For the Love of Stories : the Rebooted Book Review Blog


I’m going to try this again. I started this blog when I was single. I’m now married with two kids and NO FREE TIME (which is why I stopped reviewing). My reading has dropped off a little as well - although I’ve read B is for Bedtime more times than I can count - but I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. I miss my books. 


So don’t necessarily expect daily postings here, but I’ll try for at least weekly. Fingers crossed!


Rumble - Ellen Hopkins



Ellen Hopkins, 2014


Matthew Turner wasn't sure he believed in God even before his younger brother was bullied into suicide by the supposedly-Christian kids at school. But Matt can't put all the blame on the other kids at school, or his bigoted sports-obsessed father, or even God - he knows that a good portion of the blame falls on himself. The only thing keeping him sane is his girlfriend, Hayden. But when a secret comes out that throws everything Matt thought he knew into question, his life comes crashing apart, and he realizes that he needs to find a way to not only to ask forgiveness, but also a way to move on. 



Okay, not my best summary, but I tried to do it without giving away the major plot point that the book jacket does. 


I adore Ellen Hopkins. Despite the fact that her books are always completely depressing and don't usually end well for the main characters, I find her stories completely intriguing. I was also pretty wary of novels in verse before I started reading hers, but I love the way that she writes so much that the books being in verse is a complete non-issue. [Also, I like to point out that the books are written in verse so that the often 500-plus pages that her books clock in at don't seem as daunting.]


I was a little wary with this book being about religion, because a lot of authors could have taken this issue and gone either very preachy or very anti-religion. Hopkins managed to have an atheist protagonist and a Christian antagonist, while still not coming down completely on one side or the other. She made it easy to hate a lot of the Christian characters without hating the idea of God. This is an important issue for me, personally, because it bothers me when people - Christians and non-believers alike - put out the idea that all Christians are intolerant. As someone who believes in God and identifies generally with the Christian faith, but who also believes that being gay is not a sin, it's refreshing to read a book that can address this issue with a little bit of grace.


I know that some reviewers have hard a hard time with Matthew as the sole narrator. Hopkins often uses two or more narrators in her books, so having one narrator only is a bit of a departure and - as one reviewer I often read noted - the kind of narrators that Hopkins usually writes can be a little hard to take for the whole 500-plus pages without some kind of a break. Matthew is no exception. He's a very angry individual, and while I didn't hate him, I did often find some of his choices and the way he lashed out at certain people to be very off-putting. But while I didn't always love him or agree with where he was coming from, I found his voice to be pretty realistic for a character his age going through what he was going through. I completely believed that someone dealing with his same issues would come out of the situation that angry with the world. So while I understand where the other reviewers were coming from, I actually liked hearing Matthew's voice throughout the story. 


Overall, I thought that this was a very well-written book that deals with the issues of religion and teen suicide in a realistic and competent way. I find that Hopkins writes teens very well and is good at writing about teen issues in a way that I think would make this audience think but also well enough that it would make them want to pick up the book in the first place. This book is no exception. I'll definitely be reading more of her books in the near future - in fact, I've decided to go on a bit of a Hopkins binge over the next month or so - so more reviews to come. If you've never read Hopkins, I'm not sure I would start with this one - I'd probably recommend Crank for your first - but this book is definitely worth a read. 


Every Day

Every Day - David Levithan

Every Day (Every Day #1)


David Levithan, 2012



Every day, A wakes up in the body of someone else. He doesn't know how it happens, or why, only that it always has. He has no body of his own. He has his own personality, and his own mind, but every day he has to become someone else, relying on the body's memories to make it through the day with as little disruption to that person's life as possible. But one day, he wakes up in the body of Justin... and falls in love with Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. Now, for the first time, he faces a dilemma - does he tell Rhiannon what he is? And while he can disrupt the lives of the bodies he inhabits in order to see her again, the real question is: should he? 


Note One: This review will contain spoilers. I find that I have a hard time articulating exactly what I like and don't like about this book without giving away some of the plot points.


Note Two: A (what our main character calls himself) claims to identify as neither a male nor a female, but throughout the book I got a distinctly male vibe from A, even when he was in a female body, so A will be identified by male pronouns in this review.



I find myself having a very hard time figuring out how to rate and review this book. There was a lot I loved about the book, so I'll start with that.


I loved the concept. I think that Levithan did an amazing job with showing what it would be like to wake up as a different person every day. Initially confusing, but at the same time enlightening. So much of who we are as people is due to our surroundings - who our family is, what city we live in, whether we're poor or well-off - but A gets to see the world from so many points of view that it's a fascinating concept to consider how that would create who he is as a person.


I loved the character of Rhiannon. She was, by far, the most believable and realistic character in the book. Flawed with low self-esteem, but kind and romantic. I like that she believed A when he told her his story, but I also like that she had trouble with it. Because as much as we like to believe that it's only what's on the inside that matters, Rhiannon's response to who A was on the outside was incredibly realistic. No matter how much you love who the person is on the inside, a person will be looked at differently if they look like the boy next door, or a slob, or Beyonce. I thought that Rhiannon's realistic outlook on the situation really grounded a story with an unnatural premise. 


