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!

Station Eleven

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven


Emily St. John Mandel, 2014


One night, much like any other, Arthur Leander – a famous actor and the lead in a production of King Lear - dies of a heart attack on stage. A shocking event, but nothing compared to what happens next. The Georgia Flu, once thought to be just a slightly-more-deadly-than-normal strain of the flu, begins to spread to the U.S., and soon has covered the entire globe and wiped out most of the population. Fifteen years after the outbreak, we follow the lives of Kirsten and the other members of the Traveling Symphony – a group of actors and musicians who travel from settlement to settlement putting on shows. Meanwhile, flashbacks give us insight into what Arthur’s life was like leading up to his last performance.



I find it difficult to give a good synopsis of this book. Most of the reviews I read opened with what the book opened with – Arthur dying on stage during a performance. But how one actor dying of a heart attack has anything to do with a population-destroying flu and the post-apocalyptic world that follows threw me off. Because, really, it has nothing to do with any of it. But Arthur, despite never living long enough to see the post-flu world, becomes the focal point of the novel, tying the characters together. From the Traveling Symphony, to the religious zealot known as “The Prophet”, to a man trying to make a life for himself that he can be proud of, all of the story lines that follow have characters that can be tied back to that final night of Arthur’s life. And it is for this reason that Arthur is given center stage as we learn more about him and his life in flashbacks.


The mood of this book, despite being set mostly in a post-apocalyptic world, is very uplifting. The Traveling Symphony’s motto – “Because survival is insufficient” (yes, stolen from Star Trek) – supports this. The survivors have done just that – survived – and now they are doing what they can to live. To make the world a place worth living in. I have never read anything by this author before, but she has a way of writing that is beautiful without being flowery. It was so easy to picture this world that is nothing like ours, that I found myself lost in it.


I’ll admit that the book was a little slow for me in getting started, but this is mostly because I had no idea where this book was going. After the opening, I thought that the book was going to follow the paramedic – Jeevan – and I was surprised and disappointed to find the next chapter open up fifteen years later with Kirsten. But once I allowed myself to stop worrying about the way I wanted the book to go and just allow it to go on its own, I was immediately intrigued. Kirsten was an enjoyable character to follow in the end. And I wasn’t completely disappointed, as we do find out what happens to Jeevan by the end.


Overall this was a wonderfully written book. Unlike other post-apocalyptic books, such as The Road (which I’ll admit right now that I hated), this is an uplifting and enjoyable read. Despite being set in a world where people have to scavenge and hunt for food, and where violence could always be around the next turn in the path, the book was heartwarming and uplifting. There was plenty of drama and not every turn of events ended well, but the overall mood was never dark and dreary. I actually wish that this book could have gone on longer.


Highly recommended for pretty much anyone. Don’t let the dark subject matter or vague plot description put you off of this one. Certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The Damned

The Damned - Andrew Pyper

The Damned


Andrew Pyper, 2015


Danny Orchard nearly died when he was a teenager, in a fire that killed his twin sister, Ashleigh. To the world, Ash had been perfect – an honor student, the star of her school play, talented, and friendly. But those closest to her knew that she was really a psychopath, who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. And when Danny failed to save Ash in the fire, what Ash wanted most was for Danny to die with her. And she’s never let him be happy since. So when Danny falls in love with a woman and marries her, becoming a step-father to her young son, he knows that he’s taking a risk. Because Ash has never really left him. And she won’t stop until she gets what she wants from her brother.



I had never read anything by Andrew Pyper before, but I think I’ll be picking up more of his books in the future. This book was scary without being overly gruesome or nightmare-inducting, and it was beautifully imagined without being overly flowery.


I really liked the character of Danny. He was human and far from perfect, so completely believable. His fear of his sister and what she could do felt real. As for Ash, she was delightfully creepy. Not so scary that it was over-the-top, but perfect in a child psychopath way that made me want to keep peeking over my shoulder while I was reading. Her inhumanity also helped make Danny all the more real to me.


