Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November Wrap Up

This month, I played a new game for a while and neglected my reading/cross stitching some, so my numbers were a bit low.

I read four books:

  • Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
  • Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I listened to five audio books:
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
  • Innocent Blood by PD James
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling

This brings my total for the year to 83 books read and 64 audio books completed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November Book Haul

After splurging on the entire Penguin Drop Caps set in October, I took it easy this month.  Two are from my November OwlCrate and the other three are ARCs.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mexico: Stories by Josh Barken

Mexico: Stories
Josh Barken
4/5 stars
projected publication date: January 2017

Mexico: Stories is a collection of short stories that takes place in current-day Mexico.  In each story, the characters, simply going about their daily lives, are somehow affected by the corruption, brutality, and danger that are created by the drug cartels.

I will be frank: I did not enjoy reading Mexico.  I was not a good match for Barken's raw style or violent stories. Despite that, I must say that Barken is a fine writer.  The characters were fleshed-out and seemed so real they could have been based on actual people.  The plots were well crafted and compelling, drawing me back to read even while I disliked what I read. Though Mexico was not for me, I've no doubt that this collection will be a perfect fit for a great many other readers.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields

Poison's Kiss
Breeana Shields
3/5 stars
projected publication date: January 2017

Marinda is a visha kanya, a girl so full of venom that she can kill with simply a kiss, and is an executioner for the Raja.  When she is ordered to kill a boy she knows, she questions her orders, then her entire life.  Her little brother, Mani, becomes a pawn in the game and Marinda must make difficult choices to save him.

As a character, Marinda was well-developed, with believable conflicting emotions and hard decisions.  Her back story was nicely told, as well.  However, the insta-love that occurs was not just annoying, but was also out of character based on what had been told of Marinda's past and personality.

Sundari, the world of this fantasy, is similar to India and with similar mythology.  While Shields' world building skills are not excellent, it was enjoyable to learn about Sundari, finding the "real" in the fiction.

The plot was good--not great, but good.  The premise was interesting, and the twists and turns that it took were nicely surprising.  Despite this, the book lagged for me; it was as though it had been padded out to make it into more than one book.  I truly felt like it could have all been wrapped up with the dramatic scene near the end, and been a solid stand-alone.  As it is, it's an okay book, but it didn't draw me or stay with me, and I'm not interested enough in Marinda and her story to read the next book.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Innocent Blood by P.D. James

Innocent Blood
P.D. James
4/5 stars

Phillipa was adopted around the age of 8, but has no real memories of what her life was like before Maurice and Hilda adopted her.  At 18, she requests the information about her birth parents, and is surprised to find that what little she's been told was not true.

To tell any more of the plot is to spoil the surprises for the reader--and Innocent Blood does contain excellent surprises and plot turns.  It is not James' usual mystery, but rather a suspense novel.  The reader is slowly given information and left to wonder just what will happen when the important characters finally meet.

As is true of all of James' novels, Innocent Blood is excellently written, with a gripping plot.  Her ability to bring the reader into the life of her characters is amazing. The only thing keeping this from being a five star novel is that Phillipa, a spoiled and "entitled" young adult, is an annoying and unlikable (for me anyway) character.

Other than that, this is a well-crafted novel that will keep the reader engaged until the end.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night
Sarah Porter
4/5 stars

In Vassa's working-class Brooklyn neighborhood, the dancing (yes, dancing, and on chicken legs) convenience store (BY's) has a strict policy for dealing with shoplifters: they are beheaded, their heads stuck on poles around the parking lot.  Run by Babs and her two bodiless-hand henchmen, BY's is a formidable place that people rarely frequent.

Vassa has to make an emergency late night trip, and finds herself an unwilling BY employee for four days--or until her death.  Luckily, Vassa has one ally to help her: an enchanted doll (Erg) left to Vassa by her mother.  Together, Vassa and Erg fight Babs and the hands, to free Vassa from the nightmare, and Brooklyn from an evil witch.

Vassa in the Night is a fun, exciting, and sometime moving retelling of the Wassalissa and Baba Yaga (Russian) fairy tales.  My credulity was never strained, regardless of how bizarre the plot got, as Porter created an excellent and believable world.  Vassa was a likable, engaging heroine and it was easy to care about her and her predicament.  It was by turns dark and humorous, with good writing and a plot that moved quickly, making it hard to put down the book.

Overall, I enjoyed this enormously and would recommend it to YA and adult fantasy readers, especially fans of Neil Gaiman and A. Lee Martinez.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

The Gentleman
Forrest Leo
4/5 stars

Victorian poet Lionel Savage marries the lovely and wealthy Vivian, loses his ability to write as a result, and subsequently falls out of love with his wife.  After a pleasant surprise visit from the Devil, Savage finds that his wife is missing and realizes that he has, unknowingly, sold his wife to that Gentleman.  Suddenly in love with Vivian again, he recruits friends and family to storm the gates of Hell to get her back.  Things, as you might expect, don't turn out quite the way anticipated.

The Gentleman is a delightfully absurd novel, written in the first person by Savage with footnotes by an editor (which are as fun as the book itself).  Leo balances the over-the-top-ness by having Savage completely serious about the events.  Occasionally the silliness becomes a bit stereotypical, but the book never looses it's charm.  It's a quick, fun read that both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed.