Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole

Dark Needs at Night's Edge (Immortals After Dark #5)Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 5 in Immortals After Dark

I don't typically like stories with ghosts, so this is an exception. I'm honestly shocked that I gave it 5 stars, but I rate based on gut impulse when I finish the book and rarely change those scores. I considered 4 stars, on a logical level, but I preferred 5, on an emotional level.

I think the series grows stronger and more interesting with each new book. Something about it captured me from the start, but she's getting even better at world building and character development with each new book, which helps me stay interested in the series and world.

I like how the characters from previous books are woven throughout the series, and it makes me anxious for some of the side characters to one day get their own books. It seems apparent that I'm going to have to finish the series before I can move on to anything else, but at least these are quick reads.

Pages: 368

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night (Immortals After Dark #4)Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 4 in Immortals After Dark

I enjoyed Bowen, all the Lykae, really, but I was particularly fascinated by Mariketa's powers. This is the first one that I've given 5 stars to. I think that's because I've liked all of the stories, but everything came together for this one: the writing, the character development, the world building, etc. It also felt different and not repetitive of the past books, which is good. I was worried they would all start seeming the same.

Pages: 359

Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

It is 1778 and Jamie and Claire Fraser are unsure how things became so complicated: France has declared war on Great Britain, and the British army has fled Philadelphia with George Washington in pursuit. Jamie, meanwhile, has returned from what Claire and Jamie's friend Lord John Grey were told was a watery grave only to find his friend has married his wife in order to protect her. His illegitimate son has discovered the true identity of his biological father, much to the horror of both father and son. In the midst of all this, Jamie's beloved nephew, Ian, has decided to marry a Quaker. Chaos abounding, Claire and Jamie's sister, Jenny, newly arrived from Scotland, attempt to pick up the pieces. One thing the Fraser family is sure of, though, is the safely of their daughter, Brianna, who resides in the twentieth century with her family. But all is not well with Brianna: Her young son has been kidnapped by a man seeking the family's secrets, and Brianna's husband Roger has once more ventured into the past to find the missing child, unaware that Jem is firmly rooted in the present. With Roger gone, Jem's kidnapper is free to focus on his true target: Brianna herself.  

Book 8 in the Outlander series. 825 pages. 

Friday, September 22, 2017


On Wednesday, I did the math and realized that I was going to have to read 97 books in 102 days to catch up on my Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge.  That's the problem with setting a huge goal. If you accidentally go through a 2 month reading slump, you fall behind fast.  The good side to setting a big goal is that you typically read far more books than you would have without it.

Anyway, long story short, someone posted a link for me on Twitter to short reads: https://ebookfriendly.com/best-short-books/. Then I followed up by digging around at my 4 libraries (online), to see what else I could unearth.

Here are the end results, with varying degrees of success and satisfaction:

The Snows of KilimanjaroThe Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well, I think the 1 star rating makes it clear that I hate this. Some people call this Hemingway's best work. I think it's a pretentious piece of crap that lacks emotion, a storyline, and decent characters.

It is poorly edited and extremely sexist (in the most boring sort of way), and yes, I understand this was a popular failure of men from this time period. It basically hates on women, remarking on their stupidity and worthlessness about every third paragraph. Every second paragraph is endless rambling about writing and being a writer that even I, as someone who writes, couldn't care about.

The whole short story is full of nonsense that I feel pretty sure he wrote while drunk (Hopefully. If not, then I'm actually embarrassed for him). Then I suspect he fell so in love with his own rambling sentences that he didn't bother to edit decently once sober.

It's basically a telling montage with one irritating run on sentence after another, and it's not even interesting or insightful. There are no surprises here, except how much I hate this short story and wish I hadn't wasted my time finishing it. Don't expect to feel any emotion while reading it, other than general irritation and boredom. This is tedious. Thank goodness it was short, so the suffering was limited.

Also, I'm actually feeling sad that people from this time period apparently didn't have anything better to read than this, if it's considered a classic and some of his best work. I wish I could make a quantum leap back through time to carry the people something insightful, forwarding thinking, emotionally resonant, and unique. Instead, all they got was this boring montage built around a dislike of women, a fear of death, and condescending ideas about art and creation.

Pages: 25

The Case of the Caretaker: A Short Story (Miss Marple)The Case of the Caretaker: A Short Story by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a charming little formulaic mystery. It took a minute to capture my attention.

It also used a word I had never seen or heard before, which almost never happens. The word was acidulated. I had to look it up, which amused me.

Pages: 40

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a relief that I don't hate this, as I have many other classic short stories that I've been reading lately. There is some actually storytelling here, even though is is a bit convoluted at times and often does more telling than showing. The concept is excellent, and the start is good. The middle lags, and the end is all telling. Overall, though, it's not a bad read. I obviously knew the general story going in, so that may have taken away some of the intrigue and surprise.

Pages: 144

Brokeback MountainBrokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one instance where I watched the movie years before reading the book. I love the movie, in the kind of way you love something that cracks open your chest, rips out your heart, throws it on the ground, and the stomps it into nothing.

So needless to say, it's a favorite movie that I watch when I want to cry my eyes out and feel sullen for the rest of the night.

The book is good, and it reminds me a lot of the movie. I actually think this is one instance where the movie might portray the story better, because the book is so short that there isn't time to create the same level of emotion. Surprisingly, a lot of the dialogue is the same, and they stayed really true to the story.

