Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: "Becoming Jinn & Circle of Jinn"

 Becoming Jinn & Circle of Jinn by Lori Goldstein
3.5 out of 5 stars

I first heard about this series when I met Lori at the Daring Reads YA Panel back in the spring. I've never read any of her books but this one sounded really interesting and unique. She gave out little pamphlets that had a short section of the first book and it hooked me, so I added it to my list and bought it at the NTTBF in April. Then of course, I had to buy the second one because hello, cliffhanger! I really enjoyed them both, overall. There were a few minor quibbles here and there but nothing big. Honestly, I thought this was going to be a bigger series but it looks like it's just a duo for now. I'm actually kind of disappointed, I would have liked more in this world. Also, the covers are just gorgeous! You don't see very many purple books.
(pic by me & heavily edited lol)

Okay, anyway. The story starts off with Azra on her sixteenth birthday, coming to terms that she is now an adult Jinn. In other words, a genie. And she is not taking it well. She doesn't want to be a genie or grant wishes or even keep the super hot makeover she automatically got, along with her Jinn bracelet/bangle/shackle. She just wants to be normal. Which is so not going to happen now.

I've always liked genies. I Dream of Jeannie was one of my favorite shows to watch as a kid (as reruns, I'm not that old lol). And there were quite a few genie-related shows in the 90s: Jambi on Pee Wee's Playhouse, Kazaam with Shaq (my sister loved that movie), and of course Aladdin. I haven't been able to watch Aladdin since Robin Williams died. :( I love the music though and listen to it quite often. My junior high choir had to learn Friend Like Me and I still know 75% of it by heart lol.

So Azra doesn't want to do the whole genie thing but she doesn't have a choice. She also doesn't want to have anything to do with her Zar, which is like her sisterhood, a group of teenage girls that are or will be Jinn eventually too. These should be her closest friends and family but she's shunned them for years now so doesn't have any of that support to help her deal with this big change. And wow, is it a big change. I mean, she can do magic now and apparate anywhere in the world. But she also has to learn how to grant wishes for people that the Afrit (head cheese Jinn) choose for her. She can't just grant anyone a wish, as much as she would like to. Especially cute friend boy across the street Henry. Human Henry, who is not supposed to find out about her secret but of course does, immediately.

I liked Henry, a lot. But of course, there had to be another guy that Azra was hot for and thus, a love triangle was born. Boo. I didn't hate it but it just wasn't necessary. I loved Azra's interactions with her Zar sisters and her mother. You may notice I haven't mentioned a dad or any male relatives. Well, in the Jinn culture, the women stay in the "human world", granting wishes, while the men stay below or hidden in the Jinn world. Kind of a nice switch really. This comes up more in the second book so I won't spoil it too much.

So we've got a rebellious teenager, magic wishes, and a love triangle. What more do we need? A little conflict? Oh sure. Azra is one of those exceptional teenage girls in the likes of Katniss, Tris, and others. And she is "destined" to do "something" lol. The second book leads up to a big battle that unfortunately, didn't seem that big to me. That's part of the reason I thought this would be a longer series; I was completely not expecting it all to get wrapped up that quickly. And maybe it's not. She left it kind of open so she could possibly come back to it later. Overall, I enjoyed these books but was left wanting a little bit more in the end.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

TILT: I'd Rather Be Reading

Things I love (and need) Thursday. Me today.

(if you do not want your product shown, please contact me!)

Necklace by OxfordBright

Pencils by EasilySuede

TShirt by FriendlyOak

Art Print by AddisonandLake

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: "Jessi's Gold Medal: The Baby-Sitters Club #55"

Jessi's Gold Medal: The Baby-Sitters Club #55 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

Okay, the ghost writers really screwed up with this one. This is almost an exact repeat of the last book. We're just switching Jessi & Mal and their "sport". And they kind of spoiled it with the title. Guess Jessi wins or whatever. There was also a major inconsistency that I'll get into later. I found this list of who wrote which books and it's really helpful. As a kid an adult, I thought Ann wrote ALL the books. I was pretty disappointed when I realized she didn't. Of course, I know there is no way she could be cranking out that many books in a year, but still.

