Mid-Year Progress (and Freak Out tag)

Hey frands. June is (rapidly, holy shit, omg) coming to an end and so it’s time for a little mid-year checkup on my reading progress!

-shuffles through various documents and websites that I use to track my reading progress- Ahem. So, ok. First off, my goal was to read roughly 110 books this year and I set my actually Goodreads goal at 112. Prior to writing this post, I’ve read 58 books and I am apparently 5 books ahead of schedule. Fantastic!

I am also hoping that 40% of the books I read this year will fall into my dusty bookshelf category (ergo, I’ve owned them for way too friggen long and really need to read them!) So far 21 books have made it into this category which puts me at 37% for the moment, but I obviously need to keep this up.

How about the all the series’ (serieses? I STILL don’t know how to type the plural version of this) I’ve been meaning to finish? I AM TRASH AND HAVEN’T READ A SINGLE BOOK FROM ANY OF THEM.

Lastly is my little GSU (genre switch up – someone PLEASE give me a better name for this) challenge. I gave myself 6 seldom read genres to try out this year and thus far I’ve knocked off 3: Romance, YA contemporary and Humor. I should be able to (remember to) pick up the other 3 books before the year is out.

Oh! I’ve also DNF’d five books at this point in the year. This is more than I’ve DNF’d since starting to document my reading progress in 2011. It’s incredibly liberating. I do try to give each book a fair chance, but I need to work harder on tackling my TBR before it gets a job, starts pitching in on the mortgage and then kicks me out of my own house. I just don’t have time for books I’m  not enjoying!

Now, for a fun Mid-Year Freak Out tag that I found on Julie’s (Pages and Pens) channel!

+ Best book I’ve read so far

This is tough. I can’t pick just one because I can almost never just pick one when it comes to books. But here are my tops: Warbreaker, Piratica, Gone with the Wind, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

+ Best sequel

I haven’t read many sequels this year, so I’m going with Rat Queens vol 2

+ New release haven’t read yet

Well, like, every new book I’ve bought this year! I honestly don’t even know the release dates of most of the books I buy -ashamed face- Let’s go with The Remnant, third book in the Oversight trilogy which I was super hyped about (and also battled Amazon over). But I need to re-read the whole series because my mind is a sieve and I can’t remember shit anymore.

+ Most anticipated book for second half of the year

So for buying purposes, I’ll say the Wars of Vis trilogy (by my queen, Tanith Lee) that is being re-released in the new Daw editions. I can’t friggen wait to buy those. But I probably won’t actually read them because I am garbage.

For reading, let’s say A Closed and Common Orbit because it just came out this month and I just purchased it before starting to write this post and I will certainly read it ASAP. Also Artemis by Andy Weir!

+ Biggest disappointment

I’m tempted to say the Dark Tower series because it’s not at all what I thought it would be, but I’m also not finished so that doesn’t feel fair (because, you know, I’m always fair about everything I write on here). Furthermore was really disappointing because it was so beautiful and it’s middle grade and sounded very Alice/Narnia/Oz inspired so I thought I would love it and instead I really couldn’t stand it. Also, it was a gift and I felt bad for not enjoying it.

+ Biggest surprise of the year

I have a few (duh). Warbreaker – not to say I didn’t think I’d enjoy it but I had no idea just how much I’d love it (enough for all those italics, apparently). I really want to read it again. Mindblowingly fantastic fantasy. Gone with the Wind, Bridge to Terabithia, The Serpent King and Bad Monkeys were also surprisingly more enjoyable and engrossing than I imagined.

+ New to me author I fell in love with

Brandon Sanderson! No, I haven’t started Mistborn yet, but I still love his work after one book.  Also thinking I’m really going to be into Fran Wilde once I read the full-length novel of hers I own. Becky Chambers for sure. Jeff Zentner too!

+ Newest fictional crush

There aren’t a lot of fictional dudes (or ladies) I crush on. I actually hate when I see those memes and products that say the only good men are fictional or book boyfriends are better than real boyfriends and all that garbage.  But Mr. Nobley from Austenland is pretty charming (way more charming than Mr. Darcy) and Suhail from the Lady Trent memoirs is very dashing and open minded.