I also loved the way that the author described Heaven and Hell. It could be so easy to make the descriptions overly detailed and imaginative, but Pyper made them both seem believable and other-worldly at the same time. I like the idea of Heaven being the best time of your life played out over and over again, and Hell being the worst.


Overall, this was a really enjoyably creepy ghost story. Not so scary or gruesome that it was going to keep me up at night (in the bad way), but compelling enough that it kept me up, wanting to know how it ended. A real page-turner with a good horror vibe. Recommended for fans of mild horror (hard-core horror fans probably will find this too tame) and ghost stories.

The Good Girl

The Good Girl - Mary Kubica

The Good Girl


Mary Kubica, 2014


When Mia Dennett waits at a bar for her no-show boyfriend, she meets a charming young man named Owen. On impulse, Mia decides to leave the bar with him. What Mia doesn’t realize is that Owen is really Colin Thatcher, the man hired to kidnap her for ransom. But when Colin has a change of heart about delivering Mia to his ruthless boss, he decides instead to hide her away in an isolated cabin in the woods, at least until he can figure out a plan to get them both out of the country. Meanwhile, Mia’s parents and a dedicated cop assigned the case, will do whatever they can to find her.



This book was a little hard to follow at first, with the “Before” and “After” chapters, mainly because it took a few pages to figure out what event “Before” and “After” referred to. But once that became clear enough, I really began to like the format. I also liked that. aside from the final chapter, none of the chapters were told from the point of view of Mia. We had chapters from the points of view of the cop, Eve – Mia’s mother, and Colin Thatcher, but we really didn’t get a good feel for what Mia was feeling, except for what others thought about her.


While I’m not a big fan of the amnesia plot device in general – it often feels like a cop-out – I didn’t mind it too much here. Going back and forth between the time when Mia was with Colin and the time when Mia was home with her mother, after being rescued, when she didn’t remember anything. we were still able to get a good feel for events, even though the actual event of how Mia got away from Colin was always shrouded in mystery. The fact that Mia didn’t remember anything didn’t completely take away from the story, because we got a lot of the blanks filled in for us by the cop and by Eve.


I thought that the characters were very well-developed for this type of mystery/thriller. Even Mia, who always remained a little elusive, since we never saw things from her point of view, still had a good amount of depth to her. I particularly liked Gabe – the cop – and thought that his character was very well done.


What surprised me about this book is that every time it started to feel like it was getting predictable, it would pull something out that I wasn’t expecting. There were plenty of predictable elements – like the Stockholm Syndrome-esque relationship between Mia and Colin – but they were done well enough and the author threw in enough tricks that I never found myself bored by it.


Finally, and without giving away any spoilers, I liked the way the author chose to end the book. We were finally given a chapter from Mia’s point of view, and it showed us something that I really wasn’t expecting.


Overall, this is a really well-done thriller that I think fans of the genre would really like. While it doesn’t have much in common with books like Gone Girl, I think that fans of that book would find a lot to like about this book as well.


The Lost World

The Lost World - Michael Crichton

The Lost World (Jurassic Park #2)


Michael Crichton, 1995


Following the events of Jurassic Park, the island and all of the dinosaurs there were destroyed, leaving nothing behind. But when carcasses that look suspicious begin turning up on the coast of Costa Rica, Ian Malcolm and a few other scientists begin to wonder if everything was really destroyed after all.



First: A Comment on the movies (and some minor spoilers)


The film Jurassic Park did a good job of bringing the first book from page to screen. Admittedly one of my all-time favorite movies, the film cut some scenes from the book and added in a few others, but the general feel and flow of the book is all there. The film version of The Lost World, on the other hand, didn’t follow the book at all. Aside from one or two high-drama scenes, most of what happened in the book was left out of the movie, as the movie decided to go in a different direction, transporting a T-Rex off the island (which never happens in the book).


This was a re-read for me, as I first read The Lost World shortly after seeing the film of Jurassic Park in the late 1990s. Side note: a reason why I brought up the movies above – you will not be confused going into this book having only seen the film version of Jurassic Park and not having read the book. They’re pretty interchangeable, and while I still recommend reading the first book, the film is awesome.


