Mid-Year Freakout Book Tag

Hi all! Jessica from Ever The Crafter posted this book tag a couple days ago, and I’ve decided to join in on the fun! I’ll try not to double up books, but no guarantees! 😉

Best book you’ve read so far?

28449207Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Oh, how I loved this book. I actually hugged it before slipping it into the drop box at the library (yes, I’m a dork, I know). It’s just so beautifully written and the characters are wonderful and the world-building is amazing and…well, you can read my full review here. 🙂

Best sequel of 2017 so far?

10783250Hm, I haven’t read too many sequels so far this year…Let’s go with Dead Cold by Louise Penny. It didn’t come out this year, but I read it for the first time this year, so I’m counting it. 😉

New release you haven’t read yet but want to read?

thepearlthiefWell, now that I’ve finished Code Name Verity, I’d like to read the prequel that just came out: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. 🙂

Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017?

oddandtrueCurrently, Odd & True by Cat Winters. I first read Cat Winters last year, In The Shadow of Blackbirds. It was AMAZING. I’m not a fan of romances, but this one was sweet and creepy at the same time! 🙂 Odd & True looks super-fun, so I can’t wait to read it!

Biggest disappointment?

1964325The Mermaid in the Basement by Gilbert Morris. This is part of the Lady Trent Mysteries series and it looked really awesome; a book about a lady Sherlock would usually be right up my alley. But I didn’t realize it was also Christian Fiction. Even being a Catholic, I’m not usually a huge fan of Christian Fiction. It always seems so pushy; God IS wonderful, but you don’t have to turn every single conversation into one about him. I mean, your brother is about to be hanged for a murder he didn’t commit, maybe focus a bit on that?

Biggest surprise?

27213244Since I already did Strange the Dreamer, I’m going to go with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This book was amazingly well done. The author managed to create an entirely new universe, with several believable species and planets, in a single novel. There also wasn’t a single main character that I didn’t like. Great book!

Favorite new author (debut or new to you)?

28517611Again, I want to repeat! But instead I’ll do Jackson Lear. The Kingston Raine series is hilarious so far. Great series for bibliophiles who love a good laugh!

Newest fictional crush?

I don’t really crush on characters. I’ll have favorites, but not really crushes.

Newest favorite character?

20312462(Don’t say Lazlo, don’t say Lazlo…) I’ve really enjoyed Jackaby from the series of the same name by William Ritter. Jackaby can best be described as the 11th Doctor with Sherlockian tendencies who investigates supernatural crimes. He’s the closest I think we’ll ever get to the SuperWhoLock dream. 😉

Book that made you cry?

codenameverityI don’t cry easily when reading, but Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein certainly choked me up. Oh my gosh. Poor Verity! Poor Maddie!

Book that made you happy?

23604559My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. This was such a fun book. Have you ever seen the movie Big Fish? It’s kind of like that only main character is still the little girl who believes her grandmothers stories. This was one of the sweetest “growing up” tales, I’ve ever read.

Favorite book to movie adaptation you’ve seen this year?

I haven’t really seen too many new movies this year…does Beauty & the Beast count? It’s actually a remake of the Disney movie as opposed to an adaptation of the original story, so…but it was still really good! 😉

Favorite review you’ve written this year?

29511753I’m going to go with The Juliet by Laura Ellen Scott. While not my favorite book I’ve read this year, it was still REALLY good and it felt nice to review a book from a local author who I’ve actually met. You can read that review here. I definitely recommend the author to everyone; she knows how to write so that you get caught up in the story. 🙂

Most beautiful book you bought or received so far this year?

sagavol1Like, PHYSICALLY beautiful? Hmm…actually, I’m going to go with Saga Vol.1 by Brian K. Vaughan. The artwork in this graphic novel, done by Fiona Staples, was extremely good!

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

My goal is 60 books this year and I’ve already read 40, so I’m doing pretty good!


Feel free to snag this Book Tag if you want to do it. Also, check out Jessica’s Book Tag Post!

Book Review – Beauty Queens

Book: Beauty Queens – Author: Libba Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Adventure, Survival

Description from Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

My Review:

I knew going in that this one was a toss-up. Would it be cheesy and over-dramatic or would it be hilarious? While there ARE definitely some occasional eye-rollingly shallow comments, I’m leaning towards the latter…but with meaning.

Ok, so you’ve seen Legally Blonde, right? Now, imagine Elle and her sorority sisters tossed into an episode of Lost…that will give you a smidgen of an idea of what to expect from this book. Then add in the insane pageant coordinator from Miss Congeniality, an Elvis-loving violent dictator, a secret volcano “bad guy” lair, a bunch of psychotropic plants, a couple of giant snakes….oh, and some teeny-bopper pirates, and you end up with one CRAZY book! Was that too many spoilers? I hope not.

