Random Musings by Frodosco

Posts tagged “Genre Reading Challenge

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger: Frodo’s Review

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Summary From Goodreads

IT TAKES THE WISDOM OF YODA TO SURVIVED THE SIXTH GRADE

Meet Dwight, a sixth-grade oddball. Dwight does a lot of weird things, like wearing the same T-shirt for a month or telling people to call him “Captain Dwight.” This is embarrassing, particularly for Tommy, who sits with him at lunch every day.

But Dwight does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. And that’s when things get mysterious. Origami Yoda can predict the future and suggest the best way to deal with a tricky situation. His advice actually works, and soon most of the sixth grade is lining up with questions.

Tommy wants to know how Origami Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. Is Yoda tapping into the Force? It’s crucial that Tommy figure out the mystery before he takes Yoda’s advice about something VERY IMPORTANT that has to do with a girl.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a lighthearted story of some middle school kids and the mystery that is Dwight and his Yoda-shaped origami puppet. I wanted a change of pace from my usual reads and this middle grade book is exactly what I was looking for. It’s funny, an easy read and remembering what it was like to be that age was a treat. The book uses multiple perspectives to piece together what makes Origami Yoda so special in a kind of case file type format. The puppet has been known to (seemingly) predict the future, how does he do it? Some characters believe in the puppet being magical somehow, others are undecided and one is a complete non-believer. Each short story, or case file, is hilarious and sheds some more light on Dwight, his puppet and how from the perspective of a middle school kid almost anything can be amazing and magical.

The underlying theme if you go beyond the humor is that you shouldn’t judge people based on their appearance or some of their habits. Because Dwight is known as a goofball, unobservant and not all that bright it gives Origami Yoda that much more mystique. While some of the kids seem to think Dwight might have more to him than meets the eye it is up to you as the reader to decide. What will you see?

I enjoyed The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. It was a quick read (only 145 pages) and was a wonderful change of pace from the usual books I read that are far more complex. If you want something light to read or need a good laugh I’d recommend picking this one up. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I will likely be picking up the other two books somewhere down the line. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #111/200; Mount TBR Challenge #65/150; 2013 TBR Pile #65/50; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Middle Grade #27/30

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Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red

Summary From Goodreads

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

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This. World. Is. AWESOME!

Usually I dive into characters at the beginning of my reviews because generally that is the focus and how I feel about the book as a whole tends to go by how much I enjoy them, or don’t. However, with Ruby Red I just want to talk about the world that Gier created. For hours. With everyone. Alright I might be getting a bit carried away…

So in this world there is time travel, which is awesome. The MC has cool powers that she has only hinted at to anyone but her best friend and her mother (who I don’t think took it completely seriously) which are pretty incredible, and potentially dangerous should the wrong people learn she has them. Other people have different powers too, but so as not to spoil it I’ll just say at one point someone may or may not have used “the force” in a way. Aren’t I such a tease? ^.^ There are organizations that have complex prophecies that, if completed, may or may not result in powers untold. Oh, and wonderfully detailed descriptions of the time periods that the time travelers visit, who doesn’t love that?! Aaaaah I love this world so much. *hugs*

Oooh and the writing style! The dialogue is captivating, the characters have these in depth conversations and the vocabulary used is expansive and a thrill to read. The way Gier creates this web of family history that even the characters within the families can’t always figure out is intriguing and I’m very curious to see where she goes with it. What ties will be made next? Every scene just felt elaborate and shiny and aaaaah I can’t stop gushing. Books just aren’t written like this very often and it is such a refreshing experience. Love.

So, plot. The general idea here is girl winds up with special time traveling abilities, is completely unprepared and still has to deal with her new powers and resulting change of lifestyle while attempting to complete missions for this group of families that are trying to fulfill a prophecy. Except she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing because she wasn’t trained at all. Oh, and she isn’t completely on board with some of what she is expected to do on these missions and the supposed “enemy” may not be so bad after all. We see some initial displays of time travel, transition into wonderful action sequences and then get some motivation leading into the second book, Sapphire Blue, by the “enemy” and a little romance. Still with me? Sounds pretty awesome right? I thought so too. ^.^

The romance is where I have some quibbles. No insta-love thank goodness, but certainly some instant attraction on the part of Gwyneth which I’m completely fine with. She likes the other MC, Gideon, right from the start at least on a looks level and as the story goes on she learns more about him along with the reader. However, Gideon doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings and we even see him involved with someone else early on. So near the end when one of the characters does a 180 I’ll be honest and say I was a bit frustrated. There weren’t a ton of warning signs (some small ones but nothing big enough to make the kind of change that occurred) and it seemed like it was just a tactic to generate more interest potential in book 2. Meh.

Finally, a bit more on the characters which in a reversal of my usual style I have saved (unintentionally) for last. To tell the truth this is the one area where I just didn’t connect with the book. I couldn’t get invested in what Gwyneth was going through except to marvel at the world and times around her. It isn’t that she is dull or irritating, she just didn’t have any qualities that stood out and grabbed me. Gideon at least had a solid sense of humor and while he is “annoying” in the first half according to Gwyneth, it’s his thing and he owns it. Oh, and the best friend (Lesley) just felt completely fake to me. She was like a robot built to help Gwyneth understand certain developments in the plot and catch up since she is so behind in training. Not thrilled with her character. Until the last 10% of the book or so this was going to really hurt the book for me but then BOOM new characters! Hello friends! I wanted to give the author a hug for introducing these people because I LOVED their characters and I’m sure they will be around more in Sapphire Blue which is a major reason why I’m super excited to read it.

I really enjoyed Ruby Red when all was said and done. The second half of the book, the more action packed half which comes as no surprise, was much better for me because it focused less on Gwyneth, Gwyneth, Gwyneth. The world is immense and complex and just awesome. Gier’s writing is such a nice change of pace from the vast majority of books I’ve read and I can’t wait to experience it again. The new characters introduced at the end of the book gave new life to the story and hopefully as Gwyneth is trained she will be less bland a MC. I don’t know how the romance, if there is going to be any, will impact Sapphire Blue but it should be interesting no matter what. Definitely check out this book and the series! Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #109/200; Mount TBR Challenge #64/150; 2013 TBR Pile #64/50; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #27/51; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Historical Fiction #26/30

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Day 70: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Day 70

Summary From Goodreads

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

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There are many words that can be used to describe Etiquette & Espionage. Fabulous. Odd. Hilarious. I don’t know that any combination will adequately describe the book, but I’ll give it a go since reviews are apparently my thing now.

The main reason Etiquette & Espionage is so hard to accurately describe is because it encompasses so many genres. There is the fantastic elements such as werewolves and vampires, both of which are readily accepted by a large portion of society, go figure. Then there are the steampunk elements which go from mechanimals (exactly what they sound like) to floating schools seemingly made out of three dirigibles melded together, to descriptions of machines themselves. There is the urban setting, it is a school after all, even a floating one counts. Oh and the matter of it being in the 1800’s and thus having grand balls, horse-drawn carriages and of course the way of speaking that seems to fit the time. Add that all together and you can see why it is a bit hard to summarize all that Etiquette & Espionage holds in simple terms.

What’s so amazing, or at least in part, about the book is that it combines all of the aforementioned genres seamlessly. The vampires and werewolves? They fit right in with the school setting. The descriptions of different mechanical workings? Doesn’t clash with lessons on a proper curtsy or what size of handkerchief is possible to hide in a given…well, bosom. Even the manner of speech manages to fit in seamlessly with all of the fantastical goings on.

My personal favorite incorporation was the humor. Carriger not only uses standard forms of humor, but with the etiquette involved some specific situations that most books would be unable to take advantage of are used masterfully. Also names, just hilarious and no doubt for the author’s benefit as much as it was for the reader. My favorites were Lord Dingleproops, Mrs. Barnaclegoose and Bumbersnoot. I’m sorry but if you didn’t at least emit a giggle reading those you need to work on your sense of humor!

