Review: The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

Title: The Library of Ever
Author: Zeno Alexander
Rating: ★★★½
Summary: With her parents off traveling the globe, Lenora is bored, bored, bored—until she discovers a secret doorway into the ultimate library. Mazelike and reality-bending, this library contains all of the universe’s wisdom: every book ever written and every fact ever known––and Lenora is now its newly appointed Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian. As she rockets to the stars, travels to a future filled with robots, and faces down a dark nothingness that wants to destroy all knowledge, Lenora will have to test her limits and uncover secrets hidden among its shelves in order to save the library itself.


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Her parents hardly ever brought her here, and Lenora was determined, when she grew up, to go to the library anytime she wanted.

The Library of Ever was cute, but after reading through all of the glowing four and five-star reviews, I’m beginning to think that I was not the target audience for this book. (But I’m okay with that!) With a colorful, eye-catching cover and the word “library” in its title, I was pretty much always going to check out the summary, but reading that it was “an adventure across time and space as a young girl becomes a warrior for the forces of knowledge”? UM YES PLEASE.

At almost 200 pages (of kid-lit sized paper and font), it took me just over an hour to finish—but perhaps that was part of the problem. I approach one-sitting reads much differently than ones which take multiple sessions, and I’m also not used to the pace of kid-lit. A lot of the fiction I read is character driven and, although stuff happens, what I find most interesting is how the characters react to or are changed by those events. Zeno Alexander doesn’t even give his main character Lenora a last name. We know that she’s being babysat by someone she doesn’t particularly like and that she’s annoyed at being told to wait in the car while her babysitter runs into the library, but that’s pretty much it. Her curiosity immediately kick-starts the plot and then the book basically doesn’t stop moving.

For me, this kind of frenetic pace was exhausting. I was in that place while reading where I was really tired but knew that if I just powered through, I could finish––but you can’t read this book and only half pay attention. Alexander so perfectly weaves each chapter with the next that if you’re not careful, you become lost in the maze he’s created. But for others? This kind of story probably feels exciting. Whether Lenora’s adventures are “real” isn’t the point: it’s the confidence she gains, the lessons she learns, the cool and noteworthy facts she uncovers.

Alexander wants his readers to fall in love with books and reading the same way Lenora does, and it saddens me that I wasn’t as wowed by The Library of Ever as other readers. Maybe I’ve let the Forces of Darkness in and lost my kid at heart.

Top Ten: Early Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was the first ten books I reviewed.

Before I had a blog, it took a lot for me to write a review, mostly because it was just easier not to, you know? Below are ten books that I felt were worth it, reviewed on Goodreads from January 2011 to April 2012.

The Accidental Proposal by Matt Dunn
All Clear by Connie Willis
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Ex-Girlfriends United by Matt Dunn
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Thoughts On: Backlist vs. Frontlist

“Thoughts On” is a feature where I give my (often rambling) thoughts on a topic relevant to reading, literature, or the book business. To see previous topics, click here.

back·list /ˈbakˌlist/ noun
a publisher’s list of older books still in print, as opposed to titles newly available (known as the frontlist)

When I first started blogging, I almost exclusively read and reviewed backlist books (even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing). I’m a very conservative book buyer, so everything I read had to be inexpensive or else accessible through my library. It’s not that I didn’t want to read what has new and much-hyped, it’s that an older book selling for 80% off was much more attractive than a new one selling for 20%, and a book I could borrow right now was better than one for which I had to wait weeks or even months.

Even though reviewing backlist books can make a review memorable––when everyone is off chatting about one thing, it’s really difficult to stand out!––it can also mean that I’m often shouting into the void. People may or may not have read the book in question (or even recognize it), or they’re just not in the mood to read a review for a book that’s five years old.

So that’s where frontlist books come in!

Haven’t read a particular book yet? It doesn’t matter! You’ve probably seen it talked about so much online that you understand the story enough to appreciate the review. Or multiple people in your corner of the internet have all read a new title and so it’s easy to get multiple takes on the same story. Being a part of NetGalley and Edelweiss makes it much easier to get copies of books before they’re published––upping the chance that I’ll actually get to read a title while the hype is strong––but reading ARCs often stresses me out. Having to read a particular book by a particular date just makes me want to do anything but.

I’m not really sure that ever I’ll come up with or come across a strong argument for either side. I quite enjoy discovering older titles, reading them at my leisure and then scouring the internet for reviews. It means that I’m less likely to have expectations––either positive or negative. But there’s also nothing quite like reading a story along with basically your entire Twitter feed and collectively freaking out at the same time. (This is one of the reasons why I live-tweet Game of Thrones!) I think I’m happiest when I can balance frontlist titles with a couple of backlist ones, mood-reading to my heart’s content; the variety keeps me sane! After the next four weeks of ARC reviews, it will be nice to get back into some sort of happy rhythm.

Tell me friends!

  • Do you have a first-class ticket on the Hype Train or do you let a book stew for months (or even years!) before you read it?
  • As a blogger, how do you balance backlist titles with frontlist titles?
  • As a reader, do you prefer reading multiple takes on the same book or do you like finding an outlier?

Review: If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Title: If I’m Being Honest
Authors: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Rating: ★★★★★
Summary: High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up by one word: bitch. When she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, she fears she’s lost the one person who actually liked her for good. In an attempt to win him back, Cameron resolves to prove her worth by making amends with those she’s wronged. First on the list? Brendan, the guy to whom she gave an unfortunate nickname in middle school and who’s now the school loser. But the longer Cameron spends repairing Brendan’s reputation, the closer she gets to him—and the more she realizes that he appreciates her personality, brutal honesty and all. It makes her wonder: what if she’s compromising herself for a guy she doesn’t even want?


