Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Guest Room

Book Review

What? Another book from Mom's list? I know, I know, I can't believe it either. Thing is with this book, I can't believe this is a book Mom would read either. I mean, I can understand why she read some of the other books she's read, they fit various themes of what I believe she reads. Except, she reads what she wants to read, what she finds interesting, and this is one of those, "Wait, what?" books that she wanted to read.

I guess.

I'm not giving anything of the book away when I say the book centers around two sex slaves escaping after killing their captors while working a bachelor party, because this particular part of the book happens in the first paragraph of the book. The rest of the book is about the aftermath of that act: the why, the history, the emotions, the recovery, the fall. It is told from the first person viewpoint of one of the sex slaves (ex sex slaves) and from the third person omniscient view of the father-husband-brother-of-the-groom, his wife, and his daughter.

The causal violence in the book threw me off.

The sex slaves in the book threw me off.

The description of the emotional journey of the wife threw me off.

The emotional attachment to help someone in need totally resonated.

The book is lingering with me. I'm not sure I recommend the book, nor am I sure I'm glad I spent the time reading it. It is lingering, though.

The Grownup

Book Review

This definitely is one of the books from Mom's pile of books. She recently added this one to my list as one "you have to read!" Except she hadn't read, so I'm unsure why she felt I needed to read it.

I suspect it's because it's by the same author as Gone Girl, and Mom really liked the twist in that one.

This one starts out as giant con job, and turns into a ghost story. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the twist near the end, while the actual ending had me cracking up.

The book is a quick read, no reason not to borrow it from the library and read it in an evening, with enough time left over for a barbeque, to be honest.

The Passenger

Book Review

I know! I know! SHOCK! Another from the pile of books from Mom. I swear I have other piles of books and books from other people and books from lists that sound interesting. I do! I do!

Though, I suspect I beat Mom in finishing this book. Go me.

The book starts with the main character fleeing her life after the death of her husband, who had fallen down the stairs. Normally, contacting authories is the correct reaction, but Tanya Dubois has a past that she doesn't want investigated, so instead of the "correct" reaction, she runs.

She adopts new identities in an attempt to establish a new life, but continues to be on the run from town to town. She eventually moves towards confronting the dark secret of her past, learning more than a few things along the way, with a satisfying resolution at the end.

The story cuts off at an interesting place, the part where things could start to become boring, so we have a "she lived happily ever after," but I'm uncertain that one could switch from looking over one's shoulder for ten years to settling down. I guess it could happen.

The book was interesting, but I don't know that I'd recommend it. I might have to start a new rating scale: Don't read, get from library, borrow from friend, buy a copy, buy two copies, one to lend.

Something like that.

Looking for Alaska

Book Review

I swear, all of the books I have been reading lately are from Mom's pile. It might begin to frustrate me if my pile of books doesn't start reducing in size, too. Something about the growing stacks, from two to three, is starting to bug me.

Also bugging me about this book is the setup. We have a geeky, six-foot kid who actively wants to go to private school because he has no friends in the public school he attends, who meets the most amazingly beautiful girl in the school, who we later learn is also attracted to him, and we are supposed to believe this setup?

If a six foot kid isn't immediately recruited to the basketball team, even in a private school, something is wrong. But the most unbelievable part is having the most attractive girl in the school being attracted to the book's protagonist who has exactly no friends in his previous school. Having no friends? No girls attracted to him, throwing themselves at him, wanting to date him? That's a hard suspension of disbelief to have. Just saying.

The book countdowns to the major event in the book, then counts up from said major event. It does that well for structure, but fails to convey the overwhelming heartbreak that is involved in said event. Not sure how else to explain how the second part felt superficial.

It's a good story, so for that reason I'd likely hand the book to a friend, though I wouldn't be worried about asking for the book back, or buying a second copy so that I had a version to loan. My copy will likely go into the Little Lending Library out front.


Book Review

Why I have this book, I have no idea. Okay, I have maybe some idea, but said idea involves Mom's pile of books and my misguided attempt at reading books outside of my usual genre of science fiction / fantasy. That, and the fact that this is book one of a series, what could go wrong?

Well, nothing went wrong, per se, with this book. It's about a hunchback (read: outcast, cerebral, loner, rational) detective, Matthew Shardlake, from the mid-1500s who solves mysteries for Cromwell of Henry VIIIth fame. While part of me is thinking, "Huh, right, of course Cromwell was a man, and a man of power, and as a man of power, he did deals," the rest of me is wondering, "Eh? This is an odd setting for a mystery."

