow gets deleted to where I can only see things I typed when talking to a party member. I don’t know why, but it’s something I easily noticed and it annoyed me. But despite these difficulties, I’m still playing and enjoying this game a lot.

Another criticism I have for Sword Art Online: Integral Factor is that there aren’t really a variety of quest options for a player. Besides the main quest storyline, you have two other quest options: fighting monsters to collect items and boss fights. I get that the overall objective in this game is to clear each floor of Aincrad in order to escape the game, but I was hoping the quests in this game would be more story based. Or that there would be more to them so that they would be just as challenging as the main quest storyline. While it does benefit you to do some of these sub quests anyway (mostly because you can gain experience to level up), I find them to be just plain and not to be too much of a challenge to complete. It almost seems pointless to do most of them, especially because you can do them multiple times if you wish with very little reward.

I’m also critical of this game because it doesn’t really explain how you can improve your skills very well. When I first started playing, I thought I understood how it worked, but it’s taken me longer than expected to understand it and to improve the skills I have equipped. I’ve managed to do just fine not really understanding it, but it’s frustrating because I want to do the best I can to be a good player in this game. I know with time I’ll have it all figured out, but I still wish the game had explained it better so that I wasn’t dealing with so much confusion.

But overall, I’m enjoying playing Sword Art Online: Integral Factor immensely. It’s a much better SAO game than I was expecting for mobile and I’m having so much fun playing it that I don’t know if I’ll ever stop playing it. It just needs a couple adjustments here and there for it to be a much more enjoyable gaming experience for me. But I still love it all the same and can’t wait to play it some more.

Confessions of A Reader #2: Reading is Quite the Adventure

To You It's Just Another Book But to Me It's Another Adventure Image

One of many reasons I enjoy reading so much is because I see it as quite the adventure. Every time I pick up a book I’ve never read before, I don’t know what I’ll find within the story’s pages. To me, every book I read is an adventure because you never know where the story will take you.

To me, reading is a journey for each individual reader. As readers, we each have our own preferences. Usually, there’s a specific reason for that. For example, the first book you truly read was a specific style that made you realize you actually love reading more than you initially thought you did. Or it could be you find yourself connecting more with the overall message or themes in a particular genre of writing so you read that genre more than others. Those preferences result in the reader exploring other narratives that follow that particular genre, causing them to go on their individual reading journeys.

I also see reading as an adventure because it sets your imagination on fire. Reading gives you the unique ability to dream, to see the stories you read on the page come to life before your very eyes. It allows you the possibility to imagine a variety of different outcomes for the characters and come up with ideas of where you think the story will go. Reading allows you to dream eyes open, to see where a story will take you.

Reading Is Dreaming With Open Eyes Image

Every time I pick up a book, I never know where the story will take me. This is the magic of reading because it allows you to go on your own adventure, to meet characters and see within your mind’s eye places that you never thought existed. This is one of many reasons I enjoy reading so much and can’t wait to see where my reading journey takes me next.

Book Review: The Red Hat Club

The Red Hat Club Book Cover

Rating: 4 stars

Meet Georgia, SuSu, Teeny, Diane, and Linda–five women who’ve been best friends through thirty years since high school. Sit in when they don their red hats and purple outfits to join Atlanta’s Ladies Who Lunch for a delicious monthly serving of racy jokes, iced tea and chicken salad, baskets of sweet rolls, the latest Buckhead gossip, and most of all–lively support and caring through the ups and downs of their lives. When Diane discovers her banker husband has a condo (with mistress) that he bought with their retirement funds, the Red Hats swing into action and hang him with his own rope in a story that serves up laughter, friendship, revenge, high school memories, long-lost loves, a suburban dominatrix, and plenty of white wine and junk food. From the 1960s to the present, The Red Hat Club is a funny, unforgettable novel that shows the power women can find when they accept and support each other. 

This book was quite an unforgettable read. It allocated laughter and was just a fun pleasure to enjoy.