In my opinion, this book is even better than the first. Less exposition is needed for how the dinosaurs are there in the first place, since all of that was covered the first time around. Because of this, as a reader we’re able to accept the fact that there are dinosaurs on this island without needing to go into the process for getting them there, and we’re therefore able to just jump right into the action. Of course, there are new things here that we didn’t see in Jurassic Park - some new dinosaurs, a lot about their behaviors and nesting patterns, and more about how dinosaurs would live in the wild as opposed to a caged park. And, of course, new adventures and drama abound, because there is no way to be on an island full of dinosaurs without getting into a little trouble.


The one downfall to this book is the science content. I’ve got a pretty decent science background, but even I found some of the science content in this book to drag the story a bit. The goal of our two scientists in this book, Malcolm and Levine, is to try and use the island to work out how evolution could have led to extinction. Their theories can get a bit dry, but fortunately for the reader, the conversations on these theories are usually brief and interspersed between moments of action. I understand the need to throw some science into the book, but honestly – and I hate to say it – this book could have used a little less evolutionary theory and a little more dinosaurs running amok.


Still, a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended for any dino-lovers, especially anyone who read/watched and enjoyed Jurassic Park.

The Jaguar's Children

The Jaguar's Children - John Vaillant

The Jaguar’s Children


John Vaillant, 2015


While attempting to illegally cross the Mexico/U.S. border in a sealed water truck, Hector and the others become trapped when the truck breaks down and the coyotes (the men hired to transport them) take off. Slowing dying of thirst, Hector’s one hope is his friend Cesar’s cell phone and an American number he finds in it, listed as AnniMac. There aren’t enough bars to send a message, but Hector begins recording messages for AnniMac, first describing their desperate situation, and then going into detail about how they ended up there in the first place.



This was a difficult book in a lot of ways. For one, the main character is Mexican, so a native Spanish speaker. A lot of the dialogue goes back and forth between English and Spanish. The book is written in English, but there are a few random Spanish words thrown in here and there, some translated, but some not. It adds to the authenticity of the narrative, but also means that it’s not exactly a fast read.


The other reason this book was difficult was because of the subject matter. If you have issues with claustrophobia, this is going to be a tough read. While a lot of the story was Hector giving back story – both about his life and about what Cesar has told him about why he ended up on the run – we are often given little paragraphs here and there about the present situation, which was often difficult to read about. I never wanted to think about what dying of thirst would be like, and now that I’ve read about it, I almost wish I hadn’t. It’s more gruesome than you would think.


That being said, I’m not sorry I read this book. It’s a really well-written story. I thought that Hector was a fantastic narrator. He was likable and empathetic and someone you could really root for, which was needed in such a dire situation. And I loved hearing the stories about his grandfather.


Overall, this was a really good story about Mexican culture, past and present. It’s got the unsettling claustrophobic vibe just under the surface, but it’s not a thriller. It’s mostly a story about people growing up in Mexico and trying to make a better life for themselves. But it is unsettling at times, so read with caution. Not for everybody, but if you can enjoy a slower paced story with some really interesting characters, I recommend it.

Two Boys Kissing

Two Boys Kissing - David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing


David Levithan, 2013


Harry and Craig have decided to try and break the Guinness World Record for a continuous kiss, which currently stands at just over 32 hours. Meanwhile, the lives of other gay teenagers are also told: from established relationships (Neil and Peter), new relationships (Ryan and Avery), and the lost and lonely (Cooper).



This was a very interesting book. Based on the story of two male college students who actually did break the Guinness World Record a few years ago, it’s amazing how interesting a story can be where nothing much really happens. All Harry and Craig are doing throughout most of the book is standing on the lawn of the high school, kissing. But their emotions, and the emotions and actions of the people around them, are what make their stories important.


