Review: Finding our balance by Lauren Hopkins

3.5 starsDisclaimer: This book is the first of three of which only one book has been released but the second one should be released some time this year. 

Result: 3.5 stars.  Though there were no major issues and the book was better than average, I didn’t love it.  This book is recommended for anyone interested in gymnastics and/or wants to know more about the sport.  It’ll also be interesting to people that are interested in the road to the Olympics, cost of training all day everyday, learning more about media and sport, etc. 

Summary:

This book is the first of three that takes a fictional behind the scenes look at the life of three young gymnasts vying for a spot on the Olympic gymnastic team going to Rio.  Each gymnast has their own goals and reasons for loving the sport and wanting to get to the Olympics.  

Review:

I enjoyed this book and think anyone with an interest in gymnastics would too.  The first two paragraphs of this book were weak and could have been better to pull me in, however I did get into the first person narrative quicker than most books that use this narrative choice and after the first few paragraphs I was not thrown out of the narrative as I have been in the past due to the first person narrative (*coughDivergentcough*). Though there was some inconsistencies with the ages of some characters which irked me.

I did like the characters and the fact the clueless dad was used to provide needed exposition for those that might not understand gymnastics. I also appreciated that the main character had signs of obsessive compulsive tendencies. There was also a mixture of family types represented in this novel. Though for someone as old as Ruby she would have known better than to swear in a professional interview.

Most of the things I didn’t necessarily like about this book stemmed from the fact I couldn’t decide if I liked how closely it paralleled the real life of USA gymnastics. On one hand I liked the closer look as life as a gymnast in the US and a real but fictional way, but on the other hand there were certain things that I did not think were true to life that I would have excused if the novel was not trying to be so true to real life. Things like ipods on the competition floor and at the farm at verification. The number of hours in public school, still pulling good grades in high level courses and travel times. There are just not enough hours in the day for a lot of that to be feasible.

Another thing I did not like as much about this book is that at times it read like a list of skills and their descriptions of how to preform them between some fluff. It’s a tough balance of giving enough information to be informative while not reading a laundry list and I think the book did cross over the line. As a result the pacing of the book did suffer.

Last thoughts:

Overall, due to the in depth descriptions of gymnastics skills and the slower pacing of the novel I believe this is more of a niche book, however that does not mean it’s a bad book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and give it 3.5 stars.

Springtime

thoughtsEvery year about this time I have the yearning to read everything.  It always happens around the end of March and into April.  Always.  It likely has to do with the school year and getting to the burnout point right before exams start; not wanting anything to do with studying, only reading.  Additionally it is because I don’t read during the school year because then I would read and not get my homework done, or even sleep, so by the time April comes around it has been many long months without a fictional universe to distract me.  Finally I think it also has to do with the nicer weather: wanting to sit outside once it starts to warm up and feel the breeze and smell the spring smells.

This time last year I discovered Booktube during the same old springtime book craving.   In the year since I have read a wide assortment of good, excellent or meh books, most of which have roots in Booktube.  You can see a few of them in the “Books I read because of Booktube” post and I plan on doing similar blog posts to that in the future.  Since discovering Booktube and due to having more free time away from school, my ‘to-read’ list on Goodreads has greatly expanded.  

This year, however, I have not gone through the book craving phase and only just realized.  I think the reason for it is because I have been done school for about 5 months.  In October when I was finishing everything and well past the burnout stage (and deep into Booktube) I experienced something of the yearning the typically comes in springtime.  Now that I am more rested and not burnt out I have not have the same visceral need to read something that occurs every year since I started University 6 years ago.  Also this year was really warm, winter-wise, thus I think the weather has impacted things as well.  

Though, I will say, I did get a craving to re-read Harry Potter, which I have finally given in to, though this craving is nothing on the typically yearly craving, which is not usually book specific.  All-in-all this year has been a strange year, and I’m interested in seeing what happens from here on out.  

Intimidating TBR tag

green tagDisclaimer: I am trying to fill this out with books I own but have not read yet, but I don’t think I’ll be able to answer all the questions with the about a dozen books that I owe but have not read (plus half of them are packed and buried so its going by memory…).  Thus if I can’t think of anything I will consult my lengthy list of books I’m interested in reading on Goodreads.  Also many of these books could be in more than one category. 

1. What book have you been unable to finish?

Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.  There was a several year time jump and I was in the middle of a busy time in my Master’s so I put it down and haven’t picked it back up.  Also Game of Thrones by GRR Martin, but I have basically given up on that by now. 

2. What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?

Storm Glass by Maria V Snyder.  It’s been on my shelf for a while but I haven’t had the time to devote to starting a new series that I highly expect I will love (but do have time to start a series I might not like?).

3. What book have you yet to read because it’s a sequel?

Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas.  Again, I highly expect to like this book so I haven’t started it yet.  Also the last of the Seven Realms books, Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima. 

