Summer Reads: Mostly Love Stories

So usually over the summer and winter vacations, my sister and I try to fit in as many books as we can. This summer I was a little busy studying and failed to read that many, but I still have enough for a full review post for today. I read mostly Regency novels (which is a genre that TheBetterCup loves, and I realized this summer is my favorite type of love story). I also read a few books my little (about 17) brother suggested, but for today I will list nine books I enjoyed over the summer.

1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

1So, I read this book in the very beginning of my summer break (some time early May). It is book 1 of three entitled All Souls Trilogy. I was not super interested in it to begin with to be honest. My sister suggested I try it by a recommendation of a friend of hers. I really love books that have the Witch culture involved (and even things like vampires and stuff), but only if its not really about love and more about like the freaky and bizarre. This story is more a love story then it is about the strange. The very beginning was really great. I liked the characters and the story line, but the more in love the characters fell, the less I liked the story. By the end, I did not want to continue to the next book. It was not horrible or anything. I just really stopped caring about the characters (even though I really did like the plot premise). The story is about a scholar named Diana Bishop who studies history of alchemy at the Oxford Bodleian Library (in England). She is a witch by birth, but tries her hardest to have nothing to do with witch craft and magic. One day she calls out books to study and is accidentally given an old manuscript that is encased in magic (that she is able to break). Afterwards daemons, witches, and vampires alike begin to harass her (all of them believing that they have the right to the book, but need her to break the spell on it). Of course, she meets a handsome and kind vampire and a love side story begins. Personally, the story was not well written enough to be really great, but I enjoyed it for the most part (especially the beginning). The pseudo history parts were great and so was the science stuff. I think they could have had a simpler love story, something that panned out more at the end (after working together efficiently together as friends to fix the issues), but that is only my opinion. I just wanted more about the Craft and less about the love story.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

1Okay, so everyone probably knows the Fault in Our Stars by this point. I am not even sure I need to make a post. This is a book my brother suggested. My family members are all really into reading, and my brother was always the odd duck who hated to read. He really tried, reading any book we would suggest and reading any book given from school, but it always seemed like a chore for him. Then one day, he picked up this book to read so he could talk to a girl about it (typical teenage boy wants to impress a girl) and BAM, he couldn’t put down the book until he finished. He loved the book and the characters, and then began reading more books by John Green. He found more books by other authors that were similar and now he is a regular bibliophile like the rest of us. All it took was to find a genre to his liking (which ended up being very sad teenage love stories and coming of age), but point is he found it. I was never planning on reading this book (mostly cause cancer has always been a touchy subject with me), but since he loved it and wanted to talk to someone about it, I jumped at the chance to share something with him. It was a great book, I enjoyed it, and of course John Green is a good author. I don’t really want to say more about the book, other then it was good and wonderful. But what I really liked about it is the fact that this book helped my little (17 year old and almost a foot taller then me) brother finally read, and I am so grateful to John Green for that. I am probably gonna read some more books in this genre in the future, to connect with my brother, and I think I probably will enjoy most of them. If you don’t know, the story is about teenagers with cancer. It is funny heart warning, and really pulls on your heart strings. You have been warmed you will love this book, but cry a lot.

3Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, and Greg Call (illustrations

1Since I read my brother’s favorite book, I promised my mother, father, and sister the same thing. I still haven’t gotten to the books my parents recommended, but I did read Peter and the Starcatchers (TheBetterCup’s favorite). Peter Pan is my sister’s spirit animal. I can think of many characters that truly represent my sister’s personality, but Peter Pan is the personification of her soul (no joke). This book is one of her favorites, and to be honest it is a fantastic story. Kids and adults could enjoy this story. I have seen people try and compare this to Harry Potter (which is a good series in its own way), but honestly, I don’t really like Harry Potter as much as I liked this series. The story is a prequel to the story of Peter Pan that you probably know. Its the adventure of a young orphan who sets sail abroad the Never Land (a ship carrying a magical treasure). Witness an amazing journey, partake in theatrical and frightening battles with Pirates, Native Amerindians, and English Seamen, and enjoy a magical tale of the fearless little boy who never grows up.

4. Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

1The rest of the stories were all Regency novels (love stories during the time that Napoleon was gaining land and influence, and England was separated from the rest of Europe as consequence). These are some great stories. If you like anime and manga, Regency novels may be your cup of tea as well. Usually the love stories are simpler and there are other problems involved that need to be solved before the characters fall in love (at the very end). I personally like these type of love stories over things like the Discovery of Witches or Twilight were the love story just kind of becomes an obsessive focal point of the plot. These are cute and fun, and all the main character girls are different and likable (so are the main male characters). This one in particular is by far my favorite Regency novel. The main female (Kitty) was less pushy and reckless then some of the other girls and felt like a normal girl (not obsessed with high society, but willing to try it out for fun). And Freddy (main male) had to be my favorite love interest thus far. He was not your typical Byronic hero (who I love by the way). Instead, he was frank and a simple man (maybe a little dandy, but not to extreme either). I think he was really well balanced and pretty understanding (not just barking orders and keeping a sour face all day). He tries hard for the people he loves (even going out of his way when he would really rather not) and is basically so friendly everyone likes him. And did I mention he is humble? Seriously the best character trait in world for me is to be humble. And unlike other Byronic heroes, people didn’t look up to him (respect him or fear him) and he was not particularly talented or anything, just nice. Heyer does a great job making characters, most of the guys have a whimsical side to them that anime/manga story board artists should learn from when they decide to make the cool and angry character that acts a little mean). Anyways, Cotillion is about Kitty Charing, a young girl who will inherit a great fortune from her caretaker as long as she marries one of his great nephews. She is in love with Jack (the favorite great nephew, but also a player and an asshole), but unfortunately none of the great nephews really want to marry her. To make Jack panic and propose, she asks Freddy (another of the great nephews who tries to live life with as little conflicts as he can) to pretend to be her fiance *soundslikesomemangaplot*. Soon, she gets herself mixed up with other peoples’s love stories and starts to wonder if Jack is really the right guy for her. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with a Regency love story, but this is one of the best.

5. Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

1This was my second favorite of the Regency novels that I read. I loved the main characters (who were both mature and found humor in everything), and I especially loved having older characters for once fall in love. It gets old always having 18 years old falling in love or a young girl and an older guy (not that I hate those, I still like reading them. But it is fun to mix it up more). This is a fun story, where two people find themselves at the marrying age and then get mixed up in a lot of silly and stupid situations before just saying ‘fuck it’ and deciding to be together (despite all the shit that make up their lives). I liked this one cause it was fun, entertaining, and easy to cheer for each of the characters. This story focused on Sir Gareth Ludlow, a Byronic hero with a sly and almost childish sense of humor, who decides to marry a girl he has known most of his life (now that he is in his thirties, his original fiance died seven years prior, and he should be having a family). On his way to propose to Hester (who acts all simple and obedient, but who is really rather sly and who is about to refuse his ass), he meets a beautiful young girl who is unattended and decided to help her get home. This opens up a world of trouble for Hester and Gareth, but gives them the opportunity they need to decide who they love and what they want in life. I don’t want to say much else, because this love story is a little more complicated, but its definitely fun and adorable.

6. The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

1Another one of the Regency novels by Heyer, this story was also fun and charming, but with a twist. The Reluctant Widow is more of mystery story, with murders, intruders breaking into the main character’s home, fake marriage, and stolen documents that can cause England’s lose in a war with Napoleon. It was a really interesting and different take on the typical regency novel, yet funny and enjoyable. In this story, Elinor (a young woman who though born into the higher class, has now ended up needing to work as a governess to live respectably). While traveling to her new job, she accidentally gets mixed up with Ned Carylon, who wants to hire her to marry his dying cousin. In a strange turn of events, Elinor accepts and gets herself involved in a complicated political problem and dangerous plot. All through the story, the characters keep a light and humorous feel. I really enjoyed it, and even if you are able to figure out who is involved in the messed up story, their reasoning are more complicated and harder to figure out till the end. This was my least favorite of the three, but still super enjoyable. I loved Elinor, who was sarcastic and prone to anger (which was funny), and all the other characters were fun too.

7. Cecily (Regency Trilogy #1) by Clare Darcy

1One of three stories, Cecily was my favorite characters (though the story was the simplest of the three and the girl had poor decision making written all over her). I still really enjoyed the story, and liked the characters. This was Darcy’s first publication, and I think she did a great job. Lots of reviews I have seen seem upset by how clean and chaste this romance is (simple, straight to the point, pretty ‘dull’), but I disagree with the sentiment. I don’t think any of those things make this a bad story. I liked that it was a little different in that way. The great part about Regency novels (like manga/shojo) is that it follows the equation that makes it fit the genre while changing things to keep it interesting and different. I mean, having a simple story every now and again is fun, sweet, and endearing. It would be no fun if all you ever read was angst love stories (got to throw in a Cinderella fairy tale and an adventure now and again). Keep it spicy. The story is about Cecily, a young girl with an innocent face who is now coming out as an actress on the theatrical stage. An aristocrat and leader of high society in London, Robert Ranleigh finds himself introduced to her (because of a silly bet) and ends up helping her try and get a respectable job as a governess, but of course things don’t go as planned.

8. Georgina (Regency Trilogy #2) by Clare Darcy

2The second story of the trilogy, Georgina felt like she was more prepared to maneuver between the complicated social groups of the high class then Cecily was. This was also a good story and very fun. In this story, Georgina Powers is being heckled by her rude grandmother and extraordinarily subservient mom into marrying rich (they are already rich, but they wanted an even richer and more respectable suitor). Upset with Georgina, her grandmother sends her to live with some distant relatives for a while in Ireland to force her to reflect on her mistakes. There she meets Mr. Shannon a good man with a bad name who Georgina can’t help but get involved with. Georgina seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, and I really liked her. I just wish she didn’t believe some jealous lady so easily when it felt so obvious that she was the least trusting person possible. The ending was also the best part. I love having the Grandma told to basically fuck off.

9. Lydia (Regency Trilogy #2) by Clare Darcy

1The last story on this list (thankfully cause I was finding it hard to continue and explain so many stories that i read months ago), Lydia had to have the most interesting characters of the bunch. I mean the main hero was the type of guy to laugh at almost everything (he barely got upset) and the heroine was completely out there. She was sassy, sure of herself, and really sweet in her own way. She was definitely the most reckless and the least ‘proper’, but I really liked that, and this was TheBetterCup’s favorite of the group. Lydia is an American young lady, who has entered Regency London by storm. She and her family are completely out of the ordinary and like to keep people on their toes. She is outrageous and catches the attention of the rich, thirty year old, Lord Northover (who laughs a lot, takes life in strides, and was once in the military). The story is basically a lot of misunderstandings that need to be fixed, because you know when you don’t act ‘proper’ people assume the worst of you. I loved the ending and the characters were really fun.

-Blog Barista

I have this as the background art to my computer. I love how patriotic it makes me feel, and All Might is so Youthful.