Also, this book isn’t just about Harry and Craig. It’s also about Ryan and Avery, who meet at a gay prom and decide to try a first date, to see if there is anything there. They both have their own issues – Avery was born a girl but has always felt that he was a boy, and fortunately always had the acceptance of his parents, and Ryan finds the most acceptance from his aunt, and just wants out of the small town with so much hate for who he is. It’s also about Neil and Peter, who have been in a relationship for over a year, but Neil is just beginning to deal with a family that knows he’s gay but has a hard time accepting it. It’s also about Cooper, who was accidentally outed to his parents, and who is searching for someone he can be with who he can feel something for, and who will love him back. And the whole thing is narrated by a Greek Chorus of men who have died of AIDS.


I know some people find the narration hard to get past – it’s certainly not your typical format, having an collective, dead, omnipresent narrator – but I thought that it worked really well to tie all of the stories together, and also to tie the stories into the bigger picture. The fact that the book was able to do this without getting preachy about the (admittedly horrible) way that the general public dealt with the gay population when AIDS first showed up was actually pretty impressive.


This is the first solo effort of Levithan’s that I’ve read – having only previously read his collaboration with John Green on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but I know that I’ll certainly be reading more of him in the future. I think that there are very few authors who write stories for gay teens and write them well, and based on these two books, I think that Levithan is probably one of the best. It’s good to know that there are books like this one out there for kids struggling with coming out.


Overall, a really well-done book. A quick read, but some really powerful emotional content within these 200 pages. Recommended for any teens, but especially those who are looking for the strength to come out and to be who they need to be.

My Drunk Kitchen

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut - Hannah Hart

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut


Hannah Hart, 2014


Based on the YouTube series of the same name, Hart writes about adulthood, work, family, and relationships, all in the guise of a recipe book, complete with cocktails.



I can’t really call this a cookbook. It’s more of a humorous guide to growing up and dealing with life, with a few cocktails and easy to make recipes thrown in along with the advice. While there were a few recipes that I thought “Oh, hey, I might actually try that”, most were just funny takes on normal recipes in order to make a point.


I admit that I’ve never seen Hart’s YouTube videos, although this book makes me want to. While she seems like she might be somewhat helpless in the kitchen, there were some parts that really amused me and there were a few actually insightful thoughts on life.


Not recommended as an actual cookbook, but recommended if you’re looking for a funny, quick read. I don’t know how it compares with her YouTube channel, but I’ll update my thoughts after watching a few videos.


The Magician King

The Magician King - Lev Grossman

The Magician King (The Magicians #2)


Lev Grossman, 2011


Disclaimer: This is the sequel to The Magicians. It is necessary to read the first book in order to understand what is happening in this book. Some spoilers for The Magicians may appear in this review.


Following their graduation from Brakebills and their adventures in Fillory, Quentin, Janet, and Eliot, along with non-Brakebills magician, Julia, have taken over as kings and queens of Fillory. Although life as a king is pretty much perfect, Quentin can’t help but long for an adventure. So when it comes up that they need someone to travel to the Outer Island to collect taxes, Quentin quickly volunteers himself. But little does he realize that this trip will throw him into an adventure bigger than even he had bargained for.



I’m incredibly glad that I stumbled upon this series. Often referred to as an “adult Harry Potter“, I think that its similarities to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are what have drawn me to it. (It should also be said, Grossman can get away with the similarities by being so blatantly obvious about it – children finding their way to a magical world through an old piece of furniture, not being able to get back to that world the same way again, two kings and two queens, an animal that rules the magical land, only making an appearance when things are most dire or a task needs to be given out, and I could go on and on). As a huge fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, though, I found these obvious similarities endearing.


The biggest flaw that these novels have, in my opinion, is a lack of editing. The same as with the first book, I found this story dragging through the middle. A strong start, followed by a slow middle, followed by a huge plot twist that gets the story going again. Overall a really enjoyable story, but it’s that middle that could use a little work.