Anyway, back to this book. This one was slightly better than Mallory's only because it featured talk of the Olympics. The 1992 summer Olympics to be exact. Let's give a little back history okay? Hosted by Barcelona, this was the last year that the Summer & Winter Olympics were done in the same year. It was the first time NBA players were allowed to play basketball, leading the Dream Team to win easily. Two gold medals were awarded in solo synchronized swimming after a mistake with the judges. (How can it be "solo" if it's synchronized?) The motto was Friends for Life. Shannon Miller, part of the Magnificent Seven, won 5 awards, more than any other American that year. So overall, it was a good year and a smart move by the authors to focus on the event. Which is interesting, because I don't remember any other real life events being talked about before. Correct me if I'm wrong!

And the fact that I read this right before the 2016 Summer Olympics started was just a happy coincidence. It really got me in the mood though. I love the Olympics. My favorite events are men's gymnastics, men's swimming, men's beach volleyball...well, you get the idea. ;) And of course, women's gymnastics. Oh and rugby, I forgot rugby! I have gotten so far off topic for this book.

Okay. The book starts with Jessi at ballet class and her telling us how hard it is but she loves it and Mdme Noelle is so tough but fair and moving to Stoneybrook was hard because she's black etc. Her dad picks her up from class and they don't have the air conditioning on, because it's not good for dancers' bodies, until they pass a billboard for the Olympics with a swimmer on it. Jessi has this brilliant thought: Why pound your body into a wood floor when you could plunge it into water instead? Couldn't agree more. When they get home, she watches Becca & Squirt play in the sprinklers, and has her brilliant idea. (Not to be confused with one of Kristy's Brilliant Ideas.) They should get a pool. Of course, her parents laugh in her face but they do say they can get a membership for the local pool complex and she's happy.

And now it's time for a BSC meeting and What Claudia is Wearing. She was wearing these sharply creased, pastel-green, cuffed shorts; a wild Hawaiian shirt tied at her waist, with vibrant colors that perfectly picked up the green; and sandals with crisscrossing ankle straps to her knees. Her hair was swept to one side [she does that a lot] and held in place with a long, fake-flowered barrette that looked like a Hawaiian lei.

During the meeting, Claudia is trying to come up with a logo for the SMS Sports Festival. (Apparently an annual thing, though I've never heard of it.) Mary Anne is like "ew sports" and Mallory looks "glum" but the other girls are excited and talk about the events they're going to enter. Dawn says she's going to do something different like shot put or pole vault. Then Kristy mentions how the loathsome Alan Gray bet Kristy that he could beat her in a race anytime. You see where that's going, right?

In gym class the next day, Jessi & Mallory find out they are going to do swimming lessons for the next few weeks. I find that kind of odd, for a middle school, but whatevs. Mal is horrified, because she's anti-exercise and then even worse, they are going to be swimming with...BOYS. And of course, she brings her manky old swimsuit with the ruffle skirt. Ugh, how embarrassing. Jessi is uber-excited though, especially when she is hand-picked to join the synchronized swim team thanks to her dance background.

So she joins the class and learns all these cool moves like the crawl and standard scull and tub position. Then she finds out that her team is actually going to be performing in the Sports Festival. She and her partner have to create a routine and Jessi jazzes it up with lots of crazy moves like Egyptian hands and they have to practice a lot. And here's where that huge inconsistency is. In the last book, Jessi's parents wouldn't let her take horse lessons, ONE DAY A WEEK, because it would interfere with her ballet. Now, they're totally okay with her swimming every day after school AND weekends. What? So yeah, that was irritating.

Let's skip over to some of the baby-sitting now. All the kids have Olympic fever too, especially Becca, which gets Jessi thinking and she's right up there with Kristy now: why don't they put on a mini-Olympics for all the kids? Of course, everyone loves the idea because they haven't had a big group gathering in like, two weeks. They start putting it together, Kristy goes overboard, Andrew cries because he's 4 and can't do anything, Charlotte doesn't WANT to do anything, and the Pike kids make it all about them as always.

