Book Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Released 26 January 2016

Find on on Goodreads

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I have got to say that by the time I had only two hours left of this book to listen to, I was super SUPER done with it. And by that point, I was only listening to it in 20 minute stretches anyway, so it didn’t come as too much of a shock to me when I realized how much I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

Giving it Three Stars was generous of me, and honestly, it’s only because of the first half, the world building and concept.

But before I get to into it, here is the official synopsis:

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap? 
This description. That right there, and the narrators voice gave me hope for the book. I’m very fond of the woman who read this book, Fiona Hardingham, she was phenomenal. The voices of each character were distinct and helped to create a lively experience while listening to this book.
The book should have been phenomenal. Most everyone loved it. I went into it fully prepared to be presented with some of my favorite things: regency settings, magic, and strong female characters.
Instead, what I got was long descriptions of what Regency life was like for women, religion, magic that doesn’t get fully explained or even really uncovered until 2/3 of the way in and a fucking love triangle as Helen futzes around making googly eyes at tall dark and handsome while also trailing along a Duke.
I very nearly didn’t finish listening to this book because of how irritating I found Helen by the end. Literally, by the time of her presentation ball I wanted to smack her.
But lets back up. The beginning. I love the beginning. Helen was a strong, clever character who honestly didn’t put up with much of anything and was perfectly happy to have opinions. By the time the  her powers began coming in to play it was really cool! Like I love the idea that she can read peoples faces and tell their deepest desires and what they’re really thinking! Like that’s SUPER COOL. Oh, because of that she can see how events will unfold moments before they happen? REALLY FUCKING COOL.
Oh but wait. There are these things called Decievers. So that’s pretty cool actually. Not quite demons but beings of strange powers who inhabit human bodies, cool.
Its when the actual Dark Days Club gets involved and we start getting into the politics of it and what that could potentially mean for her as she moves on in her expected life that I started getting a little… bored… When we start talking about the philosophy of what a Reclaimer is I get a little meh.
Suddenly, it picks up again and I’m OK with it. But after that small climax, Helen starts to disappoint me. She starts getting wishy washy and having are you effing kidding meemotions she absolutely knows she shouldn’t have and, understanding the reality of her situation, I get a little pissed off.
Because here is when the Love Triangle shows up. And thats when I get REALLY pissy and Goodman looses me with this book. It was unnecessary. And truly just annoying. Why do authors think that the best way to heat up a situation is a Love Triangle? I just couldn’t tell you.
Essentially, at the end of the day I forced myself to listen to the end of this book. If I’d bought it in book form please believe me when I say I’d have skimmed the rest of the book to get to the end. But I just listened to it. I’m annoyed to have wasted an Audible credit on it and wish I’d borrowed it from the library.
I’m not normally this forceful about books I didn’t exactly enjoy but this book had so much potential and it kills me that long-winded writing, an over abundance of religion and philosophy and a love triangle had to come in and ruin it.
Suffice to say I wish this had been executed better.
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Book Review: Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Released 19 April 2016

Original Review on Goodreads 

Note: This is an expanded review to what is linked to above.

While notlove lies and spies the best romance I’ve ever read it was quite cute and had all the hallmarks of a classic regency romance.

Blue stocking girl who doesn’t want to get married?
Check

Man who works for The War Office who is too much involved in his work to get married?
Check

Throw them together for the sake of a friends courtship and see what happens?
Check

Suspicious activity on the behalf of a chaperone/acquaintance of both lead characters?

Check

Nobility behaving badly while having delightful times at balls and getting dressed in ridiculous outfits?

Check

Have the official summary:

Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She’s much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she’s determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish their research.

Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana’s traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.

Essentially this book was just ticking off the list of what one typically expects to see in a regency romance but under the guise of YA so there are no sexy times. Which is always a disappointment for me when dealing with romance novels, but what can you do.

I really REALLY enjoyed the beginning. I thought it was clever and hilarious and I rather wish the book had progressed on in just that fashion. Instead it veered off into a not great spy plot about selling secrets to the French and smuggling (just because I wasn’t fond of it doesn’t mean I’ll spoil it for you). We had awkward conversations in ballrooms, creepy gentlemen and just a general lack of actual coherence to the plot.

