Wednesday, December 9, 2015

More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

by Jen Campbell

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • Hilarious, sometimes even hysterical. Man, people are weird sometimes.
  • Makes you feel very glad you read.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a really slim book, and some of the entries are even duplicates from the first book.
  • A bunch of the entries are dependent on you knowing a bit about literature (e.g. "Do you have The Girl With the Dragon and the Baboon?" is not going to be funny unless you know what the original book was called).

Saturday, December 5, 2015


by Ingrid Law

Story summary: Gypsy comes into her savvy power on her 13th birthday, and it is the grand and difficult one of seeing people's pasts and futures. But when the Beaumonts' unpleasant grandmother moves in and runs away, suddenly everyone's powers go topsy turvy. Now it's up to Gypsy and her brothers to rescue their grandma without betraying their secret or destroying the town.
Sequel to Savvy and Scumble.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • A great cast of characters. (Samson and his fire and emo-ness and adorable crush! Del and his fake power! Grandma and her grumpy forgetfulness! Momma and her perfect imperfection!)
  • Really wholesome and family-oriented, without being kitschy, as many movies/books about family is. (In other words, as someone raised in a large, Catholic family, it rang true for me.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • A little too simple for me, with a less unique main character than I was hoping for and some unexplained plot twists.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

by Felicia Day

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Compulsively readable.
  • Highly amusing.
  • Full of geek references and internet-speak.

And Why You Might Not:
  • Full of geek references and internet-speak. (Probably not everyone's cup of tea. In fact, I would probably say, if you don't already recognize Felicia Day, you probably won't enjoy this much.)

Friday, November 27, 2015


by Marissa Meyer

Story summary: A retelling of Snow White, where the seven dwarfs are space outlaws, the evil queen is a mind-controlling ruler of the Moon, and everything is awesomely science fantasy.
Sequel to Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Such great characters, especially the mentally unbalanced title character.
  • Revolution and romance; cyborgs, hackers, and princesses; battles and plagues and kisses and last-minute rescues.
  • The last book in one of the more surprisingly entertaining series I've read in the last few years.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are too many points-of-view for one book, and it changes between them too quickly, making the book a little scattered.
  • I think partly because of this, some of the relationships aren't given the depth and focus they deserve to be interesting.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lockwood & Co: The Hollow Boy

by Jonathan Stroud

Story summary: Our trio of intrepid young ghost hunters is now a quartet! But even the addition of the super-efficient Holly doesn't mean they don't have to deal with bloody footprints, near death, and annoying teammates.
Sequel to The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Really fun and entertaining, with great characters, exciting swordplay, and terrifying supernatural events.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are ghosts, blood & guts, dark stuff. I was totally fine with it, but I suppose it could be disturbing to some people.
  • The jealousy the two female characters had towards each other got tiresome.

Monday, November 9, 2015


by Marissa Meyer

Story summary: Levana, the lunar princess, is horribly disfigured, has to exert her powers constantly to cover it up, falls in love with an ineligible man, can't be queen because her cruel and shallow sister is the heir, and has an annoying niece to stop her from claiming the throne. Her life sucks, eh?
In the Lunar Chronicle series. See also Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and the upcoming Winter.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Entertaining, despite who it has for the main character (basically the evil queen from Snow White--and not a version of her that was made into a sympathetic good guy, either).

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a very short book, and although well-written, probably mostly of interest to people who are already fans of the series.
  • It's not exactly a happy book, and not fun and adventurey like the rest of the series.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Scorch Trials

by James Dashner

Story summary: Thomas and the gang of boys that survived the Maze have been brought to safety with the mysterious WICKED group. Except--surprise! Turns out there's another part to this horrible experiment, and instead of being sent to a maze full of monsters, they're sent to a scorching desert full of crazy people and lightning. So that's... great.
Sequel to The Maze Runner.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Like The Maze Runner, the primary appeal of this book is finding out what the heck is going on. Reminds me a bit of the days of watching LOST.
  • It's fast-paced and exciting. Not surprising they're making a series of movies out of these books.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It was really light, lacking in character development or interesting ideas.
  • There is an annoying love triangle.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stone in the Sky