Which is also to say, I'm not a fan of this book, but not because the writing was bad (it wasn't, it was good), and not because the mystery wasn't convincing (it was convincing), and not because the world wasn't built up well (it was built up well, with the reader stepping into the hunchback's world midtale, and, nicely, without beleaguered explanations), but because this really isn't my style of book.

I'm not a fan of mid-millenium England or Victorian England or all of those older Englands. So, a mystery set in England during the Reformation where people of power all scramble for more power at the cost of the masses, yeah, just doesn't do it for me.

If, however, you do like mysteries set in Old England, have at it. This book is a quick read, and there are two more Shardlake mysteries.

Vital Abyss

Book Review

Okay, when do I ever start a review without an "okay?" The answer is, "Never," though usually I delete the "Okay," before a actually post the review.

Speaking of review introductions, man, am I starting to dislike reviews and tutorials and articles that have 50% "why I'm writing this" and like 30% actual meat of the story, and 20% wrap up. Kinda like these two paragraphs so far.

I am really liking the Expanse backstories that I've been reading. They fill in the gaps where events, movtivations, and circumstances are just assumed (rightly so), in the plot the reader follows in the main books. Just as with the Churn where we learn of Amos' backstory, and Gods of Risk where we see more of Bobbie, and The Butcher of Anderson Station where we understand the conversion of Fred Johnson, this book provides the backstory to the scientists doing the research into the protomolecule. It also explains some of the questions about just how people can do experiments on a population in the millions and not question the morality of such an action.

Fans of the Expanse should, of course, read this book, too. I wish the four shorter books were combined into one book, but, hey, more money as four smaller books than a compendium.

I kinda wonder if I should include plot lines so that I remember these books I'm reading. See? That was the lingering, unrelated 20% conclusion in this review.

Butcher of Anderson Station

Book Review

Okay, those readers who have read even the first book of the Expanse series we know who Fred Johnson is. He plays a pivotal role in the Outer Planets Alliance's political pull, he thinks outside the realm of normals when dealing with possibilities in warfare, in politics, in words. He was one of the top military men of Earth.

And then he wasn't.

While a man can look at his actions, see what he has done, and learn what he was led to do by circumstance or by deceit, he can't always choose the direction he needs to go for redemption.

The missing piece to Johnson's story that starts in the Expanse is shown in this book, for which I am thankful. The television series' explanation was, well, shallow and unsatisfying. This book's revelation was right.

If you're a fan of The Expanse, yep, read this book. If you aren't yet, start with Leviathan Wakes.

Morning Star

Book Review



Okay, wow.

Yes, this book is as great as the first two Red Rising books. The bummer part of the book is that IT IS THE END OF THE SERIES. GDI!

Morning Star continues Darrow's story, but this time, instead of being alone, he has friends. And oh boy does he tell about how much he has friends, about how his friends changed him, how they kept him sane, about how, no, he's not using his friends, they are making him a better person. The thing about that is that you have to choose your friends well if your friends are going to change you, give you support, make you a better person. Darrow (Brown) ignores this particular detail, as he chose honorable do-the-right-thing people to be his friends (even in the end), but it's still a bit of a "Huh" kind of message after I let the story sit a bit.

That all said, loved the book. I recommend these books, the entire series is great. I'm still amused with myself for not immediately devouring the books. I would have to say that I wasn't in the place to hear the message, maybe?

Action packed, lots of fun, and wow, didn't see that twist coming.

Golden Son

Book Review

Okay, this is book two of the Red Rising trilogy, and I have to ask myself again, "WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO FINISH THIS BOOK?"

I swear, Luke is probably like, "WTF, Kitt, finish the book already. There's book three to go, too!"

Hell, I'm thinking that now.

I am full of Wow at this point about this series. The blurb is all about Darrow's continued saga as a Red in, well, his rising. How much do I give away in this review? I mean, the title is "Golden Son," so how much am I really giving away with the fact that the kid is a man and a Gold at that?

What I really like about Brown's writing is the way wise words come out of a 20 year old's mouth. Doesn't really happen in real life, but does in fiction.

Anyway, I'm diving into the last book next. Highly recommend the series.


Book Review

Okay, I will say, this is another one of the books-chosen-by-Mom, which means I pretty much had no idea what the book would be about, if I would like it, or why it was in my collection. I sometimes wonder why I read these books, they are often so much not what I normally read. Exposure to the things you don't normally read is a good thing, expands the mind.

That all said, I completely and totally rolled my eyes when a dog showed up in the story. I seriously thought this was going to be another "Old Yeller" (which I have never read) "Where the Red Fern Grows" (which I have read a dozen times, it remains one of my favorite books) boy-has-dog-dog-dies-in-the-end book.

