“Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1” by Christopher Paolini

Image result for eragon bookThis series has been on my list for a little while now. I started reading this book several years ago when the “Eragon” movie came out, but I don’t think I ever finished it. I remember thinking when I watched the movie that there were several things that seemed like they would be explained more/better in the books, but I just couldn’t make it through. I also have the second book in the series, “Eldest,” but I don’t think I’ve ever cracked it open before now.

Going into reading the book this time, I vaguely remembered that the main character is named Eragon and that there is a dragon involved, but that was basically the extent of it.

The story does follow Eragon as he discovers a dragon egg, the egg hatches, and he winds up as a Rider with a dragon named Saphira. Their minds are linked so that they can mentally speak to and draw strength from each other, which is one of the coolest parts of the plot, in my opinion. However, it’s a little weakened when we discover that somewhat random characters can also speak to Saphira, so the bond isn’t as unique as I would have hoped. I guess it’s useful in some ways for others to communicate with Saphira at times, but I think it could have been done better.

The land where the story takes place is called Alagaesia, and lots of people, places, and things have similarly unique names. I like that these names lend a special feeling to the book, like that there is nothing else anywhere like them, but there was a time when we were introduced to many new names so quickly that I started getting different things confused. Even at the end I don’t think that I could match up all the places and things with the names used.

Overall, with a story like this with a land where dwarves and elves live and magic is used regularly, I feel like there was a lot of untapped potential. Even when things got interesting and there were battles and sieges, there wasn’t actually very much fighting. Maybe because it is aimed at kids there is less fighting and dying, but it makes the whole situation less realistic. I mean, even less realistic than a magical land where a teenage boy raises a dragon and learns to use magic.

Plus, Eragon is just not a very likeable character. For his youth, he seems pretty wise, but his emotional growth was stunted at some point. He feels despair over the death of a man he knew only a few weeks, and for lives lost in battle, but he seems barely phased by the death of the man who raised him for almost 16 years. He is in anguish when the wound is fresh, and then it is barely mentioned again. Same thing with his cousin, who he claimed was closer than a brother. They had such a strong bond, yet once Eragon leaves home, he barely thinks of his cousin at all. He actually seems much more affected by the town storyteller, who trained him for a few months, than the loss of his actual family members.

One final pet peeve: Saphira is described to be a gentle dragon who is very protective of Eragon. She shows affection to him and most of his mental dialogue is aimed at her. Yet in the audiobook of this story, she literally sounds like the Cookie Monster. I can’t stand it.

Anyway, I have already started “Eldest,” so I will let you know how that goes once I’m finished.

Until then,
Maegan

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“Someday, Someday, Maybe” by Lauren Graham

Image result for someday, someday, maybeI didn’t realize I would be back so soon, but this book was great and I flew through the end of it yesterday.

Honestly, I didn’t know this book existed until I read Lauren Graham’s memoir, but I’m so glad I read it. It has the same kind of spunky humor that kind of reminds me of Gilmore Girls and I definitely saw in the memoir.

The main character, Franny Banks, has been in New York for two and a half years when we meet her. She is an aspiring actor and has set a self-imposed deadline that she will be successful within three years or she will give up the dream. Franny is hilarious and beautiful, but doesn’t seem to realize it even though people keep telling her that she is both hilarious and beautiful. She gets a couple small jobs, but things can’t seem to pan out. Still, she remains pretty well intact.

There are the obvious love interests and the second guy who is clearly obviously perfect, but I won’t give away any of those details. Except to say that the end lets you leave it to your imagination, which I sort of like, but at the same time, give me something I can just accept so that I can move on with my life and stop thinking about the lives of these fictional characters.

After this book, I found out that Lauren Graham is putting out a third book in April 2018 called “In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It,” so I will most definitely be reading that one too. She’s just got such a great sense of humor and it translates to her writing so well. In a perfect world, Lauren Graham would both be Lorelai Gilmore and she would have already written 237 novels so that we can always get that funny fix when we need it. But three so far is better than none!

Anyway, next up (still) is “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling, and then maybe the “Inheritance Cycle” books by Christopher Paolini. I’ve been meaning to get around to those for a while.

Happy almost New Year!
Maegan

 

Update: I failed to mention that the book takes place in early 1995! There are lots of things that are different, but I love what it adds to the story. For example, Franny carries around a Filofax with her and some of the pages are in the book. Plus no one has a cell phone and you have to make calls from pay phones. Different times, different times. Not that I really know what that is like, I was a toddler at the time.

Anywho, Franny is in her mid-twenties throughout, and I just really enjoyed getting to see a story about something that you don’t usually read about, especially by such a great actor as Lauren Graham.

