Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Monday, February 29, 2016

Murder by the Book by Rex Stout

In this Nero Wolfe mystery, Nero is hired by the father of a young woman to prove that she was murdered. She was killed in a hit-and-run, and her father is sure it was murder, although the police have ruled it an accident.

In short order, Nero, being the genius he is, has linked her murder (for it was murder) to that of a body fished from the river a couple of days before. Then yet another young woman is murdered, and Nero and Archie are hot on the trail.

The common thread seems to be a book that was written under a pseudonym. The first young woman was an editor who read it when it was submitted to the publisher she worked for.  The second young woman typed the book for the author.

And, of course, Nero solves the mystery handily, so he can get on with playing with his orchids, drinking his cold beer, and eating his gourmet meals.

256 pages

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Dark

Lou is autistic. He is high-functioning, but autistic nonetheless. He has a job, lives independently in his own apartment, and has his own car. He has built a life for himself; perhaps not one that others understand as 'normal', but a life that suits him, for the most part.  Sometimes he wishes he were 'normal', but then he wonders if being 'normal' would be better.

Then he is offered an experimental 'cure' for his 'condition'. If he takes the chance for this treatment, he will be just like everyone else. But would he still be himself? Will he still love classical music, and the shapes and colors and patterns he sees in his mind - that 'normal' people can't see? He has to decide whether to have a surgery that might completely change the way he sees the world, and the very essence of who he is.

Written in first person, this is an interesting study in the inner workings of the mind of someone who can't express himself in 'normal' ways.

378 pages

"Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History's Great Personalities" by Claudia Kalb

This excellent book covers the mental illnesses and/or personality disorders of 12 very famous people:  Marilyn Monroe (borderline personality disorder), Howard Hughes (obsessive-compulsive disorder), Andy Warhol (hoarding), Princess Diana (bulimia), Abraham Lincoln (depression), Christine Jorgenson (transgender), Frank Lloyd Wright (narcissism), Betty Ford (alcoholism/drug addiction), Charles Darwin (anxiety), George Gershwin (hyperactivity), Fyodor Dostoevsky (gambling addiction), and Albert Einstein (Asperger's syndrome).  I love personality theory and found this book to be extremely engrossing and accessible with many sources and notes listed for each person, some of which I can't wait to read for a deeper understanding.  The author is not making diagnoses on her own (she's a journalist and editor) but used these many sources to paint a fascinating and usually compassionate portrait of these well known people.  I found all except the final two figures and their diagnoses to be engrossing, probably because I don't find gambling addiction and Asperger's syndrome to be all that interesting.  However, the fact that all of these people made great contributions to society while trying to deal with sometimes debilitating problems makes their accomplishments all the more remarkable.  (Except for Frank Lloyd Wright - he was just a huge jerk to everyone around him and probably could have achieved even more if not for his extreme narcissism.)  320 pages.

"Buzz" by E. Davies

Book 1 in the Riley Brothers series centers on Cameron Riley, a 23-year-old Canadian hockey player who is about to move up to the NHL when an unexpected heart condition forces him to give up the game.  He moves back to his hometown and meets Noah Clark, an art curator.  They hit it off right away, but Cameron fails to disclose to Noah that he was a standout hockey recruit or that he has a worrisome heart problem.  When Noah organizes a hockey-themed art exhibition, Riley's secret threatens to be exposed.

This was a novel with a lot of potential, but Cameron's behavior didn't make much sense to me.  First, I thought he gave up his life of hockey too easily.  He gets dizzy and faints when his heart beats too quickly, but instead of doing everything he can to get it fixed ASAP, he just gives up and buys a house in his hometown without any prospects of a full-time job.  I also didn't understand why he kept his heart condition from Noah.  I will read the second book in the series because I liked the characters (Noah is sweet and a little anxious) and am hopeful that it will be an improvement.  302 pages (Kindle edition).

"The Invasion of Tork" by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Tork is a homeless young man with green hair.  Adam is a handsome but cocky know-it-all who has been forced to volunteer at a homeless shelter.  Tork struggles with mental illness, but his intelligence and humor win over Adam and his bad attitude.  Well-written and moving in its depiction of Tork's problems, I'm looking forward to reading the sequel.  82 pages (Kindle edition).

