Books of September

I actually managed to read more than 30 books this month! That means I'm catching up to my goal- too bad there's only 3 months left in the year... But that just means I have to read more and sleep less, I guess. A willing substitution. :) Keep an eye out for more interim posts of upcoming books; my stack is growing faster than I can read, but I might have some guest writers do some reviews.

And speaking of reviews...

Vampire Knight, vol. 2 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars. (This is a review for all the volumes of Vampire Knight I read this month.) This series is a little predictable, a bit strange, and a lot beautiful. The artwork is just incredible. I wish I could see some of the big pieces in color (that would also help distinguish some of the characters). There's one plot twist that majorly turns the rest of the series' path, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. And it was also strange to learn about the specific nature of vampires' relationships (especially Kaname's parents'), but it's easy enough to go with it when you remember that vampires don't have to follow human laws and ideas. There's also a mounting tension among the three or four major groups (I can't tell exactly how many there are because they keep shifting alliances) and the final showdown should be good. I'm excited to read the last of the series, and sad to know it's coming to an end.

Vampire Knight, vol. 3 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 4 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 5 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 6 by Matsuri Hino - 5 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 7 by Matsuri Hino - 5 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 8 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 9 by Matsuri Hino - 5 stars.

Vampire Knight, vol. 10 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars.

The Secret by Katherine Applegate - 3 stars. Cassie narrates this story. I've never had a problem with her before, but I was surprised by how "Black and White" Applegate made her. Example: Cassie is pro-nature in all ways, is very conscious of helping protect animals to return them to the wild and let them live the way nature intended, and yet she refuses to accept that there are predators in the natural world that need to kill and eat other creatures to survive. It gets mean when she rounds on Tobias for killing something (I think a baby possum?) for dinner. He's a hawk. Hawks do that. That said, the B&W issue gets addressed at by the end of the book (like the other installments of this series, we get a little life lesson or new understanding in each one), and Cassie realizes that nature isn't always as pretty and fluffy as she might want it to be, but she can't and shouldn't change it. Sometimes, it's ok to be a predator. She even apologizes to Tobias (Yay!). Also, important lesson: don't mess with skunks.

The Android by Katherine Applegate - 3 stars. This one blindsided me a bit. Definitely not my favorite in the series. I've got nothing against androids or robots in a sci-fi book, of course, but the thought that all the dogs on earth are soul-holders for some super-advanced peaceful race was too much for me. Dogs are fun and friendly, yes, but have you ever seen an angry dog? They aren't messing around. If this peaceful, we-evolved-so-much-we-forgot-how-to-fight race is now living as dogs, then someone explain to me how dogs can still be angry and get into fights. Also, it's a little creepy. Especially since I own a dog - I don't want to suddenly be scritching the long-lost soul remnant of an ancient race. I just want to pet my dog. Erek, the android featured in this story, is very cool, and shows the Animorphs the other side of fighting. The group was having nightmares about morphing - Erek reminds them that fighting and killing can be even worse. And if you're not prepared for it, you can lose something a lot more precious than a few hours' sleep.

The Forgotten by Katherine Applegate - 3 stars. This book was just weird. I totally approve of the parallel-dimension thing (what sci-fi lover would be upset about that?) but I was confused about how much of our dimension actually happened. It's too bad They didn't get to keep the jungle morphs, but since they reworked it so that particular dimensional piece of time didn't actually happen, I suppose it makes sense. Otherwise, not much goes on in this book.

The Reaction by Katherine Applegate - 4 stars. This was hilarious. But it does make me a little afraid of sneezing - who knows if I'll suddenly find myself face-to-face with an alligator- er, crocodile? :) I was also entertained by the throwback to Normal Life in the form of Cassie's and Rachel's crush on a pop star, and the boys' disapproval and rebuttal with Baywatch. This book was littered with dated references, but they all still worked, which just made it even funnier. I actually wonder if I would have caught them all if I'd read this as a kid.

The Change by Katherine Applegate - 5 stars. There's something different about Tobias in this book. And we get a whole new perspective on Hork-Bajir. That's pretty much it for this book, but the newness of both of these things was a nice change from the Animorph norm scraped the last star. Plus, I like Tobias - even if other people particularly dislike him in this book.

The Unknown by Katherine Applegate - 4 stars. Very humorous edition to the Animorphs. I love the horse race the most, but the revelation of what the Yeerks are studying so diligently is a close second. The narrator is Cassie this time, and I think she's stepped up to the Animorph plate, finally.

