The Proving by Ken Brosky — A Review


The Proving by Ken Brosky

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

A post-apocalyptic YA series in the same vein as Veronica Roth’s Divergent, but with a science fiction angle.

After an asteroid enters Earth’s orbit, covered in creatures called Specters, life for humans is drastically altered. The specters, sort of like ghosts, sort of like large insects or animals, can kill by simply passing through you. In an effort to combat these creatures, humanity has walled itself off from them with something called Xenoshields, and they’ve divided themselves into Clans and free citizens.

The clans:  Spartans are tough, military people trained to shoot, kill, and wield machinery. Clan Athens is made up of healers, biologists, and the like. Clan Persia is full of tech geeks. Parliament is exactly what it sounds like. These are the government folks. Then there are Historians, those tasked with objectively recording (and memorizing) everything they see.

At ages 13 and 18, the Young Adults and New Adults of Earth, respectively, must go through something called the Proving. Normally, everyone stays behind the Xenoshields in their cities, but during the Proving, the New and Young Adults must go outside the walls.

In this first book, we follow Skye (Spartan), Cleo (Persian), Ben (Athenian), Gabriel (Parliament), and Seamus (Historian) along with Skye, Cleo, Ben, and Gabriel’s younger siblings as they complete the Proving. The characters are three-dimensional, complex, and at times surprising. So, I thought they were really well done. I personally felt myself drawn to Skye. She’s incredibly tough, but you can tell that she’s got one of those soft, gooey, caramel centers. I can’t wait to see how her arc plays out in the next book.

When the group first gets together they seem to be a bit of a motley crew. They don’t really mesh well and they have a tendency to argue or boast. But then, all too soon, they are outside of the walls and taking on the Proving. What follows after they pass through the Xenoshield is a hair-raising, action-packed thrill ride. And that ending! Oh my god, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this series and find out what the heck has happened to our group!

Now, just one complaint because overall I enjoyed this very, very much. The story is told from alternating perspectives, and at times, they aren’t handled well. I often found myself confused at who was speaking or from whose perspective the story was being told. That was really frustrating because it caused the action and the fast pace of the story to stutter. If the alternating perspectives had been tightened up a bit more or been made clearer, this probably would have been a five-coffee-cup read for me.

I’m not sure when book two of the Earth-X Triology will be out, but I can’t wait to read it!

Happy reading, lovelies!

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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The Gift of the Quoxxel by Richard Titus — A Review


The Gift of the Quoxxel by Richard Titus

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

This one is a bit of an odd ball, but I kinda liked it!

Summary from Goodreads:

King Norr was not content. He longed to know the world beyond his tiny, island kingdom of Nibb. The Nibbians, however, were not a seafaring people and had no desire to travel elsewhere. Why bother, they said. What could be as perfect as Nibb?

Even so, Norr watched foreign ships come and go. They approached, hesitated, then sailed away without ever coming ashore. Why was that?

And that wasn’t the only mystery.

Who was the prankster who had set the palace afloat?

Was there a sea monster skulking the waters along shore?

Who was the little girl who sang but would not speak?

Had the Minister of Science been eaten by migrating drumbkins?

This was not the average Nibbian day. King Norr was unprepared and only hoped to get through it with as few “haddocks” as possible.

Set sail on this armchair adventure of wit and riddle. It’s an imaginative voyage to
the Isle of Nibb whose only flaw is being a little too perfect — or, at least, it was
until today.

So, King Norr is basically a bumbling idiot, but you can’t help but smile at his ridiculousness. He wants so badly to know what else is out there in the world, and why the heck people don’t ever come to the Island of Nibb?!

There are so many moving parts to this little story — Nibb and the Nibbians, pirates sailing the open ocean, a giant sea monster who is perhaps not so monsterish?, and of course, the drumbkins! What are those you ask? Well, you’ll have to read to find out. I’m not spoiling that here.