To the point where I got to the ending and had a moment of

oh okay

 

 

 

 

 

That said I really for the most part enjoyed the concept and had a lot of fun with the characters. Juiliana was interesting as was her whole bug thing – which honestly is over played as a reason for being a bluestocking – and Spencer was witty and for the most part charming.

I’ve read a few other reviews of the book that said the dialogue was stilted and the descriptions weren’t great, but I didn’t really have an issue with them. Sure a few of the lines were corny and probably unnecessary but I felt it went along smoothly and read easily.

It had a lovely pace and it was a cute Sunday morning read. I don’t know that I’d recommend it to people who are particular about plot though… it was… lacking there.

Effing Beauty and the Beast

In a supremely stereotypical fashion, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has been my all time favorite animated movie to have been released from that august studio EVER.

Belle has always been that one ‘Disney Princess’ to whom I could relate to and to be perfectly honest, I’ve always like the music best in that movie.

So today, instead of the book review I was planning on putting out, you lovely people get the joy of experiencing my joy over this:

I am just the happiest. YES I KNOW ITS ONLY A TEASER But OMG it makes me so so happy.

B&B sighSeriously though, I was supposed to post this on Monday when it came out but I got so distracted by how beautiful it was that I just couldn’t deal enough to write it up then.

But so, if by now you haven’t seen it, please go right on back up to the top of this post and just watch the embedded video there. Because otherwise this just won’t make a whole lot of sense.

In it’s first 24-hours on YouTube the 90-second video hit a record 91.8 million views, a huge win for Disney.

While we don’t actually see a whole lot of Emma Watson as Belle, what we do see is stunning. The scenery for this movie gives me actual life. It’s a beautiful time lapse of how the castle deteriorates during the course of the Beasts curse. Seriously, I get shivers every time I watch it.

Perhaps one of my favorite things is the way they merged Beasts growl into the door creaking open when Belle first comes to the castle.

And THEN we hear some of my all time favorite dialogue:

“LOOK A GIRL!”

“Yes I can see its a girl, you fool.”

“What if she is the one?”

Honestly, if you couldn’t tell, everything about this trailer made me skip like  the little girl I am when it comes to Disney movies. haters to the left

I know that there are some people out there who are poo-pooing the movie as if Disney has nothing original left to give so its just remaking the 1991 animated feature word by word, but seriously, who the fuck cares?? It LOOKS stunning and Emma Watson is going to be brilliant as Belle.

So piffle to the haters I say. Piffle.

(JFC I hope it lives up to my expectations…)

Book Review: Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Released 15 March 2016

Original Review on Goodreads

img_3845Note: I listened to this on Audible in one very long day of driving and it was an experience.

Note 2: Since posting the review on Goodreads I’ve added onto it. So its not quite the same as it is there in the link provided.

Note 3: There is a spoiler in this review. Sorry. 

If I had read the summary of this book at any point, then I had forgotten it by the time I started listening and so when I realized what was happening at the I practically had to pull over to stop myself from hyperventilating.

Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.

But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:

Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.

Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.

Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma.

What was amazing about this book was that while yeah, it was about a raped girl, it wasn’t about her being raped. Which to me is such a remarkable thing. I loved how E.K. Johnston instead focused on the emotional reactions she had to deal with and the roller-coaster any raped person has to go through when they’re dealing with what happened.

The narrator, Jorjeana Marie, did an phenomenal job in expressing what Hermione was saying. I really felt like she captured the voice and the wide range of emotions was wonderful.

Now to the nitty gritty. But first, a spoiler:

Perhaps my favorite part of this book was when Hermione went to get her abortion. When she was taken into the recovery room and all those other women came in, I felt so much of what she was going through. It was in part due to the narration, but also because that scene felt so real. They’re all sitting in there and you can just feel the relief radiating off of each of them after what they’d just gone through. And Hermione’s sense of belonging is something I think every rape victim, and every woman who has had an abortion feels when they meet someone else who has that same life experience.

Beyond that I think the most unbelievable part of all of this to me, at least, (which is why only the 4 stars) is that it sounds like everyone at the school gave up on the rumors and negative speech pretty quickly. Which honestly, shouldn’t be the issue here, but it bugged me. Now having never gone through a situation like this, I can’t say, but it just seems as though high schoolers wouldn’t give up on the gossip so quickly and that it seemed so very brushed under the rug.

