Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life

History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw this book at Barnes & Noble on a feature table years ago and added it to my TBR shelf. I finally picked up a copy and got into the sad headspace of grief, loss, and the unthinkable end of suicide.

I am a generally content person. I have a good life. I am good at looking at the glass and finding it half full, and not worrying how it will be refilled (it will, I just take it on faith). So suicide confuses me. I want to better understand how someone can see that not only as an option, but THE option. The way out. I really want to understand the darkness so I can possibly help others. Books like this one give me a partial glimpse into a different perspective. Plus, and if you know me at all you know how true this is, I love a good cry.

I wish I could help everyone who has ever contemplated suicide see how life is precious and precarious enough without ending it early. And that you are all loved. But I can't, so instead I seek to better understand. Much like the survivors left behind, some questions can never be answered. 3 stars.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We return to Attolia, but this time with less Gen, less Irene, and more Sophos. And Helen, who seems to be more understandable and likable in this one.

Sophos, who you might remember from The Thief, has grown up. We get glimpses of who he is becoming as he loses everything, hits rock bottom, and rises up, like a king should. And along the way we get a few glimpses of Gen and Irene, who I dearly love, and the continuing evolution of Sophos and Helen, who we were teased about from the end of book 1.

Turner's writing style takes me a while to settle into for some reason. I enjoy her stories and her characters, but they are a bit of slow burn for me. Once I get back into the groove, however, I speed right along and enjoy the journey.

Still love book 3 best, but this was a solid three star read. Can't wait until book 5 next year!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: First Lord's Fury

First Lord's Fury First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And we come to the end of our epic journey with Tavi and the rest of Alera. It was a wild ride, and I'm sad once again that it is over. Don't worry, Tavi, I'll be back again in a few months to take the trip with you all over again.

If you are reading this review and you haven't read the other books in the series, stop here. Seriously. Go pick up a copy of Furies of Calderon and grow up with Tavi. If, however, you are done with the series, you can keep reading my thoughts. This book is long and full of details. You are going to learn more about the Canim, not enough about the Icemen, and way too much about the Vord Queen, who I find tedious. I mean, I get that she is the ultimate big bad, but I find her annoying.You get the ending you want for most of the characters, and are left wanting more for others. Just like life, I suppose.

Romance, action, survival, politics, and war. Jim Butcher, can we be best friends? My favorite series of all time. 4 stars for this book and the series overall.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, that was interesting. Not overly fun, but a decent read. Someone who loves Laura? Check. Someone who has read the books a hundred times? Check. Someone who wants to uncover the history behind the books? Check. Sounds like me. She even churns butter.

I would be interested in taking the same trip, but now I don't necessarily feel I need to. Thanks, Wendy! If you love the Little House books, you will probably find this a decent read. 3 stars.

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Review: The Ask and the Answer

The Ask and the Answer The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Patrick Ness, we might have reached the end of the road together. I still haven't forgiven you for Manchee. And I am left caring less and less about Todd and the Mayor and they may have to carry on without me. I am going to blame the audio's narration for Todd. The dialogue and vernacular sucked in a listening format. Viola was good, though.

First of all, I don't love books that have scenes of cruelty. I know I seem like an immovable rock without feelings, but inside I am a marshmallow who loves puppies, sunshine, and all things good. The scenes with Davy, Todd and the Spackle almost lost me. I was pulling for Spackle 1017 to rise up and end this nonsense.

The next book should be interesting, and I admit wanting to know more about Viola's people and the origins, but it will be quite a while before I decide to return. No promises. We'll see. 3 stars because I am weird and most people love this series.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: These Happy Golden Years

These Happy Golden Years These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Strap in, folks. This might be a long one, since it's my favorite book in the series.

We begin our story once again in the cold winter of the Dakota Territories. Laura has received her teaching certificate and begins teaching school to keep Mary in college. She dreads teaching, she doesn't want to leave home, but she pulls herself up by her bootstraps and puts on a brave face. The school is 12 long, cold miles from home. She's staying with the school board president's family, run by his awful wife who hates it out West. It's a long two months in the freezing cold, and the only way she stays sane is because of the wonderful Almanzo Wilder. He drives out there, regardless of the weather, and brings her home to her family. Every. Single. Weekend. Through blizzards and awkward conversations. Almanzo must have really loved her, because she is ridiculous sometimes and tells him she won't ride with him after she is back home. What? Girl, you are crazy. But he's the best, and continues to make sure she gets home safely. I have a real thing for strapping young farm boys who are good with horses and very kind and brave. Almanzo is my jam.

And then she is home, and she conveniently forgets that she wasn't going to go around with him anymore. Apparently strapping young farm boys are her jam, too. Laura, no judgment. He's rad. And he apparently gets you, big time. Secret Christmas gifts, buggy rides, and appears to be a strong partner in crime. You get to drive the horses and race across the prairie together. You break wild horses and go to singing school together. And at the end, a sweet proposal and a kiss, leading to a quick marriage. Well, I say quick, but he courted her for three patient years, so nothing quick about that, folks. I mean, she was eighteen when they got hitched. And he builds her a kick-ass pantry so you know he loves her.

