July was a heavy manga month, but I mixed it up with a variety of full-length novels (one of them written by a fictional character!). I've also decided to call out when I have an ebook copy of something - I'd already been calling out audiobooks, and I think it will be interesting to see how many books I read are purely digital versions. This month held one. As always, check out GoodReads for other books I've read, books I own, books I want to read, etc. If you want to friend me, send me a message saying you read this blog! I'm also always open to book suggestions/recommendations.
The Dead Zone by Stephen King - 3 stars. Ok, it's official - I'm just not a Stephen King fan. The premise of this book was great - a man who can touch things and see their future, but at a cost - but I just wasn't held by the story. In fact, the end felt really flat to me. I wasn't expecting a happily-ever-after by any means, but the entire story felt like I had just read an overly-long magazine article, with no satisfying conclusion. I may pick up a more recent King novel and see how well I like it, but on the other hand, there are plenty of books out there that I know I will like more. I do have an audiobook copy of 11/22/63 so I will at least give that a go.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 5 stars. An intense addition to the HP series. Harry gets on my nerves at some points, but he's also a 15-year-old boy, so I guess that's to be expected. :) I love hating Umbridge. And the ending is just fantastic.
Black Butler, vol. 2 by Yana Toboso - 4 stars. In the Black Butler volumes of this month, we solve the Jack the Ripper case, gain a rather annoying character (who thankfully grows up a bit before too long), enter a curry contest (that was entertaining, but not exactly riveting), and finally get some more peeks into the dysfunctional relationship between Ciel and Sebastian. Also, Ciel has to masquerade as a girl, which is hilarious. Overall the series is solid and the main characters are intriguing - I think the biggest block I'm hitting right now is that I'm too used to Shonen-style manga, and Black Butler definitely isn't that. The art is absolutely beautiful!
Black Butler, vol. 3 by Yana Toboso - 4 stars.
Black Butler, vol. 4 by Yana Toboso - 3 stars.
Black Butler, vol. 5 by Yana Toboso - 4 stars.
Song in the Dark by P. N. Elrod - 5 stars. This book blew me away. After surviving a particularly gruesome experience at the end of the last book, Jack is now reeling from what happened and what he did to survive. His mind is fractured and he's terrified of himself and of staying close to anyone, not knowing what he might do. Charles and Bobbi, the two people most important to Jack, work extra hard to help Jack work through his trauma, but the strain is higher than ever. On top of that, Jack's other friend Gordy is still out of commission and Jack is running Gordy's mob until further notice - yet another stresser put on Jack, and Jack's relationship with Bobbi. Things Jack has come to take for granted ever since waking up as a vampire are twisted and broken... and with Jack feeling more cornered and horrified than ever, there's no bigger threat than leaving him alone. Some damage can't be undone, even for a vampire...
Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas - 4 stars. This was an advanced reader's copy I received from the publisher (William Morrow). Of course by the time I'm writing this, the book has already been out, but that just means you can go read it. (I should note that I don't receive any kind of incentive or compensation from anyone for any of the ARCs I review.) Anyway- this book was far outside the kind of novels I typically read, but I found it rather enjoyable even so. The main character (Sophie, an adopted young woman) travels to a small town at the request of a dying old man to hear his last words, but he dies before telling her. She then discovers that he left her something in his will - which is odd, since she's never met the man before in her life. She soon figures out that he knew something about her birth mother, but has no idea what. From then on, she's on the hunt for answers- both about her adoption and the murders that have started popping up in town. Add a heavy helping of romantic interest and you have Something About Sophie. It was definitely more about family and romance than murder mystery, but if that's the genre you love, this book will be a good edition to your library. The one thing that stood out as bothersome to me was how quickly Sophie went from "I know I'm adopted, but that's fine. My parents love me and I don't need to find my birth parents- I must have been made from love, and that's all I need or want to know" to "Everything MUST be about my birth mother and I MUST find out everything!"
