Books of October and November

It's two months in one! October was a light reading month for me, unfortunately, but I at least got a good mix of stuff in. November was a bit better, helped out by having some real vacation time (yay Thanksgiving!). I'm still scarily far from my overall goal, needing to read about 100 more books yet this year and only having a few weeks left. My current plan is to catch up on a lot of manga I'd been setting aside in favor of vampire books and mystery novels, and to listen to more audiobooks at work (and therefore less music).

And now for the book reviews. Enjoy. :)

The Warning by Katherine Applegate - 3 stars. I like this book well enough, and there were certain parts that definitely spiced it up. For one thing, two of the main characters get into some serious crap, and Jake (the narrator) isn't convinced they can get out in time. As readers, we know the two will be all right because 1. the series continues and 2. I don't know of a children's book that kills off two main characters. But it was funny and good. Must stop the aliens!

The Hunger Games (audiobook) by Suzanne Collins - 5 stars. I had read the book before (the whole trilogy, actually) but this was the first time listening to the audiobook, and I think that made me like the story even more. I did see the movie when it came out, so it was interesting to listen to the book and have images from the movie kind of playing along in the background of my brain. I don't plan to re-read the rest of the series because books 2 and 3 were nowhere near as good as this one, but I may end up re-listening to this sometime. Collins gave her characters good depth and didn't make any of them perfect - except maybe Rue, who is just awesome. I loved reading Katniss as the heroine because, in a lot of ways, she breaks the YA rules (don't get me wrong. I read a lot of YA, especially ones with female stars, but there are just certain traits that carry over to nearly every character. Why? Probably to cater to the stereotypes, but seriously, be creative!) ... Anyway, Katniss. She doesn't go for the insta-love that could have easily happened - actually, when she finds out about it, she gets pissed. She doesn't spend all her time in the hellish Games pining over Gale, either. She's scared, worried for her family and if they will survive without her hunting skills, brave, independent, stubborn, and sometimes annoying. She's the type of person I definitely don't want my children to be, but someone that they should be like.

Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk - 0 stars. Disclaimer: I did not finish this book, I hated it so much.I expected a good horror/thriller - nope.

This book is nasty in multiple ways. 1. The main plot should have been amazing - take a bunch of writers and throw them in a "vacation home" for three months, and whoever is still alive at the end gets to go home. Instead, what we get is a bunch of twisted, perverted people all trying to show that they're the best, to the point of murdering other people. 2. The little short stories written by the various characters were gross and perverted. I have never been so happy to not read a book. Ew.

Sandry's Book (audiobook) by Tamora Pierce - 4 stars. I have read this book (and this whole quartet) at least a dozen times. I don't remember how old I was when I first found them, but I've kept them ever since and the same copies are sitting on my shelves right now - looking very worn and very well-read. The book stars four young people, around age 12, who are brought from the edges of life and given a home in a temple community. They learn that they are natural mages, and a lot of this book is dedicated to exploring what that means to each of the kids and how they must deal with it. Listening to it as an audiobook for the first time was an awesome experience, both because of all the memories I have attached to this book and because it was recorded with full cast audio. Going into the book knowing that there are more to come will make reading it more pleasant (especially the slow chunk at the beginning), but the end still feels satisfying and stands on its own. The book is written in third person, which is nice because even though there's more of a focus on Sandry than the other three, we still get to see the others shine. Briar is my favorite. :)

Tris's Book (audiobook) by Tamora Pierce - 4 stars. I never used to like this book as much as the others in the series, but it's grown on me over time. Shriek still annoyed me, but it was a cool way to see the softer side of Tris. The four are still recovering - and helping their home of Winding Circle recover - from the earthquakes in the previous book when pirates attack the port. This book doesn't have the slowness of the first one and doesn't spend a lot of time recapping what happened - just enough to let you know the setting, and then we're off into a darker plot of attack, betrayal, and murder. Tris learns that sometimes, good intentions aren't enough to make up for bad actions.

Daja's Book (audiobook) by Tamora Pierce - 5 stars. Lots to dive into with this book! Daja is/was a Trader, but her bad luck (being the sole survivor of a shipwreck) left her thrown out of her Trader heritage and marked as outcast, scum, non-existent. Living at Winding Circle, learning magic and smithing, she almost didn't care, but now that she and her friends are traveling and a Trader caravan stops by, Daja must deal with the stigma all over again. Seeing the other side of Trader life was really cool. There were two other things that earned this book the extra star: Sandry's mapping, and the end of the book.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - 5 stars. What a strange book. It stars Seraphina, a half-human, half-dragon who must keep her identity a secret or else face total banishment and possibly execution. Only her father and her long-time mentor know the truth, and it's getting harder and harder to hide.