I was wrong.

This is a book about prejudices and anger, about hope and love, about anger and acceptance. Which is to say, it was completely not what I expected it to be.

The book opens with all-star American golden boy Franklin's accident that lands him in the hospital. A Cambodian student from Franklin's prep school is charged with manslaughter. He admits to hitting Franklin. He tried to help Franklin after the accident. He accepts the law and it's punishment.

The rest of the book is about prejudices of a people agains outsiders, about younger sons proving themselves against the memory of an older brother, about secrets revealed, and a world coming full circle.

It's a quick read. While not my style, and it isn't destined to become a literary classic, it's a cute book. Was fun to read.

Gods of Risk

Book Review

While not normally a fan of same-universe stories that aren't about the main plot of a saga, say, with this book being a supplementary book to the The Expanse series, I have to say that Jim Butcher rather broke me of that dislike with the extra Harry Dresden books. When you enjoy a series a lot, you want whatever sized book and whatever plot line the author (or authors) want to write.

Such is the case with this book.

In this book, we have a glimpse into Bobbie's world after her ordeal, "treason," and homecoming from Abaddon's Gate. It's only a glimpse, as the story is actually about her nephew, but that's okay, because we learn more about the universe, more about the school systems, and more about Bobbie. All good things.

I enjoyed this book a bit, it being in the Expanse universe and all. If you're reading and enjoying the series, include this one in your reading.

Now, where's my rocketship?

To Be Sung Underwater

Book Review

This was not the book I was expecting. This is a sad, wonderful book.

Yes, another one of the books from Mom's pile. Having just finished The Expanse, I have to say I wasn't really interested in another science-fiction or fantasy book. I picked up this one since it didn't appear to be a mystery either. And yet.

And yet.

It's a mystery of sorts, as we learn about Judith's life as it currently is, and Judith's past as it previously was. My first thoughts were along the line of, "Ugh, this is going to be a book about nothing, isn't it?" But the story draws you in, and, without noticing when, you care about Judith and her high school friends and her crazy mother and her lovable father who isn't the perfect father figure we want him to be. There's adventure. There's mystery. There's romance, but not too much. There's strife and conflict and, well, human emotion. There's danger. Oh boy, is there danger.

Really, the last thing I expected to do when I finished this book was bawl my eyes out and call my mom to see if she had read the book so that we could talk about it. Fortunately, she had, and she understood what I was feeling.

Gah, without giving the book away, how do I explain just how heart-wrenching lovely and beautifully painful this book is? I don't think I can, so I'll keep it as recommended.

The Churn

Book Review

After finishing Nemesis Games, book five of The Expanse series, I was thinking, "Well, crap, I've read them all." Except there's book 6 which is out, but it's in hardback only and not available at the library quiet yet, and I'm trying not to buy so many books (yes, I have a stack 4' tall of books to read, one more can wait), so I haven't read it yet.

Except! Except!

There are four books, novellas, set in the same universe and omg yesssssssssssssssss!

This one is the story of how Amos Burton ended up in the stars. We know a bit of the history from Nemesis Games, where we learned the histories of most of the Rocinante crew.

There are also references to the Churn in the book. Had I read this book before Nemesis Games, I would have caught the references. Instead, I caught the latter book's references in this book.

I enjoyed this book, once I understood what was going on. If you're reading the series and enjoying it (let's ignore book 4, shall we?), then read this one, too. Who wouldn't want more Amos?

Nemesis Games

Book Review

Okay, wow, now we're talking. Back into the Expanse world, and back into the Holden future.

After the last Expanse book, I was very very hesitant to read this one. I hemmed and hawwed about it, wondering if I was going to dislike the next one as much as I disliked the last one, and oh, that would just ruin the series for me, because I read a series until 2 in a row are bad, and then, nope, you can't recover.

Oh boy did this one recover. Loved this one. This one might have been my second favorite of the series. We follow Alex and Amos and Naomi and Holden as they have their adventures. We learn about them, their pasts, their futures, their fears.

The book still doesn't (books still don't) convey time scale well, but I think it works. We don't see how the days are filled on a spaceship (always, always, always fixing things), or how long time passes, which is fine.

Really really really liked this book, almost as much as the first one. Wheeeeeee! Can't wait for book six!

Deadlocked 1

Book Review

Yes, I like zombie books. My delight with the genre started with Mira Grant's Feed / Newsflesh trilogy, and has continued through a large gamut of good to crappy zombie books. This zombie book is the first of an eight book series. It isn't long, it's a fast read (all of sixty-nine whole pages), and really, would be a great first part of, say, a longer story, say of eight parts.