What surprised me most about this particular book was how much I enjoyed reading Julia’s back story. As the only one of the group who didn’t make it into Brakebills, she had her own way of becoming a magician – one that we know very little about going into this book. Interspersed between the present-day adventures, we are given chapters on how Julia found magic and what happened to her to make her a little bit “off”. The reason that I was surprised to be interested in these chapters was that I really hate Julia as a character. I still kind of hate her after hearing her back story, but at least it clears up a few things about why she’s so unlikable.


Overall, I found this to be a great second book in the trilogy. The quest for the keys and the reason they needed to be found was a really clever twist, as well as the way Julia’s story was tied into it. I also really enjoyed the reappearance of a few other characters from the first book. I highly recommend this series for anyone who likes a good magic-based fantasy book – especially those who enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid. I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the third book to see how Quentin’s story plays out.

All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places


Jennifer Niven, 2015


Violet is a senior in high school, popular, but counting down the days until graduation, when she can leave her small Indiana town and escape the pain of her sister’s recent death. Theodore Finch, known by most of his class as “Freak”, is obsessed with death and sometimes misses school for weeks at a time when he stops being “Awake”. The two meet on the top of the school’s bell tower, when Finch – who was debating the pros and cons of suicide by jumping – talks Violet down from the ledge. After the two are paired up on a Geography project, the two find themselves bonding, but can Violet’s friendship be enough to keep Finch “Awake”?



I really liked this book. I thought that both Violet and Finch were incredible well-written characters. I felt that they were believable and that their relationship was something that could have actually happened. I also think that the author did an amazing job in dealing with the issues that each character was facing. Violet’s grief, guilt, and fear after her sister’s death was written in a way that really allowed you to empathize with her. And Finch… Well, Finch was a character that I have never seen the likes of in literature before – at least not written as well.


Which brings me to the bigger point. This is not just a really good book. This is a really “Important” book. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where mental illness was described so vividly and honestly. The chapters told from Finch’s point of view gave a really clear picture of what it must feel like to be bipolar, both during the manic phases and the depressive ones. It wasn’t handled in an over-the-top way, but in a way that you could believe. I don’t personally suffer from bipolar disorder, but I can’t imagine a better description of what it must be like. I think that this is a book that all teenagers should read. Finch’s refusal to accept a “label” – whether it be a hurtful one like “Freak” or a possibly helpful one like “Bipolar” – is a real fear that I think that any teenager would feel when presented with this issue. A book like this could help someone who was struggling with any number of issues, especially those dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts.


In the end, this is a really well-written book – not perfect, but very, very good – that deals with a very real issue in an honest way. I highly recommend this to all teenagers, but also to anyone who has ever dealt with grief or depression. And honestly, who hasn’t? This is a book for everyone, but slightly geared toward a teenage audience. Really glad I found this one.

The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

The Girl With All the Gifts


M.R. Carey, 2014


Melanie is a very special girl. She’s incredibly smart, and she loves going to class, especially the classes taught by Miss Justineau. But Melanie and the other children aren’t like the adults that surround them. The children are infected with the parasitic mold that turns people into “hungries” – a zombie-like stage that has infected a large number of the planet. But rather than brainless monsters, Melanie and the other children can speak and learn and act almost human. Dr. Caldwell thinks that she might be able to use them to find a cure. And Melanie is her prize subject.



This was such an original way to present the zombie story. The book is told with alternating points of view, one of which being Melanie herself, so the reader was able to experience the story from her point of view, which was creative and touching and so enjoyable. It was almost heart-breaking to watch Melanie figure out what she was, but her strength and, frankly, her humanity made her one of the more interesting and lovable characters that I’ve read in a long time.


The character development overall was actually very well done. Characters that started out very one-note, like Sergeant and Dr. Caldwell turned into well-rounded characters as the story progressed – some becoming more likable, and some becoming more loathsome. I especially liked the relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau and the way that developed as well.


In the end, this was a fantastic zombie apocalypse story – with everything you want from a zombie apocalypse story – but with enough new and exciting ideas to make it completely original at the same time. And – without giving any spoilers – I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. I had no idea how the author was going to wrap things up and, while it wasn’t what I was expecting, I was ultimately satisfied by the way it ended. It almost had to end that way.