Honestly, I don't know exactly what made me like the book so much. The pacing was slow but not boring. There was a ton of world-building going on, and the writing was descriptive, interesting, and calm. It felt like a very long read but I thoroughly enjoyed it; the pacing actually felt like it was matching the mindset of the dragons in general. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it was neat anyway. I hope the next book comes out soon; this one left some loose ends and I'm curious to see what happens.

Vampire Knight, vol. 12-18 by Matsuri Hino - 4 stars. Oops. Having borrowed all of these from the library, I can't remember what happens in each specific volume. :( But I do know that volume 12 starts the story 1 year after volume 11. For the most part, I still enjoyed the series, but there were times when I wanted to strangle Yuki a little bit (grow a backbone, girl!) and punch Zero and Kaname (boys...). The art is amazing, but since it's all printed in black and white, I had a tough time figuring out exactly what was going on in the last volume, which made deciphering the ending a bit difficult. I was going to watch the anime to figure it out, as it follows the story of the manga pretty faithfully, but then I discovered that the anime only goes through volume 11 - so that wouldn't work. (I might still watch it anyway because I am addicted to anime.) All in all, it was a fun series with an interesting plot and a few twists I didn't see coming (along with a bunch that I did), and since I had to make an educated guess at the ending, I liked it. If I'm wrong, then I'm not happy. But if I never read the wikipedia article about it, then I guess I'll always be right in my own little world. :)

The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison - 4 stars. I took too much time between this one and the first one, so I was pretty lost at first. I remembered the one super-important thing that had happened, but there were lots of other references that I totally missed and had to go back to later. That said, I liked this book. Rachel (the star) tries to get back to normal life after the events of the first book, but that isn't exactly easy when you're a witch with a slightly out-of-control vampire for a roommate and a demon hunting your blood. Jenks, her pixie partner, is as awesome as ever, and I laughed out loud when Rachel tries to turn a fish into her familiar. The writing felt more coherent in this book than in the first, and certain characters (Nick and Ivy, obviously, but also some of the secondary characters) get a good fleshing-out.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett - 3 stars. I don't know what happened here. I wanted to love this book. Everything I've ever heard about the Discworld series has been amazing and proclaims it to be the funniest, most creative writing of all time. But I just couldn't stay in the story. It was amusing and had its powerful moments, but it was just so easy to put down. I think I will still read the second book in the series - maybe it will get better over time. But I don't even remember the main character's name, and barely remember what he was supposed to be doing. I don't even remember the end of the book. I do remember the sentient luggage, though. It reminded me of a creepier Monster Book of Monsters from Harry Potter and was probably my favorite character.

Second Shift: Order by Hugh Howey - 4 stars. The Wool saga continues, and it is spectacular. Seeing the first silos go down, and watching the struggle from a different perspective, was intense. Like everything, there's never just one side. No one is 100% right or wrong. Mission was a great character to follow and Donald's pieces were powerful and sad (which was good, because I didn't really like him much as a character).

Third Shift: Pact by Hugh Howey - 5 stars. Wrap-up to the Shift omnibus, and probably my favorite of the three. Solo's history we knew from Wool, but experiencing it made it all so much more intense - I love Shadow. The Big Reveal about the silos was mean (in a good way) - could no one figure out a better solution? I'm excited for Dust (the final book in the series) to see what happens to this massively effed-up world.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - 4 stars. This is a sci-fi book about people who can only see certain parts of the color spectrum, and how their entire society is based off of how powerful your eyes are. It's the first book in the series, and I desperately wish the second one were written because the ending of this one was cruel. What will Eddie do now that he knows what he knows? What will happen to Jane? There's not a good way for me to even summarize the story without spoilers, so you just need to go read it yourself. Just please, Please, don't confuse it with 50 Shades of Gray. Totally different book.

Bagels, Dirty Limericks, and Martinis: The Badass Guide to Writing Your First Book by Lisa Bledsoe and Sonja Foust - 3.5 stars. Fun little book about writing books. Very conversational style (thank goodness it's not textbook or soapbox style or I probably would have chucked it out the window). Very humorous. And even though it focused more on non-fiction, there were some really good tips for fiction writers, too. Also, the dirty limericks are great. The best part is that the authors tell you that no matter how many books about writing you read, the only thing that will make you a better writer is to write.