I guess I'm going to have to throw away my "The book is always better" shirt. . . My hypothesis has been disproven.

Pages: 55

Further Adventures of Carlotta Carlyle: Three Mystery StoriesFurther Adventures of Carlotta Carlyle: Three Mystery Stories by Linda Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent collection of novellas, but there are too many typos. If it had less typos, I would give it a 4th star.

I love this author and series. My mother got me hooked on reading them years ago. However, I like the full length novels far better than this collection of short stories. They're not exactly necessary to the storyline or series, so only read them if you love the MC.

Pages: 37

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of ImaginationVery Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I confess that I don't even remember who spoke at my commencement. This is far more likely to stick with me, and if I were wise, I'd read it again, upon occasion, to remind myself to appreciate both my imagination and failures.

Pages: 74

The ArgonautsThe Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At times, this is interesting and intelligent, and it made me think. Despite that, I didn’t really enjoy it, because there are other times when it’s tedious and flaky. It lost me at the lengthy section on motherhood. I was fading a bit before that, but I came back around for the part that talks about writing letters.

Part of the problem may be that I didn’t realize it was a memoir, and that’s a genre I’m not necessarily drawn to. There are some memoirs that I have read with rapt fascination, but there are others that are just messy and narcissistic in a way that makes me want to roll my eyes. This falls somewhere in between for me.

She’s too busy gliding across the surface, portraying a sense of chaos that is life, that she never digs deep enough on the things that interest me most. She just flits away again. Then she digs deep on other things that are boring and just her spilling out her inner-monologue which isn’t nearly as interesting as her thoughtful arguments and suggestions. But I can tell she thinks it is interesting which is a bit off-putting.

It’s very hard to describe this story, and I think it’s clear that I’m struggling to review it. I don’t hate it, but I also don’t like it. I find it fascinating but also annoying. There’s some insights here to make you think but other sections that make you feel like your brain has rotted and will fall out of your head.

Overall, I think I was both bored and impatient with this story. I don’t exactly recommend it, because that would be like recommending a myriad of things that may actually have some benefit for me but that I don’t exactly enjoy, such as visiting the dentist for a filling or yoga (kmn).

Pages: 143

The bad news is that I didn't love some of these.  The good news is that now I only need to read 90 books in the next 100 days. I'm not sure that's more manageable, but I'm going to try to manage it by reading what I want, going forward, instead of worrying about catching up.

No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole

No Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark #3)No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book 3 in the Immortals After Dark series.

I liked the scavenger hunt. I also like that this did a better job of addressing consent than the first 2 books. Sometimes, it felt a bit repetitive of previous novels, but I still enjoy the world. It's a fun, mindless read, and that's what I have needed lately.

Pages: 356

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)Frostblood by Elly Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good YA fantasy, and I can be a bit of a harsh critic, since I have read so many stories in this category. It’s technically a 4.25 for me, and there were moments in the story when I would have given this a 5, and others when I leaned towards 3.75.

The magic system is fascinating, and I like the slow growth on the romance front. This story does follow the expected path for YA fantasy, and I could have used just a bit more of the unexpected with this one to give it a 5. The villain was pretty fierce, but if it had been turned up just one more notch, that would have really caught my attention.

Regardless, I still like this a lot. The characters are strong. The world building is pretty good but could be even stronger. I’m hoping the world building runs even deeper in book 2. A lot of this book follows the path for an epic myth quest (also called a hero’s journey, but we called it epic myth quest in college, so I persist), which is a standard fantasy trope that I actually enjoy.

Some people complain when they see recurring trends in storylines between novels in the same genre. Not me. I expect that, and as long as the story is fascinating and well-written, I’m still happy. I would read a thousand different version of an epic myth quest (and probably already have), as long as there’s strong voice, solid world building, well-developed characters, unique magic systems, good writing, and decent plotting. This is a good story, with all of the above, and I have a feeling this might be one of those series where the second book really advances the world and turns out even better than the first book. I can’t wait to read it and find out if that’s true.

Pages: 376

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa

Children of Eden (Children of Eden, #1)Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the beginning, I thought this showed promised, but now that I've finished, I don't believe I will continue the series.

Before I try to explain why, if you are interested in this book, I strongly suggest you DO NOT listen to the audiobook. Choose print, because two of the main side characters have almost the same name (Loch vs. Lark---could be spelling both wrong, since I listened on audio and wasn't able to quickly Google for correct spellings). At first, these characters have separate storylines, but once they run together, the similar pronunciation becomes very confusing. 

To make matters worse, the MC has no consistency with Loch and half the time calls him Lochlan, making it further confusing...because one second he's Lochlan, and the next time she says Loch, Then, I'm not sure if she actually said Loch, or if she meant Lark. Let me stress that this is no fault of the narrator, who does a good job reading. She was just saddle with two incredibly similar names and an inconsistent text, which made her job more difficult.

Now that is off my chest, this is a standard illegal second child in an artificial world because earth has been destroyed story. Both of those are extremely common tropes, but since I typically find them interesting, that wasn't a huge problem. It obviously means you shouldn't expect a lot of originality in the storyline, but unfortunately, you're also not going to get much originality and growth with the characters in this novel.

