Books of August

Busy, busy month for me this time! Family came to visit, and my sister decided to stay. (Ok, we already knew she was going to be moving here. Actually, that's one of the main reasons my family came to visit - to help my sister move into my spare bedroom.) It was hectic and exciting - and as excited as I was to get to see my sister more, I think my hubby was even more excited. Really! At work we're coming up to the end of our release cycle, which means ultimate crunch time for all of my deadlines to make sure everything is good to be released on time. Between those two major events, I sadly only got half of the books finished for the month that I should have. And, ultimately, a late review. But I did get the word out about the Help for the Haunted giveaway I'm hosting, which is perhaps more exciting. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Become informed and maybe win a book!)

And now, my story devourings for August.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips - 2.5 stars. I really wanted this to be more interesting. As a long-time fan of mythology (especially Greek), I was excited to read this book, but I realized quickly that it was not going to be anything superb. The various gods behaved like a bunch of whiny college frat boys; there weren't even any cool "god-power" moments because all the gods are losing their powers so they can't use them for fear they'll disappear. Athena had at least an inkling of what was really going on, but they turned the goddess of wisdom into the goddess of so-smart-I-can't-use-normal-words, so none of the rest of the gods understood what she was trying to say. Wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing, but apparently no one told Athena (or Phillips). The main mortal characters weren't exactly enthralling either. In fact, they were downright dumb. If I suddenly met a woman named Artemis who said her family members had names like Apollo and Zeus and Aphrodite, I would at the very least note that this family is Very Obsessed with Greek mythology. How can no one have put this together? Sigh.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear by Robert Kirkman - 1 star. This was just disturbing. And I mean that within the context of zombie-horror-survivalist storyline. Yes, I realize that when the world is infested with zombies, bad things happen. But The Thing that happened in this volume was so gross and so upsetting that I don't think I'll be continuing with the series. The Thing could still have happened in a slightly different way and I would have been ok with it. Not happy, certainly, but I would have understood. Again, zombies. But the way in which The Thing happened completely turned me off to the entire rest of the series.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 4 stars. The pensieve storytelling was really cool. And we finally learn something else about Voldemort besides how evil he is! I liked how Harry was actually not always right about his new book. (Yay!) In other news, I don't think I'm that sad that I can't Apparate. It doesn't sound pleasant.

The Road to Balinor by Mary Stanton - 3 stars. This is the first book for the children's series Unicorns of Balinor. I read them a lot as a kid and loved them all... but reading them as an adult I found some things that just made no sense at all. I will still love these books as a bunch of awesome childhood memories, but in fairness, I think there are better children's books out there. Example: If Chase is so special and important, why in the world did Anne and Frank lease him out? That makes those two the dumbest Balinor citizens in the history of ever. Also, they are incapable of subtlety of any kind. Either that or they have goldfish brains. That's the only explanation I can think of for their constant "milady" slip-ups.

Sunchaser's Quest by Mary Stanton - 3 stars. Book 2 of Unicorns of Balinor. I'm going to be honest - I'm not going to write up a unique review for all of the books in this series, because they are so short (which is fine for children's lit) and they all blended together immediately. Overall: Lori is annoying and dumb, with occasional moments of sincerity and redemption. Finn is fun. There were entire sections that made no sense at all (apparently the animals can't be carnivorous because that's evil?) and times where I just wanted to shake everyone and tell them to wake up and smell the obvious. Even taking into account that, as an adult, I can figure out what's going on in kid's books pretty easily. :) But, I still loved them as a kid, and I'm still keeping them.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles - 3 stars. Possibly 3.5. I liked the main character quite a bit. The book is 1st person POV and Sylvie has some really interesting insights. The flow of the story worked fairly well, once I got into the groove of the more conversational, flowing-thought narrative Sylvie often presented. I laughed at the Dot incident and have officially decided I will never name a child Penny because it is now entirely too creepy. Overall the book felt like it was trying to be a mystery while wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about Sylvie, which would have been great except that it didn’t quite deliver. Still, the ending was good – it was just something I literally could not have figured out based on the rest of the book, which defeats the “mystery” aspect, I think. I’d pin this as part coming-of-age, part thriller narrative.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (audiobook) by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale - 4.5 stars. The end of an era. It would have been so much better without the epilogue.

The Blood by D. J. MacHale - 2.5 stars. If this book had ended about halfway through, I would have given it 3 or possibly even 4 stars. But things just started springing up from nowhere. The entire series has been talking about the Morpheus Road and its three parts: the Light, the Black, and the Blood. And suddenly, this fourth piece shows up and is really where things are supposed to end? And why was the Black so... lacking? This was supposed to be the uber-scary, hellish place where the eternally evil literally lived and suffered forever, and the freakiest thing that I remember was the little prison cell where the other Big Bad was stuck - and that really only gave me the creeps because I'm claustrophobic, not because it was particularly scary. The Black was a big disappointment. Also, there was a fairly cheesy (but amusing) crossover nod to MacHale's other big series, Pendragon (of which I have read exactly one book and decided that was enough for me). I would still recommend the other two books in this series, but I don't know that I would bother reading this one. Actually, The Light (the first book) stands really well on its own anyway.

Valley of Fear by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

By Fire, By Moonlight by Mary Stanton - 2.5 stars. Lower rating because it takes Forever before the first challenge gets issued, and then the second one comes and goes in a matter of a few pages. When I read this one as a kid, I didn't even realize it had happened and I finished the book still waiting for the second challenge.

Search for the Star by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

Grim Tuesday (audiobook) by Garth Nix - 3 stars. The second installment of the Keys to the Kingdom series. It was much more enjoyable than book 1. I don't know if that's because the backstory is out of the way, or if it was the altered experience of listening to the audiobook vs. reading the printed copy, or what, but I've decided to continue the series in audiobook format. Suzie and Leaf are both extremely cool, and I hope Arthur figures that out pretty soon.

Secrets of the Scepter by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

Night of the Shifter's Moon by Mary Stanton - 3 stars.

Shadows Over Balinor by Mary Stanton - 2.5 stars. Even reading this the first time when I was little, I was mad at the ultimate showdown. The entire series was building up to this - it should have been awesome! But instead Entia gets whipped in a paragraph and suddenly everything is over. Uh, what? I will forgive the very end (where they Still haven't found Ari's family) since I think there was supposed to be one more book in the series that never got published. :(

Trivia Corner:

"The building was on fire and it wasn't my fault." - This is the opening line of Blood Rites, Book Six of the Dresden Files. I love this series, mainly because of all the awesome situations like this. If you haven't read it, please go do so and spread the word! :)

New quote: "Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas all ran away and hid from one little Did."