September 2017 Reads – #fantasy, #nonfiction, #chicklit

December 29, 2017 4 comments
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The end of September was our second wedding anniversary, and I feel like you can see my romantic mood reflected in the last two books of the month. I started out the month, though, with a fantasy and a nonfiction.

The fantasy was Kushiel’s Chosen Jacqueline Carey, the sequel to Kushiel’s Dart that I read in May. In this entry the main character is now a noblewoman instead of a bondservant but she still ends up sucked into the schemings and plottings of the those who would change the course of nations. While I overall enjoyed this entry in the series I felt that the length and action weren’t as well-balanced as in the first book. There was too little plot for the sheer length of the book.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I’ve always been interested in learning more about how to manage money so I picked up a copy of the nonfiction Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. This book seeks to compare and contrast the advice given by a rich mentor and a poor mentor and take the best of each world. While the initial concept is good what is lacking in the book is an ability to understand others and other life situations. There’s not one way that will work for everyone but the book presents the idea that everyone can achieve wealth in exactly the same way. And in all honesty the way presented, while it has some good ideas (such as to ensure you’re investing in assets rather than liabilities) it also relies a lot on other people not managing their money well (for instance in the case of being a lender to someone else or owning property and renting it out to others). While I’m not saying how the author achieved his money is wrong per se I will say that it’s not a way I personally would be comfortable running my own affairs from an ethical perspective. I would also say the book doesn’t necessarily age well. It reflects an ideal property investment market which we do not have currently. I did take away a few good tips from it though, such as the understanding what’s really an asset and what’s a liability tip mentioned before, so it wasn’t a total loss of time to read.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Next I decided it was high time I read the book one of my favorite chick lit movies is based on–Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. The basic plot of this is a 30-something in London keeps a diary for a year documenting both her attempts at self-improvement and her romantic exploits. I found Mark Darcy to be far more likable in the book than in the movie, and I understood Bridget’s attraction to him better. (In fact, reading the book version of him made me like him better in the movie version too. I was able to see the subtleties going on in the acting I’d missed before). I thought the plot with Bridget’s mother was much more well thought-out and a situation that made me have more empathy for Bridget than in the movie. I also liked how it’s very clear in the book that Bridget is obsessed with her weight but is actually a healthy weight and her friends will actually say something to her when she gets too thin. There was just something touching about her neuroticness in the book. As I said in my short initial review on GoodReads: v. good.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I rounded out the month with the Liane Moriarty chick lit from Australia – What Alice Forgot. Interestingly, this made it onto my wishlist long before the Big Little Lies miniseries hullabaloo. I just thought the plot sounded interesting. I didn’t even realize it was the same author until I had to wait in line for the book at the library. I decided to stick with starting with the book I was initially interested in, and I’m glad I did. It was such a hoot. Alice is 29, married/madly in love and pregnant with her first child. Then she wakes up and discovers she’s 39 and in the middle of a divorce. (Of course she has amnesia, she hasn’t actually time-traveled). What happened to make her marriage fall apart? It’s a giant mystery for her to solve. I really enjoyed this book. If you’re someone who really believes in marriage then the mystery of what happened to Alice’s really sucks you in. There’s also quite a bit in there about how you change over the course of your 30s and which of these changes are good or bad. I will say the ending was a bit meh to me. It felt kind of rushed and epiloguey and I’m just not sure how I feel about it in the long-run. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the experience of the read, though.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of September 2017:

  • 4 books
    • 3 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors; 1 male author
    • 3 ebooks; 1 print book; 0 audiobooks
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August 2017 Reads – #nonfiction, #scifi, #thriller

December 28, 2017 2 comments
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August saw me picking back up some nonfiction (yay!) as well as a thriller and a scifi.