The writing is not awful but also not great. There is less showing and more telling than I prefer, but it's okay. The action scenes never inspire much emotion in me at all, and it feels like I saw everything coming from a mile away. I honestly think it's more about how they've been written than that they aren't interesting scenes.

As for the rest:

The plot --meh. Nothing new here or all that exciting. Still, I would be totally fine with a cookie cutter plot as long as it was well-executed. I can forgive a lot for good execution and emotional investment, which I just didn't have with this storyline, particularly in the last half of the novel.

The characters -- started out okay but did not develop well. Most of them became less interesting to me as the story progressed, which was really disappointing, as I was quite interested in them to start. This is part of the reason I won't continue the series. The side characters start to feel like caricatures of the expected YA sidekicks. The adult characters, in particular, lack depth. Either that, or it's just how the MC views them...which means the MC lacks perspective. Either way, it bothers me.

The world -- definitely interesting, but also nothing really new here. The world building could be better for me. It's not terrible, but I don't really have any desire to visit or live inside this world, which is the case with most novels that I love (even when the worlds are dreadful).

The Sci-Fi elements: definitely not going to wow a sci-fi nerd.

That being said, I obviously like something about this novel, because I read it pretty fast. I think that there were just too many things that characters did that seemed unbelievable or untrue to themselves and their world that it pushed me to disconnect from the story.


While reviewing, I have realized that there's actually quite a bit about this story that doesn't sit that well for me. I think I'll stick with 3 stars, but I may be leaning towards more of a 2.75 in my mind now.

Pages: 278

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

A Hunger Like No Other (Immortals After Dark #2)A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book 2 in the Immortals After Dark Series.

Okay, I love these books. They're so feral and animalistic, in a supernatural monster sort of way. I'm pretty sure that doesn't make much sense, but it will once you start reading them.

It's a nice change of pace when I want something mindless and ridiculously fun to read. The world is fascinating, and they're spicy to the max. They also come with a bit of blood and gore, as should be expected when you mix a vampire/valkyrie and a werewolf.

This book also has some consent issues, much like the first book, but it got better as the story progressed. I just want to throw that out there for anyone who is sensitive to this. At the beginning, it did bother me some, and I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that this is a paranormal romance novel. I accept that these aren't humans, and they aren't following my rules for humanity, which is why I just let it go and enjoy the overly-dramatic ridiculousness of it all as the story progressed. However, I do hope that improves in future novels, and as the first one is about 12 years old now, I suspect that it will.

The concept of each creature finding one true mate is charming. I don't even believe in soulmates or "the one" but these stories kind of make me wish that I did. There's some fun to be found in pretty lies.

Pages: 356

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole

The Warlord Wants Forever (Immortals After Dark #1)The Warlord Wants Forever by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People have recommended the Immortals After Dark series to me for years, and I have politely listened to them go on and on about their obsession before deciding that there are far too many books in this series for me to want to start now. However, I do really enjoy Kresley Cole's YA novels, so I have been curious.

Then the Bestie become obsessed with this series, and it was either finally read them or be texted to death about them for the next 6 months. So I started this series out of self-defense, but I've continued it for far more interesting reasons.

This first book is captivating, fast-space, and extremely steamy. It's a novella, so it's short, which means there's a bit less world-building and storyline than in some of the following books.

Also, let's just be honest and point out that there are some definite consent issues here, especially in the beginning, and that made me feel a bit anxious and wrong from the inside out. I did get over that by reminding myself that this is paranormal romance published about 12 years ago, and I can't expect these monsters to play by human rules. Also, the poor behaviors improved as the book progressed, which helped with my initial concerns, and the characters won me over pretty fast. The female lead, in particular, is sassy and kickass.

I listened to this on audiobook, and I confess that I think I was blushing for half the novel. I'm pretty sure I haven't blushed since high school, so that's impressive. It's a steamy read, not for the faint-hearted. Although, let's be honest. The faint-hearted could probably use a read like this to shake things up a bit. :)

Pages: 163

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Constellation, #1)Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I absolutely loved this YA space Sci-Fi. This story is exciting, fast-paced, and it has a well developed world--no--universe, that's embroiled in interstellar war. The storyline includes visits to several interesting planets, all with unique side characters.

The story is told from 2 POVs. One is a human girl, Noemi, a flyer sworn to protect her low-tech planet of Genesis by sacrificing her own life for the good of all. The other is a mech boy (artificial intelligence), created by a brilliant earthling. The mech has been stranded in space for 30 years, due to an unexpected chain of events. I won't say more, because spoilers, but the story is captivating from the first moment.

The audiobook is fantastic, with 2 readers, one for each POV.

Pages: 503

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, #2)Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world and concept are so unique in this 2nd book of a YA monster-filled duology.

It explores the very concept of what humanity is and whether or not those traits are inherent to only humans, or just higher lifeforms in general. There's also a brand new monster that is rather chilling in the way it feeds on humans.

For me, the story drug on at times, and I could have used some more compelling forward motion. The characters are indeed fascinating, both monsters and humans alike, but I haven't found my groove with V.E. Schwab yet. She has some of the most fascinating concepts and brilliant worlds ever, but I'm unable to fully immerse myself into the stories for some reason. I can't seem to let go and exist insider her stories and worlds the way I want to, and I'm not sure why. I think it is probably something unique to me. So far, I have read all of her books by audiobook, so perhaps I need to try her out in print, in case that makes any difference...give myself a bit more time and head space to take the stories in at my own rate.

