Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout

When a young woman shows up on Nero Wolfe's doorstep claiming to be his daughter, Archie Goodwin is astounded. After all, Wolfe weighs about a ton, detests women, and has never so much as hinted that he has any family! Turns out, Wolfe did adopt a little girl many years ago in Montenegro, but has since lost touch with the woman who was raising her.

Now, she and another young woman are in New York, and are murder suspects. They need Wolfe to help get them out of an untenable situation. Will he take it on?

271 pages

Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck

Madame Wu is the much-admired matriarch of a prominent Chinese dynasty. On her fortieth birthday, she decides to find her husband a concubine, because that part of her life is over now. She moves out of her husband's quarters into quarters of her own, and begins to pursue her own interests. She begins to pursue intellectual pursuits, studying with a local priest. She has always been considered a woman of great wisdom, and now is becoming even wiser.

She allows her children to pursue their own lives and passions, and gives her husband permission to become his own person also. He is at first opposed to this entire enterprise, but comes to enjoy the life his wife has now gifted him with. The household continues to run efficiently, but now has more emotional connections.

This is a very interesting book. When I attempted to read it as a teenager, I found it boring. This time, I found it fascinating.

316 pages

The Free by Willy Vlautin

Amazon description:

While serving in Iraq, veteran Leroy Kervin suffered a traumatic brain injury. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, and unable to form new memories, he eventually attempts suicide. Lying in a coma, he retreats deep inside the memories locked in his mind. Freddie McCall works two jobs and still can't make ends meet. He's lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative—and dangerous—proposition. Pauline Hawkins is a nurse at the local hospital. Though she attends to others' needs with practical yet firm kindness, including her mentally ill elderly father, she remains emotionally removed. But a new patient, a young runaway, touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

320 pages

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

In  France in 1939, Vianne Mauriac is living in the quiet village of Carriveau with her husband and young daughter when he is sent to the Front.  It is unthinkable that Germany will invade France, but they do.  The French government immediately capitulates, allowing Germany to establish two countries; Free France, and occupied France. Carriveau is in the occupied section, and a German officer billets in her home. She is forced  to accept if she expects to survive.

As the war progresses, the German take everything from the French; they take the good food, leaving the citizenry to slowly starve. They take their dignity, their hope, and in many cases, their lives. They take any valuables they might own, and people are forced to burn their furniture to survive the cold winters. In the end, of course, France is on the winning side of the war, but life will never be the same for those who live through it.

440 pages

Thirty and a Half Excuses by Denise Grover Swank

Summary: "Life in Henryetta, Arkansas is turned upside down with the arrival of a televangelist, but it's the death of a little old lady on Rose's street that catches her attention. The Henryetta police deem her death natural causes, but Rose suspects foul play and so does an unlikely supporter - the president of the Busy Body Club, her eighty-two year old neighbor Mildred." 

Thirty and a Half Excuses is the 3rd installment of the Rose Gardener Mystery series, and it made me cry! I loved the first book in this series because it was ridiculous and hysterically funny but this one....whew. What a tearjerker! I hope the rest of the series has more quirky and lighthearted moments! 

351 pages

"Noah" by Cara Dee

I read Cara Dee's story "Aftermath" a few years ago and really liked it, so I wanted to read another of her books.  Noah is having a very bad two days.  First, he catches his girlfriend of four years cheating on him, and the next day, the plane carrying his parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew crashes killing all on board.  He's never been so depressed or felt so alone.  However, his 23-year-old step-nephew is left, and when the young man moves in with Noah, things start to look up.

This book was very different from "Aftermath" but was still a compelling read.  Julian and Noah don't really know each other but they bond while trying to get through the tragedy.  My only complaints are that big chunks of time were glossed over (one chapter started with "Nine months later"), and there was too much cussing for my taste.  I'm no prude but I found it distracting and too crude for the characters.  259 pages (Kindle edition).

"Derek" by B.G. Thomas

This novella is the story of how the end of Derek's marriage to a woman makes him finally come to terms with the fact that he's gay.  The story takes place in Kansas City, where the local LGBT community helps him adjust to his truth.  There's are some hippy and new age vibes to it, but I thought it added to the atmosphere of acceptance.  72 pages (Kindle edition).

"On Solid Ground" by Melissa Collins

A vet with PTSD and a tattoo artist with a drug addicted sister try to find love in California.

