Monday, February 27, 2017

The Girl Before/J.P. Delaney/336 pgs.

The house at One Folgate Street is a bit of an oddity. The architect, Edward, is a minimalist, and is very particular to whom he rents the house. This is the story of two renters: Emma and Jane. In alternating chapters, the story unfolds about these two tenants, always with an undertone of unease. I don't want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, there are secrets, suspense--and quite a few surprises. Highly recommended! Also, Ron Howard plans on making a movie from it. The book has been likened to Girl On a Train, and Gone Girl. In my opinion, The Girl Before outshines both of them.

The Marriage Lie/Kimberly Belle/334 pgs.

Iris and Will have been happily married for seven years. Will takes a flight out to Florida, and on the same day a flight out to Seattle, Washington, crashes--killing all on board. Iris is notified that Will was on the Seattle flight, and as a result, perished. Iris's world is upended: why would Will lie to her about his business trip? What else has he lied about? Digging into his past reveals more secrets--and leads to danger. A fast moving book, and one I highly recommend!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Lady Jane / Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows / 491 pgs

Hilarious. Just--hilarious. Perfectly wonderful as an audiobook.

If you know the story of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine-Day Queen of England, you know it has a tragic ending. This story, not so much. In alternate history at its best (or at least most fun), Jane's story has become an adventure and romance that involves shapeshifters, kings, thieves, and one husband who happens to be a horse (at least part of the time).

Jane prefers books to boys, and runs through lists of synonyms in her head when stressed. She is stubborn and smart and resourceful, but not enough to escape a wedding to a boy she's just met. After all, how do you refuse your dying cousin's last wish, when he also happens to be your best friend AND your king?

Gifford spends each day as a horse and each night as a human. As an Eðian (shapeshifter) who can't control his change, he is the despair of his father, Lord Dudley, who nevertheless plots to marry him off to Jane. G. is content to be a horse, most of the time, but his family's political maneuvering and the arrival of his bossy new bride might spell the end of his equilibrium.

Edward is the king, which you'd think would be satisfying. Except he's a teenager, dying of a slow disease, and the main problem on his mind is that he wants to be kissed. That, and take care of the country, which is gearing up for a bloody fight between the Eðians and Verities (non-shapeshifters). So he's easily convinced to change the line of succession and name Jane his heir, right before his oh-so-convenient demise.

At least, that's what's supposed to happen. What actually happens as we follow these three characters is a funny, perilous, snark-filled journey that goes from hilarity to danger and back as quickly as Jane can finish one of her books.

Those of a geeky persuasion will enjoy the added layer of references to popular culture and Shakespeare, but all readers who want a fast-paced, humor-filled adventure with a dash of romance will find this history is one worth learning.

Heartstone / Elle Katharine White / 352 pages

A.K.A. "Pride and Prejudice and Dragons." 

Alastair Daired (Darcy) is a warrior and dragon-rider from a long line of nobles sword to protect the country from the deadly monsters that overrun it. Aliza Bentaine (Elizabeth) lives a peaceful existence befriending garden gnomes. Their first impressions of each other do not go well.

This was what the book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" should have been, but wasn't. White takes Elizabeth and Darcy's story and transplants it into a quasi-medieval world, freely changing and adapting the characters to fit the new telling. All of the characters from Austen's story are there and recognizable, but with different motivations and backstories that makes this more than a simple copy-and-paste story. And there are new characters, like Daired's sentient dragon Akarra, that change the dynamic extensively.

It's a fun and clean read, fine for teens or adults, but the wit and banter of the original is gone, as is the social critique. If you like adaptations like tv's <i>Once Upon a Time</i>, this is a fun way to pass a few hours, but the character motivations are lacking and the plot gets rather ridiculous. Recommend to girls who swoon at the idea of Darcy as a dragon rider.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA / Doug Mark / 336 pgs

I've really enjoyed this book! The author visited all of those U.S. territories that most of us know nothing about including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and really gets a feel for the culture, the problems, the history, and everything else you could ever want to know about these places that are part of America, and yet not quite. I like how the author describes the islands that he visits. He shows the beautiful and the ugly and really gives life to the people who he meets on his journeys. I highly recommend if you're looking for a good book about travel.