I had two big problems with this book, though. One was A. In general, I liked A. I thought that he had a really positive outlook on life, despite how horrible it must be to live like that. I felt really bad for him a lot of the time, and I liked how he was able to find someone in Rhiannon - someone he could tell his secret to and who could give him a tiny bit of permanence. But what really bothered me was that A had rules for himself, the big one being that while he was in a body he couldn't disrupt that person's life. Because he was only there for a day, and that person had to come back to it and deal with the consequences of whatever happened the day A was there. These were good rules... that A completely threw out the window once he met Rhiannon. I get it - he wanted to see her, to be near her. But to basically kidnap the body he was in to drive hours away to see her seemed completely out of character to who he was before he met Rhiannon. Keeping in mind that every body he in was around the age of sixteen - he only transferred into bodies the same age as he would have been normally - sneaking off to see her meant skipping school, lying to parents and friends, and on more than one occasion doing something that would result in the person getting grounded the next day. In one body, he skipped two exams in order to meet up with her, deciding to make it back for the body's big date with her girlfriend only after Rhiannon told him that he had to. No remorse for disturbing the person's life. The only time he did feel a little bit of remorse was with Nathan - who he had lie to his parents and sneak out of the house, only to not get back home in time (A always switched bodies at midnight) so he had to leave poor Nathan in his car on the side of the highway, to get picked up by police. And I got the feeling that A's response was less true remorse and more not liking to be thought of as the devil, once Nathan claimed demonic possession in the news the next day. 


My second problem with this book, is that despite the love story and the interesting characters, this had no chance of being a happy book. When it ended, part of me thought that it was left open for a sequel, but then I wondered if I would want to read a sequel if it ever did come out. Because there is no way that this life is going to go well for A. He has two options. One: move on and never form any attachments with another person for the rest of his life. Two: Figure out a way to keep a body for more than a day and live a normal life... essentially killing off the actual person who's body it is. No happy ending there either, really. So it was kind of tough reading this book, knowing that it really had very little chance of ending well.


Despite my complaints, though, I really did find more to like about this book than I found to dislike about it. I really enjoy Levithan as an author - while I sometimes find his books to be a bit preachy on the subject of gender, he really is one of the better GLBT authors out there for teens. And he tends to add something very creative into his books to make them more than just a standard teen love story. I'm definitely glad I read this book, and it's one that will stick with me... I just wish that A had been a little less frustrating a character. 


Note Three: I do realize that there is a sequel - Another Day - being released in August of this year. But it's more of a companion novel than a sequel - telling Every Day from the point of view of Rhiannon. I'm a little wary - I tend to associate this type of companion novel with Twilight  and Fifty Shades of Grey (neither of which I've read - I read the original Twilight, but not the retelling from Edward's point of view, and I haven't read any of the Fifty Shades books and don't plan to - but from what I understand they seem disturbing to me, basically reading a book from the point of view of a creepy stalker). However, since I loved the character of Rhiannon so much, and since she's not at all a creepy stalker, and since I got my hands on an ARC of Another Day, I will be reading it. Review to follow within the next few weeks.

The Girl on the Train

Dziewczyna z pociągu - Paula Hawkins

Rachel rides the train into London every day. Every day the train stops at a signal near the house of a young married couple. Rachel often sees the couple outside on their back porch, and has named them Jason and Jess. But one day, Rachel sees Jess on her porch with someone else, a man who she seems to be intimate with, and it throws off her entire fantasy. And when Jess - whose real name turns out to be Megan Hipwell - turns up missing on the news the next day, Rachel believes that it's not the husband but the lover who is responsible. But does anyone, other than her, even know about him? 



I can see why this book has become so popular. It was a very enjoyable murder mystery, enhanced (in my opinion) by the unreliable narrator. I'll admit that I sometimes get tired of the concept - which seems more prevalent lately - of using an unreliable narrator to add plot twists, but I thought that this book used it very well. The narrator wasn't intentionally lying to the reader at any point - she couldn't remember certain things due to being black-out drunk - and when she began to "remember" things that happened, she questioned the validity of the memories right along with us. 


I do understand the complaint that some people have with the book that it's hard to get into because none of the characters were likable. I get this, I do. But I've read a lot of books lately - not intentionally - with unlikable main characters, so this didn't bother me as much as it might some people. Also, I actually liked Rachel. I thought she was screwed up and kind of horrible at times, but for (sort of) legitimate reasons. She's a depressed, lonely alcoholic who's still in love with her ex-husband - not the recipe for a completely rational individual. But I like that she tried to do the right thing. And she knew that she was an alcoholic - she made attempts to not drink in order to be a better person, even if her attempts didn't always work out. 


The book was actually narrated, in alternating chapters, by Rachel and Megan, and later Anna - Rachel's ex-husband's new wife. I liked getting an inside look at who Megan really was, even if I didn't really like who she was after finding out more about her; although by the end I didn't really hate her, either. (Anna, on the other hand, was pretty horrible). 


I think the biggest complaints I hear about this book come from the characters - how unlikable the narrators are, how horrible all of the male characters are - and I guess you're enjoyment is going to hinge a lot on whether you can muster up any sympathy for Rachel. I could. But the mystery, I think, stands up either way. I thought that the plot was solid, a good mystery that wasn't full of plot holes once the secrets started coming out. I'll admit that my first idea of whodunnit was wrong, and while I did guess the big reveal a few chapters before it was made clear, it wasn't early enough in the book that I can really be proud of it. This story kept me guessing and, more importantly, kept me interesting. I couldn't wait to come back to the book to find out what was going to happen next.


I'm not saying the book is perfect, but I didn't really find any major flaws with it either. Everything that happened made sense within context, no major reveals coming out of left field without anything previous in the story to back it up, no glaring plot holes. It's a solid murder mystery that will probably keep you guessing and should at least keep you interesting... If you can deal with the characters. But I hope you can. Because I think it's worth it in the end. And because I think Rachel is kind of endearing. But maybe that's just me... 