The characters were excellent too. The main character, Sophronia, is brilliant, funny, and though the school does make her more feminine as it is designed to do, she retains much of her tomboyish qualities as well as her adventurous & reckless tendencies which is always nice to see with a female MC every now and then. She’s pretty but it doesn’t make her act superior, loyal to those she cares about (unless faced with an incoming werewolf) and I can’t wait to see how her character develops. The supporting cast of friends, teachers and even enemies are all done very well. I honestly can’t think of a character I thought was poorly done which is pretty amazing.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in a four part series, and I’m definitely looking forward to book two, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which is expected to be released in November of this year. There wasn’t a cliffhanger ending (thank you Gail!) but that hasn’t made my longing any less. There is plenty more “education” left to be had, rules to be broken and hilarity to ensue. I’d recommend this book to anyone, especially since there seems to be a bit about it to appease a fan of any genre type. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 71!

Genre Variety Reading Challenge #25/30 – Category – Steampunk; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #70/365

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Day 53: The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

Day 53

Summary From Goodreads

The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. The Reverend Feye simply climbed on the roof to fix a shingle, let out a scream, and vanished — only to walk up the driveway an hour later, looking older and worn, with a strange girl named Lahlia in tow. In the months that followed, Tucker watched his father grow distant and his once loving mother slide into madness. But then both of his parents disappear. Now in the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, Tucker begins to suspect that the disks of shimmering air he keeps seeing — one right on top of the roof — hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time-twisting journey
— from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital run by digitally augmented healers, from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.

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From time travel to ghost-like beings, from the worst disasters in history to cats that shouldn’t have ever existed, The Obsidian Blade has it all. The cat thing is reason enough to read this if you haven’t already, freaky! Anyway, I received a copy of The Obsidian Blade from the amazing people at ARCycling and finally got around to reading it and I’m very glad I did. If you’ve been following my reviews you’ve seen a TON of fantasy so it seemed like it was time to divert a bit, in this case to sci-fi.

The most interesting and compelling element of The Obsidian Blade is definitely the setting/world-building. Due to the crazy amount of time transportation and dimension jumping it is vital that each new “time” is well developed, often very quickly. Somehow, and I give major credit to him for pulling it off, Hautman manages to make each time frame seem realistic and complex, and most importantly unique. You have forests in the distant future, an ancient city, and everything between. However, while many science fiction writers seem adept at creating these alternate times/realities/worlds, etc. it is even more impressive that Hautman’s writing makes our own seem just as interesting as the rest.

As for the plot, that was understandably a bit scattered. With all of the time jumps you have to make sure and follow closely to where the main character, Tucker is and what dangers lurk in that new place. The main goal of The Obsidian Blade seems to be centered on Tucker’s desire to bring his family back together, but that feeling doesn’t really resonate. While his focus does remain singular the story itself bounces around with seemingly no end in sight. Don’t get me wrong, each new “time” is interesting in its own right, but without having a strictly linear fashion to it the story is just…a bit disjointed.

Tucker as a main character was good if not overly memorable. The Obsidian Blade seems more interested in sharing all of these awesome new times and places with the reader then to create a stellar MC. Tucker is fun, a bit annoying with his incessant questioning, but overall enjoyable. While I enjoyed one of the other main characters, Lahlia, to a certain degree just because of her weird mannerisms and odd sense of humor, she is the only one that stood out. The rest I could take or leave really. Some of the beings in the book though? Really cool.

As this is the first book in the series I feel like there is definite potential in its continuation. The creepy/cool beings known as Klaatu could certainly be expanded on. I don’t really care that much about Tucker, but I’ll gladly give The Cydonian Pyramid a shot in order to read more about Lahlia. Besides, I can’t resist more “time” jumping through dimension holes, what nerd-geek can? Overall I enjoyed The Obsidian Blade and it is a solid read for any sci-fi fans. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 54!

Genre Variety Reading Challenge #23/30 – Category – Science Fiction; Mount TBR Challenge #41/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #42/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #53/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #19/44

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Day 46: END: An Apocalyptic Anthology

Day 46

Summary From Goodreads

END features stories about the end of the world from indie publishing’s rising stars. The Mayan Calendar ends on December 21st, 2012, and some people believe that heralds apocalypse. What better way to go out than with a collection of shocking, thrilling, and sexy stories?

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END features six short stories featuring various apocalyptic settings. It features Kendall Grey, author of the Just Breathe series, Ron Vitale author of the Cinderella’s Secret Diary books, Angela Kulig author of The Hollows Series, Amelia James author of the Twisted Mosaic Series, Dennis Sharpe author of The Coming Storm books and Morgan McCoy.

As there are six tales in this particular anthology I decided to cut it in half and talk a little about three of the stories ranging from ones I kinda liked to my favorite so as to give the best overall representation of the anthology without delving into every story and making this post a mile long:

3. Such Sinners We Are – I’m not usually one for spiritual pieces, it has nothing to do with my personal beliefs, just that talking about what’s in them seems to always end in conflict one way or another and I try to avoid that if possible. Such Sinners We Are by Ron Vitale discusses one of the most common apocalyptic scenarios, a good vs. evil battle to claim humanity. The story is told from the point of view of Tommy who is given the ability to see whether people are good or evil and his inner battle to choose to give the power to his little sister or to give into temptation and use it for his own sake. The writing style itself is a bit all over the place in quality, I liked the first part where it seemed pretty clear what the perspective was and sounded like an actual person might (bonus points, seriously in apocalyptic stories especially it’s amazing how often this isn’t the case) but later on the writing got a bit simplistic/repetitive for my taste. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Decent.

2. Whimper – If even the military can’t control those with powers things could get messy pretty quick. That is what the world shows in Whimper by Morgan McCoy where Levine, someone who has powers but that are defensive in nature, must try and finish the nightmare she’s been living for so long after Maggie, an offensive type, killed her brother. Even though it wasn’t Levine’s intent to do so, once she encounters Maggie that’s all that is left to do, but does she have the strength? Whimper jumps repeatedly back and forth between the past, when Levine’s brother Nathaniel was alive, and the present as she trudges on through the remains of the world. While that takes some getting used to the writing is compelling and the parts about the military are thought provoking. Solid.

1. A Starshot in Hell – An example of what humanity might become at the end of the Earth, ruthless, with only the rich being able to survive. A classic way of looking at things, though not an untrue one, A Starshot in Hell by Angela Kulig shows the worst that humanity might do, stealing, plundering and abandoning their fellow people that are worse off then them to survive. Eden as the main character, one that remains on the charred Earth, is stoic and all but broken. Daniel, conversely, is sent from the ship (of the space variety of course) to rescue her as payment to her father, but can he convince her to leave what home she has left for a man she doesn’t know and a father who left her? A Starshot in Hell definitely made me want to read Kulig’s other works even more since this piece could have been 10 times as long and I would have ate it up. Very good.

Overall I thought END was a solid anthology with a good mix of established writers such as Grey and up and comers like McCoy. The stories were short but pretty good in quality overall, if you enjoy apocalyptic tales then this is a good easy read for you. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 47!

Genre Reading Challenge #22/30 – Category – Apocalyptic; Mount TBR Challenge #36/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #36/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #46/365

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Day 42: Against All Odds by Rick Cabral

Day 42

Summary From Amazon:  Against All Odds by Rick Cabral

The 40-year odyssey of how the River Cats became Sacramento’s hometown baseball team.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I was jonesing for anything and everything baseball today as it was the first of the 2013 season for pitchers and catchers to report. For those of you who don’t know, besides my obsession with books, my other main devotion is to sports. Baseball is my favorite and as I was watching every 2013 Spring Training video on MLB.com my desire to engross myself further was intensifying. I decided that rather than pick any book at random (none were calling me today either which influenced this as well) I would go find a baseball novella to read since Spring Training games don’t start until the 22nd.