For the ReadHarder challenge I am doing, I am using this book for the Travel Memoir category. 

West With the Night / Beryl Markham / 294 pgs

West With the Night is my book club's book for the month of March. Beryl Markham was a real lady who grew up on a farm/plantation in what is now Kenya back in the first half of the 20th century. She was born in 1902 and wrote her book in 1942. She started out her career as a horse breeder and trainer and moved on to flight in her 30s, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, which is much harder than flying west to east since you're going against the tradewinds. She very nearly became the first human to do so, but was beaten by a man by a matter of a few weeks.

Although I enjoyed the author's descriptions of Africa and definitely felt her love for the continent, I was disappointed with a few things. First, as you can imagine, colonial thinking was pretty blatant through out. There were times Ms. Markham spoke out against certain practices, like the killing of elephants for their ivory, but at the same time, she took a job in which she flew big game hunters to where they could find elephants and shoot them. She spoke of how she used to be friends with a young African boy, and on equal footing with him, but had no problem that once they were both grown, he showed deference by walking behind her. The author also conveniently forgets to mention that she was married three times, her last name, Markham, was her second husband's surname. In fact, she never speaks of any of her relationships throughout the entire book. When she writes of nights in which she is woken up to bring needed medicine to a dying person hundreds of miles away, she never talks about how these midnight calls affected her marriages.

Those things colored my view of the book, and I found myself really wishing I didn't have to finish it. Though she was a very unique woman, especially for her time, I don't find myself admiring her in the least, and so this is a book I just can't recommend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I Let You Go/ Clare Mackintosh /377 pgs

I Let You Go is a bit of a hybrid book--part police procedural, part mystery as it's told from the alternating points of view of the police and the suspect in a crime. It takes place in Bristol, England and the coast of Wales, which I found a refreshing change from good old London. The book opens with a child being killed in a hit-and-run accident. Fair warning if you might find this disturbing as the accident is described multiple times. The identity of the suspect is known from the beginning by the reader, but not by the police. I enjoyed the author's writing but sometimes found the characters frustrating, especially the police. I was especially irritated that the climax of the story would not have happened if the police hadn't been incompetent. I also found the inclusion of a third point of view in the middle of the story somewhat unnecessary. As for the "twist" at the end, it was wholly unbelievable. Still, I mostly enjoyed the book and I am willing to give this author another try.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Flight Behavior/Barbara Kingsolver/436 pgs.

Monarch butterflies have migrated from Mexico to a rural town in Tennessee--the question is, why? The majority of townspeople believe it is a miracle from God, whereas the scientists who come to investigate view it as a result of climate change. The story mainly centers around Dellarobia Turnbow and her husband's family. Her in-laws own the property containing the trees in which the butterflies have made their home. Up until the infestation of butterflies, the Turnbows were planning on cutting down the trees--they need the money to pay loans from the bank. It's a slow moving book which delves into current problems with climate change and the impact it has on family life, the economy, etc., especially in rural areas.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Reunion for the First Time / K.M. Daughters / 254 pgs

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It had a unique story without the tired cliches many romances fall into. It was pretty enjoyable. There were the whole "comedy of errors" thing going on, but I found that it enhanced the story.