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sydney’s older brother, Peyton, goes to jail after driving drunk and hitting a boy on a bike, leaving him paralyzed. Peyton is obviously guilty, and it’s not his first run in with the law, despite the fact that he comes from a family of means, in a seemingly pleasant community, attends a private school, and has the resources and parenting that other teenagers often lack. Basically, it seems like Peyton had a great life, until he decided to repeatedly screw it up, but every story runs deeper than that.

This is actually Sydney‘s story, and she’s unheard, ignored, and treated unfairly, based on the actions of her older brother, and despite the fact that she’s nothing like him.

Sydney is mad at her brother, whom she also loves, because he was so selfish and careless. She feels enormous guilt over the paralyzed teenager, as if she is somehow responsible for his suffering. To make matters worse, her mother tries to make the whole world revolve around Peyton, even after he goes to prison. She even goes so far as to make excuses for all his wrong-doings and try to shift the blame away from his poor choices.

This story is about how a few bad choices can have a lasting impact on a whole family, and it’s also about how the concept of unconditional love can be both a blessing and a curse

Pages: 432

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 Days99 Days by Katie Cotugno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that looks like it might be fun and carefree, and instead, it hurt almost the whole way through. The main character is likable but confused about who she is and what she wants. She makes many mistakes throughout, and it is so hard to travel with her through all of those.

I just wanted to reach into the book a few times and shake some sense into her, so she could be happier and not go down paths that were only going to cause more suffering. However, that’s a silly wish, as nobody reached into my teenage world and shook any sense into me when it came to relationships. Some people just learn things in the hardest of ways, and others have to repeat mistakes a few times, before they figure anything out. That’s kind of what this story is about.

Perhaps what I found most compelling was the ways in which this story calls attention to the double standards that often exist between genders.

Pages: 400

Soundless by Richelle Mead

SoundlessSoundless by Richelle Mead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought this YA fantasy story was fascinating, and I loved how different it was from Richelle Mead's other body of work. The way she handles her deaf characters and their interactions with the world, especially the one who regains hearing, was very intriguing.

I'm not sure why so many people dislike it, as it is well-written, though I confess that if you expected a story like VA, this is quite different. Personally, I thought it was a refreshing change of pace. I appreciated the diversity and variety, and I thought the story was fast-paced with a solid plot.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Sebastian Rudd a lawyer who defends the people most lawyers won’t touch. A case of murder in a boxing cage, and someone is accused of murdering two girls. Another great Grisham novel.

Audio:  11 hrs. 20 min.
Print:  371 pages

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron (Incarceron, #1)Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The concept is extremely unique: over half of a damaged society was imprisoned inside Incarceron, an artificial intelligence that is an ever-changing, sentient prison that acts as an entirely separate and self-sufficient world. 70 of the Sapienti who helped create Incarceron were imprisoned inside it as well, and the controlled society was supposed to repair morals and help save humanity.

Obviously, nothing worked out as planned, other than that Incarceron grew more and more powerful and restless. According to the warden, there is no way in or out of the prison, though one person claimed to have escaped from it.

The story is split into 2 POVs: Finn, a seventeen-year-old boy who is inside Incarceron, but he can only remember the past 3 years of his life, as if he didn’t exist before the age of 15, and Claudia, the prison warden’s daughter, who lives in the original world.

This is one of those stories where the world is so unique, that you need to be paying good attention at every moment to get the most out of the book, which is why it was probably a bad idea for me to read this on audiobook during a frustrating commute. I let myself get distracted a few too many times and think I would have enjoyed the story more if I had paid better attention.

Overall, it’s a good read and an interesting blend between YA Fantasy and Sci-Fi. Some might even call it Steampunk.

Pages: 464

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout

Product DetailsThis year I decided to revisit some old friends, and read two Nero Wolfe mysteries  this month. For those of you too young to have had this pleasure, Nero Wolfe was a private detective in New York City. He is quite corpulent, is a gourmand, grows orchids in a greenhouse on the roof of his brownstone,  is a genius, and almost never leaves his house.