I'm 99% sure my husband is Almanzo Wilder reincarnated, and this book directly shaped the kind of man I am find attractive. 5 stars. Love this series!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: Little Town on the Prairie

Little Town on the Prairie Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The town of DeSmet survived the long, hard winter, and spring has arrived. Laura gets her first job, as a seamstress, in town, and starts earning money to send Mary to the college for the blind in Iowa. She's a dedicate gal, for sure. This money is enough to send Mary off in the fall. I have no idea what it cost back then, but I'm sure it was a bit out of Pa's reach. Very nice that they figured out a way to send her. Say what you will, the Ingalls family is from hearty stock and they find a way to get it all done.

And romance is in the air! Laura is a grown up now, all of fifteen years old, and Almanzo squires her home from church. She's a bit clueless to his affections, but she walks home with him anyway. And at the end of it all, Laura gets her teaching certificate and her first school. 3.5 stars because I'm a sucker for a G-rated romance.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: The Long Winter

The Long Winter The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you know me at all, you know how much I hate being cold. Winter is the worst! This book is my worst nightmare. Snow. Way below zero temps. Freezing winds. No food. I like to think I am a hearty pioneer gal, but in my heart I know I love food and sunshine way too much. But, much like Laura, I would survive, because I'm strong like a bull.

A comically stereotypical Indian, straight from central casting, walks into the store in town and warns the white people that a big heap long winter is coming. He's basically ignored by everyone but Pa and the Wilder Boys, because they are smarter than everyone else. Plus handsome and talented and funny. But I digress. The winter comes, the trains stop, and the whole town is on the brink of death. Literally. Luckily for the entire town of DeSmet, Almanzo and Cap have more bravery than sense, and they go on a foolhardy mission to save the town.

I love this one. 4 stars.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review: The Cat Who Went Underground

The Cat Who Went Underground The Cat Who Went Underground by Lilian Jackson Braun
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vacation time for Q & the gang. We are going back to the cabin in the woods for the summer.

Qwill and the kitties are "roughing it" in the K cabin. But not really, because Qwill is a freaking millionaire, yo. But he continues to keep it real by staying frugal by eating in diners and riding a mountain bike around. Polly Purebred is living it up in merry old England on a librarian exchange, so Qwill thinks about putting the mack down on various young ladies, but somehow resists. And Qwill decides the historic cabin needs an addition, so he hires some folks off the books and gets the results you would expect. And has all sorts of problems with the plumbing and heating, and of course the young female plumber seems to crush on old man Q. Can't resist those mustachioed bucks, eh? Then a few people disappear, end up dead, and Koko once again solves the mystery while Yum Yum daintily eats from a crystal bowl. Yum Yum, you are dim but pretty.

As usual, three stars. I knew who was guilty from the beginning but was totally wrong about why. On to the next!

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: By the Shores of Silver Lake

By the Shores of Silver Lake By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the road again with the Ingalls family and we say goodbye to Plum Creek. Sadly, this time without my boy Jack. We are headed to the wilds of the Dakota Territories, friends. On a train! To claim a homestead and settle down, no matter how much Pa and Laura want to go to Oregon.

Pa heads to Dakota to work the railroad and be the payroll clerk, then Ma and the girls head out to meet them. The railroad men are filled with rough talk and violence, but Laura is fascinated with them as you would expect. Pa proves himself to be smart and brave, as usual, and then the railroad moves on to leave the Ingalls family alone in the Big Slough. After a cozy winter in the surveyor's house (what luck!) they stake a claim to their 40 acres and move into the claim shanty to win their bet with the government. Three stars, and onto the Long Winter! BRRR.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: On the Banks of Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pa Ingalls, you are a starry-eyed optimist. Always looking on the bright side. Grasshoppers destroy your wheat? No problem. Holes worn through your boots? No problem. Deadly blizzards nearly kill you? Still no problem.

How Caroline Ingalls kept from choking this man to death is beyond me. And she moved AGAIN when she didn't want to. Also, a baby pops up out of nowhere with barely a mention. However, this is one of my favorite books in the series because I fell in love with the idea of living in a dugout. In fact, I would go move into one right now. That's right, I'm a prairie gal. Sue me. I was sad when they moved into the real house. Plus, this book kills me because of everyone in this series, I love Jack the most.

To this day, I am terrified of a grasshopper plague and have thought through what I would do. Burn them. Burn them with fire. Thanks, Laura. 4 stars.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We have now left the Big Woods of Wisconsin and are in Indian Territory - gasp! Funny to see the opinions of the early 1930s. We go West, poor Jack has a scare, and we build a log cabin. Totally jealous. I think I would have made a fantastic pioneer man. Not a woman, because I would not want to do my laundry in a bucket, nor make corn mush all day, every day. But I would hang with Mr. Edwards and live off the land.