4. What book have you yet to read because it’s brand new?

Nothing on my shelf but one of my anticipated reads that was recently released (and thus would be hard to get a copy of from the library) is Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.  Or Passanger by Alexandra Bracken.  Or Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane, which I still need to read a few books before I get to it. 

5. What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t enjoy it?

I don’t really have an answer for this because if I have read one book by and author and don’t like it I typically don’t return but if I have read several books by and author and then hit one I don’t like I don’t hold it against them as there is always the odd book, that being said I read a book recently by Eoin Colfer that really makes me hesitant to pick up another of his novels.  However, I think I will have to say something by Patrick Ness as I didn’t really love The Rest of us Just Live Here but have heard good things about his other novels and I know he is a great person in real life. 

6. What book have you yet to read because you’re just not in the mood for it?

Land of Painted Caves (Earth’s Children #6) by Jean M Auel.  Heavy historical Adult fiction.  Need to be in the right mood for it.  Also it’s about 750 pages long and a chunky hardcover book. 

7. What book have you yet to read because it’s humongous?

It’s not that big but Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes.  It has about 4/5 books that follow it, though, and is talked about like Game of Thrones and has many points of view so it’s humongous in spirit.  

8. What book have you yet to read because because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?

I don’t cover only buy books, though I was really tempted with Rook by Sharon Cameron and have since read it (after reading the mixed reviews on it).  Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge is another book that has caught my eye but is the second book in a retelling series, which is not particularly my cup of tea plus I’ve heard mixed things. 

9. What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?

The Diviner by Melanie Rawn.  Bought it years ago because I wanted to read another book by her but it was recommended that I read this one first.  It travelled with me to Scotland and I never got more then 30 pages into the book.  Really don’t know much about this one or the other one at this point and it’s sitting around collecting dust.  Also a book I got from a friend last Christmas, Brimestone by Preston and Child because it’s in a series (but it sounds like it does not need to be read in order), is their favourite and I know nothing about it.  Also it’s a weird size/shape.  Yes that matters.  

10. What book have you not read because it’s a new author and that’s scary?

Half Bad by Sally Green.  Heard good things and the hard cover novel was on sale last time I walked into a book store, but still haven’t read it yet.  

Survival stories

listIn no particular order, here are a selection of survival stories as a part of the monthly recommendations group run by Kayla and Trina over on Goodreads (found here).  I’ve tried to include ones that you might not have heard before as well as the more popular ones.  My personal rating on the novel is also included as well as a (cheesy) one sentence summary of the story for those interested. 

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (3 stars) Cia has been chosen to go through the testing, a great honour, however her father warns it is not as it may seem to be. 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (5 stars) Katniss is used to taking care of her poor family but when she is selected to take part in the hunger games she has to fight to survive. 

No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz (3 stars) A deadly virus is released in a crowded mall which is locked down. 

The Martian by Andy Weir (want to read) An astronaut is left behind on Mars and must survive until humanity can return to save him (dammit Matt Damon, always needing rescued). 

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4.5 stars) After their illegally inhabited planet was illegally attacked Kady and Ezra are rescued but things don’t settle down as a those in charge are keeping secrets from everyone.  

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott (4.5 stars) Tella becomes a contender in the Brimstone Bleed, a 4 part race to win the cure for a sick relative. 

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (3 stars) Thomas wakes up with no memories in a strange place surrounded by a maze that holds monsters. 

The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (3 stars) Brain survives a plane crash and now must try and survive alone in the wilderness until he can be rescued. 

The Valley of the Horses (Earth’s Children #2) by Jean M Auel (4 stars) This series follows Alya, a young prehistoric woman, as she survives the many dangers of life during the time of the Neanderthals and woolly mammoths. 

Goodreads

statsIt would be hard to find a reader that has not heard of Goodreads, however there are a few buttons/functions that can be found on the site that I’m not sure many people know exist.  I am obsessed with these functions and use them regularly and thought I might spread the word.  If everyone else already knows about these functions, well, you can watch be fangirl over them.  I don’t claim to hide the fact I like statistics and math. 

Compare books

One of the ways to quickly check to see if I enjoy similar books with a user on the site is through this button.  I find it far more useful then the Favourites shelf, which only shows a snapshot of a person’s taste in books. It can be found underneath the Follow and Friend buttons when you are looking at a User’s profile. 

Once clicked this you will be taken to a page with a small pie chart at the top that shows what books you have in common (with percentages and hard numbers given if you are interested in that).  Under that you get a (magical) percentage that tells you how similar your rated books are to the User.  This percentage is really not that useful.  Interesting but not useful.  

The part I really like, however, is the list of the books you have in common with the other User, which are listed alongside how you and the User have rated the book.  From this you can get a good idea of the types of books you have books you have both read (or listed as ‘to-read) and your ratings.  Just keep in mind that even if they don’t like or haven’t read your favourite book does not make them a bad person, just someone with different taste or other bookish priorities.  