I have this as the background art to my computer. I love how patriotic it makes me feel, and All Might is so Youthful.

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This was supposed to be written by TheBetterCup, but she is a little to busy to do so. We got this book recently (if about 3 months ago counts as recent), but we know that the book is fairly popular and well known by this point. Anyways, Nimona is a great fantasy comic book with an unique art style and story line, that we feel lots of people can enjoy.

nimona

The story is a mix of sci-fi and fantasy (which is TheBetterCup’s favorite genres) and focuses on a story of a super-villain who meets a young girl who wants to be his side kick. The super-villain, a mad-scientist, isn’t all bad though, he just plays the part given to him and was actually a knight once. But the titular character, Nimona is a young shape-shifter who doesn’t seem to operate on the same moral code has him. Together they learn a lot about each other, the meaning of god and evil (and what that means about a person), and the types of institutions that affect a person’s ‘morality’.

The story is fun and actually really hard to put down. It also does a great job of showing the grey-area of reality and morality. Its extremely funny, and the characters are really lovable even though its not a very long book that has time for characterization (but the author does a great job anyways). I love how the story took a twist in the end, and completely ended in a way that at least I didn’t see coming. I just wish that the characters could have been together longer, but I hope that their lessons in life at least made sure that they were happy.

Well I hope you guys check it out (if you hadn’t already),

-Blog Barista

Recent Book Reviews

b4Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

This was a collection of 24 short stories, most of which were fun and enjoyable. For the most part, I read through this weekly and didn’t feel bored or compelled to stop. Like most of Murakami’s works, it has a surrealistic (full of magic) and mundane quality to the lives of the characters. The stories ranged from dealing with deaths, to sex, to marriage, and identities. My only problem is that I wish I understood the meanings for some of the characters and their stories (like why did this happen or what does it mean that that happened). My favorite of the short stories were A Poor Aunt’s Story, A Perfect Day for Kangaroo’s, Tony Takitani, Chance Traveler, and Shinagawa Monkey (my least favorite is the one about the Ice Man). Reading these felt like having a night-full of many dreams where you always wake up before you get a definitive ending.

b2

Zipporah, Wife of Moses by Marek Halter

This follows the story of Moses from the perspective of the wife Zipporah, a Cushite and daughter of Jethro (high priest of the Midianites). Most of the story is the author’s creation (things that aren’t mentioned specifically in the bible such as the really mean sister of Zipporah or how involved Zipporah was in getting Moses to listen to God). It was a really interesting twist on the biblical story and it gave many of the characters a little more depth then what some one may be used to. Personally the author’s writing was shit, but oh well. Also I felt that a man writing a sex scene from a woman’s perspective felt kind of ridiculous (but again oh well). I liked it and plan on reading the other two books from this trilogy.

 

b3The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt

Maggie O’Neill; an extremely annoying, preachy, full of herself and equally as closed minded young woman, loses her job (from what seems like a lack of hard-work) and instead gets a job working in an antique shop owned by a nice Wiccan woman. Very quickly into the story (maybe even less than forty pages in and during Maggie’s first day at her new job) Felicity (the Wiccan woman) becomes suspect of her sister’s murder. The main character feels hypocritical and most of the characters are under developed (even for a short mystery novel). It is written completely in first person (which is hard to do well so you can only imagine that this was poorly done) and felt like an amateurs fanfiction (trust me though there are a lot of fanfic better than this). The story line had potential, but was rushed in the beginning and slow in the end. I really couldn’t finish the book to be honest and would never recommend it to any one. Though I say all this I still think that it may not be all that bad, and maybe some one else will find it better book than I did.

b1Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose

This is a historical nonfiction book (I really like these sort of things) that focuses on the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition west (mostly from Lewis’s perspective). At times the story was a little boring, mostly cause the author added to much of his opinion and unneeded flowery words. But I really did like the book and by the end really felt for Lewis. Once the book got to the actual expedition, the story got way more interesting and for the most part I liked it (still every now and again I may have stopped and cared less for the book, but that may just be because nonfiction can be boring at times when politics and such get explained). As far as nonfiction go, this one is not my absolute favorite but I would reread it.

b6Neverwhere by Niel Gaiman

I LOVE THIS BOOK! It has to be one of my new favorites; a mix of urban fantasy and amazing adventure. Richard Mayhew is a young businessman living a dull life, with a dull job and a dull relationship. One day, while out on a date with his fiance, he does one kind deed to a stranger and his entire life gets turned upside down. He enters a bizarre world below London called Neverwhere and gets involved in a new and wonderful adventure. The characters are well written and well developed. The story is amazing and I can’t think of any complaints. I recommend anyone to try this wonderful book. If you aren’t into reading, then try the audiobook. Niel Gaiman reads it in the audiobook and his voice acting is fantastic and really brings life to each of the characters.

b5Left Behind Series by  Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

I read all thirteen of the books in this series during the summer. I actually really enjoyed it, even though I still have some complaints. The story focuses on a pilot named Rayford Steele and his other friends during the Apocalypse (of Biblical proportions). The books were fun to read for the most part (especially the first half) and their are a lot of characters being presented. My only problem is that the story got boring by the end. Since the characters knew they would win in the end (Jesus would defeat the Devil) and the Devil was not as scary as he should have been, it just kind of felt like ‘what’s the point of fighting or making an effort’ no matter what they still will win and still go to heaven. That was my biggest complaint.

 

 

Hope you guys had a great day.

