Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rereads of Some Old MG Favorites

I decided that for 2018, I wanted to place a focus on rereading old favorites. I decided to jump start that at the end of 2017 by revisiting some old favorites from my middle grade years.

Bridge to TerabithiaBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The ending always catches me off guard, no matter how many times I read this book.

It's definitely an MG classic.

Pages: 143

The True Confessions of Charlotte DoyleThe True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

12/30/17 REVIEW:
I have revisited this story many times over the years, and I think I love it more each time. This time, I listened to the audiobook, which was thoroughly enjoyable.

Pages: 278


Have you ever wanted to toss aside the rules of society to become someone different from who people thought you could be?

Charlotte is a well-behaved, prim and proper, twelve-year-old girl who is taking a transatlantic voyage from England to America, in order to join her parents. Things don't go as planned though, and Charlotte becomes more pirate than passenger on her daring, dramatic, adventurous journey. Join Charlotte on her seafaring adventure of swashbuckling crew members, dangerous feats, murder, mystery, mayhem, violent storms, and life changing opportunities and choices.

Can Charlotte ever return to a controlled and pampered existence after the freedoms and excitement she experiences on her journey?

The Westing GameThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

12/30/17 REVIEW:

This is probably my most reread book of all time. It's one of those stories that captured my imagination at an early age, and I just never get tired of it. I don't even read a lot of mystery stories these days, but I still thoroughly enjoy this one.

I listened to the audiobook this time, which was fun.

Pages: 182

This is my favorite MG mystery of all time! I have read this book at least 5 times, and it never gets old. The ending is always fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable. If you love games, mystery, and intrigue, this book is for you. Who will win the Westing Game? Cast your vote now, because once you start reading this book, you won't be able to put it down.

Are You There God? It's Me, MargaretAre You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still amused by this book, all these years later.

Margaret was nothing like me, as a middle grade girl, but I still enjoyed her story (again).

It's a quick read and a bit dated now, but still relevant overall.

Pages: 149

The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply fascinating, since it is from the perspective of Buck, the dog.

Normally, I don't like "talking animal" books and movies, on the general whole, but there are definite exceptions (Charlotte's Web, etc.) This is not a talking animal story, as Buck doesn't talk. You simply get inside his perspective, which is unique.

I enjoyed revisiting this on audio.

Pages: 172

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1)Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I confess I've never read this before. A teacher tried to read this at me when I was in elementary school, but I was one of those kiddos who hated being read aloud to, especially if the reader wasn't particularly enjoyable to listen to. I'm pretty sure I tuned her out completely. Usually, when I did that, I would go back and get the book and read it straight through in one evening. However, I didn't do that with this story.

So in theory, I have "read" this book before, but in reality, I had absolutely no clue what this story was all about and have pretended knowledge for many years.

I also haven't seen the movie(s?), because I can't stand to see a movie before reading a book. So I also pretended to be knowledgeable about that as well, as any good middle school librarian should do. ;)

This was clever and amusing, and I enjoyed the audiobook.

Pages: 176

My Side of the Mountain (Mountain, #1)My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this story as a child, especially as I spent so much time roaming the woods and lands surrounding our home.

I still enjoyed it as an adult, though I wished for just a bit more explanation in a few areas. Also, I had to suspend my disbelief a bit more than I did when reading it as a child.

Still, it's a fun read, and I'm happy I revisited it on audio.

Pages: 192

Julie of the Wolves (Julie of the Wolves, #1)Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My favorite thing about this story is how unique the setting and environment are. I confess that I couldn't remember much of this, so it was interesting to reread it. I wouldn't minded having a bit more information about Julie before she joined the wolves, but I guess that really wasn't what the story was about.

Overall, it's a good MG book for those interested in wilderness/survival/unique settings and cultures.

Pages: 176

The Black Stallion (The Black Stallion, #1)The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been so long since I first read this book that I didn't really remember anything about it at all, which made it a fun reread.

It's basically a love story between a boy and a stallion, plus a shipwreck and some racing to add to the excitement.

Pages: 275

Caddie Woodlawn  (Caddie Woodlawn #1)Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely old fashioned, and that could lead to a lot of interesting, modern discussions.