Once again, 3 stars. I like them progressively better as Laura ages.

Side note...Carrie is like a ghost child. She is mentioned so seldom I am surprised when her name is brought up. Poor Carrie!

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: Small Favor

Small Favor Small Favor by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harry, Harry, Harry. You will never change, and that's why I love you so much. More sass. More monsters. And more coins floating around Chicago, harassing Murph and Harry. Luckily they have the knights and wardens to help them fight evil.

Marcone is trouble, and Mab calls on Harry to bail him out. He reluctantly helps his frenemy, because he just can't resist the siren's call of trouble. He gathers his band of merry men and women, and they quest on to save the good people of Chicago. And Ivy. And Marcone. Harry makes some missteps and bad decisions, puts everyone in danger, and barely saves the day, as usual. And he gets his ass kicked as many times as you would expect. But what's that I smell around the corner? Could it be romance? Nah, I feel like Butcher is messing with us. Guess we will see in book 11.

You should try these books on audio. So good! Just like you would think Harry would sound. 3.5 stars.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review: Death of a Hussy

Death of a Hussy Death of a Hussy by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The more things change, the more they stay the same. And Hamish changes least of all.

Hamish and Towser, recently relegated to Strathbane after Lochdubh's police station has been closed due to lack of crime. The people of Lochdubh are crafty and make up a bunch of crimes to get Hamish back. Hurray! He returns home to meet newcomers Maggie and her niece, Allison. Maggie is overbearing, conniving, and a bit awful with an insecure center. Allison is a shrinking violet who falls for Hamish. Hoping to light a bit of a fire under Pricilla, I'll allow it.

Maggie is rich, you see, and lords that money over little orphan Allison and four of her former lovers/honeypots. And she's writing quite the risqué account of her sexcapades. Saucy! Then she ends of dead, of course, and Hamish is on the scent to find the killer. No one believes him, but he gets his man, or woman, in the end. He's lazy, but smart, after all. And he gets 3 stars for continuing to bring me back to Lochdubh.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: Changeless

Changeless Changeless by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lord and Lady Maccon continue their odd life of paranormal bliss. But something is causing the pack to stop changing, and it isn't Alexia for a change. More sass, more bickering, and suddenly Alexia is off to Scotland in a dirigible to track down her husband at his ancestral home.

We get the expected steampunk elements tied neatly to the paranormal. Good stuff! Danger, deception, and plot twists abound. And we get a surprise ending that will get you to move book 3 up your TBR list, so well played, Carriger, well played. 3.5 stars because I didn't love it quite as much as book 1, but still very enjoyable.

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Review: Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love to go back and re-read this series every few years. I love traveling West with Laura and her family. Her Pa reminds me of how I might have been back then, always itching to go to a new place with fewer people.

Worth it for nostalgia alone. 3 stars, as always.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Review: The Slave

The Slave The Slave by Kate Aaron
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ah, where to start? This book was not for me. The writing was just ok, but I was not a fan of the MC. That's a deal breaker. If it could have been just about Kai, I might have been ok. The nicest thing about this book is that it was free.

You see, I really hated Tam. It ruined the entire story for me. I hate weak characters, and I hate whiners. The end. 1 1/2 stars and no book 2 in my immediate future.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: If You Find Me

If You Find Me If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, I'm a huge baby. This book made me cry. I think it's the mom in me. I need a tissue now.

This book wasn't quite what I expected. I knew it was about a girl who had been kidnapped, but that was about it. I actually liked how it was laid out with the rescue at the beginning and the flashback interwoven into the story afterwards. More of a mystery that way, dropping in the puzzle pieces. My nitpick: it didn't seem like the girls went to therapy or had any professional help outside of the social worker helping test them for school. Really? Maybe I missed a throwaway line or something, but no one on one sessions? No family / group therapy? Kids are resilient, but that missed the mark for me.

I've had this book on my list for a while now. Glad I finally got to it. 3.5 stars, but rounding up because it was a tear-jerker, and I love those kind of books.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: The Duke and I

The Duke and I The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why yes, I will have a little cheese with my romance. Thank you. Give me a double-helping. I'm a marshmallow. Crusty on the outside, and gooey and warm inside.

Julia Quinn writes great historical romances. I accidentally started with book 2 in the series, and have worked my way back to book 1. I will definitely continue my journey with the Bridgertons. They are fun. You know there will be troubles. Misunderstandings, tears. Family meddling where they shouldn't be. But lots of love, and always my HEA. I gotta have that. This one is the eldest daughter, Daphne. Pretty, but in a regular person way. Smart. Outspoken. A little flawed. My favorite kind of heroine! Simon is a little bossy, smart, funny, and flawed as well. My favorite kind of hero. Add up all the historical romance tropes and you have this book, but in the best possible way.

If I wrote historical romances, I would hope they would turn out like this. 4 stars.

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