+ Newest favorite character

VASHER. Runner up is Oy. Runner, runner up is Lovey (shit, or maybe Sissix?!)

+ Book made me cry

I kind of wanted to cry after the sheer exhaustion and emotional undertaking that was reading GWTW, but I didn’t actually. Certainly cried over The Serpent King and Armstrong & Charlie had me teary eyed. I kind of also wanted to cry when Warbreaker was over because it was over and I needed more and there’s no more and oh, gourd, what do I do now!?

+ Book that makes me happy

Well, I mean, all books that I enjoy make me happy – simply owning oodles of books makes me happy. Austenland has definitely become a comfort read (and watch because omg that movie is too cute!) Can I mention Warbreaker again? No? Too soon? What about Angry Planet? Also too soon?!

+ Most beautiful book I’ve bought

The most beautiful book I’ve received this year was actually East of the Sun and West of the Moon (Kay Nielsen) which was a gift. But all of the Daw Tanith reprints I’ve purchased this year are fucking gorgeous. The Warren the 13th sequel is awesome too. I am looking through my LibraryThing account and noticing lots of lovely books and then said to myself “shit, I bought Riverkeep? When?” and that is a beautiful book too, sooooooo…..

+ Books I need to read before the end of the year

Hi, yes, every book I own.

+ Favorite book community member

It seems mean to choose favorites. But I, of course, love Chelsea and I also love Jacob and Reginy and Nicole. I’ve met them all on Instagram (and Chelsea in person!) and we’ve gone from just chatting about books to sharing our actual lives. They’re people I count as friends in my life, versus just members of an online community I socialize with. Awww.


Well, that was fun. If you’ve done this tag on your blog or youtube channel, let me know so I can see what we have in common! Or get more book recs, cuz, ya know, I need them!

Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Art of Beatrix Potter

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

I picked this up for Mum for Mother’s Day and it was too pretty not to photograph. Published in 2016 by Chronicle Books. Design by Jennifer Tolo Pierce, text by Emily Zach, forward by Steven Heller, introduction by Linda Lear and afterword by Eleanor Taylor. ISBN: 9781452151274.

Book Review: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
By Becky Chambers

My Edition:
E-book, 476 pages
2015, Harper Voyager
ISBN: 9780062444134

Rosemary has used up her savings to hide her past and leave her home planet of Mars. She joins the multi-species crew of a ship whose job it is to punch wormholes through space. Rosemary is finally free to explore the galaxy and finds unexpected friendships among the diverse crew. Among adventure and danger Rosemary learns that there’s more to family than blood.

I don’t know how to talk about this book, but it’s so, so, so good. One of those books where I knew from the first few pages that I was going to love it. Again, credit goes to Chelsea for talking about this book on her channel (and slightly to Amazon for having the e-book on sale for $1.99) and I can’t wait to buy a physical copy and the sequel/companion.

Angry Planet is a fabulously character driven sci-fi. The characters are everything and I love them. But! Don’t be alarmed! There’s still a plot (a good one, I think) and plenty of cool future-tech and science techno-babble. I really enjoyed the way Chambers handled the science aspects. I’m in no way classified to talk about the realism or potential of the future and technology she created, but I found it convincing. It wasn’t overbearing or confusing and blended into the story and the lives of her characters very well.

I, just, I don’t know. This book is a bit of a slow burn but before you know it you’re loving all the characters and their histories and their relationships and then things happen and you’re like, “ah!” and you have feelings and then you love this book! Right?

This is by far the most diverse sci-fi (or…any genre probably) book I’ve ever read. I don’t consciously seek out diversity in my reads, but I love it. Angry Planet has a variety of religions/life outlooks, species, interspecies relationships, LGBT characters and even the (incredibly interesting) subject of AI sentience and their rights. I even encountered the term ‘xyr’ for the first time. Chambers has created a vast and varied universe and feeds you little tidbits until you’re starving for more.