Gift of the Quoxxel is definitely bizarre. It makes me think: there was someone who fell asleep on the beach of a beautiful island (maybe after one too many piña coladas), and this was the fever dream they had. Can you see those hazy lines they use in TV and film to let you know you’re entering dream world? Squint your eyes… There they are! *ripple ripple*

This book is perfect for summer reading and beach reading (or any-time-of-year reading). It’s cute and quirky, and it’s quick. It’s also great for either children, middle grade readers, young adults, or adults — anyone can enjoy this! Now, I know school may be starting back up for some of you soon, so while you’ve got the time, take a chance on this unexpected delight.

I totally stole this gif off another review on Goodreads, but it’s just so perfect — whimsical and funny!

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Happy reading, lovelies!

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham — A Review


Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

Just go buy this and read it and love it. Can my review end there? No? Well, all right. I’ll give you a few reasons. 😛

I have been watching and re-watching Gilmore Girls since it came out in 2000. There I was, at the ripe old age of thirteen (stop doing the math!), watching Rory. A girl who loved her books. Just like me! A girl who studied, and stayed at home, and had a freakishly close relationship with her mother. Just like me! Well, needless to say I was hooked. Now, before you get mad at me, and say, “Raeleigh, this is supposed to be a review of a BOOK not the TV show.” I know. But the TV show is the reason I heard of Lauren Graham in the first place. Then I saw her through the years in various movies and then again in the beloved Parenthood (I’m not crying, you’re crying, omgthatshowbreaksmyhearteverytime).

So when I found out there was a memoir, I HAD to have it. Then it languished on my shelf for a couple of years. I know, I know, what kind of book reviewer am I!?!? But then. This year. It worked as one of my challenge books for the Read Harder Challenge. What luck! Number 12 is “a celebrity memoir.”

Now, if you liked quick-witted, fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore, then you will like this memoir. Lauren Graham’s writing is very much like Lorelai’s speaking. A fellow book reviewer told me she listened to the audio book, which Graham narrates herself. I must now get my hands, err..ears, on that! I can only imagine it’s even more amazing being delivered in her iconic voice.

Graham lets us in on some pretty private moments in her life. From growing up with her dad to schlepping it in New York, working all kinds of jobs so that she could pursue her dream of being an actor. I think for me, that was the part I liked most. I knew I would love hearing about her time on the Gilmore Girls and A Year in the Life sets. But it is always so inspiring to me to hear artists describe their early years. What I have started calling, the “lean years.”

What all of these artists, who eventually “make it”, have in common, is that they never, ever, ever gave up. They just kept working at the thing they love. It gives me the warm fuzzies and a sort of frenetic energy in my chest that makes me want to get up and do things!

Have I gushed enough yet? No? Guuuuussssshhhhhh. There you go. Now go get this!

Happy reading, lovelies!

The Dance Gods: A New York Memoir by Kenny Pearl — A Review


The Dance Gods: A New York Memoir by Kenny Pearl

RaeleighReads rating: love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236love--coffee-png-image-52236

Summary from goodreads:  When Kenny Pearl arrived in New York City, determined to succeed as a dancer, he was penniless, friendless and jobless. His memories shine against the backdrop of the turbulent ’60s and ’70s, including Vietnam War protests, the military draft and the rampant crime that once plagued the city. From humble beginnings in the hippie-populated Lower East Side, to performing with the greats of the New York modern dance scene-he danced with the companies of both Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey-Pearl’s life is one of tenacity, hard work and passion. This is the engaging story of the hurdles he faced on his unique journey and the remarkable people he met along the way….

When Mr. Pearl queried my blog, he said in response to one of the criteria in my review policy, “Yes- there are superheroes in it, if you consider, as I do, people who take super risks to reach the top of the dance world, as heroes.”

Well, I do consider those people superheroes. Have you ever witnessed a professional dance class? They’re bloody agonizing. And the dancers go full out, on move after move, trying to reach this illusive thing called perfection. To top it off, they do it on top of sore muscles and bruised and battered feet. It’s absolutely incredible!