Overall, it's a solid read with a satisfying and realistic ending.

Pages: 510

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6)Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this world so much. I kind of hope the series drags on forever (this is book 6). Each book pulls me deeper and makes me love the series more. It’s one of those series that just grows and grows in the best sorts of ways. My least favorite book, is the first one, which is not to say that I dislike it, just that I can’t believe how much this series and world has grown since then.

I listened to the audiobook, which was excellent.

Also, I confess I was feeling a bit disgruntled with Chaol, whom long ago I loved, before I started to kind of hate him. This book really brought things full circle for me.

Pages: 672

Monday, September 11, 2017

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will and do read everything by Leigh Bardugo, because I love her worlds and characters. This is another excellent read, but unfortunately, I didn't love this quite as much as all the others. The first book was definitely better, even though I was happy to have more time with these characters that I adore.

This is fiercely plotted, but still, the story feels just a bit drawn out at times. I hate that, because usually it's the longer, the better with Bardugo. However, there's a bit of spark missing from this story for me, at times, and most of it is in the interactions between characters. It's still well-written, so it's not exactly about the writing. I think I wanted the characters to grow a bit more than they apparently were capable of. That might have been unfair of me, but alas, I'm a greedy reader.

Also, I am not quite in love with how things ended up. I don't expect everything to be perfect and wonderful, but I just wanted something a bit more epic from the ending, since it's the last book in the series. It was off-putting that the final scene was from the POV of the villain, who I was already over and no longer cared about at that point. It's not how I wanted to leave the story. I would have rather it wrapped up from a better and more satisfying viewpoint.

Honestly, I think what this boils down to is that everything is great in how the fantasy/heist part of the story wrapped up, in general. I'm just not completely happy with how all the relationships developed and wrapped up, as I craved something more. I wanted the characters to dig to some deeper emotional levels.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still happy I read this book. It's good in a million different ways. But it's just shy of magnificent, and I have come to expect magnificence from Bardugo.

Pages: 560

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantasy heist novel, which is a great concept! I love Leigh Bardugo, because she writes rich worlds and complicated characters. This is the first book in a duology, and I've already started book 2. You will want to have it on hand, because book one ends dramatically.

Pages: 462

Saturday, September 9, 2017

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the EndThey Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty good overall, but it did not live up to my hopes and expectations. It fell a bit flat at times, which shocked me. Typically, I go into books blind, with no or low expectations. I don't usually even read the book blurbs. I just pick on blind faith, and then I go along for the ride. With this book, I went in with a few expectations, and now I wish I hadn't.

Here are some of those expectations I carried in:

1. The concept and world building would be incredible

--a. Concept was amazing. Totally brilliant.

--b. World building was mostly missing. You could argue that it wasn’t important how the world functioned, that it wasn’t inherent to the story. However, you can’t give a book nerd a novel with a fascinating concept, set in an unexpected world, and then not explain any aspect of the world to them at all. They may still enjoy the ride, but it will drive them crazy that nothing at all is explained, especially in a world where an extraordinary number of people have experienced loss and death. I just want to know why. Why?!?!? How does it work? Why the term deckers? Why can’t people just opt out of the notifications? Who is really in control? Why does nobody try to fight the system?

2. The characters will be incredible. And they are. I have no complaints with the two main characters. The side characters tend to feel a bit repetitive, which makes it harder for me to remember one from the next.

3. The plot will be fast-paced and undeniably exciting and intense. False. Absolutely false. If you want to read this, just know you’re in for a character-driven experience, not for an exciting plot.

4. There will be some unexpected twists. But there really weren’t. I even kept guessing what the twists would be, but there were really no twists at any point. Unfortunately, this led to a situation where I thought up all these brilliant twists, and then none of them ever came true, which left me disappointed, through all fault of my own. But still.

5. The audiobook will be fantastic. And it is. I recommend it.

6. The writing style and voice will be solid. And they are.

This is my first Silvera novel, though I own 2 others. I believe I will read them, but I confess I’m a bit nervous now.

One thing to prepare for, the book is full of loss on every single front. However, don't get too anxious, because it didn't make me cry. There were some sad undertones, but it was not nearly as emotionally resonant as I expected.

Basically every teenage character in this book has lost a parent, their whole family, their lover, and/or all of those. I’m sure it’s to help with the overwhelming theme of loss, but it becomes so many characters that have experienced loss (with no real explanations of why the world is like this), that it starts to lose value. There’s just no contrast at all, and the reality of loss is that it is made more powerful when shown head to head with its opposite. I feel less interested in every new person’s sad backstory, because it’s just another modification of the previous character’s sad backstory.

Honestly, this book is probably a 3.5 for me. I would have given it more of a 4.5, earlier on, but the last 1/4 of the book fell pretty flat for me. It didn't even devastate me, which is a strike against it when it comes to this sort of topic.

I know the author put a lot of love and hard work into this. I can feel that in the way he writes the characters. I appreciate the diversity, as well. I still enjoyed it overall, and it made some lovely points about the ways people choose to live their lives, also, the way they don’t choose but still go on living their lives.