What made The Red Hat Club such an enjoyable read for me is all of the characters. Each of the five women in this story (including the one who’s point of view the whole story is told from) had a unique personality of their own. You saw their individual personalities throughout the story, from the beginning when Diane is revealing to her close friends that she’s discovered her husband is being unfaithful to the end when Teeny throws a celebration party for Diane and reveals her own hidden secret. I also enjoyed each of these women because this story made me laugh, especially when all five of them were together discussing how they were going to bring Harold down. It’s refreshing to read a story where all of the main characters are enjoyable and have unique personalities so I really appreciated it.

I also enjoyed this book because it was such a fun read. It wasn’t at all super serious, just a fun story about women and friendship. It was a story I could have fun reading and not want to do anything else but laugh. It’s a book that while usually isn’t my genre I found I enjoyed immensely giving a try because it allowed me to have fun imagining all of these different women with powerful personalities. It’s a book overflowing with fun positivity and I was very excited to see how the plot progressed.

What I also enjoyed with The Red Hat Club is how the story went back and forth between the past and present. I enjoyed seeing how these women’s friendship grew from their days in high school to the present time when this book was published. I especially enjoyed the process of initiation into the Mademoiselles and how their friendship grew from being a part of that exclusive sorority. In a lot of ways, their own group in the present day storyline is a little like that because of the rules they made when it came to their friendship and what they could talk about. I really liked that because it made sure nobody in their circle of friendship was excluded and if their conversations didn’t go well, they could start over as if the previous conversation never happened. It also made me want to continue reading this book to find out how their friendship lasted throughout the years and what was going to happen next.

If I have any criticisms for this book at all, its Georgia when it comes to her relationship with her husband John and her ex love Brad. From the beginning of The Red Hat Club, it’s pretty apparent that Georgia still hasn’t gotten over how her relationship with Brad ended, despite being married with kids. It’s still on her mind present day in the story, and all of the things she says about her husband John are nothing short of negative. She talks about their marriage being safe and boring and worries throughout the book whether she’s also going to be getting a divorce anytime soon. She admits that there are problems in her marriage, yet does nothing about it. She thinks a lot about Brad and the way he made her feel, and it seems almost like she’s going to get a second chance with him. But instead, she makes a decision for herself I definitely didn’t foresee, which left me completely confused, considering her feelings throughout the book. I’m not going to go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil this book or anything, but I was completely surprised by her decision. I also didn’t think it was the right choice, considering throughout the story she still seems like she’s mourning that love.

Other than that, I really enjoyed reading The Red Hat Club. It was such a fun, easygoing read that made me laugh from beginning to end that I was sad when I finally had to put it down. I definitely recommend this book to other women who want to read about women and friendship and who don’t mind reading stories that shift back and forth from past to present.

Book Review: The Blackbird Papers

The Blackbird Papers Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

A rainy night . . . A stranded motorist . . . A Good Samaritan passerby … a Nobel Prize–winning professor . . . The setup for a shocking murder designed to cover up an even more sinister crime . . . 

The Blackbird Papers marks the debut of Ian Smith, a major new talent in crime fiction, and of Sterling Bledsoe, his smart and occasionally combative sleuth. 

World-renowned Dartmouth professor Wilson Bledsoe is returning from a party celebrating his latest honor when he encounters a broken-down pickup on the secluded country road to his home. The next day, the discovery of his body with a vicious racist epithet carved into his chest leads to the quick arrest of two loathsome white supremacists. The local authorities seem ready to accept the case at face value as a racial hate crime. But the murdered professor’s brother, FBI agent Sterling Bledsoe, has inserted himself into the investigation and isn’t ready to buy into this pat solution. A look around his brother’s lab and brief interviews with his students and colleagues pique Sterling’s curiosity about Wilson’s pet project: a nearly completed paper on the mysterious deaths of hundreds of local blackbirds. 

Fast-paced and cleverly constructed, The Blackbird Papers introduces a major new talent in mystery and crime fiction.

I found this book to be an immensely interesting read. It was fast paced and mostly kept me interested to find out what happened to Sterling’s brother. But near the end of The Blackbird Papers, I slowly found myself losing interest. Especially near the end when you find out who kills Sterling’s brother and why.