I really wanted to like this book.  It had many good reviews, but it just did not live up to my expectations for several reasons.  One of the main characters jumped to conclusions and became mad very easily; he acted quite immature and did not seem to have the capability for a healthy relationship.  The story was told in the present tense, which I always find a bit odd to read.  One character had been raped, but the story did not deal with any lingering effects of the trauma.  There were also a number of inconsistencies, so it could have used better editing.  However, there was a service dog, a cute kid, and an upbeat ending, so there were some positives.  328 pages (Kindle edition).

The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Summary: "If Hannah Wells wants to get her crush's attention, she will have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice, even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the school's hockey team (Garrett Graham) in exchange for a pretend date."

I read this book in a day - I couldn't put it down! I can't explain why The Deal is so good, but it just IS. I loved the hockey references and Garret + Hannah's flirty conversations. Elle Kennedy does an excellent job of building up their friendship/trust before moving on to the romance phase. If you're going to read a New Adult romance, make sure it's this! It's fun and fresh and has some steamy romance! 

TW: This book does mention rape and abuse, so be careful if those are trigger warnings for you. 

The Deal is the first book in the Off-Campus series. I believe the other books in the series follow Garrett's hockey teammates. 

330 pages

The Summer Before the War By Helen SImonson

The Summer Before the War: A NovelThis delightful novel, by the author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is filled with the colorful characters of a small, English village on the verge and at the beginning of World War I. The plot centers on a young woman who has moved there to teach Latin and the well-to-do family who sponsored her employment. The family just happens to include a handsome nephew who is down from his medical studies in London.  But as interesting as the characters are, it is the overall action of English country life, which is forced to change significantly as the reality of war sets in. The changes the war brings are large and small, and Ms. Simonson deftly captures all.

496 pages

The Long Way Home, By Louise Penny

The Long Way Home: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelThis novel finds Inspector Gamache happily retired and living in Three Pines.  The mystery that finds him is very different than what he is accustomed; there is no murder.  Several books ago, the village's artist, Clara Morrow realized that her husband Peter had been lying about some very important things for all of their relationship.  She made him leave but with the proviso that they should come back together after one year to reassess, and after that one year she expected him to come home.  But he didn't, nor did he make any effort to contact her.  At first she was angry, but then she began to worry and tracking him became  the Inspector's mission.  Together with Clara, Jean Guy
Beauvoir, and Myrna Landers (the local retired psychiatrist) they journey further and further into Quebec to find the missing man. 
 Despite the marked difference in this book's format, it is another worthy accomplishment for Ms. Penny.  Each character has some quest they need to complete and the journey for Peter provides the opportunity.

400 pages

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, By Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelThis Inspector Gamache mystery finds the Inspector and Jean Guy in a remote monastery, where no outsiders ever visit, yet one of the monks has been brutally murdered.  They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate, and they sing; it is their choir leader who is murdered. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as "the beautiful mystery."  As Inspector Gamache and his trusty assistant solve this murder, cracks begin to show in their relationship.  These cracks result in a terrible break, which continues in the next book, How the Light Gets In.
400 pages 

The Guest Room, By Chris Bohjalian

The Guest Room: A NovelSuburban school teacher, Kristin Chapman encourages her husband to throw his brother's bachelor party, since they have a spacious home in Westchester County.  The plan is for Kris and their daughter to spend the night with her mother in her Manhattan apartment.  The plan quickly goes awry when the party descends into bacchanalian drunkenness --  the "dancers" offer more than lap dances.  Richard (the party's host) does nothing to try and control the situation, and instead goes upstairs with one of the "dancers" where they share an intimate moment, caught on video, in the daughter's bedroom.
The other young woman, suddenly fed up with her life as a sex slave, gets her hands on a knife and stabs to death, one of the large Russian bodyguards while the other guests stand speechless  in the living room.  Alexandra takes the dead guard's gun and kills the other one.  The party is officially over, and a chilling game of cat and mouse begins.  I have been a fan of Chris Bohjalian's work for quite some time, and while this book has a promising plot, it never really develops.  What should have been a nice murder mystery became a trite suburban soap opera, which I was sorry I wasted my time on.
336 pages

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

In this first book in the newest series by Riordan, The Trials of Apollo, the Greek god Apollo finds himself cast down to earth as a mortal, bound to a demigod, and forced to undergo a series of trials in order to regain his divinity. The power of prophecy has deserted the Oracle (aka Rachel Elizabeth Dare) and it is up to Apollo, now a sixteen-year-old boy with a major case of acne, along with his fellow campers to return the prophecies and defeat a new evil.