Throughout the book, we get little digs from Mallory about how sports are dumb, not everyone wants to be in the Olympics, etc. Jessi finds it odd but doesn't try to talk to her best friend about whatever is bothering her. Because, you know, that would be too easy. Then, when Claudia & Mallory are baby-sitting the Pike clan, Mal "accidentally-on-purpose" sprains her ankle and "oh no!" now she can't perform in the Festival! So sad! Sike.

It's finally the day of the festival. Mal is in the stands, on crutches, Mary Anne agreed to run the lemonade stand as a compromise for joining the festivities (why couldn't Mal just do that too?), and Jessi is super nervous. Kristy runs the hundred-yard dash and looks like a real athlete, bulging muscles and all. Claudia runs a backwards race and dresses accordingly.

She was wearing electric-pink track shorts with a turquoise racing stripe, a matching top with cut-off sleeves, brand-new high top track shoes with no socks, and floral-print suspenders! Her hair was pulled up on top of her head and held in place with a silver barrette in the shape of the Olympic symbol. If it had been an athletic-wear fashion show, she would have won. [During the race] Claudia managed to stay on her feet, but she was running strangely - on her tiptoes, so that her hair bounced up and down like a horse's tail.

And then Kristy and Alan have their big race. Loser has to be winner's slave for a week. Winner gets total bragging rights. Who's it gonna be? You tell me, who do you think won? ;) Okay, it was Kristy. Like we didn't see that coming. I feel bad for Alan sometimes. He's got this total crush on Kristy, but he just does not know how to act around her.

Finally, it's time for Jessi's synchro and of course, they do perfectly and win the gold, because that's what the title told us would happen. Is anyone else bugged by their arms not being in sync on the cover? Just me? Okay. Then we have the mini-Olympics, in Mary Anne & Dawn's backyard because their parents are total pushovers. There's plenty of silly obstacles and events, Jackie Rodowsky falls into the kiddie pool, everyone gets an award, even Andrew (Most Determined), and everyone goes home happy. Oh and Mallory finally admits she was a poor sport about sports. This review was sooo long! Hope you enjoyed it still.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

TILT: Books & Music

I love books with a music theme, that and roadtrips are some of my favorite books. Which is why The Disenchantments and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour top out as absolute favorite reads.

I'm going to see Guns N' Roses in concert tonight last night and I am soooooo excited for it! GNR has been my favorite band since I was 13 years old (a long time) and I never got to see them in concert before they split up. My lovely sister managed to get me cheap-ish tickets for my birthday and I can't wait to experience it!

Anyway, all that being said, I decided to do a music themed Things I Love Thursday this week to celebrate. You can view my full collection of bookish music on 8Tracks here if you like, I add to it constantly. I'm just going to post a few of my newest finds here.

And if you want to comment below, I want to hear about one of these things: your favorite concert you've been to, the concert you would KILL to go to (like me with GNR), your favorite music themed book, a bookish playlist you've made or found. Share with me!

Jem & The Holograms is a graphic novel about music so you know I had to go find some playlists to listen to while reading it! This one is great in that it mixes some of the original cartoon's music with some newer stuff that goes along with the theme.

Princess Jellyfish requires Japanese Pop and this playlist fits it perfectly!

Finally, the wonderfully talented Stephanie Perkins just recently shared her last playlist for Isla & the Happily Ever After and it is just as great as the other two! I love when authors share their music they listen to while writing, it really helps me get an even better mood for the story.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: "Mallory and the Dream Horse: The Baby-Sitters Club #54"

Mallory and the Dream Horse: The Baby-Sitters Club #54 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

Mallory's books are very up and down for me. This was a down, unfortunately. Mal gets the chance to do one of her dreams, ride a horse, and of course, it doesn't go well. But in the beginning it's all good. Mallory & Jessi are at Mal's house, with ALL the Pike kids running around like loons of course. They try to talk about horses but get interrupted by the Pike Circus (literally, Nicky wrestles Frodo, the hamster alligator). When Mal heads out to the mailbox later that afternoon, she sees a flyer for riding lessons at a stable that just happens to be a bike ride away. I'm pretty sure Stoneybrook is bigger than that but okay. Before she can talk to her parents, we have a BSC meeting and a What Claudia Could Be Wearing.

