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April 2017 Reads — #historic, #mystery, #horror, #urbanfantasy

October 29, 2017 1 comment
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An bookstagram shot from while I was reading Moloka’i. For more check out opinionsofawolf.

I read so many books in April (7!) that I had to look back to postulate why. My husband took me on a surprise trip which means I had a bunch of airplane time, so I think that might have been part of it. In the future, when I’m doing these wrap-ups on time, I’ll know exactly why.

Anyway, April was kind of all over the place in terms of genre, as you can see from the title.

I started off the month with Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, a print book that had been languishing on my tbr shelf for a while. It’s about a Hawaiian girl who gets sent to a leper colony in the late 1800s. We follow her life in this prison forced upon her through no fault of her own. Through this book I learned that leprosy is better called Hansen’s Disease and while I knew about the exploitation of Hawaii, it was interesting to see it through this new lens. It also called into question a lot of medical and public health ethics that tend to come up with something like quarantine. A sad but powerful read.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: paperbackswap)

I next picked up a Harlequin romance mystery that was given to me Wanted Woman by B. J. Daniels. It involves a woman running from false charges on a motorcycle. It was interesting to see the motorcycle bad boy flipped on its head a bit but the book left me feeling kind of meh. I didn’t hate it but I had a hard time even remembering what it was about to write this.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: gift)

Next I picked up another historic fiction (although this time wrapped up with contemporary fiction) — Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I had a phase when I was a little girl of being very into the concept of the orphan trains. For those who don’t know, orphan children from the east coast were put on trains and sent west with the idea that they’d be more able to find homes among the farmers. While some found homes and true families, others of course were only “adopted” to be cheap farmhands. This book has a modern day teenage girl in the foster system doing community service with an elderly lady who it turns out was on the orphan trains. It shows how orphan and foster children are currently and have been mishandled. I liked the beginning of this one quite a bit but found the ending to be disappointing (“cop-out” is the exact phrase I wrote in my initial thoughts.)
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: paperbackswap)

Next I changed pace and picked up a monster horror — The Colony by A. J. Colucci. In this case the monster is ant colonies that man has tampered with to create a superweapon that of course gets accidentally unleashed on New York City. Mayhem ensues! This is another one that started out good but was ruined by the ending for me.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

I was so excited for the fourth Miriam Black book to come out that I actually pre-ordered the kindle version. Miriam Black is an urban fantasy series by Chuck Wendig whose lead character can see people’s deaths if she touches them and also has an odd relationship with birds (mainly, that she can kind of send her soul out into a flock of them). I used to love this series. Really love. I’m not sure if I’ve changed or the series has changed. I’d have to go back and re-read the previous entries to know for sure, and I’m not much of a re-reader so I doubt that’ll happen. What I do know is I used to find Miriam gritty and real and this time in Thunderbird I found her annoying and immature. I particularly was not fond of her repeated “nic fits,” in which she brushed off responsibility for her behavior. I also didn’t like the big bad this time, finding them to be boring and unlikely foe for Miriam. I also thought the book sometimes came across as preachy. I know an author’s viewpoint will always come into a book but it shouldn’t do so in an out-of-character way, which happens a few times in this book. Even if this wasn’t the case, though, I found this book to be mostly filler getting ready for the next book in the series, and that always annoys me. So I was disappointed but I’m choosing to believe it’s just that I changed and it’s time for the series and me to part ways.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I next picked up a chick lit, which I reviewed in haiku form here.

I finished up the month with another horror, this one by Richard Matheson. Hell House isn’t what he’s best known for but I was curious about it as a classic of the haunted house genre. This book features investigators going to Belasco House to see once and for all if it’s haunted. I thought it had some frightening moments and enjoyed its stance that it took science and spirituality together to accomplish things but man did it have some stuff that just didn’t age well (and honestly was probably not too great even when it was first published in 1971). For instance, one of the horrors of the house is that a woman’s long-buried same-sex attraction is brought to the surface. This is treated with the same horror as molestation or rape in the book. This is obviously problematic. It also has a Native American character who does not have a well-rounded representation. I’d also give the trigger warning that there are grotesque sex scenes and disfigurings of religious figurines (albeit by evil characters).
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of April 2017:

  • 7 books
    • 7 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 4 female authors; 3 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 3 print books; 1 audiobook
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Categories: Book, Review

March 2017 Reads – #cozy, #thriller

October 22, 2017 5 comments

March was a tough reading month for me. I had a lot of mediocre or disappointing reads. There was a memoir that left me feeling meh (haiku review here) and a deeply disappointing audiobook that was supposed to be a comedic take on the apocalypse (haiku review here).