I would recommend this to others, because I still loved the two main characters and the concept. I just think people will enjoy the ride more if they keep their expectations low and accept it for what it is, instead of wanting it to be something it isn't ever going to be.

Also, one final note. This could have been a terrific Sci-Fi novel, but really all those elements are left out. So basically it's a Sci-Fi world, written like a contemporary novel. That might also be part of the reason it fell flat for me, because I love Sci-Fi and don't like the false promise of something more exciting, only to be tricked by another contemporary novel about love, loss, and personal growth.

Pages: 384

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Summary: Aileana Kameron is intent on avenging her mother's death...by hunting and killing every fae in Scotland. She has help from a pixie, a Seer and even a powerful fae himself, Kiaran MacKay. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It's steampunk, faery-hunting and historical Scotland all rolled into one quirky and quickly-moving story. The action scenes were my favorite parts, and the author doesn't get bogged down in filler. It isn't perfect, but still enjoyable. 

Favorite Quote: "I want to be there with you until the end." 

378 pages

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad, #4)Broken Harbor by Tana French
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I did not enjoy this book as much as I did French's The Likeness, which I found phenomenal. Nonetheless, Broken Harbor was entertaining and thought-provoking. As in The Likeness, the consequences of urban sprawl, play a role.

456 pages.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was even better than I thought it would be, not than I expected something less than incredible from Leigh Bardugo. She's one of my favorites, but there are so many superhero remakes, that it often worries me.

I guess I feel like sometimes there's a limit when it comes to superhero stories, a point at which they start to seem repetitive or like there's too much of the same, which is why I liked this so much. This entire story is pre-Wonder Woman. It's just about Diana when she's young, and it includes some fascinating characters and enjoyable friendships.

There's plenty of intrigue and action scenes to keep things exciting, and the side characters are quirky, diverse, and lovable. The villain is well-developed. I listened to the audiobook, which was very good and narrated by Mozhan Marno.

This story only increased my fascination with Wonder Woman, and I continue to feel very sorry for myself that I can't live on Themyscira.

Pages: 384

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Wave From Mama by A, Robert Allen

Set in Brooklyn New York during and immediately after the Civil War, this novel explores the tension between the Irish and free blacks through the story of a young boy who witnesses his mother's murder during the Draft Riots.

Emotionally scarred and determined to find and kill those who killed his murder, he lashes out at everyone he meets. But he is taken in and nurtured through it by a loving family, and goes on to work on the Brooklyn Bridge during its construction.

248 pages

Lucky by Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold was an 18-year-old college student at Syracuse University when she was brutally  raped and beaten in a park near the campus.  In this memoir,  the author of 'The Lovely Bones' shows how such a senseless act of violence profoundly changes the entire course of a life.

274 pages

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Honor's Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel Bach

Summary: "After a mysterious attack left [Devi Morris] short several memories and one partner, she's determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi's not actually looking for it, trouble keeps finding her. She sees things no one else can, the black stain on her hands is growing, and she's entangled with the cook she thought she hated."

Even though I adored Fortune's Pawn, this second installment in the Paradox series fell flat. The adventure was stale and the plot developments were boring and confusing. I still love Devi's voice, personality and grim determination, but I felt at times that the fun of the first book was lost. I hope the third and final book will prove to be a satisfying conclusion. 

375 pages

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Too Late by Colleen Hoover

Too LateToo Late by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is nonlinear and full of drama and tragedy.

I love Colleen Hoover. This is one of her earliest novels. It’s not my favorite, but it was still a captivating read. It’s a bit strange how the Epilogue starts at the last 1/3 of the book, but you don’t exactly stay in the Epilogue. I think the format shows experimentation by an early author. I don’t mind that, because the writing is still solid. She kept my attention throughout, and I enjoyed the characters overall. Her later works are better, but that’s not shocking. Everyone starts somewhere.

Pages: 395

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Onyx (Lux #2) by Jennifer Armentrout

Summary: "Kat struggles to stay away from Daemon Black, despite being connected to him through his alien powers, and when the Department of Defense comes to town she fears what will happen if they discover what Daemon can do and that she is linked to him."

Onyx wasn't quite as thrilling as Obsidian, but it was still a fun and solid sequel. Kat is growing as a character, which is nice to watch unfold. She is becoming quite powerful, and it is interesting to see how Daemon responds to Kat's capabilities. 

366 pages

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was a good read. I listened to the audio by Claire Danes. It's obviously depressing, and sometimes it is description heavy in a way that can be a bit tedious. Also, the ending is ambiguous. However, that didn't bother me, so much as it just took me by surprise, initially.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I think I'll try some others by Margaret Atwood. Also, I started the TV series on Hulu. It's good so far, though I don't always feel they do a good job of pairing the soundtrack to the emotion of the scenes.

Pages: 311

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

Jamie Fraser is a former Jacobite and rather unwilling participant in the American Revolution, but he chose rebellion because he was certain of several things: The Americans will win, though fighting on the side of victory would not ensure his survival, and the last thing he wanted to do was face his illegitimate son, a lieutenant in the British army, down the barrel of a gun. Claire Fraser, Jamie's wife, has assured him of victory---something she can guarantee because she is a time-traveler. What she does not know, however, is what the price will be. The price will not include Jamie's life or happiness, at least not if she has anything to say about it. Meanwhile, Jamie and Claire's daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger, reside in the relative safety of the twentieth century with their children. They have settled in Lallybroch, Jamie's ancestral home, and maintain a connection with Brianna's parents through a series of letters they were careful to leave behind. As Brianna and Roger comb the fragile pages for clues to the fate of Claire and Jamie, they learn just how closely their lives are linked.

