Author Archives: books&biblio

About books&biblio

Librarian-in-training, Girl Scout Leader, (former) homeschooling mom.

2017 Audiobooks (First Half)

The books I listened to during the first half of 2017; definitely heavy on the fantasy and sci-fi.

2016 Audiobooks (Second Half)

Favorites

   

*Salt to the Sea – This book was absolutely beautiful; horrible, but beautiful. Definitely not for the younger set given some of the content and brutality. I always think of the Titanic or the Lusitania as being the worst maritime disasters, and that is what I’ve always been taught. I didn’t know about the Wilhelm Gustloff, or about how absolutely horrific its sinking was. The characters were well-developed, and all of them existed on a scale of moral ambiguity. Though Emilia was towards the good end of the spectrum as she lied for the purpose of keeping her sanity.

*The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Along with You Are a Badass, SANGF is one of my favorite self-help books. It is crass at times, lacks sugarcoating, and some of what Manson says is counter-intuitive to what we’ve been told. Positive thinking being a case in point – if you have to repeatedly tell yourself you’re happy, then you’re not, and you won’t be because you keep reinforcing the idea that you’re not happy by trying to convince yourself that you are. The gist of the book is that you have to figure out your priorities and what is truly important to you, or you will spread yourself too thin and end up spending too much energy on worthless things and ideas.

*Awaken Online: Catharsis – This is the best book I’ve read in the RPG sub-genre. It takes the concept and twists it, placing the MC, Jason, as the villain of the newly launched MMORPG, Awaken Online. He has to grapple with both the junk thrown at him in real life, and with his growing realization that he has been cast as the villain online. Aspects of both his real life and online life collide, and both he and his adversaries exist in a gray zone. Is the hero really good? Is Jason really bad? I can’t wait to listen to the sequel when it comes out.

*Kill the Boy Band – I loved this book! So much so that I listened to it twice in less than six months. A black satire for sure, and its humor is definitely not for everyone. KBB poked fun at the obsessive side of fandom (not fandom in general). It was awesome and horrible in an “I can’t believe they just did that” kind of way. The plot was ridiculous, and all four main characters were on the wrong side of sane to varying degrees. I liked that the narrator wasn’t entirely reliable – how much of what she presented was the truth or was inside her own head? She would never give her actual name to people, only characters from ‘80’s teen movies, which I thought was a fun detail. The audiobook narrator did a fantastic job nailing the vocal nuances of this character.

Honorable Mentions: Pines, Written in Red, We Are Legion, Geekerella, Norse Mythology, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Just One Damned Thing After Another, The Ultra Mindset

Fiction (55)
Moon Called
The Bollywood Bride
Pines
Hunter
The Great Gatsby
Awaken Online: Catharsis
The Queen’s Poisoner
One Good Dragon Deserves Another
The Casquette Girls
Written in Red
Kindred
Invisible Man
Feed
Eleventh Grave in Moonlight
Lolita
Sellout
Ruby Red
Slaughterhouse Five
Kill the Boy Band (2x)
Murder of Crows
Vision in Silver
Marked in Flesh
Etched in Bone
Wild Seed
The Sword of Summer
We Are Legion (We Are Bob)
Wayward
The Last Town
The Monstrumologist
Geekerella
Hallowe’en Party
One of Our Thursdays is Missing
The Sisters Brothers
The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The Strangler Vine
Hell Divers
Norse Mythology
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Dream a Little Dream
Awaken Online: Precipice
The Magician King
Keeping the Moon
For We Are Many
NPCs
Red Rising
Frankenstein
Just One Damned Thing After Another
The Very First Damned Thing
When a Child is Born
A Symphony of Echoes
The Fold
Kiss of Steel
First Grave on the Right

Dramatization/Multi-Cast (4)
Gemina
Salt to the Sea
This Is Where It Ends
My Lady Jane

Nonfiction (9)
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
The Ultra Mindset
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
The More of Less
The Medieval World (The Great Courses)
The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction
I Hate Everyone, Except You
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Great World Religions Hinduism

Bean’s 3rd Quarter Books 2017

Bean’s reading picked up, mainly because of summer break. She ended up ripping through audiobooks in between playing outside (and playing Minecraft). She had several favorites: the Masterminds series and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

*Masterminds: it drew me in, each chapter focused on a different person in the group ending with a cliffhanger – I needed to know what happened. I also liked how the different characters saw the same situation.