That audiobook was followed by the Japanese thriller Out by Natsuo Kirino. It follows a woman in an abusive marriage who kills her abuser and how her work colleagues help her cover it up. (None of this is spoilers. It’s revealed very early on). I really enjoyed it right up until the end where it took a turn into a place that left me extremely uncomfortable with its near-pornographic depiction of a rape scene. That combined with certain characters’ reactions to it made me feel betrayed and like I’d wasted my time reading it. It felt like it changed tone totally right at the end.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)

The saving grace of the month was a cozy mystery called Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero, the first in her Pawsitively Organic series about a New York City businesswoman who moves to Connecticut to start an organic pet treats business. She’s a main character you love to hate in a town full of people you love to hate with a mystery that held my attention and made me giggle. It was just the right light read I needed. I could see picking up the next book the next time I’m in that kind of mood.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)

My total for the month of March 2017:

  • 4 books
    • 3 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors; 1 male author
    • 0 ebooks; 2 print books; 2 audiobooks

 

Categories: Book, Review

February 2017 Reads – #romance, #scifi, #thriller

October 14, 2017 3 comments

12656935You may have noticed (if I have any constant readers left) that things have become awfully quiet around here. All I can say is my priorities have changed. I thought it was a funk but it seems to be a constant. I’m no longer so interested in writing in-depth book reviews (although I’m still reading voraciously). Writing reviews was starting to feel like an unwelcome chore rather than a joy. But I do still love the online book reading community. It can be a challenge to find fellow voracious readers, and this helps me connect with you. So what to do? I tried out the haiku reviews. Those were fun but also too time-consuming for my average week. So I’m going to try this out. Summarizing my month of reading once a month. This will also free me up to do occasional posts of other varieties if I want to. Thoughts on book trends, summaries of new sewing projects, news of my gardens (both productive and succulent), and more. If I feel like it. So sorry for no more formal book reviews, but I do hope you’ll still enjoy the monthly summaries and find some good reads for yourself through them. Also in light of wanting to keep things simpler around here, I’ve decided to only feature the cover of my favorite read of the month.

As you can tell from the title, I’m very far behind in my book reviews. My oldest month was the month of February! So you’ll have a few of these in a row while I catch up, and then we should be onto a monthly schedule.

I started off February devouring a romance, which seems appropriate enough for Valentine’s Day month. Stay Until We Break by Mercy Brown is the second in her new adult series about a punk rock band in the 90s. This one centers around Sonia, the band’s business manager. She’s the type of character I usually struggle with empathizing with (a poor little rich girl) but it worked for me anyway. I think I just really enjoy the setting and I find it a real hoot that the 90s count as historic fiction now.
(4 out of 5 stars; buy it)

Next I tackled the scifi classic Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. It’s the scifi novel that inspired the movie classic The Thing. It centers around a team of Antarctic researchers, and, of course, things go awry. I read it with the intention of watching the movie, but I basically found it to be a less interesting Alien vs. Predator so I never got around to watching the movie. I did listen to this on audiobook format, though, and I found the narrator to be so good that it bumped up my enjoyment a bit.
(4 out of 5 star; buy it)

I wrapped up the month with another audiobook (I can’t remember at this point why I was reading so many audiobooks) in the form of a Scandinavian thriller: Unwanted by Kristina Olsson. As is the case with many thrillers, this centers around a mismatched investigative team looking into the mysterious disappearance of a child. The narration was mysteriously accented (I know it’s in translation. You don’t have to drive that point home by having the narrator have a thick accent….) but I found it deliciously spine-tingling, nonetheless.
(4 out of 5 stars; buy it)

(I also read five other books at the beginning of February, but I’ve previously reviewed them here).

My total for the month of February 2017:

  • 8 books
    • 7 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 5 female authors; 3 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 2 print books; 3 audiobooks
Categories: Book, Review

A trio of #nonfiction Reviewed in #Haiku

anne frank

We All Wore Stars: Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates
By: Theo Coster

Summary:
Theo Coster was one of 28 Jewish Dutch students segregated into their own classroom by the Nazis. Another one of these students was Anne Frank. Theo gathers stories from other surviving students and himself both of their experiences of the Holocaust and their memories of Anne.

Haiku Review:
All together yet
Each experience unique
Grounding reminder.

4 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift
Buy It

crazyenough.jpg

Crazy Enough: A Memoir
By: Storm Large

Summary:
Storm knew growing up her mother was crazy so it was pretty scary when a doctor responded to her inquiry if she was crazy like her mother that she wasn’t yet but was going to be. Follow Storm through her journey of multiple diagnoses and a search to be more than just crazy.

