Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Is How You Die

This Is How You Die (edited by Ryan North)
Genre: Short stories
Rating: 4

I’m not a huge fan of short stories: I like to really get into the characters lives and the anticipation and the crescendo of a novel. Short stories, to me, feel like I’m thrown into a story, see a snippet of it, and am then jerked out. But one thing that really helped this collection not feel like that was how all the stories were about the same thing. Not the same plot, not the same people… but the same concept. A machine that tells you how you will die, and is absolutely never wrong? That’s a sticky situation. And each person had to figure out how to deal with it and it revealed a lot of humanity.

I was very pleased with this collection as a whole. I didn’t read the first one, and I don’t think you’d need to in order to enjoy it. I definitely liked some stories and some writers better than other, but all in all, it was very satisfying.


If a machine could predict how you would die, would you want to know? This is the tantalizing premise of This Is How You Die, the brilliant follow-up anthology to the self-published best seller, Machine of Death.
The machines started popping up around the world. The offer was tempting: With a simple blood test, anyone could know how they would die. But the machines didn't give dates or specific circumstances - just a single word or phrase. DROWNED, CANCER, OLD AGE, CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. And though the predictions were always accurate, they were also often frustratingly vague. OLD AGE, it turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or being shot by an elderly, bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machines held on to that old-world sense of irony in death: You can know how it's going to happen, but you'll still be surprised when it does.
This addictive anthology - sinister, witty, existential, and fascinating - collects the best of the thousands of story submissions the editors received in the wake of the success of the first volume, and exceeds the first in every way.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rags and Bones

Rags and Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales, a compilation edited by Melissa Marr
Genre: Short Stories (supernatural)
Rating: 4.5

Rags and bones stripped down stories that were important to the author and allowed for a new telling, a blank canvas, a skeleton for new musculature. it was one of the most interesting collections I've ever read and every story had something interesting about it. The writers selected to participate in the project were all excellent. Some of the stories I was able to figure out which story they came from, but others I didn’t know, and some I intend to read. I really liked that each story had an author’s note explaining their reason for picking the story they did.

I don’t typically like short stories because I feel like I can’t get into the story until I’m being pulled out again because it’s over. And I did definitely stop between stories and think about each one for a while. But I was impressed and enraptured with Rags and Bones. It is one of my new favorites. I recommend it to anyone who likes short stories, or who needs something to think through.

The best writers of our generation retell the classics.
From Sir Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen to E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops," literature is filled with sexy, deadly, and downright twisted tales. In this collection, award-winning and bestselling authors reimagine their favorite classic stories, the ones that have inspired, awed, and enraged them, the ones that have become ingrained in modern culture, and the ones that have been too long overlooked. They take these stories and boil them down to their bones, and then reassemble them for a new generation of young adult readers.
Written from a twenty-first century perspective and set within the realms of science fiction, dystopian fiction, fantasy and realistic fiction, these short stories are as moving and thought provoking as their originators. They pay homage to groundbreaking literary achievements of the past while celebrating each author's unique perception and innovative style.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

It does not get easier

I’m going to post just a little tid-bit here.

I started this blog when I was in High School. I was a terrible high-schooler, I did very little work and spent most of my time reading, growing this blog, and dancing (and pretending to do homework). I thought I’d have so much more time to do blog stuff when I went to college (I had significantly less) and that I’d have even more time when I graduated (2014 had something like seven blog posts, and that’s being generous). However one thing I’ve learned is that you have to make time for something you want.

Hence the reason I’ve cut down on memes and weekly posts like Exploring Etsy and monthly review stuff. I’m less concerned about pageviews, followers, and contests. And maybe I don’t get as many visitors, but you know what?… it’s a lot more fun to listen to an audiobook and write a review on it when I get the opportunity than force myself to read fifteen books a month and have five to ten blog posts a week.

That being said, here is my advice to bloggers or people considering starting a blog:

1. You can make it whatever you want it to be, but don’t bite off more than you can chew

2. If you aren’t enjoying it, don’t do it

3. If it’s not working for you, there’s always room to make changes.

Thanks guys! hope to see more of you this year since I’ve gotten more into the habit of listening to audiobooks than anything. so many more reviews coming soon!

Waistcoats and Weaponry

Waistcoats and Weaponry, by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quirk 
Genre: YA, Steampunk
Rating: 5

I loved Waistcoats and Weaponry as much and maybe more as the rest of the books in the series. Sophronia just keeps getting better. I won’t spoil anything, but she’s growing up, learning how serious life is, planning for her future, dealing with boys, and getting into mischief with her friends. I loved every second of it and am dying for the next one. I hope it’s the last because I want to know how it ends, but at the same time I don’t want it to end because it’s so clever and exciting.

