Welcome to the MOSL Book Challenge

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Without MeritWithout Merit by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good story overall, and I read it straight through. However, it's my least favorite Colleen Hoover book and the only one I'm not sure I would ever reread. Now, this isn't meant as an insult, as I obviously still gave the book 4 stars. I just didn't connect with it as well as I have others.

It's a compelling, fast paced read, and it is full of interesting characters, unexpected situations, and a variety of different strained relationships. One minor complaint that I have is that some major/traumatic issues and moments were just brushed over under the philosophy that not all mistakes deserve a consequence. And that's probably true, however it overlooks the fact that even though a mistake might not deserve a consequence, it still may have been harmful and had consequences for others. It may still require more resolution than a mere apology, especially if the mistake went unresolved and unexplained for years and affected the lives of others.

What was fascinating about this book is that it dealt with the amount of harm that people can do to the ones they love when they fail to successfully communicate, whether that's through being the one to speak up, or being the one to actively and patiently listen without judgment. The characters definitely learn a lot across the length of the story, so that was interesting, even when it was uncomfortable.

There's a lot of the drama, and obviously some of the drama is there to keep the plot moving forward. I get that, but it did make some of the drama seem unnecessary, like overkill. The story just didn't sit as well inside the drama as I wanted, I guess.

Overall, I still enjoyed the story enough that I stayed up until 3 AM on a work night to finish it. It's well-written as is everything that comes from CoHo. I'm happy I read it, even if it won't be one that I return to.

Pages: 384

Friday, November 17, 2017

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

All Harry wanted to do was get back to Hogwarts. But just as he's happily preparing to leave his aunt and uncle's house, he receives a warning from a strange creature named Dobby, who tells Harry he must not return to school. Soon after his arrival, it becomes clear Harry should have heeded Dobby's warning, as disaster seems to be in the air. There are the usual minor annoyances: the unwanted attention of Ron's younger sister, Ginny; the obnoxiously arrogant new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart; and a morose ghost named Moaning Myrtle, who hides out in the girls' lavatory. All of these pale in comparison to the sudden attacks that leave many of Hogwarts' Muggle-born population petrified. Who could possibly be behind the vicious attacks? Is it the kind but monster-obsessed Hagrid? What about Draco Malfoy, whose family could easily be related to Salazar Slytherin? Or is it the very person most students suspect---Harry Potter himself?

Book 2 in the Harry Potter series. 341 pages.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this years ago, but when I saw it on Audible, I knew I wanted to buy it and listen. It's a great story for listening, because it's so honest in the kind of way that can be both charming and completely uncomfortable. Bryan Cranston is an excellent narrator.

I highly recommend this in any version, but be aware that this story does not in any way romanticize war or the life of a soldier. It's not a feel good story, more like a feel everything story.

Pages: 259

Monday, November 13, 2017

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

When Harry Potter, an 11-year-old orphan, discovers he is a wizard and is whisked away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he is elated to escape his neglectful aunt and uncle. Even within the Wizarding community, Harry is famous, albeit for something he cannot recall: As a baby, he mysteriously managed to defeat Lord Voldemort, the Darkest wizard ever to haunt the Wizarding world. Not everything is perfect, however. The walls of Hogwarts contain secrets of their own, including an object known as the Sorcerer's Stone. But Harry is determined the Stone will not fall into the wrong hands, and in his desire to protect the Stone and those he loves, Harry comes face to face with terrifying forces beyond his wildest dreams.

Book 1 in the Harry Potter series. 320 pages.  

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

Summary: "In 1882 England when her beloved sister Rose vanishes, Evelyn, bored with society and its expectations, embarks on a search for Rose, encountering the reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock, who is also looking for Rose and claiming that both sisters have special healing powers."

I wanted to love this book. I started out loving it, as it was a mysterious take on a Jane Austen-type setting, filled with good humor and fun. But then it spiraled into confusion and lost its spunk.  