by Cecil Castellucci

Story summary: Meh, I'm lazy. It was fun to read this book, but not fun enough to get the energy necessary to write a story summary.  I'm going to use the Goodreads description:
"In this thrilling follow-up to Tin Star, Tula will need to rely on more than just her wits to save her only home in the sky.
After escaping death a second time, Tula Bane is now even thirstier for revenge. She spends much of her time in the Tin Star Café on the Yertina Feray—the space station she calls home. But when it's discovered that the desolate and abandoned planet near the station has high quantities of a precious resource, the once sleepy space station becomes a major player in intergalactic politics. In the spirit of the Gold Rush, aliens from all over the galaxy race to cash in—including Tula's worst enemy."
Sequel to Tin Star.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Traveling the galaxy! Multitudes of alien species! Even alien romance!
  • In other words, it's fun scifi/space opera.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It was too short to fit in all that it tried to fit in, and felt a bit too busy and lacking in build-up.
  • There was a love triangle I found annoying.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tin Star

by Cecil Castellucci

Story Summary: Thula is beaten and left for dead by a cult leader to whom she was just a little too clear-thinking. Stuck in a space station outpost with no money, friends, family, food, anything, she has to build up her life from the ground up, while navigating the tricky world of inter-species relations.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Survival on a space station! How Thula learned to survive in the gutters of a space station is probably my favourite part of the book.
  • Interesting and well-developed alien races! The galaxy has an interesting political system too.
  • Quite unexpected romance! (There's also some quite expected romance, but that's for the second set of points below.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • As I mentioned above, some of the romance seems a bit cliched YA to me. It was all about "he makes my heart race!" and nothing about his actual character in any way.
  • It's quite short. Some changes seemed a bit abrupt because of that. Could have used a bit more build for a few things.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Capt. Hook

by J. V. Hart

Story summary: I only read a few chapters of this one before deciding I was going to leave it unfinished (at least for now), so I don't feel like I can properly summarize it. Goodreads it is:

"With his long black curls, a shadowy family tree, and an affinity for pet spiders, James Matthew bears little resemblance to his starched-collar, blue-blooded peers at Eton. Dubbed King Jas., he stops at nothing to become the most notorious underclassman in the prestigious school's history. For James, sword fighting, falling in love with an Ottoman Sultana, and challenging the Queen of England are all in a day's skullduggery. But when he sets sail on a ship with a mysterious mission, King Jas.' dream of discovering a magical island quickly turns into an unimaginable nightmare.
Screenwriter J. V. Hart traces the evolution of J. M. Barrie's classic villain from an eccentric outcast to the scourge of Neverland."

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Last Ever After

by Soman Chainani

Story summary: I lazily stole the Goodreads description for the first two books--of course I'm going to do it for the third. Here it is, slightly rearranged to avoid spoilers:
"[A]s [former best friends Sophie and Agatha] settle into their new lives, their story begs to be re-written, and this time, theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down.
[E]verything old is new again as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their story. This extraordinary conclusion delivers more action, adventure, laughter, romance and fairy tale twists and turns than you could ever dream of!"
Sequel to The School for Good and Evil and A World Without Princes.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Epic fairy tale battles.
  • Epic friendships and romances.
  • Epic secret organizations of really old retired people.

And Why You Might Not:
  • Boy, the relationships in this series are really intertwined and convoluted.
  • And these relationship twists pretty much take up the first half of the book. It's a thick book, and could have been cut in half and been much better.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gay and Catholic

by Eve Tushnet

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Orthodox Catholic, yet gritty and real.
  • Written in an amusing and engaging style, drawing much from her own experiences.
  • Discusses really important topics to our times: love, community, friendship. All of which are under appreciated or misunderstood these days.

And Why You Might Not:
  • She doesn't try to explain the Catholic teachings on sexuality. If you're looking for a good way to convince people or yourself, this is not it.
  • Some of this might bother you, whether you agree or don't agree with the teachings of the Church on human sexuality. She is upfront enough with her sexuality, and compassionate to other LGBTQ people, that a traditional Catholic could be uncomfortable (though she is completely orthodox herself), and she is Catholic enough that a normal, non-homophobic, non-Catholic person could think her ideas lacking in tolerance.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Retro Friday Review: Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz

by Garth Nix

Retro Friday Introduction:

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie @ Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be a favourite, an under the radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print etc.

Garth Nix is a decently well known Australian fantasy author, probably most famous for his Sabriel series (which is also fabulous). I think all of Garth Nix's books are more under the radar than they should be (despite him being well-known among young-adult fantasy aficionados), but this little book is probably the worst off. However, it is also among my favourite collections of short stories I have ever read. Perfect book for a Retro Friday.

Story summary: In these three short stories, a young soldier and his magical puppet sidekick* travel the land on their mysterious business, having adventures with giant starfish, duels, beautiful soldier women, cannibalistic pirates, and god-possessed captains.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • The world-building is amazing and so cool and gives this sense of vast history. Plus it's just fun. I want mooooooore.
  • It has all the adventure and brotherhood and Classic writing style of The Three Musketeers within the world of an epic and original fantasy series.
  • Short stories can sometimes pack a greater emotional punch for me, as everything is concentrated and everything superfluous cut out. So it is with these.