Now that I’ve caught you up I can talk specifically about Against All Odds. Out of the novellas I found, this was in the top two. After beseeching my fellow MLB enthusiasts on Twitter I decided on this one for today (likely the other will be tomorrow’s, just a heads up). Against All Odds is about the River Cats, a AAA minor league baseball team located in Sacramento, California. I haven’t followed the minors very closely in my long time as a devoted sports, and baseball fan, and figured that this would be a fun place to start.

The Sacramento River Cats really did face seemingly insurmountable odds in becoming a reality. Time and time again plans were thwarted just as they seemed to be either beginning or even nearing fruition. Against All Odds went deeper than I thought possible into the minutia of each step in the 40 years it took for Sacramento to get their team. Although I was hoping for more personal anecdotes or stories that would tie into the process, I still enjoyed the novella, despite the middle being a bit laden with details that are interesting only because of how everything ties in together at the end. The ending, with the massive buildup and pent-up emotions involved delivered beautifully. I wanted to be living there just to experience what that rush must have been like for those living in Sacramento when this team finally came “home”.

Against All Odds made me a fan of the River Cats and if you love baseball, especially the details going into what it takes to land a team, then I think you’d enjoy this. As always thanks for reading (and putting up with my other obsession) and come back tomorrow for Day 43!

Genre Reading Challenge #21/30 – Category – Sports; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #42/365

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Day 41: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Day 41

Summary From Goodreads:  

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both of them legions of faithful fans.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a truly “fabulous” collaboration of two very talented authors. With each using their unique style, the combination of John Green & David Levithan is powerful but also perfectly synchronized, neither overpowering the other. Their styles don’t clash at all, and the one complaint I have heard from some that have read the book, the lack of capitalization to signify one of the characters, was not distracting at all. Oh sure, if you are an obsessive grammar-nazi this book may in fact be the death of you, but for the rest of us the story is beautiful and compelling.

Just as it is the crux of the play, the focus of the book seems to be on love, something so complex and intricate that it takes the combined talents of two of the best writers of our generation to bring to life in full. Will Grayson, Will Grayson tackles issues such as homosexuality, depression and perception, both of the public eye and even from your closest friends, especially concerning size. Many would argue that the main characters are the two Will Graysons, but from my point of view I think it was Tiny, the best friend of one and the boyfriend of the other. He brings the two together just by his presence and positive attitude toward life. However, don’t think that Tiny, who is a rather large individual as well as being gay, is just left to be a “happy-go-lucky” individual, no that gets cleared up in the later portion of the book. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it (which you should), but suffice it to say Tiny explains what it is like to be him and all of the energy, which seems to be wasted most of the time, that goes into pulling off that persona and worldview.

As for the two Will Graysons, they are both equally compelling characters. One for his goofy rules and girl troubles (among other things) and the other for his sarcasm and wit, and his own brand of dating drama. Both have issues that they have to conquer and are likable enough, in their own ways, that you truly do want them to succeed. I can see why some quirks of both characters (complaining throughout the book for both mostly) could be annoying to some, but for me, as someone who suffers from mild/moderate depression, I can understand what they are going through and it just makes me want Tiny to influence them and help change them all the more. It isn’t ever easy, but it can certainly be worth it.

Girl troubles, boy troubles, life as a teenager, homosexuality, happiness, you name it Will Grayson, Will Grayson covers it. I found it to be a fantastic read and it is definitely high up on my favorites, both in Contemporary and overall. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to YA fans and romance ones as well. This is also a very good pick if you want a book that includes GLBTA issues. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 42!

Genre Reading Challenge #20/30 – Category – GLBTA; Mount TBR Challenge 34/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #34/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #41/365

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Day 39: Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin

Day 39

Summary From Goodreads:  

Stan Smith has the world’s dullest name, and the world’s dullest life to go with it. At 17, the former junior chess champion turned “Town’s Laziest Register Monkey at the Town’s Only Video Store” has no car, no college, and, of course, no girl. If that weren’t pathetic enough, he’s got an organic-food-freak vegan mother, an eccentric inventor father, a dead-end job, a dog with a flatulence problem, and a former classmate threatening to kill him. With a 165 IQ, Stan was expected to Be Something and Go Somewhere. But when all he has is a beat-up old bike that keeps getting vandalized, he’s going nowhere, faster.

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I seem to be in a humor kick. Yesterday I read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson and today I chose Going Nowhere Faster by the always-guaranteed-to-be-hilarious Sean Beaudoin. Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll read something creepy soon, I do like to mix it up!

Anyway, about the book. Going Nowhere Faster has all the classics of a teen movie where the loser guy that is smart but awkward socially and doesn’t have anything going for him likes a girl who doesn’t seem to care. Boring and overdone right? Wrong! The difference here is that the girl doesn’t stay in her “I’m perfect just like you imagined me to be” shell. The best friend turns out to kinda be a douchenozzle even though in the end it doesn’t really matter because woohoo friendship! Also don’t forget that someone wants to kill the main character, Stan, which throws another wrench into the mix that usually isn’t there. Did I mention the constantly gassy dog? No? See, there are so many elements here!

But seriously, Going Nowhere Faster is a short, funny read that I couldn’t put down. Beaudoin uses his unique brand of humor, just as with Fade to Blue and The Infects to keep you laughing and if you aren’t a movie buff, constantly using google. The characters are fantastic. Stan is a great main character, the kind you want to give a kick in the butt to get him in the right direction (in life and in general) but that makes you laugh enough to forget to do so. The little sister, Olivia was really well done and instantly makes you want to take care of her (a bit better than her brother does at least). The Amazon, I mean Stan’s mother, is sufficiently scary and the father is just enough off his rocker as to be both humorous and to feel embarrassment for. Also, the girl, did I mention she was kind of nuts too? No? Well it seems like everyone in this book is so I guess that got lost in the shuffle, oh well.

The plot is simple but it works. Mixing in a plethora of movie references and nerd humor, the book keeps you intrigued and the pacing smooth. It’s short enough so that nothing turns into a “gimmick” or is overdone and the twist at the end, though a bit odd, serves to wrap up all the loose ends sufficiently.

The book was good, though The Infects is definitely still my favorite of Beaudoin’s work (seriously check it out, I’ll even link you here). If you want a quick, light read, and especially if you love quirky humor and movies then this is the book for you. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 40!

Genre Reading Challenge #19/30 – Category – Humor; Mount TBR Challenge #32/150; 2013 TBR Pile #32/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #39/365

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Day 38: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Day 38

Summary From Goodreads:  

For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris—Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller,Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

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One of the funniest books I’ve ever read.

Really I could leave you with that one line and it would sum up Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and my feelings for it all short and sweet, but that wouldn’t be much of a review. Then again, I’ve never attempted to write a review of an autobiography before so this may not be much of a review regardless. Maybe you should just go with that first line. No? Oh well…

Lawson had me laughing, snorting and overall looking like a maniac from the first chapter. That chapter wasn’t even really a chapter (if you go by her editor’s opinion anyway) but I knew I was going to love the book right away. The stories of Lawson’s childhood are both hilarious and a tad frightening in that any child could actually grow up in that environment. I think people know that some kids do grow up in these kinds of families and rural settings, but rarely do we go this in depth to learn about what it would be like so this is a rare insight. However, Lawson’s father throws a comical/crazy wrench into things that gives it a unique (and wacky) twist on the stereotypical rural/simple lifestyle.

The book continues and follows Lawson’s life as a teen and later an adult. It covers marriage and children and everything between. Bobcats thrown at you? You got it! Want to know what is really inside a diaper? Look no further! Don’t get me started on cows…

Seriously though, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is fantastic and everything I hoped it would be and more. I had my choice of any book (I won a giveaway, shocker I know) and this book was the perfect pick, so glad I did. I’d recommend this to anyone, especially those like me who appreciate a…slightly twisted sense of humor. Also, another person who had anxiety issues turned writer, huzzah! Gives me hope. ^.^ As always thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 39!