I didn't remember anything about this one, even though I read it as a child, but I like how Caddie is not your typical pioneer girl. It's an interesting change of pace.

Pages: 288

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH, #1)Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another story I read when I was young that I didn't remember much about. I have never been a big fan of talking animal books, but there is something so heartfelt about this one. The animals are all very human in their interests, wants, needs, and desires, and that makes them easy to relate to.

I don't suspect I'll ever read this one again, but I enjoyed revisiting it. It has been interesting to compare books from my past to current day upper elementary and middle grade novels. There are some definite differences, but it's hard to put it into words and explain those differences. The story structure from these older novels seems to be a bit more open ended or something.

Pages: 240

White FangWhite Fang by Jack London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was interesting to reread this as an adult. I remember being captivated by Jack London stories as a child, and now I know why. He has a way of really drawing people into these raw, honest stories that have such an interesting perspective. I enjoyed revisiting this one.

Pages: 252

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

The Inquisition (Summoner, #2)The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

(Book 2)

I can't rate this with any fairness, as I read it during a very stressful time. The first half was very good, but then everything went wrong. After that, I couldn't focus on the book, no matter how many times I tried to finish it across the next several weeks. I was too stressed out and overwhelmed to be reading, even though I kept trying. I had to rewind the audiobook repeatedly, and something was lost along the way, due to my distraction and inattention.

I finished the book, but I missed a lot. Even when I was listening, my mind was usually elsewhere. I will definitely revisit this book again, once I've had some space, and when that happens, I'll come back and give it a proper rating and a useful review.

Pages: 368

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Herdmans #1)The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I forgot how funny this is! I should reread it every year.

Pages: 128

Friday, December 29, 2017

Dream of You by J. Lynn

Dream of You (Wait for You, #4.5)Dream of You by J. Lynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Book 4.5 in the Wait For You series)

This is a novella to a series I read. I like everything by J. Lynn/ Jennifer L Arementrout. This story isn't particularly memorable, but it is still an enjoyable read overall, if you like the series.

Pages: 131

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Altered by Jennifer Rush

Summary: "Seventeen-year-old Anna finds herself on the run from her father's enigmatic Branch, along with the four teen boys the Branch had been experimenting on, as they try to make sense of erased memories, secret identities, and genetic alteration."

Wow - I finished this one in just a day! I couldn't put it down, which is such a wonderful feeling. The description sounds a bit cheesy, but honestly, it was a great story. It moved quickly and therefore kept the reader engaged and on his/her toes. 

On to #2!

323 pages

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Poetry from Scratch: A Kitten's Book of Verse

 Poetry from Scratch: A Kitten's Book of Verse
by Jennifer McCartney

5 out of 5 stars

96 pages

Modeled after A Child's Book of Verse this poetry book collected by Jennifer McCartney includes poems based on classic works as well as new works all "written" by cats. According to the introduction these poems are written by the cats of the cafe Biblioteca Batto in Milan and our translated here into English for the first time. A fun book for anyone who loves cats. A great book for anyone who loves cats and poetry.

King's Gold (Knights Templar #30)

 King's Gold
by Michael Jecks

5 out of 5 stars

544 pages

Historical fiction at it's best. Michael Jecks draws the reader back into medieval times. As the year 1326 is ending London is in flames. King Edward II is a prisoner and his young son has been named King in his place. The Queen and her lover Sir Roger Mortimer are really in control as Mortimer serves as Reagent. The country is torn apart by supporters for both sides and what are the knights to do. They have sworn their allegiance to protect the king, but which one? Guarding the king on behalf of Mortimer, Sir Baldwin de Furnshill and bailiff Simon Puttock are entangled in a web of greed, conspiracy, betrayal and murder.

Mum's the Word (A Flower Shop Mystery # 1)

 Mum's the Word
by Kate Collins

3 out of 5 stars

304 pages

This light, cozy mystery starts a new series by Kate Collins. Abby Knight has become the owner of her hometown flower shop, but a new competitor may be driving her out of business. Then her vintage Corvette is smashed in a hit and run. Abby is determined to track down the driver to have her car repaired but stumbles into a much bigger mystery.

Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13)

 Lean Mean Thirteen
by Janet Evanovich

3 out of 5 stars
310 Pages

Stephanie agrees to do a favor for Ranger even though it requires her to talk to her ex Dickie. She is barely in his office when the talk turns into a fight. When Dickie turns up missing the next day, Stephanie is the only suspect. Since boyfriend Joe Morelli is away on a case, Stephanie has to depend on Ranger for help to prove her innocence.

Twelve Sharp (Stephanie Plum # 12)

 Twelve Sharp
by Janet Evanovich
3 out of 5 stars
310 Pages

While chasing down the usual bunch of weirdos her cousin has issued bond for, Stephanie discovers she is being stalked by a woman in black. A woman with murderous intent. Then it is revealed that the woman is connected to Ranger and his family and they are all in danger. Now Ranger is being hunted by the police while trying to protect his family and Stephanie. Who is this mysterious woman and what does she know about Ranger?

Eleven on Top (Stephanie Plum # 11)

 Eleven on Top 
by Janet Evanovich

3 out of 5 stars

Stephanie Plum has decided her crazy career as a bounty hunter is over. She's tired of all the drama, danger and angry people. But what kind of job can she do? She tries out several local employers including a button factory, a dry-cleaners and even a fast food place. But her past will not leave her alone. She is being stalked by someone with deadly intent and returning to her life as a bounty hunter may be the only way to stay alive.

321 Pages.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Chasing Truth by Julie Cross

Summary: "When former con artist Eleanor Ames's homecoming date commits suicide, she's positive there's something more going on . The more questions she asks, though, the more she crosses paths with Miles Beckett. He's sexy, mysterious, arrogant...and he's asking all the same questions."

I am on a Julie Cross kick, and I'm not sorry. I was pleasantly surprised by Eleanor's wit, and I laughed out loud more than I expected. The plot's big mystery was a bit of a let-down, but all the other characters were fun and interesting.

How can you go wrong with a character and book that is partially inspired by Veronica Mars?! You just can't. 

I am hopeful that the series will continue to be a hit! The second installment is scheduled to come out April 17, 2018. 

400 pages

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear MartinDear Martin by Nic Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This YA contemporary story has an honest, authentic voice, and the storyline is relevant and timely. It would be a great companion read to THUG by Angie Thomas. It would be nice if everyone in America decided to read both stories.

Even though it is a short book, there is a lot to consider and reconsider with this one. It navigates through difficult topics, in particular American race relations, in a way that is easy to follow and captivating.

I'm happy this story exists. Teens everywhere needed this story, and so do adults. If it changes the way anybody thinks or reacts, then that is even better.

Pages: 210

A Killer Read (An Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery #1)

A Killer Read (An Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery #1) by Erika Chase

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lizzie Turner and five other friends form a new mystery book club at the home of Molly Mathews. But their first meeting turns into a bigger mystery than anyone expected when a stranger interrupts the meeting and then is murdered. Now the police suspect Molly and some of Lizzie's teenage reading students. Is one of Lizzie's friends or students a murderer?

Page Numbers: 304

Friday, December 22, 2017

Off the Ice (Juniper Falls #1) by Julie Cross

A high-school love story that takes place in small-town, hockey-obsessed Minnesota? Sign me up!

When the author revealed that part of her inspiration for this series of novels is the All Hockey Hair team videos from the Minnesota State high School hockey tournament on YouTube, I was beyond sold. Those videos are some of my favorite on the Internet - please give them a watch

Off the Ice is a nice start to hopefully a long series about the community and culture surrounding high school hockey in Minnesota. At times, this particular story was a bit too serious and depressing for me. I know Julie Cross can write more compelling and humorous stories than what this one ultimately turned out to be. 

352 pages

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman

Summary: "Ten years after the events of Vengeance Road, Reece Murphy, who has been forced to join the Rose Riders gang, must work with aspiring journalist Charlotte Vaughn to get free."

Whew! This is how a companion novel should be done! Shout out to Becky for helping me find this series. 

