Children’s Book Review: The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

The Most Magnificent Thing
Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires

Published by Kids Can Press; April 1, 2014

32 pages (hardcover)

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Kids Can Press for letting me read this! I’m sorry it took so long – my Adobe Digital Editions hasn’t been working!

The Most Magnificent Thing is an adorable picture book from the author of Larf (another adorable picture book). It tells the story of an unnamed girl and her assistant (her dog). The girl has a GREAT idea to build the most magnificent thing, but try as she might, she just can’t seem to get it right. She gets mad and defeated and wants to give up, but when her dog suggest they take a walk, she calms down and is able to analyze the situation and figure out how to fix it.

I loved the message in The Most Magnificent Thing. Not only does the girl continue to try over and over, once she gets frustrated, she steps away from the situation to see the bigger picture. It is often very difficult to see the problem when you are so completely invested in something, and it only takes stepping away and looking at the issue from a different angle to come up with a solution.

I also really like Ashley Spires illustrations and word usage. She doesn’t use small words to describe what the girl does, and I think that’s wonderful. This is a perfect book to read to teach perseverance and problem-solving.

Book Review: Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

“A billion husbands are about to be replaced.”

This was my first read for the #ReadingMyLibrary Challenge. 

Beautiful You by Chuck PalahniukAuthor:  Chuck Palahniuk

Genre: Contemporary? Humor? Sci-fi?

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 10/21/2014

225 pages, hardcover

Check out the full synopsis on Goodreads.

Okay. I’ve been trying to put my thoughts together on this one for about a week. I’m still not really sure how I feel but here we go.

It’s a book about a guy who develops a line of sex toys so powerful that they make women all around the world completely addicted to them, hence the quote at the start of my review. It focuses on Penny, the girl who gets coffee at her law firm. She’s invited to dinner by C. Linus Maxwell (aka “Climax-Well) and eventually becomes Maxwell’s final test subject for the line of sex toys.

For Chuck Palahniuk, that sounds all fine and dandy. A little weird, a lot sexual, and totally something I can handle. But then it just gets…uncomfortable. I’ve read at least 5 Chuck P books, and while they usually make me feel weird, it’s in a way that I like books to make me feel, if that makes sense. They push me out of my comfort zone in really interesting ways. This one though? I’m not sure what the point was. It very obviously makes fun of the state of literature and erotic fiction but it’s just gross, unnecessarily so. Maybe I should’ve expected that, but it went so much further than any Palahniuk book has gone (and I’ve even read that Guts short story). It was just…uncomfortable a lot of the time. It felt wrong. Beautiful You was offensive for the sake of being offensive.

Parts of the book were interesting and entertaining, I’ll give it that, but more parts were gross. Chuck P’s books are supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, but this was so much more than that. He seems to have gotten so wrapped up in how gross sex can be. After a while it actually started to bore me. I want to give you two examples to wrap up the review since I haven’t really explained why it felt weird. These are potential spoilers, I suppose, so be warned. Also be warned that it’s somewhat graphic.

“He slipped a third and fourth finger inside. ‘Good girl, you vagina is ‘ballooning.’’ During arousal, he explained, the inner vagina expands, lengthening to create a dead end beyond the cervix. Now his entire hand was inside. [my emphasis]

Penny looked down to see only his smooth, pale wrist disappearing into her. At the sight of it, she moaned” (53-54).

Alrighty, there’s one. Another example:

“This,” the sex witch said, plucking something from her wet depths, “this is all I have remaining from my mother.” The object she held was brownish, like polished wood, like an unvarnished pencil, and she withdrew it slowly. The extraction made a faint slurping sound. “It was her longest finger,” the Baba explained in a hushed voice. “I cut it from her even while the wild animals devoured the rest” (Page 166)


The bottom line: Chuck Palahniuk’s books are kind of like a car crash, in that even though you want to, you can’t look away.

Rating: I don’t even know… 5? Take it or leave it? 4? Eh. This is bad? 6? I don’t know. You make your own judgment.

Please don’t tell me to calm down. Or, the problem with being intense

I’m a passionate person. In case you weren’t aware, the definition of passionate is:

– having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling; fervid
– expressing, showing, or marked by intense or strong feeling
– intense or vehement, as emotions or feelings

In other words, being a passionate person means that you pretty much talk intensely and excitedly all the time about the things that you love. I can’t help it. It’s part of who I am. I know that sometimes my excitement and intensity can scare some people. Or annoy them. Or even make them uncomfortable. But I don’t do this on purpose. I don’t do it to get on anyone’s nerves or to annoy you. It’s just that when I love something or when I think something is interesting, I have to tell people about it. It feels like something is bubbling up inside of me and I have to let it out or I’ll implode. I have to tell people about these things so that they can love them too.