*The Girl Who Drank the Moon: I liked how the author told the story. It felt and sounded magical.

Audiobooks (8)


Books (2)

Read Alouds (2)

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Amazon TBR – September (Part 1)

I finished the first 50 books on my Amazon TBR list! And I still managed to come out ahead because I only added around 30 new books to it. My goal is to get at least a 100 read before the end of the year, and when the 2018 reading challenge lists start coming out, try to choose books from my TBR instead of finding new ones.

Note: The Night Circus was the last book read for the 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

Flying by Carrie Jones
This book came across my Amazon recommendations and the premise seemed interesting – a cheerleader fighting aliens while trying to save her mother. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. The humor the author was going for fell short, and because of this the story fell short as well.

 

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
While this book is nonfiction, it read like a fast-paced and interesting novel. It was definitely hard to listen to at times because human error, hubris, and an astonishingly negligent lack of communication caused an otherwise preventable disaster. I liked that Larson switched between the perspectives of the various players – British intelligence, the US government, the German U-boat captain, and the Lusitania’s crew and passengers.

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
I liked Charlotte Doyle, but I kept waiting for something more to happen. It was well-plotted and fast-paced, but from when it was published until now, it seems like there is more action jammed into more recently published middle grade adventure books.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
I liked the concept of the book – the cross-continent motorcycle race, Jael’s abilities and how she gained them, and how the Victor’s Ball scene plays out. However, I wasn’t really sucked into the book and didn’t really care about the characters. I know I won’t read the sequel.

 

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
Midnight Riot and all of the subsequent books are now one of my favorite series. I have no interest in crime novels, but the fact that it was recommended on two different sites I peruse for books to read, and the fact that it was urban fantasy, had me wanting to give it a try – and I’m glad I did. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith was a fantastic narrator and brought life to personality to the characters. The sarcastic and sardonic humor, and the geek references made me swoon.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
I enjoy Sherlock Holmes books/adaptations, and thought to give this one a go because the main character was a girl. I was curious as to how she would be written given some of the darker aspects of Sherlock. Cavallaro did a good job creating Charlotte, and a decent job of creating Jamie. However, the plot didn’t hold my attention. Things happened, but it wasn’t very interesting.

My One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch
I have read several of Suzanne Enoch’s romances, and while they haven’t knocked me off my feet, I enjoy listening to them. I liked the set up, I liked Graham’s younger brothers, but there wasn’t necessarily a lot of anything happening other than bickering. I like bickering when it’s done well, but this was only decent.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
I probably should have DNF’d this book, but was mildly curious to know how it ended. If I had the hardcopy instead of the audio version, I would have flipped to the end and skipped the rest. Nix is boring. The story is boring, incredibly slow-paced, and it doesn’t feel like anything actually happens. The love triangle is contrived and even more annoying than love triangles normally are.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
I started this book, then stopped because the main character, Tom. sounded like a teenager and not a 32 yr old man. He was emotionally stunted and lacked any kind of ambition or focus whatsoever. The book read like a lesser quality YA book, feeling somewhat juvenile. However, I decided to give it another go via audiobook, and once Tom started to adjust his alternate life, and once he found Goettreider, the plot picked up. I liked the exploration of the different realities and the different Toms. The book would have been better if less time had been spent on Whiny Tom, and more on the latter part of the novel. It was a paler cousin of Dark Matter.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
This is a good book based upon content and message, but I had a really hard time enjoying it because of the narrator. She sounded like an adult trying to sound like a kid, and it didn’t work. My daughter is the same age as Ellie, and she does not talk like that or inflect her words that way. I read a review that mentioned Ellie coming off as simple-minded, and I have to agree with her. I have a hard time believing my daughter or her friends behaving/reacting in the way Ellie did in various situations. There was also a lack of character growth.