I am eagerly anticipating the next installment, and anxiously hoping that more YA western novels will be written soon. This series is a treat!

374 pages

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Summary: "When her father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers--and justice."

After binge-watching Godless on Netflix, I was in the mood for a western story. Vengeance Road was the perfect fix! A fun, vengeful and fast-paced story full of gritty characters and settings.

You can definitely judge this book by its awesome cover, as the adventure waiting inside is just as awesome. 

327 pages

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is delighted when he is whisked away from the Dursleys to attend the Quidditch World Cup with his best friend, Ron Weasley, and Ron's family. But when the Dark Mark, the sign of Lord Voldemort and his supporters, is seen in the sky after the match, chaos ensues. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts for his fourth year, things are hardly less complicated. The Triwizard Tournament is set to take place, and three renowned Wizarding schools will battle for first place. It should be fun for Harry---until his name is spewed out of the Goblet of Fire, and he is forced to compete in a tournament he didn't enter. As Harry grapples with the question of who put his name in the Goblet of Fire and why, he finds he must practice, as Professor Moody proclaims, "Constant vigilance!"

Book 4 in the Harry Potter series. 752 pages.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Novice by Taran Matharu

The Novice (Summoner, #1)The Novice by Taran Matharu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, I did sleep on it and then increase my rating, which I almost never do. I have considered this from all angles, and the bottom line is that I really enjoyed this story. It's definitely at least a 4.5 for me, which means I should follow my protocol and round up the stars, especially considering that I hit play on book two about 5 seconds after book one concluded.

Interestingly enough, I own this book in hardcover, as an ebook, and on audiobook, through Audible. I'm not sure what drove me to keep collecting it over the past couple of years in all different formats, but then not follow through with actually reading it. It's possible the gorgeous cover deterred me, as I have been burned a few times by pretty wrappers to underwhelming stories. This is not one of those. The story is just as intriguing as the cover, and the audiobook has a fantastic narrator.

Sure, there are themes and creatures that are found in other stories, but there should be. This is a fantasy novel, and I don't want to be limited to only reading about elves, dwarves, and orcs in Tolkien novels. Sometimes the best stories are inspired by ideas, concepts, and creatures in other stories. And that's okay.

Someone told me this is like Pokemon, so perhaps that is the true inspiration. I do not know, for despite being a middle school librarian for 6 years and hearing students talk and talk about Pokemon, I never really explored anything in the Pokemon realm. However, if this truly is inspired by Pokemon, then I probably need to read/watch/play some Pokemon (clearly I don't even know what you do with Pokemon), because this was fun.

Also, I'm almost halfway through book two already, and it has my full attention. This was a good change of pace, and I want my own demon. Please and thank you.

Pages: 398

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Fifth DollThe Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is unusual and inventive, and I like that. Everything Holmberg writes is unique. This is not my favorite of all of her books, but I'm glad I read it, since it was a nice taste of something truly different.

The magic is dark and eccentric in this one, but with a slight touch of fancy or whimsy. It has a bit of a Giver (by Lois Lowry) vibe about it, which I assume is intentional, but maybe not.

I like that every story she writes is creative and different from the other fantasy novels floating about. I also like how so many of them stand alone and yet feel complete in their world building. Somehow, Holmberg flies under the radar, but I think she deserves more credit for her interesting body of work.

Pages: 252

Monday, December 11, 2017

Kricket Series by Amy A. Bartol

Under Different Stars (Kricket, #1)Under Different Stars by Amy A. Bartol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I owned this book for quite some time, both the ebook version and the audible recording, but despite hearing it was good, I just never got around to reading it. Now, I'm not exactly sure why I avoided it, as it was rather delightful.

It's got a bit of everything an avoid YA reader might enjoy, including alien worlds, a strong female lead, some humor, and a thread of romance. It could be that my low expectations set this one up to be a win, but I also think it's a fascinating world and an enjoyable, fast-paced story.

I will definitely finish the series.

Pages: 297

Sea of Stars (Kricket, #2)Sea of Stars by Amy A. Bartol

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fun series, and I thought this was a decent follow up to book one. This series has a good narrator, and it's not too heavy. I like that. I needed a series that was fun and easy to enjoy.