Our two main characters, Lizzie and Jack, are thrown in together by mutual friends and matchmakers. Lizzie, about to attend a ten year reunion of her college class, is too scared to go alone, knowing that she'll likely run into the man who dumped her the same day her parents died in a car crash. Jack goes as her date and sparks begin to fly. However, can Lizzie deal with the attentions of her new admirer when her old flame, Wallace, starts to pursue her as well?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fate of the Tearling/Erika Johansen/478 pages

Fate of the Tearling is the finale to the Tearling trilogy by Erika Johansen. At the conclusion of book 2,  the evil  and feared Red Queen  has unleashed her armies to march against and crush the Tear.  In hopes of saving her people, Queen Kelsea has surrendered herself and her magical  sapphires to the enemy. This is a huge epic fantasy, sci-fi and maybe a little horror, with several subplots to keep things interesting. After pages and pages of jumping back and forth between worlds and hoping that some of those dangling plot lines will be addressed, you might be a little disappointed. -- Johansen’s vision—a society tearing itself apart amid the effort to redefine itself—is ambitious, and the conflict is fleshed out through myriad character arcs. . . . wraps up the story quite nicely.” (Publishers Weekly)

Carve the Mark / Veronica Roth / 468 pgs

This was definitely a return to form for Veronica Roth after the disappointment of <i>Allegiant</i>. The story takes a few chapters to really sink in, since we are invited into a galaxy in which people develop gifts from the Current, a stream of energy that seems to travel along the galaxy and wrap itself around the several inhabited planets. The different planets, nations, people, and objects took a bit to fully understand, and I listened to an audio book, which sometimes hinders the process of understanding new world-building. Nevertheless, the story was very well done. It was original, and since I read so much, I highly value unique stories. I know I enjoyed the story, because at times I didn't want to get out of my car or shut my car's engine because I was so engrossed with what was going on.

The crux of the story is that in this galaxy where people develop Current gifts, one planet is divided between two peoples, the peaceful Thuvhe and the warrior race, the Shotet. When some Shotet soldiers kidnap the two sons of the Oracle of Thuvhe, the sons have to figure out a way to escape or else succumb to their fate, to die in the service of Shotet's ruling family, the Noaveks. Meanwhile, Cyra Noavek, the younger sister of the ruler of Shotet, is plagued by constant pain, a "gift" of the Current. Her older brother uses her as a weapon against his enemies and she's sick of it. Together with one of the sons of the Oracle, she might figure out a way to break away from her brother, Ryzek.
For those who enjoyed Red Rising, the Hunger Games, and the Divergent series, I highly recommend. Like those books, there's quite a lot of violence, but no worse than those books.

Along Came Love/ Tracey Livesay/ 384 pgs

This was a fun contemporary romance that starts with the heroine being arrested for burglary. While that sounds crazy, things settle down from there. The heroine, India, is a free spirit who has attachment issues due to a childhood spent in foster homes. The hero is an IT CEO with loads of money (though he’s thankfully not obnoxious about it, except for one small line that the heroine gives him grief for) and a protective instinct. These two hooked up for a sexy weekend some three months ago and guess what--India is pregnant. I enjoyed this story because the characters felt like real people and the author wasn’t afraid to tackle tricky subjects (adoption, foster care, interracial relationships) head on and with real emotion. This is a new-to-me author and while I’m not a huge fan of contemporaries, I am tempted to seek out her other books.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jericho Season 4 / Kalinda Vazquez / 120 pgs

Aw man! This thing ended on a cliffhanger and there's no Season 5 published yet! What am I going to do? Why does this series keep me dangling even ten years later? If you noticed, I did post a review on Season 4 yesterday, and my thoughts are pretty much the same. The only changes I would say from that review is that there was an artist who did one of the chapters' graphics, who decided to make the heads look way too big for the bodies, and I wasn't too keen on that. However, the story was very well done. We learned more about the reasons for the original nuclear attacks, got some great action in there, and even a possible death. I was pleased with the direction the story is going, and very invested in the characters, especially Jake and Robert, who are on par with other great action duos like Sherlock and Watson, Starsky and Hutch, and Murtaugh and Riggs. Recommended for fans of the original TV series.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dreams of Her Own / Rebecca Helflin / 256 pgs

The only reason why this book gets three stars is that at least its sexy bits were sexy. The rest of it was a bit of a hot mess. It's the age old story of the smart, 29-year old virgin who wears frumpy clothing and puts her hair in a bun, but she FINALLY gets pretty when she meets the growly "bad boy" who underneath his smoking-hot, tough exterior possesses a heart of gold.