About "Boston Kate"

I've been seeing a few "About Me" posts pop up on my Dashboard today, and I realized that since I'm new, I should probably say a little something about myself. 


I'm 32, almost 33. Kate is my middle name, but it's what I go by in my online life. Hehe. I live in the Boston, Massachusetts area (USA). I live with my husband - we just got married two months ago! - and our neurotic cat, Roxie. She is not the huggable cat in my avatar picture. My cat is an 18-pound grey tiger who will scratch your eyes out if you piss her off, but we love her anyway. 


I studied medical lab technology and genetics in school. I currently work doing the former, but am trying to get a job doing the latter. Or at least something in biotech. That would be fun. Either way, though, I'm a science nerd. I love pretty much all things science... except for Physics. Physics makes my brain hurt, although I'll still read about it sometimes. And even though it's not my field, I think that if I had to pick a Science Idol, it would be Neil deGrasse Tyson. Because he's brilliant and funny and gives awesome public speeches about how kids should make messes in order to learn. 


[Edit: I don't know if it's possible to post an actual video, but here is the link to that speech.]


I love books, obviously. I have an account on Goodreads, so I haven't bothered to post all the books on my TBR - mostly because I want to keep this account relatively clean and blog-friendly, but I have almost 3,000 books on my to-read list over there. At 50-70 books read a year, and about that same amount added to my to-read list every year... Hmm... Okay, so I'd say it's hopeless, but can something really be hopeless if you enjoy it anyway? I just wish I read faster, but at a faster pace I don't really take in what I've read, so I'd rather read a little slower and take it all in.


My favorite books of all time are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and The Shining by Stephen King. By that you should be able to figure out that I like all sorts of books. If I had to pick only one genre to read for the rest of my life, I'd probably pick fantasy, but reading the same kind of story gets boring after a while, so I like to mix it up. The only genre I really don't read is straight-up romance. I like a little romance in my stories, though.


I tend to rate my books on the higher side. Very few of my reads are rated less than 3 stars. If I don't vehemently hate the book, then chances are I can find something redeeming enough about it to give it 2.5 to 3 stars. I've never given a book 1 star. Not even Great Expectations


There. Another thing you should know about me. I hate Charles Dickens. I do. I even tried reading him as an adult, out of the structure of high school English class. Still can't stand his writing. It is what it is.


Currently I'm reading The Girl on the Train on my nook, and Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E.Coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat in hardcover (see, I told you I was a science nerd). I tend to read my nook when I'm out and about - easier to carry around - and a hardcover or paperback when I'm at home. I'm also audiobooking (I'm making that a word) Over Sea, Under Stone. I like to listen to audiobooks when I'm taking walks or at the gym, or when I'm cleaning the house. Passes the time more pleasantly. I'm enjoying all three so far (although I'm not sure "enjoying" is the right word to use for Poisoned) and I plan on continuing the The Dark is Rising series on audiobook once I finish the first one.


Aside from reading, I enjoy watching TV, watching movies, and spending time outside. Not being sporty, really - despite growing up in New England I can't downhill ski to save my life - but just sitting outside is nice. With a book - even better. Mostly I just enjoy curling up on the couch with my husband and our cat, watching sports or something on Discovery or Travel Channel. My husband likes to watch car shows, and sometimes I'll watch with him, or else I'll just curl up next to him with my book. Except for British Top Gear. I absolutely LOVE Top Gear. I'll watch that even when he's not home. [Edited to clarify: BRITISH Top Gear!]


So that's me in a nutshell. Sorry if I rambled. Any questions, ask away. And if I sometimes go a week or more without posting a review, don't worry - I'm still here and I'm still reading. Sometimes life just gets in the way and it takes me longer to finish a book than I'd like. But I'm not going anywhere. :)

Book Date's Full House Challenge

One more thing I need to move from my old blog...


Over on her own blog - - Kathryn of "The Book Date" has a challenge called the "Full House Challenge". I've been participating the past two years. Since my old blog had my progress on this challenge, I'm re-posting it here. 




*The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (finished 1/4/15) - a top book of 2015 for you. (I know it's the first book I read in 2015, but I also know that this will end up being one of my top reads.)


*Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (finished 1/9/15) - published in 2014. (First published June 2014.)


*Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (finished 1/12/15) - outstanding hero or heroine. (Not your typical "hero", but the main character of this story is a teenager who was born a girl but knows he's a boy and is transitioning. Tough situation to go through, and he handles it like a hero in my eyes.)


*We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (finished 1/16/15) - author new to me. (I have never read anything by E. Lockhart before this.)


*Rosewater by Maziar Bahari (finished 1/28/15) - type of book you rarely or never read. (While I read a fair amount of nonfiction, political books don't really interest me, and there was a lot of talk about politics in this one.)


*The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory (finished 2/2/15) - published 2000-2013. (Published in 2004.)


*The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (finished 2/8/15) - library book. (Borrowed from my local library.)


*All the Bright Place by Jennifer Niven (finished 2/12/15) - you heard about the book online. (I saw this on a list of books to watch for in 2015.)


*The Magician King by Lev Grossman (finished 2/14/15) - 2nd book or more in a series. (Book #2 in "The Magicians" series.)


*My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart (finished 2/15/15) - free choice. (This is just a fun book, so I'll count it for my freebie.)


*Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (finished 2/19/15) - novella. (Okay, not really a novella, but it's a short book, at just about 200 pages, so I'm counting it, since I don't really read novellas.)


*The Jaguar's Children by John Vaillant (finished 2/24/15) - published in 2015. (First published January 27, 2015.)


*The Lost World by Michael Crichton (finished 3/5/15) - published pre-2000. (Published in 1995.)


*The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (finished 3/14/15) - debut novel by author. (This is Mary Kubica's debut novel.)


*The Damned by Andrew Pyper (finished 3/22/15) - book set in northern hemisphere. (Set in the U.S., mostly Cambridge, MA and Detroit, MI.)


*Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (finished 3/27/15) - a keeper. (One of the best books I've read this year. I would read this one again.)


*The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3) by Jasper Fforde (finished 3/31/15) - setting that you now want to visit. (Can I choose to visit the Book World? I would love to vacation in Sense and Sensibility or any of the other books traveled to here.)


*Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer (finished 4/8/15) - first in a series. (The first book in the Southern Reach trilogy.)


*Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4) by Tana French (finished 4/23/15) - author outside your own country. (Tana French is from Ireland, I am from the US.)


*Proof: The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers (finished 5/26/15) - you love the cover. (I'm a science nerd. I think the cover is kind of awesome.)


*My Real Children by Jo Walton (finished 6/11/15) - won or borrowed. (Borrowed this book from the library.)


*The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (finished 7/1/15) - book by author you really liked. (Neil Gaiman is my favorite author.)


*Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (finished 7/3/15) - been on your TBR forever. (I've had this book on my TBR for at least five years, probably more.)



Only 2 more books to go to finish the square! Southern hemisphere might be a tough one for me, though... Need to research... 

Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea


Mark Dunn, 2001


On the small, independent island nation of Nollop, located off the South Carolina coast, language is valued above all else. Nollop was the birthplace of the inventor of the pangram The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, and a monument with that sentence now stands in his honor. But when the tile containing the letter "z" falls off the monument one day, the island's panel of leaders declare it a message from beyond the grave, and decide to remove from the alphabet. All written texts that contain the letter (pretty much all of them) are removed and destroyed, and punishments are put in place for anyone caught using the letter in speech or in written form. First offense: a public, verbal warning. Second offense: a choice of public flogging or head stocks. Third offense: banishment from the island. But when more letters begin falling, it becomes harder for the islanders to put up with the madness of removing the letters. Their only hope: to come up with a new pamgram - a sentence, shorter than the one Nollop created - that uses all the letters of the alphabet. If they can do this, they can restore the full alphabet to the island. But as more letters fall, and more people are banished, it all comes down to one eighteen-year-old girl named Ella to solve the puzzle, if she can. 



I thought that this was a very clever book. Written in epistolary format, it is amusing to see the writing change as letters begin to be removed from the allowable alphabet. It's a complete gimmick book - like someone trying to write a book using only one line of the keyboard - but it results in a really fun story. As extreme lovers of language, the characters writing the letters often sound like they swallowed a thesaurus, but it only makes it more amusing as certain words are dropped from use and more obscure ones are needed. 


I've read some reviews that - in my opinion - take this book too seriously. Yes, it portrays a totalitarian government. But I don't think that the author is making a statement on government or free speech - I think that the government in the book needs to make these rules in order for the plot to progress. Simple as that. Could I be wrong about this, and could this book really be one 200-page rant about government influence? Sure. But I honestly believe that this is much more innocent than that. I think it's a playwright giving himself a challenge to see how many letters he can remove and still write a coherent story. In this aspect, I think it works brilliantly. 


This isn't a perfect book by any means. As I said, it's a gimmick. Most of the characters are really simple and not very fleshed out at all. But we're not being given backstory on these characters for one simple reason - the novel is written in letters. Two cousins writing to each other are not going to write about their backstory - they presumably already know these things about each other. So there are some things that the reader is not going to get out of this story. But as a fun, relatively light read about a decision that spins out of control, I think it has a lot to offer. Definitely worth a read. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane


Neil Gaiman, 2013


A man - now middle-aged - returns to the town he grew up in to attend a funeral. Needing a break from the crowd, he goes on a drive and finds himself back on the street where he grew up. He remembers a girl named Lettie Hempstock who lived with her mother and grandmother down on the farm at the end of the lane. He remembers that Lettie moved to Australia when he was seven, but decides to go down to her house, for old time's sake. While sitting by the duck pond behind the farm, the man remembers that Lettie used to call it her ocean... And then he begins to remember a whole lot more: about who Lettie and her family were, about an evil released into this world after a suicide, and about what really happened to him and Lettie that summer. 



Neil Gaiman has been my favorite author every since I read American Gods about fifteen years ago. When this book came out in 2013, I immediately bought a copy... and then it sat on my shelf until now. I'm still not sure why. It's a small book - less than 200 pages - and a quick read. But one thing or another kept pushing it off the top of my to-read list, until now. And having now read it, I can't believe I waited so long.


This book is a quick read - I read it in one evening, and I'm not a fast reader - but it packs a punch. It reminded me a little of The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, in the way that it's told from the point of view of a child - I liked the contrast of an innocent child facing a great evil, and I thought that Gaiman did a wonderful job of writing it so that the adult reader would feel the point of view of the child. 


I also loved the relationship between the narrator and Lettie. Lettie was quite an incredible character in her own right, but the way that the two bonded so closely over such a short period of time really helped the climax - and what we find out about what might have really happened - pack the punch that it did. 