298 pages

Some Day You'll Thank Me for This: The Official Southern Ladies' Guide to Being a "Perfect" Mother by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

I found this book after reading the authors' tongue-in-cheek article on Thanksgiving etiquette in November's issue of Southern Living Magazine. Some Day You'll Thank Me is filled with Southern recipes that for better or worse remind me of my grandmother's cooking - sherry, mayonnaise, lots of cream cheese. It inspired me to make Country Captain Chicken. It was delicious, but I don't think Metcalfe or Hays would appreciate that I opted for the NEW YORK TIMES recipe over theirs. Audiobook. 234 pages.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Roar (Stormheart #1) by Cora Carmack

Summary: "As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. She's intelligent and brave and honorable. But she's yet to show any trace of the magic she'll need to protect her people. To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora's mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He'll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her."

I'm conflicted by my feelings about this story. It is unique, interesting, and magical, but also confusing and ultimately disappointing. It has potential, but was not quite executed the way that I wanted. The storm magic was wonderful, ultimately the book's saving grace. 

380 pages

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Titled Americans by Elisabeth Kehoe

The Titled Americans by Elisabeth Kehoe

The Titled Americans offers a glimpse into the lives of three privileged and glamorous sisters who married into the British aristocracy. When Leonard Jerome arrived in New York in 1850, he would go on to become a successful Wall Street speculator, whose fortunes rose and fell throughout his life. When his wife, Clarissa, took their three daughters, Jennie, Clara, and Leonie, to Europe in the 1860s, the girls would make quite a splash within the British upper class. Jennie married Lord Randolph Churchill, becoming the mother of Winston and the most famous of the three Jerome daughters. Jennie's marriage would launch her sisters into the highest circles of society, resulting in marriages for both. Titles do not guarantee happiness, however, but deep affection united the Jerome sisters so that they could weather life's sorrows and joys, in a bond only broken in death.

452 pages. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Widow's War by Sally Gunning

The Widow's WarLyddie Berry lives on Cape Cod just before the Revolutionary War. Her husband Edward is a whaler, gone on fishing expeditions for months at a time. Lyddie is used to being in charge of her own life, keeping her home and household running smoothly and efficiently and used to being alone. She and her husband have a loving, mutual relationship.

But when he is killed at sea, she finds that he has left her son-in-law in charge of her and all that she thought she owned. However, at that time women could not own property, so she inherits a widow's third of the homestead, and use of the cow. She has only one daughter, so her son-in-law, as the only male relative inherits the rest. She moves into her daughter's home, but chafes under the restrictions placed on her by her son-in-law.

When he finds a buyer for her home and insists she sign the deed, she rebels, and moves back into her third of the house. Her son-in-law makes her life a living hell, but she perseveres, and manages to keep her independence.

336 pages

Prisoner's Base by Rex Stout

Prisoner's BaseArchie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe are at an impasse after an argument when Priscilla Eads shows up on their doorstep, telling Archie that she wants to rent a room for one week. Archie, in order to bedevil Wolfe, installs her in a spare room. Of course Wolfe kicks her out. When she is murdered as soon as she returns home, Archie is determined to find her killer.

I love the Nero Wolfe mysteries; they are pure deductive delights. This one is thoroughly enjoyable.

225 pages

A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark

A Cry in the NightJenny McPartland is a single mother with two little girls, living in New York City, and working in an  art gallery when a handsome rich young artist sweeps her off her feet, marries her, and takes her off to Minnesota. He wines and dines her, is perfect with her daughters, and is just the perfect man, so different from her ex.

However, there are forebodings of cracks in his armor. He is hostile to her ex-husband, and possessive of her. And once they get to his home in Minnesota, things quickly become sinister. He isolates her from her friends and the community and wages psychological warfare on her.

I found myself really disliking this woman; she was stupid and gullible, all the things I get impatient with women for being. However, the story becomes very suspenseful, as all Higgins stories do.