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via Edelweiss+.

If you’re lucky, sometimes you stumble onto a good book at exactly the right time; even if its not perfect, it’s perfect for you, and you’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. If I’m Being Honest was that book for me.

Taking cues from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, If I’m Being Honest follows Cameron through the first few months of her senior year at an uber posh Los Angeles prep school. With no patience for anything less than transparent honesty, authors Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka write Cameron as an over-achieving mean girl—she’s selfish, self-absorbed, and mean. Even though we understand that she doesn’t have the best relationship with either one of her parents, we don’t feel bad for her, either. Cameron is completely oblivious to how her words hurt, and the first few chapters set up a very compelling story arc for redemption.

I stayed up until 12:30am on a work night to finish the second half of this book because I couldn’t put it down. Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka made me need to know what happened to Cameron. Would her (delicious) slow-burn romance with Brendan go anywhere? What would happen to her new friendship with Brendan’s sister, Paige? Parts of the book made me literally curl my toes and squee they were so freaking cute while others made my heart sigh happily. Having an accurate portrayal of anxiety? Validating. Seeing an authentic portrayal of female friendship? Down-right refreshing.

The summary makes If I’m Being Honest seem like your run-of-the-mill young adult novel, but it’s so much more than that. Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka imbued all of their characters with messy personalities and true-to-life emotions so that nothing feels cheap or out-of-place. You knew that you could be happy when something good happened to a character because you’d already spent the last few chapters being angry with them for doing something stupid. There was fandom and creative passion projects and mental health rep and I may have cried just a bit toward the end.

Please read this book, y’all. It is so, so good.

Top Fifteen: Rainy-Day Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was rainy-day reads.

The term “rainy-day read” always makes me think of a gloomy, dull Sunday where I don’t have any plans and can spend all day on the couch engrossed in a good book. Whatever the genre, a good rainy-day read sucks me into the plot and makes me loathe to leave its world—sometimes not even for food or bathroom breaks.

What makes a good rainy-day read for you? Did any of these make your list?

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Blackout by Connie Willis
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
The Passage by Justin Cronin

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine
The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Review: The Fact of a Body by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich

Title: The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir
Author: Alex Marzano-Lesnevich
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: Before Alex Marzano-Lesnevich began working at a law firm, they thought they were staunchly anti-death penalty. But once they heard convicted murderer Ricky Langley speak on his crimes, they realized they wanted him to die. Shocked by the reaction, they dug into the case, finding Langley’s story unsettlingly and uncannily familiar. An intellectual and emotional thriller as well as a murder mystery, The Fact of a Body explores the intersection of violent crime with personal history. It tackles the nature of forgiveness and if a single narrative can ever really contain the truth. It shows how the law is more personal than we like to believe—and the truth more complicated and powerful than we can imagine.


Note: Alex Marzano-Lesnevich identifies as genderqueer and goes by they-them pronouns but didn’t when the book was published.

I thought I knew the plot of this book before I read it. From the summary, I guessed that the murder in question was of Alex Marzano-Lesnevich’s relative—an aunt, perhaps—referenced in passing enough that they knew she had died but not really how. And so when they hear the “unsettingly, uncannily familiar” confession of Ricky Langley, it sparks a memory which they follow, learning more about the crime from both the murderer’s perspective as well as their family’s.

But that’s not what happens. Uncovered slowly through dual perspective, The Fact of a Body unfurls both Marzano-Lesnevich’s childhood as a sexual abuse survivor with that of Langley, a sexual abuser. For obvious reasons, it’s a hard story to read, but Marzano-Lesnevich is a brilliant writer, and the story flows easily from the murder and its aftermath to their adolescence, from before Langley was born through his childhood to the internship they accept which ultimately introduces them to Langley’s case.

The Fact of a Body flew under the radar when it was published, most likely because neither Ricky Langley nor his crime is well-known, but I hope more people read it. It reminded me very much of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark in that each book focuses on both a crime and the person pursuing that crime and, for both, I wanted to know just as much about the criminal act as I did the person trying to understand the criminal. Marzano-Lesnevich so plainly lays bare their pain and anger that you feel it, too. But they also make room for Langley, for the messy “un-neatness of everything that happened” to him and because of him.

Marzano-Lesnevich opens the book with “a note on source material,” in which they state that The Fact of a Body is “my interpretation of the facts, my rendering, my attempt to piece together this story. As such, this is a book about what happened, yes, but it is also about what we do with what happened.” In an attempt to ask what, the book gives space to both why and how, and we come away better for it.

Month in Review: March 2019

Favorite Media

I was never the biggest Hozier fan, but loving “Take Me to Church” was enough to get me to check out Wasteland Baby from the library. But this album, y’all! I basically like every song (which is so rare) and already really love a few (especially “Movement“). If you’re even a passing Hozier fan, you really need to check out this album.

I don’t think I realized how much I missed the JoBros until “Sucker” dropped in early March. This is a bop, y’all, and my 20-year-old self is screaming.

Stuff I Added to My Queue

I’m pretty sure that I’d add The Friend Zone to my TBR without the infertility plotline, but I have yet to see another contemporary romance address this, and so now I’m super intrigued!

Do I desperately wait for a new Millennium novel? No. Did I automatically add The Girl Who Lived Twice to my TBR the first moment I knew it was being published? Yes. 🤷‍♀️

Destiny featured both Let’s Get Textual and Level Up in one of her ‘TBR Lows & Highs’ posts, and it’s a good example of how a good rec can overcome both a cheesy plot or a bad cover.

New Orleans Rush was another Destiny find! The meet-cute and forced-into-one-another’s-company plot sounds like an ideal pick-me-up the next time I finish something heavy.

ICYMI

What were YOU up to in March? Let me know!