I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good fantasy story. And anyone who might feel daunted by the idea of picking up one of Gaiman's books - this is a great place to start. It's pure Gaiman - his writing style is on full display, and since this book is geared more to an adult audience (despite its length), it is a better indicator of his talent than Coraline or The Graveyard Book, which are intended for a younger audience. 


Definitely one of the best books of the year, so far, for me. And one that I am sure that I will revisit again and again over the years. 

Yes, Chef

Yes, Chef: A Memoir - Marcus Samuelsson

Yes Chef


Marcus Samuelsson, 2012


Award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson tells about how he went from being an Ethiopian orphan raised by adoptive parents in Sweden to a opening his own restaurant in New York. 



I enjoy reading books about the food world. As someone who is only a so-so cook herself, I find it fascinating to read about (or watch on Food Network) how the mind of a chef works. I also understand now - after reading this book - that a chef has to really love what they do in order to get to the point where they're running the kitchen at a high-end restaurant. Talent isn't enough. A chef has to be able to do their time in the trenches, put up with militant bosses who could fire them for the tiniest mistake, working long hours for little pay. Not very glamorous at all. 


Samuelsson is not a name that I was particularly familiar with - my knowledge of celebrity chefs is honestly limited to Iron Chef and a few Food Network cooking shows - but it was very interesting to me to learn about him and where he came from. I also found it fascinating that - even today - restaurant kitchens are very much a place for white males. Samuelsson makes this clear by telling his story and by telling the reader the little things that he is doing at his restaurant to try and change this dynamic, but in a way that doesn't seem like he's making his book about race. He happens to be a black chef, which is difficult in today's world, but his book is more about trying to incorporate his heritage into his cooking (both his Swedish and his Ethiopian heritage) than it is about condemning the cooking world for racism. 


What I really enjoyed about this memoir, though, is that Samuelsson really has lived an interesting life, even outside of being a chef. To go from a sick, hungry child in Ethiopia, to being adopted by loving parents in Sweden, to traveling all over the world, to cooking at the White House, his story really is quite remarkable. And I liked how he didn't gloss over his failures - both in the kitchen and in life. He wrote openly about everything, from his failed restaurant, from the daughter he abandoned in Austria after a one-night stand. (He eventually connected with her, when she was fourteen.) 


Overall a very interesting book about life in the restaurant business and a fascinating story about one man who overcame tremendous odds to become successful in that world. Recommended to anyone who likes memoirs or Food Network.


Horns - Joe Hill




Joe Hill, 2010


After a night of heavy drinking and misbehaving, Ignatius Perrish woke up with a vicious hangover... and a pair of horns growing out of his temples. Not being able to remember what happened the night before, Ig has no idea how they got there, or how to make them go away. But the horns have a power over others - anyone who comes into contact with Ig immediately feels the impulse to tell him their deepest, darkest sins and secrets. Unfortunately for Ig, most of the people in town think that he raped and murdered his girlfriend, so a lot of their secrets are how much they hate him. But when the horns allow Ig to find out who really killed Merrin, he takes a turn to the dark side, hoping to use his new power for revenge.



When reading Joe Hill, I often find myself comparing him to his father - Stephen King - even if I don't want to. But they're both horror writers and they have a very similar technique at times, so it's hard not to. A book like Horns, although labeled as "horror" due to the topic and the writer, has very little real horror in it. It reminds me of something like Gerald's Game by King - creepy and disturbing, but more a character piece than a horror story. [Side note: I really didn't like Gerald's Game, but more for subject matter than writing style.] Unlike Hill's Heart-Shaped Box, which was a delightfully scary ghost story, this book had really no scary moments in it, and was more of a tale of revenge and sociopaths.


Which brings me to my second connection with King - both father and son are really good at writing sociopaths. (Should we be worried?) The character of Lee in this book reminded me very much of Brady Hartfield in King's Mr. Mercedes (Horns was written before Mr. Mercedes, so I'm not accusing Hill of stealing ideas here). I thought that once the book switched over to Lee's point of view, it completely changed the tone of the book and I found it much more interesting.


That, in fact, goes back to the biggest problem I had with this book - Ig is just not an interesting enough character to carry the story. And he should have been! He was turning into a devil, which should have made him very interesting. But while he had his moments, I just didn't feel that he was strong enough. The parts of the book that I liked best were the ones where Ig was interacting with others under the influence of his horns, and the parts where we learned more about Lee. When Ig was alone, or when we were shown Ig's backstory before the horns, I found the book a lot slower paced and a little less intriguing.


I guess that Joe Hill, for me, can be a bit hit or miss at times, but there is a lot of good there. And I think that even though I liked the story of Heart-Shaped Box more than this one, it's obvious that his writing is improving. I'm very much looking forward to following his career and seeing what he comes up with next. I don't know if he'll ever reach the level of skill or popularity of his father, but he certainly has the potential.


My Real Children

My Real Children - Jo Walton


 My Real Children


Jo Walton, 2014


Patricia Cowen sees that the note the nurses have written in her chart says “Confused Today.” She’s often confused, from forgetting major events to where she put her glasses. But she also remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children with him. She also remembers rejecting Mark’s proposal and raising three children with Beatrice (Bee). When she looks outside her window, she isn’t sure whether it hosts a benign research station or dozens of nuclear missiles aimed at their planet, ready to start a war. This book tells the story about how one seemingly simple choice can lead to two very different outcomes – both for the person making the choice and for the world as a whole.



**Review contains minor spoilers**


I really enjoyed this book. After a somewhat slow start, I found the story of Patricia Cowen’s lives (plural) to be completely compelling. We know that Patricia’s life started one way, but when she is proposed to by her boyfriend Mark, the choice she makes divides her life into two completely different paths – both of which we’re allowed to follow. Trish – who says “yes” to Mark – has four children, a loveless marriage, and lives in a world of peace and scientific progress. Pat – who turns Mark down – falls in love with a woman named Bee, raises three children (two of them hers), travels to Florence every summer, and lives in a world of war and nuclear threat. Both lives come together in the end, with Patricia old and alone in a nursing home, suffering from memory loss. But while she can’t remember a lot of little details, she knows that both of these lives happened and is left wondering whether she can choose between the two.


I thought this concept was fascinating. I liked that Patricia’s two lives were not aware of each other as they were happening, but that she knew about them both at the end. I also really loved both aspects of Patricia. There was always an underlying “sameness” to the two of them, allowing the reader to believe that they really could have been the same person underneath. But their lives were so different, but both interesting. Pat had a lot more “life” that she lived -traveling, a happy family relationship – but Trish was very strong in her own right and was a fascinating person.


My only complaint is that I felt that there was too much going on at the end. As each of her children grew up, they each had their own lives to add to her story, of course, but I wish the author hadn’t felt the need to make each child so dramatically different. It was endearing when one of her children got to go to the moon. It was sweet how one of her children had trouble finding her calling, and it ended up being Florence, same as Pat’s. But to have almost every child be either a prodigy in something or to choose an unconventional life-path, got really old. By the time Philip chose to be in a loving, committed three-some, it really felt like the author was trying too hard to be different and shocking. This is really my only complaint, though.


Overall, I thought that this was a really wonderful read. Interesting, original, and definitely made me think about where our choices can take us. I will definitely be picking up more by this author in the future.


Unbecoming: A Novel - Rebecca Scherm






Rebecca Scherm, 2015


In a small repair shop in Paris, Julie – originally from California – mends antiques and resets gems in jewelry. She’s paid off the books and is pretty sure that her boss is using her to steal from her clients. But none of that matters. Because Julie is really Grace, from small-town Tennessee, and she’s on the run. She stole a two million dollar painting from a historical house in her hometown, which set off a chain of events that ended with her husband and her lover being arrested as she left the country with the painting. But now the two men have been paroled, and she’s sure that, despite hiding from her past ever since the theft, that they’re going to find her and make her pay for what she did.



I’m having a hard time deciding how I feel about this book. On one hand, it had an interesting plot and an interesting lead character. On the other hand, the plot seemed to drag at times (to the point where this book took me much longer to read than it should have) and the lead character was really unlikable. In the end, I’ve decided that I liked it, but that it could have really been a lot better.


The plot was probably the best part of this book – we know from the beginning that Grace has done something really bad and is on the run in Paris. We are then taken back to her life as a teenager in Garland to fill in the blanks. Watching the events unfold, knowing the eventual outcome, was actually a lot of fun. There were times when the plot dragged a bit – mostly (for me) when the book was focusing on Grace and Riley’s relationship. I get that we needed to see how dysfunctional the situation was in order to understand how she could walk away from it, but I think I just really hated reading about Riley.


Which is where the biggest problem (again, for me) came in: I hated both Alls and Riley (aka, the lover and the husband). I didn’t like either of them. I thought Riley was a lame pushover with no dimension whatsoever, and therefore found it hard to understand how she could have fallen in love with him in the first place. But at the same time, Alls was just so bland. Aside from being attractive and from her just wanting to be with someone other than Riley, I couldn’t figure out what drew Grace to him at all. Because of this (without giving anything away) I was not a fan of the ending. I just didn’t understand why Grace would do what she did, unless she herself was just a horrible person… But that’s the other thing. Grace really was kind of a horrible person. Forget trying to figure out what she saw in Riley or Alls – what did they see in her?


The one saving grace (no pun intended) to the characters is that, despite being a horrible person (or maybe because of it?), Grace was interesting. It was easy to follow her story because she was a surprisingly complex character. I kind of enjoyed reading about how she manipulated someone or screwed someone over, and I also liked reading about her getting her dues for it. The book stayed interesting, even with its flaws.


Overall, I think this could have been a better book. It’s obvious that its a debut novel, but I think that the author has a lot of potential. She’s decent at writing main characters, although her side characters need a little more depth in order to be interesting. And she has an ability to make a book very readable, even when it isn’t perfect. It’s a decent low-key heist thriller, if you’re looking for something like that, but if you’re someone who needs to find something likable in your main characters, you might have issues with this one.


The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster - Scott Wilbanks

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster


Scott Wilbanks, 2015


One morning Annabelle Aster wakes up in her San Francisco home to find a Kansas wheat field in her backyard. Perhaps even more confusing is the letter that appears in the brass mailbox that divides the properties. The letter is from the owner of the home in the Kansas wheat field – her name is Elsbeth Grundy and she writes to Annie from the 1890s. After the two women discover the secret that allows them to communicate, and a tragedy that comes about from it, Annie decides to take it unto herself to stop the past from coming true.



I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It had such an interesting premise – time travel and portals into the past. Who doesn’t wonder what it would be like to wake up with the ability to travel through time? Unfortunately, I just didn’t think this book lived up to the expectations I had of it.