Alright, so, yeah, it was a crazy premise, but really, this book was kind of amazing. This extreme situation took a bunch of girls who had been told their entire lives that they had to mold themselves into what everyone else wanted them to be, stripped them bare, gave them confidence, and made them realize exactly who they were and that the only people they had to prove themselves to was themselves. It was an extremely positive message wrapped up in a dark-humored satire.

And it was interesting, it didn’t occur to me until about halfway through the book, but a bunch of beauty queens is EXACTLY who you would want to be stranded with on a desert island. (Get your mind out of the gutter and let me explain, lol!) Think about it. These are the ambitious girls. The girls who need to have a TON of impressive extracurriculars. The girls who are pre-premed or pre-engineering or pre-somethingelsecompletelyawesome. These are the girls who may look pretty and sound vapid, but when you combine them together, the amount of survival-skill knowledge they possess would be immense!

Yes, there is romance (liars! lol). There’s actually all sorts of romance. The author didn’t shy away from anything here. These girls are finding themselves and that includes figuring out their sexuality. But it blends into the story; none of the romances seem to be there just to have romances (even with the seemingly random insertion of the aforementioned teeny-bopper pirates…where did THEY come from?!?).

All in all, this was a pretty great book. I read it in one day (that’s 396 pages in one day), so you can tell I liked it. I’d highly recommend it to people who love slightly absurd novels…or anyone who just really likes Legally Blonde. 😉

Similar Book(s):

Uh…well? I have no idea. Try this link: Books Like Beauty Queens

T5W – Dopey Grins & Snotty Tears

Hey all! Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is: Hate to Love Ships.

Since, as you all know, I am not overly fond of romance novels…or romance IN my novels period…this one is a little tricky for me. As such, I’m tweaking it a bit and am going to instead give you Romances That I Actually Loved.

(Edit: Apparently many people are interpreting the topic as ‘relationships that went from hate to love’, so I’m not as off topic as I thought! Hooray!)

The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

17572327Well, I mean…duh. Who doesn’t like The Princess Bride? This is the ultimate romance novel, full of swashbuckling, monsters, and daring-do. The movie version of this book is in my Top 5 movies of all time, so when I finally got around to reading it, I was nervous. Turns out I didn’t need to be, the book was just as great as the film! I loved the extra back stories for my favorite characters and, even though I’ve seen the film probably a good hundred times, still found myself rooting for true love to win the day.

The Fault In Our Stars (John Green)

11870085Not many books can bring me to tears. This one came close. For those of you who don’t know, this is the story of two teenagers who meet at a support group for cancer patients and end up falling in love. Its heartfelt, bittersweet, and completely touching. Just, be prepared for possible gross-crying. Seriously.

Carry On (Rainbow Rowell)

23734628Having loved Fangirl, I was completely ecstatic to find out that the author had published a full-length novel based on the “fanfiction” written by the main character. Yes, it’s basically a royalty-free Draco/Harry slash fic, but it’s got a ton of action, intrigue, and…let’s face it, the boys are super cute together. I highly recommend this one to fans of Fangirl or Rainbow Rowell in general…and definitely to my fellow Drarrys/Harcos. You know who you are. 😉

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend (Katarina Bivald)

23346496This was honestly a really cute book. It’s about a girl named Sara who travels from Sweden to meet her penpal, Amy. Unfortunately by the time she arrives, Amy has passed away. So Sara starts a bookstore using Amy’s old books….Yeah, it’s a bit odd and very bibliophile-y (probably why I liked it so much), but it’s nice little story about finding where you’re supposed to be.

The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

18015965This was a really interesting book. Written from the perspective of someone with autism, this book gives you a slight glimpse of what it might be like to go through life on the spectrum. Don’t expect too much in-depth thought on the subject, though, this book is more of a comedy than a drama…think ‘Sheldon in Love’ rather than something really introspective. It was cute though and I really enjoyed it.

Honorable Mention

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (Multiple Authors)

lbdlogoWhile not technically a book, LBD is a vlog that is BASED on a book, so I feel that it deserves an honorable mention. I am not ashamed to admit, I have a REALLY hard time reading 19th century literature. Is it the garrulous prose? The lengthy scenery descriptions? The tedious plots? ::shrugs:: I dunno, but my brain reads them like they are in another language. And, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of romance. So, of course, I’ve had absolutely zero interest in ever reading Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’ve never even been able to sit through the movie (any of them).

the-lizzie-bennet-diaries

As such, when I stumbled across a vlog named The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I honestly had NO CLUE it was a spoof of the novel. It took me until episode 5 to realize what was happening (yes, I AM a little embarrassed about that, lol). By then it was too late; I was hooked on the characters and honestly wanted to know what was going to happen. I laughed, I choked up, and I ended the series (each of the 4 times I’ve watched it all the way through) with a giant dopey grin.