The series demands to be taken seriously. Looking at a summary of the series it would be hard to take it seriously (Hey I’ve been reading this steampunk series about a girl who goes to a floating finishing school that trains her to be a secret agent spy intelligencer type person, and she takes classes about taking high tea but also how to kill people with bladed fans, and she’s friends with the kids who keep the school floating, and there’s vampires and warewolves and robots and a school for evil geniuses, and she keeps getting herself in trouble with this band of anti-supernatural men who try to blow up trains with cannons…) It’s kind of hard to read or hear someone tell you all that and not raise an eyebrow (or both). But the thing is, the writing and the language takes itself seriously, and transports you into a place where you can throw yourself into the story and take it seriously, which is the only real way to enjoy it. I admire Carriger’s writing style and plan to read more of her work.

Moira’s reading was as good as always, and I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. If you haven’t listened to her work, check out this link to the audible books she’s done.

Ettiquite and Espionage | Curtsies and Conspiracies | Waistcoats and Weaponry | Manners and Mutiny

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Truth and Fear

Truth and Fear by Peter Higgins, read by Neil Dickson 
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5

I was so excited about this audiobook that I went back and re-listened to the first one in the series so I’d be on top of all the details. It did not disappoint. More mystical creatures than ever, a wholly other side of the same terrifying magic, a fast-paced exciting plot that never stopped, all concluding to me absolutely dying for the next book. I cannot wait to find out what happens to all my favorite characters. I cannot conceptualize how this story will end—and that, for me, is the best thing ever, because so many stories out there are so easy to guess the plot and the conclusion but this… this is something entirely other that I cannot expect. And I’m in love with it.

I whole heartedly recommend reading this series!

Investigator Lom returns to Mirgorod and finds the city in the throes of a crisis. The war against the Archipelago is not going well. Enemy divisions are massing outside the city, air raids are a daily occurrence and the citizens are being conscripted into the desperate defense of the city.
But Lom has other concerns. The police are after him, the mystery of the otherworldly Pollandore remains and the vast Angel is moving, turning all of nature against the city.
But will the horrors of war overtake all their plans?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Parasite, Symbiont

Parasite (book 1) and Symbiont (book 2) by Mira Grant, narratred by Christine Lakin
Genre: YA, Horror, Science Fiction
Rating: 4

Here’s the rundown: I am in love with this series. I am all over this series. I love Sal, I love the characters (I even kind of love Sherman, a little), the plot is brilliant, it’s exciting, brilliant, fast-paced, and original.

But. Why does there have to be a but! I wish there wasn’t, but there is.

There is literally only one issue with this series that makes it a 4-star instead of a five-star: I call it “Jenny McGrady Syndrome.” See years ago I read this book series about a young detective that always got herself into trouble trying to be Nancy Drew. And in every single book, at least once, this phrase was present: “Jenny felt as though she’d been slugged in the stomach.” Every. Single. Book.

Now if I found a phrase in Parasite and Symbiont that repeated only once, that wouldn’t be a big deal. Even two or three times between the two books, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But the problem I have is that there is a lot of repetition of phrases. I understand what Grant is trying to do here, making the drums an important thing, seeing red, the cold gut wrenching feeling of fear and anticipation at the same time… but I don’t want to read it forty times in five chapters. It’s not necessary. It only slows down the story and frustrates the reader.

Other than that one minor flaw, it is one of the best YA novels I’ve ever listened to. The characters are full of personality and quirks, the plot is unexpected, the bad guy makes me want to punch him in the throat, and I’m dying to find out what happens in the third book. I will absolutely read (listen) to it. I am super excited. I’m dying over here. I just wish that the unnecessary and repeated words and phrases were cut out.

I love the reader for this audiobook, Christine Lakin. She adds a lot of character and emotion, and reads clearly and at a good pace. I like her voice. She’s one of those people who you’re sure that the main character’s voice actually sounds like the narrator. I loved her performance in this as well as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and look forward to hearing her again, and am adding her to my list of favorite narrators.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
Genre: Not totally sure… Would appeal to YA, New Adult, Adult, Thriller, Action/Adventure, Sci-fi, Apocalypse
ISBN: 9780356500157
Published: June 6th 2014 by Hachette Audio
Rating: 5

the girl with all the gifts

I’m still reeling from this book. It’s addicting and fast-paced from the very first page, and ends with a surprising weight and finality. It’s the kind of wild book that ends in an unexpected way and you aren’t quite sure if the good guys won, or the bad guys won, mostly because you aren’t sure which is which anymore, or even who you were rooting for. The writing is subtly distant and formal, and yet personal at the same time. The humans are real. So are the Hungrys. The deaths hurt, the blossoming love fills the heart.