And Why You Might Not:
  • This is written in the old-fashioned, Three-Musketeers-type-adventure style, the worst part of which is the "sleeping with every pretty woman" aspect. Fortunately, the women are fascinating, well-written characters, so this ends up actually being mostly a benefit.
  • I love this book whole-heartedly, so I had to look up other people's reviews to find some possible criticisms for this section. (Apparently not everyone has the same taste as me! Who knew!) Mainly some people thought it was too dark, and some didn't like the format of short stories and thought it would work better with more information and story. Both of which I could see as being legitimate reasons not to like it, if you were a person-who-is-not-me.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


by R. J. Anderson

Story summary: Knife is a faery, a befriender of dangerous humans, a hunter of Crows. And when it becomes clear that something mysterious is very wrong in the Oak, she isn't going to stay in safety and ignorance.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Stars a fiercely inquisitive heroine whose name is Knife. (I mean come on, awesome name, no?)
  • For me as a Catholic, I love Anderson's tiny references to her Faith. (Though don't worry if you're not religious; it's a very, very small part and not at all distracting.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a little simpler than I'd like, especially with regards to the growth of Knife and Paul's relationship (which I liked--I just wanted more exploration of it).

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Wicked Thing

by Rhiannon Thomas

Story summary: What would it really be like to be awoken by a kiss from a stranger after sleeping 100 years? Startling, upsetting, lonely, confusing. Aurora awakes to a long-dead family, a marriage with an unknown prince, and future-queenship to a city completely changed from the one she knows--filled with unease and hints of rebellion.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Focuses on a girl's realistic reaction to the extreme events of a fairy tale.
  • The female characters are great; all of the main ones are interesting and complex and not clichéd "strong female characters".

And Why You Might Not:
  • There were three separate guys with a possibility for romance, which is two too many. This was mitigated by the fact that it became clear she was really not in love with one of them, and romance with another became unlikely due to certain events. But still...
  • Despite the inward focus, it is still a fairly light book.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples

edited by Sherry A. Weddell

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Following up on her excellent and important book Forming Intentional Disciples, Weddell gathers a few people with real world experience in implementing these new ideas on evangelization, and gets them to discuss their thoughts and practical methods. 
  • Seriously, I really think these ideas are important and vitally necessary for the Church in the West. If you're at all involved in the life of your parish, you really should read this book. (Although you should probably read Forming Intentional Disciples first. Especially if you're not involved in your parish life.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • Obviously if you aren't Catholic, or at least Christian, this book won't mean much to you.
  • It's too short. There was some good stuff in there, for sure, but it's such a slim book. I wanted more perspectives. More ideas. More things people have tried that did or didn't work. More stories.

Monday, September 28, 2015


by Brandon Sanderson

Story summary: Continuing on their quest to rid the world of the evil superheroes called Epics, David and his friends move on to a new city and a new Epic. This time, it's Regalia, one of the most powerful and intelligent Epics around, and ruler of Babylon Restored (New York of old). And while they fight to defeat this Machiavellian and almost all-seeing High Epic, David has his own agenda: to discover the truth behind the Calamity.
Sequel to Steelheart.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Plot twists and well structured surprises.
  • Excellent world-building.
  • Entertaining writing.
  • Some memorable imagery.
  • Just... a really great book. If you don't have anything against fantasy, you should really try out Sanderson's books.

And Why You Might Not:
  • If you don't like superheroes, I guess? (Even though these superheroes are definitely different than the normal ones.)
  • The characters are a little one-dimensional as well. Doesn't really detract too much because it's not the point of this book, but it's the main criticism I have.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Retro Friday Review: Eight Days of Luke

by Diana Wynne Jones

Retro Friday Introduction:

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie @ Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be a favourite, an under the radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print etc.

Recently I've been on a bit of a Diana Wynne Jones kick (see my other recent reviews Archer's Goon and The Magicians of Caprona). She's one of my favourite authors, and there are few who I enjoy re-reading as much as her. I haven't read Eight Days of Luke since the first time back in October 2008,  so it was interesting to see how my perspectives did and didn't change since then.

Story summary: David has nasty, horrible relatives (they're almost as bad as the Dursleys), and a unpleasant, boring life. But one day, after uttering a curse in a fit of anger against their cruelty, he meets a strange young boy with red hair and a strange affinity for flames. Luke does not follow the same rules as other people, and with his presence comes a sinister neighbour with a missing eye, ravens that can speak, and lots and lots of fire.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Loki!*
  • Other Norse mythology!
  • Cruel relatives to be quietly defied, strange boys to be befriended, quests for unknown objects hidden in unknown places by unknown persons, and lots and lots of fire.