In this new series we see a lot of familiar faces from Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, though of the main characters only Percy and Leo make an appearance. As a fan of mythology I continue to enjoy these books, though some of the originality and excitement has worn away as Riordan continues to build on previous story lines from his earlier series.

376 pages

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer

Set in Regency England, Elinor Rochdale has been reduced to a penniless governess after her father gambles away his fortune and shoots himself. Traveling to the country to accept a new post, she steps into the wrong coach and encounters Lord Carlyon, who has advertised quite a different sort of position. Lord Carlyon is seeking a wife for his dissipated younger cousin, whose estate he would rather not inherit. Believing Elinor to have come in answer to his advertisement, misunderstanding ensues. In the end, Carlyon persuades Elinor to accept the position he has to offer, and she marries his cousin on his deathbed, becoming both wife and widow in a matter of hours. Shortly after, Elinor finds herself caught up in a series of strange events including midnight intruders, treason, and murder.

This is a lighthearted historical novel, with a dash of mystery and romance. Heyer’s books are reminiscent of Jane Austen’s novels, though with a bit more spunk (that’s not a criticism of Austen). Also, the historical detail is wonderful.

278 pages

How Right You Are, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Bertie Wooster is tooling down to his Aunt Dahlia’s estate while his incomparable valet Jeeves is on vacation. But Bertie’s sojourn is marred by the presence of his former schoolmaster Aubrey Upjohn and the famous nerve specialist Sir Roderick Glossop, who is posing as butler under the name Swordfish. Add some romantic entanglements involving an old school chum, a kleptomaniac, and the disappearance of a silver cow creamer and you have the makings of a first-rate Wodehouse adventure.

Ever since I read my first Bertie & Jeeves books I’ve been a Wodehouse fan. Sure all the plots start to look alike after the first book or two, but the humor is always fresh and Wodehouse’s use of language always amuses. I highly recommend anything he’s written!

206 pages

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative BattlesThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

*Note: I had to clean up my original review to make it work appropriate.  That's how mad I was after reading this terrible book.*

What a pretentious piece of ridiculous crud.

It has:
• Harmful, uninformed medical opinions (Why?? It's a book on creativity. Just NO.)
• Bizarre and illogical assessments of historical figures
• COMPLETELY FAKE STATISTICS (How did those even survive editing? You can't make figures up to back your outrageous opinions. You need real sources. They should be cited. This is the fastest way to enrage a librarian.)
• Constant judgment
• So much repetition I want to poke my eyes out (because I got it the first 50 times you said it)
• And an exhausting, superior, egotistical attitude.

I can't believe I wasted money on such a terrible book. Typically, I avoid posting one star ratings and reviews, but since this is parading about calling itself nonfiction, I have to interject to say it's nothing more than a bizarre and often offensive opinion piece, full of some very obvious statements about creativity. Don't read this drivel, unless you enjoy judgmental, condescending monologues that go nowhere.

If you want an interesting, thoughtful book on writing and creativity, try Stephen King's ON WRITING.

Pages: 190

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the CraftOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I avoided this book for years, but it’s fantastic! I worried it would be tiresome or sound too much like Self-Help, which is a genre I generally dislike. I also worried it would make me realize I don't have what it takes to be a writer, which was not something I wanted to have confirmed.

What I got was an engaging book, full of moments that helped shape who Stephen King is as a person and a writer. In addition, he provides a lot of advice on writing, but it’s never annoying or pretentious. He’s honest about his process, and that was really helpful and reassuring to me.

In fact, he said so many unexpected things about writing that remind me of myself and the way I approach writing, that I had some serious “Ah-Ha” moments while reading. I found myself writing “Me too!” in the margins, and I realized that I can and probably should ignore all those people who tell me if I don’t plot and outline my book to death (their way), it won’t be readable. I mean, I’ve mostly ignored them, but I did let it nag at me and weigh on my mind.

I’ve barely written the past year, because I suffered a serious crisis of writing faith. My attitude went from happy and determined to the lowest of the low. I couldn’t reason with myself. I started drafting two novels and quit halfway, which is something I had never done before. I tried to convince myself I’m just a reader and don’t have what it takes to be a writer. That I should give up. But somehow I found myself still dabbling, even when I insisted I was giving up.

I suffered endless pep talks from myself and other writers. I read inspirational quotes and appreciated funny comics about writing. I lectured myself and allowed others to lecture me. I tried and tried and tried but continued to struggle, hating very minute of the wasted time and paralyzing self-doubt.
At the end of each day, I still felt terrible about my writing, which made it really hard to be writing. I forced myself to write anyway, but it was without the joy I used to bring to the table.