There’s so much I could say, but I really think the book says it the best. so:

1. Read it, even if it’s not your usual genre

2. I would 100% recommend it to anyone over the age of 14 (there is some graphic deaths and language)

3. I would totally read it again, and will read anything else by M. R. Carey.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

There were a lot of things about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown that I liked. There was only one thing I didn’t like.

1. I liked that Vampires were both romanticized, and despicable. They were beautiful, physically, but they were ugly and awful and broken and were the worst thing to happen to the world. I liked that even though there was a love story, it wasn’t a “Turn me into a vampire so I can be with you forever” story.

2. I loved the plot. It was action packed from the first chapter, easy to follow, but still complicated. The amount of twisting and changing and plotting it must have taken is astonishing, and I have become a fan of Holly Black simply because of her artistry of working this plot.

3. I absolutely loved the protagonist, Tana. She is awesome. She is brave, kick-ass, hard working, she loves passionately in her own way, she is broken and imperfect, and she makes hard choices. She’s stubborn in a good way. She’s wonderful. I want to be like her when I grow up.

4. I liked all the characters. They were all well developed and unique. I would have liked to get to know Pearl, her sister, a little more. I would have liked more relation between Tana and Aiden pre-vampiric adventures, but all things considered, all the other characters were still awesome.

5. The writing itself was lyric, descriptive, and engrossing. It was almost impossible to put down (I only stopped because my ipod died…)

The one thing I didn’t like was the ending. It was beautiful and excellent and sweet and nerve wracking… but the very last bit, the conclusion, the “now what,” was frustrating. I didn’t know what was going to happen and that irritates me. (HGHLIGHT TEXT FOR SPOILERS: does she sweat out the cold, or not? does she stay human? or forever cold? does she age? so many unanswered questions.)  I know the open ending lends itself to the feel of the novel. You know it ends one of two ways, and you know both options are equally possible. That keeps it in your mind. It makes you wonder. It lends itself to a sequel, if the publishers decide to pursue one. But it still annoyed me because I like to know what happens!

All that being said, It was an excellent book, and I would re-read/listen to it in a heartbeat.

*pun intended.

Genre: YA, Paranormal | ISBN: 9780316213103 | Published September 3rd 2013 by Little, Brown | Rating: 5! | Amazon | Goodreads

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Curtsies and Conspiracies

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Calliger
Genre: YA, Steampunk
ISBN: 9781478926504
Rating: 5

Saphronia’s adventures at a not-quite-normal finishing school continue as she tries to figure out which student the local vampire is feeding on, who is trying to kidnap her best friend, and why the teachers are taking an emergency trip to London and bringing boys on the all-girl’s air ship. And those boys… they’re making life complicated.

This is one of those books that you can’t put down because you’ll go crazy. Also, I picked up book 2 nearly a year after reading book 1, and I had no trouble at all remembering details or getting back into the story.

There was a lot of drama in this one. It was good though. Silly teenage Victorian era drama. Fun stuff. Also boy drama. There’s this one boy who is a future duke… and boy has he fallen hard for Saphronia and her gorgeous green eyes and bright smile. But then there’s Soap, the sootie that she doesn’t know she’s in love with. So that’s a fun triangle.

I will admit the plot is a little more back and forth, and a little less of a straight line. Etiquette and Espionage was a straight line of a book… although there were subplots, there was one center line: the device. This one carries the story farther, and goes from the device’s true use, to what it has to do with the girls at the school, and then on to more plot devices (which I won’t include for the sake of spoilers). That being said, it was still 100% enjoyable, exciting, and fulfilling. The last chapter’s ending was a little abrupt, but I still liked it. Expertly narrated by the same Moira Quirk.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

When Did You See Her Last

When Did You See Her Last? (All The Wrong Questions #2) by Lemony Snicket
Genre: YA
ISBN: 9780316123051
Published: Published October 15th 2013 by Little Brown (first published August 1st 2013)
Rating: DNF

As I said in the first book of this series, I found this book very hard to read (in my case, listen to) and hard to get into. The writing style was frustrating and a little annoying, and I found the characters frustrating. Maybe it’s because the time between reading books 1 and 2 was too long… but I just couldn’t get into this story, and I no longer care for the characters. It’s not that it’s bad… it’s just not for me.

Series review, Part 1: How to Train Your Dragon Series

How To Train Your Dragon Series part 1
100/5 stars!!!!!!