And Why You Might Not:
  • Not enough Loki!
  • Not enough other Norse mythology!
  • (Ok, there's quite a bit in there. I just meant that I wish there were a few more really cool mythological scenes.)
  • It's a little less complex than some of her other books.


by Kelly Creagh

Story summary: After the devastating events at the end of the second book, Isobel falls into depression and fear. And it doesn't help that the dream world that her love Varen is stuck in is bleeding into the real world and Isobel is loosing the ability to tell the difference. Or that the demon Lilith is doing everything she can to ensnare Varen and destroy Isobel.
Sequel to Nevermore and Enshadowed.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Lyrically written and atmospheric.
  • Lots about Edgar Allen Poe. If you are a fan of Poe, this is the series for you.
  • I really enjoy the romance in this series, partly because so much of the focus is on Isobel's bravery and determination for the sake of Varen, and partly because... I dunno, I actually find a romance romantic* for once.

And Why You Might Not:
  • A lot of it takes place in a dream world. As a result, coherent plot takes second place to atmosphere in many ways. (This could be a bonus, I suppose, depending on your preferences.)
  • There is still not quite enough Isobel and Varen interactions for me. Their romance is actually one of my favourite parts of this series, and I wanted more.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A World Without Princes

by Soman Chainani

Story summary: I didn't make my own summary for the first book, so I don't think I should have to here either. And laziness wins again!
Beware the SPOILERS for the first book!
"After saving themselves and their fellow students from a life pitched against one another, Sophie and Agatha are back home again, living happily ever after. But life isn't exactly a fairytale. When Agatha secretly wishes she'd chosen a different happy ending with Prince Tedros, the gates to the School for Good and Evil open once again. But Good and Evil are no longer enemies and Princes and Princesses may not be what they seem, as new bonds form and old ones shatter."
Sequel to The School for Good and Evil.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • A passionate friendship is at the heart of this book.
  • Explores dichotomies like Good & Evil, Male & Female.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There were a lot of issues caused by a simple lack of communication. I find this really annoying, personally. Why don't people just talk to each other and be straight forward? It's prevented any number of problems in my life.
  • The relationships kept switching back and forth and there was sort of a love triangle and just in general too much focus on that aspect of things.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The School for Good and Evil

by Soman Chainani

Story summary: I'm very lazy and don't feel like doing a summary of my own, so Goodreads it is:
"With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.
The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie's dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.
But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are?"

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Focuses on a female friendship in a non-cliched, non-boring way.
  • It's surprisingly complex, for a kids books with such a dichotomy in the title. (This book has been on my radar for a long time, but I could not get myself to read it because it seemed like it was going to be simplistic and boring. I don't think the title helps with that.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • It is still a little simplistic, especially in writing style.
  • The relationship complications caused through lack of communication can get tiresome. It's annoying when problems could be solved so easily if people just talked to each other, even a little bit. Though saying this, it isn't actually very bad in this book--it's the sequels where it really started to bother me.

Friday, September 11, 2015


by Brandon Sanderson

Story summary: Superheroes have begun to appear on Earth, but unlike your standard superhero story, every single one of them is cruel and twisted. A group of normal humans make it their mission to kill these hugely powerful people and free the earth of their evil. Starting with Steelheart, one of the most powerful of them all.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • The twist where all superheros are evil is quite interesting, and makes for a different feel than is usually found in superhero books.
  • The writing is gripping and immensely entertaining. This is one of those read-in-a-day books.
  • There are lots of twists and mysteries that are solved in a pleasantly structured and rational way. Yay for excellent plotting!

And Why You Might Not:
  • The characters, though fun, are not the most complex.
  • Anything else I could think of as a criticism is something that is likely to be explained/fixed/discussed in the sequels.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Magicians of Caprona

by Diana Wynne Jones

Story summary: Romeo and Juliet, but with kids, magic, and significantly less death. Also talking cats and flying gryffin statues!

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Inventive magic; large, quarreling families; plots and shenanigans.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are a lot of Italian names to remember. Big Italian families with all the sisters and the cousins and the aunts.
  • It's perhaps not quite as inventive and complex as some of hers, and if you've read a lot of her books, you'll recognize a number of very common themes.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Retro Friday Review: Archer's Goon

by Diana Wynne Jones

Retro Friday Introduction:

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie @ Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be a favourite, an under the radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print etc.