Pages: 320

Darken the Stars (Kricket, #3)Darken the Stars by Amy A. Bartol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, this didn't even go remotely in any direction that I expected it to go in. For that alone, I almost want to give it 5 stars.

I also loved the non-tradional ending, even though I confess that I was a bit confused about how it all played out and why some things did and didn't work. I don't think I was a bad listener (so four stars), but it's possible that was my fault. I could have used to have a few things a bit more fully shown or explained, but overall, this was another interesting read.

I confess I wish the series hadn't ended there, but I also think it was a good place to end--that there was no need to draw the story out any longer. So I get it, and I think in reality, the story had come to its end, though I am a greedy reader who always wants just a bit more.

Pages: 302

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, #1)Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, this was amusing, and I don't even need to explain why, since I can just point to the title.

My only request would be for even more zombies.

Now, let's all take a moment to admire that fabulous cover before I go watch the movie.

Pages: 320

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep BlueWords in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good story, ideal for someone who loves books and words and who can handle a story about grief. It had some spectacular moments, but it fell shy of perfection for me. While I enjoyed the majority of the story, I would not be likely to pick it up and read it again, which is why I've gone with 4 stars on this one.

There are some things in this story that went unexplored that I wish had been explored. I think that's what is lacking for me, even though it was interesting overall. The end is probably what brought it down for me, and I don't mean any specific thing that happened at the end of the book. I just mean that it lost ground for me in the last 20% or so of the story, despite having held my full attention up until that point.

Pages: 273

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Nickel Plated by Aric Davis

Nickel PlatedNickel Plated by Aric Davis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was interested in this at first, but it was rough around the ages, which means my interest declined the longer I read.

It’s about a 12 year-old, but the MC sounds more like he’s 30. You can trust me on this, since I spent years working as a middle school librarian, and while I know all kids are very different, this just does not ring true with middle school kids or their brain development, especially since he supposedly dropped out of school at age 9 after a rough childhood, which in most cases would have meant both his social development and education were also stunted or delayed.

I’d have settled for a very mature, older teenager, at minimum, so the voice is definitely off on this. Still, I let that go, because something here caught my attention.

There’s some definite editing issues with this one, and that also bothered me. It changes tenses sometimes, when it shouldn’t. It’s not intentional, but accidental, which is just poor editing. However, I also sucked it up and let that go.

Then there’s long descriptions about things that just don’t matter and don’t help the story forward, like what feels like 50 sentences on making or eating dinner, which isn’t interesting at all and doesn’t speak to the storyline or character development at all. It just ends up being a boring play by play of mundane details in the characters life, but hey, everyone eats, so I tried to let that go.

Then the story tries to tackled too many major issues at once, even though some of the issues were noteworthy and of interest, and the story which started out interesting begins to flail. So I tried to let that go, too.

By the halfway point, I realized I couldn’t keep letting things go and was losing ground and interest in the story. The start was definitely the best part. I do appreciate that this was unexpected and different. I also understand that fiction requires me to suspend disbelief, but this is just so unrealistic and unbelievable that at a certain point, that becomes absolutely impossible.

I reached a point where I couldn’t play along anymore, and absolutely everything seemed unrealistic and illogical after that. As a result, my interest flagged. I almost had to DNF, but since it was a short book, I powered through. I don’t really recommend this, but with a decent editor, this book probably could have been more readable. It just feels too much like an early rough draft, and if there had even been some strong beta readers it seems like a lot of these issues could have been fixed or addressed.

Pages: 208

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

The Notebook (The Notebook, #1)The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The movie is better. Yes, I said it, and I don’t feel bad at all. I almost regret having read the book, because it just doesn’t touch on the magic and beauty of the movie.

The world building is richer, and the characters have better and more fascinating personalities in the movie. The story structure is also better. The book version is slow and has way too much telling and back story, and these long monologues about love that go on an on, ad nauseam. The side characters are flat and completely one dimensional, and they are only discussed as part of the backstory, in an offhand sort of way. They don’t really contribute to the actual storyline or plot. I was so indifferent to all of them that it almost broke my heart.