I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes zombie stories or science fiction in general. A good apocalypse story with engaging characters is hard to find, and this is one of the better ones. A must read.

The Virgin's Lover

The Virgin's Lover - Philippa Gregory

The Virgin’s Lover (The Tudor Court #5)


Philippa Gregory, 2004


In her first days on the throne, Queen Elizabeth faces threats from many sides: the Pope, outraged by the new Protestant Queen, has declared it not a sin to assassinate her, and Mary, Queen of Scots, along with the French army, threaten an invasion of England if they are able to complete a takeover of Scotland. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has only two men she can trust – her counselor William Cecil, and her long-time friend Robert Dudley. But when her relationship with the married Dudley leads to a passionate affair, Elizabeth finds her enemies multiplying and her allies dwindling.



The synopsis for this book is a little misleading, because while it’s very much about Elizabeth’s first years on the throne and her possible war with France, the main character of this story is Robert Dudley and his passion for both Elizabeth and for power. We also learn a lot about Amy – Dudley’s cast-aside wife.


This book has a lot going for it: an interesting time in history, the early years of Elizabeth I’s reign, the intricacies of the spy networks in England at this time, plus I find it always fun to read about the Tudors. I think that Philippa Gregory does a great job of writing the characters and the time period, and I find her books to be well-written and an interesting combination of history and rumor.


However, this book also has one big thing going against it: absolutely NO likable characters. The character I liked the most was undoubtedly William Cecil, but he was a side character to the whole story. Dudley was power hungry and a horrible person. Elizabeth was kind of a whiny bitch (I’m sorry, but it’s true, and this is coming from someone who loves Elizabeth I). Even Amy, who we were supposed to be sympathetic to, was at times really hard to find sympathy for. I get that this is what these characters were really like, and I think that Gregory did a good job of writing them, it’s just hard to read a book when you hate all of the characters.


That being said, it was still a relatively enjoyable book. As mentioned before, it’s a really interesting time period, and I thought the method of Amy’s mysterious death that Gregory chose to write about was a good choice. Recommended, but really only for hard-core historical fiction lovers.


Rosewater (Movie Tie-in Edition): A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival - Maziar Bahari, Aimee Molloy, Jon Meacham

Rosewater (previously published as ‘Then They Came for Me’)


Maziar Bahari, 2011


In 2009, Newsweek journalist and documentary filmmaker Maziar Bahari was in Iran to cover the presidential elections. Born in Iran, Bahari was excited to witness the event, but was disappointed in the outcome, which he believed (as many did) was the result of vote-rigging by the current president, Ahmadinejad. While covering the mostly peaceful riots that followed, Bahari was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard and accused of being a spy for the West. This book tells the story of his 118 days in prison.



I’m not a political person. I don’t watch the news by choice. So I’ll admit that most of what I know about the 2009 presidential election in Iran and the events leading up to it and following it stemmed from what I watched on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which I watch regularly. This is also how I came to know about Maziar Bahari, as he was a recurrent guest on the show (including the now infamous clip of him with Jason Jones that contributed to his arrest in the first place).


After reading this book I find that I am both better informed and more interested in what is happening in Iran. The situation over there is complicated and I don’t pretend to know everything about it after reading this book, but I do feel like I have at least a somewhat better understanding of things. This was one of the things that I really liked about this book – Bahari didn’t just use the pages to talk about his own experience, but told the story of countless other Iranians as well.


It’s hard to review a nonfiction book of this type, except to say that while tough to read at times, it was well worth it. Bahari didn’t make the torture scenes too graphic and uncomfortable, but certainly got his point across. And it was extremely informative, giving both historic context and current events without being boring or dry. Bahari is an excellent writer, and I think that anyone who is curious about what things are like for the people of Iran in the current situation would do well to read his story. I hope, as he does, that things will get better for people there in the future, but they certainly have a long, tough road ahead of them.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

We Were Liars


E. Lockhart, 2014


Cadence Sinclair Eastman is the oldest grandchild in the Sinclair family – a wealthy, upper-class family that summers on a private island and fights over the inheritance. Then, the summer when Cadence is fifteen, something bad happens. Something that leaves Cadence with crippling migraines and no memories of the event. She knows that her family is keeping secrets from her, but is unable to figure out what is going on. So now, at seventeen, Cadence returns to the island to see if she can uncover the secrets of summer fifteen.