Honestly though, this might just be me nit picking. Trying to find something wrong. I don’t know.

The end was perfect. I was happy when my initial suspicions were wrong – and they were so so wrong. But the end was just perfect.

Those Times When Listening to Audiobooks Makes More Sense

It is a truth universally acknowledged that reading typically requires the use of at least two hands.

Which means that when one is trying to do other things, perhaps crafty things, reading actual books doesn’t necessarily make the most sense.

Also it’s hard to do. I have tried.img_3365

Story time: I have been knitting a great deal over the last few months. One of my current projects is a baby blanket (see left). It’s actually almost done now and that is in large part due to the fact that I’ve been binge listening to audio books over the last three months.  I’ve either been re-listening to books that I know I love (yeah Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper Trilogy and Daughter of the Lioness duology!) and also picking up new books to try.

But I’m also traveling a lot. For example I spent a grand total of 10 hours in the car this past weekend. For various reasons there was a lot of traffic on the road last weekend and that meant that I was in the car for a VERY long time. And as much as I love a good car dancing session, there is only so much of that I can do per trip.

I’m also on a lot of planes. My work requires that I travel a bit and let me tell you, if you didn’t already know this, headphones are a great way to stop people from talking to you on a plane. Books do that too for sure, but img_3358if you don’t have headphones in people still think they can talk to you. Which is super not cool.

That said, audio books are stupid expensive, especially if you’re not dishing out the money per month to get the credits from Audible. So my getting into this habit of knitting and listening hasn’t exactly helped my wallet (although I am signed up for the 2 credit per month deal they have – actually much cheaper).

So why is this a thing I’m writing about then you might ask. Well, knitting and listening to an audio book has been an amazing thing for me. Mostly because it makes me feel like I’m actually working on my TBR or at the very least keeping up with my Goodreads challenge for the year. (Except when I’m re-listening to books…) It also helps me feel like I’m doing something productive – ie knitting or cooking or going to the gym.

 

The thing is, and this is never something I’ve really ever appreciated before, that audio books aren’t just for Dad to listen to anymore. There is so much more variety to the books that are available now a days and the narrators are so much better than they used to be.

A lot of people have told me that they listen to audio books because they feel otherwise they read to slowly or because focusing on written words is hard for them. Others have expressed similar things I have, in that it’s just easier to get other things done while still getting through a book.

I’m kind of loosing the plot of this post, but honestly all I was trying to say with this is that listening to audio books have really saved me in moving forward with my Goodreads challenge and also feeling like I can read and do other tactile things at the same time.

Do you listen to audio books? When do you listen to them or why? Cause see now I’m just curious.

 

I’m going to revive this I think….

I’ve been a horrendous blogger on so many levels recently. Like my tumblr is just a mess of queued posts and I haven’t done much of anything here since last year so… We’re going to start over.

oh okayI think.

I hope.

Mostly, I find that I haven’t really been a hugely happy person. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I haven’t been spending a lot of time on myself recently.

I’ve started seeing this guy and honestly its been wonderful, so that’s probably also taken up a bunch of my time too… I’m ever hopeful and he seems to be really good about me being a bookish individual so that’s nice.

All that said, its been a weird few months and I’m finally getting over my book slump and reading again and feeling infinitely better about life, such as it is.

But yeah, if anyone is still following this blog, I’ll be updating with a few new reviews over the next few days and hopefully I’ll keep it up and maybe, MAYBE one day, I’ll finally get off my ass and make a video for YouTube….

When Authors Interact With Me

I’m not actually as cool as I think I am on the internet. I’ve got a decent following on Tumblr and on Instagram, but I’m not kidding myself. I am not that cool.

So, when authors interact with me, it usually results in me freaking out and having a moment of absolute anxiety about how to respond or even if I should respond. Its happened a few times, but not so many that I’ve gotten nonchalant  about it. Because thats not how I roll.

But a few weeks ago, at around 2:20 a.m. Atia Abawi, author of The Secret Sky tweeted at me.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 6.38.22 AM

She’s talking about a photo I took and put on instagram of her book. I’m honestly disgustingly pleased with it.

See said photo here.