So how can he solve mysteries, you ask? Enter Archie Goodwin, his erstwhile assistant, who is almost as smart as Wolfe, and does all the legwork. In this book, Archie is chauffeuring Nero Wolfe to an exposition in upstate New York, where Wolfe is going to enter some of his orchids. However, shortly before reaching their destination the car has a blowout, thereby hitting a tree. Nero and Archie start across a pasture to a farmhouse to ask for help, and are cornered by a bull.

It turns out that the bull is a champion that was purchased by the owner of the farm, who owns a chain of fast food restaurants in NYC, and plans to barbecue it as a publicity stunt. However, before that can happen, murders ensue, and the detectives step in to solve the mystery.

A very pleasurable read.

287 pages

Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elisa is the divine bearer of the Godstone and owes an act of service to God, whether she wants to or not. There is only one bearer per century, and the job comes with responsibilities no other can understand, the probability of death at a very young age, unique friends (often more false than true), and enemies who want the stone for themselves, even if it means carving it right out of her belly.

As the 2nd princess, and at the age of only 16, she is wed to a foreign king in a strategic alliance. Her new husband, a widower with a 6-year-old son, has only to ensure her safety from those who would hurt the bearer, and in return, he gets additional troops from Elisa’s kingdom. Unfortunately, he is not so adept at keeping Elisa safe, and she is kidnapped by renegades who drag her deep into the dessert on a mission to attempt to save their war-ravaged country.

And that’s just the beginning!

I read book one, for the Truman committee, 5 years ago when it first came out, and I loved it then. However, I never got around to finishing the series, and so much time passed that I couldn’t really remember what happened, which is why I read it again now.

I loved this book just as much, or possibly more, than the first time through. This is an excellent start to a YA fantasy series, and I can’t wait to see what happens in book two.

Pages: 448

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2)The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love it when the second book in a trilogy doesn’t falter, ups the stakes, and makes me fall even more in love with the world and characters, and that is exactly what this book does.

Pages: 432

The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3)The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the kind of YA fantasy series that grows better every time you turn the page, until you have reached the end and can’t believe you have to part with the world and characters.

This is such an interesting, enjoyable, creative, and well-written series that I’m going to pick up Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson next, as I can’t imagine her latest novel won’t also be fantastic.

Pages: 448

PS: There are 3 novellas that go with this trilogy. They all occur prior to book one, but in this instance, I think it is best if you read them after you finish the trilogy and already love the characters, since they provide some more back story for your favorites.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

AfterworldsAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book weaves two separate stories together in an interesting fashion. The first story is of an 18-year-old girl who has just sold her YA novel for publication and moves to NYC, and the second story is her actual novel, called Afterworlds, which is a paranormal romance that occurs partly in the underworld.

This is a very clever story, but it never feels like it is trying to be clever. It’s perfect for book nerds, fangirls, and writers, because there is so much those individuals will be able to relate too. I loved the unique concept and the way the two stories weave together. I also appreciate the diversity of characters and how the story stayed true to the realities of being young and trying to strike out on your own, probably unprepared for the realities that will come.

Pages: 624

Friday, February 26, 2016

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Just. . . So. Much. Wow! A thousand stars. My mind was blown. This is the best science-fiction novel I’ve read in a long time!

The format is unique, offered as a series of collected reports, online conversations, video feeds, and research, after an extremely deadly occurrence between a small planetary civilization, a fleet of government ships, and corporate terrorists.

I listened to this on audiobook (at double speed, which added to the excitement), and I highly recommend that format, as it comes with different readers for different materials, as well as sound effects which add to the whole experience. However, I feel certain I will go back and read this in print, in the future, so I can study the style and writing concept further.

It’s YA, but I recommend this to anyone who loves Sci-Fi or space fantasy, or anyone who is genre flexible and likes to try new and interesting books.