Reading this book helped me see that even writers like Stephen King struggle. They have self-doubt. They have failed projects, and sometimes they even panic and throw out something that could be great. Reading this book made me excited about finishing both my half started novels, and it made me interested in revisiting some of my past novels, to see what I could do to improve them.

Now, my only writing crisis is that there isn’t enough time in the day to tackle everything I want to work on, so I owe this book a lot. It did something for me in 3 days that I seemed to be incapable of doing for myself across the span of a whole year. It gave me back the desire to write, the courage to tell my fears to bug off, and the motivation to do the work with as much honesty as possible, regardless of outcome.

Pages: 288

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I chose this book because of fabulous blurbs on the cover, as well as a 'coming to Syfy' label.  The story follows Quentin Coldwater, a talented loner, as he is accepted into a secret college for magicians. But his new powers don't satisfy his yearning for a more purposeful existence.  Then he and several friends find their way into Fillory, the magic land described in his favorite children's books.  While Fillory is a thin disguise for Narnia, Quentin and friends find that it is a much darker and more dangerous place than they bargained for.  While I found the premise and plotting to be quite original, the characters are mostly very self-absorbed and I found it hard to care very much about them.  This is the first of a trilogy, also coming to TV.  402 pages

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Golden Son (Red Rising, #2)Golden Son by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My brain explodes with awesome as I read these stories.

And terror.

Pierce Brown is like the Joss Whedon of YA Sci-Fi novels.

ME: This character is awesome!

PB:  *character dies*

ME: I love this character!

PB:  *character dies brutally*


PB:  *massacre ensues: character dies, as well as his best friend and sister*

ME:  I hate this guy. Worst character ever. So boring and blah. Whatevs.

PB:  YOU LIE. YOU LOVE HIM. *character dies, is resurrected, and DIES AGAIN*

Also, everyone is required to be happy in solidarity when the 2nd book in a series really delivers, because there's nothing quite so heartbreaking as reading book #2 and encountering. . . meh. This is as far from meh as a book can get.

Pages: 464

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Cat Who Dropped A Bombshell by Lilian Jackson Braun

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

Jim helps the planning of the town of Pickax celebration with the help of Siamese cats Koko and Yum Yum.

Audio:  4 hrs. 31 min.
Print:  288 pages

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Gangster by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

The Italian American gang the Black Hand will attempt to kill President Teddy Roosevelt in 1905 and almost succeed.  387 pages.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising, #1)Red Rising by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This YA Sci-Fi is one of those books that packs so much wow, that I find myself internally questioning every 5 star rating I've ever given. I'd like a 6th star for this one, and a 7th star for the audiobook verson, which is fantastic!

The premise copied from Amazon: "Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet.Darrow - and Reds like him - are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity' s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society' s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies...even if it means he has to become one of them to do so."

Audiobook Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds

Pages: 416

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Becky strikes again! I ordered this as soon as I finished reading her review. And now I'm stuck waiting for the sequel, The Rose & The Dagger, to arrive. 

This book had it all: beautiful setting, fun side characters (Despina and Jalal were so good), and intriguing stories! 

But the ending left me completely hanging! 

P.S. The covers of these books are beautiful

404 pages

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Love Irresistibly by Julie James

Love Irresistibly is the fourth book in the FBI/U.S. Attorney contemporary romance series, and it is a fun installment! I wish the sequels had the danger/intrigue of the first book, but oh well, they're still easy and fun to read! 

I LOVE how the previous books' characters keep popping up. It put the biggest smile on my face to see Cameron and Jack (from the first book) show up and their big surprise! :)

Julie James is an excellent author, and I will continue to read any and all of her books! 

Couple = Brooke Parker + Cade Morgan

292 pages

Monday, May 16, 2016

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

After watching the movie trailer for Me Before You about a thousand times and impatiently waiting for my reserved copy to become available, I finally was able to get the book from the library! Even though it didn't quite live up to my (unrealistically) high expectations, it was still a pretty good book. JoJo Moyes creates great characters and situations for an amazing story. Moyes writes really well, but sometimes her writing feels like it's missing a bit of the magic for me. I'm still looking forward to the movie, but I will definitely bring a whole box of Kleenex!

369 pages

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Scarlett Epstein Hates It HereScarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a funny, clever story about fandom and figuring out what's really beneath the surface of the people you interact with every day (including, if you're Scarlett Epstein, yourself).