The Escape by Katherine Applegate - 4 stars. I like Marco more and more with every book he narrates. This one was much more serious than I expected, having Marco as a narrator, and it made a good contrast to the previous book's hilarity. It brings the creepiness of morphing across well, as well as the intensity of the war these kids are fighting and what they have to be able to deal with in order to survive.

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen - 3 stars. Someone compared this to Gone Girl - I suppose I can see it, but this is so much more enjoyable than Gone Girl.  For one thing, Joey felt like an actual person. She was upset when her craptastic husband tried to murder her by tossing her over the side of a cruise ship on their anniversary, and actually worked through the emotional overload that kind of thing would probably trigger. She doesn't always make good decisions, but she doesn't go ape-shit and try to murder Chaz (the craptastic husband) either. She does get a little payback by messing with his head, "haunting" him and watching him freak out when he thinks someone has figured out he's the one who murdered his wife (instead of having it be an accident like he claimed). Chaz is a monumental sleaze and an idiot. I enjoyed hating him. My biggest question about him was really about Joey, and that was how they ever got married in the first place - Chaz' total lack of brains should have been obvious with a five-minute conversation. As should his sleaziness. I did like Tool, first for comic relief and later because he was the one with the most actual character development, but I was disappointed by what happened with Duane's cross. I had hoped he would have been better than that. I read this for a book club and, while I enjoyed it better than some others we've read, I seriously doubt I'll be looking for another Hiaasen novel. Just too many stock characters and meh-ish plot. It scrapes 3 stars for its humor and utter strangenes, and the fact that a triple murderer ends up with only one, wrong, body.

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot - 5 stars. I’ve never read a book by Cabot before, but getting into this one (#5) was surprisingly easy. She does a great job of hooking new readers and giving just enough backstory to the characters so that I don’t feel lost or like I’m missing something crucial that happened in a previous installment, and she does so without infodumping. That said, I think veteran Heather Wells followers would get quite a bit out of the developments in this book as well. I tend to call books like this fun fluff, because it’s entertaining and worth a read, but doesn’t require much brainpower and really, there’s not a lot going on. Yes, there’s a murder mystery (which I gather is common for Heather at this point), but it’s not scary or a thriller or, really, intense in any way. Which makes this book perfect for a light read. For anyone afraid of getting chick-lit cooties, I promise there is no creepy-style “romance” here (or I as well would be fleeing). It’s a fun mix of a light whodunit with a dash of romantic comedy.

First Shift: Legacy by Hugh Howey (ebook) - 4 stars. (First book in a trilogy.) This is cool. We get to see the history of the silos' construction and the Old Time. Even though the timeline is before Wool, I definitely recommend reading them in publication order (Wool, Shift, and then Dust.) Sadly there's not a lot I can saw without giving away massive spoilers, so you'll have to just hunt them down and read Howey's stuff for yourself!

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor - 3 stars. Maybe 2.5 stars. I loved the first book in this series so much, so I was very excited to read this one. Unfortunately, it didn't hold up. There just wasn't enough excitement, or pull, or... something. It was easy to put down and forget about. Molly annoyed me and I think I was supposed to be sympathetic toward her. Alyss and Dodge still haven't manned up (or barely have, depending on how you look at it) and Redd's side of things is never explained to my satisfaction. I guess we'll see what the next book brings.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (audiobook) - 5 stars. I've loved these books since I was little, but this was my first time listening to the audiobook. Once I got over the initial depression that Jim Dale would not be telling me a story, I really enjoyed it. It has full cast audio and the narrator is very good. It makes me think of when my sister and I were little and we made our own audiobook of this whole series. The main character, Cimorene, is a very improper princess because she hates all things lady-like. When she's trapped in an engagement to a brainless prince, she runs away and volunteers to work for a dragon named Kazul. Her adventures thereafter are amazing and nothing that a proper princess would ever do: she reads Latin and sorts Kazul's library, keeps track of the treasure and fights off a djinn when one escapes its jar, finally locates some powdered hens' teeth to cast a fireproofing spell, meets a witch and some wizards and a stone prince, and helps uncover a conspiracy surrounding the King of the Dragons. It's awesome - read these books now.