Book 7 in the Outlander series. 814 pages.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of KatherinesAn Abundance of Katherines by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like this. I don't totally love it, but John Green writes great characters. I liked the characters far better than the actual story, which didn't really hold my interest. But the characters were fantastic and well worth my time.

Pages: 229

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cheater by Rachel Van Dyken

Cheater (Curious Liaisons, #1)Cheater by Rachel Van Dyken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I needed something dramatic and angsty that was easy to read to get me out of my book funk. This worked pretty well for that. It's surprisingly funny, mostly predictable, but still enjoyable.

The writing style is . . . unexpected. I actually preferred the audiobook. When I switched to text, the strange sentence structures, while fascinating, sometimes distracted me from the actual story. It's one of those books that sounds better out loud, due to it's snarky, conversational tone, and reading the text is more jarring than hearing it, for some reason.

Pages: 317

Friday, August 11, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely adorable. I read it straight through and didn't regret a second. The audiobook, in particular, is excellent, with two fantastic narrators in Sneha Mathan and Vikas Adam. I would definitely recommend this to others.

The premise: Dimple's parents allow her to go to a 6 week summer coding class the summer before college only because they want her to meet Rishi, her potential future husband. Needless to say, Dimple's not very interested in marriage or looking pretty, when she could be coding.

There are a few things about this delightful book that I felt could have been even better (the pacing, particularly in the last half), which would have made me love it at 5 star power. Those of you who know I typically rate high might realize that a 4 can be a bit of a flat rating for me, but this is not a flat book.

For a book set in such a fascinating world (in my mind) as Insomnia Con, I would have loved to see some actual world building there. Basically there was almost none, outside of the basics of getting started. We didn't even get to see the depths that participants went to in order to complete their apps (including Dimple and Rishi who spent more time dancing than coding), and there were tons of other students in the program who we never really got to meet or understand.

Some of the main side characters didn't really seem like the types to attend such a long, intensive summer camp. They were more interested in their wealth and popularity than actual coding, so I'm slightly disappointed in the fact that Insomnia Con could have been the most exciting and fascinating world of intellect, diversity, and nerdery ever and... it just wasn't. Instead, it was more of a romantic plot tool, and the majority of scenes weren't even really about the summer camp or the project, both of which were more interesting to me than the characters going out for dinner over and over again.

So it lost a star for world building failures, and it should probably lose a second star, in all honesty for the last 1/3 of the book, which had major pacing issues and a few moments that made me reconsider if I actually knew and liked Dimple. I know they were there again for "plot" tools, but I hate seeing a character bring out a particularly bad, unflattering behavior/quality at the end of the book and then not really address or atone for it.

However, I did think this was a fun, fast, lighthearted read that made me smile. A lot. So it still gets 4 stars, even though I just overthought it so much I almost reduced a star. There's still a lot of good here. There's still a lot to enjoy in the different ways both Dimple and Rishi consider and react with their cultures, both as Indian-American and as Indian. I enjoyed the culture of this book in general and thought that was a real strong point. It showed the different ways people feel and react, when they're born into one culture/place but raised mostly inside another.

Yes, that helped. Now I do feel it definitely deserves those 4 stars. Just realize that you have to enjoy it for the overall journey, rather than the plot and world building, which both are lacking, particularly as the story progress. I still think the interesting main characters will see you through to the end, so give it a go.

Pages: 380

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

Summary: "When professional mercenary Deviana Morris took the security guard job aboard the Glorious Fool, all she wanted was a fast route into the Devastators -- the elite league of armored fighters entrusted with the most important duty on her home planet of Paradox. But this security job isn't just twelve-hour patrols, armor-polishing, and whiskey. The supposedly-cursed Captain Caldswell keeps sending Devi and her partner into unimaginably dangerous situations."

I've been in the mood for an awesome, adventure-packed space novel, and Fortune's Pawn fit the bill! The first installment in the Paradox series was fun, suspenseful and interesting. I loved Devi as a brave and determined heroine. She was well-rounded, clever and still flawed. I can't wait to read the next one!

340 pages

Monday, July 31, 2017

Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark

Twins Kelly and Kathy Frawley are kidnapped, and the kidnappers demand an eight million dollar ransom. Their father's employer, an international investment firm, pays the ransom, but only one twin is returned to the parents. The other was killed by the kidnappers.

However, the twin who survives seems to have a telepathic connection to her sister. She keeps insisting that Kathy wants to come home.

Another masterful novel from the queen of suspense. This one is a fascinating study in  the psychology of twins.

416 pages

The Muralist: A Novel by B. A. Shapiro

Alizee Benoit is an artist living in New York and working for the WPA in 1940, She is trying desperately to obtain visas for her family after Germany invades France and begins to ship all the Jews to concentration camps. Her desperation leads her to become involved in a plot to kill the undersecretary of state, who is denying visas to most refugees from Europe. After the plot fails, Alizee manages to get on a ship to France, and simply vanishes.