 352 pages

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane YoungA cautionary tale about social media. Aviva Grossman is an intern for an up-and-coming young politician. In an all-too-familiar, she has an affair with the boss. Unfortunately, she also blogs about it. When she and the boss are involved in a fatal automobile accident, the blog is discovered by the press.

When she graduates from college, she finds she is unemployable; once a prospective employer googles her, they lose interest. This leads her to make a drastic change in her life, one that will impact her entire family.

304 pages

Seeker by Veronica Rossi

Seeker (Riders, #2)Seeker by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this second and final installment in the series. Having more time with the boys and horses was fun, though the storyline moved in unexpected directions. I enjoyed the emphasis on family and overcoming the things that haunt you from your past.

One of my favorite side characters was separated from the group for a long stretch, and I really missed his chattiness and sense of humor. Also, I would have liked a few more answers to my lingering questions, but overall, this was a good read.

I think it was appropriate to end the series at 2 books, though I can't help wishing this book had grown the characters and world in a way that more books would have been required. I think there was potential here for something more or greater, though I'm not necessarily opposed to how it all wrapped up.

Pages: 352

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a TreeFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this MG story about a girl who can't read, because she has dyslexia (and it has gone undiagnosed). The strange thing is that this story has lots of flaws and errors, but it is so heartfelt that I overlooked them all.

In fact, until I sat down to really think about it, I didn't even realize how much of this story is a bit unrealistic in 2017. I was so caught up with the characters that I just accepted everything as fact and overlooked it all.

The things that are problematic include:

--This is not an accurate depiction of what middle school is like in 2017, though it did remind me a bit of my late elementary school years, which gave me the warm fuzzies. Since I taught middle school for 6 years, I think I can say that this does not accurately depict most middle school experiences, though I love how polished and hopeful it is. It's like the bright, shiny version of middle school that we all wish we could have attended and taught.

--There are a lot of errors regarding the military and military families, though since that is only a very minor part of the storyline in this book, I think that it could be overlooked for the most part. However, kids who read this who are from military families are going to notice and not feel very well represented.

--The depictions of bullying and how bullies are handled is not especially accurate, though I really do wish it would work that way.

--Some of the commentary on special education is also inaccurate, especially the suggestion that nothing will happen to help the child until all the paperwork is done and the meetings are held. Yes, the process can be long and drawn out, but as soon as teachers are aware of an issue or concern, they already start making accommodations and working to help the student address it and be successful, until something more official can be put into place. I know that the delay is important to the plotline, but it gives an inaccurate impression of the teaching community.

On the good side:
--The writing itself is flawless and emotional
--The characters are captivating
--The message is A+
--There's lots of emotional resonance
--I appreciate the awareness about not only dyslexia but just the different ways people think and learn in general

I confess, I really enjoyed this story, and I would recommend it to others, even despite the flaws. There's something that I really enjoy about this middle school world, even though it doesn't align with many of my experiences as a middle school teacher. It's almost like this story is the easier and more hopeful version of what school could actually be, and that makes me happy. But deep down, I know it's also a bit of a lie.

Pages: 288

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild RobotThe Wild Robot by Peter Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This middle grade novel about a robot that gets stranded on a wilderness island is so sweet. I know, I know. You're all thinking, really? A feral wilderness robot is sweet? Yep. It sure is.

There are no people in this novel. Roz, the bot, has to learn how to adapt, survive, and communicate with the animals of the island, after she's shipwrecked, washed ashore, and accidentally activated by an otter. She is involved in an accident that causes the deaths of a family of geese, minus one small gosling, which she then adopts and raises.

This is a charming, adorable story about how great a place can be when there's someone there, even just a robot, who simply wants to do what is right and make life better for everyone, no matter what creature or species you may be. There's something to be learned here about the strength of society, and what makes for stronger communities. It's touching to watch her learn and grow, and to see how the other animals change and adapt with her. She has a positive influence on the whole island.