The whole thing came out really well, but to have the author of said book come back and say “I LOVE THIS PICTURE!!!” is not something I’m really ever going to get used to. Its just so surreal to me.

So naturally, I freaked the fuck out and couldn’t really go back to sleep trying to come up with the best way to respond to this at 2:30 in the morning. Which I should say, nothing good comes of making decisions after 2 a.m.

Needless to say, I didn’t respond, and I’m honestly still not 100% on how to respond, because FAMOUS PEOPLE DONT’ INTERACT WITH ME. I should add here, that Atia Abawi is also a foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem. You’ve probably seen her on TV.

IMG_1282So, this was the most recent happening for me. The last time, was when Pierce Brown, author of The Red Rising series liked my Instagram photo.

You’ll notice it says “piercebrownofficial” there in the third row….

But honestly, all of this is moderately more like stoking my own personal go as I continue down the road of bookish madness and reviewing.

The fact remains, that, despite them being popular or authors or both, they’re still human, and like when dealing with actors or singers, they have human emotions and reactions and sometimes would rather just be left alone. I think we need to remember this. Well, I need to remember this.

Because they are totally allowed to like things! I know, it was a shocking realization for me too. But they are. And they’re allowed to have their own opinions of things that people do with what they spent a huge amount of time and energy creating.

And honestly, thats the way it should be. Because at the end of the day, they created the thing that I love. It’s still their baby. It in no way belongs to me or anyone else who loves it and didn’t spend the time writing it.

I’m not sure I’m ever going to be one of those people who is cavalier enough to just let things like this roll off my back with out freaking out a little. And honestly, why should I?

It would be so sad if that wonder in having this interaction disappeared because it was ‘common place’ or ‘happens all the time’. I don’t ever want to get over this freak out session that I have whenever an author likes or interacts with something that I’ve put out there.

Wouldn’t that just be sad?

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Released: 14 July 2015

Find on Goodreads

armadaTo start. I LOVED Ready Player One. Like beyond reason. To the point that when I finished it I tried to shove it into everyone’s hands and was told that I’d missed out on this when it first came out. I proceeded to yell at them and ask them why they didn’t think to let me know about it earlier.

Regardless. When I found out that Ernest Cline was coming out with his sophomore book I was excited. I pre-ordered the e-book and was thrilled when it automatically downloaded onto my nook. That said, I didn’t read it until a week after I was able to download it.

But, once I started it I finished it in a day (I was traveling shush) and really enjoyed it.

The (annotated because its long) synopsis on Goodreads says:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

So, that sounds FASCINATING right? But I’m afraid that Cline fell a little bit into a sophomore slump. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. Because I TOTALLY DID. But there were bits where I was a little… eh…

I will say that Armada kicked off much quicker than Ready Player One did, which was nice. RPO started so slowly that it was a relief when Armada got going with in the first 20 pages.

Zach was a likable character who had very real flaws and moderately understandable anger issues and had a mother who was a delight to read. He reminded me a little of Wade from RPO, but Zach had a whole separate thing going on. His friends were funny and his boss was funky, he had a really interesting set of enemies, both terrestrial and non-terrestrial.

I also loved getting to understand the nuances of the games that they were playing, which is strange for me because I am not a video game person at all. So looking at it that way, its strange that I like Cline’s books at all…

What I found a lot of fun was how Cline worked in historic facts that within the context of the story made everything a little plausible, which is a little scary.

Cline seems to have a thing about giving his recently high school graduated male protagonists girlfriends who are at least three  years older than them. He’s also pretty stuck on the video game thing, WHICH IS NOT BAD, but it had the same kind of RPO narration feel because of it.

I was, however, pretty underwhelmed by the ending, which I won’t spoil cause that’s not how I roll, but I was left a little meh about the whole thing. But that said. Getting to that point, had its moments of very cool. Like the Moon Base. That was awesome.

Again, what I really didn’t like was how everything got wrapped up in the end. It just felt very “this happened and then this happened. followed by this and this and then I made the decision to do this”

It wasn’t very interesting and I was disappointed by it. Which honestly is probably why I gave it a 3.5 of 5 and not higher. The end really stuck with me and I wasn’t particularly impressed with it.

Perhaps, in the future, Cline will move away from his comforting video game base and give us some new world building with out the video games, but for now this is really fun, and still pretty different.

