Mini Reviews! Shadow and Bone, How to Build a Girl, & Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Posted August 4, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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It’s been a while since I’ve re-read books because there’s so many I want to read that I’ve never read before!  I’ve also re-read a lot of my favorites in the last couple years and aren’t really pining for them, otherwise, a lot of my favorite books I haven’t reviewed on the blog yet (WHAT!?) and so… they don’t qualify for mini reviews.

Still.

Sometimes it’s good to dive back into books you read and loved, books you’ve been meaning to revisit, and books that you think your opinion may have changed on.  Today, I’m looking at Shadow and Bone, How To Build A Girl, and Nice Try, Jane Sinner.  I read these spanning from the beginning of May to July, just to show you how much I’ve been mood!re-reading this year.

Honestly, I’m pretty proud of myself!

Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone

by Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha Trilogy #1
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. on June 5, 2012
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Target Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: ★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal--and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.

Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina's extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart--and her country--in two.

 

Shadow and Bone is one of those books I gave too much credit to the first time I read it.

I know, I know!  How dare I speak ill of the Grishaverse!

I gave this one five stars on my first read, but really, it was more of a four star book for me at the time.  That rating and giving into the pressure to round up on a book because it is so popular has haunted me.

As a piece of literature, I’m sorry, but Shadow and Bone just isn’t that impressive.  I understand why people love these books because I agree that the world is positively fascinating, doubly so for what was out there in the realm of fantasy at the time (non-western European fantasy settings are still too uncommon, but there’s been leaps and bounds in recent times).  I think people love the Grishaverse mostly for its characters.

And that’s where I fall short.  I don’t love Alina.  I don’t love Mal.  I really don’t love the Darkling.  I remember loving Genya last time, and while I don’t love her this time, I am interested in her character.

I don’t think Shadow and Bone holds up as well to rereads, particularly after reading Six of Crows and seeing what Bardugo is capable of.  But every great story has to start somewhere!

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Narrator: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★ 1/2

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How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl

by Caitlin Moran

Series: How to Build a Girl #1
Publisher: HarperCollins on September 23, 2014
Genre: Contemporary, Feminism, Humor
Target Age Group: New Adult, Young Adult

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes - and build yourself.

It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde - fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer - like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes - but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she's smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She's writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.

 

Re-reads are such an interesting experience, because my experience comes in one of two flavors – nostalgic delights, or completely different emotive experiences.  Oh, and occasionally the “what did I see in this book?”, which is not the case here.  The first time I read How to Build a Girl, I laughed and laughed and laughed to tears.  I had no idea what to expect and I was delighted.  This time, I listened more solemnly.  Partially because of the gravity of the world, and partially because I did not expect the book.  This time, I had memories and expectations of the book.  I still liked it, but it didn’t rock me with hilarity.

This time, I found myself more conscious about the relationship between Johanna and her father.  I found myself following more of the human-level storylines, rather than just being tickled by the writing.  I appreciate the multifaceted aspects of the novel and how easily Caitlin Moran weaves together personal aspects with Johanna’s wit.  The writing is very good.

And the narrator is utterly fantastic.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Nice Try, Jane Sinner

by Lianne Oelke

Publisher: Clarion Books on January 9, 2018
Genre: Contemporary, Mental Health
Target Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

 

I decided pretty much in the heat-of-the-moment that I wanted to reread Nice Try, Jane Sinner for the Reading Rush this year, and I’m glad I did.  It’s been a little bit since I picked up a mood read in hardcopy.  I believe I liked it better this time, because I knew Jane better and what to expect from her.  Still an entertaining book on a second read, because the characters are compelling.

And the characters, have to be compelling, and for two reasons.  First of all, the college-level reality TV show House of Orange is the central plot of the book, and if a reality TV show, you need interesting people.  Second, Jane expresses interest in psychology and we spend some time with her very own internal therapist.  There’s a lot of levels of personality in observation here, as well as discussions about mental health.  I think the depth of character was really successful and interesting, more so the second time through.

Finally, I’m sort of amazed and very appreciative of how successful the storytelling format is here.  Nice Try, Jane Sinner is told in a journal format, yet still manages to keep consistent pacing, great humor, and successful visual world building.  All in all, my second read has pushed this one up from a four star review, to a five.

Check out my detailed, original review here.

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Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

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What was the last book you reread?  Did it meet your expectations?  Tell me all about it in the comments!

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