This Friday, I chose Archer's Goon, the short, weird, but wonderful book about a family of megalomaniac wizards trying to rule a small town and the ordinary family who accidentally gets in their way. I reviewed it when I first read it back in September 2008, but it was a terrible and very short review. It deserves better.

Story summary: The Sykes are living their ordinary family life, with unwanted music lessons and awful little sisters, until one day, there's an enormous goon in their kitchen. He demands that Mr. Sykes (an author) write two thousand words (any words) for his boss Archer. It turns out Archer is one of seven wizard siblings ruling the town and battling each other for power. And all of them, in their own ways, are out to get Mr. Syke's two thousand words.
Can the Sykes survive the plots and machinations of seven self-absorbed wizards? Will they ever figure out what the heck those two thousand words are all about? And just how does your mother expect you to practice violin when you have imaginary spaceships to design?

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Family. It's all about family: dysfunctional, chaotic, funny, surprisingly loving and surprisingly heartless.
  • Twists, complexity, originality, weirdness, chaos.

And Why You Might Not:
  • As with many of Diana Wynne Jones books, how everything comes together in the end can seem a little rushed and lacking in coherency upon first reading. This is a lie, though. She has everything work together meticulously, you just have to pay attention. (Re-reads really help clarify this.)
  • It is a weird book. And not extremely deep with the most complex characters or anything. If you're looking for something that isn't funny, strange, light, subtle, and family-friendly, then you probably won't like this.
  • None of the covers are pretty. None of them. None of them get the feel of the book right, let alone look at all interesting and attractive. I was thrown off this book for quite a while due to the unappealing covers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Lie Tree

by Frances Hardinge

Story summary: A family whisked off to a tiny, grey island followed by whispers of scandal and deception. A father found dead under mysterious circumstances, his secrets lost and his family poverty-stricken. A girl struggling with faith in her father, religion, and own goodness. A tree that lives in darkness and feeds off lies to give truths the heart desires above all else.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Very creepy, but in a good way (i.e. the creepiness makes you horrified at Evil in a way that is quite reasonable and healthy, imho)
  • Realistically and complexly drawn characters.
  • And of course, Hardinge's typical originality is present as always.

And Why You Might Not:
  • As a Catholic, it gets rather annoying how Evolution--very compatible with the Faith--is treated as something which pretty much inevitably leads to atheism.
  • It's a bit bleak. Faith (the main character) is treated rather badly by her family, and people are extremely condescending to her because she's female. I discuss this more below, but it definitely turned me off this book.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Arriving at Amen

by Leah Libresco

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • A new convert explains her unique perspective on the Faith and how she learned to integrate these totally new concepts into her life.
  • For a cradle Catholic such as me, this is a very refreshing look at familiar and old-hat aspects of the Faith.
  • Plus there's Les Miserables! and cognitive biases! and Shakespeare! and other such awesome things!

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are a lot of references to math and logic and musicals and things not everybody enjoys. Leah has a particular kind of brain, which is pretty much mine except smarter, but I know it isn't for everyone.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Rithmatist

by Brandon Sanderson

Story summary: I remember reading summaries for this long before I got around to reading it, and they always sounded slightly boring. It's why I took so long to get around to reading it. And though I've thought about how to do this, I can't seem to do any better than anyone else. Which is a great shame, because this is an awesome book.
So read the following very short summary if you want, but don't take much from it:
Although Joel can never be a Rithmatist (people who have the ability to create animate chalk figures), he still hungers to understand as much of Rithmacy as he can. His crashing in on the school Rithmacy classes causes unwanted attention on him, which is quite a bad thing when talented students start mysteriously disappearing.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Brilliant world-building, including snippets from ancient texts, explanatory diagrams, etc.
  • But not the confusion that often comes with brilliant world-building: this is exciting, fast-paced, funny, and just generally entertaining.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It does not answer all your questions by the end, instead finishing on a "To Be Continued". The next book isn't supposed to come out till 2017 at least. The wait might very well kill you.
  • You may be put off by alternate-universe religion, I suppose, but that's pushing it. Especially since we don't even know how it works or what exactly's going on. (Come on sequel, cooooome to meeeeeeee.)

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Gifts of Imperfection

by Brené Brown

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's a helpful reminder on the importance of "whole-hearted" living: connection, belonging, play, and resilience against shame and embarrassment.
  • If you really take to hear what she's saying, and not just dismiss it as obvious, it have a really important impact on your life.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There's a lot of emphasis on self-love. Although I completely agree with Brown's points on this, and she clarifies that she doesn't mean the kind of selfishness I think is not healthy, it still seems a slightly dangerous thing to emphasize. People misunderstand it very easily, and end up self-obsessed and narcissistic. I could have done with a more in-depth discussion on what exactly the healthy kind of self-love means, and what it doesn't.
  • In fact, let's give this another bullet point: I could have done with more in-depth discussion in general. Really getting to the meat of things, with interesting statistics and perhaps even some philosophy. Though maybe that's just me...

