Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Bullet by Mary Louise Kelly

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Thirty year old murder is solved and revenge is enjoyed in France with food and wine; she may not be caught, hopefully.

Audio:  10 hours 54 minutes
Print:  384 pages

"Him" by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Jamie and Wes first met when they went to an elite hockey camp one summer for six weeks when they were 13.  They become best friends and see each other only at camp for the next five years, but they have a falling out after that final camp before heading off to different colleges to spend the next four years becoming top notch hockey players.  When their teams make the hockey final four their senior year, they renew their friendship and eventually return to their summer camp as instructors.  What happens there changes the future of both of these pro hockey prospects.

This was a great story with two strong and likable lead characters.  Jamie has worked at the hockey camp every summer in college and has come to enjoy teaching kids the ins and outs of hockey.  Wes is one of the top picks for the NHL, but his sexuality may cost him his future as a player.   Secondary characters were helpful in pushing along the action, too.  Good stuff, and there's a sequel!  360 pages.

"The Troll Whisperer" by Sera Trevor

Oscar works at a sewage plant and has such a disgustingly dirty apartment that he's about to be evicted.  He's also an Internet troll who does it to relieve stress.  Noah is a sweet college student who lives in the same apartment complex.  They eventually meet and hit it off, but Oscar has many secrets, one of which is that he trolled a video that Noah put online.   How will Noah react when he finds out?

Oscar is based on Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch, living among trash, cranky, and mean.  He has a lot of issues to work through in this novella.  I didn't like Oscar at first but he grew on me as he pushed himself to face his problems.  Noah was a cute character who's tougher than he first seemed.  115 pages (Kindle edition).

Mr and Mrs. Doctor By Julie Ironuanya

Mr. and Mrs. DoctorIn her debut novel Julie Iromuanya presents Ifi and Job, a Nigerian couple in an arranged marriage, who begin their lives together in Nebraska with a single, outrageous lie: that Job is a doctor, not a college dropout. Unwittingly, Ifi becomes his co-conspirator—that is until his first wife, Cheryl, whom he married for a green card years ago, reenters the picture and upsets Job's tenuous balancing act. The story is charming; it is funny, yet sad as these African immigrants seek to carve out a life for themselves in unfamiliar surroundings.  They, along with the reader, learn that people everywhere are not so very different when it gets down to it. 
288 pages

How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, By Louise Penny

How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelChristmas is approaching, and in Québec it's a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn't spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.
As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna's friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?
432 pages

The Moor's Account, By Laila Lalami

The Moor's Account When one studies the history of North America, the most common telling begins on the Eastern seaboard with the English settlers, however, the Spanish were among the first European adventurers to explore the North, Central, and South American continents, and among them were most certainly enslaved Africans.  Laila Lalami presents the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. The slave of a Spanish conquistador, Estebanico sails for the Americas with his master, Dorantes, as part of a danger-laden expedition to Florida. Within a year, Estebanico is one of only four crew members to survive. It is an engrossing tale that gives a voice to one of the millions who have previously had no names, no culture, no voice.

As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller. His tale illuminates the ways in which our narratives can transmigrate into history—and how storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival.
336 pages

A Trick of the Light, Chief Inspector Gamache, Book 7, By Louise Penny

A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Gamache, Book 7) (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel)
"Hearts are broken," Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. "Sweet relationships are dead."
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light. Where nothing is as it seems. Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart. And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light?
368 pages

The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, By Louise Penny

The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelChaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. Everybody goes to Olivier's Bistro―including a stranger whose murdered body is found on the floor. When Chief Inspector Gamache is called to investigate, he is dismayed to discover that Olivier's story is full of holes. Why are his fingerprints all over the cabin that's uncovered deep in the wilderness, with priceless antiques and the dead man's blood? And what other secrets and layers of lies are buried in the seemingly idyllic village?
386 pages

Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, By Louise Penny

Product DetailsIn this Inspector Gamache novel, author Louise Penny changes up the formula a bit.  While Inspector Gamache is in Quebec City for Winter Carnivale, his second in command Jean-Guy is in Three Pines continuing to unofficially investigate the murder from the previous story, A Brutal Telling. The murder in Quebec City involves an amateur historian-anthropologist and gives the reader an understanding of Quebec history and the Anglo French divide.  Jean-Guy is working to find conclusive evidence that Olivier, the Bistro owner, is either guilty or not.  The break from the usual procedure is refreshing, for it introduces other aspects of both main characters' personalities as well as solves two complex murders.  I highly recommend this series.
400 pages