Interested in buying this book?

Book Review: The Sin Eaters Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Released: 1 March 2015

Originally Posted on Goodreads

the sin eaters daughter

I did not finish this book.

When I started this book I was so intrigued by the premise, it had so many good things going for it. I mean the tagline!!

I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

It sounds so good right!? And then as I started getting deeper into the plot I began to have doubts.

The Goodreads summary should have given me pause…

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it’s price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla’s fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla’s chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen’s, some truths should not be told…

Perhaps my first really big issues with this book was that it was called The Sin Eaters Daughter and until about 50 pages in, I really had very little idea what a Sin Eater was and why it was important enough to name the book about it. That bugged me a little bit more than I care to really go into.

But then, about half way through I lost the plot. Or the plot lost itself and I just couldn’t find it in me to care anymore. I skipped around reading bits of the end and just couldn’t find it in myself to care.

The thing is that I can’t really ignore that there were some serious plot holes that really bugged me. Primarily her older, sick guard. That whole subplot was really strange and I wasn’t a fan. I kinda understood why it was there, but I didn’t like it. It felt very forced.

I also felt that the subplot with the Sleeping Prince should have begun MUCH earlier in the book. I honestly didn’t even get to the point where it was relevant because I was pretty much over the whole thing by the middle of the book.

I’m not sure where the next book would be going, but I won’t be reading it.

That said, I LOVED the mythology of this book. I thought that everything from Daunen Embodied to the Sin Eater was just genius. Twylla’s character was a saving grace to this book, but not so much that I felt I wanted to finish it.

Also, I loved the cover art so there was that.

Horror/Thriller vs True Crime Fiction

In my mind, there is actually a huge difference between the two.

One looks like this:                                                                The other looks like this:

Freddy Krueger

Freddy Krueger

Gary Ridgeway, The Green River Killer

Gary Ridgeway, The Green River Killer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that it’s probably a weird distinction for me to make. But I’m incredibly not interested in horror/thriller books and movies because they freak me right the fuck out. The whole idea of sitting down to enjoy a Stephen King book or watching The Nightmare on Elm Street to deliberately scare myself does not appeal to me in any way shape or form.

The fact that it’s fake, actually makes it worse for me because there is so much more behind the story. It’s literally the nightmares that people have, designed to scare people and then put onto the movie screen or into the pages of a book.

You get me to watch movies like The Ring at your own risk. Because I will make you stay up all night with me so that I’m sure that nothing comes out of my TV. I do not react well to this shit.

All that said, I will binge watch Swamp Murders on the History Channel. The Haunting is on? Count me in for the four hour marathon. I love the ID channel. True crime stories are my jam. I find them fascinating, mostly because it’s real. It can be scary yes, but it’s real. Well, maybe The Haunting can be argued. BUT STILL.

I’m honestly fascinated by those stories. It’s a telling of something that happened to someone else. It’s not there to scare you. It’s there to inform and, yes be interesting, but to also be informative. For me I just want to know the ‘why’ behind a gruesome murder or death.

But what happens is, I’ll be super excited about a true crime book that has come out and people will be all “Why won’t you read Stephen King? Clearly gore isn’t an issue for you if you read that.”

My immediate reaction is something along this…rbf

For example, at the moment, I’m deliriously excited because “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, a story that focuses on America’s First serialized Serial Killer – H.H. Holmes. Now, this is my jam okay. I loved this book. It’s a favorite of mine and it’s an amazing telling of what really was a horrific situation that he had created in his home.

So naturally, when it was announced that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio would be working together on making this movie and with DiCaprio as Holmes? I screamed a little bit.

This all probably stems from the fact that when I was working as a journalist, I spent a lot of my time writing the crime and fire stories. That’s where a lot of my best writing came from. I loved covering breaking news. It was one of my favorite things to do. But that’s totally off topic.

The point to all this is that it’s really not pleasant to tell people that just because they enjoy true crime doesn’t mean they should automatically enjoy horror or thrillers.  And this happens to me all the time. There are only so many polite ways to say “No” before I start getting cranky with the person who is pushing that book on me.

Moral of the story, don’t force horror/thriller on me. You’ll regret it. Just watch a true crime show with me instead.