Monthly Archives: September 2017

Husband’s Books: 2017 2nd Quarter

I was hoping to get my husband’s thoughts about some of these books, but given that it’s almost time for the 3rd quarter post, I need to give up and just get this thing out there.  The two books I would list as his favorites are Eisenhower in War and Peace, and Lincoln on Leadership Today. With regard to the former, my husband had me hunt down a book Eisenhower wrote in 1927 – A Guide to the American Battle Fields in Europe. I did manage to find a copy, and while it’s not in the best condition, it has all of the maps and is an interesting peek in to WWI. With regard to the latter, my husband wouldn’t shut up about it, ended up buying a copy for his father, and has recommended it to multiple people. He has a thing about leadership versus management and how his leadership acts like managers and is doing a fairly good job at failing at both. Another book that is worth mentioning is The Sheperd’s Crown. Not so much because of the book, but because my husband has taken a shine to Terry Pratchett (an author I inadvertently introduced him to while forcing my step-mother to watch the tv adaptation of The Color of Magic).

2017 1st Quarter

 

 

The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Lincoln on Leadership Today by Donald T. Phillips
The Philippines by Wendy McElroy
Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class by Thom Hartmann
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Armada by Ernest Cline
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin
Nigeria & West Africa by Wendy McElroy
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett

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Amazon TBR – August

My second month in and I’m booking it (ha ha) through my TBR list. The end of August saw me at about 2/3 of the way through my first 50 books, while adding about 30 books to my TBR list.

Note: Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy did double duty both as an Amazon TBR and the Bookish 12 Ways Kill Your TBR  Challenge. My thoughts on it will be in a later post.

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
The potential for magical realism mixed with Ireland is what attracted me to this book. However, The Stolen Child was so much more – an exploration of sexuality, of the pull of modernization against historical roots, the struggle of an insular village against itself, outsiders, and folklore. It was a fascinating, bittersweet book.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
I almost DNF’d this book multiple times, which gives a fairly good indication of how much I liked Under a Painted Sky. It was an interesting concept, but the characters ranged from flat to annoying, and the plot felt underdeveloped. The boys were uninteresting and never felt like actual people. Sammy was really, really annoying, though that could be in part because of how the narrator read her. I am not a fan of whiney heroines so there’s that as well. The only character that was decent was Annamae, and I would have preferred her to be the main character instead of Sammy. The plot also moseyed along, with too much time spent on Sammy’s internal emotional turmoil about hoping her atrocious attempt at being a boy wasn’t uncovered.

Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Black Tom was weird and dark and bizarre in a way that blended together to make a good story. I loved the flow of LaValle’s writing. That being said, I have never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft, which even though I am not a fan of horror, I probably should remedy. I do know enough about his mythos from other sources to have some foundation, pitiful as it may be. And I’m sure that if I had a better foundation, I would have better appreciated the social commentary of Black Tom – I need to get my hands on “The Horror at Red Hook”.

King John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England: The Road to Magna Carta by Marc Morris
King John continues my slow journey of learning about medieval history. I read a book about William Marshal, and was interested by how both Richard the Lionheart and King John were portrayed. My understanding of the two men stems from Disney’s animated Robin Hood, and the end of the movie is not quite accurate. Yes, King John was petty, vindictive, and had a wide streak of treachery, but his behavior was only outside of that era’s norm in the sense that he pushed too far. The creation of the Magna Carta was also more complex than I had been taught, and King John was less of a pushover than I assumed. It was not a straight forward process, and did not have the impact at that that time that we ascribe to the document today.

Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova
The story was dark and lyrical and I like how Zourkova incorporated Eastern European and Greek myths, but not a lot actually happened. The book ends with something of a cliffhanger, a scene which really should have happened earlier in the story to actually cause the plot to start rolling.

 

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
I had a slightly rocky relationship with this book at first. It was an interesting concept, but I just wasn’t invested in the story. I liked it more as the book went on, and the cliffhanger at the ending is somewhat of a WTF set up for the sequel. I also really liked that there was no romance between Kate and August.

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
Arabella was a steampunk space adventure that was a good listen. Arabella herself was strong, clever, and not annoying.I liked the underlying idea of space travel being “discovered” by Isaac Newton while watching a bubble float in the bath, and that the grand age of exploration was in space and not on the oceans. It has a Jules Verne feel to it.

Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Based upon the book description, I was expecting a light-hearted, snarky romp across Europe, and not a government conspiracy surrounding a mysterious alchemical object. I know the phrase “harrowing manhunt” was included in the description, but my brain must not have latched on to it. Gentleman was alright, but it was somewhat of a letdown.