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill

Image result for the illegal by lawrence hill
Lawrence Hill is a fine writer, however, this is not one of his better works.  It is the story of an exceptional runner, Keita Ali, who is from a fictitious country that seems to almost breed exceptional runners.  His father is an investigative journalist (oh, and he is a also a character from another of Hill's works, but there is no reason for this recycled character, for there is no thread between the books).  The father is brutally murdered by the evil rulers of the fictitious country because of some secret investigation he was involved in.  Keita is forced to flee the nation before the cardboard cutout evil rulers get their hands on him.  There is no explanation as to why they are so interested in the Ali family.  Keita flees to a neighboring nation, where he is befriended by an odd assortment of characters who provide him with shelter, decent food and health care, and help him to enter one race after another in order to earn his way to clearing his father's tarnished name.  I kept hoping something would evolve, which would answer some of my questions, and most especially the largest one, which was why I kept reading.  But I did, if for no other reason than to warn unsuspecting readers who might be familiar with the author not to bother with this book.
400 pages

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

The Serpent KingThe Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book arrived in my March 2016 OwlCrate Box, and I'm pleased it did. Otherwise, I might not have been aware of it or gotten around to reading it for months, or even years. This story is just too good to ignore for that long.

Dill lives in a small town, in the bible belt, and everything sucks. He's the only child of a Pentecostal minister who has been imprisoned--no, not for handling dangerous snakes or making his congregation drink poison to show their faith, but for possessing pornographic materials depicting minors--and a religious fanatic mother who blames Dill for the family's hardships, severe debt, and poverty. Dill's Dad is notorious, and both the ex-church community and the local community are equal parts angry, ignorant, scared, and judgmental.

The beautiful part of this story is that Dill has two very unexpected friends, and the three of them together make this one of the most interesting, lovable, and heartbreaking contemporary novels I've read all year (and in case that doesn't sound convincing, I've read 118 books so far this year, almost all YA).

It's told in 3 POVs, including Dill, and his two friends, Travis and Lydia. Each has a unique voice and different perspectives on life, their small town, and what the future holds.

I love these characters, and I wish I could have known them when I was 17. I love this story, and it left all my edges raw and frayed. I love the writing, because the way Jeff Zenter builds a story, sculpts the setting, and makes you understand and fall in love with the characters in just a page, a sentence, or even a word, is incredible. It's also different from almost everything else I've read so far this year.

This book gets 5 stars on Goodreads and Amazon, but it's 10 stars in my heart.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology" by Caroline Paul, illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton

This very cute true story covers the adventures of Tibby, a cat who wonders off for five weeks, worrying her human, Caroline Paul, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a plane crash.  She and her girlfriend, illustrator MacNaughton, post fliers and comb the neighborhood but cannot locate him.  However, he wanders back home one day fatter and sleeker than when he left.  He also won't eat his usual food, so Paul knows he was being fed somewhere.  She tries two tech devices to track his gallivanting when he leaves again:  a tiny camera attached to his collar and then a GPS device.  Will one of them give her a clue about where he goes and who feeds him?

I really liked this book for several reasons:  amusing writing, wonderful watercolors of the cats (Tibby has a twin sister, Fibby), and an entertaining adventure.  Read more about Tibby and his adventures here.  Highly recommended for cat lovers!  176 pages.

The Red Queen Series By Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel really excited about all the excellent YA fantasy novels that have come out in the past year or two. I also feel like a broken record, because I've been on a mission to read as many of them as possible the past few months. That puts me in a bind, because what can I say about this novel that won't sound like something I've already said about some of the others? I think what it boils down to is that this book deserves all 5 stars, and I'm impatient to get my hands on book 2. Also, I am jealous that today's teens have so many great stories at their fingertips, because all I remember reading by the time I reached high school was classics and adult novels.

 Pages: 388

 Queen Song (Red Queen, #0.1)Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was fascinating and heart-wrenching. If you want to know more about Cal's mom, read this novella.

I read it after the Red Queen, which seemed appropriate, even though it is numbered 0.1 I think it helped to already have an understanding of the world and characters before I read this novella, so if you're not sure, wait and read it after The Red Queen, which is book 1.