Danielle Abrams is a young woman living in New York and working for an art auction house in 2015. She is working with a newly obtained collection of paintings when she discovers two smaller paintings attached to the backs. They look remarkably like the only two surviving paintings of her great-aunt, Alizee Benoit. What happened to Alizee has been a family mystery since the war, and Dani has always been fascinated by it.

Dani sets out to try to solve the mystery; the story alternates from Alizee's story to Dani's search. Much of the story revolves around art and art movements and artists; I found that less interesting than Alizee's story.

353 pages

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

It is 1772, and the stench of rebellion is in the air. In the midst of war, secluded cabins are being burned to the ground not far from Fraser's Ridge, where Jamie Fraser and his family reside, and Jamie is determined to find out who would willingly commit such a heinous act. As chaos spreads, the new governor, Josiah Martin, seeks an envoy to unite the North Carolina backcountry and keep it safe for King and Crown. Everyone agrees: Jamie is the man for the job. But because of his time-traveling wife, Claire, daughter, Brianna, and son-in-law, Roger, Jamie is well aware those who remain loyal to the King will likely pay with their lives or end up exiled. Meanwhile, a small newspaper clipping foretelling of the deaths of Jamie and Claire in a house fire, brought to the past with Brianna, weighs heavy on his mind. For the first time, Jamie finds himself hoping his family may be wrong about what the future holds.

Book 6 in the Outlander series. 980 pages.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout

Summary: "When seventeen-year-old Katy moves to West Virginia she expects to be bored, until she meets her neighbor who just happens to be an alien."

I had been in a bit of a reading slump, and this book pulled me right out. It's not a new story or unique in any way, but I was intrigued by the alien lore, the love/hate story, and the action scenes. Katy is an interesting and relatable heroine. I hope the next books in the series are just as good!

335 pages

Monday, July 17, 2017

Arrowood by Laura McHugh

ArrowoodArrowood by Laura McHugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a gothic mystery and this one covered many of the reasons why - old houses, a hint of the supernatural, history, and romance. The overarching theme is about nostalgia and how our personal memories shape our perception of history and the meaning of 'home'. The author resides in Columbia, MO.

288 pages.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Suddenly One Summer by Julie James

Summary: "Divorce lawyer Victoria Slade has seen enough unhappy endings to swear off marriage forever. That doesn't mean she's opposed to casual dating--just not with her cocky new neighbor, who is as gorgeous and tempting as he is off-limits."

Another fun read from Julie James! I love reading the fancy lives of her characters in Chicago. The way she describes their world is fascinating and interesting. I hope she continues with this series, but I hope that she adds a little more action and intrigue to her future books. They are getting a little too procedural and not enough WOW factor. 

291 pages

Friday, June 30, 2017

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Summary: "On board the Jump Station Heimdall, Hanna is the captain's pampered daughter; Nik a member of a notorious crime family. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two. The fate of the Hypatia-- and possibly the known universe-- is in their hands."

I want Amie Kaufman to write anything and everything. I would read a grocery list if it was written by her.

The creativity and story-telling in the Illuminae series is unmatched. I don't know how I'm going to find another book to read after this. 

659 pages

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Summary: "Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot."

This book was cute-ish and fun-ish. I appreciated the Cinderella parallels, and the sci-fi geekiness. 

However, I needed just a little bit more drama and pay-off at the end. 

319 pages

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

War is brewing in the year of Our Lord 1771, a fact Jamie Fraser knows to be true because his wife, Claire, assures him it is so. Jamie has little choice but to believe her because Claire has the gift of prophecy. It is not a gift she was born with, but rather the gift of a time traveler's dreadful knowledge of what's to come. Sure enough, Jamie receives orders from Governor Tryon to gather a militia in order to suppress the Regulators, a group of citizens dissatisfied with the colonial government. Given what Jamie knows about the future, he must walk a fine line as he supports a government he knows will eventually fail. Meanwhile, the Frasers, their daughter Brianna, and her family must face other battles far more personal than the revolution that is to come.

Book 5 in the Outlander series. 979 pages.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Summary: "The planet Kerenza is attacked, and Kady and Ezra find themselves on a space fleet fleeing the enemy, while their ship's artificial intelligence system and a deadly plague may be the end of them all."

I need therapy after finally finishing this book. It was incredibly creative yet horrifying and agonizing.

Illuminae is zombie horror disguised as sci-fi, and while it was intriguing, it was depressing as well. 

Amie Kaufman is a beautiful writer, but she has a sick way of twisting your insides out in ways you've never experienced with a book before. 

Proceed with caution. 

599 pages

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From Pulpit to Podium to Policy by Richard Tobias

There is only one word for this book…polemic. Even if I agreed with the premise (which I do), its tone is off-putting and strident. The more I read, the more upset I became. It is so one-sided as to be offensive. There are better approaches to the topic that are less dogmatic.I really can’t recommend this book.

Posted for Donna Riegel

160 pages

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End by Katie Roiphe

The author has done a long of research on her selected authors (Sontag, Sendak, Updike, among others) to depict the progress of their deaths. Its not as morbid as it sounds.  Reviews were overwhelming positive (“meticulous”, “poetic”, “[a] meditation on morality”). I don’t share those sentiments.  While the book was interesting reading, and I did finish it, I don’t know that it was all that “poetic”, though it was “meticulous”. I guess it rather much depends on whether or not you consider her subjects “great writers”. Even if I was to concede that Dylan Thomas is in the category, I pretty much changed my mind after reading Roiphe’s. Thomas came off as a drunken bore.  Of course, that’s merely my opinion.