Hmm, ok that’s a terrible analogy, but I’m going to keep it because this book is too good and I can’t think of anything clever or helpful to say, so why not just go with whatever comes out?

If you like character driven sci-fi, diversity, AI and books that are just plain good, definitely pick this up. I can’t wait to grab the UK copies of this and the next book because they’re gorgeous and I might even re-read Angry Planet as soon as I get my hands on it! It might be the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read!

Becky’s site.

Dare You Tag

I’ve decided to do the I Dare You tag (not sure why it’s called this…) though I don’t know where it originated, I found it over on Cait’s blog, Paper Fury, and the last two questions have been added by her.

1. What book has been on your shelves the longest?

This is nearly impossible to answer accurately. What first comes to mind is definitely not a series that’s been on my shelf the longest, but it’s one I’ve owned for years and years and have been trying to read over the past few years, which is Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series. I like it, but 15 books is a lot…

When I look through my LibraryThing ‘To Read’ shelf, I have several books that were added in February of 2010 because that’s when I signed up and started logging all my books. So we’ll go with the first on that list, which is Treasure Island.

Likely there’s something older, but I have no earthly idea how to find that out. 😀

2. What’s your current read, last read, and next read?

I’m currently reading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, I just finished Wizard and Glass and I have no fucking idea what my next read will be. I’ll decide once I finish Angry Planet.

3. What book did everyone like, but you hated?

Uprooted, Throne of (Gl)ass, The Gilded Cage, The Wangs Vs The World….most YA books xD

4. What book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but probably won’t?

Moby Dick comes to mind first.

5. Which book are you saving for retirement?

Moby Dick? lol. Maybe the Lord of the Rings trilogy because I love the Hobbit too much to give them a chance and also I tried to read the first book once and it was super boring. I want to give it a chance someday….but it’s low on the list.

6. Last page: Read it or wait till the end?

Ok, who the fuck reads the last page first!?!??!?!?!? If you do this, please tell me why (and also cower because I might smack you) – seriously though, why would you do that? Even if it’s not spoilerfull, I can’t imagine it would make much sense or enhance the reading of the rest of the book. Ugh.

7. Acknowledgments: Are they a waste of paper or interesting?

They can sometimes be interesting, but even if they’re boring I don’t think they’re a waste.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?

Uhhhhhhhhhhh. UHHHHHH. The pressure! I don’t know! Some of the characters I like best have horrible things happen to them. I mean, I know life’s not easy for everyone, but I wouldn’t want my whole family dying or to lose my hand or something. Maybe Alice? Because while trippy and semi-horrifying, her adventures are all in her head (or drug induced?) and she remains relatively safe…though….there is that scene with all the water. Shit, so not Alice. Maybe that guy with the coat from A Darker Shade of Magic? His coat was really fucking cool….

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life?

Well, some of the books I’ve read since middle school remind me of being young, but I can’t think of anything specific.

10. Name a book that you acquired in an interesting way.

Well, if you missed my Goodreads confession, back in high school Mum gave me King’s On Writing. I read it and enjoyed it. A year (or maybe two) ago my friend Mel gave me the same book. She was so excited and didn’t know I owned it, so I said I didn’t own it and hadn’t ever read it (sorry Mel, I meant well!) but at least it was the 10th-anniversary edition so it was technically a different copy. I (think) I swapped my first copy (but it might be packed away). Then this past Christmas my friend Jon gave me the anniversary edition again! He also didn’t know I owned it and had read it so I lied and said I didn’t and hadn’t. 😀 It wasn’t worth returning because Amazon makes you ship books back, so I read that copy and now have it on my writing desk with lots of page flags marking important passages.

11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?

Uhm, no. I keep my books and if there’s a book I’d like someone to have, I buy it for them.

12. Which book has been with you the most places?

Probably the beat up copy of The Hobbit that I got from the free shelf at the library. It’s been in my car for over a year (maybe longer, I suck at remembering things) and thus, it goes where my car goes. I don’t exactly drive all over hell and creation, but it has more mileage than my other books.