The first nonfiction actually wasn’t on purpose. I logged onto my library’s website and they have a collection of “rarely available” which basically means there’s currently a copy available which is unusual because this book is usually checked out. I checked out the nonfiction Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for amusement but guys…it actually has affected my life. I think of myself as being a pretty organized person but something about her method helped me take it to the next level. I reviewed this read in haiku format here.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Next I saw a book had come out by one an author I like – John Twelve Hawks. It’s the scifi Spark. This follows the agent in a secret special services section of a multinational corporation who also just so happens to have Cotard’s Syndrome – he believes he is dead. The themes are similar to those of author of Twelve Hawks’s works (beware of The Man, no matter who is currently in control) but the focus is on one main character instead of many/the whole world.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Throughout the month I read a thriller in audiobook format called Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon. This book follows twin sisters who haven’t spoken in years. One lives as a shut-in and the other has been kicked out by her husband and denied access to her young daughter. My enjoyment of this book was hurt by the audio recording. The two sisters were read by two different performers and while one was excellent the other was very stale and boring to listen to. It kept me from getting too wrapped up in the story. That said, I thought the thriller had some unnecessary red herrings, took a bit too long to get where it was going, and I honestly thought the ending was too kind to a particular villain.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I finished up the month with In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. In this work, Dr. Mate examines addiction in the context of his longtime work with the addicts living in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. The perspective of someone working so closely with victims of addiction is an important one to have. Dr. Mate sees the realities day in and day out. He’s also honest about how sometimes he is able to feel compassion and how other times he gets frustrated. Woven in with his recollections of particular patients are discussions of the science of addiction and Dr. Mate’s own take on it. I did feel that Dr. Mate sometimes got a bit too wrapped up in himself. I found his attempts to compare his music cd buying issues with drug and alcohol addiction to be a bit ill-tasting in my mouth and revisited too often. I also felt it muddied the waters of the people whose stories he was telling and the science he was presenting. The academic in me also wondered how he went about getting permission to include certain people in the book (for instance, those who have passed away). However, regardless this was an important read for anyone interested in the current addiction crisis.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of August 2017:

  • 5 books
    • 2 fiction; 2 nonfiction
    • 2 female authors; 2 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print books; 1 audiobook

July 2017 Reads – #fantasy, #thriller

December 27, 2017 Leave a comment
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July saw me seeking out a bunch of thrillers – 3 in fact, plus 2 dark fantasies.

I started the month with the much talked about Irish lit The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. This book is somewhere between fantasy and mystery with an unreliable narrator leaving the reader uncertain if the fantastical things are really happening or just in the main character’s head. I was quite disappointed by this book in multiple areas. First, I felt queer-baited by this book as it was buzzed about having great queer content but in actual fact all of the queer characters are secondary characters with little “screentime.” It also has pacing issues. It starts really slowly and most of the action happens in the last 25% of the book. I also didn’t feel the fantasy elements added to the book at all; they just made it more confusing.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

Next I read another much talked-about book The Girl on the Train a thriller by Paula Hawkins. If you haven’t heard much about this one, it’s about a woman who commutes on a train and watches a couple in their backyard when she goes by every day but then she sees something shocking and finds herself getting involved in their lives. I loved this book and felt it totally lived up to the hype. For me there was something just delightful about listening to this woman’s train commuter life and problems while also commuting on a train. Similarly, I really enjoyed how Rachel’s alcoholism isn’t the point of the story but the problems it causes (or issues it makes worse) are also acknowledged. This is a book I would read again even knowing the ending. (Indeed, I did watch the movie, although I must say moving the setting from London to NYC removes a lot of interesting plot points).
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

Next I decided to finally get around to reading a Richelle Mead series I hadn’t started. I love her Succubus series so I thought this would be a great bet. I picked up Gameboard of the Gods, the start of another of her fantasy series, but unfortunately this one didn’t do it for me. The plot is almost too complicated to explain quickly. Suffice to say, there’s a future world with competing large governments, one of which has outlawed many religions. An exile is brought back in to investigate supernatural claims. My issues with this book mostly boil down to it being way too much set-up and not enough plot. It feels like the set-up to an epic series but it’s setting up a society I didn’t enjoy about learning about or visiting, which is problematic. I learned after reading this that the series is held up as it was dropped by the publishers due to low sales so I’m also not sure it’s worth investing the effort into reading this much set-up only to never get resolution.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Up next was another thriller What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross. This covers one of my favorite thriller plots – the abduction of a child. In this case, it’s the snatching of a baby from a distracted mother in a supercenter (that is clearly meant to be Ikea). What happens when the child grows up and figures out that her mother is not her mother? I absolutely loved this book right up until the ending. The ending was awful. I had to go back the next day and re-read it to ensure I hadn’t misread it. Let’s just say, the ending felt very out of touch with reality to me.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