Book Compatibility

This is the second way I quickly determine how similar my taste in books is to another User.  On the top right hand side of the “Compare books” page you can find the button for Book Compatibility.  The top of the page is another graph, a line graph this time.  Perhaps not quite as useful as Compare books, it nonetheless gives you an idea of how your ratings compare to the User, divided by different categories of books (fantasy, classics, romance, etc).  Underneath it are groups of popular books that fall into each of the categories and the rating you have given that book compared to the other User.  Don’t worry if some of the categories don’t have ratings, as my Classics section is almost always blank as I rarely read this type of book.  Additionally you will see a fourth column with gives a generic “poor, ok, good, excellent” rating depending on how you rated a book as compared to the other User.  Overall, I find the graph the most useful part of this page.   

Stats

This final function is one that looks closer at the books you have read.  You can find it under “my Books” and then “Stats” at the top right hand corner.  The page that loads gives you more graphs!  It compares the number of books you have read in each calender year.  When you click on “details” you get a list of all the books in that year sorted by star rating as well as the longest book you read in that year and a lovely pie graph of which shelf you have sorted books into (for example, 50% f the books I have read in 2016 so far were sorted into my ‘read in one sitting’ shelf and about 15% into ‘PoC mains’).  

This page also gives you a chance to compare the number of total pages you have read each year.  Finally, and perhaps most interesting, you can see the publication year of each of the books you have read, sorted by the date you have read the book.  This button allows you to see if you only ever read the most recently published books or you read a wide variety of books published across many years.  Additionally, you can see if you read books in clusters of quick reads followed by long slumps without reading anything or have a steady reading pace over the course of several months.  

My Stats clearly show that I read no novels while I was writing my Master’s thesis because I was too busy reading and writing science.  Since then, however, I seem to read a lot for a week or so (~5 books in about as many days) then nothing for a week or so.  Also I can clearly see that I have been reading mostly books written in the past 10 years, basically mostly books that have been publish since I started University and got too busy to read much.  

 

Books I read because of BookTube #1

listSince upwards of 70% of the books I have read in the past year or so since I have discovered BookTube (~45-50 or so books in total) have roots to BookTube, here are 7 books I have read that I never would have touched if it wasn’t for booktube.  

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2 stars)

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (3 stars)

3. Going Down in Flames by Chris Canon (3-3.5 stars)

4. Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott (4.5-5 stars)

5. Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba (4.5 stars)

6. The Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz (2 stars)

7. Alienated by Melissa Landers (3-3.5 stars)

YA books and their protrayal of parents

thoughtsYoung Adult fiction typically, though not always, follows the story of a teenager or a group of teens.  This is the age that the book is catered to and thus it makes sense that the main character(s) will be of a similar age.  At this age the author can include a number of important people to the protagonist’s life as a part of the story, including family, friends, teachers, mentors, etc. They don’t have to be limited to only including teenaged characters into the narative because teenagers are at the age where people of all ages can have an influence on them and it’s not unrealistic for a teenager to have contact with people of any age be that younger or older.  

This means YA is an open book to include many different types of interactions and relationships.  However, I have found that many YA novels use the same old, tired tropes when discussing parental figures.  The same themes show up time and again:

-dead parents

-absent parents

-drunks, junkies

-deadbeats

-abusers

-etc.

There are very few novels that have good parental figures.  Bonus points if it’s a biological parents.  Fantasy is particularly bad for this as many authors feel a teenager cannot go on an epic adventure unless the parents are out of the way or absent in some way.  

Good mother figure are particularly hard to find.  Comparatively, good father figures are easier to find.  Yet both are rarer than the number of good mentors or teacher figures.  That is not to say that there aren’t also a disproportionate amount of terrible teachers/coaches/mentor figures in literature compared to the so-called ‘real life’.  There are also a fair number of teachers that follow the above tropes plus the ‘not telling you what you need to know’ and ‘ignoring you because I can’ tropes that are very prominent with mentor characters (*coughDumbledorcough*).   However, I can name more of the unrelated to me and also not a guardian/caretaker ‘parental’ figures in YA novels than I can name examples of good parental figures.  

I challenge you to think of a few examples of good parental figures.  Off the top of my head I can name five pairs (The Weasleys and the Grangers from Harry Potter, Keladry’s parents in the Protector of the small series and Kit and Nita’s parents in the Young Wizards series) and one father (in The rest of us just live here by Patrick Ness).  Yet, even the Grangers never got page time in any of the seven books so really it’s just assumption that they are good parents.  

Just like we need diverse books, I think we need to include more good parents in our books.  They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to exist in a way that is more than just an explanation as to way the main is allowed to fall into a new world and not once think that their parents will be worried if they don’t get home in time for dinner.