Haiku Review:
A one-woman show
Reflects in the narrative
Left with some questions

3 out of 5 stars
Source: Publisher
Buy It

tidying up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
By: Marie Kondo

Summary:
Japanese cleaning consultant vows she’s never had a client relapse after following her sort everything once by category not by room and then organize it method. You may have heard jokes in social media about her sorting method being based on “does this spark joy?”

Haiku Review:
Some good tips mixed with
Animism but take it
With a grain of salt

4 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It

A Trio of #chicklit Reviewed in #Haiku

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Valley of the Dolls
By: Jacqueline Susann

Summary:
The 1960s classic about four women and how fame and drugs destroyed them.

Haiku Review:
My dolls! My dolls! But
Hard to compete with modern
Opioid crisis.

4 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift
Buy It

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The Runaway Princess
By: Hester Browne

Summary:
Amy Wilde’s new boyfriend has a secret….he’s a prince! Can she fit into his world without losing herself in the process?

Haiku Review:
The Prince and Me but
British with saving the bees
Left me wanting more

4 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It

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Cocktails for Three
By: Madeleine Wickham

Summary:
Three friends meet for cocktails every month but life events and secrets start to pull them apart.

Haiku Review:
If you can manage
To laugh at alcoholism
Then you might like it

3 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It

A Trio of Disappointing Reads Reviewed in Haiku

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A feature for the disappointing reads: I spent enough time reading them. The reviews shouldn’t waste more time. See all haiku reviews here.

coverrumourhastit

Rumour Has It
By:
Jill Mansell

Summary:
Newly single, Tilly Cole impulsively accepts a job offer in a small town as a “Girl Friday.” Fun job, country house, fresh start, why not? But soon she finds herself in a hotbed of gossip, intrigue, and rampant rivalry for the town’s most desirable bachelor-Jack Lucas.

Haiku Review:
What’s woman’s worst foe?
Other women. Defeat with
cancer. Stay at home.

3 out of 5 stars
Source: Library
Buy It

coverwelcomechaos

Welcome, Chaos
By: Kate Wilhelm

Summary:
When Lyle Taney took leave from her teaching job to live high in the mountains, researching the ways of eagles, she was just planning to write her next book. Lasater was an unscrupulous, skilled operative who thought he could maneuver her as he pleased. He believed women were incapable of making ethical or moral decisions. He was wrong.

Haiku Review:
So little chaos
for a book with it in the
title. One word? Meh.

3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audible
Buy It

coverexponentialapocalypse

Exponential Apocalypse
By: Eirik Gumeny

Summary:
A tale of crappy jobs, a slacker cult, an alcoholic Aztec god, reconstituted world leaders, werewolves, robots, and the shenanigans of multiple persons living after the twentieth-aught end of the world.

Haiku Review:
Listening at three
times speed did not make it go
by any faster.

2 out of 5 stars
Source: Audible
Buy It

Book Review: An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows (Series, #1)

26225506Summary:
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.

There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.

Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.

Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?

Review:
A fantasy written from a queer, female perspective that explores race and social justice featuring the common trope of multiple parallel worlds.

The basic plot is an intertwining of two common to fantasy: 1) there’s multiple parallel worlds 2) political intrigue warring societies etc… These are both done to a level I appreciate. They make sense without overwhelming me with world building and pages of explanations of how a society that doesn’t really exist works.

Both of these basic plots are used to explore queer viewpoints, feminism, and race, all through the lens of social justice. How much you’ll enjoy this lens depends upon the reader. I think the queer part is fairly well-done with a broad representation including: bisexual (by name!), lesbian, trans*, and polyamory. I’m not big on polyamory plots but I thought its inclusion in a parallel world made sense and was clearly not written from a perspective intended to purely titillate, rather, the emotional aspects of these relationships was explored. I do think the explorations of race lacked some of the subtlety present in the explorations of queerness. The white Australian girl being thrust into a parallel world where the majority race is black who is guided by another “worldwalker” who similarly fell through but decided to stay because she’s black and this world is better than Thatcher’s England struck me as a bit heavy-handed and overly simplistic. I’m also not sure how I felt about the black character being put into a secondary role as guide. I kept finding myself thinking how I would have preferred to have read her story. (You quickly find out she stayed in the world, gained some power, joined a polyamorous marriage, had a child, and more! What an interesting life!)

All of that said, I don’t often enjoy traditional style non-urban fantasy, and this one did keep me reading and interested. It’s fun to read a book about political intrigue and multiple worlds dominated by women, touched by dragons, and with no male gaze. I doubt I will seek out the second entry in the series, though, because I feel I’ve already got everything out of the story I’m going to get.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Buy It