-Blog Barista

Book Updates: 7 Book Review

Hello everyone! It is the third day into my freedom (lol from school that is), and so far TheBetterCup and I have finished some books that we would like to share with each other. So far I have only finished 4 and TheBetterCup has finished 3, so now we have a seven total. I think I will try and keep this in about some chronological order of some kind. My sister, my father, and I went to Goodwill for the first time in search for cheap book deals, and we were not disappointed. I think we bought a total of over 40 books. If all goes well, there should be many reviews this summer.

a1.   Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The description for this book may be the shortest one on this list. This was a little book, like very tiny, maybe about 130 pages at the most (115 on Goodreads though). I am a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, so I willingly jumped into reading this with out reading the back for information or any of that. I really was not expecting the story to go the way it did. The story, it turns out, is about a man who just turned ninety years old and decided he needed to sleep with a virgin whore (about 14 I think) before he died. Majority of the time, he tells us (the readers) about the different women he slept with throughout his life (all he calls whores because he would always pay them, even the ones who did not want money because he could not understand how anyone would willingly sleep with him). Anyways, he falls in deep love with the young girl and does not have sex with her once in the year that the book follows. I think the book is less about his love story, or the women, but more about how he just started to live life at the age of 90, all because a little love changed his out look on life. I really enjoyed the book, and I really liked the main character (who I think was left nameless). At first, I thought I would hate him (for wanting to sleep with a child), but soon you could not help but find him endearing. This is like most of Garicia’s other books. It is in a Latin American environment, and more of a historical fiction book. Before I end this review though, I would just like to point out how beautiful the cover art is.

-Blog Barista

2.   Antrax by Terry Brooksaaaaa

I got this book one day from my dad. He said he picked it up because it had a flying ship in its description, and that reminded him of me. I was really excited to read it actually, because my favorite genre for books is fantasy, and best of all the main characters were teenagers and there was magic and elves. I do not want to spoil anything, but this is part of a trilogy, which is part of a trilogy (if that makes sense). This is I believe part of the third set of books based in Shanara, but I think was very unfortunate in getting this specific book first. The book was exciting, and I read it in no time, because I was so enthralled I couldn’t put it down, but damn was it messed up. The 1st book introduces all the characters and the quest for a treasure in a far away land. The magical Druid (Walker, who was a main character in the 2nd set of books) calls upon an assortment of young dwarfs, elves, sailors, shape-shifters, and fighters to join him in collecting keys to get an ancient treasure. The entire time they are being pursued by a powerful witch and her snake-man army. Well, I didn’t read this 1st book, which sounds amazing, but I thought the 2nd book would have the same adventure feel to it, but boy was I wrong. Instead the characters find themselves against a vicious and sick post apocalyptic (yup, you learn that the ancient shit they are looking for is really just our modern knowledge) computer named Antrax, which puts them in situations straight out of those horrendous never ending nightmares. Characters die, innocence is lost, robots attack, all in all this is more of a science fiction novel, not the high fantasy it appears to be. My favorite parts, however, involved the crew of the Airship and the main character Bek (not gonna spoil anything, but these parts had nothing to do with the scary ass computer). Seriously, though I enjoyed the book, but I feel like it was not entirely what I wanted and that the 1st or even 3rd book will be much more enjoyable for me.

-TheBetterCup

aa3.   Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

For my sophomore year at university, I roomed with a girl who became one of my closest friends during freshman year, lets call her Precious Rock. Anyways, Precious Rock took Spanish classes and in these classes, she had lots of assignments where she had to watch Spanish movies. She hated watching them alone, so I would always go and watch them with her. In early October (I think), we watched this one movie that was ridiculous. I want to say that every single one of us, that she invited to watch with her, laughed at that movie. There were so many parts that were to exaggerated, and the acting was one of them. I won’t say what parts felt stupid (I don’t want to ruin it for you), but watch the ending of that movie before reading the book and tell me you don’t see why we felt that way. Anyways, I pick up a book in our home library that my mother was given as a gift some 20 years ago, and I start reading. Maybe one chapter in, I realized it was the same story as the movie, but I continued to read it and I found that I adored the book. All the exaggerated parts became more magical when explained better, and unlike the movie that relies on visuals for the audience to understand a certain point, a book can give detailed explanation for their meaning. Like most Latin American stories, this one was magical realism genre and was very beautiful. It tells the story of the life of Talia, a girl born to take care of her mother for her whole life. Talia is not allowed to marry because of this tradition, but she falls in love anyways. You can imagine what problems she faces, but with her amazing ability to make food (she is a cook with some magical properties) she finds a way to get through them. My biggest problem with her and most everyone around her was their inability to say no to other people in ‘authority’ positions who treated them like crap. Even so, I really liked the book. Another interesting fact was that the book was a novel in monthly installments, with recipes, romances, and home remedies. The story really had all these things mixed and blended well, so when I first started reading I did not even notice. I am not sure if they were useful, I never tried them, but I thought it was cool.

-Blog Barista

aaaaaaa4.   Lost Heroes by Rick Riordan

So I never really cared much for the Percy Jackson novels, mostly because I didn’t care to read about Greek Mythology that was very black and white (the beauty about Greek myths are that everyone is pretty much gray, there is no definite force of good or bad). Anyways, I got this book by mistake, because it didn’t have a cover explaining the plot, and I liked the name (and if I had known 100% what the story was about, I probably would not have bought it). But I can say that in the end I REALLY liked the book. I liked the three main characters (Piper, Jason, and Leo) more than I liked Percy or Annabeth, and I liked how funny the book was. I loved the adventure, the magic, the fact that they were children riding a mechanical dragon for crying out loud. Sure some things bothered me, like how Athena had kids (she is a VIRGIN goddess like Artemis) and Hera was treated like garbage (no one had to like her, but they either had to respect her or fear her, she is still a goddess), but I liked the incorporation of Roman aspects and the idea that the two sides of the same Mythologies get to come together. Again if you like high fantasy, Harry Potter/ Edge/Peter Pan type books, you might just enjoy.