The only bad thing about the audiobook is the terrible symphonic additions at the start and end of the book. The music is cued up so loud that I can barely separate out the words and focus on the story, which is absolutely frustrating. Don't get me wrong. I am not opposed to music or sound effects with audiobooks. I have my undergrad degree in music, so bring on the orchestra.

HOWEVER, additional sounds should never supersede anyone's ability to hear and focus on the actual story, ESPECIALLY DURING THE CRUCIAL START OF A BOOK. This is so common, and it MAKES ME SO ANGRY.

When the noise/music is louder than the story, that's an utter failure on behalf of the individual who was responsible for adding sound effects and music to the book. That's just wrong and bad on every level. Not everyone has perfect hearing, perfect speakers, and/or a perfect listening environment. The people who cue music for audiobooks need to take the book out with a set of crappy headphones and listen to it in a busy location.

Then, and only then, should they make decisions about the volume of the background music and sounds. If they are sitting in a high tech studio, then they're mixing the book for themselves, not for the everyday audiobook user, which is just frustrating.

Luckily, the very loud, brain impairing noise lasts for only about the first 8 minutes at the start, so if you turn the audiobook up to double speed, you can get through the uncomfortable segment in just over 4 minutes. Hang in there. After those 8 minutes, you'll be able to hear and appreciate this adorable story, despite having basically missed the entire start of the book. Regardless, you'll be able to follow along with the story, even if you take very little out of the section cued with music, because while I hate missing the start of a story, I didn't struggle to figure out what was happening in the story once the noise violence ended.

I did almost quit listening, because somewhere around the 3 minute mark, I suspected the loud music may be cued throughout the whole book, and I knew I couldn't handle that. It's not. Hang in there.

Pages: 288

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Walking Dead: Books 10-12 By Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Book Ten (The Walking Dead #109-120)The Walking Dead, Book Ten by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really, really hate Negan, but I'm also still fascinated by him. I don't want to look away. He's the Dolores Umbridge of the Walking Dead.

Pages: 296

The Walking Dead, Book Eleven (The Walking Dead #121-132)The Walking Dead, Book Eleven by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is so strange to be reading at a point that is past the show. I feel like I'm cheating on the show, which makes no sense, as really the opposite occurred.

Anyway, this one is also full of unexpected resolutions and moments of hopefulness.

Pages: 296

The Walking Dead, Book Twelve (The Walking Dead #133-144)The Walking Dead, Book Twelve by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This has a shocking a brutal ending, which is both upsetting and also exciting. I love how this series continues to surprise me, and I'm stressed out about what is going to happen next. The anticipation of doom seems to play a huge role in the progression of this series.

Also, Carl is the best. I'd read a whole book on just him.

Pages: 296

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has multiple personalities, some that I like, and others that I could do without. There are moments when this was a solid 4 star read, with sparkles of 5, and it held my full attention. Then there were long stretches that were so boring that I still can’t keep any of those characters straight and can’t recall what really happened (because nothing really happened).

Where this first goes wrong is that it presents, in terms of setting, as a historical/medieval novel, except that it’s a fantasy world, only it’s not really a fantasy world, it’s a futuristic dystopia of our current world. Um…what? Are any of you still with me? If not, no worries, because I read the entire book and still do not have a clue what is going on with this setting, world, or the world building.

Don’t get me wrong. I like cross genre novels, but this is not that. This is a poorly fleshed out world, and I found that frustrating, even though I’m not one who enjoys a ton of elaborate setting. This isn’t just about the setting, it’s about the whole entire world. If you aren’t much of a fantasy reader or you are okay with vaguey-vague-vague-vague when it comes to your fantasy world or world building, this may work for you. Most of the time, it didn’t work for me, but I hung in there, thinking any moment might be the moment where it all comes together, which at least gave me something to anticipate across the long boring stretches of the story where nothing seems to happen.

The world building that does exist, is sometimes interesting and other times just downright confusing, bewildering, and poorly thought out. On a scale of 1 to 10, this should get maybe a 2 or 3 for world building. Since they’re selling this as some sort of epic or high fantasy novel, that’s absolutely atrocious. It is no way compares to the epics in YA fantasy, such as Sarah J. Mass or Leigh Bardugo.