DNF

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Stolen Songbird started out alright. It was interesting if a bit clunky. I made the mistake of reading reviews about the two other books in the trilogy and saw that the flaws in both Cecile and Tristan increased to incredibly annoying and idiotic proportions, so I gave up. I didn’t want to potentially become invested in something that would make me want to throw my phone across the room.

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Save the World by Henry Clark
This might have been a good story, but I couldn’t get past the narrator. I didn’t like the voices he used, and he had a weird way of inflecting the last words in sentences. I can’t comment on the plot because I don’t know how much of the plot itself was boring or how much of it was my dislike of the narrator.

The Atrocity Files by Charles Stross
I have seen The Atrocity Files pop up on must read sci-fi lists, but I have no interest in the technical details of magic/computers being explained ad nauseam. I am not a computer person, and there was too much time spent describing the magical rules and not enough on the plot.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight
This has the same basic premise as The Subtle Art of Not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, but I didn’t connect with her tone. It was too keyed into the “I’m a mom and drink wine” subculture, which is not my scene. I prefer a less mom-ish, jokey, and socially alcoholic approach to my self-help. I found myself getting annoyed with it before the first chapter ended.

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Emma PopSugar – Final Four

After bulldozing most of my way through the first 48 books of PopSugar’s Reading Challenge, it took me three months to finish the final four, but I am FINISHED! I now have three months to recharge before the 2018 reading challenges begin.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
#1 – Recommended by loved author (Neil Gaiman)
This was a surreal, dreamy book with a healthy dose of magic, and lovely descriptions of the various acts and oddities contained within the tents. If the Night Circus was a real thing, I would be a complete junky, wearing my red scarf and following the circus to its next location. I could spend endless hours rambling in and between the various tents. That being said, the plot moves along slowly with not a lot of action or excitement, and while there is love involved, it’s not really as the description on the back of the book states. It also seemed like there was something missing that would have given it the extra oomph needed to turn it into a book I could read multiple times.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
#5 – About an immigrant/refugee
I had recently read Such a Lovely Little War, so it was interesting to have a slightly different perspective and experience of the same events. The Best We Could Do focuses on Thi Bui’s personal experience of fleeing Vietnam, living in a refugee camp, and then adjusting to life in the United States. She weaves her current life in with her family’s lives in Vietnam, and also shows the effects the experience had on various family members.

Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
#7 – Eccentric character
Envy of Angels is the first in a series focusing on a company, Sin du Jour, that caters parties and banquets to the supernatural side of NYC. The main characters have lost their restaurant jobs and are unexpectedly hired by a famous chef who was thought to be dead. The other employees are an odd bunch and the food they serve (and the situations they find themselves in involving zombie clowns and a giant chicken) are even odder and, at times, mildly disturbing.  The only two negatives I can think of are that there is zero character development and very little background on Sin du Jour. Given that this is the first in a series, hopefully growth and background will be forthcoming.

Winter by Marissa Meyer
#8 – 800+ pages
I started reading Winter in hard copy, but was quickly unable to stand Winter. I get that she’s not quite right in the head due to suppressing her gift, but at the same time she was incredibly annoying. I gave up about 100 pages in. After having trouble finding another 800 page book that could be construed as a quick read, I gave Winter another go, this time as an audiobook. Listening to it a 2x made it go faster, but also upped the annoyance factor because of how the narrator sounded. I came to the realization that I don’t like heroines who are damsels in distress. Both Cress and Winter are two such heroines, and while they do (at times) conquer their own weaknesses, I have a really hard time with such wibbling about actually doing something.

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September Books

School is back in session! I’m taking a children’s literature course, so any book that isn’t part of my Amazon TBR list is most likely a book for that course (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Maniac Magee, specifically). I read Gauntlet aloud to my eldest, but am going to use it for this class as well. Gauntlet is a a grittier (pun intended), steampunkish, more realized Jumanji, with an intelligent 12-year old girl as the main character. The five non-school, non-Amazon books I read were books two through six of the Rivers of London series. It is an amazingly entertaining series, full of sardonic and snarky understated British humor. The narrator is perfect!

Audiobooks (19)

 

Novels (4)

Read Aloud (1)

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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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