13. Any required reading you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad later?

I haven’t re-read anything from high school. There was some required reading I liked, but I don’t plan on re-reading the ones I didn’t enjoy except maybe Great Gatsby? I do own it…

14. Used or brand new?

I love both!

15. Have you ever read a Dan Brown book?

Haha yes, two actually. Why is this a question?

16. Have you ever seen a movie that you liked more than the book?

Beautiful Darkness? Is that what it’s called? It’s that YA southern witch book by Kami Garcia and someone else….I’m too lazy to look it up (because I’m also currently watching Mean Girls and it’s distracting). Anyway, the movie isn’t great but the book, WOOF (I saw the movie first and I totally thought the book was going to be better and I was totally wrong). Also, The Last Kingdom Netflix series is turning out great (though I’m not even done with S2 so that could change) and while I won’t say it’s better than the series, I like some of the changes the show has made better than what happens in the book, despite some of them being very significant. Also Uhtred is totally hot and Finnic is sassy and awesome and Beocca is charming as hell.

17. A book that’s made you hungry?

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – the man can really write about a feast! Also, the Alchemaster’s Apprentice by Walter Moers – the villain in that book is a foodie as well.

18. Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?

Well, there are probably some recs I still wouldn’t read, but my friend Mel has very similar tastes. Chels can be relied upon for some genres too.

19. Most read authors?

Tanith Lee, Charles de Lint, Walter Moers, Philippa Gregory, George R.R. Martin, Christopher Moore.

20. Ship from two different books?

Uhm. I don’t sail a lot of ships when it comes to books, tbh. I do better with tv. But maybe…ugh. I’m not good at this question either. I FORGET EVERY BOOK I’VE EVER READ.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

This is a fun pop-up book that a friend picked up for me because I have a little collection going. This is a little mystery by Dial Books, published in 1991. It’s designed by Keith Moseley and illustrated by Linda Birkinshaw, ISBN: 0803710216.

Book Review: The Serpent King

It’s like a snake in the grass…..get it? Hahaha. Right???!

The Serpent King
By Jeff Zentner

My Edition:
Paperback, 372 pages
Andersen Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781783443819

Dill’s snake-handling, priest father is in prison and he’s become a pariah at school, so he clings to the little moments he has with his two friends, Travis and Lydia. But their senior year of high school is starting and Lydia’s dreams of leaving their small town in Tennessee are making Dill realize how dark his life will become without her. Feeling trapped and left behind, the darkness from Dill’s past threatens to overwhelm him.

As part of my genre switch up challenge (I really need to come up with a more concise name for this damn thing – any suggestions?) I asked my friend Chels to recommend a YA contemporary  with NO LOVE TRIANGLES (I don’t have time for that shit, bro) and this is what she sent me for Christmas. If there’s anyone I trust to recommend YA based on my stipulations, it’s her. This book did not disappoint!

I really had no clue what I was getting into and I came out of this book-loving two of the three main characters. Dill’s life is a hard one and he’s frustrated that Lydia is escaping their little town and moving on to better things, without him. He feels that he can’t leave home because of the massive debt he and his mother are left struggling to pay off while his father is in prison. He begins to resent Lydia’s opportunities and his semi-destructive attitude actually made me relate to him, rather than hate him. If I was his age in his position, the threat of losing a friend might have made me lash out as well. I also thought his struggle to find his own faith, rather than what his parents tried to force on him, was well-written and realistic. I also didn’t feel overwhelmed or ostracized whenever Dill thought about God (though his parents were the ‘religious nutjob’ type and could have been portrayed less stereotypically, but whatever).

Travis is the “gentle giant” type, who is also dealing with a rough home life. Unlike Dill, however, he doesn’t wish to leave town – he could be happy once out from underneath his domineering father’s thumb. He finds refuge in a popular fantasy series and the online forums where he holds detailed discussions with other book lovers because Lydia and Dill don’t read the series. I related to him too, at least in regards to finding an online community to talk about books to and writing fantasy novels in my head. Travis is the peacemaker and I found him very charming. He’s by far my favorite character – he seems simple at the start of the story but as the book continues there’s a lot of depth to his character.