“My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares

Image result for my name is memory reviewAdmittedly, I did not finish this book as quickly as I would have liked. But alas, here we are. I was so excited to read all the Ann Brashares books after I started on the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” books but I think I just slowed down a little with the other books I was reading or listening to on audiobook. There’s still one more though, so I have to start that one soon.

Anyway, this book is about Daniel, who has the memory, which means that he remembers all the lives his soul has lived, dating back more than 2,000 years. Through it all, he falls in love with the same woman every time, but she doesn’t remember him from one life to the next. Most people don’t, but Daniel has the gift. In this life, it’s 2004 and we’re in Virginia. Daniel’s lady friend is named Lucy, although he refers to her as Sophia since that was the first name he knew her by, and they are seniors in high school. They have a brief interaction before parting ways, and the story doesn’t pick up again for a few more years. Through it all, the chapters are intermixed with Daniel’s point-of-view along different time periods in different places that he has lived.

While the story mostly focuses on Daniel and Lucy, there are a few recurring characters, like Lucy’s best friend and Daniel’s friend Ben who also has the memory and the main antagonist in the story. (Can’t give too much away.)

There’s not a lot of drama or action until the end of the book, but it still keeps you interested throughout. Although, there are a few moments when you just think, “Dang, Lucy is making poor choices.” But I think Daniel makes a few poor choices along the line too.

Upon further research, I discovered that this book is meant to be part of a trilogy, which explains why the ending was TERRIBLE. Without letting too much slip, there are SO MANY unanswered questions. Did the bad guy get taken down? Did they good guy do what he was supposed to do? Did the thing happening at the monastery ever happen? Why are a certain character’s family not concerned?

According to the internet, Ann Brashares’ publisher put a lid on the next two books but as of her Twitter in December of 2015 she is working on getting the rights so that she can continue the story. I would definitely read it once that happens.

One thing that bothers me about this story and these characters is how much Lucy and Daniel are willing to give up for just each other. I mean, their entire lives mean nothing obviously because they are ready to just throw in the towel and start over. No mind to their family or friends or school or jobs. It’s especially selfish of Lucy, whose parents have already been through putting one daughter in the ground.

I digress. I actually just found out this book is written for adults, but other than the discussion of a few *intimate acts,* I would have had no idea. It seems like even when Ann Brashares writes adult books, her characters are still pretty young. The oldest Lucy gets in this book is probably 23 or 24, which is a similar age to the main characters in Brashares’ other adult book, “The Last Summer (of You and Me).”

Next up is “The Whole Thing Together,” which is Brashares’ newest book. At the same time, I started “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling and I began the audiobook of “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” by Mindy Kaling, and I’m pretty excited about those two.

Until next time,
Maegan

“My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories” edited by Stephanie Perkins

Image result for stephanie perkins my true love gave to me book coverThis book is really just an anthology of short stories by pretty well known young adult authors, all Christmas/holiday-themed, of course.

The authors that I recognized were Gayle Forman, Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and Jenny Han. Other stories were written by Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Matt de la Pena, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White.

I really liked the variety of this book. Even though all the stories happened roughly around the same time, there were many different backdrops and cultures represented. Some of them had some common themes of unhappy-teenager-turned-happy, or “Omg I want to leave this place so bad,” but they all faced some kind of adversary that changed their perspective.

Most of them were realistic fiction, but a few were pretty mythical. For those, I almost felt like you needed more time than just a short story to explain the magic behind the plot. Like actual magic needs to be explained. Where does your power come from? Why are you the only one using it? Why are these characters not freaked out that you are performing magic?

Anyway, I stumbled upon this book on my library’s website and thought, “‘Tis the season.” It was a nice change listening to short stories instead of novels.

I haven’t decided yet what is next on the list, but I’ll figure it out. I’ve been reading “My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares for a while, and I’m finally almost done with that one, so I’ll be posting about it soon I’m sure. Then I may tackle my to-be-read list, or I may reread something for the 14th time.

We shall see,
Maegan

“Tales of the Peculiars” by Ransom Riggs

Related imageTechnically this book is written by “Millard Nullings,” who is a character in the “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” novels. His peculiar ability is that he is completely invisible, so you don’t even know he’s there unless he speaks. Or he’s wearing clothes. It’s kinda weird to think that this kid just goes around stark naked all the time and no one knows and/or is bothered by it.

Anyway, “Tales of the Peculiars” is a collection of old folk tales that peculiars would read to their children. The book was mentioned in the “Miss Peregrine’s” books several times, and a few of the stories were mentioned in the later books. One, “The Pigeons of Saint Paul’s,” was read through in the books, but the story in this collection was totally different. Another, “The Tale of Cuthbert,” was exactly the same, with an added ending by “Millard.” The changes and the annotations go to show how much the stories have theoretically changed as they’ve been passed down through generations of peculiars.