Written by: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Narrated by: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Lincoln Hoppe, Jonathan McClain
Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins, Unabridged Audiobook

Pages: 608

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Panic by Lauren Oliver

PanicPanic by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Concept: The graduating seniors of a small town play a high stakes risk game, called Panic, to win a large jackpot.

This book has some issues and plot holes. You will have to suspend your concept of reality a bit further than normal for contemporary fiction. However, despite all that, I always make sure I attempt to come to fiction with a willingness to believe all lies and concepts, and I did find I was fascinated with the story overall. It pressed forward with a fast-pace which probably helped me shrug off or overlook some of the minor plot holes and inconsistency with characters and character behavior.

The biggest bummer, by far, was the almost complete lack of character growth, right up to the very end. I guess it makes a point about how some people can’t or don’t change, and others need to be saved from themselves. I don’t think it intended to make that point, but that was my personal takeaway, based on the failure of some of my favorite characters to wake up and stop making idiotic and/or selfish decisions.

Pages: 432

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

Anatomy of a MisfitAnatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I confess, I went into this book with a lackluster attitude, and I came out from the experience extremely impressed. If you are easily offended by mean girl behaviors and snarky commentary, this book is not for you. If you can separate the thoughts and behaviors of characters from the opinions of the author, and can accept some diabolical behaviors in the name of character development and growth, you will probably fall in love with this novel. It has so much voice I wanted to hug the book, but since it was on my phone, that would have only been awkward. For everyone.

There’s something shocking and terribly upsetting that happens in this book, so don’t let the carefree, funny storytelling style distract you from the fact that the story later intends to rip your heart out and stomp on it.

Pages: 336

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fallen Series by Lauren Kate

Fallen (Fallen, #1)Fallen by Lauren Kate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a decent read that kept me turning the pages. I liked it overall. It’s extremely romance-centric, which normally suits me fine, but I just wished for a tiny bit more in terms of plot, conflict, resolution, and world building.

I went on to read the rest of the series, but if I had to pick among the many series that deal with fallen angels, this would be about halfway down the list. The writing is good, overall. If supernatural romance is high on your list of favorite genres, then you probably won’t want to miss this. If you crave an angel story with a bit more action and serious conflict, choose The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare or Angelfall by Susan Ee.

Pages: 480

Torment (Fallen, #2)Torment by Lauren Kate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This felt a bit repetitive and angsty, and trust me, I’m all about the angst. I guess I feel like this series is dragging things out too much. I kind of wish book one and two had been condensed and combined into one, and I think it would have made a much better start to the series, as a whole.

That being said, I still like enough things about the book to continue on in the series.

Pages: 480

Passion (Fallen, #3)Passion by Lauren Kate

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think book three definitely upped the stakes, and I enjoyed it the most so far.

Pages: 448

Fallen in Love (Fallen, #3.5)Fallen in Love by Lauren Kate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a decent novella, and if you are interested in the side characters, you will get to know them a lot better through this novella. It’s very Valentine’s Day specific and shifts between different new and old couples. I like 2 of the stories far better than the other 2. There is an attempt to draw the separate stories together, but it felt a bit jagged for me.

Pages: 224

Rapture (Fallen, #4)Rapture by Lauren Kate
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is nothing wrong with this final book. It should have been an exciting conclusion for me, but for some reason, I kind of felt like I wished it would just end already. I think maybe the series, as a whole, drug on for a bit longer than my interest and attention span did.

However, it’s well-written and true to what it is, so someone who absolutely loves romance-centric paranormal reads will probably fare better with this than I did. The plot and conclusion are interesting. I think I just grew a bit tired of the world and how drawn out everything was. I think I needed something more to continue to stay interested through four books, but I am not sure what, exactly.

Pages: 480

Suicide Squad Vol 2: Basilisk Rising by Adam Glass

In Suicide Squad Vol 2: Basilisk Rising by Adam Glass we learn that there is a traitor on the squad who is trying to sabotage them and get them killed. The traitor is also trying to kill Amanda Waller, the commander of the group.

The book is action packed from beginning to end and there are a lot of flashbacks and flash forwards. These are fairly easy to follow as the colors in each pane change based on which direction time is moving in. There is a purplish color to each pane for flashbacks and more of a gold tint to flash forwards. There is also text to indicate the direction of time.