This is flat and disappointing compared to the movie, and I know that’s going to be a controversial opinion. As an avid reader, I tend to almost always side with the book, but there are some rare exceptions:

Brokeback Mountain
The Handmaid’s Tale (TV Show)
And now The Notebook

I’m not saying I hated reading those books. They just didn’t compare to the depth and vibrancy of the movies and TV shows. So it looks like I definitely can’t buy one of those, “The book is always better” t-shirts now, because this year has taught me that it just isn’t so, at least, not always.

I think in the future, I’ll stick with my plan of watching Nicholas Sparks books, instead of reading them, since his strength seems to be more in his concepts than his actual writing and storytelling. Sure, this one has a few pretty sentences, but I honestly would have preferred a less convoluted story structure and some actual depth in the characters and their relationships that went beyond sickeningly sweet clich├ęs. And the ending. Ugh. *insert eye roll*

I guess I just don’t understand this, since everyone else seems to adore this book. Perhaps it is because this is now 14 years old, and there have been so many better stories published since then. If you want a contemporary love story with some challenges and hardship, I instead recommend any of these (several of which also have movies that are good but not better than the book*):

Aristotle and Date Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes*
November 9 by Colleen Hoover
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green*
I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
The Truth About Forever and/or Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Literally any book by Katie McGarry
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Okay, I could probably go on forever, but I’ll stop here. My advice, if you’ve already seen the movie, is that you should definitely skip this book and pick up one of the above instead.

Pages: 214

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am LegendI Am Legend by Richard Matheson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was. . . unexpected. It's dark, which I typically like, but I had a bit of trouble connecting. I think that this could have benefited from being a longer story. Something was missing, and honestly, the book went and ended right when I wanted it to start.

Pages: 160

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

By Your Side by Kasie West

By Your SideBy Your Side by Kasie West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay. This book is delightful, though I confess I wish they had spent far more time actually trapped inside of the library. Come on, that's basically a librarian's dream book premise, even though we all probably could have just trapped ourselves in a library for a weekend at some point. However, that would have been far less exciting, probably included doing work, and it would have been absent the presence of a broody almost stranger.

Still, I enjoyed the sweetness of the story, paired up with all the real world issues.

Pages: 346

PS: This was the final book I needed to read to complete my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenging! I can't believe I was almost 42 books behind back in August.

Thank goodness for Audible and Overdrive, so that I can listen while I accomplish other things. I'd never be able to read this much without them.  The best part is that the Goodreads App rained down star confetti, and so I left my phone on that page for almost 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon

Alien: Out of the Shadows (Canonical Alien trilogy, #1)Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received the full cast audio production free through Audible, and it was interesting enough. This would not be something I could read in print, as the story is entirely dialogue (so the characters discuss back story and world building). I assume it’s also available in print, though I doubt that would be the recommended way to experience it, unless everything but the dialogue was just cut out for this reproduction. If someone more informed reads this review and can answer that, please leave a comment.

The sound effects were actually helpful, and normally I hate excess sound in an audio format. However, this is the exception, since this story isn’t about the writing but about dramatic effect.

Apparently, this somehow fits into the storyline between some films, but I know nothing about that and haven’t seen the films. Regardless, I was able to follow along. Looking back, it probably would have been good to know that in advance, so I could watch/listen in order.

I occasionally had trouble understanding some of the dialogue in the recording, due to they synthesized sounds of some of the voices. Also, I spent a good chunk of the time mixed up about who was who, but it turned out to not really matter all that much. I could still follow the story, even without having a clue whose voice I was listening to. I just learned the characters more by their voices than their names.

Pages: 352

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: "Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself... Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career...But as Evelyn's story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique's own in tragic and irreversible ways."

I adore Taylor Jenkins Reid. Her stories are so human, simple and poignant. Except this one. It was disappointing and oftentimes felt forced. None of the characters, settings or storytelling felt natural. None of the reveals were surprising or interesting. I couldn't understand what the point of this elaborate story was supposed to be. There is no conclusion or satisfaction found at the end. Just bitter disappointment and frustration. 