Wizard's First Rule (audiobook) by Terry Goodkind - 4 stars. I've read this book a few times, but the audiobook was fun. I think I might be slowly getting addicted to audiobooks in general. This is the first book in Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, and it is absolutely a high/epic fantasy story. I'm not going to write paragraphs here to summarize the story - the book is way too long for that. But I will say that Richard (the star, known as the Seeker) is a lot of fun. I like that he's not a perfect hero. He has a temper (actually, he earns the nickname Richard-with-the-temper from one village he visits) and he often jumps to conclusions (not always the right ones) before he stops himself and sorts it out rationally. There is a bit of insta-love when he meets Kahlan (which is pronounced KAY-lin but which I did not know for years until my dad laughed at me and then corrected me when I said Kah-LAHN), but honestly, that didn't bother me. With stories like this, when you already know the hero, the female love interest is going to be pretty obvious pretty quickly, so I'm glad I didn't have to spend time reading about Richard's internal debate over whether he liked Kahlan or not.

There is a Lot going on in this book, and not all of it is nice. Some of it is gruesome, and some of it is gross. Don't read this to your kids, and be prepared for a seriously twisted Bad Dude. Evil is nasty.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - 5 stars. I forgot how much I loved Gaiman's writing until I picked this up. Set in London, it's the story of how one kind act from star Richard Mayhew throws him into a world he never knew existed, and puts him on a quest to help the strange girl named Door and get back to his home in real London. Solve the mystery, evade the bad guys, save the day, and mind the gap.

Rest in Pieces by Rita Mae Brown - 3 stars. The second of the Mrs. Murphy mysteries, where the pets are the stars and try to push their humans into solving the murder mystery that's happening in their little town. It's fun, it's funny, and I didn't know who was the murderer 90 pages before any of the characters. Yay! It's also pushing a bit of a feminist agenda, which annoyed me, but at least it was toned down from the first one. There's a place for that, but I don't think the middle of a "cozy mystery" novel is it.

Secret Vampire by L. J. Smith - 4 stars. "Don't judge a book by its cover" is definitely true here. Luckily, I was reading the first trilogy omnibus, so I didn't see the frighteningly bad cover art for this particular book until I went to add it to my Read list on Goodreads. Yikes. Other than that, this book was exactly as promised: YA paranormal romance. Not my favorite stuff, but it was fun and I liked Poppy (the heroine). She felt real and reacted normally (meaning, the way you would expect a person to react) to the intensity and insanity of things in her life: she freaks out and doesn't know how to deal with the news that she has terminal cancer (not a spoiler; you know about it in the first chapter); she clings to her brother and her family when she realizes that she's really going to die; she looks to her long-time friend for support and gets pissed when he pulls the "I'm a vampire" line on her in the middle of her trying to deal with cancer. Actually, remembering that, it was pretty funny. The plot was lackluster and there was no real sense of build-up toward the end - it just sort of happened. But it was fun to read once.

Daughters of Darkness by L. J. Smith - 4 stars. Book two of the Night World series, and it has almost nothing to do with book one. The main characters are completely different, but there is one (Ash) who creates the link between the books. The overall theme of this series seems to be Nightworlders (the supernatural) finding their soulmates and dealing with the humans that keep getting tangled up in their lives (a big no-no for Nightworlders since the humans aren't supposed to know about them). Daughters of Darkness was cool in that we see a totally different side of Ash than Secret Vampire portrayed - even he didn't know it existed. :)

Spellbinder by L. J. Smith - 3.5 stars. Book three: now starring witches! Again we see Nightworlders finding soulmates and figuring out how to reconcile that against the "don't tell the humans" law. Thea, the heroine, was fun and spunky, although she was constantly pushed around by her cousin Blaise. Otherwise, more of the same from Smith. And still with the horrible cover art.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes - 5 stars. This book was tons of fun. So many funny parts I had to read out loud. Plus, the plot was quite dark for a YA book. The ending was very satisfying from a literary standpoint, but made me mad as a reader. I want there to be more of these books.

Trivia Corner:

“MS. THOMPSON, PLEASE KEEP YOUR FELINE OFF MY PROPERTY. IF I SEE IT AGAIN, I WILL EAT IT.” - This is from the first Mercy Thompson novel, Moon Called. This book, and this series, are amazing. I cannot recommend these highly enough for anyone who loves fantasy fiction/urban fantasy, werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, witches, fey, and general awesomeness. Mercy kicks ass.

Up next: "I like having my guts inside me, as opposed to having them smeared all over." "Yeah, guts should not see daylight."