Cliche after cliche after cliche after cliche

Of course, it turns out *SURPRISE* that through a series of accidents that force Bad Boy to save Frumpy Virgin (thereby forcing Bad Boy to clutch Frumpy Virgin tightly) that he discovers that she's got a rocking body underneath her baggy brown clothing. God forbid she might have a little bit of chunky going on. Oh, and apparently all of Frumpy Virgin's clothing is brown. Every little bit of it. Why? We learn near the end of the book it's because Frumpy Virgin was emo in high school, but all of the emo kids already wore black, so she had to pick a different color.


At least the sexy bits were sexy. Otherwise, skip it.

The Doctor's Christmas Proposal / Eve Gaddy / 222 pgs

I'll admit it. Romance is not really my thing, although I'll be reading quite a lot of it this month. That said, I can appreciate a good romance when I do read it. This just wasn't one of those good romances. The first paragraph was a big mess and I barely even understood what was going on. It did get going after a while, but some of the typos (bad editing) got in the way. The story is of a woman, Mia, from Denver who goes to the fictional town of Marietta, Montana to be the date of her old friend, Wyatt, who she just happened to have a one night stand with that resulted in a pregnancy and miscarriage some months before. Wyatt never knew Mia was pregnant. The one night stand only occurred because he was so upset by getting jilted by his fiancee. So, now it's Christmas and Wyatt's one brother is about to become a dad, and his other brother is about to get married, and Wyatt does what all other stupid men do, he calls his one gal pal with whom he had a fling to come be his date and comforter. 


I'm being generous and giving this book 2 stars instead of only 1, because the writing wasn't terribly bad. Then again, for a book that is supposed to be somewhat erotic, it really didn't get me all steamy. The cover is pretty though, and it doesn't look as slap-dash put together as some of these small publishing company books can be. So, it gets a Meh from me. It's not the worst book I ever read, but I wouldn't recommend anyone wasting their time.

Jericho Season 3 / Dan Shotz, et al. / 140 pgs

While mentioning the old TV show Jericho to a librarian friend a couple of weeks ago, she informed me that two graphic novels have been published in the last couple of years. Both continue the story of the show, and are very well done. I was very pleased to see that the characters are nicely drawn. The story moves along at a good pace and the politics between the three countries that now take up the lower 48 states are as interesting as ever.

For a refresher, since a group of nuclear bombs destroyed many of America's major cities, the country is now divided with the government of the United States in Columbus, Ohio, and the government of the Allied States in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The dividing line between both countries is the Mississippi River. In the middle is the newly independent Republic of Texas. Jake Green and Robert Hawkins are still on mission to take what they know about the origination of the nuclear attacks to Texas in an effort to get them to fight for the right side. I recommend Jericho Season 3, but only to those who have already watched and enjoyed the two televised seasons.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The River at Night/ Erica Ferencik/ 304 pgs

This story of 4 long-time female friends who decide to take a whitewater rafting trip in Maine starts out very slowly. Once the four inexperienced women arrive at their destination and meet their guide, however, the adventure begins. And really, though it's labeled a mystery/suspense, to me this was more action/adventure. Although it's a strange mix of action written in a very literary style. I found this distracting but others might not. This becomes a tale of survival and while I was on board for that, I was disappointed in the twist that occurred about 3/4 of the way through the story. Still, this was the worth the read for descriptions of the Maine wilderness alone.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 / Marissa Meyer / 240 pgs

Everyone who knows my reading habits knows that I discovered the Lunar Chronicles series last year and absolutely fell in love with Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Iko. I even got to meet Marissa Meyer when she came to MY LIBRARY in October. One of my most treasured possessions now is my autographed copy of Stars Above.