I wrapped up the month with one final thriller, Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson. I read Swanson’s first book and really liked it – he sets most of his thrillers in the Boston area and New England and since I live here, I find it even more thrilling to see the areas I know rendered so well and having such thrilling things occurring in them. This thriller revolves around another of my favorite plot devices – the house swap. Kate swaps houses with her distant cousin in Boston and while she enjoys his posh Beacon Hill residence she soon starts to suspect not everything is as it seems. Kate suffers from PTSD and high anxiety and I loved seeing her as a heroine sometimes in spite of and sometimes because of these things (her anxiety makes her more attuned to certain things in the house). While I did know whodunit early on, there were enough plot twists that I wasn’t expecting to keep me entertained.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of July 2017:

  • 5 books
    • 5 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 4 female authors; 1 male author
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print books; 2 audiobooks
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June 2017 Reads – #scifi, #chicklit

December 26, 2017 5 comments
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In June I was back up to my average 4 reads in a month, and I had two each in scifi and chick lit.

I started the month by finishing up the audiobook version of The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. This scifi looks at a post nuclear apocalypse world that has reverted from technology into essentially a farming sans tech existence where anything veering from the norm at all is culled out (including people). It’s an interesting idea but I found it to be a bit too preachy. I don’t like it when it feels like the author is preaching at me through a character, and this happened a few too many times for my taste.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(Source: Audible)

Next I read a duo of chick lit. First up was Summer at Castle Stone by Lynn Marie Hulsman. In this a ghost-writer from New York City accidentally ends up working in the kitchen of a castle getaway in Ireland in her attempts to get an inside scoop on the chef who works there (in order to better write the copy around his new cookbook). I thought this book had a wonderful setting and while the mix-ups were expected, they were for the most part cute. I did find some of the situations to be a more serious issue than the laugh they were played for but those didn’t keep me from enjoying the escape.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(Source: purchased)

My second chick lit was The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne. I’ve read many of her books before and came into this fully expecting to enjoy it, and I did! In this, a fading finishing school gets  21st century makeover. As is typical of Hester Browne, the main plot actually involves the heroine’s career with romance being (for her) an unexpected side-plot. Delightful, but not my favorite among her works, which is why this received 4 stars. The finishing school wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the description.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My final read of the month was the feminist scifi classic A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski. In this book there is a planet that is mostly water with a humanoid species of entirely women that live both in and out of the water. This planet is under threat from an interplanetary organization that has many political ties–essentially a corporation with a powerful lobbyist group. Two women from this planet take on a male from another planet as an apprentice in an attempt to see if the aliens trying to take them over are children or adults. (They do not determine adulthood by a numerical age but by behavior and mental state, with adulthood being awarded upon someone by a committee). The reason for this important determination is it will decide how they respond to the threat with the response being very different to a child than to an adult. I would honestly say that although this book is known as a feminist classic I perceived of it more as a pacifist classic. Femaleness and maleness come up far less in the book than I would have expected (with the exception of sex and reproduction of course). Most of the book is actually about how to respond to threats, whether violence in the face of violence changes who you are, etc… I suppose some people might view those as masculine or feminine responses but I do not and so I didn’t see this as a feminist book per se. It really delivered on the plot summary though, particularly with the world building. If this intrigues you, I recommend you pick it up.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

My total for the month of June 2017:

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

 

May 2017 Reads – #chicklit, #fantasy

December 25, 2017 1 comment
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I had so many of these monthly reviews piled up that I decided to just post one a day through the end of the year so I can start 2018 on track. I hope you enjoy!

May saw me finishing just two books but that’s because one was a chunkster and my longest read of the whole year.

I started the month off with a quick read, the chick lit Cocktails for Three, which I previously reviewed in haiku form here.

Then I picked up a book that had been languishing on my tbr pile for a long time with multiple recommendations from friends – Kushiel’s Dart. This is a fantasy by a female author set in an alternate universe version of Europe where France is a slightly different country built around a religion that is an offshoot of Christianity that honors and respects prostitution, essentially. I wasn’t sure what I would think of it but I did ultimately enjoy it. While I thought it started out slow and that its worldbuilding could use more creativity (all of the fake nations are basically just other versions of modern-day nations like the UK), it was still quite enjoyable. I think the most enjoyable part for me was the wonderfully creative new religion the author came up with, but I may have enjoyed that more than others might as I was a Religious Studies minor in undergrad.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

My total for the month of May 2017:

  • 2 books
    • 2 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 2 female authors; 0 male authors
    • 1 ebook; 1 print book; 0 audiobooks

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

October 29, 2017 2 comments
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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
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