First, the good. Again, the premise was a lot of fun. I liked the idea of Annie being able to travel through time and space and her attempts at changing the past. I liked the way that the author wrote 1890s Kansas and San Francisco – I found the past to be much better developed than the present locations, in this case. The story was interesting and I was curious to see how it played out.


Unfortunately, there were just too many flaws. Nothing too glaring – it’s obvious that this author knows how to write, as the prose wasn’t too bland or showy – but a lot of little things that, to me, added up to too much. To start with, there was too much happening in this book. Honestly, if it had just been Annie and Elsbeth and the main story line, the book would have been a lot smoother. But the added bits about Christian’s past and Edmond’s shaman dream, and Cap’n and her little band of misfits, and Annie’s health issues… it just had too much going on.


And the biggest flaw for me was in the characters themselves. I liked Christian (for the most part), and I liked Cap’n (very Oliver Twist), but I didn’t like anyone else. And that’s the issue. I didn’t like Annie at all. Maybe it’s just me, but being quirky doesn’t by default make you interesting. You can be quirky and interesting, but quirkiness doesn’t equal interesting. Annie fit right in to the 1890s, because she lived her life like she belonged there. She dressed in vintage clothes, hated modern conveniences, drank tea, and only even had a cell phone because her only friend (Christian) made her get one. I found this a) too easy and b) too far-fetched. People don’t act like this in real life. And I think that giving someone the ability to time travel to the 1890s who already lives like they belong there made things too easy, where it would have been more interesting if Annie had had some difficulty adapting. Also, because of her quirks, she tended to the melodramatic most of the time, especially in her scenes with Nathaniel, who I honestly could have done completely without.


I don’t want to give the unfair impression that this is a bad book, because it’s not. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. I think that the author had two really good short stories here – one on Annie and Elsbeth and the drama that unfolded, and one on Christian and Edmond. The Annie/Elspeth story could have followed the book pretty closely (just because it wasn’t my taste doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to others). There was a lot good there. I almost felt, while reading, that the Christian/Edmond story was an afterthought, although reading the author’s bio it seems like those characters meant a lot to him, which has me confused….


*Small spoilers to follow*


Even in the “Discussion Questions” portion at the end of the book, a great deal is made about how Christian is having a hard time dealing with his sexuality (hence his ever-present stutter) and that Edmond’s drug history informs the way his character acts. But this is barely mentioned in the book. Christian’s homosexuality is implied rather than stated, and the fact that Edmond used to have a drug problem is mentioned at the end of the book and only in passing, relating to a separate issue. So why act like they’re such a big deal in the Discussion? I feel like they should have gotten more ink than they did, especially since, after reading the author bio, these characters and these issues seem important to him. I would read a short story about Christian and Edmond and what happened to them in the past and how it will now affect their future. But having it tacked on at Annie’s story almost as an afterthought just didn’t work for me.


*End spoilers*


In the end, I think there is an audience that will really like this book. I’ve seen reviews from people that really enjoyed it. Again, nothing about this book is really bad. I liked the writing (aside from the melodrama) and I thought the characters were very well-developed (even if I didn’t like them very much). It just needs to find its audience, and I hope it does.


Thanks to the author and publisher for an advanced copy through NetGalley.


Proof: The Science of Booze - Adam Rogers

Proof: The Science of Booze


Adam Rogers, 2014


A history of the production and consumption of alcohol, from a scientific standpoint. Includes chapters on distillation, aging, hangovers, and others.



A book that combines two of my favorite things: science and alcohol.


You probably have to be at least a casual science nerd in order to appreciate this book. It’s not a book about alcohol in general, although the author does give a few good examples of interesting alcohols to try. It’s more a book about the history of alcohol – when and where the first evidence of distillation and fermentation show up in archaeological records, as well as how it has been adapted and perfected over the years. The author writes it very well, though. Full of interesting anecdotes personal experiences as well as facts and science, so that it doesn’t read like a textbook.


I learned a lot about alcohol from reading this book. Oddly enough, I attended a winery tour just after reading the chapter on fermentation, and I was pleased to discover how much more I understood about the process as the girl was taking us on the tour.


A very interesting read, but certainly not for everyone. But if you’re a science nerd at heart, and enjoy a drink now and again, it’s definitely recommended reading.

Broken Harbor

Broken Harbour - Tana French

Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4)


Tana French, 2012


In a half-built, half-abandoned estate known as Broken Harbor, two children and their father are found dead. The children appear to have been smothered, while the father was stabbed multiple times. The mother, also suffering from multiple stab wounds, is still clinging to life and is rushed to the hospital. “Scorcher” Kennedy, the Murder Squad’s star detective, along with his rookie partner, is given the case. At first it looks like a simple murder-suicide case, where the father – having lost his job, and about to lose everything else – turned on his family before killing himself. But as new clues come to light, the case becomes much more complicated. Scorcher needs a quick win on this one, but before it’s all over, this case might just be the one that tears his career – and his life – apart.



Like the other books in the “Dublin Murder Squad” series, this book takes a minor character from a previous book and places him or her front and center. Scorcher appeared in the third book in the series, Faithful Place… and I really didn’t like him. When I saw that he was taking the lead in this new book, I was disappointed. Fortunately, it turned out to be a case of exceeded expectations. In Faithful Place, the lead character didn’t like Scorcher, so he was played off as being a very unlikable character himself. But in this one, where we were able to get his back story and his perspective, he actually ended up being one of my favorite POV characters from the series.