Some of them were a little weird, but they were still pretty family friendly for the most part. It was nice to see some of the other abilities that peculiars can have other than just the peculiars we’ve come to know in the prior books.

If you pay attention to the book, there’s a nice little Easter egg on the copyright page:

Image result for tales of the peculiars copyright page

I was amused. In the books previously, it was mentioned that the word “sydrigasti” is an old term for peculiars, so Syndrigast Publications is born.

For my next read, I’ve gone in a totally different direction and started reading “Bossypants” by Tina Fey because I love her and I’ve always wanted to read this book.

I’ll tell you when I’m done,
Maegan

“Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Library-of-Souls.jpgThis story keeps right on trucking, into villainous territories and treacherous time loops. Just like “Hollow City,” this book picks up as if the last one never ended, and the whole things only spans a couple of days.

That’s one thing I like about these books. I don’t feel like anything has been left out. Usually when you read a book, the characters say two sentences to each other and then magically discover that hours have passed, but Ransom Riggs is excellent at explaining where the time has gone.

There are more unusual photos throughout the book. It’s kind of fascinating to think that the author built his story and his characters around these collectors’ treasures. Even though I thought they were creepy at first (and some of them still are pretty creepy), I feel now that the pictures are mostly just interesting and they make you take a second look.

Anyway, our heroes find themselves in Devil’s Acre, which is basically the time loop that outcast peculiars go to. The wights have taken over and are conducting horrible experiments on peculiars. The ymbrynes have all been captured and it’s up to two kids and a talking dog to save them. Seriously.

Of course, there’s backup from new characters who may or may not be trusted. Jacob discovers some powers he didn’t know he had, teenage romance ensues, etc., etc.

The group is split up at the beginning of the book, so for almost half the story we don’t know what’s going on with a majority of the secondary characters. I’m still upset over why Jacob was able to make his way to the present without Miss Peregrine, because that was never explained, unless you could Emma’s hypothesizing, which I don’t.

Eventually, the gates are stormed, a battle is waged, but I can’t give everything away. Jacob is reunited with his parents, who consider him certifiably insane and try to ship him off to a *treatment facility.* That part of the book actually made me angry. I know he’s spouting crazy stories, but the fact that his parents and therapist wouldn’t listen to him or let him get a word in edge-wise AND they stole his mail, it made my blood boil and I wanted to jump into this book just to smack them all.

Other than that, the story ended pretty nicely with a happy conclusion. Only thing I’m wondering about is why Ricky was even a part of the story at all. He was Jacob’s “only friend,” yet they had one spat and he was never seen nor heard from again. I guess he was replaced by the peculiars.

Too bad for him,
Maegan

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

Related imageThis book has been on my radar for a while, but honestly, I was a little scared to pick it up. The covers of this series are pretty creepy and I really didn’t know what to expect, but I figured it if was in the young adult section then it couldn’t be just outright horror-filled. And it wasn’t, just some startling photos sprinkled here and there.

Miss Peregrine is a woman/ymbryne who watches over “peculiar” children, which are kids who have special abilities thanks to genetics or some such. Emma can create fire with her hands, Millard is completely invisible, Olive can lift right off the ground if she is not weighted down, and Hugh has bees living in his stomach. There are a few others too, and they have all been living in Miss Peregrine’s time loop, where it is always September 3, 1940, over and over again.

Enter Jacob Portman who discovers the peculiars after his grandfather whispers a cryptic message to him on his final breath. Jacob and his dad travel to a mysterious island that used to be home to Grandpa where Jacob tries to find clues as to his grandfather’s early life. He stumbles upon Emma and Millard and follows them right back into the time loop.

By the end of the story, the kids are being hustled off the island while hollows (super evil death creature things that prey on the blood of the peculiars) and wights (basically a hollow’s sidekick) chase after them and attempt to kidnap Miss Peregrine.

It’s a very interesting book and I think the use of old photos is really effective throughout, even though some are a little creepy.

I’ve already started the second book in the series, “Hollow City.” It’s longer than the first but now that I’m invested in the series I’m excited to find out what happens.

For now,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The End” by Lemony Snicket

Related imageWell, here we are. The Baudelaires washed up on an island and found some more mysteries before being confronted with Count Olaf yet again. Some surprising things happen, there’s some death, a birth, more questions.

The island is facilitated by a man named Ishmael, who perseveres in his quest to convince everyone to call him Ish, even though it happens like once in the whole book. Ishmael has everyone on the island under his control, thanks a little coconut cordial and some peer pressure, but the Baudelaires aren’t fooled.