 Pages: 55

Steel Scars (Red Queen, #0.2)Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 It took me some time to warm up to this novella, but in the end, I really enjoyed it and was glad I took the time to read it. This one is about Farley, the face of the rebellion. I also recommend waiting to read this novella until after you have read The Red Queen, despite the numbering. Chronologically, the story starts before Book 1, but I believe you'll want to understand the world before you dive into this. 

Pages: 77

The Testing Series by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing Guide (The Testing, #0.5)The Testing Guide by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novella is free, which is great.

It doesn't really add a lot in terms of the world or story, but if you just want to read a little bit more, it's good for that purpose. I typically love novellas but don't find this one to be a necessary read. If you are a die hard fan of the story, then downloaded it for free. There's nothing to lose, so you can give it a try and decide for yourself.

 Pages: 46

The Testing (The Testing, #1) The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great story, and I enjoyed the audio version a lot. I've had it on my Kindle for years, and I was afraid to start it. I thought maybe it would fall short of my hopes, but it definitely doesn't. I judged it unfairly. I mean, I'm not obsessed with it on a Hunger Games, UTNS, or Shatter me level, but I enjoyed the whole book from start to finish.

Cia gets chosen for The Testing, but it's not the happy, positive thing the government would lead her to believe. In fact, not even half the candidates make it through the testing, and a large number of those who don't make it through die in a brutal or gruesome way, while testing officials stand by, doing nothing to help. Some of those who survive the final test are chosen to go on to train at the University, to one day serve as leaders of the broken down country.

Overall, I enjoyed the excitement and surprises, and Cia is a strong and interesting lead character with a great supporting cast.

 Pages: 352

Independent Study (The Testing, #2)Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lately, I've been nervous starting the 2nd book in any series, because sometimes it's great. Other times, they break my heart, not because they're so emotional but because they fall a bit flat. This book does not fall flat.

It's a great addition to the series and moves the overall story forward in a way that continues to be interesting. There is good character growth and development, and I really enjoyed some of the new characters. I immediately picked up book 3, which is always a good sign.

 Pages: 336

Graduation Day (The Testing, #3)Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a satisfying ending to a good series. Book 3 shows more of Cia's internal struggles, which added another level of interest, though it occasionally felt repetitive.

There's still plenty of action, but my only real (and minor) complaint is that it is very confusing, right up to the end, in regards to who is on what side. I know that's intentional and serves the plot, but the only thing I struggled with a bit was that I didn't know who I was routing for, besides Cia. People I thought were good weren't. People I thought were bad weren't. I usually like that, but there were just so many people who weren't sorted to one side or the other, and kept flipping back and forth, that by the last quarter of the book, instead of being intriguing, I kind of felt overwhelmed and exhausted.

I just wanted to have a few people I knew I could hold onto and believe in. So I guess you could say there was too much mystery or too many twists for me. I don't think I've ever complained about that before, so that's a new one. Overall, I still really enjoyed this whole series, and if you like this genre, you should definitely read it or listen to the audiobook.

Pages: 304

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been going back through LOTR again, listening on audiobook this time. This one ends at a point that reminds me just how much I love Sam.

I've been surprised how many nods J.K. Rowling actually made to Tolkien in the Harry Potter series. I don't even know if the references and choices were conscious or not, but I kind of love that. I've been picking up on little things here and there, which is fun. I didn't specifically realize there were any shared references between the two, because I haven't read LOTR since I finished the HP series. However, I kind of do think all great fantasy novels have something, on some level, in common.

Pages: 352
Audible Audio Edition
Narrated by Rob Inglis
Listening Length: 16 hours and 40 minutes
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Recorded Books

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1)Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book arrived with my very first Uppercase Book Box in March 2016, and I was really excited to receive it. In fact, it's such a good YA fantasy novel that I read it through in one day. I can't wait to read the next book, but it's not because this ends on a cliff-hanger or fails to have an ending, like some novels. It's a very good story, all on it's own. I just want more of the world, as soon as possible.

Amani, the main character, is fierce and fiesty, and she lives in a world that's not kind towards women. This book is advertised as the Wild West meets Arabian Nights, and I think that's a solid comparison. The culture of this created world is deep, rich, and fascinating. There's tons of world building, but it's incorporated so gracefully into the story and plot that it never feels unnatural, forced, or confusing.