It follows the story of David, who is in an office building when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. The plot follows his journey home, and his family's escape.

AND I AM GOING TO COMPLETELY SPOIL IT FOR YOU, if you keep reading this.

What I find very odd about the story is that the story, as told from David's perspective, has information in it about the beginning of the zombie apocalypse and its origins that he can't possibly know, BECAUSE HE DIES IN THE END. How the f--- could he know that the apocalypse was man-made and started with lots of needles poking people if he's dead?

Okay, maybe he's not dead in the end, though getting eaten by a hoard of zombies usually means dead in zombie books. David wasn't just bitten, there are several series that discuss how "bitten" could mean zombie fever, followed by a craving for blood/flesh, but a normal(-ish) person otherwise, he was eaten. Dead. Nothing. Nada.

Yeah, so, I'm not likely to read the rest of the series. The one was a quick fun read, though.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Book Review

This is, once again, one of those books that I'm unsure why I bought other than I heard about it from somewhere and thought, okay, this is a book that maybe I should read. The book is actually 7 short stories, the main one being The Yellow Wallpaper, and the reason I bought this book. This, I recalled, was the story I had heard about.

When I read the stories, I stopped after each of the stories to ponder them, get a feel for the message being sent, and well, to be honest, read the stories as if I were in English class in high school. I read them, asked the various questions, who, what, why, what is the context, what is being said, why is this important, how has the context changed over the last 100 years?

So, the seven stories:

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper

    This is the main story of the collection and the one from Gilman is the most well known. It's the story of a woman who moves to a house and essentially isolated "for her health." It is a fascinating description of a woman's descent into psychosis, well written and more than a little creepy. It is also a commentary on the crappy system of isolating women "for their health" (isolation is considered torture these days), along with how society continually ignoring women's opinions in favour of men's "because men know better." I sat with the story for a bit before looking up the analyses on the story, and I hit the top two main interpretations. The other interpretations required a better understanding of Gilman's life, so I'm okay having missed them.

  2. Three Thanksgivings

    This is the story of a woman who has two adult kids, each of whom want her to sell her gigantic house and move in with them. Problem is, both kids are selfish and neither wants what is best for the mom. To make things worse, the mom has a mortgage on her giant house, one coming due in 2 years, so she's running out of time to save her house, her huge house that she grew up in, raised two kids in, and loves. The story has a nice ending.

  3. The Cottagette

    Nice endings seem to be Gilman's desire. Nice endings are definitely not life, but they are nice escapes from the ugliness of life. This story is about a woman and her friend who find peace and delight in a remote cabin on a boarding property, where breakfast is a short walk away, but the world is their own, with fields of flowers and forests to enjoy. Along comes a man the woman likes, and the woman, at her friend's insistence, begins changing to win the man over. She wins the man over, with a twist. And, of course, a happy ending.

  4. Turned

    Okay, now this one hit me hard. Wife. Husband. Servants. Husband goes away, servant gets sick, author implies a bunch, things get weird. This one gave me chills, reading it.

  5. Making a Change

    This one also gave me chills, but for a different reason. Still. Chills. A woman is clearly suffering postpartum depression. Her mother-in-law lives with her and her husband. The new mother is not an experienced mother, though trying hard to "do it all," having sacrificed herself, her dreams, and her desires for her husband and child. She hits the breaking point, gives her mother-in-law the child, and leaves to commit suicide. Her mother-in-law figures out what is going on before the new mother succeeds, and changes happen. Except not everyone is so excited about the changes: in a society where a man supports is mother and wife and children, he's less of a man if any of them have to work, even when said people want to work. An interesting contrast at how society has changed. Well, "changed."

  6. If I Were a Man

    Okay, this one is obvious. A wife becomes her husband, sees the world through the granted privileges of being white and male, such power! She, as her husband, causes him to stand up for women, despite the full-on ragging about how daft and stupid women are. She comes away with less of a need to prim and buy shit, he comes away with an understanding that women are people, too, and any particular preening and primping that happens is because men insist on it happening.

  7. Mr. Peebles' Heart

    Happy endings, right? Right. This story is about a man who has done his duty all of his life, and his "meddling" sister-in-law who sets him free. Said sister-in-law is pretty wonderful. I want to grow up to be just like her.