What made this murder mystery book so interesting to me was going through the process of uncovering the mystery. You have Sterling’s brother who is missing at first until they discover his body. Then when they find Wilson you see the whole process of them examining his body to find out how he was killed and try to find out why. From there, you see Sterling going through his brother’s research, trying to uncover more clues.

I found this part of the story especially to be interesting whenever he uncovered that his brother was trying to discover why an alarming amount of blackbirds were being killed. It made the story that much more interesting because it showed that Ian Smith did a little bit of research to add detail into this book. It also made me want to continue reading The Blackbird Papers to find out who killed Wilson.

I also found Sterling as the main character interesting. Especially since this whole case involved the murder of his brother. I thought the story would be a little different since Sterling was trying to uncover the murder of his brother. But if anything, he seemed more determined to find out who killed Wilson than anything else. I know a lot of that had to do with some emotional problems of his own when it came to his brother, and I appreciated that this book included those details within its pages. While you wish Sterling could’ve gotten some reconciliation with his older brother, you also see his character grow as a result of this case.

I also like that Smith ended the story by Sterling respecting his brother’s last wishes. I found that to be a very touching scene because he goes through a lot in order to solve his brother’s murder and he is finally able to feel peace that his brother is no longer there.

While I enjoyed these aspects of The Blackbird Papers, there was a lot missing from it for me to enjoy the story as much as I wanted to. For starters, while the pacing of the plot started off really wonderful for me, it soon was at a point where it slowed down completely and became predictable. The plot reached this point near the end of the novel when those who didn’t want Wilson’s research to get out tried to frame Sterling for his brother’s murder. Each time Sterling found himself unraveling another piece of the puzzle, he’d have to run away from law enforcement. For me, that started slowing down the storyline because I knew he was close to getting the information he needed. It also felt like Smith added those moments into the story so there’d be action and conflict for Sterling while he’s trying to get to the bottom of the case.

I also found the person responsible for the death of Wilson to be predictable. I don’t know if it’s because I already had a feeling whenever his character was introduced that he was responsible or if the plot in the story was just that predictable for me. The only thing surprising about that part of the story was that more people were in on it than I was expecting. But that overall doesn’t really change the way I feel about the suspect because I still had those feelings from the beginning that this person was responsible.

The Blackbird Papers is an interesting murder mystery novel. I enjoyed it because the overall story kept me wanting to find out what happened next, but I was also disappointed that the killer was too easy for me to predict. I also found the pacing of the novel close to the conclusion to be lacking, but also really enjoyed the ending because Sterling finally found some peace when it came to his own conflict with his brother. It was overall an enjoyable read that I would’ve liked more if the killer wasn’t so predictable to me and if the ending of the story didn’t move so slow.

Book Review: Girls Like Me

Girls Like Me Book Cover

Rating: 3 stars

Fifteen-year-old Shay Summers is trying to cope with the death of her father, being overweight, and threats from a girl bully in school.  When she falls in love with Blake, a mysterious boy online, insecure Shay doesn’t want to tell him who she is.   But with the help of her two best friends, as well as an assist by Kermit and Miss Piggy, ultimately Shay and Blake’s love prevails. 
     

Girls Like Me is a fun and fresh poetic take on teen angst, social media and online anonymity, and high school romance.

This book was such a delight for me to read. It was quirky, had a diverse set of characters and the writing style was different from any of the young adult literature I’ve been reading recently. I enjoyed it a whole lot more than I thought I would and was sad when it ended. However, there were some things in the book that were a complete cliché that made the book a little less enjoyable for me to read.

For those who haven’t read this book before, Girls Like Me tells the story of Shay Summers, a teenager who struggles with her weight and trying to fit in at school. After the death of her father, Shay is stuck living with her stepmother Kara and tries to cope with her life by eating. She also makes two good friends who don’t fit in at school just like her. Then one day while online, she chats with a mysterious boy who gives her butterflies and knows how to make her laugh. What she doesn’t know is that this boy is actually the guy she’s had a crush on at school. He wants to meet her, but she’s so insecure about herself that she keeps pushing him away. Their relationship gets put to the test, but will their love prevail? Or are they not meant to be?