MachoPoni by Lotus Rose (ebook) - 1 star. Yep, you read the title correctly. This is a parody of My Little Pony, along with a mix of other random things (like the Kool-Aid Man). I honestly don't even know what to say about this. I'm pretty certain part of my brain is hiding in a corner, shivering and twitching now. It did qualify for my "Worst Books Ever" search, so that's good. The really surprising thing was after the book was over, and I was reading the "About the Author" section - I think that was even stranger than the actual story. Even more disturbing is the knowledge that there are more books in this series. No, I will not be reading them.

Darkness Before Dawn by J. A. London - 2.5 stars, maybe 3. Refreshing bit of YA paranormal writing for the first half, followed by depressingly predictable ending. I was talking about this book with my hubby when I hit the halfway point, giving my predictions, and was frankly annoyed when I called every single one of them. What happened to Michael? The narrator (cleverly named Dawn) spends a lot of time talking about Michael (which makes sense, as they have been a couple for a long time) and suddenly, near the end, they have one squabble and then he just disappears into smoke or something. When you live in a walled-in city in a post-apocalyptic world where humans and vampires have at best an uneasy peace, you had better have more sense than Dawn and company. At least it was a quick read. The very, very end makes me want to find the next book for the first chapter so I know what happens, but the story wasn't nearly compelling enough (or original enough - could there be any more "THIS MIGHT BE FORESHADOWING" signs?) to send me after the rest of the story.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (audiobook) - 4 stars. I can't remember who narrates this right now, but she did a great job. This book is the first of many set in the Tortall universe, and Pierce does a good job of getting you familiar to the land and laws without chapters and chapters of setup. Alanna doesn't want to be sent off to the convent to become a proper lady, so she trades places with her twin brother: she to train at the palace to become a knight, and he to go to the convent to study magic and become a sorcerer. "Alan" is easily the smallest but she works hard to prove her worth and gains the friendship of the other pages and squires - and even Prince Jonathan. Then she must prove herself again when a magical sickness threatens her friends' lives, and from then on keeps a watch out for the enemy of her king and kingdom. It's definitely one of a series, but it holds its own.

Angelfall by Susan Ee (ebook) - 4 stars, maybe 5. I picked this up on a whim for free and I'm now waiting rather impatiently for the second book to be released. With a title like Angelfall and a classification of YA Paranormal, I was expecting a stock story about a fallen angel who breaks the rules and falls in love with the tragic heroine, and then the two of them must fight everyone on the planet to stay together. NOPE. The main character, Penryn, is doing her best in a post-apocalyptic world, torn to pieces by the warring angels who have used Earth as their battlefield. She's trying to take care of her clinically insane mother and her wheelchair-bound younger sister, all while dodging the fighting angels and the nasty gangs of human scavengers. When her sister gets kidnapped by the angels for reasons unknown, Penryn will do anything to get her back - including taking a wounded angel hostage. There's no forced, crappy romance as the story evolves. I would argue friendship, yes, but it didn't feel like there were any wistful if-only-we-weren't-star-crossed moments. This was a great find and blew away my expectations.(Although considering I expected it to be one of the millions of stock YA Paranormal boring books that would merit maybe 2 stars, that wasn't hard. Still, good book.)

Bleach All Colour but the Black by Tite Kubo - 5 stars. An art book filled with color prints done by Kubo. If you appreciate art, or Bleach, get this and love it.

Throw a Tomato by Jim Erskine - 5 stars. A fun, mean little book. The tag says it all: "Throw a Tomato, and 151 other ways to be mean and nasty." It feeds the little evilness inside of us. :)

Bleach SOULs. Official Character Book by Tite Kubo - 5 stars. Another Bleach sidekick. This book is also heavy on the art, but not in color - it's a massive manga collection of sidestories and bonus content. For anyone who's interested in the Bleach world, this has a slew of extra info and some really neat mini-arcs.

Color Bleach+: The Bleach Official Bootleg by Tite Kubo - 5 stars. More Bleach, more stories, more art, more awesome.

Smitten: A Kitten's Guide to Happiness by Rachel Hale - 5 stars. This is a photographic art book that features kittens (if you couldn't figure that out, well...) Anyway, kittens make me happy. I keep it at work for the crazy days. One came up, the book got read (and many imaginary kittens were cuddled). Also, if you're more of a puppy-lover, there's a puppy counterpart called Snog: A Puppy's Guide to Love.



Trivia Corner:

“Raise him well, because his power will eventually be mine.” - This is a quote from Bleach. Specifically, Hollow Ichigo to Zangetsu, talking about Ichigo.

Next up: “Jesus!" Luke exclaimed. "Actually, it's just me," said Simon. "Although I've been told the resemblance is startling.”