Okay, I’ll admit it. I did not see this book coming. I had put off reading it for a year, despite (or maybe because of) all of the hype. I had actually received an advanced copy from the publisher a year ago, but never got around to reading it before the download expired. But now, finally, after seeing it on so many “Best of 2014″ lists, I picked it up again. And I was surprised, in a good way, in every way possible.


The characters, at times, could be lacking in dimension, but I believe that this was intentional. They’re portrayed as a snobby rich family, better than those around them, and this is who they are. They’re not always likable. But that’s okay. Even “The Liars” – Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat – our main characters, aren’t always likable. But I did find them interesting.


I liked the mystery aspect. I liked that our narrator, Cadence, had no idea what was going on. As she tries to figure out what happened that summer, we try to figure it out with her. I liked the style of prose that Lockhart used. I liked the fact that the characters were unlikable and often unreliable. These are all aspects that I know some people had problems with, but that I found enjoyable.


Most importantly, I loved the ending. [No spoilers, I promise] I didn’t see it coming. I’m not one of those people who sits there and analyzes every statement and possible clue to try and figure out a mystery, but I do consider myself to be somewhat clever. But I love it when an ending surprises me, especially if I’m able to look back on the rest of the book and find that the conclusion makes sense based on what I’ve previous read. This book did this perfectly. A very well-executed story.


I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery and doesn’t mind reading about characters that aren’t entirely likable. It’s geared slightly toward young adults, but I think adults can still find this book enjoyable. I know I did.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children


Kristin  Cronn-Mills, 2012


Gabe Williams just got his dream job – a radio DJ gig. Sure, it’s Friday nights at midnight and it’s on a local community radio station, so probably no one will listen, but it’s a start. What Gabe really wants is to move to the Cities after he graduates in a few months, get a place of his own, a radio job, and a chance to start his life over where nobody knows who he is. Because everybody in his town knows him as Elizabeth. Gabe was born a girl, but has known since he was a child that he was really a boy. He recently revealed this fact to his best friend and his family, to mixed results. But on the radio, he is a voice, so no one has to know who he is. He can just be Gabe. But once his secret gets out, will his fans still accept him?



This is a great look into what it’s like being a transgender individual. Told from Gabe’s point of view, the reader gets to see things how Gabe sees things. He’s not a girl dressing up and pretending to be a boy. He’s a boy who was born into the wrong body. I thought that the character of Gabe was extremely well-written. He has all the fears and insecurities that any one in this situation would surely have, but at the same time he seems like a typical teenager with dreams of a future after high school graduation.


I loved the author’s choice to tell Gabe’s story through his radio show music. His music obsession gave him a lot of character as well as allowing us to see a lot of the “real” Gabe that he was allowed to be on his radio show. I also thought that his relationship with his music mentor, John, was amazing, and honestly much more interesting than his relationship with his best friend, Paige.


Overall, I thought that this was a great story, and very realistic, showing all of the hardships a teen would face when trying to transition, including hate and violence, but also love and acceptance. I would strongly recommend this book to all teenage readers, but especially those in the LGBT community who might be struggling with their identities and coming out to friends and family.

Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes - Stephen King

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy #1)


Stephen King, 2014


Just before dawn, a man in a Mercedes drives into a crowd of people waiting outside a job fair. Eight people, including a mother with her infant daughter, are killed, fifteen more are wounded, and the driver is able to get away and disappear without a trace. When Bill Hodges retires from the police force a few months later, the Mercedes Killer is one of his few unsolved cases, but with no leads and no sign of the killer committing any more crimes, the case remains at a dead end… Until Hodges receives a letter in the mail from Mr. Mercedes himself.