Genre Reading Challenge #18/30 – Category – Autobiography; Mount TBR Challenge #31/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #31/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #38/365

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Day 37: Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes

Day 37

Summary From Goodreads:  

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall.

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I can’t believe how long it took me to get to Two and Twenty Dark Tales, but finally I have read it! This anthology intrigued me from the moment I heard about it, and though I heard mixed reviews, when I won it I was still pretty excited to dive in. For whatever reason it has been sitting on my shelves buried under other books since, but as I said, I finally have taken the time to read it.

I did enjoy the anthology quite a bit, though of course I have my favorites. As with most books of this nature I will be doing brief thoughts on my top five short stories in reverse order. So without further ado here they are:

5. Blue by Sayantani DasGupta – A haunting story of ancient storytellers that is not truly dark and has a very pleasant ending. Sweet.

4. Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. Kling – A depressing rhyme is fleshed out and brought to life. Filled with what would be a realistic portrayal of the children’s life in such small quarters, it’s honesty is grim in this retelling but very well done.

3. A Pocket Full of Posey by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg – The creepiest of Mother Goose rhymes gets all the more disturbing. Dark creatures and forgetfulness abound in what is a tale that children should hope never to hear, and certainly never experience.

2. Tick Tock by Gretchen McNeil – Written by the author of the mystery/thriller Ten, and the reason I was most excited for the anthology, McNeil does not disappoint. With a very dark retelling of “The Clock” she uses creepy children, always a fantastic choice, to do what is right.

1. Candlelight by Suzanne Lazear – Easily my favorite of the anthology, Candlelight was an excellent retelling of “Babylon”. It warns that there is always a price for everything, and that even the seemingly most pleasant of lives is not without cost.

Genre Reading Challenge #17/30 – Category – Fairy Tales; Mount TBR Challenge #30/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #30/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #37/365

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Day 29: The Dark Lord by Kathryn Le Veque

Day 29

Summary From Goodreads

The year is 1180 A.D. and times are very dark. England is lawless for the most part and the people live in fear. Rising to power during this time is the vicious and brutal knight Ajax de Velt. His mission is to conquer a large stretch of the Scots and Welsh border, commandeering wealth and property along the way. He wants to be the most feared and powerful warlord in all of England, Wales and Scotland, and he is well on his way. The last in a long line of dark and brutal warriors, Ajax is the most ruthless and ambitious knight in the Isles; even the heartiest warriors fear the man for his coldblooded tactics. More than that, his bloodlust, as well as his sheer skill with a blade, is legendary. But as Ajax and his army conquer the latest castle in his plans to secure the borders, he unexpectedly meets his match in a spitfire of a woman named Kellington Coleby. Beautiful, intelligent and feisty, Lady Kellington refuses to surrender to the man as handsome as he is brutal. The warlord and the maiden go head to head in this unforgettable story of love, battle, devotion, fear and adventure.

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The Dark Lord was a trip back in time for me to when I read about and adored ancient history, including the knights of old, though typically those weren’t so focused on romance. Le Veque paints a beautiful and realistic picture of what times were like during the time of Henry II’s reign and how differently politics and wars were handled then. Though there isn’t much detail given on the landscape, which is a shame given that the area the book focuses on is Scotland and surrounding nations, the reader does get a good feel for the interior of a castle which are described in much detail. I’m sure that must have been a result of painstaking research by Le Veque and it shows, certainly enhancing the experience especially for those like me who love historic buildings.

The characters do give me some pause though. I do like Lady Kellington, she’s feisty and refuses to give any ground if it goes against what she believes in regardless of the repercussions she would face. She fights for her friends and family and the innocent as well, even ones she doesn’t know, simply because it is the right thing to do, that says a lot. She also has a good sense of humor which helps to make her character a bit more human and less of an idealistic heroine, something that is crucial to giving her believability.

Jax on the other hand…well he annoys me. He’s supposed to be this badass knight with a screw-you mentality that only wants to capture more land for himself and his comrades, something that is quite fitting for that era. However, all it takes is spending a few moments with Lady Kellington and he instantly becomes a ball of mush, it’s just sad. I do not doubt the power a woman can hold over a man for a second, but he barely even puts up any resistance, it makes no sense. I don’t care how much he likes her in the beginning or admires her pluck, there is no way a guy like that with such a mean streak and history of violence would just start changing all of his habits, it isn’t happening. It just gets worse as the story progresses and he gets increasingly taken with her. Again, I don’t doubt the power love can have but I think Le Veque may have taken it too far.

The plot is really well done though. The story is intriguing, the battles, especially later on, are well done and include the usual array of tactics used at the time, details that are vital for a historical novel, even a romance-centered one. The pacing is good, if not stellar because of Jax constantly going back on his plans after being influenced by Lady Kellington, and keeps the reader engaged. I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished it, always a great sign especially given how distracted I can be by the internet’s awesome.

Overall I enjoyed The Dark Lord, but Jax’s character being slightly infuriating kept me from giving it as high of a review as I might have otherwise. One other thing to note, if I never read “dual-colored eyes” again it will be too soon. Seriously, the amount of references to Jax’s eyes is ridiculous. Anyway, for anyone who likes historical romances this is a solid read if you haven’t already, and for those who are trying to broaden their genre horizons like I am this year this would also be a good choice. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 30!

Genre Reading Challenge #16/30 – Category – Historical Romance; Mount TBR Challenge #25/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #25/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #29/365

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Day 21: Samson’s Lovely Mortal by Tina Folsom

Day 21

Summary From Goodreads:  

Vampire bachelor Samson can’t get it up anymore. Not even his shrink can help him. That changes when the lovely mortal auditor Delilah tumbles into his arms after a seemingly random attack. Suddenly there’s nothing wrong with his hydraulics – that is, as long as Delilah is the woman in his arms.

His scruples about taking Delilah to bed vanish when his shrink suggests it’s the only way to cure his problem. Thinking all he needs is one night with her, Samson indulges in a night of pleasure and passion.

However, another attack on Delilah and a dead body later, and Samson has his hands full: not only with trying to hide the fact he’s a vampire, but also with finding out what secrets Delilah harbors for somebody to want her harm.

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See, I’m not innocent after all! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say this…genre of books is my usual read by any means, but a naughty book every once in a while certainly doesn’t hurt. ^.^ However, since I know there are definitely younger peoples reading this blog (at least on occasion) if you don’t want to read this particular review I totally understand and I’m including a page break just for you. Feel free to read any of my other ones. 🙂 (more…)


Day 17: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Day 17

Summary From Goodreads:  

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

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Ten is a tough book to review for me. As I was reading through the first part of the book all I could think was “man this is playing out like a cheesy horror movie” which is not a fantastic way to start. I kept reading anyway and though it really was pretty cheesy almost all the way through I still enjoyed it for the most part.

The characters are a bit iffy for me. Meg is a bit too dependent/obsessed with T.J. for my taste. She’s all over him from the get go despite constantly saying how she needs to avoid him since her best friend loves him too, yet she keeps being drawn to him like there is some invisible force making her. It’s a tad annoying to say the least. T.J., however, I do like. He’s genuine, a bit over-the-top-perfect but not so much as to be irritating (or to warrant Meg’s obsessive tendencies) and he feels the most real out of all of the characters. Minnie is probably the worst. She has a lot of problems to be sure, but she still flip flops like crazy, more so then is reasonable even with someone with issues like she has, and her swings are erratic at best and badly timed at worst. The minor characters are over-simplified and stereotypical as well, especially Kenny and Nathan. I’m not even going to get started on those two.