-TheBetterCup

aaaa5.   The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Every book I have read on this list was enjoyable, and something that I would recommend to others. It is no surprise then, that I will only have good things to say about this book as well. This one was a mystery novel set in the 1845 New York, with the creation of the police force being the focal point of the plot. I really enjoyed the story a lot, as it touched on the discrimination of Irish immigrants into the United States and how badly all people seemed to fair in that time period. The book was completely historical fiction, and to me that was very wonderous. I also liked the main character a great deal, though I preferred his morally imperfect brother. Timothy was a little to modern in terms of his personal opinions and that tended to take away from the realism/authenticity for me. But it was still a great book, but maybe my least favorite of the four I read. The story follows Timothy Wilde after a fire left him somewhat disfigured and jobless. Under the instance of his morally ambiguous brother, Tim joins the newly created police force and goes searching for the murderer of 20 dead kinchin (children) all child prostitutes. The story is full of slang from the era, but after a while you get used to it. I loved all the twists and turns that the author gave to the story. And though I could guess who the main antagonist was from early on, it still was not in the way you would guess. Turns out, that this is part of a trilogy. I read the backgrounds on the others, and they don’t interest me all that much so I won’t buy them.

-Blog Barista

6.   Shadow Climbers by Mickey Zuker Reichertaaaaaaaa

So this is your basic adventure book. Its pretty short with only a little bit of magic towards the end, but honestly this book kept my attention, so I like it. It starts off with this young man Tazir whose small size and rough past forced him to be the renowned thief, Shadow Climber. His desire to take on any challenge ends up getting him caught by the man who essentially murdered Tazir’s father and mother, but he escapes with a barbarian from the North. The two grow close, battle their way North, make new friends, find old friends, and reveal hidden secrets. Even though this is your basic good vs bad, adventure/hero story, its not bad and truly entertaining. The book is the second one out of a series known as the Bifrost Guardians. I have not gotten the chance to read any other, but I looked them up instead. The Bifrost series seems to span over many different characters. I am not too sure, but the stories seem to involve a war between Norse Gods, and humans mixed in between. At some points there are soldiers from the Vietnam involved, and in other points, there are medieval knights and dragons.

-TheBetterCup

aaa7.   Good Omens by Niel Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I did not actually read this one, instead I listened to the audio version of this. Precious Stone is a big fan audio books (though I am mostly 100% against their existence, at least for me personally), but she really insisted that I would enjoy it. So late nights (like 1:00 am) when I would go running, I would listen to this book since I could not read while running (trust me I tried). I loved the book. It is very funny and since it was an audio book, the English accent really added to it. I would rather have read it as a book, but I am glad either way. The story focuses on the beginning of Armageddon, as Crowley (a demon) and Aziraphale (an angel) try to stop the coming of the end of the world without angering their superiors (respectively Hell and Heaven). I do not want to give away too much, but I just want to say that the story is hilarious while still being very well researched (full of historical and biblical illusions and so on). I really like how deep the authors can get too, talking about human morality and behavior, with out once losing the funny and carefree feel of the book (one that has the Antichrist involved for pete’s sake). All in all, it is a very good book that I highly recommend you try.

-Blog Barista

Anyways, what books have you read lately?

What did they see? Their GPA of the last semester.

What did they see? His GPA of the last semester?

Book Updates: Holiday Season

I have not been able to pick up a book since sometime in August (it was a Star Trek book too). So of course, I picked up many books to read during my Holiday Break. So far in the last 12 days I have only read six of the books that I picked up, but I figured I would write updates on these and then more later if I finish any other books. There is no actual theme to the books that I read, they don’t have anything to do with the holiday season either.

7081Android’s Dream by John Scalzi– This book was recommended to me by TheBetterCup. I read Oldman’s War by Scalzi as well, and overall he is a fantastic author so I had high hopes for this one too. It did not disappoint me.

Earth is on the verge of war with a militarily advance alien race after a human diplomat succeeds in killing (albeit in the funniest sort of way) his alien counterpart. Harry Creek must try to find the one object that can save the planet from alien enslavement. With many different groups moving in to find this special breed of sheep, and everyone double crossing each other, Harry also finds a way to overcome his own personal demons.

This book is fantastic. It is a sci-fi based adventure story filled with action and extremely likable characters. Scalzi is sublimely funny as he pokes fun at diplomacy, religion, legal system, and politics. The plot was full of unexpected twists, and the entire story (and title) is allusion or tip of the hat to a science fiction novel from the 1960’s.

The one negative I have to say about this book is that it is not the deepest or most thought provoking one on the list (at least for me that is). This is the type of book to read when you just want something to enjoy and don’t want to have to question everything. I recommend this book 100%.

17803

After Dark by Haruki Murakami– This one I picked up because I loved the author. He was the author of one of my very favorite books Kafka on the Shore. He is a bizarre author and this book was no different.

The story takes place entirely in one night (from like 11 pm to about 6 am). It centers around two estranged sisters: Eri, a beauty deep in sleep for the past months, and Mari, an ordinary student who regularly chooses not to sleep at night and instead reads at a local Denny’s. One such night, through strange yet very ordinary circumstances, she meets many people whose lives exist at night (a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman). These night people have terrible secrets that draw them together. And all of it is some how connected to Eri’s slumber, one where it seemed she had completely given up living but slept on like sleeping beauty, that will either restore or annihilate her.