I ultimately hated this book. I honestly wish I had never read it. I remain hopeful that TJR's books will redeem themselves in the future. 

391 pages

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanI Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am either really emotional this morning, or this memoir just punches you in the feels over and over again. Reading about girls being unable to even go to school was really hard on my teacher's heart for so many reasons.

I hate that things like this happen in the world, but I like the messages that Malala has shared and continues to share because of it.

Pages: 327

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide, #1)The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is sci-fi novel is clever, amusing, and full of voice. I was taken with it from the first moment and listened devotedly until the last second. The contrast between characters and their personalities, even the robots, is so well done and adds a lot of humor and variety to the story.

I have to confess that I didn't know this was a series, and I can't believe I haven't read it before now. Anyway, I thought I would just knock this off my list fast, but as it turns out, I now want to read the next 5 books in the series, which increased my TBR, instead of decreasing it as planned. But oh well. I can't be unhappy about such a stellar series.

Pages: 193

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Walking Dead, Book Thirteen by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Book Thirteen (The Walking Dead #145-156)The Walking Dead, Book Thirteen by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars



And Neegan. Oh, Neegan. How do I love thee? So much that it's of concern, considering you are so terrible, and I also absolutely hate you. Someone may need to have me checked, in case I'm unstable and need an intervention, as clearly this is not acceptable grown up behavior.

PAGES: 298

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Empress by S.J. Kincaid

The Empress (The Diabolic #2)The Empress by S.J. Kincaid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy. Wow. I love when a second book stands up and delivers. YA Sci-Fi is so wickedly delightful these days.

Nemesis should be my new bestie (sorry Laurie!). I mean she's absolutely ruthless when it comes to protecting Tyrus, and I love that. At the same time, for being considered as something less than human, she's so painfully human that it's almost uncomfortable at times.

And that ending. It was like plot twists upon plot twists upon plot twists. My brain is still swirly from how many unexpected moments occurred in just the last few chapters.

I am in love with this series. The only negative is that I have to wait another year to get my hands on book 3, and I'm desperate for it right now.

Pages: 378

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

BeastBeast by Donna Jo Napoli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I confess that the start was really rough, but I loved the setting and diversity of this story. So I stuck it out, and I'm mostly glad I did. I don't think this improved upon Beauty and the Beast, but it was an acceptable retelling.

I've read far better Beauty and the Beast retellings, including:
BEAST by Brie Spangler
CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge
BEASTLY by Alex Flinn

And obviously, A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas was originally intended to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling but emerged into something even greater. So pick that one up, for sure, just because it's amazing.

Now, back to this book, which may be of interest to some, but probably not to all. My least favorite parts included the long and wandering start and the extremely abrupt ending, but the whole middle section was a bit more interesting. I did get caught up in the story, after initially wondering if I might want to quit reading this book.

I definitely don't regret reading this book. I know that doesn't sound like high praise, but I think that readers may need to be willing to accept a few flaws to be able to take something out of reading this one. Also, I listened by audiobook, and I think that helped. I'd recommend that format, if you decide to give this one a try.

Pages: 272

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Autobiography of geobiologist Hope Jahren. She has had a lifelong curiosity about, and love for, all things growing from the soil, and for the soil itself.  Her father was a scientist, and she grew up playing in his lab as he worked. She went on to get a Ph.D. in geology at the University of California.

She is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth Sciences. She has been the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and in 2005, Popular Science named her one of the "Brilliant 10" young scientists in the United States.

 This very readable autobiography goes into great details about dirt (and trees), but also about begin a scientist who is also a woman.

306 pages

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards

When Jinx is 16, her mother moves a man into the home where the two of them have lived alone since her father died when she was a small child. It changes the dynamics of their relationship, and when he begins to abuse her mother, then beats her, too, she begins to hate him, and eventually to hate her mother.

Every time he beats her mother, he buys her a beautiful new coat, until she has a cupboard full. The story moves slowly and inexorably toward a tragic ending that is predictable, but nevertheless haunting and leaves the reader feeling helpless.

275 pages