It feels a little like this

Excited gif 1

With some of this

Excited gif 2

And a lot of this

Excited gif 3

And if I don’t let it out, this will happen

Excited gif 4

If you knew me, you’d probably know that. That I don’t get intense to get on your nerves. You’d know I’m passionate (hello, I have a blog dedicated to one of those passions) and you’d know I love things intensely. I don’t do anything half-assed. That’s me. Just be glad I don’t actually act like those GIFs.

Amy Poehler says something in her book Yes Please that she is able to stomach people who can’t stomach her (I’m paraphrasing. Problems with listening to audiobooks). This is true for me too. I put on my confident face and just do me all day long. But sometimes that doesn’t work. This is usually the case when people tell me to calm down. If I get too excited but you don’t want to listen to it, please don’t tell me to calm down. Telling me to calm down is one of the biggest insults, in my opinion. It’s like you telling me you don’t care or that I’m annoying you or that it’s okay when you talk about the things you love because you don’t get as into it as me, but it’s not okay when I talk about it because I get too excited. It feels like you’re telling me to shut up and that’s not fair. I don’t know if this makes sense but I hate it. I always have.

This probably stems from the fact that I’ve been told to calm down or shut up or tamp down my excitement my entire life. Not necessarily by my family or my closest friends because they sort of understand. But by strangers, acquaintances, people who think they know me, or, yes, even by my family or friends. It’s probably because I’ve never met a lot of people who share the same passion as I do, which sucks. I think everyone should have at least one person who understands them and their passions. They don’t necessarily have to love or enjoy the same things, but finding someone who shares your level of passion for things and for life.

And that’s why I love this blog. I don’t have just one person but many. Many who share my passion for books. For authors. For characters. For words. And I sincerely hope that none of you will ever be told to calm down or to turn down your excitement. I hope you can share your passion for whatever it is you love and not be judged for it. Because no one should ever be told to not let that passion shine. Just know that you will never be told to calm down here.

Love you all.


Sorry for the little rant, but I’ve been told to calm down by a few people recently and (I never say this out loud) it hurt my feelings. I was hoping some of you would understand.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I Didn’t Have Time to Read

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme was:

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

Can I just say ALL the books? Haha. There were SO many books that came out this past year that I wanted to read. I’ll attempt to narrow it down to 10. Actually, I’m just going to list the first 10 that come to mind. 🙂

2014 books

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater – I actually plan on reading this in the next couple of weeks.

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith – I own this one and because I’m doing a challenge to read at least one full shelf on my physical TBR before I buy more books, I’ll be reading this soon

Echo Boy by Matt Haig – do I really need to explain this one? You all know how much I love Matt Haig’s books.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – Pretty much only heard good things. And zombies? Yes, please.

Jackaby by William Ritter – “Doctor Who meets Sherlock”. Is this real life?

2014 books

Atlantia by Ally Condie – I’ve always loved the idea of Atlantis and this is a man-made underwater world? Yeah, hand it over.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell – I really enjoyed her other adult novel, Attachments, so I think I’ll like this one as well

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – EVERYONE seems to love this one. I ordered it for my library but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Us by David Nicholls – sometimes you just need a sweet romance. I actually really enjoyed Nicholls other book One Day and was looking forward to Us. I hope to read it in the spring – seems like a good time for it.

White Space by Ilsa J. Bick – compared to Memento and Inception in the blurb, both of which I LOVE.

Honorable mentions:

Made for You by Melissa Marr
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Okay, I could seriously go on alllll day long. There were so many good-sounding books that came out in 2014. What 2014 releases did you not get to but wish you had? Link me up to TTT if you participated!

Book Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of YouAuthor:  Claudia Gray

Genre: Young adult, sci-fi, romance

Publisher: Harper Teen

Publication Date: November 4, 2014

368 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

I finished this one more than two weeks ago, but I’ve been struggling to write the review, for several reasons. I think my expectations were a little too high (both because that cover is freaking gorgeous and the synopsis sounded awesome) and the book didn’t quite live up to those expectations. I absolutely love the concept behind the book, but I’m not sure about the execution of the ideas.