What I do love is the main character, who is interesting, refreshing, and just a bit different. If she had stayed in control of the story, I probably would have enjoyed it far more. Instead, the story would often shift away from her and follow other people who weren’t that interesting and didn’t seem to be all that important to the plot, enough to have warranted their own segment. Also, for whatever reason, most of their names blurred together. It seems like half the males in the novel have names starting with a T.

My full review was really long on Goodreads, so I cut it down for the blog, since I expect most of you don't want to see another 10 paragraphs of commentary about this novel. :)

Pages: 464

Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on baby cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs, monitors and much, much more! by Denise Fields

Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on baby cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs, monitors and much, much more!Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on baby cribs, car seats, strollers, high chairs, monitors and much, much more! by Denise Fields
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this title to me, and I would recommend it to anyone expecting a baby. It makes preparing and selecting items for a new baby much less overwhelming and provides useful costsaving tips. Kindle edition. 288 pages.

View all my reviews

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

A Killing in the Hills  (Bell Elkins, #1)A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This intricate mystery set in rural West Virginia is beautiful written.  Julia Keller asks the reader to consider whether it is best to leave a painful past behind or the return to your birthplace in order to try to make it better for others. 384 pages.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Riders by Veronica Rossi

Riders (Riders, #1)Riders by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I reread this book before reading the sequel, Seeker. This time around, I listened to the audiobook, which was fantastic. I'm glad I listened, because I couldn't remember enough to move forward with the second book. I hate that feeling of confusion, and it was nice to revisit this story. I really enjoy Gideon's POV and sense of humor.


I received an ARC of RIDERS through a Twitter contest and quickly fell in love. This story isn’t even published yet, and I’m anxious for the next one. I would beg Veronica Rossi to let me beta read book two, if that didn’t seem so desperate and stalkerish.

If you were a fan of UTNS, which I was (a serious fan), then you should know this story is absolutely, completely different. The contrast makes me want to fill my review with useless adverbs and adjectives, just to try to explain it to you. If you read a sample of both, I don’t believe you’d guess the same author wrote the stories.

I love that, because RIDERS is its own, different, fantastic story with a unique voice. It snuck its way into my heart with interesting characters and an amazing premise, which goes to show that a good writer can bring something new and different to every story.

I won’t summarize the plot, because everyone else will. Instead, I want to say that Veronica Rossi writes beautifully flawed characters that I adore and relate to. If you wrote a list of Gideon’s flaws down on paper, he wouldn’t seem like the kind of guy I’d want to be friends with, but he captured my heart (and often my sympathy), bit by bit, with the non-apologetic way his mind works. He reminded me that actions matter, but you also need to look past those to see a person’s deeper intentions, if you really want to understand someone.

The story shifts back and forth between past and present, and I really enjoyed how it all came together. Despite all the struggles and hardships, I want to be one of the boys and have my own horse, and I think that says everything. It’s a world I hated to leave and can’t wait to return to.

Pages: 384

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 3 in the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series (final  book)


*&!%$@^&!!* *&!%$@^&!!*

*&!%$@^&!!* *&!%$@^&!!* *&!%$@^&!!*


I *&!%$@^&!!* LOVE Sarah J. Maas. She is the queen of YA/NA fantasy novels. If I had to pick which fantasy world to live in, I'd be hard pressed to choose between her worlds.

This book has left me with all the feels, and I'm not sure how I'm supposed to function for the rest of the day. I suspect alternately laughing out loud and crying would become a bit awkward at work.


A thousand stars and a moon for this incredible finale.

*expletives redacted*

Pages: 699

A Tale Dark & Grimm Series by Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark & Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #1)A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book when it was first published, back in my middle school teaching days, and I really enjoyed it. When I saw the entire trilogy was on sale with Audible, I decided to pick them all up and listen again, this time reading the entire series.