There are two types of Stephen King books. The first type is the scary, supernatural monster type: It, The Shining, Christine, and Pet Sematary, to name a few. The second type is about people – often demented, psychopathic people, but still they’re more stories about how people behave than about monsters: The Green Mile, Misery, and Under the Dome. (I’d actually argue that It is one of the few that straddles both types, as it is really a great story about adolescence, friends, and growing up, but it does have a killer monster demon clown as a major plot point, so I’ll put it in the first camp).


Mr. Mercedes falls squarely into the second type of book. There are no monsters, except for Brady Hartfield himself. (This is not a spoiler, by the way – half of the book is told from Hartfield’s point of view, so we know he’s Mr. Mercedes pretty much from the get-go.) But Hartfield is a serious psychopath, to the point that I sometimes wonder if I should be worried that King is able to write so well from the point of view of this kind of character. It’s fascinating, however, to see the world from the point of view of a character like this, which is why I think I liked this book so much.


There isn’t a whole lot of violence or gruesome imagery in the book, so squeamish types shouldn’t worry too much – although there is a scene involving strychnine that, I’ll warn you, is pretty cringe-worthy. The horror in this book isn’t from gore or monsters, but simply from reading about an extremely disturbed individual.


This actually ended up being one of my favorite King books that I’ve read up to this point (and I’ve read about 2/3 of them). It had really well-written characters, it had me on the edge of my seat, and it left me feeling slightly disturbed, as any good horror should. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of King’s second type of books, especially something like Misery. King has been sort of hit or miss for me with his books over the past few years, but this one was definitely a hit.

The Art of Asking

The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer

The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help


Amanda Palmer, 2014


Amanda Palmer – musician and blogger – has written a book on the subject of her TED talk, about how it’s okay to ask for help. Half memoir, half self-help book, The Art of Asking covers topics ranging from the controversies over crowdfunding, trust, love, and what it’s like to be a human statue.



I’ve been a fan of Amanda Palmer since the first Dresden Dolls album. Quirky, loud, seemingly unafraid of anything, she seemed like one of the most interesting people I had ever encountered. I’ve followed her music up to this point, but have never really looked very deeply into her personal life. I knew she was big on Twitter, but not being on Twitter myself, I didn’t follow her. (I didn’t even know until about a year ago that she was married to my favorite author, Neil Gaiman!). But I am a fan, so when I saw that she had written a book, I knew that I would read it, no matter what the subject matter.


To my surprise and absolute joy, this book was amazing. It was a memoir, but it was also so much more. On the memoir subject, I found it fascinating to hear about her job as a living statue in Harvard Square. While I wasn’t in the Boston area during her time there, I have often seen the living statues working in Boston and hearing what that’s like from her perspective was fascinating to me. I’ll never look at a living statue the same way again, and I can pretty much guarantee you that the next time I see one, I’ll give him or her a dollar.


The biggest thing I got out of this book, however, was on the subject of trust and asking for help. When I watched Amanda up on stage, or saw nude pictures of her on her website, I always imagined that she was fearless. And I know some critics look at her Kickstarter campaign and think that she has no trouble asking for things. But it amazed me to read about how she has some of the same fears that I do when it comes to asking for help. She just trusts her friends and her fans to look out for her. Because of this, I found her memoir to be enlightening for me. I’ve always been someone who has a hard time asking for help from people I don’t know (or don’t know well), but I’m now determined to not be so scared of it. Because most people are willing to help people who really need the help. And being afraid how others will view you if you ask isn’t a good reason for not asking.


After finishing this book, I’m no longer just a fan of Amanda. I still watch her on stage and am fascinated by her talent and attitude. But now I’ll also look at her with admiration – both for what she’s gone through and endured, and for what she’s done for others.


I highly recommend this book. And not only for fans of Amanda’s music. For anyone who has trouble asking for help when they need it.


Much thanks to Amanda and the publisher for an advanced copy through NetGalley.