Let’s start at the beginning: Marguerite’s father is dead, murdered by a man he trusted, Paul – one of his assistants. Theo, his other assistant, and Meg follow Paul into the dimension in which he’s escaped, by using two Firebirds, which gives them the ability to jump between dimensions. This is how it starts – we are thrown into the story without giving us much time to adjust or connect with any of the characters. It feels like we are trying to catch up with the characters, relationships, and story. My emotional investment, therefore, suffered.

There were two main things I didn’t like:

  1. The romance – more than anything else, A Thousand Pieces of You is a romance. Marguerite was crushing on Paul before he murdered her father. Once she meets him in the other dimensions, she believes him almost immediately when he says he wasn’t the one who did it though there was a lot of evidence. But then there’s Theo, her parent’s other assistant. Love triangle. Joy. Actually, more of a love square, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what the heck that means. Thank goodness it wasn’t really instalove since the characters have known each other for a long time and had time to get to know one another. Sort of. Again, just read it. When Marguerite’s mission is halted for three weeks in Russia, it’s like she felt no sense of urgency to continue, but had plenty of time for love. And to make questionable decisions on behalf of her other self – more later.
  2. Marguerite – Jesus. I really can’t put into words how annoying she was to me. She was so wishy washy – one minute liking Paul, the next liking Theo. Either way, it was a lot of this.

i can't stop thinking about him gif

Something I really liked: In a lot of sci-fi, when you jump into a parallel universe, there are usually two of you. In A Thousand Pieces of You, you jump from your body into the “you” in that dimension. I thought this was a unique and really interesting way to do things, though it does create the problem of Marguerite’s horrible decision on behalf of her other self in the Russia-inspired dimension.

I also thought the world building was pretty great. The parallel universes were interesting and I liked that they could be almost exactly the same except for one small change. I thought Russia was well done – at least in showing how the aristocracy lived. I would love to see some other dimensions that were wildly different from our own, though I expect (or hope, at least) that this will happen in subsequent books. Yes, even though I had issues with this first one, I am interested enough to want to read more. Another thing I’d like to see more of in the next book is how the Firebird actually works. In A Thousand Pieces of You, little to no explanation is given. As Marguerite has never taken much interest in the technical side, she would start to delve into the mechanics and then brush it off by saying it’s a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo she didn’t understand. It was kind of like a cop out. I wanted to know how they were dimension-jumping!

There was some pretty writing though! You know I have to share a quote or two. 🙂

Now I know grief is a whetstone. It sharpens all your love, all your happiest memories, into blades that tear you apart from within. – Page 143

The bottom line: As much as I wanted to love this one, it had its problems for me. The focus on the wishy-washy nature of Marguerite’s love for Paul (…or was it Theo? Paul?) was irritating – though I will say the love in the end was pretty swoon-y. I liked the other dimensions but wished we’d learned more about the mechanics of how the Firebird worked. Will still read the next book.

Rating: 6 – good, but not great

ARC Review: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect US CoverAuthor: Graeme Simsion

Genre: Contemporary, humor, romance

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: December 30, 2014

352 pages, hardcover

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for letting me read this. 

Let me start off by saying that if you haven’t read The Rosie Project, this review could possibly spoil it for you. It is impossible to talk about the sequel without telling you the ending of the first book.

Alright, if you’re still here, The Rosie Effect starts with Don and Rosie now living in NYC; Don is working at Columbia as an assistant professor and Rosie is finishing up her Ph.D. They have been married for 10 months and 10 days (I love how technical Don is). Rosie surprises Don by telling him that they are pregnant (note that I said “they are” pregnant). Don reacts in his own way and, of course, struggles to connect with the Baby Under Development or Bud. Because he doesn’t understand a lot of social protocol, he gets in trouble with the law. Hijinks, heartwarming advice, and heartbreaking events ensue.

I’m so torn on this one, you guys. I wanted to love this so much more than I did. One thing that I still loved was Don. Even though he is outrageously frustrating at times (he has a lot of faults, most of which aren’t his fault, and these get him into a lot of trouble and sticky situations), he is charming and tries so damn hard in his own way. I fell in love with him again, which was why it was so heartbreaking to see him struggling to know how to deal with this situations he finds himself if. He is adorkable and oh so charming.

SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT SOME SPOILERS: On the other hand, Rosie loses pretty much all of her charm. She decides that Don has no say in what happens to her or her body, stops taking her birth control without telling Don (Don and Rosie had decided to wait), and gets pregnant. She is in the middle of her Ph.D. thesis and program and has no plan for how to take care of the baby once it comes. And then she gets mad at Don when he is not immediately excited and attached to Bud. Um. What? She becomes mean, petty, even rude, and she changes it from “we are pregnant” to “my baby”. It’s like she completely forgot who Don was and the type of person he was (even though she’d accepted him and knew who he was when she married him). The way this plays out is completely heartbreaking and I spent most of the novel hurting for Don.

A favorite quote (taken from an e-ARC and subject to change in the final version). Excuse the language, but it’s funny to me.

I am well aware of my incompetence in predicting human reactions. But I would have been prepared to bet on the first word that Rosie would say when she received the information. I was correct by a factor of six.

“Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

The bottom line: This Guardian review said The Rosie Effect was “twice as long and only half as good” as The Rosie Project, and I think I might have to agree. I’m struggling to rate this one because there were still things I loved about this book (Don – mostly, the feels, the writing, seeing the world through Don’s eyes, the ending) but Rosie’s changes pissed me off and Don’s idiosyncrasies got a little out of hand and were very frustrating at times.

Rating: 6.5

Review: Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White (My True Love Gave to Me)

It’s almost the end of my “Twelve Days of Christmas” in which I review one story per day of My True Love Gave to Me. 😦 Sad face. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”, Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”, Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” (in one review).

Today’s story is “Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White.

My True Love Gave to Me     IMG_20141223_170200

I was completely surprised by the wonderful originality of this story. There are so many cool ways to interpret Christmas for a good story. Maria lives in Christmas, CA, a town (okay, you can’t really call it a town. It’s a census-designated place) that is always in the Christmas spirit. She can’t wait to leave. Well, until she meets Ben (short for Benedict? Benjamin? Bennett?), the new cook at the diner where Maria works for tips (her mom is the manager). Ben loves Christmas and is able to bring some Christmas cheer into a town that’s losing it.

I’m going to need Santa to bring me a Ben for Christmas, okay? He’s sweet and happy merry and can cook and yeah, that’s what I want for Christmas. Thanks, Santa. I’ll be waiting.

This story made me so happy. Not only for Ben but for the fact that it was so original. It isn’t just a story set during Christmas, but in a town named for it. The story was clever and witty and so very sweet. I thought the main character was a little bit of a brat though, whiny and rude at times, but Ben more than made up for it. The story definitely put me in the Christmas spirit – with the decorations, references, merriment, and an elf over the door with a knife in his hand.

Overall, one of the good ones.

Teaser Tuesday – The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Teaser Tuesday is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading. It’s super easy: open your current read to a random page and share two sentences from that page – but make sure you don’t spoil the book!The Rosie Effect

My current read is The Rosie Effect. (WOOO!) I’m reading this one as an e-ARC on my Kindle, so I found some quotes on the book’s Goodreads’ page, and I found one to tease you with.

“To the world’s most perfect woman.’ It was lucky my father was not present. Perfect is an absolute that cannot be modified, like unique or pregnant. My love for Rosie was so powerful that it had caused my brain to make a grammatical error.”

D’aaawwww. I just love Don. If you guys haven’t read or don’t know much about The Rosie Project, Don is basically Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, with a few differences. He’s also really smart, socially awkward, and has a hard time understanding social cues, people, and difficult situations. I love the way he talks, which is really straight-forward, dry, and plainly. He’s super intelligent but awkwardly and strangely – to people who aren’t used to it. I’m really happy to be back with him and Rosie for The Rosie Effect. Expect a review soon!

[By the way, this is the UK cover because I prefer them to the US covers]

If you participate in Teaser Tuesday, link me up! Or if you don’t, tease me with your current read in the comments!

Review: Gayle Forman’s and Myra McEntire’s stories from My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to MeOoops. I forgot to post a My True Love Gave to Me review yesterday! Okay, mostly I just did nothing yesterday and I didn’t even open my laptop. So, as a result, I’ll be posting a review of two stories today from My True Love Gave to Me. So far I’ve reviewed Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link, and Matt de la Peña’s “Angels in the Snow”Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me”, Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown”, David Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa”, and Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf”.

Today I’m reviewing Gayle Forman’s “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” and Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus”.



So I know that a lot of people love Gayle Forman. Like, everyone, it seems. I read If I Stay, and I just wasn’t a fan. At all. I’m sure you can guess that I wasn’t really looking forward to Forman’s story in My True Love Gave to Me. You should have seen the look on my face when I finished this story. It was probably a mix of genuine shock, confusion, and happiness. I actually liked Gayle Forman’s story!

