Author Archives: Sonya Book Owl

About Sonya Book Owl

Sonya reads and writes about books from her nest in North Dakota. She can often be found working at the library, reading, watching way too many different TV shows, or cuddling with her ridiculously adorable and badly behaved cat, Leroy.

Book Madness 2015 (Sonya): Better Late Than Never!


Now, first of all I totally made my picks early yesterday morning before voting began! However, for some reason both Nox and I could not get the PDF version of the bracket to take any text, so alas I had to print it, fill it out, and then scan it. Obviously, this is way too much work in our days of modern technology. Regardless, here is my finished bracket with The Great Gatsby as my winner. There are other books on here I enjoyed more than The Great Gatsby, but I think it’s a masterpiece that deserves to win.


Bored of Opium

I so regret checking out The Lord of Opium at the same time as The House of the Scorpion, the first book in this series. I never really got into the sequel and just slogged through the 400+ pages simply to finish it so I could move on to something else (like Gone with the Wind). The problem is that NOTHING HAPPENS. There is no story arc; no climax; no build. Farmer simply has Matt bringing his friends to visit, fighting with his girlfriend, “cheating” on his girlfriend, and just romping around Opium, the land where he lives. In this second book, Matt is now the Patron in charge of Opium and all the drug lord duties that go with it. Farmer still brings in moral conflict with the cloning and power struggles, but it’s just not enough to save this book. other major issue with this book is the love triangle between Maria, Matt, and Mirasol. Maria has been Matt’s love interest since early into The House of the Scorpion, and it was no surprise that they now call each other novio and novia. Mirasol, Matt’s other love interest is a Waitress eejit. In Opium, eejits are slaves with chips in their brain that program them to do certain tasks without any pain or sentience. One major plot line of The Lord of Opium is Matt’s quest to free the eejits from their bondage. He finds that Mirasol momentarily comes out of her reverie when he plays a certain song where she begins to dance. Once the song stops playing she faints….and then he kisses her. This happens numerous times. How creepy is it that he’s taking advantage of someone who is both brainwashed, unconscious, and in his employ?! Eventually Mirasol is out of the picture (no spoilers), and at the end of the novel, Matt rekindles his relationship with Maria, and then they decide to get married because he’s this rich powerful Patron that can do whatever he wants. This is how the book ends!! These kids are 17 and ridiculously immature. What is Nancy Farmer thinking?!

In The House of the Scorpion, I sympathized with Matt and his plight. He was abused as a child and had to find his identity in the world as a clone. His coming of age story really developed him as a character, and made him more likable. For the majority of The Lord of Opium Matt is rather selfish and mean to those around him. I understand that he’s a moody teenager, but I did not sympathize with his situation. That is some of the reason that the first novel was better. There isn’t good character development with any of the characters in this second book, and I think that was the major reason why it was so boring.
Perhaps if I you loved The House of the Scorpion, this would be more enjoyable for you. I, however, was not a fan of either of these books, especially The Lord of Opium. Take my advice and just read The House of the Scorpion and leave it at that.

The Cuckoo’s Calling
J.K Rowling’s first crime novel, written under pseudonym Robert Galbraith, has its ups and downs, but overall it’s a great read. As Rowling is so adept with details and figuring out how to weave those details into a cohesive conclusion, she is primed to be a master of the crime novel. What seems to bog her down though is the tedium of these details. Often, I just wanted the book to move faster! Towards the end I couldn’t put it down, but the first few hundred pages were a bit slow. Even so, her characters are wonderful. At first I wasn’t sure about Cormoran Strike, private detective, as the main character but he definitely grew on me. However, Robin, Cormoran’s temporary assistant, I have to say is my favorite character. The scenes between her and Cormoran are alternately hilarious and embarrassing. I also like that she’s a strong female protagonist without being uber-feminist. I’m getting rather sick of the unconsciously gorgeous, independent female leads who all end up seeming the same. Robin falls somewhere in the middle, and I think she’s awesome. I just hope she dumps that loser of hers, Matthew.
I don’t really read crime or mystery novels, so I can’t say that I have much to compare The Cuckoo’s Calling to, but it was well-written and I never suspected who the killer actually was. I had my suspicions on one person but was completely wrong. If Rowling writes a second Cormoran Strike novel, which I believe she is, I would definitely read it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
I actually listened to the audiobook of The Ocean at the End of the Lane read by the author, Neil Gaiman. I had read the blurb on the back cover but was still not expecting the story that I actually got.  I’m also still unsure as to how I feel about the book or if I even liked it. The story unfolds with the narrator looking back on a childhood adventure as an adult. In this adventure, he and his neighbor down the lane, Lettie Hempstock, try to send a spirit back who is stirring up trouble, especially for the narrator. This spirit is in the form of Ursula Monkton, the new family babysitter. I can identify with a child’s dislike of a babysitter and seeing her as a sort of monster, so that bit of fantasy definitely appealed to me. I enjoyed the scenes with the Hempstock family as I particularly liked Lettie’s mother and grandmother as characters. The end was quite sad, but it was an ending that suited the story well. Gaiman’s books and fantasies are always so different, but yet very imaginative. This is definitely a story that no one else has written.
On a side note, this book was in the adult fiction section but I would consider it more of a YA book minus the dodgy sexual encounter between Ursula Monkton and the narrator’s father. I think that is part of the reason why I liked it more than American Gods. I just tend to like Gaiman’s younger narrators better.