Then there’s Lydia. She was my main issue with the story (along with some clunky dialog, which I’ll get to in a moment.) I found her dangerously close to Manic Pixie Dream Girl status, though not quite there. I find it hard to describe, but I disliked her attitude most of the time. I was also tired of constantly being reminded of how alternative she is. Throughout the book, we’re given little details about the music she listens to and the book she reads and the celebrities she admires so that we can remember how truly different and special and alternative she is compared to her classmates and even Dill and Travis. There are no little details and tidbits like this given for the boys, so it stood out more. I get it, she’s different. I don’t care. I did enjoy her drive and motivation, as she is a successful fashion/lifestyle blogger, as well as her confidence in the face of spiteful classmates.

My other main issue with the book is the sometimes clunky dialogue. It’s not all bad by any means, but there were moments where I was thinking that teens, and friends in general, don’t talk like that. I’ll just give one example because it’s the most glaring issue I found:

“[…] and get ready for my interview with Laydee.”

“You’re interviewing Laydee, the singer?” Dill asked.


“Wow. That’s awesome. She’s pretty much our age and her songs are all over the radio.”

Really? That’s the only way you could convey that Laydee is a young and popular singer? I think could easily write two or three variants of that conversation that would be less blatantly awkward.

Not a huge problem but that bit really had me laughing. There is also some romance in this story, but it was low key and natural enough that I didn’t mind. And I didn’t stipulate that there was to be no romance (I mean, is there even a YA book that exists with no romance?), just that there was no love triangle. I’m not griping about the romance here, it just didn’t interest me.

Now, for the most important part of this review:


I was totally not expecting it! And not because this is a YA book (because most of them leave me only feeling disappointed or angry) but because I didn’t know there was an emotional element to this story. I was actually in public when the big scene hit me and I was SO UPSET and had to bottle it up because I couldn’t bring myself to sob in the corner of the waiting room of my local Mineke while my car was getting an oil change. UGH.

So I tweeted:

When ur terrible, horrible, no good, very bad friend @chelseadolling tells u to read a book that makes you wanna cry in public & u can’t!! 😢

Then I texted Chels (spoilers removed):




I hate (love) you



If that’s not evidence enough that I have feelings, I don’t know what is. I did cry a little when I was safe at home, in my bed. But I’m mad that life and timing cheated me out of my initial urge to cry about this book.

Well, this review turned out longer than I thought it would. Clearly, I enjoyed this book. I’m so happy I asked Chels for a rec because I never would have picked up this book on my own. If you’re someone who’s not big on YA and you’re looking for a contemporary read about friendship, family, longing, loss, depression, and achieving your goals, definitely pick this up. If you’re like me and not big on the romance aspect, I think the relationship in this book is toned down enough that it doesn’t swallow the rest of the story whole. If you like romance, well, there is some!

Jeff’s site (with a  brooding, very Dill-esque photo of himself on the main page)

“I Wish I Had Time To Read”

If you’re an avid (or voracious, even) reader like myself, you might have heard the phrase, “I wish I had time to read,” or “I wish I could read as much as you do.”

Perhaps, like myself, you want to slap people with a book when they say this to you, and shake them, and yell, “You can!” No? Well, er…

I know people mean well, truly. I think that most people who say this to me mean it in a complimentary manner. They admire how often I read and how many books I’m able to read in a year. They might also be curious, as to how someone could spend so much time reading when there are other “important” and “adult” things to be done.

These people likely mean well too, but the sometimes condescending tone I get when people declare they wish they had the time to read like I do irks me. As though they don’t really wish they had the time to read and maybe think I’m silly for spending so much time doing so.

But those types are few and far between and this post isn’t for them anyway!

Who is this article for then? Well, anyone who reads my blog, really. More importantly, it’s for readers who like to read about other readers reading habits (say that five times fast!) and those who truly wish they read more but can’t seem to find the time.