Sophie Roth has a lot of moments in which she questions her actions and words, but she comes to change her mind about one of them: she decides to go to a caroling performance at her university (in a middle-of-nowhere, pastoral town) but she ends up meeting a boy there who she at once has a lot in common with and a lot of differences.

I liked the diversity and the genuinely cute story. I liked Sophie and Russell together. They’re different but similar and they have a lot of great banter. The characters felt realistic and developed. Also, the ending was just beautiful. I quite liked this one.


IMG_20141222_201134First page of this story and you get these two quotes:

“The whole mess started when I lit the church on fire.”

“Put this on your list of things to know: the combination of tinsel, baby angel wings, and manger hay burns like weed at a Miley Cyrus concert.” – both from page 203

Started off this story laughing. A lot. Vaughn is the class clown; he likes pranks and creating chaos, but sometimes he goes too far, like when he accidentally lit the church barn on fire. This causes a chain of events that lead to him volunteering to help run the church Christmas pageant. Fortunately for Vaughn, the pastor’s daughter is not too bad on the eyes and not what you’d first think, sort of like Vaughn.

So this is probably one of the most cliché plots out there: bad boy turns good and good girl has some edge. But despite that, I thought this one was pretty good. I don’t think it quite lived up to its first page, but I had several more laughs and I wasn’t bored. I liked Vaughn’s character quite a bit and was happy he had a second chance.

Not one of my favorites but still enjoyable and cute.

Book Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsAuthor: Michel Faber
Genre: Literary fiction, sci-fi, religion
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
500 pages, hardcover

Peter is a pastor, happily married to his wife Bea, when he is called to a mission by a mysterious corporation known as USIC. He is sent galaxies away to a completely new environment, where is to teach the strange natives from his “book of strange new things.” While he’s gone, Bea’s faith begins to falter as the world as Peter knew it begins to crumble (typhoons and earthquakes and failing governments). The distance between Peter and Bea has never felt so far. He struggles to fulfill the needs of his congregation and also the needs of his wife.

It’d been a long time since I’d read an “adult” novel and an even longer time since I’d read something I’d classify as literary fiction, so it took me a little bit to get into The Book of Strange New Things. To really, really get into it, I’d estimate it took me about 100 pages, but I am so glad I kept going. This novel is incredible, you guys. I was glued to the book for the last 250 pages, at least, flipping through the pages at lightning speed. I was fascinated by Oasis, what this new planet was dubbed, by its natives, by USIC’s secrets, by Peter’s relationship to both Bea and the Oasans, and by Peter’s seemingly unnoticed (by him but not by others) deterioration in body and sanity.

It’s safe to say that The Book of Strange New Things is not at all what I was expecting. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was expecting. The only book I’d read by Michel Faber previously was Under the Skin, and to me, this was vastly different. It’s also completely unlike pretty much any sci-fi book I’ve ever read. Instead of focusing on the science aspects (the new world, the technology, the natives, etc.) it focuses on the relationships between Peter, our main character, and the people around him. The book is emotionally complex, leaving both the characters and the reader feeling almost raw. It’s bleak and sad and beautiful and hopeful.

I like this book for several of the same reasons that I love Matt Haig’s The Humans (though the books are dissimilar in many ways too). Much like in The Humans, you appreciate what it means to be human even more by comparing yourself to the “aliens” – their lack of emotion (though don’t be fooled by this), their simplicity, their lack of differences (again, don’t be fooled).

Faber handles the topic of religion deftly. The tests of faith feel appropriate and true. Faber neither endorses nor condemns religion throughout the book, instead the development of the themes unfold naturally, making the story feel genuine and honest. The characters’ beliefs are plausible even in a fantastic setting.

I don’t just mean this with the humans. The natives of Oasis feel realistic too. They are appropriately alien, different physically, emotionally, and mentally (especially physically – weirdest descriptions ever). Despite this, they are still easily relatable with their struggle to communicate effectively, learn, and grow. Plus, the creative way that their language is depicted is seriously cool.

My only complaint is that it ended. Yes, I wished that a 500 page novel would have been longer. SPOILER: it’s open-ended, which leaves a lot of things left unanswered. I both love and despise this. I want to know what happened!

The bottom line: If it wasn’t apparently obvious, I loved this book. It was captivating and profound and beautiful. I’ll be buying my own copy (I checked it out from the library) – the hardback has gold gilded pages and it’s gorgeous.

Rating: 9 – practically perfect