While I didn’t find the “whodunnit” to be as mysterious as some of the others – I guessed pretty early on – I still didn’t see most of the twists and turns coming. French did a really good job here of setting up a mood to the mystery – the mystery wasn’t as simple as “who killed them”, but was rather overlapped with the mystery of whether or not the father was going insane before the murders occurred. I’ll admit that I found that particular mystery even more compelling than the murders.


I still think that the earlier books in the series were the best – I’m a bit partial to the first book (In the Woods), with The Likeness a close second (and I know a lot of people think The Likeness was her best book so far). But I’ve found the next few books to be good mystery stories as well. I’ll definitely be picking up The Secret Place soon (#5). Even if the remaining books can’t stand up to the early work, they’re still wonderfully entertaining.


Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1)


Jeff VanderMeer, 2014


The general public know almost nothing about Area X, but the scientists don’t know that much more, aside from that the border is slowly expanding into the known world. A group known as the Southern Reach have been sending small expeditions into Area X, in order to map it and to find out more about the ecosystem. The first expedition reported back on a pristine landscape, with remnants of a civilization but no living humans to be found. The second group all committed suicide. The third turned on each other. This book tells the story of the twelfth expedition, made up of a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist, as they discover the truths of Area X for themselves.



This is a relatively short book – just under 200 pages – told as a series of journal entries from the point of view of the biologist on the twelfth expedition. A lot is left unexplained, simply because the biologist (we are never given her name) does not know the answers for a lot of things. The big question left unexplained is What is Area X? We don’t really know where it is, where it came from, what affect it is having on the outside world… Not much about it at all.


The characterization is relatively two-dimensional in this book as well, again, because the story is from the point of view of the biologist. She doesn’t have much time to get to know most of the other characters – for one reason or another – so we don’t get a very deep feel for them. When someone is in danger, or dies, we don’t feel a whole lot of sympathy or fear, because we don’t know them very well. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the writing, just the way that the author chose to tell this portion of the story…


Which brings me to the most important part: This is only part of the story. The first of a trilogy, this book tells one person’s point of view about what they are seeing first hand. No background information. No answers. Again, this is not a flaw, but rather the way that the author chose to tell the story. I can’t say for sure how I feel about the plot as a whole until I’ve read the other two books.


That being said, I did like this book. It was quirky and creepy and definitely left me wanting to continue with the trilogy. If you like good science fiction, pick this book up. If you like all of your questions to be answered by the end of the book, however, you’re going to be disappointed. I am hoping that a lot gets answered by the end of the trilogy, though, because this book certainly left me with a lot of questions.


The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots - Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3)


Jasper Fforde, 2003


*Some spoilers for previous books in the series might be present in review*


Thursday Next lives in a world a little different from ours. For one, she owns a pet dodo bird. For another, she can travel inside books. She’s actually on trial in the Book World for having altered the ending of Jane Eyre (even though everyone likes the new ending better). Most recently, she’s become a member of Jurisfiction – the law enforcement agency that patrols the Book World. Her mentor – Miss Havisham (yes, the one from Great Expectations) – has her helping on an investigation relating to the upcoming launch of the new book software, UltraWord, which may not be as perfect as it appears.



There is really too much going on in this book to give a good plot summary, but that will have to do.


Unlike the first two books in this series, in which Thursday lived in the “real” world and only occasionally jumped into books, this story takes place solely inside the Book World. Thursday is hiding from the people in the real world, so she goes on a sort of Witness Protection Program inside of an unpublished novel. Because of this,all of the characters we meet in this book are fictional. I point this out, because it seems to me that reviews fall on one of two sides: those that hate the parts that take place in the Book World and those that love them. If Book World scenes annoy you, this will be your least favorite of the series and you will probably stop at this point. If Book World scenes make you giggle with glee, then this book will be a welcome treat. I fall into the latter camp, fortunately. I love the Book World. And it doesn’t bother me that characters are thrown in as one-liners and passing jokes. If it makes me laugh, I enjoy the references.


That being said, there is a plot to this book. And I thought that the author did a pretty good job of giving this book a stand-alone plot (the investigation and murders surrounding the release of UltraWord) as well as continuing the ongoing plot relating to Thursday and Landon. One thing I can say for these books is that, plot-wise, the author never gives you a chance to get bored.


Another aspect that I liked is that – aside from the first two books in the series, which you really have to read before starting this one – there are no books required for understanding of The Well of Lost Plots. There are countless books referenced, and obviously if the reader has never read the book being referenced, the joke won’t be funny. But unlike the previous books, the plot of this book will make sense without any previous classics knowledge. Specifically, I don’t recommend reading The Eyre Affair without first having read Jane Eyre. You can, but a big aspect of the plot will go over your head. And Lost in a Good Book introduces Miss Havisham as a main character, meaning that you’ll get a lot more out of the story if you know who she is, having read Great Expectations. (I even put aside my supreme dislike of Dickens to read this book in order to get the references.) WithThe Well of Lost Plots, there is an ongoing joke regarding Anna Karenina and a whole chapter dedicated to an anger management within Wuthering Heights. But the plot doesn’t need you to have read these books. I haven’t read either yet, and I still followed the plot, although I know I missed out on some of the jokes not having the back story. Point being, read this book without worrying about what classics you need to know before going in; just know that some of the jokes might go over your head.


Overall, I really enjoy the Thursday Next series, and I definitely plan on continuing. I like the tongue-in-cheek references and find them highly amusing. My recommendation is that if you like a good satire, check out The Eyre Affair. If it amuses you, keep on with the series. Sometimes I like a serious read. Sometimes I just like an interesting story that makes me laugh.