The book’s plot feels simple, and yet it is intricate and surrealistic. It makes you think deeply about life and how each of these characters have lives that don’t match their personalities. I found the entire story very enjoyable, the one problem (which you may find in many of Murakami’s books) is that you may not recognize how everything connects. He never explains straight out what the fudge was going on with Eri and the man in the TV. Seriously though, this is a great book and is my favorite on the list.

7295501Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary R. Kowal– I found this book randomly and only decided to get it because of the name (I thought it sounded pleasant). I am glad that I did too, because I really liked it.

The story revolves around a neighborhood of families with young men and women who are looking for suitable matches. But the main character Jane, at the age of 28 and with a young sister who is considered angelic in beauty, has accepted her role as a spinster instead of a possible eligible bachelorette. She is very skilled in the feminine art of creating glamour (a magical trait added to art and music and even the body to enhance beauty). Her great skill and wonderful personality help her change in the end.

The story was fun and interesting with characters that won you over and others that made you hate them (Melody is everything disgusting that a young girl can be towards her sister). It is a magical realism book, so magic is part of everyday life here. My one problem is that the end was slightly fast paced in comparison to the rest of the story, too clean cut, and some characters just thrown away like they never mattered.

The writer attempted to write like Jane Austin and she was very similar. If you are a fan of Austin, which I am not but TheBetterCup is, you may like this. If you a worshiper of Austin, then you may be offended by her attempt to mimic the famous lady. I personally loved the book. If you want a book that is an easy read like Android’s Dream, but you are more into a romance from the Victorian Era, then pick this instead. I feel many people were too cruel on Goodreads (especially one bitter lady). I liked enough to want to read the other books in this series. I have read all of Austin’s books, and honestly I don’t think its any worse or better (again a personal opinion). This is not the best book ever, but I enjoyed reading it.

50143Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto– I wanted to read a book by Yoshimoto for some time. Honestly I heard others recommend this and her pen name was just so cool. I expected more, but ended up only kind of liking the book.

Asleep is actually three short stories (with the last one being titled Asleep). All three focus on young women who have been put into a magical slumber for different reasons. The first one was called Night and Night’s Travelers. It was my least favorite of the three. It tells the story of a 22 year old girl named Shibami whose brother died unexpectedly and her relationship to him, her cousin who loved him, and his ex-American girlfriend. Focusing on how his death and their secrets affect each other and strengthen them. The story was not bad it was just a little boring. And I did not care much for the characters. The second story was much better. Love Songs focuses on Fumi, a young woman who is becoming an alcoholic and who hears a strange song, that reminds her of an old enemy named Haru, each night before passing out. She soon realizes that that the song is Haru’s attempt to reach her from the after life. They settle their differences and finally accept that they never hated each other. The third story was the best of the three. Asleep tells the story of Terako, a young woman in a relationship with an older married man whose wife is a vegetable in a coma. After the suicide of her best friend, a woman who slept next to people each night for money, Terako finds herself giving up on her own life. She only saves herself after meeting the spirit of her boyfriend’s wife.

The book is good, and Banana does a great job in incorporating this magical element that is invisibly present. Its not great like Murakami’s After Dark (which had a similar theme), and it may be that reading it after reading After Dark was the reason for my less excited feelings for it. I still liked the book, i just recommend not reading the two together.

17799South of the Border and West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami– Again another Murakami book. This was a good book, but not one of my favorites I still recommend this book, like all the other books on this list, but not as fully as I do some of the others.

Hajime was an only child growing up in post war Japan. His only companion in a world where every family had multiple children was a lame girl named Shimamoto who was also an only child. They had a deep bond, but lost touch over the years. Now in his thirties, he is married, has children, and owns a successful business. He meets Shinamoto again and his life is thrown upside down (because of his intense obsession with her).

This was a weird story, but much less magical then Murakami usually does. Actually there was no magic in this book. The story was great and compelling, but i only had two problems. One: the main character was not someone I really fell for. I could care less about his problems and his life because he was not very likable. He made many mistakes, yet did not seem to repent that much, and man was he obsessive and overly involved in these weird fascinations with this one girl he met when he was twelve. Second: the story felt incomplete. We never know what happened to the Shimamoto, he still says he would cheat on his wife, and even his wife says she may cheat on him. And what was Shimamoto’s life like? It was just so unfinished.

378The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer– I only read this book because my roommate suggested it. It was a great book, but it is a child’s book and I think I missed out since I read it now instead of as a kid. It was great now, but I feel there was a certain kind of astonishment that only a kid could feel in reading this.

It tells the story of Milo, a young boy who seems to have given up in life, finding now enjoyment in anything. One day he is sent a package where he builds a blue tollbooth that transports him into this strange world.

The book is witty, and has all this commentary on human behavior in the modern world. All it really is doing is pointing out the importance of appreciation life, sounds, scents, people, and showing how certain behavior are form of destructive ignorance. I think all kids should read this, and adults too.

Right now I am reading Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett, which is exhilarating so far. What books have you been reading? Comment below.

-Blog Barista

Rasengan!

Rasengan!

Favorite Books Update: Under Fishbone Clouds

So one of my very first posts had to do with my top ten favorite books. I will leave the link here: http://www.espressocomsaudade.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/books-top-ten-favorites/

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Under the Fishbone Clouds by Sam Meekings

Anyways, I read a book two months ago that I wanted to write about, but it affected me so deeply that I could not write about it. In June, I went to this used book store and saw this beautiful book that cost $0.50. It was so cheep, and I just loved the front cover. So I bought it and started reading…. Dear goodness this was one of the saddest, most compelling, most beautiful stories I have ever read. I know not everyone will love it as much as I did, but at least pick it up and try it.