How To Train Your Dragon, How To Be A Pirate, How To Speak Dragonese, How To Break A Dragon’s Curse

This series follows young Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III on his adventures from being an awkward young boy to a heroic Viking. Suffice to say it was quite a journey, because as you will see, Hiccup was definitely not originally cut out to be a Viking, let alone a hero. But with the help of his friend Fishlegs (a young boy with a squint, a lisp, and an allergy to reptiles), and his tiny, ridiculous, toothless dragon so adequately named “Toothless,” Hiccup becomes the most legendary leader of the Harry Hooligan tribe in the history of the Vikings.

My original plan for this series was to read each book and write up a little mini-review for each one and put them all together. Except there was a flaw in my plan. That flaw came out when I didn’t stop between books to write the mini-reviews. I couldn’t stop. I just kept going from one to the next. I read (listened) to one every day. I’m about to finish the fourth one and I don’t know how I’m going to survive waiting for the rest of the series to come in the mail! (I had them shipped to me in two parts).

Suffice to say I didn’t know what I signed up for when I requested these awesome audios for review. Each story is captivating from the very first sentence, and doesn’t let you go for the entirety of the story… even at the end you’re ready for the next ones. There were parts of the stories that made me laugh out loud, and others that made me gasp, and some endings that sent chill bumps down my arms. I’ve decided that I want to be a Viking when I grow up.

They’re expertly read by David Tennant (which may or may not have been the reason I requested them in the first place…) and are expertly “translated” (written) by Credissa Cowell. I’m adding Cowell to my Author Watch List. Also David Tennant does an amazing job with his excellent energy, pronunciation, and character voices (and swoon-worthy Scottish accent).

The point is, I’m a 22-year-old college graduate with an English degree. And I am totally in love with these children’s books. Guys, if you haven’t read them before, now is the time to get down to your nearest book store (preferably a local one) and grab these a.s.a.p..

About the Author

Cressida Cowell grew up in London and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland. She was convinced that there were dragons living on this island, and has been fascinated by dragons ever since. She has a BA in English Literature from Oxford University, a BA in Graphic Design from St Martin's and an MA in Narrative Illustration from Brighton. Cressida loves illustrating her own work, but also loves writing books for other people to illustrate as the end result can be so unexpected and inspiring. Cressida has written and illustrated eight books in the popular Hiccup series. The unique blend of child centred humour and sublime prose made Hiccup an instant hit. How to Train Your Dragon is now published in over 30 languages. A DreamWorks Animation feature film is out in March 2010. Also the author of picture books, Cressida has won the Nestle Children's Book Prize 2006 and has been shortlisted for many others. Cressida lives in Hammersmith with her husband and three children.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review: The Alligator Man

The Alligator Man by James Sheehan
Genre: Crime, Suspense | ISBN: 9781455508648 | Published: October 8th 2013 by Center Street | Amazon | Goodreads

Rating: 5

From Goodreads: Kevin Wylie's crooked boss wants to run him out of town, and Kevin's long-time girlfriend is ready to take a hike. He decides that now is the time to leave Miami, visit his father, who he hasn't seen in 28 years, and get some answers. Heading back to his hometown, he doesn't realize that he and his dad will become embroiled in a murder case.
The victim, one of the richest and most-hated corporate criminals in America has been dubbed The Alligator Man since pieces of his clothing were found in a local swamp. Billy Fuller had every reason in the world to want Johnson dead and all the evidence leads right to his doorstep. But legendary trial lawyer Tom Wylie believes in Billy and he and his son reunite to fight the courtroom battle for Billy's life.
The Alligator Man is a story of greed, anger, love, redemption and two powerful trial attorneys who fight to the end-- and risk everything--for the truth.

I decided I loved James Sheehan’s work after reading last year’s release The Lawyer’s Lawyer. I jumped at the chance to read this new book and was not at all disappointed.

The Alligator Man starts off with a chapter from the perspective of a murder victim. From the very first chapter, I was hooked. There were two parallel stories going on at the same time, and at one point I didn’t know how they related. About halfway through the book the connection became clear and suddenly every character was a thousand times more important, and every word more interesting. At one point the case seemed hopeless, at others it seemed there could be no other alternate ending. But of course there were several wild twists at the end that totally through me. Yeah, several. Not just one surprise. Like, surprise after surprise. And maybe a little bit of crying at the very end.

All in all, I loved The Alligator Man and am, once again, impressed with Sheehan’s ability to make a dry boring courtroom seem exciting, and to weave a powerful story about humans and love and greed and destiny.

The narration was very good, though not as good as The Lawyer’s Lawyer. In the same way that the narrator didn’t add anything to the book, he didn’t take anything away either.


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