My favorite character, Harley Quinn, isn't featured as prominently in this volume, but she does still leave an impression as she recovers from the events of the first volume. I definitely plan to read the other three volumes in this series before I start the Harley Quinn comics. I also plan to watch the Suicide Squad movie that comes out next month. 192 pp.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Remembrance by Meg Cabot

*Spoilers below*
Summary: "All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva). But when she's hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn't all that's coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn't only because she's a mediator, gifted with second sight. What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you? If you're a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass. From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child to ghosts of a very different kind--including Paul Slater, Suze's ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself--Suze isn't sure she'll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night. Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past--including one she found nearly impossible to resist--strike first?"

Remembrance is the newest installment of the popular teen Mediator series by Meg Cabot, and I never want this series to end. Meg Cabot should continue writing this series, and only this series forever! As this is an adult version of the teen series, Remembrance contained more mature themes that I really connected with. I love that Meg Cabot is continuing these series (Princess Diaries & Mediator) as I grow older; Mia and Suze have grown up with me! 

388 pages

Proposal: A Mediator Novella by Meg Cabot

Summary: Proposal is a small e-novella that preludes the 7th installment, Remembrance, of the Mediator series. I bought it on my Kindle for $2, and it was the perfect Valentine's Day story. Like the Princess Diaries series, Meg Cabot has continued her popular teen Mediator series with a young-adult installment. In this book, we catch up with Suze as a young adult while she's in graduate school, and her life is as crazy as always for someone who speaks to the dead.

**Spoilers for those who haven't read the series below**

It was so nice to catch up with Suze and Jesse and to see what they've been up to since the last book of the original Mediator series (I need to re-read those asap!). 

Suze continues to be hard-core, hilarious and self-reliant. Jesse has finally become the doctor he always wanted to be, and he is as swoon-worthy as ever. I kind of miss his ghostly interactions with Suze though. 

144 pages

The Program Series by Suzanne Young

The Program (The Program, #1)The Program by Suzanne Young   (BOOK 1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When suicide becomes an epidemic among teenagers, Sloane and James have to play by the unspoken rules, every second, in order to stay out of The Program:

1. Don't cry. Ever.
2. Feel nothing or at least appear not to have any real or strong emotions.
3. Attend all assigned therapy and say only what is expected, never the truth.
4. Never answer the daily suicide quiz questions truthfully. There's only one set of right answers, and everybody knows it.

Basically, to survive, teenagers must live in a world of lies, or they will get sent to The Program, which will recondition them by removing their past, including complete memories of people and life events, before returning them to the world empty, numb, and "cured." When a best friend goes into The Program, a complete stranger comes back out. This is obviously all for the teens benefit, in order to keep them safe from harm and preserve future generations.

I had no idea what this was about when I started reading, and at first I was extremely skeptical. However, this story blew me away. The concept was unexpected, and the way the story unfolds was fascinating. I spent half the book being indignant and the rest of it being stressed out and worried, so it's the kind of book that demands an emotional investment.

Pages: 432

The Treatment (The Program, #2)The Treatment by Suzanne Young     (BOOK 2)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book two and the final, official book in the series, though there is a short novella that follows, and there are now two books the precede this series.

This was a good finale overall, but I didn't like it quite as much as book one. I don't know if it's just me lately, but I felt like this ending was too abrupt for me. It's not that the story is short. It's more about the way it all gets wrapped up. It's very fast, sudden, and unexpected, and then the story just breezes forward to address people's lives in the after phase.

I guess I wanted a bit more of a climax, but instead, we reached the point where the peak of the story should exist and there was no big bang. Instead, the story just sheared off from the last high point before the climax, to the falling action that ties up loose ends and finalizes a story. Personally, I wanted a big bang up of a conclusion, with gradually decreasing tension until the story was wrapped up, but this book was missing the high point, which felt like a bit of a letdown after all that reading.

Despite that, I still enjoyed the book and series as a whole.