The story follows this unnamed Kitchen God from China who has made a deal with the Jade Emperor that he can understand the human heart. If he wins, his soul can finally go to the underworld, and he will reunite with his wife. To understand the human heart, he begins to study the lives of two people beginning from their childhood and into their old age. The story takes place during the Chinese revolution and the up rise of the communist government.

The descriptiveness and vividness is what I most loved about this. It is so detailed and ornate. You really feel like you can smell or feel or taste everything that is described. I really loved the story. By the end, you really begin to feel for the two main characters. I cried, a lot. It made me think about love and life, a lot. I am not sure what the author’s intended reaction was, but I felt so overwhelmed that I could not pick up another serious book for three months. I have been reading really wonderful and fun Star Trek books instead.

Anyways this is definitely one of my favorite books. FYI: it is also considered a magical realism.

13538873Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Another book that I enjoyed this summer was Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. This is a really fun, imaginative, and creative book. This is like a really modern idea on wizardry and immortality, but in a way where books are the key to magic.

The story revolves around a young man named Clay Jannon who used to work as web designer, but who has recently lost his job to the recession. Not wanting to stay unemployed, he finds this job to be a cashier at a small book store from 6 in the evening to 6 in the morning. He starts to become very curious with the strange rules of the store and the quirky people who come to check out the books. It all feels so very magical even though there is none what so ever. I definitely suggest it.

Update done, Barista Out!

-Blog Barista

Read these books!

Read these books!

Books Top Ten Favorites

I decided to have a blog, because I really badly needed a hobby. All I do all day all the time is study, other then the time I get to hang out with friends to study, and soon I will no longer have that time with friends. It is actually really disheartening, but you know life is what life is and I cannot complain. The point is that even though I desperately am looking for a hobby, I do have one already. I love to read. I read anytime that I can: by now, I feel it is safe to say that I have read a lot of books.

I read any kind of book, but science fiction has got to be my all time least favorite kind. I really enjoy a good historical fiction though, one jam packed with really events and historical figures. If not that, I love any that are cultural: mythologies, anthropological books, even a biography is great fun for me. I know most people do not share in my taste in written material, which actually kind of sucks cause I have no body to talk to about them, and my sister and friends have learned to steer clear from any of my recommendations since they either to boring or really have sad endings.

Now as willing as I may be to ruin a good anime’s plot, I refuse to give any spoilers of these books, instead I will list my top ten in book recommendations and tell you what makes them so amazing with out giving away their fabulous endings.

With no further ado I will now list my top ten favorite books:

(They are kind of in an order of preference but not really)

61S4qiYiwTL10. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

This book was a doozie. I really adored the book, I loved all characters (even though I feel the book would have been one million times better if Kafka himself was not part of the story). The book alternates between two stories that slowly move towards each other till finally connecting on a metaphysical plane. Kafka, a fifteen year old boy whose real name is never revealed, runs away from home. He finds shelter in a private library until a murder occurs and police come looking for him. The other part of the story tells of Nakata, an old man who suffered a strange occurrence as a little boy that has left him with the ability to speak to cats. After strange events take place, he goes on a road trip that leads him to his purpose in life. The book is crazy, and a considerable amount of what happens can arguably be occurring metaphorically. I loved the story. It makes you feel a certain type of way by the end.

1413059. Once Upon a Time by A.A. Milne

Once Upon a Time is one of Milne’s lesser known books, and actually it is kind of hard to find. I came across an electronic version on accident one day. The story is a basic fairy tale made mental. It opens up on a kingdom with a king, princess Hyacinth, and Countess Belvane (a woman who the princess never liked). On day the neighboring king, with his magic boots, flies over the patio of the king and princess during their breakfast. A load of shenanigans ensue and the two kingdoms go to war; while the king is away, Countess Belvane tries to take the throne from the princess. This book is a lot of crazy, and every one just accepts it as normal. Everyone seems absolutely mad, with the exception of the Hyacinth and Coronel (the prince’s companion). The story is a typical fairy tale, but the characters are anything but stereotypical. The villain has motives that are not that bad, and he princess needs no saving from a prince. The valiant prince that does appear is vain, the horrible magic spell is not at all that scary, and everyone’ s idea of normalcy is completely odd. The book is great!

8. Violin by Anne Rice  

I read this book a few years ago, so the story is not very fresh in my mind. I can fully admit that few people actually like this book, but it one of my all time favorites. I am still fiercely hunting for this book so as to add it officially to my personal library (since I read it by borrowing it from my high school library). The book is about a woman named Triana whose husband has just died of AIDS. At the same time a ghost named Stefan appears playing a long violin. The story is really hectically written and can get disturbing at times with how focused on death it is, but this all adds to the mood of the story. The ghost and the girl go through a great deal, and Anne Rice unveils their pasts by having the characters go through time. The story is mystical and surreal, and once again the ending was just so beautiful. It was weird and other worldly, but that made it so amazing to read.

download7. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

I have read many war novels, and this one picked up only because I really like the 1920s and 1930s. I did not know what it was about, and I had yet to read a book by Hemingway. The book is written as if all the characters have been speaking Spanish the entire time, and everything that was said was plugged directly into Google translate. What comes out is not necessarily colloquial English, it is still understandable but heavily accented in a way. This adds to the book, making the story more vivid, evoking within the reader genuine sentiment. This tells the story of a young American named Robert Jordan who is part of the International Brigades aiding the antifascist guerrilla units in the mountains of Spain. The story has action, war, love, and sacrifice that bring the reader on an emotional roller coaster, all the while focusing about 500 pages on how a guerrilla unit is preparing to blow up one single bridge. The ending itself is a really shocker. Hemingway gives hints to the ending the entire time, but really it still gets you.