The House of the Scorpion

Considering that this YA novel won so many awards and is read by pretty much every middle schooler ever, I cannot believe that I hadn’t really heard of it let alone read it. I was randomly looking up young adult books to read for a young adult book club and this was one I came across with many awards behind the title. It was vetoed as a book club choice, but I put it on my to-read list anyway. I can’t say that I loved it, but I am glad that I read it.

The House of the Scorpion brings up some interesting moral and ethical dilemmas like cloning, free will, and use of power. Matt, as El Patron’s clone, finds out quickly that he is not viewed like other little boys in the drug land of Opium. Matt’s coming of age story has its moments, but to me it seemed like Matt’s voice from early childhood to teenager didn’t change very much. He still seemed very childlike. This was part of why I got bored with it. I wanted a young adult book that actually spotlighted a young adult, not a child. Plus, the last third of the book just went in a completely different direction, and seemed unnecessary.

Overall, I think if I had been in middle school or even high school I would have enjoyed this book much more. As an adult, it was underwhelming. I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn’t nearly as good as I expected it to be with all the awards it won. With that said, I checked out the sequel at the same time as The House of the Scorpion, so I started reading The Lord of Opium. We’ll see if this one is better. Stay tuned!

American Gods
Sonya has risen from her library school grave (aka graduated) and will actually have time to review books now!! 🙂 With that out of the way, let’s hear about American Gods:
I would have given American Gods 2 stars, but the last 100 pages were much better so 2.5 it is. I don’t want to say I can’t like this book because I think in a different context I would. I started this book during the break between summer and fall classes thinking it would make for a nice relaxing read. However, American Gods is a fairly hefty novel in terms of content, so I think if I had been in a mood for something deep, I would have liked it more. What I really wanted was something fluffy, and I thought American Gods would be a fast-paced mystery-sci fi novel. It wasn’t. Since its also character-focused it moves less quickly; Gaiman takes his time developing the characters. What I really wanted, though, was a fast-paced fantasy novel! I mean the cover has a highway with lightning on it! 
American Gods was recommended to me by Nox and Zelda as being one of Gaiman’s best. I loved The Graveyard Book and Coraline, so I thought I might delve into some adult fiction, and American Godscame highly recommended. Plus, Gaiman’s concept for the book seems intriguing and original. The concept of gods as real manifestations was interesting let alone the concept of “American” gods such as media, the internet, and television. The beginning caught my attention but after Shadow and Wednesday set off to rope more gods into Wednesday’s plan, I just lost interest. The vignettes about how the gods came to America that are scattered throughout I found distracting. The last 100 pages or so were actually quite good, but I often found myself counting how many pages to the end of the chapter and to the end of the book. I just wanted to be done with it so I could go back to reading Gone with the Wind (which is wonderful!). Perhaps I might try a different adult novel by Gaiman and see if it goes better. Any recommendations?!

The Fault in Our Stars

Warning: This review contains spoilers. If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars, proceed at your own risk!

Even though The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is centered around two teens with cancer, it does not end up cliched or seem as if the author were trying too hard to make this story about cancer. This isn’t a perfect book, but it doesn’t disappoint.

Sixteen-year-old Hazel started off with thyroid cancer, but now it has moved to her lungs. Her and her oxygen tank go to a support group for teens with cancer every week, and it is there that she meets sweet, suave Augustus Waters. She is instantly attracted to him because he’s hot and because he is of course smart, witty and sweet. Augustus or Gus had osteosarcoma and lost half of his leg due to the disease, but it seems that he is in remission. Hazel tries to resist falling in love with him because she knows she is going to die soon and doesn’t want to hurt him, but it is inevitable (I mean he’s gorgeous, intelligent, and sweet, so how couldn’t she?!). The two lovebirds bond over Hazel’s favorite book entitled An Imperial Affliction, and they travel to Amsterdam to visit the author, and it is there that they truly fall in love. It is only when they get back that Gus tells Hazel that his cancer has returned in full force. So, instead of Hazel dying and breaking Gus’ heart, the opposite happens.

This book was well-written, and was very honest about what it means to have cancer and cope with all that comes with it. However, I didn’t like how predictable it was in terms of Gus having cancer and dying instead of Hazel. I saw that coming right away. Even so, their love story is so real and believable. Green has done a wonderful job making these two teenagers come to life despite their bouts with cancer. I don’t like some of the name-dropping of bands and movies and such in the dialogue but the story and characters were so great that I didn’t mind too much.

Because I knew that someone was going to die, it was difficult to let myself love the characters because it was going to be a heartbreaking ending. I did not want to spend an evening sobbing on the couch. In consequence, I distanced myself from the characters so I wouldn’t be so devastated when one of them died. I think this made the book less enjoyable since I wouldn’t let myself become too caught up in the story and emotions.

I had heard so many good things about this book before reading it, that I had pretty high expectations. The Fault in Our Stars was all I expected it to be, but I wish I could have discovered it without having any preconceived notions about what kind of a book it would be.