This book was clever, charming, and funny, just as I remembered it. It's also filled with some blood and gore and dangerous situations, but it's all told in a way that would still be readable for late elementary or upper middle school, especially considering the approach and tone. In fact, I think my nephew will love this book. He's at that perfect age for understanding the sarcasm and humor in this book.

I like it a lot, and while I think it would be fun for adults to read with the kids in their lives, it's also just fun for adults.

Pages: 256

In a Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #2)In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the second book as much as the first one. This is a good batch of retellings, with lots of humor and intrigue.

Pages: 192

The Grimm Conclusion (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #3)The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't love this one quite as much as the first two books, but it is still good. It references the previous books and events too much, in a way that became distracting and seemed like marketing to me. I didn't love that, but the rest of the story was pretty good.

Pages: 344

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 2 in a Court of Thorns and Roses series. 

Wow. So. Much. Wow.


Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.


Why can’t all second books be as incredible as this?


I don’t think I can rejoin the real world tomorrow.


Pages: 626

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was killer, and I have all the feels. If emotion required balance, then the entire city around me would be full of emotionless zombies, as I am in an emotional spiral.

The world building is fantastic. Some people said it took time to find their way or get into the world, but that wasn’t the case with me, though I do read a ton of fantasy. The world sucked me in right away, and I was up until 2:30 a.m. reading. Then when I accidentally woke up at 5:30 a.m., I immediately started reading again, as I apparently prefer utter exhaustion over being without this world and these characters.

In fact, it is painful for me right now to be typing this review, when all I want to do is start book two. So that’s it, then. See ya.

Pages: 416

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands, #2)Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book two clearly set things up for a lot to happen in book three, but sometimes it pulled me in so many directions, with so few solutions, that it began to feel a bit overwhelming. The strange thing is that less happens in this book than I expected, especially considering it has 518 pages.

Actually, things happens, but there is less overall forward motion that I expected when starting this book. Compared to book one, this has a much slower pace and fewer action scenes. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story, but it didn’t captivate me the way book one did.

I do love Amani. She’s a unique character, with a fascinating voice. I would probably read about her going to Walmart, paying bills, and walking the dog, so this worked out for me. I had a bit of trouble juggling all the side characters and keeping them all straight in the first half of the book, but that could also be partly might fault.

I should have reread book one before continuing on. Since I read it very close to its release date, a lot of time passed before I got my hands on book two. If you’re debating what to do, I highly recommend that you reread book one. You can get by without doing so, but I struggled throughout the story to remember what happened in the first book. Plus the first book is really good, so it’s not going to be painful for people to reread it. I wish I had done that.

Pages: 518

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

GeekerellaGeekerella by Ashley Poston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some things about this story that are adorable. It's a fairytale retelling, and a formulaic romance with an HEA. Those are all in this story's favor.

What's not in this story's favor is that the characters are not always true to themselves, and I found the discrepancies to be jolting. They shifted me out of the story, and I would find myself questioning who this person was after they had behaved so out of character.

Another thing that was disappointing was the actual relationship by texting situation, because there seemed to be no real spark or intrigue in the conversation. In fact, the relationship really didn't pick itself up until they arrived at the Con. That's okay, but I kept hoping for something that was just a little bit more, and the interactions were sparse and came up with less.

This is probably a 3.5 for me, but it had some enjoyable moments. The end was lackluster for an HEA.

If you are in it for the Cinderella retelling, there are better retellings out there, such as CINDER. If you're in it for the geekery, there are some better tributes to fandoms out there, such as FANGIRL and SCARLETT EPSTEIN HATES IT HERE.

Pages: 320

Monday, October 23, 2017

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a solid read, and there were some things I really loved about this story, particularly the culture clashes within Julia's family. She was such a raw character, and it kind of hurt to like her.

I only rated this down a bit, because it tackled too many issues to handle them all thoroughly. I sometimes felt there were threads that weren't well-addressed, and I think I would have rather those issues been left out than so underplayed.