Throw in some serious conflict, almost constant adventure, a touch of magic, and a huge rebellion, and this book is just good, from start to finish. I'm really excited about how many great YA fantasy novels have been published in the past year. I just wish I didn't have to wait for all the sequels.

Pages: 320

Monday, March 28, 2016

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

November 9November 9 by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Colleen Hoover is brilliant. I think everyone should try one of her stories, and I don't care what category and genres you like best (this falls under New Adult Contemporary Romance). There's something about the way she tells a story that's magic. She comes up with fascinating concepts, like this one, where two people meet up every year, on November 9, for five years. The only catch is that they can't communicate with each other at all on the days and months between.

This is clever and funny, with a unique, non-linear format and a major twist. Basically, this story slayed me. Colleen Hoover pulls you into her worlds so fast and hard that I find it impossible to set her books down. They are an emotional roller coaster, and they're the kind of ride I'd wait in line all day long to get on.

I hate to generalize, but if you can't read a Colleen Hoover book and feel something, then it's possible that you are soulless. Please note: I have no background in medical practice or religious theology and definitely cannot scientifically prove the existence of souls. This review should not be taken as a statement of fact or even advice. I just want you to know that if you hate her novels, I will be concerned about your well-being on a very personal level.

Pages: 320

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been reading Tolkien for the past 20 years. This time around, I listened to the unabridged audio by Rob Inglis.

Tolkien had such a fascinating mind. He broke so many rules of today's publishing world, and yet, I still love his work and the worlds he created. I guess that means there will never be another like him, as any modern day Tolkien would be edited into something else, entirely. I can't decide how I feel about that, because some part of me does love the ways publishing and editing have changed over the years to keep up with modern times, interests, language, and readers. I guess this is partly how classics occur in the fist place...they mark a style and period in writing/editing history that can never be revisited, which may be both part blessing and part curse.

Regardless, I will always love Tolkien. His stories have a place in my heart and my memories. They always made it seem like it was okay to lose myself inside the worlds in my head, even when other people were frustrated by my daydreaming. He made it clear that there is no point at which someone can slip too far away into their imagination, and in fact, his ability to dwell in Middle-earth, for so many years, is what has made him so beloved.

Pages: 432

Audio Narrator: Rob Inglis
Listening Length: 19 hours and 11 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Recorded Books

Note: I listened at 1.5 speed, because I'm strange and impatient like that.  I often listen at 2X, but that was too fast for his accent and lilt. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

I don't think I can give this book a fair review. My full opinion rests on the third and final book, The Winner's Kiss, due to be published on March 29. If the third book pays off, struggling through the second book will have been worth it. That being said, it was quite the struggle. There is little action or plot development, and the "romance" between the two main characters is limited and forced. I kept thinking it would get better, but instead it only got worse. The author's writing style is strange: sometimes she adds inane details that you don't need, and then other times, she skims over the plot developments so much that you have to read between the lines. She sets up great story lines and heart-wrenching situations, but never fully delivers in a satisfying way.

405 pages

Monday, March 21, 2016

Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons by Denise Grover Swank

Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons picks up Rose's story, and continues in the goofiest ways possible. Although it wasn't as clever or charming as the first one, this sequel still had some laugh out loud moments. Rose's determination and tenacity shine brightly, and some fun, new characters are introduced. I hope they stick around!

397 pages

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The Accident SeasonThe Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was. . . unexpected, in a typically good sort of way. The story is different and very stylistic, which was interesting. I was fascinated by the concept of the accident season and unsure where this was headed, which held my attention.

Pages: 304

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's not that this YA paranormal story is bad. It's just not for me for a variety of reasons I won't elaborate on. I am definitely not going to continue with this series.

Also, it has one of the worst YA endings I've read in a long time. I am usually very open minded about endings and the author's prerogative, right up until the point in which the ending is nonexistent, which is the case in this book. Basically, someone took a machete to this story and hacked off the ending, because the story I read didn't even begin to have one, which was frustrating and reconfirmed my decision not to read on.

Pages: 416

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightThe Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This contemporary YA novel presents as a charming airport/travel romance, questioning the probability of love at first sight, but it has a surprising amount of depth, especially in regards to relationships between the main character and her parents.

I think I found the family drama more interesting than all the rest, and I even wish the story had addressed a few more of my questions about that. Oliver, Hadley's love interest, is appropriately funny and charming, with a good amount of emotional depth.