The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer
This was another book that I was on the fence about DNFing. It suffered from poor world-building, an awful romance/forced love triangle, and a boring plot. I ended up finishing it because it took me less than five hours of listening time. In terms of world-building, going from the British winning the Revolutionary War to crazy advanced steampunk technology in less than 100 years didn’t make sense.

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
This book pulled me in enough that I dropped everything to listen to the first five books in the series. I love that Kate Daniels is snarky and sarcastic. She doesn’t take crap from anyone, but is also very aware of her own flaws and shortcomings. I like the world-building premise of magic’s reappearance back into the world, raising a bunch of issues in regard to technology.

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
My sister told me about this book ages ago, but I didn’t get around to listening to it until I learned that Katherine Kellgren was the narrator. Overall, the story was an entertaining and well-paced pirate romp. Jackie was who she was and kept a realistic view of her place in the world.

 

Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh
A bit dry and academic, but interesting. It shifted my perspective on ancient religions given that we see them through a contemporary lens strongly influenced by 2000 years Judeo-Christianity. Both gods and beliefs and their relationships were much more fluid than they are today. Gods across different cultures who shared attributes were seen as different versions of the same deity. Atheism was more of not believing/sacrificing in the appropriate way as deemed by social norms as opposed to the complete disbelief in a god.

Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau
Time travel and multiple dimensions seems to be a bit of a trend recently – either in my reading habits, publisher’s publishing habits, or both. I liked the idea of a wormhole that allowed people to travel through time, and that the main character used it to visit various rock concerts. Even though Every Anxious Wave is nominally science fiction because of the time travel, the science wasn’t the point. The character relationships and dynamics were the point. My gripe with the book was that the dynamic between Karl and Lena felt like it was happening because the author wanted it to and not because it grew organically between the characters.

The Bear and the Nightingale: A Novel by Katherine Arden
I’m going to start with the fact that I found the complete lack of romance in this book refreshing. I’m not against romance, but it was so nice to have a heroine not start a romantic relationship with the supernatural being. It was a fairy tale of sorts, more of a clash between the traditional gods and fairies and the Christian god. It was dark and haunting, and Vasilisa was intelligent and resourceful.

 

DNF

As Old As Time by Liz Braswell
The tone was smug and righteous and insufferable. I know the magical creatures were supposed to be portrayed as persecuted, but it was too heavy handed. Belle’s mom was a selfish bitch cursing an 11-year old child for the sins of his parents. Belle was stuck up as well and came off as sounding like she thought she was too good for her village, Maurice in the movie was bumbling but harmless, whereas book Maurice was obnoxiously oblivious to the detriment of others. It was also hard to the read early chapters because the dialog was verbatim from the movie.

Floors by Patrick Carman
Admittedly, I did not get very far into this book before giving up. I was listening to the audio version and had a hard time with the narrator. He was more annoying than interesting, and it made the madcap nature of the book feel flat and uninteresting.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
I tried reading Stealing Snow a few months ago and had to DNF it. The main character was whiny and annoying, and the supporting characters were boring and felt unfinished. Even though I had a bad experience with that book i wanted to give Dorothy Must Die a try because it had been on my TBR for several years. Twisting up Oz seemed like an interesting idea. Unfortunately, it also was unappealing. Paige’s writing style is not for me. Amy was whiny and annoying, and the supporting characters were boring. A lot of the tension felt forced or fell flat. It didn’t seem like anything was actually happening in the story. It is possible that there was, but it did not hold my attention at all.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
It took me several hours of listening to decide to DNF Airborn. I do like a good adventure, but the story lacked the tension and excitement that go with a good adventure. It was listenable upuntil the airship was stranded on the island. At that point, Kate started grating on my nerves. She was single-minded in her quest to find her grandfather’s creatures, and used guilt and manipulation to get Matt to go with her. I have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior, and lost interest as soon as she started pulling that junk.

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Amazon TBR – July

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.

 

DNF

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.

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August Books

The quantity of my reading has started to slump off. Summer is ending, and I am going back to grad school to finish the degree that has been languishing for the past two years. I didn’t have the mental space for sitting down and actually reading a book. Almost every book I read was in audio format because it let me do other things at the same time. I also went on a cruise and didn’t pick up a book the entire time (too busy playing trivia games and winning luggage tags and key chains).

Audiobook Fiction (15) / Nonfiction (4)




Novel (2) / Novella (1)

 

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