So, to say that I've been eagerly awaiting more from the Lunar Chronicles universe is a huge understatement. This new story, that takes place seven months after the end of Winter, centers on the often forgotten character of Iko, the android who has a mind of her own. She adores romance, beautiful clothes and makeup, and wants the best for her friends, especially Cinder. In this story, told in graphic novel form, Iko takes it upon herself to neutralize the threat of the leftover wolf-hybrid soldiers on Earth. Iko is a great new heroine. She's tough, sarcastic, and just a lot of fun to read.

I only wish that the graphic novel was more colorful instead of two-tone, and that all the men didn't look exactly alike. I hate that I can't tell the difference between Carswell Thorne (my favorite male character) and Lt. Kinney. Though I'm somewhat disappointed over the art, I love the story, and I am excited that it is a multi-volume series. I can't wait for Volume 2!

***PSA*** This is not for people who have yet to read the Lunar Chronicles. Though they try to have a bit of an introduction at the beginning, it's not enough to really comprehend what is going on without having read the books first.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Nightingale/ Kristin Hannah/ 440 pages

I loved this book.  This was a story of two sisters during WWII Vichy France.  How they survived the occupation and helped others during the war.  Both had two very different stories.  They were two very different sisters.  If you like World War II stories it is a great perspective of families and generations and how the War affected people even when it was over. Would be perfect for a book discussion.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Daisy in Chains/ Sharon Bolton / 344 pgs

I recently discovered Sharon Bolton’s (AKA SJ Bolton) suspense books and I really enjoy them. In this one, lawyer Maggie Rose is asked by a convicted serial killer to take another look at his case because he claims he’s innocent. She’s reluctant at first and aggressively discouraged by the investigating officer, Det. Weston, from doing so. It’s not a spoiler to say she eventually takes the case:) This one has a number of twists and turns but unfortunately I thought they were fairly well telegraphed. I wasn’t surprised by anything except perhaps the very end. I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Bolton’s Little Black Lies and I think it was because the characters weren’t especially likable or sympathetic.

Masked City/Genevieve Cogman/372 pages

This is the second installment in the "Invisible Library" series. In this "adventure," librarian spy Irene is trying to rescue her apprentice, Kai, from his kidnappers. Kai's true nature is that of a dragon, and if he isn't rescued, war will break out. This is adventure, fantasy, steampunk--all rolled into one. This is just as good as the first book, and I'm looking forward to reading the next one in the series. Highly recommended!

Wisdom to Remember: Life Advice from a Forgetful Fish/Kristen Depken/38 pgs

Somewhat similar to Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go!", Depken uses imagery from the "Finding Dory" movie to encourage youngsters to "just keep swimming." It's short, inspirational, and the illustrations are beautiful. Recommended!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Bookseller / Cynthia Swanson / 352 pgs

It wasn't helpful that I just finished an amazing book that dealt with nearly the same theme, the big "What If?" in life. What if I had gone to college at the age of 18 instead of waiting until I was 27? What if I didn't waste my time mooning over this one guy for years and instead been open to another guy who had a thing for me? What if? What if? What if? After the thrill ride that was Dark Matter, reading The Bookseller so soon made the whole thing a bit boring.

The Bookseller, which tells you just about nothing in terms of the overall plot of the book, is about a woman named Kitty Miller who runs a book store in 1962 Denver with her best friend. She is 38 years old, single, and content with her life. However, she wakes up to find herself living in the outskirts of Denver, a 38 year old wife and mother who is estranged from her best friend and has no bookstore. Which reality is real? Which reality does Kitty prefer?

The science fiction lover in me was expecting the story to be resolved in one way, but it was resolved in a completely different way, so I am partially pleased to be surprised, but I felt the ending was still a little ho-hum. Kitty's personality seemed non-existent. Her friend, Frieda, was completely self-absorbed and ridiculous. The husband in the alternate reality was way too perfect. I didn't get through this book nearly as quickly as I had planned, and in fact, ended up reading two books in between. I was going to give the book 2 Stars for being so boring, but since the ending was a bit more interesting, I brought it up to 3 Stars.