The plot as I said earlier does feel like a cheesy horror movie is going on. They even make references to horror films in the book, it’s just…ugh. If it weren’t for those elements, mostly in the beginning of the book, I think I’d really like this story. The pacing is great, you will fly through the book and never feel like you aren’t engaged or there isn’t something new to discover. The ending saves it to be honest. There are enough twists to make it interesting, and although some of the very end scenes I could do without, they are worth reading the whole book to get to.

McNeil definitely can paint a picture. The setting feels real and like you are actually there with them, the horrors inside are well set up and the descriptions are impressively done. The scene if you will, is set beautifully and you can feel the dreariness and the dread that the characters all feel because of it. The world building in this area doesn’t feel overdone in the slightest, and though you have to come up with a lot of factors to keep them isolated it doesn’t feel forced either. Easily my favorite part of the book.

Overall it was a good story that felt like it could have been better if it wasn’t seeming to draw from old horror flicks so much. I’m not saying that was her inspiration, I don’t know what was, but it felt like it and that was unfortunate. The setting and the ending, as well as T.J. kept the book interesting enough for me to continue and the excellent pacing helped move me along through the parts I didn’t feel inclined to read. A solid book. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for day 18! ^.^

Genre Reading Challenge #14/30 – Category – Thriller; Mount TBR Challenge #16/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #16/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #17/365

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Day 14: Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie

Day 14

Summary From Goodreads

In the airport lounge at Frankfurt a British diplomat meets a beautiful young woman in fear for her life, and together they enter a sinister world of intrigue and death…

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My first foray into the world of Agatha Christie, Passenger to Frankfurt was like stepping into a time machine back to a completely different style of writing and perhaps way of thinking as well. I found a few of Christie’s books in a book sale at a library nearby a few months back and decided that now was as good a time as any to read one. I have of course heard of how amazing she is, and being a character in Doctor Who is always a plus in my book, so I knew that I should find out for myself what her books are like.

I have no doubt that I started that journey in the right place with Passenger to Frankfurt as I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It took me a bit initially to get used to the different style of writing, one clear example being the back and forth of character dialogue without always specifying who was the speaker, but after I did I found myself in a fantastic tale. Though some scenes were a bit unrealistic (the car coming around the bend comes to mind) the overall story was thrilling. I haven’t read a good old-fashioned “spy novel” in quite some time and it certainly was refreshing.

The book does something with the way it was written, it actually assumes the reader can think for themselves. It forces you to both in figuring out parts in the plot, inserting other languages with no translations, and as I mentioned earlier, not specifying who is speaking at every turn. In short, it actually makes you comprehend what you are reading while you are reading it. There is no “re-reading” involved here, in order to understand sometimes you need to really think about what Christie is writing, and that art form is something lost in most books of today. To understand the plot, and the idiosyncrasies of the characters you have to focus and really pay attention, something that, again, seems to be lost on today’s generation of readers, most notably younger ones.

The book is fascinating, the characters engaging, especially Mary Ann who I found particularly intriguing. Though I’ve stressed this already I don’t know that I can enough, it is the writing that makes this amazing, the style, the word choice, everything. You just don’t see books like this anymore. I can’t wait to read another of hers soon. As always, thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 15! ^.^

Genre Reading Challenge #13/30 – Category – Spy Novel; Mount TBR Challenge #14/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #14/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #14/365

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Day 13: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Day 13

Summary From Goodreads:  

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

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Another day and another wonderful John Green book! Looking for Alaska was just as intense and emotional as Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars were, but of course in its own unique way. Where Paper Towns leaves you with a punch to the gut & TFiOS tears at your heart strings, Looking for Alaska ends on a high note. It is filled with struggles to be sure, but truly it isn’t a bad story.

TFiOS focuses on the characters and Paper Towns is all about the plot, but Looking for Alaska is that perfect medium between the two. I can see how it has received so many accolades, it really is perfectly balanced and the pacing is excellent. Where I felt Paper Towns dragged ever so slightly in the middle, and TFiOS was slightly rushed, Looking for Alaska keeps the reader engaged and enthralled both Before and After (you’ll have to read the book to get that reference).

The characters are deep and rich in their quality with Alaska, The Colonel and Pudge all coming to life in their own ways. Pudge, or Miles if you prefer, is the main character, although his shyness and quirks often make him feel like a secondary one, though not in a belittling way. It may be that Alaska is just such a force that everyone else pales in comparison. she can be frustrating at times, but there is just that something about her that makes it all worth it. She is the most fleshed out of the characters and that just feels right. The Colonel has his own brand of humor and a bit of aloofness that makes you able to like him one minute and be driven mad by him the next. He’s a great “typical best friend” character, forcing Pudge to grow while being there for him when it is needed. All three are endearing and Green wrote them perfectly.

Clearly I loved Looking for Alaska just as I have loved Green’s other books. All of them are fantastic and must reads, at least in my opinion. I have yet to read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but my personal ranking (just for my enjoyment level) of them is as follows:

1. An Abundance of Katherines – The similarities between myself and the main character definitely had something to do with how much I loved it.

2. The Fault in Our Stars – Awesome and sad of course, but not as much as most people seem to make it out to be.

3. Looking for Alaska – Thoughts above.

4. Paper Towns – Just to clarify I gave Paper Towns a 5 Smiling Frodo review just like the rest, it is only this low because the ending killed me (in the suckerpunch to my emotions way).

As always thank you for reading and come back tomorrow for day 14! ^.^

Genre Reading Challenge #12/30 – Category – Realistic Fiction; Mount TBR Challenge #13/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #13/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #13/365

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Day 12: Become by Ali Cross

Day 12

Summary From Goodreads

Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.

When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is finding a reason to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

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I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Become, though I knew it would have some spiritual elements to it, I certainly wasn’t prepared for a full frontal assault of them in quite the way that Become delivers. I won’t spoil all of the reveals that are contained in the story, but suffice it to say that you are in for plenty of surprises throughout. However, if you can’t handle reading something with clear spiritual elements in it then this isn’t the story for you.

I want to touch on the writing first here because the style is the most important in deciding whether or not you will enjoy Become. I already mentioned the clear spiritual elements, but it goes beyond that. Whether it is capitalization of certain words such as with “Remembering” or “Become”, the idea of combining Norse and Abrahamic religions in a variety of ways, or just the constant reminder of Desi’s sins, Cross makes her presence felt. Sometimes that can fray the nerves a bit while at other times it seems to fit perfectly, but you are going to have strong feelings one way or another.

I separated the spiritual from the story itself enough so that I could try and examine the quality of Become without prejudice. What I found was an enjoyable, if slightly repetitious read that will leave you with a burning desire to find out what happens next and what Desi will eventually “become” if you’ll pardon the pun. Desi is a pretty likable character in the way that a puppy might be, you want to give them affection and whenever they are sad hold them until they feel better. The character that stands out though, and that makes this piece a good one, is James. He seems like a secondary character that got fleshed out and changed so much, seemingly by his own will power, that he became a primary one. He felt the most real, you could imagine his transformation and his struggle between fighting his inner demons and allowing himself to love another. James stands out and I’m so glad that he does.

The plot is intriguing if a bit obvious. When Lucifer is involved you can kinda see where the story is heading, but the combination of Norse and Abrahamic spirituality keeps it fresh and allows for different pairings and underlying stories to emerge. The pacing is mostly good, though it does feel like the characters are going in circles at times because of all of the “Remembering”. You want to see what will happen next, but maybe a bit faster then you do.

Overall this was a solid read. I wanted to branch out into new genres and I certainly was able to with Become, and if you are looking to do the same then this is definitely a fine choice. I look forward to reading Desolate and Destined, books 2 & 3 in the series respectively, sometime in the near future! As always thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for day 13!