Pages: 368

The Recovery (The Program, #2.5)The Recovery by Suzanne Young   (NOVELLA, BOOK 2.5)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This 2.5 novella isn't bad, but it's not necessary. It's not adding anything to the story line or characters, and it's not that much fun to read. If you want to watch a character spend more time feeling like a crappy person for past decisions, then go ahead and read it. By the time book two ended, I had seen and heard enough of that already, so this was just excess that didn't do much for me.

My favorite part was probably the exploration of the growing friendship between James and Realm, which was actually interesting and almost sweet, in the strangest sort of way.

Had the story shown some more character growth, I might have been a bit more interested, but it felt like the story was a lot more of the same stuff I already knew and had already heard. The funny part, is that it deals with a lot of dark, twisty emotions, which normally fascinates me, but this just did not pull me in and felt very repetitive.

Pages: 78

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Saint Bridgid's Bones, a Celtic Adventure by Philip Freeman

This historical fiction with a mild mystery is set during the time of transition just after St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, when Christian and pagan ways were very much side by side and lords and kings tried to gain favor with both sides.  The story follows Sister Dierdre, a young nun of Saint Brigid's monastery, who is tasked with finding who has stolen the relics of their patron, Saint Bridged.  The relics are needed to draw pilgrims to the monastery with their donations, or the monastery will not survive.  Freeman populates his story with several colorful characters; who are not shy about discussing their sexual urges.  Sister Dierdre is no recluse, and is not shy about using subterfuge in her mission to find the relics.  Excellent feel for this period in Ireland.  224 pages.  

The Girl in the Ice; a Konrad Simonsen Thriller by Lotte and Soren Hammer

This is the second novel featuring Konrad Simonsen, a sharp but somewhat jaded Danish detective.  The novel begins with the discovery of a gruesome murder, a female victim who was strangled and buried in the ice in Greenland, who is only discovered because of melting due to global warming.  This victim's discovery leads Simonsen and his unit to reexamine some earlier cases, and a chase for a very psychotic serial killer ensues.  This is fast-paced, with good plot twists.  While set in Denmark, there is not very much feeling for the locale.  Translated, 435 pages.

The Life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo

I had heard a lot of buzz about this small book, about a different approach to 'tidying up.'  Kondo proposes that the first step in 'tidying' is to declutter by going through ALL of your possessions, from clothes and books to photos, papers, the junk drawer and your garage, and strip down to just the essentials.  There are two purposes here.  The first, it is much more pleasant and less stressful to live in an organized, 'tidy' space.  The second is that by going through this process, you will realize what is most important to you, and gain the insights needed to make big changes in the course of your life - that's the 'life-changing' part.

While this method has some unorthodox aspects, the main concept of going through the whole home within a short period of time, over 2 or 3 months, would be trans-formative and very cleansing.  Overall, I found that there was a lot of repetition in the book, which is not much more than a long journal article.  Some of the advice is a bit dangerous.  For example, she advises to discard almost all papers, from credit card statements through  appliance manuals.  That could be problematic if you are ever up for a tax audit, or need to file an insurance claim.  There are better sources to guide on what household papers need to be kept.  Good if you need inspiration for spring cleaning.  Translated from the Japanese, 204 pages

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Meant to BeMeant to Be by Lauren Morrill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is adorable. I mean, come on. It has all the perfect elements:

A class trip to London
the rule-bound, grade-obsessed girl gets paired up as a travel buddy with the popular class clown
a mysterious, British love interest
a whole lot of mistakes and mishaps
a story with so much voice that I didn't want to put it down

= Adorable.

Pages: 304

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May VarySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is emotionally complicated. Alice is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, and she convinces Harvey, her best friend, who she is also in love with, to help her right all the wrongs before she dies.

However, righting wrongs for Alice is as much about punishing people and getting revenge as it is about giving people or herself hope. In a lot of moments, Alice isn't a likable character, and she knows it. She is aware that her personality can be harsh or irritating, and her actions can be hurtful. She just doesn't know how to both be true to herself and be someone more likable. I think it's this part of the story that I related to the most.