Thursday, July 30, 2015


by Heather Dixon

Story summary: There is a boy named Jonathan, living an ordinary life in a cold, northern aerial city. There is a plague sweeping through the empire and killing women at incredible speeds. There is a newly discovered chemical, fantillium, which can connect people into shared illusions, speed up time, and even open gateways to other worlds. And there is Jonathan, revealed as a prodigy at controlling this dangerous and enticing substance--and the only hope to save his mother and sister and perhaps the whole empire.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Steampunk, multiple universes, time travel, aerial cities: this book has it all.
  • Light and wholesome, while still having darkness, danger, and adventure.

And Why You Might Not:
  • The science seems quite iffy to me. At the very least, it is very unexplored. And maybe I just wasn't reading carefully enough, but illusioning seems weirdly contradictory. (It all takes place in your mind, yet it has real consequences like throwing people across rooms and transporting to other universes.)

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Pirates! In an Adventure With the Romantics

by Gideon Defoe

Story summary: I got stuck on the story summary, mostly because of laziness. Plus the Goodreads summary is pretty good this time:
"Whilst visiting their bank manager on the shores of Lake Geneva, the pirates encounter the literary giants of their age: the swaggering Lord Byron, the oddly shifty Percy Shelley - and his beautiful fiancée, Mary. Together they embark upon an adventure that leads them into the bowels of Oxford and the forbidding heart of eastern Europe. Along the way the Pirate Captain must confront some important questions, namely: what is the secret behind his belly tattoo? Is 'Zombuloid, the corpse-beast' a better name for a monster than 'Gorgo: Half-man, half-seaweed'? And, most importantly, what happens when a pirate falls in love?" (from here)
See also The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists, The Pirates! In an Adventure With Whaling, The Pirates! In an Adventure With Communists, and The Pirates! In an Adventure With Napoleon.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • This book--so funny.
  • Lord Byron--possibly a vampire! Mary Godwin--obsessed with monsters! Percy Shelly--grumpy and poetical! The Pirate Captain--like Zeus or the Pacific Ocean and not at all like luxuriantly bearded conch!
  • The footnotes--so informative! and random! and funny!

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are not really any good reasons--it's great! There's some slightly adult humour, I suppose, and some jokes might not be as funny if you haven't read the previous books. But basically, these books are hilarious.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Goblin Emperor

by Katherin Addison

Story summary: Maia's life in seclusion with his cousin is completely changed when his father and step-brothers all die in an airship crash. Especially since it so happens that his father was the emperor, and now Maia is the last heir to the throne. But not only has Maia not been taught anything about the mechanics of ruling an empire, but he's half-goblin in an elven court filled with politics and factions and politics and agendas and politics.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Almost definitely the best book I've read this year so far.
  • Introspective character study.
  • Examination of a very realistic fictional culture.
  • So many wonderful subtle relationships between characters.

And Why You Might Not:
  • You get totally dropped into this strange world with no explanations except a glossary and couple short pages describing language conventions. I love this; it makes everything far more interesting. But you have to be in the mood to enjoying flipping back and forth and puzzling out what people are talking about to properly enjoy this book.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Salt and Light

by Mark Shea

Why You Might Like This:
  • Orthodox, balanced, lacking in political affiliation, and spiritually uplifting musings on some of the most important tenets of our Faith.

And Why You Might Not:
  • If you're like me and read Mark Shea's blog fairly often, there might be not a lot of thoughts that are really new.
  • Sometimes I wanted it to go a little deeper into the meanings, especially of the Beatitudes. I know this wasn't really what the book was about, but some of the chapters still seemed pretty short.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


by Kelly Creagh

Story summary: Isobel, cheerleader, searches for her goth-love Varen, who's lost in a Poe-like dreamland. Meanwhile she struggles with depression, her deteriorating relationship with her family, and a decreasing sense of reality.
Sequel to Nevermore.

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • It is a beautiful and atmospheric tribute to Edgar Allen Poe.
  • The romance is unusual--not a typical YA instant-love-for-sexy-bad-boy, but a focus on one girl's determination and heroic bravery to save someone she loves.