Mini-Reviews – SuperWhoLock 2 & 3

Hi all! Well, I’ve finally caught up on the Jackaby series and wanted to give you a couple of mini-reviews about how the series is going so far.

Series: Jackaby — Author: William Ritter

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Mystery

Beastly Bones (#2)

Description from GoodreadsIn 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never 24001095quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

My Review: Ok, so how to do this without spoilers? Hmm…

Well, there’s a fun mixture of creatures in this one. I especially liked the homage to ancient creatures; I admit to squee-ing a bit when I realized what the ‘big bad’ was going to be. 😉 I liked the new characters too. The paleontologists and reporter were a nice nod to real-life people from around that time period (see the Bone Wars & Nellie Bly) and the Huntsman was affable and played off Jackaby and Abigail well. We also got to see the return of our favorite rozzer, Charlie Cane (aka Charlie Barker).

I will admit that the story will probably be a bit draggy for those who aren’t into paleontology. There was quite a lot discussion about digging and bones and such. With my love of geology, archaeology, and paleontology, I quite enjoyed it, but I can see where it might put some people off. But it was still a fun story and a nice lead into the next book.

Ghostly Echoes (#3)

Description from GoodreadsJenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has 28110857enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected. Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

My Review: The action is really ramping up in this novel. We finally get some answers to what happened to Jenny and a little bit of closure on that case…though it ends up leading into an even bigger over-arching mystery. This new mystery is really interesting and brings in all sorts of new characters and creatures! We even get a little peak at the Annwyn, along with a wonderful mixture of afterlife mythology.

There was a lot of character building in this novel. We’re given a lot more backstory not only for Jenny, but also for Jackaby, both of which look like they will be integral to the overall storyline. (Spoiler?) I’m happy Jenny gets some closure, but that she will still be in the books; I love her character.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the ultimate foes sound wonderfully evil and it looks like the final showdown will be utilize an impressive mixture of science and magic. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Book Review – The Shack

Book: The Shack – Author: William Paul Young

Genre: Christian Fiction, Spirituality

Description from Goodreads:

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

My Review:

I’ll be completely honest, even as a Catholic, I’m not usually comfortable reading Christian books. Most of them come across as ‘holier-than-thou’ and really pushy; like, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if you would only let God into your life, maybe you wouldn’t be such a horrible person”. Yeah, there’s a reason there’s such a stigma about Christians these days. :/

This book is not one of those books. Yes, it’s super religious. I mean God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are actually main characters and the entire book is about Mack learning to love and believe in his faith again. But it really comes across more as a family conversation rather than a push to get people to believe in Christianity. It’s very much a “we’re here for you and we love you, please don’t push us away” kind of novel. It was touching and honestly something I needed to hear in my life right now.

For those of you nervous about the kidnapped daughter plot…yes, it is very sad. But they don’t really dwell on the details of what happened to her. They do discuss her being taken and then give closure to that part of the story, but it’s not the focus of the book. This is a story about Mack, not his daughter.

On the technical side, I thought the writing was really good. The descriptions of everything happening at the shack were beautifully done and the dialogue was very believable. Dialogue can be tricky even in the simplest of books…and this was NOT a simple book. There were some very deep questions being raised and the author answered them as thoroughly and understandably as he could, considering he is not actually God.

And yes, I understand that these answers are just his opinion. Everyone has their own and that is completely fine. I felt that a lot of what he said aligned with my personal beliefs and that’s why the book really felt true and comforting to me. I would recommend this book for people who are either of the Christian faith or want to learn about our beliefs. And if you end up thinking it’s all a load of crap, that’s totally ok too. 😉

Similar Books:

Not necessarily religious books, but books that make you explore what it means to be you.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit – Daniel Quinn

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

Book Review – Jackaby (aka SuperWhoLock)

Book: Jackaby – Author: William Ritter

Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Young Adult

Description from Goodreads:

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this one. The description on Goodreads actually goes on to call it “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” and I can see their point. Jackaby reminds me so much of the 11th Doctor, that I actually kept picturing him as Matt Smith while I was reading. I mean…

“The most recent gentleman has proven to be far more resilient and a great deal more helpful. He remains with me in a . . . different capacity.”

“What capacity?”

Jackaby’s step faltered, and he turned his head away slightly. His mumbled reply was nearly lost to the wind. “He is temporarily waterfowl.”