I love when the story takes an expectation or stereotype and flips it to force you to look at things in a new light.

Pages: 288

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Armada by Ernest Cline

ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the worlds Ernest Cline creates. I don't love this quite as much as Ready Player One, but let's all be honest. That book was something special and extraordinary, and it would be hard to top it.

This Sci-Fi novel is still exciting, fun, nerdy, and full of old school pop culture references. It's still worth a read, it just doesn't have quite as big of a bang for me as Ready Player One did.

Pages: 384

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky

I had not read a YA novel in quite a long time, so I chose this one because I enjoyed the movie and had heard good things about the book.  Written in epistolary form by high school freshman Charlie to an unknown friend, it chronicles his first year in high school as well as interactions with his family.  Although he is introverted and a bit shy, Charlie becomes good friends with seniors Sam and Patrick, who happen to be step-siblings.  Charlie develops a crush on Sam even though she sees him only as a friend, while Patrick is secretly dating the football team's closeted quarterback.

Charlie has some psychological issues that appear to have been brought on by the suicide of his only friend the previous year and the death of his aunt Helen years earlier, with whom he'd been especially close.  A huge revelation in the epilogue puts Charlie's troubles in perspective for the reader and makes this unusual story even more unforgettable.  This book has been challenged innumerable times since its first publication in 1999 due to the usual reasons, but I would highly recommend it to any teenager.  213 pages.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good GirlThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a captivating read. I enjoyed all the different dynamics, relationships, and surprises.

Pages: 384

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Exit, Pursued by a BearExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought it was really incredible to see a story on this topic in which the main character had so much support. I will be honest and say that I have read a lot of YA novels on this topic, and unfortunately, many of them tend to blur together for me. However, this one definitely stands out for being different in a good way.

Call it unrealistic, if you wish, but everyone's experiences are different. Also, I kind of want a lot of people to read this story (but be aware it deals with serious topics that might be upsetting to some readers), because I want everyone to know what they could be doing to be a better support network for someone who is struggling or who has experienced a trauma. Things people do and don't do afterwards can make a big difference. That's the message of this story: support matters.

Also, it's beautifully written, with many interesting characters.

Pages: 256

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted SkyUnder a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Initially, I forced myself to put this novel on my TBR, because I heard it was set in Missouri. That’s all I knew, and since sometimes I don’t adore everything about Missouri to the extremes that other people who have lived here for 33 years do, it was sort of a strike against the book before I even started. I thought I wanted to read about something other than what I already know, and in the end, that’s exactly what I got.

What I didn’t know is that it is set in 1849 Missouri (awesome!), with a total Oregon Trail (hello my childhood) thing happening, full of diverse characters (because yes, there was diversity in Missouri, in 1849, even though people like to pretend it isn’t so, and thank you Stacey Lee for addressing that) and girls who pretend to be boys (which I’ve already admitted I’m a sucker for), so it ROCKED MY FACE OFF.

Pages: 384

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1)The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this a lot. I think I just get Richelle Mead, and I'm willing to go on any journey she'll take me on. I did not predict this story working out the way it did, but I actually think that's what I liked about it the most. It would hit a crossroads and shoot off in a new direction that interested and fascinated me.

I am super-stoked to hear that the next 2 books in this series will be from the other 2 girls' perspectives, as I think, for the most part, Adelaide's story has been wrapped up to my satisfaction, and I am most interested in what happens to Tamsin and Mira now, which is perfect.

The only one negative I will mention is that this is definitely NOT a fantasy novel. I didn't realize that's how it's being sold/advertised (so it's good that I went in blind), but I get how some people going in with that expectation could come out upset.

HOWEVER, I also see how this book could be a bit difficult to categorize according to today's genres, so while it occurs in a very made up world, just be aware there is NO MAGIC OF ANY KIND, therefore it is NOT A FANTASY novel. Now that you're prepared, you should be fine. Just sit back and enjoy the wild journey this book will take you on.

Pages: 416

Monday, May 9, 2016

Endure by Sara B. Larson

Endure (Defy, #3)Endure by Sara B. Larson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good conclusion to a solid YA Fantasy trilogy (Defy). The only thing I hate about it is the gaudy cover.

Pages: 320

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Running for Water and Sky by Sandra Kring

Running for Water and SkyRunning for Water and Sky by Sandra Kring
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This is a solid read about real people, with real issues, and it never shys away from that or glosses over the difficult, ugly stuff.