What drew me into reading this book was the cover and title. The cover is beautifully illustrated, making the reader want to pick up the book and read it. The title caught my eye too because it made me think this book would be relatable to me and that I’d understand the characters within its pages. While I don’t at all understand what it’s like being considered overweight, I feel like I can relate to Shay’s character anyway. I can relate to her because I love food too and I was bullied in school quite a bit myself, which made me lack a lot of self-confidence.

I also enjoyed reading Girls Like Me because of the writing style. It was written in free verse, which reminded me a lot of author Ellen Hopkins’s books, but also stood out from her work because of the use of social media in the story. It was unique storytelling to me because I haven’t seen too many other books written like this. I also enjoyed this writing style because it made this book an easy read for me.

Girls Like Me Text Image
An example of the text from the book. Can be found on page 4.

Another reason I enjoyed reading this book is because of the diverse cast of characters. There’s not only Shay, who is considered overweight, but her two best friends Dash and Boots are also unique characters too. Dash is her male best friend who struggles with being gay because of his upbringing in a Christian household. He especially has a really rocky relationship with his father because of his sexuality so he tries to change himself in order to please his dad. Boots on the other hand has cancer and is trying the best she can to live each day like it’s her last. But she’s dying and wants really badly to have sex since she knows she doesn’t have too much time left to live. She tries the best she can not to worry Shay and Dash with her sickness by trying to hide how unwell she’s doing, but they both know something is wrong.

And of course there’s Shay who struggles to cope with the loss of her father and eats because it helps her deal with the pain. She’s bullied in school relentlessly because of her weight by a girl named Kelly who enjoys nothing more than seeing Shay miserable. Her relationship with her stepmother Kara isn’t too great because Shay feels like she’s body shaming her. It isn’t until later on in the story that you find out that Kara understands exactly what Shay is going through. I like that this story has all of these characters with different problems and you get to see how they are handled. I also like that this book has a character with body issues because I haven’t read too many books that center around a character like Shay.

However, I do have some criticisms with Girls Like Me. While I overall enjoyed the writing style Lola StVil used, there were times where I found being able to understand it a little confusing. This confusing typically occurred whenever StVil had the story being told from the perspective of Dash and Boots. I was usually confused when this happened because their text didn’t at all have a different style from Shay’s. The only reason I was even able to tell the difference between the three was because of the change in font. Otherwise, I would’ve thought the text was just Shay talking about Dash and Boots’ personal lives.

Another criticism I have for this book is that while the set of characters are diverse, they are pretty cliché too. All of the characters that are really close friends are all of the social outcasts at the school, and they just happen to become good friends because of their differences.

Then, there’s the relationship between Shay and Blake, two people on opposite sides of the social pool. Blake is the typical popular kid who doesn’t notice how popular he is because he only pays attention to Shay. To the point that he doesn’t at all understand why Shay is hesitant about their relationship being out in the open. He’s so clueless, especially close to the end when Shay finds out about the website students at the school made about her and she asks him if he knew about it. He doesn’t at all understand why it’s such a big deal to her, which bothers me since they are supposed to be a couple and he doesn’t at all see why her weight is an issue to her. Their whole relationship was just a big cliché to me and I didn’t really like it because it was too much insta-love.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the ending of Girls Like Me. I thought there’d be a big reveal where we found out why Kelly doesn’t like Shay. Instead, we get no sort of reason other than she just doesn’t want her to be happy, which isn’t really much of a reason at all. If anything, it just shows that Kelly isn’t a great person and she’s just a character in the story put in to cause Shay conflict. I also thought it was a little cheesy because even though I like the Muppets, I just thought the whole thing was a little corny. But at the same time, I also liked the ending because we finally see Shay stand up for herself and call Kelly out on her bullying. We also see her act confident in herself for once, which was something we didn’t see a whole lot of throughout the book. And I feel like Blake finally gets to see the real Shay and understand why she’s the person she is in the story.

Overall, Girls Like Me is such a fun, quirky read. It has a style unlike any other book I’ve read with a set of diverse, relatable characters and was such a delight to read. I definitely recommend this book to people with body issues and people who want to read a book with free verse poetry.

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