Pages :272

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

PI Bernie Little and his partner and dog, Chet, solve another mystery in Washington, D.C., helping his girlfriend. Bernie is not nearly as funny as Chet.

Audio:  9 hrs. 30 min.
Print:  306 pages

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Snow Like Ashes Trilogy by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is how YA fantasy should be written. If the world doesn't grab me by the throat and threaten to squeeze the life out of me with a dark magic that can rival or even exceed the good magic, then I probably am not invested in it the way I was with this story.

One of my favorite aspects of the fantasy genre, in general, is the internal struggle of characters trying to balance excessive power. I love to watch characters make hard choices and walk the fine line between good and evil, helpful and hurtful, necessary and excessive, privilege and sacrifice.

This story has the kind of characters I don't just want to read about, but instead want to journey with through any hardship.

Pages: 448

Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes, #2)Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This YA fantasy is a strong sequel to SNOW LIKE ASHES. I am desperate for book 3, just to spend a little bit more time in this world, with these incredible characters.

This is the kind of series that blanks out the world around you, and suddenly, you realize you just drove 50 miles on autopilot, while listening to the audio, and you don't recall a second of the car ride but can remember every second of the characters' journey.

Read with care. ;)

Pages: 496

Book 3, FROST LIKE NIGHT, will be released on September 20, 2016.

Monday, March 14, 2016

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brutal and gorgeous.

In an empire of harsh, martial law, a soldier is no freer than a slave, and both are disposable.

This YA fantasy is lush and epic, with an intense plot, disturbing twists, and strong characters.

The most upsetting part about reading a debut novel is that after I adore it, I can't run out and get my hands on other books by the author. . . yet.

Pages: 464

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)The Young Elites by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a solid story with an interesting premise (a plague results in teens developing special abilities, which they do not always use for good, which lead to an Inquisition, and to protest the government's genocide, a group of the powered teens forms to fight back), but something's off for me. I delayed in writing the review, because I thought I liked the story, on the whole, but now feel standoffish.

The more time that passes, the less I feel inclined to pick up book two, which has surprised me. It's been almost 2 weeks, and I have book 2 handy but have read 6 other books, rather than starting it.

There's something about this world that has kept me from being as excited as I wanted to be about this book. It's one of those that instead of wanting to hold it close, I'm holding it out at arm's length, and I can't decide if I want to be drawn in. I'd like to provide some logical explanation for what it is exactly that has caused me to step back, but I'm confused.

It might have something to do with the fact that I can't find a side I want to be on. I think each side is wrong and chooses to do terrible things, so I have no idea who I should be routing for. I'm disappointed in everyone's behaviors, not that I expect any of them to be perfect. Mistakes happen. I just find all the actions to be upsetting and depressing, so I can't root for anyone to win, as I don't trust anyone to do better in this screwed up world.

Also, while I find some of the characters fascinating, I don't really love any of them, so maybe that's why I am not anxious to continue reading their story. I can't seem to emotionally invest.

3.5 stars, but I've rounded up as it held my attention and had potential.

Pages: 384

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Clang" by E. Davies

Book two in the Riley Brothers series focuses on oldest brother Jackson, a blacksmith, and Chase, a tattoo artist.  They met in book one and start dating in this story.  They are opposites in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to their families.  Jackson lives next to both of his brothers and is still close to his parents.  Chase is in hiding from his family, who is extremely religious and punishes him for being gay.  When his abusive uncle locates him, Chase knows that he has to protect himself and his budding relationship with Jackson.

I liked both characters but could not get a real feel for what they looked like other than "muscular" (Jackson) and "willowy" (Chase).  The story was also quite anticlimactic.  I expected more from the conflict between Chase and his uncle.  As with the first book, the writing could have used tighter editing as the same adjectives were used multiple times in the same paragraph and sometimes the same sentence (like I just did!).  I wouldn't mind reading book three, which is the youngest brother's story, but only if it is free to purchase like books one and two were.  264 pages (Kindle edition).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black HolesMy Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was good and offered something a bit different from all the others that deal with the same topic (teen suicide). I have been a bit weary of this topic in YA novels lately, so I read this story at the encouragement of a friend.

In this novel, two teens meet at an online suicide website. Then they meet up in person and decide to become suicide partners, to help each other see through their intentions/wishes to die. The premise sounds upsetting, but I found a lot of the story to be interesting and hopeful.