Genre Reading Challenge #11/30 – Category – Spirituality; Mount TBR Challenge #12/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #12/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #12/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #4/44

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Day 11: Paper Towns by John Green

Day 11

Summary From Goodreads:  

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

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Another John Green book, another emotional journey that can only be created by the awesomeness that is his royal puffness (nerdfighter reference). I knew I would love this as I have loved every John Green book so far, but I didn’t know that it would leave me an emotional wreck at the end which is exactly what it did. Even worse? I had to go to work right after, so I had no time to relax and get back to normal, oh well. Enough rambling, onto the review!

What shocked me the most about Paper Towns was that, in a stunning turn of events, it was the plot that was more vital to how awesome the story was then the characters. Where as in The Fault in Our Stars and arguably An Abundance of Katherines as well the characters dominate, in this case the crazy lengths Q goes to in order to find Margo are what makes this so compelling. While reading I did notice that the story drags a bit in the middle and while reading it almost seems to be going nowhere. However, what you realize is that the build up in trying to find Margo isn’t the point, and that even Margo herself isn’t the most important part, it is the journey, the trip the friends take, and the bonding and changing of all the people involved, even if it is only to some small degree, that makes it worthwhile.

Q is a fantastic character not because he is himself fascinating in really any way, but because he is just the opposite. You can relate to Q, or at least I could. He is just fine with the way things are in his life, saying at one point something akin to the boredom not really being that boring, or if it is that he doesn’t mind it. The sameness is alright with Q, and I think that is something most people can identify with. Your routine may be extremely repetitious, but it is yours so it doesn’t matter, but most people don’t have what Q does, a Margo to break that pattern to smithereens.

Margo is a force, whether you end up liking her in the end or not she wills herself into Q’s life and makes him realize all that he is capable of should he simply want enough. She gives him options, in fact she makes him have them, she lets him know what there is out in the world and then releases him to do what he will with it. She’s got more baggage then most people put together, much of which is truly her own doing, though her parents are just loathsome to behold and certainly don’t help matters, but that doesn’t stop her from being likable, and doesn’t force you to pity her either. Green makes both of the main characters and their friends as real as the ones you have, but unless you are quite lucky they all somehow have better senses of humor.

This is something I have noticed as a trend in Green’s books, his characters share his brand of intelligent humor, the quirkiness and the nerdiness that make him so compelling is a part of almost all of them. They each have their own version or take on it, focusing on one area of it or another depending on what is needed. Maybe this is due to the fact that Green has been surrounded by so many intelligent and quirky people, whether it is his brother Hank, Maureen Johnson, or countless others, these characters are realistic in his actual world, even if, at least to me, they seem ideal, a bit incredible. It doesn’t detract from his books, but in many circles it wouldn’t be realistic to assume most, if any of the group would have people capable of these kind of jokes and references.

To get back on track, Green does an excellent job at effortlessly creating his world, the literal places he uses it is no surprise that he has so much knowledge of since he lived there and so the details of it fit in perfectly. I really don’t have any flaws to point out in Paper Towns other then that slight slowness in the middle. When you get down to it though, that journey is worth the wait, that adventure worth all of the mundane the characters have gone through to get there, and the outcome is impactful regardless about if you enjoy it. Paper Towns delivered a sucker punch to my gut, and it hurt, but I was alright with it. We don’t all have our own Margo, but I’m glad I got to experience Green’s. As always, thanks for reading.

Genre Reading Challenge #10/30 – Category – Contemporary; Mount TBR Challenge #11/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #11/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #11/365

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Day 10: Attic Clowns – Volume 3 by Jeremy C. Shipp

Day 10

Summary From Goodreads:  Attic Clowns Volume Three by Jeremy C Shipp

This creepy collection features three twisted tales by Bram Stoker Award nominee Jeremy C. Shipp.

The stories include:
Blister
Spider Clowns from Planet X
Dust Bunnies

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work, short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I always enjoy reading the insane brand of humor that is unique to the dark recesses, or perhaps in his case the lighter ones, of Jeremy C. Shipp’s mind. There is probably a deeper message behind each of his tales but the clowns never let me see them fully, and maybe it is better that way. If anyone reading the Attic Clowns stories does understand the hidden meanings then their minds are probably just as warped as the clowns inside of them, so it’s better off if you just enjoy the ride, as long as you aren’t strapped to a couch. I enjoyed Volume Three just as much as I did with the others and I have no doubt that if you read anything by Shipp you’ll enjoy it immensely. You may laugh, you might become confused, or perhaps you’ll find yourself checking your attic just in case, though I don’t recommend it, but regardless it is worth the read! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you tomorrow!

Genre Reading Challenge #9/30 – Category – Horror; Mount TBR Challenge #10/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #10/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #10/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #3/44

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Day 9: Black Water by D. J. MacHale

Day 9

Summary From Goodreads:  

Breaking the rules Just when fifteen-year-old Bobby Pendragon thinks he understands his purpose as a Traveler — to protect the territories of Halla from the evil Saint Dane — he is faced with an impossible choice. The inhabitants of Eelong are in danger of being wiped out by a mysterious plague. The only way Bobby can stop it is to bring the antidote from another territory. Since moving items between territories is forbidden by the Traveler rules, if Bobby chooses to save Eelong he could endanger himself, his friends, and the future of every other being in Halla.

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When I was younger I loved the Pendragon series but I never got farther then book four (which was published around 2007). Since then I hadn’t touched the series but recently I decided to finish the series that I enjoyed so much and thus book five, Black Water was up.

A little backstory to catch you up if you’ve never read the series, which I highly recommend you do. The series is about Bobby Pendragon, who starting at 12 years old is thrust into being a traveler, someone who goes around different worlds, or territories, trying to protect them. His main nemesis is Saint Dane, who is far from being anything remotely saintlike, and his goal is to try and bring down all of the territories and with it the mysterious Halla, supposedly everything in all of the territories combined. Still with me? Well in Black Water he is now 15 and the lead traveler, but he’s in for a rude awakening when Saint Dane claims that the rules are no longer in place and forces a couple of Bobby’s friends to join the fray.

If I am being honest I am a little biased when it comes to this series. I have a fondness for it and that might blind me to some potential flaws that it could have, but if it did I didn’t see them. One thing that might counteract my bias is that often when I go back and re-read series I read when I was younger, or in this case continue it, I’ll find them to be quite ridiculous or at least less amazing then I did at the time. With Black Water, at least, that was not the case at all, it took me back to my childhood when I spent even more time reading then I do now (or at least pretty close) and the story kept just as much magic as the previous books had.

The characters are dynamic, whether it is Bobby going through all of his struggles whether physical or mental, dealing with other travelers or even just constantly dealing with the realization that the fate of these worlds is on his shoulders. Or if it is the other travelers, with each having a different view of how best to deal with the various problems they face, sometimes their styles conflicting to the detriment of all of them, but never feeling flat or cardboard-like. Even the different races that are encountered have their little quirks that keep them unique and fresh.

The plot is always fast paced in the Pendragon series. Even when they are delving into the culture of the new worlds the action never ceases completely and that keeps the reader engaged. I don’t think I’ve ever even been on the cusp of boredom when reading a book in this series, and Black Water is no different. In Black Water there is a lot of cultural battles between Bobby and the characters he meets on the main world for this book, Eelong, and that serves as the constant struggle underneath the small skirmishes and even the large-scale “battle” scenes.

I could keep ranting on how much I like MacHale’s writing style or how the world building is some of the best I’ve read in any series, he really does bring each new world to life and then some, but since I’ll be reading the other books in the series and reviewing them for the Seriously Series Reading Challenge I’ll stop here. Believe me, by book 10 you’ll probably want to strangle me, though I’ll do my best to space the reviews inside any series I read apart. Thanks as always for reading and make sure to come back tomorrow for Day 10! ^.^

Genre Reading Challenge #8/30 – Category – Fantasy; Mount TBR Challenge #9/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #9/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #9/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #2/44

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Day 8: The First Dragoneer by M.R. Mathias

Day 8

Summary From Goodreads:  

Two young men, on the cusp of adulthood go on a hunt they want to remember forever. When they cross a ridge and leave the protected boundries of their kingdom, they find themselves a cavern to explore. Inside the cavern they find exactly what they were seeking…..
Lurking inside this hole in the earth is something they will never forget…. If they can live to remember!