Another thing I really like is that the story shifts POVs throughout, from Alice to Harvey, and the story is told in both THEN and NOW, giving us 4 different perspectives to help pull the story together and explain who Alice and Harvey really are. It shows us who they are both separate and together and also before her diagnosis, during her illness, and then after.

Pages: 352

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

The Beginning of EverythingThe Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this story up, because I loved Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. I enjoyed this as well, mostly due to the interesting characters. It's a bittersweet story about a high school golden boy who suffers a tragedy, after which his whole world shifts.

There are some surprises along the way, but the ending felt too abrupt for me. It didn't show the extent of the character growth I had hoped for the whole novel. Still, overall, this is a good story.

Pages: 352

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger LilyTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is a retelling of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, and what they were to each other, before Wendy.

While I found the whole story interesting, it did take some time for it to finally sink its hooks into me, but by the time it did, I couldn't put the book down. It built towards moments, points, and emotions so gradually, almost imperceptibly. At first, this worried me. I thought maybe the story didn't have enough direction, but it turns out that I was wrong and just had to wait for it all to come together.

The concept seems like it might be light, fun, or carefree, but I found it to be so much heavier. It left me drowning in melancholy, but I like a story with some darkness and emotional depth.

Pages: 304

The Great Circus Train Wreck of 1918 by Richard Lytle

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Many train lines were using the hub in this area.  A sleeping engineer crashes into a traveling circus train.

Audio:  3 hrs. 6 min.
Print: 109 pages

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this concept, and the writing is solid and creative, as it always is with Patrick Ness. It took a bit of time to settle into the concept, but I appreciated the characters from almost the first moment. This story made a lot of interesting points, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. I was hoping for something just a bit more, but I can't put my finger on what. Overall, I enjoyed it and am glad I read it.

The Concept: This story is about a group of teens who aren't the chosen ones. They live in a world full of chaos and teens who have special powers, are supernatural creatures, or have been chosen to save the world. This story isn't about those kids. It's about the rest of the ordinary teens who just live there, inside the world of chaos, and try to have a normal life of their own, despite all the unexplained phenomenon, explosions, creatures, and mishaps occurring around them.

Pages: 336

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: "When Lauren and Ryan's marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes. Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren's ideas about monogamy and marriage."

After I Do is another of Taylor Jenkins Reid's amazing books, and I enjoyed it very much. It is not quite as magical as Maybe in Another Life, but its realism spoke to me. Reid is an excellent story-teller. She makes you feel intense emotions and second-guess your entire life with just a few sentences. Her words are simple but very powerful. I can't wait to read more of her work. 

336 pages

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

None of the AboveNone of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Right after being voted homecoming queen, Kristin makes a trip to the doctor that rocks her world. She finds out that she is intersex, and before she can even begin to understand what that means for herself, her entire high school finds out as well. She feels like a girl, looks like a girl, and was raised as a girl. The doctors say most intersex individuals identify as a girl, but her chromosomes and the addition and subtraction of certain, expected internal organs point towards male, which is shocking.

Many of her classmates and members of the community react with fear and ignorance, including Kristin's boyfriend, but there are a few who still try to treat her like she's the same girl.

I loved many things about this story. I have given it 4 stars, instead of 5, as there was something that happened near the end that I felt took away from the story more than it added to it. I wanted the ending to be less about pounding in the final point and more about wrapping up Kristin's journey, but overall, it's an excellent read that I hope promotes more understanding, patience, kindness, and tolerance in the world.

Pages: 352

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

Extraordinary MeansExtraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Concept: A group of teenagers are sent to a sanatorium/boarding school to try to overcome a mutated strain of tuberculosis that cannot be treated. This move is to both help them grow well and keep them isolated from the rest of the population.

Shortly after failing breakfast and learning there is nothing he could do to ever fail a real class, Lane gets caught up with a rebel group of sick teens and falls for Sadie, despite the fact that neither may ever leave the sanatorium.

I adored this book from start to finish, so I read it in one sitting.

Pages: 336

Monday, February 15, 2016

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars AboveStars Above by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you loved the Lunar Chronicles series, you won't want to miss the collection of novellas.

