Thursday, February 2, 2017

2017 Book Challenge, January Update!

Today I'm sharing an update on my reading challenge. I'll list the books, and give a short review of each one (except the Chronicles of Narnia series, which I'll group together).

Here's the books I read:


Fantasy

1. Chronicles of Narnia, entire series, by C. S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
The Magician's Nephew
The Horse and His Boy
The Last Battle

Rating for all seven books: ****

This series follows the adventures of various children from our world who visit the land of Narnia, a strange and magical place created by a lion named Aslan. If you've never heard of the series, it's loosely an allegory based on Christianity, with Aslan representing Jesus Christ.

I've read this series several times since I was a kid. While the story reads like it was written for 8-11 year-olds, I still like it very much as an adult. The books I have are all old editions (from the 1970s, but I believe the text itself wasn't changed from the original for each book), and so they do use a few words which we consider mild swear words. I have never read a newer edition, so the publishers may have updated the language to reflect our times.


2. The Dragonfly Prophecy, by Jacquelyn Castle

Rating **

Even though she has been ill and keeps having these horrid dreams about dragon flies, Lexi is excited to see William again. Her boyfriend she met during her year studying abroad in Great Britain, William is coming to the States for the summer. But as her falling and fainting spells grow worse, she finds out her life is not quite as perfect as she once thought.

Although I found the plot interesting, I just never grew to like Lexi. There would be parts in the book where she would go on about how wonderful she was, phrasing it as "not bragging," but at the same time she would be very immature or stupid while she bragged about being incredibly smart. The story also had a love triangle between her and two guys who just both seemed too good to be true, who both adored her and put up with whatever childish thing she did (so maybe they were the idiots?). Throughout the book, Lexi stays as immature as always, despite her struggles (though most were very superficial). I feel this whole book could be summed up like this: immature, supposedly brilliant girl has to choose between two boys who each declare their undying love for her, coddle her in even her most ridiculous moments, and constantly stoke her ego while she accomplishes tasks and learns new skills with disgustingly little effort.

Did I mention that she lives with a filthy rich aunt, who spoils her at every moment? And that one of the guys who adores her is some super-powerful gifted one?

It was a nice little read, but Ms. Castle should've taken more time to develop the story, and especially work on her main character. What started out as an intriguing story was overwhelmed with cliches and references that didn't make much sense, not to mention a protagonist that you wanted to see fail. And even though the end finally explains about the dragon flies, it still didn't make sense to me why Lexi was dreaming of them.


Historical Fiction

3. Love Then Begins, by Gail McEwen and Tina Moncton

Rating: *

I didn't finish this book. I read the first book in this series, and really liked it (it reminded me of Jane Austen's novels), and thought I would enjoy the second one. However, while the first one was a sweet story about two people falling in love, this book read like erotica or a porno, with explicit sex scenes I wish I'd been warned about (I must confess, though, I went back on Amazon and found out erotica is one of the categories it's listed under, but when the first book had barely a lewd reference this total lack of decorum left me quite shocked). Granted, they're a married couple, but still, shouldn't some stuff be left to the reader's imagination? Nothing was. I tried skipping past, but with another "amorous moment" happening between them every few pages, the story lost all appeal to me. I wish the authors had kept the same style they had used in writing the first book.


Nonfiction

4. Worn Stories, by Emily Spivack

Rating ***

This was a cute, short book where different men and women talked about a piece of clothing they owned and why it was special to them. It was interesting getting these little glimpses into their lives: a favorite memory of a parent, persevering through tough times, saying goodbye to a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.

5. Wear No Evil*, by Greta Eagan

Rating *****

If you have been seeking a way to buy clothes that are kinder to the earth and to the people who make them, this is the book. A fashionista by birth and training, Eagan has provided numerous resources to help you be stylish while "greening up" your wardrobe, as well as detailed reasons why you should care. Although many of the companies she recommends are rather pricey, and her description of what you should have in your wardrobe is probably overkill for all of us but the most dedicated style lovers, she gives good tips on how to shop, and also provides some companies which are not super expensive and a lengthy list of resources. Sadly, she's decided not to keep up her fashion blog, which made me really sad, but the book is a wonderful guide.


Horror

6. Sanctum, by Madeleine Roux

Rating ****

The sequel to Asylum, Dan visits his former roommate who tried to kill him the summer previous, and is sent on a quest back to Brookline to continue unraveling the mystery behind it.

I enjoyed it, but the horror aspect was almost too much for me. I feel like this was a little darker than the first book. While a good sequel (which is hard to do, so I applaud her on her success), it left too many loose ends that were never resolved. There are some swear words FYI.

7. Catacomb*, by Madeleine Roux

Rating: ***

The sequel to Sanctum, Dan, Abby, and Jordan road trip down to New Orleans, where Jordan will attend college and live with his uncle. But they discover someone following them on their journey. And when they arrive in New Orleans, things take a sinister turn.

While a good story on its own, it didn't work as a sequel. Instead, it felt like something Ms. Roux tacked on at the end, trying to get another book out of the series. A lot of new information is brought in, which wasn't even hinted at in the first two books. In all fairness, the front cover does call it "an Asylum novel" instead of a sequel, but I think it would have been better off as the beginning of a new series involving Dan and his friends, or even just a standalone book. Like Sanctum, I felt it left a lot of questions unanswered. There are some swear words FYI.

8. Escape From Asylum, by Madeleine Roux

Rating: ***

This book tells of Brookline in the 1960s, when Ricky is sent to be a patient after a series of disagreements with his mom and her husband leads to him attacking his step dad. Having been to other asylums, he thinks it will be easy to get out, until he learns that Warden Crawford has a special experiment in mind for him.

While a really good story depicting the horrors of Brookline in its active days, parts of it didn't fit. Ricky keeps seeing things, and the story never really explains why (they're not all ghosts, because one person is still alive). It makes you wonder if he wasn't sent there only because he's bisexual, but because he hallucinates. However, the book never mentions him seeing things before coming to Brookline. There are some swear words FYI.


Total read: 13.

Unfinished: 1.

I did better than I thought I would in January, although the Chronicles of Narnia books are very short. Maybe I will be able to read 52 this year.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with my ratings? Let me know in the comments.

I also left the reviews for all of these on GoodReads.

*For the sake of brevity, I have not included the subtitles of these books.

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