Red Rising

Book Review

Wow, this book sat for a long time in my "I'm reading this book" queue. I'd make a little progress on it, put it down, read a different book, pick it back up, repeat. I likely would have continued in this way with this but three things happened around the same time:

  1. Luke strongly recommended it
  2. I realized that I have read only 8 books (before I dug in in earnest) so far this year, and I should probably finish one I had already started if I wanted to keep my 52 books a year pace
  3. The last book in the series was published, and
  4. I started to enjoy the book

Really, the last one was the key.

The first part of the book sets up, I presume, the full series. It takes a bit to fully set up what is going on, and why Darrow, the main character, is motivated to do what he does. Once everything has been set up, oh, boy, are we on a wild ride.

I enjoyed the book, and have Golden Son ready to continue reading. I've been warned it'll be gut wrenching, so I have prepared my gut to be wrenched and survive.


Cibola Burn

Book Review

Okay, to start, I love the Expanse series. I love the writing styles (because there are two authors). I love the Rocinante crew.

I did not like this book.

Here's the blurb:

"An empty apartment, a missing family, that's creepy. But this is like finding a military base with no one on it. Fighters and tanks idling on the runway with no drivers. This is bad juju. Something wrong happened here. What you should do is tell everyone to leave."

The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity's home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.

Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world. The struggle on Ilus threatens to spread all the way back to Earth.

James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.

And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilization that once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed it.

Great. But you know what this book is really about?

That "corporate ship" and the "independent settlers" and just how much assholes people can be to each other when property, life, and liberty are in question.

Seriously, I could not stand this book because it was how much people follow large personalities blindly and how much people are asses to each other.

A group of settlers settle a planet. The UN says, nope, it "belongs" to this corporation that has received a charter to explore it. Even as every person on both sides is about to f'ing die, some people are determined to be assholes.

And it is too much like reality.

I could not stand much of this book, because it completely and totally pushes my "I hate assholes" and "Everyone is an asshole" buttons.


Not sure how long before I can read the next book in the series, this one has me spasming in annoyance.

During the book notes

Okay, so, one of the reasons I read books is to escape reality. Which is one of the reasons I am not enjoying this book. Despite being completely in another solar system, it is full of people and people issues and people politics and people power issues and I can't stand it.

Which is to say, I'm reading this book at 10x speed, appreciating the Holden parts, hating the Murtrey parts.

Abaddon's Gate

Book Review

This is what you do when you are sick and at home all day: you read. The best sick times, relatively speaking, are when you have good books to read. This book qualifies.

Oh, boy, does this book qualify.

Unlike the first two books in the Expanse series, this book isn't ALL ABOUT HOLDEN, and that makes it both better and worse. Though, really, "worse" is, again, relative, because I still enjoyed this book so much.

This book skips a year or two since the last book, and we very quickly have Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex in a pinch. Through out the book we have way more gore than the previous books, more death (mostly glossed over), more puzzles, and, thankfully, a hell of a lot of personal growth that counteracts the power-blinded asses in the book. Of course, we cheer for the sane people, and weep for the deaths of some of the characters we've been following for books. I had a couple points where I had to put the book down.

I'm excited there are two more books to read, with the sixth book in the series coming out in only 6 months.

Of the three books I liked this one the least, which is really saying nothing, because I love and recommend them all. Read them, read them in order.

Caliban's War

Book Review

Well, that didn't take me long to read book two of The Expanse series, which is really unsurprising, given how much I enjoyed the first one.

Reading the second book of a series is often risky literary-wise. In trilogies, book two is usually the boring one. In a longer series, the author (or, in this case, the singular-pen-named authors) usually starts out strong with the first book, stumbles with the second book (*cough* *cough* Dobby, *cough* *cough* loup-garou), and hits a stride with the third (unless you're Jordan, then, well, book 8 is where you fall completely flat on your face).

This particular book two was just as exciting as the first. Without losing any continuity, we are immediately back with Holden and Naomi and Alex and Amos in the Rocinante, off on another "o. m. g. you have the most incredible, and highly plausible, luck imaginable" adventure.


This is a space opera.

The time frames of the book are similar to those of the Saga of the Seven Suns, but the telling in the time frames isn't as jarring or as boorrrrrrrrrrinnnnnnggggg as that series. You still have days of travel, you still have death from and serious health consequences of high G forces, you still have the fear of immediate death beyond that thin shell of a hull.

This book is much faster paced, much more interesting and much more entertaining. I absolutely f---ing adore Chrisjen Avasaralad and hope we see her again in later books. I was also hoping Bobbie Draper might join the crew of the Rocinante (such a great ship name). We'll see if she shows up in a later book or two.

Zipped through this book as fast as I could. Started the next one, Abaddon's Gate, immediately.