157783286. Child of Vengence by David Kirk  

The story of Bennosuke begins in the later half of 16th century Japan. It is a coming of age story focused on a young boy whose mother died when he was younger and whose father has been gone his whole life serving Lord Shinmei. Raised by his uncle, a monk, Bennosuke worships his father and dreams of being a samurai too. One day though, his father returns and after much happens he trains Bennosuke, as well as revealing the story of his mother’s death. His feelings of admiration toward his father are shattered, and he goes on a journey as a samurai, finding that it does not go as well as he had dreamed. All of this climaxes at a crucial battle, that changes everything for the history of Japan. It keeps you entranced, and you will not want to put the book down once you begin.

3326135. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a famous book. It is told from the point of view of Chief Bromden, a Native American patient within a psychiatric ward. Throughout most of the book, it is believed that Chief is both mute and deaf. He focuses on the antics of a newly admitted patient, a boisterous rebel named McMurphey. McMurphey is an antihero who promotes gambling, drinking, rule breaking, and freedom between the other patients who are all oppressed within the ward. He challenges the head honcho, Nurse Rached who governs with an iron fist. The book shows the darker sides of the psychiatric ward, demonstrating how the institution dehumanized patients. It also brings the reader’s attention to a paradox of civilization, attempting to be human in system that works like a machine. The story quickly takes a dark turn by the end, and leaves a heavy impression on the reader afterwards.

1976614. Freedom or Death by Nikos Kazantzakis

Freedom or Death features the story of Greek Christans’s rebellion against the Muslim Turks on the island of Crete in 1889. The audience follows the escapades of two major characters in the village of Megalo Kastoro: Captain Mihalis a hot headed Greek focused on the ideal of freedom, and Nuri Bey a Turk and blood brother of Mihalis. On more than one occasion, I have seen this book described as an epic, and it truly does have that feeling to it. The book has an unceasing motif of grandeur and heroism. Captain Mihalis is an epic hero who embodies the value of his culture, patriotism, yet is extremely flawed. The ending is one of the best parts, and will leave you speechless. The reader becomes enthralled within the story, becoming a Cretan and feeling the oppression, thanks to Kazantzakis’s visual writing style. The book is very Greek (obviously) and brings the culture to life before the audience. As a Greek myself, this book really hit home and has had a lasting affect on me.

3. The Egyptian by Mika Waltari

The Egyptian is based somewhere in 1300 BC during the reign of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his religious change he attempted to enforce in Egypt. The story focuses on the life of an Egyptian man named Sinhue. He is educated and has a pretty good life, but bad decisions make it so that he has to travel throughout the known world. Bad things just seems to follow everywhere he goes. Through many disastrous events he goes through great adventures. Full of colorful characters, the unfortunate life of Sinhue is wonderfully written. This book is really sad, but the story is gorgeous and full of historical references.

51bh8dd2psl-_sx320_bo1204203200_2. Metamorphoses by Ovid

Metamorphoses is a narrative poem describing history from the creation till the existence of Julius Caesar through mythologies. The major theme of these myths is change. People becoming creatures, changing into different genders, and transforming into flowers or objects. There are many myths recounted in this one book, so I cannot explain the ‘plot’ per say. It is just chock full of mythology, glorious mythological stories. For that reason alone, this is one of my all time favorite books that I would recommend to anyone.  Section 3, Book VI to Book XI is the part that I adored the most. This part is called The Pathos of Love and tells the stories of Narcissus and Echo as well as Eros and Psyche (TWO OF MY FAVORITE GREEK MYTHS!!). Anyways, this particular book just pacifies a nerdy interest of mine.

3201. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I first heard of this book in high school around the ninth grade. My literature teacher at the time, a wretched woman that made many students cry in the front of her class (including myself) for having a centimeter off on the margins of the major essays, mentioned it one day in passing. She had said that the book was horrible and then continued on with what ever it was she was talking about. That night I asked my mother if she knew the book, and she said that she loved it. I had to read it then. One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of a mythical town called Macondo. The novel fixates on a single family, telling the story of humanity through their generations. Anything that can be thought of as human, happens to the singular family. Life, death, industrialization, war, lust, poverty, wealth, sadness, joy, search of truth, corruption, capitalism, purity, family, and most of loneliness. The way Marquez writes is enchanting, is words flow as beautifully as musical notes does from a piano. The story never lags, the reader never loses interest. By the end, you become so invested with the family that it feels as if you have lived an entire other life (which you kind of have). The style makes the entire book. Marquez is writing genius inclined towards magical realism. In this ‘genre’, the most bizarre scenarios are told as if they are completely normal. The book is full of magic, and that is just made as a natural part of a mundane and realistic setting. I don’t believe I can explain the book any better then as it is described in the goodread’s description, that “in the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.” By now most everyone knows that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has passed on. He died April 17, 2014. It is extremely saddening to see such a wondrous write go. He was a great man who wrote books of Latin American culture like no other man or woman has done before. He is truly my very favorite author, and I am grateful that I have read One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Wow picking only ten was actually hella hard. Some honorable mentions include: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Counte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho.

As of right now I am currently reading Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.

-Blog Barista

Story of my life. Story of my life