And Why You Might Not:
  • Nothing happens exactly. The story summary above is really the whole plot: Isobel searches for Varen. That's it. There still manages to be lots of intensity and action, but if you're looking for developments in the story or relationship, this isn't it.
  • The relationship between Varen and Isobel was my favourite thing about the first book. But Varen is almost non-existent in this book, and their meetings are very sparse.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Case of the Missing Moonstone

by Jordan Stratford

Story summary: Lady Ada Byron (Lovelace), 11-year-old mathematical genius, and Mary Godwin (Shelley), romantic and clever 14-year-old, decide to start a clandestine detective agency. Their first case seems open and shut--the criminal has already confessed! But there's something fishy going on, and Ada and Mary must use their not-inconsiderable wits to save the day.
Also features such memorable people as Percy Shelley, Charles Babbage, and Charles Dickens.

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • Ada Lovelace!
  • And Mary Shelley!
  • Being detectives!

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's purposefully historically inaccurate (e.g. Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace being close in age). I liked this alt-history aspect, but I suppose it could be annoying to some. (There's an appendix with all the real facts at the end, so no one gets too mixed up.)

Friday, July 3, 2015


by Marissa Meyer

Story summary: Retelling of "Rapunzel" in a futuristic, cyberpunk world where Rapunzel is stuck in a satellite instead of a tower, rescued by a dashing spaceship captain instead of a prince.
See the first books, Cinder and Scarlet, and the next book, Winter.

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • AIs, mind control, evolved societies living on the moon, daring escapes, thrilling heroics, and lots of trudging through the desert.
  • Captain Carswell Thorne: Han Solo of YA. 'Nuff said.

And Why You Might Not:
  • By this point, with the story lines and relationships from the previous two books still not resolved, there ends up being a lot of threads going on at once. There are six or more different viewpoint characters, and it gets a little much at times.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


by Marissa Meyer

Story summary: Retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" in a future, cyberpunk world. Also a continuation of the "Cinderella" retelling from the first book, Cinder.
And see also the next books, Cress and Winter.

Why You Should Read This:
  • Great scifi world, funny and interesting characters, just all round great fun.
  • Wicked moon queens! Mental control powers! Charming space captains! Sentient spaceships!

And Why You Shouldn't:
  • There's a fairly typical YA romance. Can be slightly offputting for me.
  • There ends up being a lot of characters with points of view, and it switches up a lot. I like this, but sometimes it can be a bit tiring to switch up so much.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Castle Behind Thorns

by Merrie Haskell

Story summary: Sand wakes up in the nearby castle, in which every single item has been torn asunder, with no memory of how he got there. Stuck behind the wall of living thorns surrounding the castle, he builds a blacksmithing forge and begins to slowly mend all the broken items, setting up a life in the castle, and surviving. But he discovers he may have more of a talent for mending than he thought when the princess buried in the castle crypt comes to life.

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • The theme of forgiveness is excellently done, especially for a children's book.
  • It actually makes me want to take up blacksmithing. And that's saying something.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a quiet sort of book, and not fast. This is a good thing for this book, but it does mean that it can seem like nothing much is happening for the first half of the book.

Friday, June 26, 2015


by Marissa Meyer

Story summary: Cinderella as a cyborg. Sounds like a simple and maybe uninteresting premise, but there's a lot more to it, trust me.
Also see the sequels: Scarlet, Cress, and Winter.

Why You Should Read This:
  • Cyborgs.
  • AIs.
  • Did I mention Cyborgs and AIs?
  • Also mind control and girl mechanics and strange people from the moon.
  • In other words, the world-building is awesome.
  • But there are also great familial relationships, interesting characters, and suspenseful plot.
  • And "Cinderella as a cyborg" actually works surprisingly brilliantly.

And Why You Shouldn't:
  • It is written in a definite Young Adult style. Not my favourite, but if everything else is really good, as it is in this book, then it doesn't matter so much.
  • Nothing really gets resolved. You're going to have to read the other three books in the series to get answers, relationships, etc.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Texts From Jane Eyre

by Mallory Ortberg

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • If you've read your fair share of Classics and want to read someone parodying them, playing off them, and generally having a good time with them, all in witty text-speak, then this is the book for you.
  • She has modern/internet humor down.

And Why You Might Not:
  • What with it being not very long to begin with, and then on top of that written in texting style, well... it's funny and all, but very light. I almost didn't count it for my book count, until I realized I counted Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores, and they are of much the same ilk.

Cruel Beauty

by Rosamund Hodge

Story summary: Retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" (with maybe a bit of Hades & Persephone thrown in?).