Posted for Donna Riegel

321 pages

Animals in Photographs by Arpad Kovacs

Arpad Kovacs is the Asst. Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. This book was produced in conjunction with an exhibit held in 2016. The title pretty much says it all. The pictures include daguerreotypes, early Victorian photos, and up to modern photos.  The book description says there are photos with “vibrant color”…but quite frankly, I couldn’t recall even one color shot. It is the black and whites that are the most engrossing. There is one shot called “Mother and Child” that is the most haunting and heart-rendingly sad photo I have ever seen about animals. The picture is very disturbing, but it captures your attention. The image will stay with you for a long time. I would recommend with caution.

Posted for Donna Riegel

112 pages

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Devil's Triangle by Catherine Coulter

If you like the older James Bond movies, give this book a try.  The villains are outlandish and crazy, and the plot has a lot of action scenes, some of them a bit hard to believe and far-fetched.  Sorry, not much sex in the book, and the characters are pretty well stereotyped.  I'd call it a fun beach read for those who like action novels.  495 pages.

100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le

The subtitle of this book is 'what our ancestors ate and why it matters today.' Le explores how humans became omnivores, how we developed our tastes for some foods and think others are off limits.  He takes us on a worldwide explorations of cultures and developments, ending with some conclusions that are pretty mainstream, like 'get enough exercise', and others that are off beat, like 'eat less meat and dairy when young, and more when elderly'.  This is well researched, and an interesting read, although he does ramble at times.  294 pages.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Summary: "Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, gunslinger Amani is taken captive by the forces of the Sultan, whose agenda seems less tyrannical than originally believed."

I cannot figure out why this book is almost 200 pages longer than the first one. It is slow and full of unnecessary drama and filler. While the first book is fast-paced and action-packed, this installment is quite the opposite. The first one is full of excitement and intrigue, but I was disappointed that it turned into another revolutionary story - isn't this story-arc overdone at this point? How many overthrown governments are readers really supposed to care about? 

Anyway, I'm still glad I read it, even though it was a chore to do so. The last 100 pages are incredible, and the ending is heart-wrenching in the most delicious and terrible way. 

518 pages

Monsters of Appalachia by Sheryl Monks

Monsters in Appalachia: StoriesMonsters in Appalachia: Stories by Sheryl Monks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of Gothic Southern/Midwestern short stories range from poignantly realistic, a daughter tanning with her mother, to mystical realism, an elderly couple cohabitating with Biblical monsters at the End of Days. Through her characters, Monks explores the balance between morality and circumstances, choice and complacency.

180 pages <

Monday, June 5, 2017

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

The One Safe PlaceThe One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is not for me. It's middle grade, but it's definitely lower middle grade. I thought that the ages of the characters (which I never really figured out or somehow missed), were upper middle grade, but the voices of the characters were incredibly young, more like 8 or 9 years old, which is fine but not what I was expecting based on the description and cover. Also, the characters actions and voices often seemed at odds for me, which I struggled with throughout. It's like the two never meshed in a way that felt honest.

The writing is what really killed it for me with this one. It just needed a lot more editing and better character development. There's a major disconnect, like the characters are caricatures, or ideas, instead of real people. I just didn't care about any of them.

As for the rest of the writing, there's a line that stuck with me from the first part of the story that basically sums up my dissatisfaction with the writing throughout the story. The whole book just sounds rough around the edges, like it lacked good editors. It's full of telling, instead of showing. The line said something about drinking water, and it read similar to, "it tasted orange and brown and gritty."...even though you can't taste orange. You see it. And if you tell me something tastes orange, I immediately think Koolaid or orange soda.

Also, you can't taste gritty. You feel it. I know that sounds nit-picky, but when I'm trying to understand a scene or moment, the word choices and senses impacted matter. Good choices have a strong impact and pull people into the story. Weak or bad choices are off-putting and lead to a disconnect for the reader. Basically, this story lacks imagery and description , and while I'm not a huge fan of excessive description, there has to be some level of successful scene setting in a story like this that's not all telling, as I want to see what's happening, not just read lists about things.

That basically sums up the writing throughout the book. It's just not as effective as it could/should be, because sentences and phrases are tossed around without any careful consideration for what is actually occurring. A good editor should have pushed for clarity and pointed out more of the issues, in this story, like the poor use of clues, the too obvious setups and story line, and all the telling instead of showing. I'm giving the author credit for having good intentions and just having some blinders on to the writing issues, because I think this story could be significantly better if it had been edited more thoroughly.  However, the actual editing, in the end,  is done by the author, so the reality is that it's not clear where the fault lies. The only thing is clear is that this needs more work.

I guess what it boils down to is that I just can't connect to this book, and typically I love this genre.

Maybe it's just me.

Pages: 304

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry

The Girl Who Was Supposed to DieThe Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not bad. Fast-paced. This book would be good for reluctant readers.

For me, the story was thin. I don't hate it. I just would only recommend it to young, reluctant readers, rather than to everyone. It has mystery, but it lacks depth.

Pages: 213