We get somewhat of a view of the islanders’ stories after they leave the orphans’ presence, but nothing is much for sure. One of the Snicket siblings arrives because “everything washes up on these shores eventually.” There is a little bit of a power struggle, but then eventually the Baudelaires are left to their own devices and fair quite well for themselves.

One thing I want to know though, what happened to the Quagmires? What about Fiona and Fernald and Captain Widdershins? Where’s Esme? What is the big squiggly question mark thing in the water? Maybe it’s meant to be left to the imagination, but I would appreciate a little more closure.

Anyway, I will likely finish “Sisterhood Everlasting” by Ann Brashares tonight, which is the last book in my jumbled up series kick. But then it will get more twisty after that because I’m about to start the “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” series by Ransom Riggs, but I’m also going to start “My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares. I think I just can’t be satisfied with only one story at a time, even if they do get just a little twisty in my mind.

See you later,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Peril” by Lemony Snicket

220px-ThePenultimatePerilI remember when this book first came out and I was in seventh grade, my childhood best friend and I were discussing the story. I was so in awe that she knew the meaning of the world “penultimate” (next to last) because to that point, I actually figured that it was just a word that Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) had just made up. Even now, I don’t know if I would have known what the word meant without her telling me that way back when because it hasn’t really come up since then. Maybe I would have looked it up on my own, but we may never know.

Anyway, this is the 12th book in the “Series of Unfortunate Events” series. The Baudelaires go from the Queequeg straight to the Hotel Denouement, which is the where a big meeting is supposed to happen in just days. There’s lots of confusion about who is noble and who is a villain, and we really don’t get much of that cleared up by the end. There’s no sign of the Quagmire triplets, but they’re mentioned, so I’m sure they’ll show back up soon.

I’m again confused about the timeline of the story. It seems like there’s been quite a bit of time since the events of the first book took place, but this book happens over mere days. Maybe it’s meant to be ambiguous.

Another thing I noticed is that there are no families safe from Lemony Snicket’s power, which means that every family has someone who has died, whether it is parents or siblings or spouses. I guess it just adds to the unfortunate events.

I’m interested in what happens next to wrap up the whole series. There are still plenty of loose ends and I’m not yet sure how they will be tied off. It’s been so long since I’ve read this book that I don’t remember any of the plot, except one critical issue for one particular character.

At the same time, I am listening to “Sisterhood Everlasting,” which is the next book by Ann Brashares. I have the ebook, but I’m mostly listening to the audiobook. I’m not too far in but I already have some thoughts about the story.

More on that later,
Maegan

“Turtles All the Way Down” by John Green

turtles-all-the-way-down-hd-cover-john-green.jpgOh, John Green books, how I love thee. I remember when I was a freshman in college and my roommate told me about this book that had just come out, “The Fault in Our Stars.” She let me borrow it and I became so emotionally attached to that book and those characters. I thought I would never read anything so profound again in my life.

I don’t think that “Turtles All the Way Down” is quite to that level, but it is still exceptional.

John Green has a way of writing about people that make it feel like they actually exist. Usually characters are predictable or too perfect or speak in a super eloquent manner that does not happen in real life, but the characters in this book are so real that it feels like John Green may have just been documenting the lives of a few teenagers he met.

The story is told from the perspective of Aza Holmes, when she has just found out that there is a $100,000 reward for information on the disappearance of Russell Pickett Sr., who is wanted for questioning after his company embezzled money (or something to that effect). Aza’s best friend Daisy wants to investigate, so they take a trip over to the Pickett estate, where Aza is reintroduced to Davis Pickett, who she has not seen in years.

A romance blossoms for both girls, but it is not sickeningly perfect, which I love about this book. All the while, Aza’s anxiety has her spinning down tightening thought spirals about a certain type of bacteria that her brain tells her will kill her.

At the end of the book, Aza is not magically *cured* from her anxiety, but I wouldn’t want her to be. The loose ends are all tied up, but the last pages make you question what happens in the future. I would be eager to read John Green’s thoughts on those last few paragraphs.

Another part of this book that I enjoy is that aside from everyone seeming like a real person, the book is super educational. Davis Pickett is super into astronomy, so he talks about stars and planets and meteor showers, Daisy writes Star Wars fan-fiction (not that I know much about Star Wars), and Aza is supremely educated on her microbes. It just makes me feel like the book dives deeper than it necessarily had to, but it makes it all the more pleasant to read.

Now that I’ve finished this book, I’ve added “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska” to my list because John Green. I’m still wrapping up the “Series of Unfortunate Events” books and the collection of books written by Ann Brashares. Plus “The Glass Castle” but I will persist.

Bye for now,
Maegan