Yeah, totally the 11th Doctor. 😉

Vincent-and-the-Doctor-gif.gif

But the main character in this book isn’t the adorably quirky Jackaby, it is his new assistant, Abigail. Like the illustrious Dr. Watson, Abigail finds herself caught up in the whirlwind that is Jackaby, but isn’t so taken aback that she can’t hold her own. She’s feisty and capable and won’t back down in a fight, but she’s also smart and uses her position in society (a young lady in the late 1800s) to her advantage.

Speaking of characters, can a house be a character? Jackaby’s house reminded me of a mixture of Sherlock’s flat and Newt Scamander’s briefcase, with a few ghosts thrown in for good measure. I would LOVE a whole book of short stories based on the artifacts in that house!

The mystery itself was really interesting too. It was obvious from the get-go that we weren’t dealing with a normal murderer, but it took a long time to piece together what type of creature was lurking. See, Jackaby & Abagail don’t just investigate regular crimes. Like Sherlock, Jackaby is only called in when the crime is so strange the police can’t figure out what’s going on, but in Jackaby’s case, this usually leads down a more mystical path (though he would insist that everything can be explained by science). There were a lot of twists and turns, good monsters and bad monsters, and we were learning about which to trust and which to run from right alongside Abigail.

Now, there WAS a bit of romance, but it wasn’t really in your face and (spoilers?) it wasn’t between Abigail & Jackaby, which was a relief. I know I’m in the minority, especially among female young adult readers, but I always think that sort of thing detracts from the story rather than adds to it.

Actually, doing this review reminded me why I liked this book; so much so that I paused while writing it to pop down the street to the library and pick up the next two in the series. 😉 Let’s see if they are as good, shall we?

Similar Books:

Death Cloud (Andrew Lane) Series: Young Sherlock Holmes

The Screaming Staircase (Jonathon Stroud) Series: Lockwood & Co

Mini Reviews – Cozy Mysteries & Spies

Well, I’ve been on a cozy mysteries kick again. They seem to be my go-to for when I’m not feeling my greatest; kind of like a comfort novel. 🙂

Crewel World (Monica Ferris)
Series: A Needlepoint Mystery #1

Description from Goodreads: When Betsy’s sister is murdered in her own needlecraft store, Betsy takes over the shop and the investigation. But to find the murderer, she’ll have to put together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer’s pattern of crime…

367063Review: Being a fan of cozy mysteries, but not a fan of romance, I decided to appeal to my Cozy Mysteries group on Goodreads and see if they had any suggestions. This was one of the series they came up with.

What a perfect recommendation for a crafter-at-heart! As you can see in the description above, most of the story takes place in a needlecraft store. As a crocheter & sometimes cross-stitcher, the craft store is one of my favorite places, so that really appealed to me. They even include a cross-stitch pattern in the back of the book! 🙂

The characters in this series (or at least this first book) are all fairly likable. There’s only one person who is kind of rude, but even she doesn’t seem to be that way on purpose. The mystery was decent too, though I admit to figuring out the bad guy pretty quickly. But even then the story didn’t seem to drag at all. I’m curious to see how this series goes, so I’m definitely going to try the next one.

Dead Cold (Louise Penny) — Alternate Title: A Fatal Grace
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2

Description from Goodreads: No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. 

10783250Review: I fell in love with this series during the first novel and this second one didn’t let me down. CI Gamache is the type of detective I would want solving my murder–calm, collected, clever, and not inclined to push people around to get what he needs. (I mean, yes, solve my murder, but don’t torture my Mom and friends to find out who did it.) He seems like the type of person I’d like to know in real life, which makes everything that happens in a book take on a much more personal meaning.

The mystery in this novel was pretty good. I did figure out who the killer was, but that’s mostly because I like taking wild guesses really early on that sometimes end up being correct. 😉 They mystery of HOW the person murdered CC, though, that was a toughy. I really enjoyed putting all the clues together along with the police.

I also loved the interactions between all the characters. Three Pines feels like a real town with real people. It’s just the sort of place I would love to live in…if only people would stop being murdered there. 😉

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Dorothy Gillman)
Series: Mrs. Pollifax #1

Description from Goodreads: Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

149340Review: Is there such a thing as a ‘cozy spy novel’ or have I just made that up? Well, if there is, this book fits the bill. Mrs. Pollifax, a sixty-something grandmother, randomly decides one day that she is sick of this ‘retirement’ gig and wants to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a spy…so she pops down to the CIA offices and volunteers. Imagine “Murder She Wrote” as an espionage thriller and you’ll be kind of close. 😉

This book was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the character of Mrs. Pollifax. She was fiesty, witty, and never gave up. The side characters were also great, matching her wit-for-wit and showing that, even in the darkest places, you can meet great people.

I highly recommend this series for someone looking for a light-hearted spy novel (they can be so hard to find!) or anyone just looking for a fun read.


What’s your go-to genre for when you aren’t at your greatest?