The first 75% is beautifully written and captivating. The last 25% of the story was predictable, and for me, it was too easily resolved on all fronts for such a complex situation. At the same time, it also let some loose threads fly free, rather than wrapping them up after putting so much focus on them, which is why I dropped a star. This is not to suggest I hated the ending, because I don't. It was a solid ending to a good story. It's just wasn't wrapped up as well as I hoped it would be.

I'd still recommend it to other YA contemporary readers who are fascinated by heavy topics but like a good dose of hopeful moments.

Pages:  320

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger  (The Gold Seer Trilogy, #1)Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you ever played Oregon Trail growing up, then you need to run right out and read this book. This fantasy novel has many other great qualities, including interesting characters, social commentary on the historical time period, a touch of magic in a protagonist who has the ability to sense gold, and a terrible villain who murders, steals, enslaves, and covets without even a hint of remorse.

Anyone who loved Oregon Trail will find things to love in this dangerous adventure West, away from evil and towards gold. The concept alone is a chocolate cupcake filled with sweet cream, and the rest of the story is the frosting.

Pages: 448

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

In this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Doerr writes about the years leading up to and including WWII from the very personal perspective of two children who grow into their teens during the 1930's and 1940's.  Marie-Laure, who is blind, lives with her father in Paris, but evacuates with him when the Germans invade.  Her father helps her 'see' and navigate the world by building models of their neighborhood.  She is the embodiment of good and innocence, and has a great curiosity and love for learning. The orphan boy Werner, growing up in Germany, has a great knack for mechanical things, especially radios, that eventually takes him to an elite training school for German youth.  Following these two characters as they grow and develop allows Doerr to explore themes of the role of the individual in confronting evil.  I was most struck by his descriptions of how the average German citizens became entangled, little by little, in the promises and lies of Hitler's fascism.  Doerr is a master storyteller, and an expert at putting in the details of each scene to make it superbly real.  530 pages.

Eating on the Wild Side; the missing link to optimum health by Jo Robinson

This is an eye-opening book and will change the way you shop for food.  You may already know that the dark leafy lettuces have more nutrients than the light-colored varieties. But which apples have the most nutrients.  But did you know that our tendency to breed varieties of fruits and vegetables for higher sugar content often decreases the level of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals?  Robinson describes how our modern fruit and vegetable varieties were developed from their wild parents, often to withstand being stored for weeks before purchase.  She reviews the research on the most nutritious varieties, and provides lists to use when shopping, whether at the grocery store or farmer's market.  400 pages.

Atlantia by Ally Condie

AtlantiaAtlantia by Ally Condie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this YA paranormal/dystopian/fantasy/sci-fi story (I just realized how cross-genre this story is, which usually is compelling) about a community built under the ocean, but it fell flat for me. It ended up being different than my expectations, which is fine, but while I never quit reading, the story never lived up to my revised hopes.

The world was unique, though I had trouble buying into a few things. Most of the characters were under-developed, so I wanted to love and understand them but the story never let me get deep enough to truly invest. The protagonist was developed, but I still struggled to understand her and the choices she made.

Some things wrapped up too neatly to satisfy me, and others weren’t explained to my satisfaction. As I type, I am starting to suspect that this is one of those situations where I was the wrong reader for this book.

Pages: 320

The Cinderella Murder by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A cold case murder is brought back as a television crime program after 20 years to find the murderer.

Audio:  9 hours, 10 minutes
Print:  352 pages

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Starbound Trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have wanted to read this series for a while now, but I bumped it up the priority list after reading and loving the Illuminae files.

This book definitely delivers on the premise it promises when a luxury spaceline plummets from hyperdrive and crashes onto an unknown planet. There are only two known survivors, Tarver a poor military recruit who worked his way up the ladder to Major faster than expected, and Lilac, the daughter of one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the universe.

This book is one part intense sci-fi, one part space fantasy, one part survival story, one part stubborn, star-crossed lovers from different worlds collide in the worst of circumstances, and one part awesome!

Pages: 416

This Night So Dark (Starbound, #1.5)This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the story of Tarver’s rise to military fame, when he helps to stop mercenaries from completely destroying a research center and its scientists. If you love Lilac and Tarver and want the back story that is referenced several times throughout this trilogy, then read this novella.