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work, short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The First Dragoneer is a short prequel to add some depth to one of the main characters that will appear in the second book in the Dragoneer Saga, March. In Mathias’s usual detail-driven and slow-paced style March and his friend Bren take a hunting trip, the last the pair will take together as March prepares to leave their small village. They encounter a few things they didn’t expect, a beautiful creature, a dark and rather large cave, and even a familiar race of being to those who love these types of tales. The build up is worth the wait as the pair find something lurking inside the cave, will they be able to survive? If they do, will they ever be able to make the journey back across the ridge? You’ll have to read to find out.

I enjoyed the prequel though I felt the ending was quite rushed. It was as if Mathias just couldn’t hold back anymore and had to release a plethora of splendid things at the end in order to convey some of what awaits the reader should they proceed to read the Dragoneer Saga. While I don’t blame him for this approach, it did take away from the tale of the two friends which was interesting in its own right. If you want some extra backstory for March then by all means read this short piece, but otherwise I’d suggest you go straight to the full stories as they are more representative of Mathias’s true style. As always, thanks for reading.

Genre Reading Challenge #7 – Category – Epic Fantasy; Mount TBR Challenge #8/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #8/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #8/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #1/44

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Day 7: Every Day by David Levithan

Day 7

Summary From Amazon:  

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.

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I want to start off by saying I’m writing this immediately after reading Every Day and that my initial thoughts were summed up like so:

So ya, that happened. Outside of being completely cliche and saying something like “all of the feels” and then just gif’ing my way out of actually having to say how I feel about the book, I’m not really sure how to convey my feelings for Every Day fully. Oh well, here’s what I’ve got.

The premise of switching bodies each day is already enough to engage the reader. There was no question in my mind that I would at least be intrigued by Every Day, even if I somehow didn’t enjoy the book. I need not have worried though, I loved Every Day. Part of this was my connection with A, the main character. While the romance in Every Day is certainly compelling in its own right, the internal struggle of A to make sense of what it is like just to be human, and finding out where the limits lie on what you can and will do to a person in order to get what you want is the foundation of what makes Every Day amazing. The basic things that humans understand as part of life, being the same person, knowing the same people, experiencing, for the most part at least, the same things on a regular basis are called into question. Levithan forces the reader, though only with a nudge at a time as to not make it overwhelming, to strip down the essence of what it means to live and to be and asks them not to take them for granted.

The relationship between A and Rhiannon isn’t just a part of the story in a traditional sense of love and loss and the like, but is actually used as the prime example of the possibilities we have as people to engage with each other, or just with one other. It asks you what it would be like if you lost all of that and then reassures you at the same time that you won’t, because you aren’t drifting like A is, you are solid, you are whole. Every Day isn’t saying you need to depend on someone else to be happy, it is asking you to enjoy the people you have simply because you can. Every bit of the devotion these two people feel is no less real because of the shape that A takes on any given day, and as cliche as “the inside that counts” might be, that is truly what you should cherish.

One thing that struck me was when A differentiated niceness and kindness, saying that kindness is “much more a sign of character than mere niceness. Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen.” This is something that shouldn’t be understated, kindness is shown despite the effect it might have on those around you, those who might not agree or approve, niceness is done because of that effect. It was this as well as a variety of other issues such as gender, sexuality and even appearance that made Every Day not just something to be enjoyed, but a book that could be, and at least for me is, impactful.

I said at the beginning of this review that I connected with A. I guess what I meant was that I think humans in general could. I, like many others, am searching for just what makes us human, what separates us, what makes us individuals and why that individuality matters so much. Every Day examines this and while not giving us an exact answer, does show examples about the good that we can do, the part that we can play in the lives of others and that we can change things, and it is up to us to decide, like A, how we change them. We can create, we can destroy, and we can love, but we have to decide, no matter what decision we make, if it is worth the cost.

Every Day is a fantastic read, I’d recommend it to anyone. It can be read with all of the things I have mentioned in mind, or just as another wonderful book in someone’s vast collection. It doesn’t have to change lives, I’m not saying it even changed mine, but it can, and it is up to us to choose whether or not we let it. As always, thank you for reading.

Genre Reading Challenge: #6/30 – Category – Romance; Mount TBR Challenge #7/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #7/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #7/365

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Day 6: After

Day 6

Summary From Goodreads:  

If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.

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I received an ARC of After which is a collection of nineteen different post-apocalyptic dystopian short stories from the awesome people at ARCycling, whom I sincerely hope will forgive this review for taking so long to surface. I had initially intended on just writing about my top three stories (because I like to focus on the positive) but I really struggled to get into this collection and an honest representation would be to do my top three most memorable ones instead (good or bad) in reverse order. I hope you enjoy!

3. Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin

Short Summary: There was a war between humans (similar to today’s) and technology or data that had started to develop and create by itself. A firewall of sorts was set up and that is now the barrier between the humans who refuse to change and the new species. Students in high school, after their senior year, are taken by those outside the barrier (who won the battle). The bottom 10% are taken because they are the most expendable, and the number one student, or valedictorian, is taken as well.

Characters: 4/5 – The main character, Zinhle, is someone I really wanted to get behind, to be in her corner, but for someone that is supposedly the elite in her class she is remarkably clueless at the worst times.

World Building: 3/5 – It was a bit over the top for me but there were good ties to how many societies seem not to care about what happens to their more intelligent members, a prime example of this would be the American public school system which this model almost exactly replicates.

Writing: 4/5 – Great flow to the piece, some repetition was used but in this case it was done effectively.

Rating and Why it Stood Out: 4/5 – I enjoyed it but I wasn’t in love with the world that was created. This made the top three because it took me back to watching movies like the Terminator ones and because I happened to be valedictorian in my class the combination felt very nostalgic. It was a good read overall and for me just had that extra connection to make it stand out.

2. After the Cure by Carrie Ryan

Short Summary: A predictable opening as a diet drug went wrong led to mutations that spread quickly and soon large portions of the populations everywhere had been turned into beasts. The beasts traveled in packs and were unable to come into contact with any light as it would instantly burn them. Eventually the remaining humans were able to find a cure and start trying to bring back those who had been changed to normal. Many of the mutated humans survived still in the world, but the number of recovered continues to grow.

Characters: 4/5 – Vail is the main character in After the Cure and is expressed beautifully. As one of the recovered she has to learn how to live a relatively normal life. The remaining mutated creatures don’t care about her because she still has traces of the mutation in her and she doesn’t have to go to school because she is legally an adult. Her brash attitude hides her softer side from all but the secondary character, James. James is the one weak point in this story for me as he is almost a cardboard cutout type of character with just enough depth as to be salvageable.

World Building: 5/5 – Ryan quickly engrosses the reader and plunges you into this version of our world as it tries to recover from the tragedy it is still dealing with. The recovered have to deal with being branded (they have a barcode from when they were brought in as well as having a red tint to their eyes that they can’t hide in the light) and as such separated from the “pure”. There are multiple parallels to be drawn with social issues we currently deal with but I’ll let you read this one and find them for yourself!

Writing: 5/5 – The writing was very engaging and with a quick hitting style that captures your attention and with enough meaning underlying to hold it After the Cure is the highlight of After (no surprise).