There are some things I really love about this story, particularly the whole end of the novel, which just hit all the right notes for me. In fact, I felt like the story got stronger the longer I read. I confess, there were a few things along the way that bothered the obsessive YA reader that dwells inside me, which was why I sat on this review for a few days. I wanted to know if they even mattered, or if they were just things I fixated on while reading that don’t really impact what a unique and interesting story this was.

For the most part, they don’t matter, because what I’m left with after reading this story is reminders of the impact that poverty, abuse, and hardship have on emotional development and how challenging it can be for people to ever overcome that. I think that’s why this book was so rewarding for me, because it took people who should by all standards be broken and gave them moments where they could choose to grow. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they faltered or even backpedaled, but it was watching them have to confront their issues and demons that held my attention.

The story expertly captures those pivotal moments in people’s lives where they can either rise up and overcome or give up and slip back into dysfunction. Watching all those internal struggles was both fascinating and upsetting for me. Sometimes I had to close the book and set it away from me for a moment, but I found that I would almost immediately pick it back up and start reading again. It’s like I needed space from the weight of the story, but I also didn’t want it.

I could sit here and point at a few things I thought could be improved, in terms of the writing and unique format of the story, but why would I? The reality is that I read this through within 24 hours, and it had an emotional impact on me, which means the story is effective. I cared about what happened to these characters, and I am glad I went on the journey with them.

Pages: 282

Scott Pilgrim Free Comic Book Day Story by Bryan O'Malley

Scott Pilgrim Free Comic Book Day Story (Scott Pilgrim (Color))Scott Pilgrim Free Comic Book Day Story (Scott Pilgrim by Bryan O'Malley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's free! I love the series. I love that this was free for free comic book day. It's obviously short, and a bit random, but whatever. It's Scott Pilgrim, and it's free. So it gets 4 stars.

If you are new to Scott Pilgrim, or only watched the movie, I seriously recommend you read the full series and don't by any means start with this. If you do, it will probably seem short and random and potentially confusing, which may leave you with the wrong impression of an excellent series.

These panels weren't intended to be read before the series or by someone who is unfamiliar with the characters. If you're making decisions about whether to read the series or not based on this short freebie, then you're going about it all wrong. This was just for random fun. You can't make good TBR decisions using that method, and if you do decide to skip it after reading this, you'll be missing out. That's what happens when people make poor, misguided decisions.

Just read the series already.

Pages: 18

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, #4)The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no words that seem right for reviewing the final book in this series. I have tried, but they are all wrong.

Listen to the audiobook, as Will Patton is a fantastic narrator.

Pages: 448

Friday, May 6, 2016

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love, #1)Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I avoided reading this for quite some time, despite people's continued recommendations. I expected it to be cute, maybe a bit quirky, but otherwise just average. I didn't want to read average, so I didn't bother.

That was dumb. This is indeed cute, quirky, and heartwarming. It also explores the darker sides of loss and how getting by is not always enough, not forever. Coping is important, but healing and growing can be better.

The way the characters are appreciated for who they, even though who they are is not standard, is really beautiful.

Pages: 232

View all my reviews Flat-Out Matt (Flat-Out Love, #1.5)Flat-Out Matt by Jessica Park
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you liked book one, particularly Matt, you'll want to read this novella. These scenes and chapters are all from his POV, and it includes some scenes from before he met Julie.

I really enjoyed these chapters.

Pages: 158

View all my reviews Flat-Out Celeste (Flat-Out Love, #2)Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Celeste by far was the most unique and interesting character in the series, so I am happy she got her own book.  Her brain works differently than others, in the most beautiful ways, though it does create some challenges for her. I enjoyed watching her journey.

Pages: 336

View all my reviews

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story delivers a powerful message about love and grief in an incredibly unique way. It's a quick, intense kind of read that leaves your nerves frazzled. It's dark, haunting, and memorable. The writing and execution are perfect.

In reviewing this book, I have realized it actually deserves 5 stars, and I originally gave it 4. Let's blame emotional distress for my initial rating. Also, this is the first time I think I have ever increased a book rating, after thinking about a story further. Usually, it's the opposite, so I guess this story gets even better after some space and reflection. . . and once you are no longer so sad that you feel like someone carved your heart out with a spoon.

Pages: 224

Ghost by Peter Barsocchini

(Posted for Paul Mathews)

A story of search and self-discovery, a basketball player's father's death, and an orphan.

Audio:  11 hrs. 40 min.
Print:  358 pages