Why You Might Like This Book:
  • The characters are flawed and faulty without being morally repugnant. Complexity, ftw!
  • The cover is beautiful. Yes, don't judge a book by its cover and all that, but sometimes sitting down to read something that looks so nice has a reward of its own.
  • In a similar isn't-supposed-to-be-relevant vein, the main characters are called Nyx and Ignifex! How cool are those names? I want to call my daughter Nyx, but I don't think I could get away with that, sigh.

And Why You Might Not:
  • The beauty/sexiness of the "Beast" was emphasized more than I like. I like my BatB retellings to actually have ugly Beasts, not just beautiful Beasts with a dark side.
  • Coming off from that, the romance was also not my style. There was a sort-of love triangle that bothered me, and way too much emphasize on beauty/sexiness as opposed to getting to know each other.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Work of Mercy

by Mark Shea

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Inspiring and well-written book on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
  • Mark Shea is very balanced in his opinions. It is a gift of his, I think, to not fall into political ideologies that tend to snare other people. Neither Left nor Right are free from his criticism or approval.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are not as many practical suggestions as I wanted--it's more short musings than an explanation or a handbook. (It does give a helpful list of resources for practical action at the end, though.)

The Uninvited Guests

by Sadie Jones

Story summary: There's an eccentric family in their old, grand, and in-need-of-repairs house. There's a mysterious train crash with even more mysterious survivors. There's the charming surprise visitor with possible menacing intent. And there's a very non-house-trained pony.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's funny, short, strange, sweet, creepy, quaint.
  • I actually found the romances rather sweet, though not exactly deep. (I mostly only mention this because romance is often offputting for me, and so when it isn't, I take note.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a strange book. Not completely coherent in plot or theme.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Battle for Skandia

by John Flanagan

Story Summary: Alt-Vikings and alt-Mongols battle it out with some help from our young heroes Will, the Ranger; Horace, the warrior; and Evanlyn, the princess.
Sequel to The Ruins of Gorlan, The Burning Bridge, and The Icebound Land.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Rescues, escapes, and splendid archery skills.
  • The battle taking up the last third of the book is really epic. Awesomeness abounds.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's quite simplistic in some ways, lacking in subtlety or complexity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


by R. A. Salvatore

Story Summary: The birth and youth of a young dark elf, struggling against the dishonour, corruption, and malice of his homeland.
First book in "The Legend of Drizzt" series.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Cool world building for a dark, amoral society, and cool character building for a complex and unusual protagonist.
  • There are awesome fighting skills. Seriously awesome.
  • Also the training to get those skills. (I love training scenes.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • It takes place in the very familiar fantasy world  of elves, dwarves, halflings, etc., despite the interesting world building for the dark elf society.
  • The dark elf society is definitely unpleasant. I enjoyed it, but others might not.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


ed. by John Zmirak

Why You'll Like This Book:
  • This book can help save you from intellectual destruction. The series of essays ranges from "Sentamentalism" to "Utilitarianism", taking on Hedonists, Relativists, Cynics, and more.
  • There is a great recommended reading list at the end of each essay. More books to read! (In fact, I think this is my favourite aspect of this whole book.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • A bunch of the essays are a bit simplistic and not as nuanced as they could be. The necessary shortness is part of it, of course. But still, many just go over the basics of an opposing point of view, without trying to either add more depth to make it interesting or add other points of view to make it balanced and accurate.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

Story Summary: Don't want to give anything away. This is a thriller with definite twists. But to sum up briefly: Nick and Amy are having trouble in their marriage, Amy disappears, media starts to suspect Nick, everything goes wrong, twists happen.

Why You'll Like This Book:
  • Unreliable narrators!
  • Plot twists!
  • Very gripping! (At least the second half.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • Two main characters who are both rather unpleasant people.
  • And both kind of sexist too. Towards both sexes.
  • And most of the other characters are unpleasant too. (Although I liked Go.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Handbook for Dragon Slayers

by Merrie Haskell

Story summary: I left this review way too late. It's been about two months since I read this, and I forget most relevant details. So I'll just quickly say that it's about a lame princess and some dragons, and then point you to the Goodreads summary.

Why You Should Read This:
  • Disabled princesses!
  • Plucky young heroines with a passion for writing!
  • A positive portrayal of a priest!
  • And last but not least: Dragons!

And Why You Shouldn't:
  • It is a children's book. Although I love children's books, this has the kind of writing that I think is a bit more exciting when read at a younger age. (Not that it's juvenile by any means. In fact, almost the opposite--sometimes in my ancient age of mid-twenties, my brain is too tired to grasp the slower sublties of Middle Grade novels. Seriously. C.S. Lewis even wrote an excellent essay on something like this.)