Now that I am almost finished with all reading challenges, the urge to start chipping away at my Amazon TBR list kicked in. I have over 1000 books on it, so any progress made will be small. And I have to try to keep myself from adding new books; no easy task.
For July, I completed 16 books, and DNF’d four. With so many books waiting, I am not going to force myself to finish a book if it really annoys or bores me.
Note: Envy of Angels did double duty as both an Amazon TBR book and a PopSugar Ultimate Challenge book. My thoughts on it will be in the forthcoming PopSugar post.
Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
A steampunk-magic retelling of Cinderella, Mechanica was surprisingly fresh in its interpretation. I enjoyed that Nicolette embraced herself and her own professional goals, instead of falling prey to other people’s idea of love and happiness. She had backbone. Jules was by far my favorite character. A steampunk horse with a spark of magic to give him, if not free will, then a good amount of intelligence. I don’t understand why Mechanica is being compared to Cinder because the two stories share nothing in common other than a basis in Cinderella and a heroine who is a mechanical genius.
Whatever by S. J. Goslee
I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would. Mike sounded like a normal teen who was trying to figure out who he was, stumbling a bit on the way, with the help of an ex-girlfriend who knows him better than he does. It was a feel-good romp of friendship and self-discovery.
Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Sleeping Giants introduced readers to the giant robot, Themis, and humans’ attempts to understand and manipulate her. Waking Gods drops readers in after 10 years have passed. Themis is normal sight, so when other, similar giant robots start to randomly appear across the globe, they aren’t taken seriously until said robots provide a display of their power and intent. The ending, oh the ending…a complete WTF cliffhanger. I need the third book now.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
A darker fantasy whose tone and mood put me in mind of Cruel Beauty and A Court of Thorns and Roses. I liked the concept of Caraval as an week long game/performance involving the spectators. I liked the dreaminess and tension and the the fact that both Scarlett and the supporting characters fell on a spectrum of gray – no one was wholly good or evil. That being said, the story still fell a bit flat. Something was missing to give it the boost needed to compete with other dark, moody fantasies. I enjoyed it, to be sure, but it was not book that set my heart aflutter.
Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis
A decent retelling of The Wild Swans, though it lacked in world building and character growth. The romance was also on the boring side. No romance is better than tepid romance.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My very short review of Annihilation is that I don’t know what I thought of it. It was very weird, and I didn’t really understand what was going on in the subtext.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
I didn’t have high expectations for this book given many of my recent YA reads have been less than stellar. After forcing myself to listen past the first few chapters, I found that I enjoyed the concept of the games and the political intrigue. However, the negatives are almost equally balanced with the positives: the world-building was total crap, most of the characters were boring, and Jessamy was a self-centered waffler.
People I Want to Punch in the Throat by Jen Mann
I am a mom, and I can relate to the craziness that comes with dealing with both children and other parents. I enjoyed Scary Mommy’s book (which was infinitely relateable), but did not have the same connection with PIWPT. It was alright, but the tone was less about the warty side of motherhood and more about all of the assholes the author deals with. This could have been funny, but Mann put herself above the assholes instead of wink-wink-nudge-nudging that all of us (including her) can act that way at times. It is extremely easy to be judgemental of other mothers, but key to keeping it on the fun side of snark is to poke fun of yourself as well.
Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad by Eric Foner
When I listened to this book, I was hoping for more substance about the hidden history of the Underground Railroad. Instead, the book was mainly about the history and operation of the New York branch. It was interesting, but not what what I was expecting based upon the title. The plotting was also poorly structured, and I had hard time keeping track of the individuals mentioned, and their personal/professional timelines.
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
This book could have been great, so great. The concept of smoke being the physical embodiment of sin (or whatever it actually was) was an awesome starting point. But after spending a good chunk of the book alluding to the fact that smoke only appeared within the previous few centuries, it never actually gave an explanation of why it appeared. So much build up for zero payoff. The story would have been better off staying confined to the boys boarding school, or at least tightening the plot up a bit. Vyleta also did a crap job with creating decent female characters. Even listening to it at double speed, the book dragged at times.
Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch
I realize that in the name of being dialectically correct, a Scottish accent is required in the Highlander sub-genre of romance, but it can become a bit much at times and end up pulling one out of the story. Complaining out of the way, I definitely enjoyed this book – it was one of the more entertaining ones I read in July. I liked the plot device of the hero and heroine being from opposing clans. It created tension, but it never felt forced. Yes, it’s a trope, but Enoch handled it well. I also liked the chemistry between Mary and Arran and the fact that they admitted their attraction to each other.
War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
I wanted to read this one because it is a book that helped usher in the genre of urban fantasy. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold my interest. I’m not really interested in bands (so that is part of it), but a lot of the references for pop culture and clothing were very pointedly of the 1980’s, and do not necessarily hold up 30 years later.
Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
It wanted to like this book, I really did. A high school plagued by students spontaneously combusting? Yes, please! But…I had a hard time with the narrator. Starmer did not do a good job writing from a female perspective. Mara sounded like a teenage boy, and I would get jarred out of the story when her actions, etc…were ones a girl would stereotypically do (i.e. looking in her purse). I ended up flipping around until I found out the cause of the combustions, but couldn’t force myself to actually finish reading it.
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty is one of my favorite books, and because of this I had high hopes for Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it very far into this book, either in hardcopy or audio. The plot and details were too complex and convoluted. It felt like she took a bunch of differing elements – Romeo & Juliet, deadly plagues, magic, zombies – and mashed them all together. It was too much to keep track of.
Every Time With a Highlander by Gywn Cready
I’m trying to remember why I DNF’d this book, but am having a hard time with the specifics other than that it didn’t hold my interest.