Rating and Why it Stood Out: 4.5/5 – While James kept this story from getting a perfect score this was easily my favorite of the collection. It was the most compelling and least flawed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

1. Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish

Short Summary: Two teenagers set off on an adventure to visit a long dead hero, one to make a wish, the other to get an answer to her question. They encounter creatures called the Hairies, humans transformed after taking to much of a drug that destroys most of their brain functionality and causes extensive hair growth all over their bodies. Can they find the tomb of the ancient hero Nelson or will they fall victim to the Hairies, or something even more sinister?

Characters: 3/5 – Mostly boring with only a few bright spots to keep them from being completely lifeless. The main character Charlie does have somewhat of a witty, or at least sarcastic, personality. Unfortunately, what little life you find in Charlie’s character is dwarfed and absorbed in the lifeless Billy who could not be more dull if the author tried. Meh.

World Building: 2/5 – Unspectacular and disjointed, it lacked any focus which made all of the descriptions shallow. I never felt any desire to learn more.

Writing: 2/5 – How to put this… Langrish chose a certain style, and is consistent with it, but it drove me insane. She gave the characters a dialect with far too many uestas and a pointless additional s at the end of a lot of the words. It felt forced and did nothing to enrich the story or make it any more believable, in fact it did quite the opposite. I’m all for dialects and such, but this one was just bad.

Rating and Why it Stood Out: 2/5 – I just couldn’t get past that dialect. Even if the story might have been engaging had regular speech been used all I could think about was wanting to sit these teens down and work on their English. This story was the tipping point in After and from then on I didn’t enjoy any of the other stories. I don’t know if I was just tainted from reading Visiting Nelson or if they honestly weren’t very good, but I blame this piece all the same. Ugh.

Overall I just was not thrilled with After. The initial few pieces were pretty good, but it was a train wreck after Visiting Nelson and I just wanted to be done with it. I had hoped for so much more from After, but it just was not to be. Oh well, on to the next book (thank goodness)! I hope you enjoyed and I’ll see you tomorrow for Day 7!

Genre Reading Challenge #5/30 – Category – Dystopian; Mount TBR Challenge #6/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #6/150+; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #6/365

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Day 5: Desert Rice by Angela Scott

Day 5

Summary From Goodreads:  

Samantha Jean Haggert is a beautiful twelve-year-old girl—but no one knows it. All they see is an awkward boy in a baseball cap and baggy pants. Sam’s not thrilled with the idea of hiding her identity, but it’s all part of her older brother’s plan to keep Sam safe from male attention and hidden from the law. Fifteen-year-old Jacob will stop at nothing to protect his sister, including concealing the death of the one person who should have protected them in the first place—their mother.

Sam and Jacob try to outrun their past by stealing the family car and traveling from West Virginia to Arizona, but the adult world proves mighty difficult to navigate, especially for two kids on their own. Trusting adults has never been an option; no adult has ever given them a good reason. But when Sam meets “Jesus”—who smells an awful lot like a horse—in the park, life takes a different turn. He saved her once, and may be willing to save Sam and her brother again, if only they admit what took place that fateful day in West Virginia. The problem? Sam doesn’t remember, and Jacob isn’t talking.

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I received a lovely signed copy of Desert Rice in a giveaway from Angela Scott herself about a month ago and now I (finally!) got the chance to read it. Without further ado, my thoughts on Desert Rice!

I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a whole lot of books with a 12-year-old girl’s point of view, so I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of how the character would narrate her story. My first impression of Sam was that she was woefully, and a tad annoyingly, ignorant of a lot of things. I don’t remember much about being 12, but I don’t recall being so unaware of the world as a whole. However, as I read Desert Rice I discovered more and more that what Scott was likely doing in showing that ignorance was highlighting the pathetic excuse for an upbringing that both Sam and her brother Jacob received. Sam is a character that Scott clearly poured a little extra of her writer’s essence into, she’s someone you instantly want to befriend and protect, and the lengths that her brother goes to do so seem justified by more than just their family link. She’s as innocent as they come, molding herself only by what she sees in the few encounters that she is allowed to have with the world but she has the typical stubbornness of someone her age which makes her feel all the more real.

Which brings me to Jacob. He has both of their lives on his shoulders, plus the additional weight of keeping secret what happened to them both from everyone they encounter, and from Sam as well. He puts on a brave face most of the time but some frustration does leak through, mostly fueled by what Sam had went through (can’t be any more specific, spoilers!), and a bit of a typical teenage male’s difficulty with being around his kid sister all the time. However, Scott makes it readily apparent that Jacob cares deeply for Sam so his occasional outbursts don’t demean him as a character, they even prove to separate him from other books where this character is often a cardboard cutout.

The plot might be the one complaint I have for Desert Rice, and keeps it from being among my favorites. It’s a bit obvious based on the summary where the journey is going to end up, even if the details to get them there aren’t clear. There is a slight twist at the end, don’t worry I won’t spoil it, but not enough of one to really shock you. I would also say that Sam’s indecision at certain parts, even for someone her age, was a tad ridiculous, maybe she thought she was doing what was best for them, but it was irritating to say the least. The pacing was good, though, and there was enough action in Desert Rice to keep the reader engaged while developing the characters at the same time.

There isn’t much to say about the world building as far as just the setting goes. I don’t know much about Arizona outside of the obvious, but Scott seemed to have a pretty good feel for what it is like there, and I’ll take her word(s) on it. The cowboy-type of people that were described at times were a little over the top, and though there may still be some smaller towns where these descriptions would be accurate, it just felt a little off. The setting at least felt realistic enough, so I guess I’d give this area a check mark for completion if not an outstanding (channeling my inner teacher there, weird I know).

Overall I enjoyed Desert Rice. The characters were the highlight of the book without a doubt, and I loved Sam, she was just excellently done. It was a quick and pleasant read and a big thank you to Scott for doing a giveaway so that I could enjoy the book. Thanks as always for reading this and I will see you tomorrow for Day 6! ^.^

Genre Reading Challenge #4/30 – Category – Adventure; Mount TBR Challenge #5/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #5/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #5/365

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Day 4: The Lost Girls by Jason Halstead

Day 4

Summary From Goodreads:  The Lost Girls by Jason Halstead

The only thing hotter than the summers in Phoenix is the temper of a police detective who can’t figure out why young girls keep disappearing. Katalina Wimple is that detective. Her obsession with the missing girls makes her the best person for the job, but it also serves as a refuge from the problems in her own life.

Battling her own demons offers coincidences impossible to ignore. Rescuing the missing girls will require Kat figuring out how much coincidence is too much, as well as fighting her desire for what she can’t have.

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 A shorter piece like this leads me to my own version of a mini-review, Frodo’s Hobbit-sized Reviews! This kind of review was inspired by the amazing Kimberly from Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer who does short reviews called Coffee Pot Reviews where she does the review in the time it takes her coffee pot to finish brewing.

The Lost Girls, the first in a series (currently at 4 novels), was my first sci-fi read in quite some time and was a refreshing change of pace. Following Kat through her action-packed, and slightly insane, journey to find criminals responsible for kidnapping young girls while simultaneously figuring out more about herself was thrilling throughout. There is also some steamy scenes mixed in, though not nearly as graphic as what Halstead does with the action ones that seem almost constant. The combination keeps The Lost Girls fast-paced and the reader on edge.

I loved Kat, she’s a fireball with attitude but with a softer side underneath. That sounds somewhat cliche, and at times it does feel a bit that way, but her sarcasm and don’t-give-a-crap attitude more than make up for it and make her a very endearing character. She has legitimate horrors in her past and overcomes them (to varied degrees of success) with humor, something Halstead does excellently.

The mystery element of The Lost Girls is what brought the piece home. There is a few twists at the end to constantly throw you off the trail and unless you are very shrewd the ending will definitely catch you off-guard. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes a good mixture of mystery/sci-fi/and a bit of romance, or just a good fast-paced read in general. Excellent.

Genre Reading Challenge #3/30 – Category – Mystery; Mount TBR Challenge #4/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #4/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #4/365

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