I'm not adopted, so I can't say I have first-hand experience with this. There are a few people close to me who are adopted, and I haven't ever noticed this kind of instant shift in their thought process. I'm thinking Sophie was really trying to convince herself that she didn't want to know about the people who gave her up, and when she had a lead, she stopped trying to bury her feelings. Either that, or that part just got too rushed when McComas was writing it.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - 2 stars. I waited a while to write this review, and I'm still not sure how I feel about the book. Amy is a sociopath and Nick is an asshole; Go is the only "good guy" and I wasn't terribly convinced by her, either. I wish we could have met Nick's mother, but the only view of her we get is from Amy's diary. These people are very disturbed. There's no happy relationship here. Amy's parents seem creepily engrossed in each other, to the extent that they don't realize what's going on in the rest of life. Nick uses Go, who takes it like always because she's his twin sister and that's what family should do, right? Nick uses ... whatever-her-name-was because he's angry and horny and wants to be in charge of something (come on, man, I lost my job to the stupid internet because Real Writers won't make the transition over from printed to digital information). Nick and his father despise each other. Nick and Amy... there aren't even words for how f***ed up they are with each other. Amy uses Desi, Nick, and every single person on the planet Because She Can. Seriously. Structurally, this wasn't surprising, either. I did actually enjoy having the unreliable narrators, because there just aren't a ton of books out there that tell stories that way. But the "big surprise" was no surprise to me - I was just glad we'd officially acknowledged it. Really the most annoying thing to me was how casual Nick was about his cheating. And yes, there was a part of me that wanted the darker thoughts of Nick's to actually come true, because then I wouldn't have to keep hearing about them. I have no idea what emotion this book was trying to evoke. I got disgust, frustration, and impatience. And after reading more about Flynn herself and her motivation for writing this, I have no intention of reading anything else by her. Or seeing the movie of Gone Girl. Something this nasty doesn't need visualization. Hey, I think I figured out how I feel about Gone Girl now... I can't remember a single part I actually liked for its own sake.
Heat Wave by Richard Castle - 4 stars. This really felt like it was written by Richard Castle (who, if you don't know, is a fictional character who stars the ABC show "Castle"). It was like a peek at an extra episode of the TV show - which, since I love the show, I thoroughly enjoyed. I was a tad disappointed when the author used a bizarre phrase to describe something, only to use it again one paragraph later (things like that pull me right out of the story). But Nikki was fun and Rook was amusing, and the mystery was good. For a fictional author, Castle did a good job. :)
Naruto, vol. 11: Impassioned Efforts by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars. Lots of Naruto this month! Intense battles, old enemies clash and new enemies arrive, the Will of Fire ignites in the hearts of the new Konoha shinobi. The legendary Sannin are together again. Students learn fantastic new justu. Akatsuki arrive and bring torture - a teacher falls. Orochimaru ensnares the Third and the Shinigami comes for them both... I've watched the anime a few times and even knowing how some things turn out doesn't take away from the excitement in each volume!
Naruto, vol. 12: The Great Flight by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Naruto, vol. 13: The Chunin Exam, Concluded...!! by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Naruto, vol. 14: Hokage vs. Hokage!! by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Naruto, vol. 15: Naruto's Ninja Handbook by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Naruto, vol. 16: Eulogy by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Naruto, vol. 17: Itachi's Power by Masashi Kishimoto - 4 stars.
Naruto, vol. 18: Tsunade's Choice by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Naruto, vol. 19: Successor by Masashi Kishimoto - 5 stars.
Death's Hand (ebook) by S. M. Reine - 4 stars. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this book was. There was quite a bit of tension and no clear-cut "I am the good guy" which was really interesting. There are two parallel story lines going on, split across chapters - one in the past, and one in the present - both involving the same characters. It would have been much easier to follow this with a hard copy of the book, but I own a Kindle edition and I sometimes got confused as to "when" I was. But the two story lines did an excellent job of both increasing the tension and interest as well as showing why, in the present, the main characters (Elise and James) do what they do. I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy!
Last post's quote was "Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker?" which is from Sabriel by Garth Nix. I adore the entire Abhorsen trilogy (of which Sabriel is the first). I have a boxed set and have read them so many times I've cracked the spines in several places. I think I may upgrade to nice hardcover editions soon. My book-buying process usually is to purchase a paperback copy (unless it's one in a series of which I already own multiple others in hardcover), and if I end up reading it so much that the paperback copy falls apart, replace it with a nice hardcover that can withstand multiple readings. And being stuffed into suitcases and purses.
For your guessing pleasure, the next quote is, "I make cherries jubilee and I volunteer for dragons and I conjugate Latin verbs - or at least I would if anyone would let me!"