Pages: 109

This Shattered World (Starbound, #2)This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 2 explores the many sides and viewpoints of a volatile situation among the local rebels, the military sent to enforce peace on a developing planet, and the corporation that has caused most of the headaches in the first place. Initially, each sides sees the issue in black and white, only focusing on their concerns and complaints, but it is the gray areas that become the most fascinating in this story.

It’s book two in the trilogy, but it’s a brand new story about two new and fascinating characters, Flynn, who is with the rebel terrorists, and Jubilee, who is an officer with the militia sent to keep the peace. Somehow, they know they have to find a middle ground between their people, or risk the destruction of an entire planet.

The story takes place in the same vast universe but on a brand new planet, and some of the issues, themes, and villains of book one play a role in this story as well. Tarver and Lilac make a brief appearance in this story, and Tarver actually plays a crucial role in the plot for a few chapters. It was fun to see them both again, but by the time they showed up in the story, I was so caught up in Flynn and Lee, and their desperate situation, that I barely had the emotional energy to be excited about a reappearance of my old favorites.

Pages: 416

Their Fractured Light (Starbound, #3)Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gideon, a hacker, and Sofia, a con artist, are the new and interesting characters you’ll be rooting for in book 3.

One of my favorite parts is when the story brings back Tarver and Lilac from book one and Jubilee and Flynn from book two. The six work together throughout the last half of this book, to try to attempt to stop the whispers from controlling and destroying the universe, and it’s great to see so many beloved characters together in the same story.

Pages: 432

Sunday, March 6, 2016

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After I DoAfter I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I decided to read this after reading Laura’s interesting review of it, and I am really happy that I did. You can pop over to her review for a summary, because I’m going to ignore that part and focus on the emotions and what the novel said to me.

This was a compelling story about what it takes to both make and break a relationship and how understanding yourself and knowing how to communicate can be more important than loving your partner. It also addresses how hate and frustration, while often attributed to the actions and behaviors of others, frequently stems from a place within, a place of selfishness and/or disappointments and hurts that are never communicated.

This book reminds people that it’s impossible for someone else to fix whatever is upsetting you, if you have the truth of the matter buried deep inside. It’s like putting sunscreen on after a burn: too little too late. It’s also unfair to expect others to magically know and fix what is upsetting you, even the people you love. The story is subtly layered with these gentle reminders that sometimes we expect too much from the people we love the most. We want something impossible from them, and in doing so, we set both them and ourselves up to fail.

This book also explores how even those you know the best, like the ones you choose for family, often have their own complex issues and concerns that you might not ever see if you don’t take the time to get real and be honest with them. There’s a surface level people share of themselves, a second level they seem to save for loved ones, and a third, deeper level that sometimes people keep from everyone, even themselves. When they stop, that seems to be the moment when life becomes most interesting, despite the challenges. This story will take you to that level, and afterwards, you won’t ever want to return to the surface again.

Pages: 352

Friday, March 4, 2016

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

Summary: "During an educational trip to London, away from her friends and the boy she thinks she is fated to love, Massachusetts high school junior Julia Lichtenstein is paired with her nemesis, Jason, and begins seeing many things differently."

I read this book after Becky's super-cute review, and it was adorable! Julia, aka Book Licker, is such a relatable character (to me anyway), and her adventures are fun and hilarious. The story is cute, short and sweet. 

292 pages

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Lot Like Love by Julie James

Summary: "As the daughter of a billionaire and the owner of the city's top wine store, Jordan Rhodes is invited to the most exclusive parties in Chicago. But there's only one party the FBI wants to crash: the charity fund-raiser of a famous restaurateur, who also happens to launder money for the mob. In exchange for her brother's release from prison, Jordan is going to be there--with a date supplied by the Bureau."

A Lot Like Love is the second installment of Julie James' FBI/U.S. Attorney romance series. It was a fun read, but I never connected to the characters as much as I did in the first book. It was nice to see Cameron Lynde and Jack Pallas show up in this book as well! I plan to finish the series as they are witty and the story is well-told. 

Couple = Jordan Rhodes + Nick McCall

289 pages

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Summary: "An aristocratic girl who is a member of a warmongering and enslaving empire purchases a slave, an act that sets in motion a rebellion that might overthrow her world as well as her heart."

Whew! What a wild ride this book is! The story progresses quickly, much more than the average first novel in a series. 

If you do read it, make sure you have the second one, The Winner's Crime, on hand - you will want to start it as soon as you finish The Winner's Curse

355 pages