The disputes with her mother held my attention the most, and the mystery of her sister was fun at first but ended up being a bit disappointing after I spent so much time guessing and making up more interesting back stories for the sister than what actually occurred.

I enjoyed the diversity, unique perspectives, and richness of cultures in this story. Julia is a memorable character.

There are some heavy topics tackled here, so if you're a sensitive reader, this may not be the story for you.

Pages: 352

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good story, particularly in terms of topic (immigration and migrant workers), time period (1930s) and diversity. I don't always love how it hits me over the head with ideas and lessons, though I'm aware that occurs more in middle grade stories.

It was a solid read, overall, but I just think the presentation could be better. I don't dislike it, by any means, but I also don't love it, when I hoped to, based on all the buzz and awards.

Pages: 304

The Dangerous Book for Dogs: A Parody by Rex & Sparky

The Dangerous Book for Dogs: A Parody by Rex & Sparky

What has become of a dog's life? The Dangerous Book for Dogs sets out to answer that very question, providing a solid instruction manual for dogs. Need help figuring out the best ways to embarrass your human? Done. Not sure how to escape the humiliating costume your owner wants to force you into? Rex and Sparky will tell you all you need to know. Also containing portraits of famous dogs throughout history as well as tales of notable walks, this short how-to guide is a must for any dog who just isn't quite sure about their purpose in life.

192 pages.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

If There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

If There's No TomorrowIf There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is emotionally brutal, yet still hopeful. There is a lot to consider here when it comes to choices, mistakes, consequences, and forgiveness. The story breaks down a whole community of people, and you get to watch while they struggle to rebuild themselves. So that's hard, but it's truthful, relevant, and thoughtful. I couldn't look away.

Pages: 384

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

Disclaimer: I read this as a joke and it did not disappoint.

Sofia Claremont has essentially been abandoned by her family. She has been left with her neighbors, the Hudsons, and their son, Ben, is Sofia's best friend---but Sofia wants more. She is determined to tell Ben how she feels on their trip to Cancun when she is abducted by a vampire. But the vampire has something in mind for Sofia. She will become a member of the prince's harem on a secluded, enchanted island known as The Shade. Sofia soon determines she is better off near Derek Novak, her brooding princely captor, than she is without him if she is to survive The Shade.

Yes, this is a real book. All in all, a delightfully ridiculous read.

Book 1 in the A Shade of Vampire series (yup, there's more than one book). 286 pages.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The Inexplicable Logic of My LifeThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Benjamin Alire Saenz is incredible. His stories are so gorgeous, and they fist punch you right in the heart. The relationships between the main character, his friends, and his dad are so rich and worthy of my time and interest. This novel has so many beautiful and difficult things to say about life, loss, grief, and hope.

It's raw and honest, and I think I should read everything by Saenz. This story is different from Ari and Dante, which has its own special kind of magic, but I still loved spending time with the characters in this world.

Pages: 452

The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession by David Grann

The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession by David Grann

Journalist David Grann has compiled short pieces of investigative stories he has written over the years, and the end result is his book, The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession. The title is misleading, however: only a few of the stories deal with murder or madness; most deal with some manifestation of obsession, and Sherlock Holmes rarely factors in. Despite this, the stories are well-written and most will be able to find a tale or two that interests them. One standout story includes "Mysterious Circumstances," about the suspicious death of Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the world's foremost Sherlock Holmes scholars not long after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's personal papers were put up for auction. "The Chameleon" is another story of note, which details the life of Frederic Bourdin, a con artist whose specialty lies in impersonating teen boys. Two stories were especially tragic: "Trial by Fire," featuring the story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death row for arson and homicide, only for investigators to later find evidence that may have exonerated him, and "Which Way Did He Run?," detailing the story of a NY firefighter who, after dealing with amnesia, was left wondering if his actions on September 11, 2001 were those of a hero or a coward.

404 pages.   

