Category Archives: Books

Sophia’s Book Riot Read Harder 2017 – COMPLETE!

This year’s Read Harder was excellent – none of the books I read rated below three stars for me.  Not even the German poetry!  I did hit a bit of a reading rut in June, so sadly I did not reach my original goal of finishing before July.  But I did finish this challenge IN July, I’m just bad about keeping up with posting, despite my sister’s frequent random “blog post?” texts.  Not even her oldest child authority can overcome the inertia of my laziness, muahaha.

Anyway. Here are the highlights from the second half of Read Harder this year:

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I’ll admit I used the new TV show as an excuse to finally read this, but boy howdy is it terrifyingly relevant, even and especially today.  The story felt timeless and way too possible, making it easy to imagine how smoothly our society could shift in such a direction.  It was totally compelling, and the tension was consistent and constant.  This is definitely a book I plan to revisit.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This book is beautiful and heart-wrenching.  I don’t know how many times I teared up throughout the story, and I full-on cried at the ending.  Yaa Gyasi knows how to WRITE.  Her imagery, her tone, her flow, her ability to plumb the depths of emotion and characterization without weighing down the narrative – I marveled at it all.  This book deserves to be read and read again.  I listened to the audio version, and the narrator absolutely did the text justice.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – Another gorgeous book, all quiet subtlety and simplicity.  But underneath that, an edge so hard and sharp  you don’t notice the cut until you see the blood.  This epic family saga moves through four generations of struggle and change, gently lulling you with a steady narrative until it sucker punches you in the gut with little warning or ceremony.  And then the story just moves on.  Rinse and repeat.

Completed Tasks

1) Book about sports – The Fair Fight, Anna Freeman
2) Debut novel – IQ, Joe Ide
3) Book about books – How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much, Samantha Ellis
4) Set in Central/South America by local author – Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez
5) By an immigrant/central immigration narrative – Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
6) All-ages comic – Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together, Shannon Watters
7) Published 1900-1950 – Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
8) Travel memoir – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
9) Book you’ve read before – Armada, Ernest Cline
10) Set within 100 miles of your location – The Red Queen Dies, Frankie Y. Bailey
11) Set more than 5000 miles from your location – Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
12) Fantasy novel – Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake
13) Nonfiction about technology – Tetris: the Games People Play, Box Brown
14) Book about war – The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan
15) LGBTQ+ YA or middle grade novel – George, Alex Gino
16) Banned or frequently challenged – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
17) Classic by author of color – Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
18) Superhero comic with female lead – Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson
19) Character of color goes on a spiritual journey – Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older
20) LGBTQ+ romance novel – If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo
21) Published by a micropress – We Are Legion (We Are Bob), Dennis E. Taylor
22) Collection of stories by a woman – Where Am I Now?, Mara Wilson
23) Collection of poetry in translation, not about love – Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke
24) POV characters all people of color – Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

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.


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.







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.


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)



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





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.



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.




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.



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.