I used to dance, when I was a kid. I loved it! There is something about moving your body to music and trying to defy gravity that brings such a sense of joy. This memoir made me remember all of those wonderful hours spent staring at myself in a mirror, doing twirl after twirl, leap after leap. My dancing days ended way too soon, but I was able to pursue my artistic side through music as a pianist. I felt such a kinship with Mr. Pearl as he talked about the need to express himself, and the physical ailments he experienced when he couldn’t do so.

His story is so passionate and genuine, and I’m sure many, many people can relate to it. From a wide-eyed idealist as an eighteen-year-old kid in Canada to a seasoned dancer in New York, Kenny Pearl lets us peer into the world of a professional dancer during the heyday of modern dance. One of the dances he speaks a lot about in the book is Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. Here is an excerpt, Sinner Man from 2016 (I think):

Pearl danced with both Alvin Ailey’s and Martha Graham’s dance companies. If you don’t know who Martha Graham is, or even if you do, here is another little gem I’d like to share with you:

If you like dance at all. If you like memoirs at all. If you like the 60s and 70s at all. This is for you. Seriously, pick it up today, and prepare to be inspired!

Happy reading, lovelies!

Literary Criticism and Gender

(CCO Creative Commons)

So, I’m pretty sure I was supposed to post a review yesterday, but I just plum forgot.

Anyhoo…this article came across my radar this morning in which a male literary critic discusses gender bias in the critiquing biz. I found it very intriguing, and I wonder why I never thought of it before. Clearly, the writer felt similarly befuddled.

The article is available here, and the conclusion he comes to is this:

“…the solution to this unjust system has to be both to encourage more female critics and to assign more female authors to both male and female critics…”

This leads me to ponder on the gender bias in reading in general. Now, I personally read both male and female writers, and I think my reviews on this site reflect that. But, I’ve noticed that many people gender their reading, and many more people, ahem PARENTS, tend to gender reading for their children. How many of you women out there were only ever presented with “girly” type material — tutus, parties, princesses, pink, etc., but were never introduced to things like questing, danger, science, or mystery?

Excuse my French, but what the crap is that!? Why would no one have ever offered me some Fred Gipson (Old Yeller) or William H. Armstrong (Sounder) when I was a kid. I mean, I ❤ ❤ ❤ dogs. Why would no one have suggested those to me? Because I’m female? Frankly, that’s stupid.

And this totally goes the other way as well. Boys are given suggestions like Gipson and Armstrong as well as William Golding (Lord of the Flies) and Gary Paulsen (Hatchet & Dogsong). But rarely are they encouraged to read something like Judy Blume or Jane Austen. Heaven forbid they enjoy reading something about ballet and tutus! The world might slip off its axis or something.

Now, I know I’m generalizing and speaking hyperbolically, and there are certainly exceptions to the statements I made above. But I would be generally interested to hear from anyone who can deny that there is still a gender bias when it comes to reading and/or picking out books for children. Seriously, shoot me a message, I would love to have that conversation.

Just doing a quick Google search I can see that discussion of gender bias, balance, and discrimination has been going on at least since 2011 (probably before I just didn’t find that in my quick search), and it continues to this day. Why, for the love of everything, in the twenty-first century, are we still gendering books. Why do we gender anything for that matter? Shouldn’t enjoyment be the focus? Like, if you really like floral patterns, you should be able to read a book about floral patterns regardless of gender. And if you really like sports, you should be able to read a book about sports regardless of gender. Duh!

So, why am I ranting about this? Well, it’s been on my mind for a long time, and the article I read this morning just triggered something in my soap-box sensors. But also, gendering books to begin with, leads to the kind of gender bias in reviewing and critiquing that the article talks about. Am I missing out on books because I’m a woman? When I submit reviews to journals or magazines, do they consider my gender as compared to the author’s gender? Does that cause me to lose out?

It has to stop. The gender disparity in the entire literary world, just needs to stop.

I’m thinking about doing a year where I only accept and review female writers. What do you all think? Is that a great idea? Or does that contribute even more to the gender divide?

As always my lovelies, happy reading.