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolscer

Summary: Caroline Oresteia takes over as captain of her father's wherry, and adventures abound! As she navigates the riverlands, she runs into all kinds of trouble, including fearsome pirates, hidden royalty, frogpeople and powerful shadowmen. 

I adored this book! It had just the right amount of adventure to keep the story moving along. The characters were dynamic and the setting was rich and easy to picture. Watching Caroline change and grow throughout the story was a nice treat. Fingers crossed that the eventual sequel will do it justice!

376 pages

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns, #2)One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good 2nd book. It started just a bit rough for me, which may be partly because I had read book one so long ago and was struggling to remember where things stood. But it's the kind of book that got better and better, the longer I read it.

It's not perfection, but I enjoyed it. The concept is interesting, and the characters grew in unexpected ways, both good and bad.

Pages: 464

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Walking Dead Series by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Book Five (The Walking Dead #49-60)The Walking Dead, Book Five by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love these. I should have read them sooner. Also, I may have to go back and rewatch the series after this, so I can better compare them. I'm noticing more and more differences, and I'm starting to wonder if I just don't remember the series that well after all this time. But I suspect that there are just some major differences, and I'm interested to see how it all plays out.

Pages: 304

The Walking Dead, Book Six (The Walking Dead #61-72)The Walking Dead, Book Six by Robert Kirkman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's full of hopelessness, which is it's own strange sort of perfection.

Pages: 304

The Walking Dead, Book Seven (The Walking Dead #73-84)The Walking Dead, Book Seven by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I often know what is going to happen next, since I've seen though show (and even though some things varying), but this still has my full attention. I'm stressed out and on the edge of my seat, wanting to shout at the characters through every zombie attack and relationship decision, as if they need my help.

Pages: 304

The Walking Dead, Book Eight (The Walking Dead #85-96)The Walking Dead, Book Eight by Robert Kirkman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Violence, mixed feelings, death, despair, kissing, zombies, mistakes, repeat.

Pages: 336

The Walking Dead, Book Nine (The Walking Dead #97-108)The Walking Dead, Book Nine by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely brutal. Also, there is something really wrong with me. I mean seriously. I think someone should stage an intervention. Negan is the worst sort of evil bastard, yet I am absolutely fascinated by him. I think I'm having some sort of "likes the bad boy" midlife crisis over here.

Pages: 336

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Giver Series by Lois Lowry

The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years have passed since I last read this book, so I decided it was time to revisit it. Also, I had never read the rest of the books in the series, which is my intention with this reread.

I am still fascinated by this world and enjoy this story. I confess that I'm always a bit nervous when I revisit a story that I loved in the past. I wonder if the changes in me will change whether or not I can still love the story. My perspectives often shift, but it makes me happy when a good story is still a good story, even if I view it in new ways.

Pages: 208

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting companion novel, but it's not clear how it connects to The Giver at all. The world and characters are all different. I wouldn't mind that, except for the fact that The Giver still seemed a bit unfinished, and I was hoping for some more story about Gabe and Jonas.

Pages: 240

Messenger (The Giver, #3)Messenger by Lois Lowry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a darker and more upsetting addition to the series, and like the others, it has very little resolution. However, the lack of a satisfying ending was the most bothersome with this addition to the series. I don't mind an open ended conclusion, but there's something that was unsatisfying about this one, even though I liked the characters and world.

Pages: 169

Son (The Giver, #4)Son by Lois Lowry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a decent conclusion to the series. It finally starts tying the worlds and characters together in a way that provides a bit more satisfaction and resolution.

My favorite book is still the first one, and some part of me wishes that more of the stories had been set in that world. I guess that's the different between old school and new age dystopian novels. The old school dystopians don't care quite as much about fixing the broken worlds. Sure, some characters do things to force change, but it's a lot less about the broken down system being disabled. People are more likely to run away (which in theory is probably more realistic). The new age dystopians are all about disabling the unjust societies, so it's a different approach/perspective,which is interesting.

Pages: 393