Claudia can put together strange combinations of clothes-like one of her father's old shirts over tie-dyed tights, with a big belt and a funky vest-and look like she stepped out of a fashion magazine.

In baby-sitting news, Nina Marshall is the "child of the week" with a problem. She just started preschool and insists on carrying her "Blankie" with her everywhere. I don't remember a Blankie in their other books. (Can't remember which books those might be at the moment.) Of course, that doesn't go over well at school and the other kids make fun of her. All the sitters try to help her, psycho-analyzing her, until Dawn destroys Blankie in the dryer. Okay, it wasn't really Dawn, Mrs Marshall insisted on washing it, but Nina blames Dawn. Blankie is torn into lots of tiny bits, but it's cool, because now Nina can tuck Blankie into her pocket, her socks, her shoe, etc and no one will have to know. BSC to the rescue, once again!

Now back to Mallory and her dream come true. She convinces her parents to let her sign up for the horse riding lessons, by agreeing to pay for half of it with her baby-sitting money. She is over the moon but let down a little when she finds out Jessi can't take the lessons with her, due to her ballet classes. Mal doesn't let it get her down too much though. And she just gets a little embarrassed when she starts her classes and realizes she's the only one not in a proper English riding habit. Poor, poor Mallory. Literally, she can't help it if she's poor. Her parents keep having kids. (I'm surprised there was never a "surprise" Pike kid in any of the books.)

She tries to move past it though and just enjoy the lessons. The horses are great and she thinks she's making new friends. (Spoiler: she's not.) After each lesson, she rushes home to tell Jessi all about it, thinking her best friend will be super excited for her. (Spoiler: she's not.) Then things start to go south. Mal falls off of a horse (named Gremlin, seriously?) and freaks. She's not injured, just the wind knocked out of her, but it's enough to make her fear getting back on the horses and kills any enjoyment she was having. And of course, she can't tell her parents because money. Then, she gets invited to one of the girl's birthday party and she wears the completely wrong outfit and doesn't fit in at all.

I decided that since I didn't know the kids well I really should dress more conservatively. I was wearing a gold-and-brown kilt, a matching gold cotton sweater, and penny loafers. The second I stepped through Amber's front door I realized I had made a big mistake. First of all, most of the girls were wearing wacky bright clothes with spiked hair and tons of fun jewelry. The guys looked just as cool. I felt as if I were dressed for Sunday school.
(I'm getting a major Don't Tell Mom The Baby-Sitter's Dead vibe from the pink outfit lol.)

Mallory is pretty much over these lessons but she has to keep going and even has to participate in a show that her entire family and friends will be at. She's terrified of course but gets through the show with minimal mistakes. Her parents are super proud of her and offer to pay for more lessons but she tells them no way. Mal & Jessi make up, Jessi was jealous, blah blah. To end things, the Pike kids host a talent show, Stars of Tomorrow, in their backyard and just generally make their mother's life a living hell.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

TTT: 10 Books I Would Buy Right NOW!

Oh man, another great topic on The Broke & The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday! You've got a fully loaded gift card, no strings attached, and can only buy books. What will you buy? For me, it would be a lot of beautiful classics and sets, plus a few randoms thrown in. And writing this post has made me really want to start collecting these for real!

1. Harry Potter --I own the regular US hardbound set already, but of course I could use want more! I really like this set in the trunk but I love them all really. I definitely want the next illustrated edition, my sister bought me the first for Christmas last year, so I hope she gets the hint that she has to keep buying them as they come out lol.

2. Anne of Green Gables --I own the paperback set thanks to my dad & stepmom, but there are sooooo many beautiful editions out there, it's hard not to want them all! I mean, just look at this gorgeous set by Jacqui Oakley! ModernMrsDarcy did a great job of gathering up some of the beauties for us, you should check it out!