There are 5, brand new, thoroughly enjoyable, complete novellas that present delightful looks at different moments in time for our most beloved characters. This collection also includes the 3 novellas that were previously released for free on WattPad. The different between the 5 and the 3 is that I always felt like all the freebies were good, but 2 of the 3 were teaser novellas and ended abruptly. These 5 new novellas do a better job of standing alone as individual stories, and I really enjoyed that.

Pages: 400

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe (Luxe, #1)The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely Gossip Girls meets Manhattan in 1899. It's all drama, secrets, gossip, fashion, and high society scandal. I enjoyed the time period, and the story was a refreshing change of pace.

Pages: 464

Rumors (Luxe, #2)Rumors by Anna Godbersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good second book, as it definitely increases the scandal and drama, which is what makes the series work.

I keep hoping the characters will grow a bit deeper and become more three dimensional. Sometimes, they feel more like caricatures of high society types, rather than like real people with complex emotions and hopes. There are hints of what ticks beneath the surface of every girl, but the story never digs down deep inside of those moments. Part of that is the light, airy nature of these stories as fast-paced, flirty, and full of scandal, but I want more depth.

Pages: 448

Envy (Luxe, #3)Envy by Anna Godbersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's more secret, lies, gossip, scandal, and drama, as expected.

I both like and hate that I zoned out on some chapters of this book and still easily picked right back up with the story, without rewinding my audiobook. The plot moves forward, but it's never so complicated or fast that I can't jump into the story at almost any point and quickly figure out what is going on with the characters.

It's almost like a TV show. I might not want to miss an episode, but if I do, I can still watch the next one and catch back up, especially considering my brain can fill in what I missed, based on what I know of the characters and story line: drama, lies, scandal, gossip, fashion, high society hoopla, and more secrets.

Pages: 405

Splendor (Luxe, #4)Splendor by Anna Godbersen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What? Noooooo! :(

I typically accept a way an author wants to end their book, whether it aligns with my hopes for the characters or not, but it is not okay to go and change the personalities, hopes, dreams, and desires of the characters in the final few chapters. You can't spend 4 books telling me who people are, and then just change it at the last second to create some flip, disappointing, untrue to character, and completely unsatisfying ending.

I mean, you can, but I can't be okay with that. I don't care about an HEA, but I do care when something happens that is so out of scope and unbelievable that I can't even find a place for it inside the story I thought I understood for 4 novels.

Now, I'm completely disgruntled. If this was how it was going to end all along, there should have been more signs of it coming and more groundwork laid, because the way it happened seems completely ridiculous. I actually feel furious, which I can recognize as irrational, but to lead people on for so long and then serve them that. Ugh! Ack! Blargh!

Pages: 400

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Darkest Minds Trilogy by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds is a YA Dystopian/Sci-Fi series, consisting of 3 novels, and 2 novellas, in which children over the age of 10 suddenly develop special abilities that adults fear. Many of the children are killed or rounded up by the government and put into camps that rival my worst nightmares.

There are a ton of YA books in this genre, but this series definitely stands out. It's solid and captivating from start to finish.

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intense. Well-written. Fantastic!

The world is a fascinating mess, but it's the characters who reeled me in, dug hooks into my heart, and refused to let go.

Pages: 528

In Time (The Darkest Minds, #1.5)In Time by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novella will blend all of your emotions and then shred your heart. If pureed hopes and dreams are your cup of tea, then don't skip this one.

 Pages: 91

Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, #2)Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love these characters. I hate how messed up their world is, but it definitely makes for a captivating read.

 Pages: 544

Sparks Rise (The Darkest Minds #2.5)Sparks Rise by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a terrible, crushing, soul destroying, emotionally wounding story, and I loved it just as much as I hated it.

Pages: 112

In The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds, #3)In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a satisfying conclusion to an excellent trilogy. I've read too many books lately where the characters fall just a bit flat, but these are the kind of characters I want to meet in person and have a long talk with. The plot is also excellent and action packed, and the book, overall, is very emotional.

Pages: 592