3. Jane Austen set --I've got almost all the books but they're all used, random copies I've picked up. I'd love to have a full matching set. This one by Penguin is perfect, although I don't think it's all of her books? I would hate to have only half of them in that type and others in another, you know what I mean? Also, JuniperBooks kills it with the beautiful sets!!
4. On the JuniperBooks note, I NEED the Penguin Drop Caps series. I mean really, how amazing would that look on my bookshelf?? And so many wonderful titles included. 

5. I also found this Puffin Children's Classics set that's lovely. I'm going to need more room for my classics.

6. John Steinbeck --I couldn't find a specific set that I liked, which made me sad. But I really, really, really want a matching set of his books. I mean, he's my new favorite author and his books are starting to feel like home to me, so I can't have these ragtag miscreant copies laying around lol.

7. The Ghost Bird Academy series by CL Stone --I know I've mentioned in passing how much I love this series, but really it is so, so good. And weird, a little weird. But good weird. I read the first book in March 2014 and since then, I've read it 5 times! I have them all on my Kindle but I'd really like the paperback copies too.

8. Delirium's Party: A Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson --(we're getting into the random books now) I love Neil Gaiman's Sandman but even more, I love the Little Endless. They are just so adorable and serious and sweet and Delirium is my favorite. I have the first one but I never bought the second.

9. On that same note, I'd also get the rest of the Absolute Sandman sets I need. I have the first 2 and they are gorgeous and big but there are 5 total and I don't have that kind of extra money usually.

10.Clubbing, Burnout, & Water Baby graphic novels to complete my Minx Comics set --unfortunately, this line of graphic novels geared towards younger girls didn't last very long but it put out some really great stories. My favorite is probably The Plain Janes but I liked them all and just need these last 3 to complete my set.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Review: "1984"

1984 by George Orwell
2 out of 5 stars

This is another one of those classics that I really could have used an English teacher to interpret and explain the themes for me. I don't know how high school kids read some of these books and get any kind of personal meaning out of them. I know I had read this previously but I don't remember when or what I thought of it at the time. I just know I didn't like it this time around, as an adult. As always, my reviews for classic books will have spoilers throughout, so be warned.

Winston stopped reading, chiefly in order to appreciate the fact that he was reading, in comfort and safety. It was bliss, it was eternity. Suddenly, as one sometimes does with a book of which one knows that one will ultimately read and reread every word, he opened it at a different place and found himself at the third chapter.

Yes, I think this book is important, in the same way that The Handmaid's Tale was. Interestingly, both books were set sorry Handmaid's Tale was written in the mid-1980s and also terrifyingly, both could still happen today. These things could still happen. Certain presidential candidates could make these things happen. How scary is that? So yes, people should be reading this book. Or at least discussing it, comparing it to their own lives. The themes (the ones I could decipher, at least) are still prevalent, 60+ years after Orwell wrote it. But does that make it a good book? Not necessarily.

We are led to believe we should feel pity for Winston Smith, the main character, but it's hard to. He's a pretty boring guy. And it's not his fault, he can't really do anything interesting without Big Brother watching. His biggest coup is sitting in the alcove of his apartment where the cameras can't see him and writing in his secret diary. (Insert your own Lord Voldemort joke here.) He knows he should stand up to Big Brother, speak out, make a change, but he doesn't know how or have the courage really.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.

Then he meets the lovely Julia and feels the first stirrings of hope. Going back and rereading passages for this review has made me realize that I actually really enjoyed the first half of the book. I liked Winston & Julia's relationship, their secret meetings and clandestine talks, when they get the private room above the antique shop. It's when Winston gets the book that it all goes downhill for me. Pages and pages and pages of doublespeak and political ire that I could just not wrap my head around. And then when they are captured and we get 65 pages of Winston being tortured, well it's all just too much. And for what purpose? We know the government can be evil. But what is the real purpose of Big Brother? What are they thinking, who is running it all and why? We need that back story to make this a truly good book, otherwise it's just an overly long political essay.
(images found on Pinterest, if you don't want yours shown, let me know)