Life gets busy, I know. Hell, there are even days (few and far between, thankfully) where I don’t read a single page! -gasp!- So here are two simple rules (The Two Habits of Highly Effective Readers, if you want) to help you out:

  1. Don’t find time to read; make time to read!
  2. Never leave home without a book – ever!

There, now you can stop reading this. I mean, I would rather you read this whole post since I spent time writing it. But if you suddenly find yourself inspired by my advice (advice that I’m sure countless other bloggers have written about) and want to go read right now, by all means, do so!

If you’re still here, I’ll expand a little on my advice.

First, making time to read: I don’t often stumble upon free time where I can just sit down and read (despite being a hermit), so I create time to read. Basically every day. Sometimes I sacrifice doing other things, like, adult responsibilities. I don’t watch much tv, nor do I often find myself bingeing shows on Netflix, so that gives me more time to read.

If you do like to watch tv, that’s fine too. But that three hour marathon of Stranger Things (is this still popular? I don’t know…) you were planning, could be cut down to two in order to give you an hour of reading time. Those thirty minutes you spend on social media on your phone before bed? Try reading instead!  Do you like to work out or jog? Listen to audiobooks!

Sadly, books don’t have the ability to throw themselves in our faces and beg to be read, so we have to carve out the time for them. I know they appreicate it. What…your TBR isn’t sentient? Oh, just mine? Cool, well…hopefully he’ll make friends someday…

Second, never leaving home without a book: I realize this might be easier for those of us who carry bags and purses, but it’s still possible without much hassle. Depending on the size of your bag, you should pretty much be able to fit a book or even an e-reader in there. Have the kindle app? Your phone counts too! Audiobooks are even easier to take with you.

Long commute on public transit? Read a book! Long commute in your car? Listen to a book! Are you going to the doctors, getting an oil change, waiting in line at the DMV or to check out at a store during Christmastime, flying on a plane, sailing on your yacht (I wouldn’t know what this is like, but I assume it’s fabulous and I’d make time to read), sitting at the mall outside Forever21 while your girlfriend tries on endless variants of $8.00 crop tops? READ A BOOK.

Leave a book in your car – I have three in mine! Leave a book at your desk, or bring one to work, so you can read on your lunch break. Buy small ones and carry them in your back pocket! Ok, that one is mostly for guys (or ladies who wear guypants) because ladypants come with pockets that are actually just jokes and not meant to hold anything more than a folded up dollar bill.

You’re getting my point, right? There are lots of little opportunities to read throughout the day if you keep your eyes open and have a book handy. I know it’s not always fun to read in little starts and snatches, but it can be a good start to get yourself into (or back into) the habit of reading.

If you enjoy reading, I think that it doesn’t matter when or where you do it, just that you’re doing it. If you really want to read, I encourage you to do so! Especially if you’re one of those people whose always remarking that you wish you had time to read like I did – now you can be like me and stop friggen saying that!


Let’s chat! How do you make time to read when life gets busy? Do you wish you read more often? I know you don’t wish you read less because that’s simply not possible. Are you the type (like me) to bring a book everywhere, even if most times you don’t get the time to pick it up?

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Red As Blood

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I do purchase special editions of books and multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

As you know, I’m wild about the new Daw editions of Tanith’s work. I might have read Red As Blood back in high school, but I don’t recall any of the stories off the top of my head. I expected Redder Than Blood (which has another story or two compared to the first edition, I think) to be Mass Market sized and was surprised when it arrived and was so large. No, Amazon didn’t say it was Mass Market, I just wasn’t paying attention. But I don’t mind that the new edition is so huge because you can see Deharme’s gorgeous cover art even more clearly.

Red As Blood – Daw 1983, ISBN: 0879977906, cover illustration by Michael Whelan, interior illustrations by Tanith! (Can you imagine how excited I was to find out that she’s illustrated some of her books?)

Redder Than Blood – Daw 2017, ISBN: 9780756412517, cover art by Bastien Lecouffe Deharme (so friggen in love with his style), cover design by G-Force Design

Book Review: Bad Monkeys

Bad Monkeys
By Matt Ruff

Not My Edition:
Paperback, 227 pages
2007, Harper
ISBN: 9780061240423

Jane Charlotte sits in a white room telling a psychiatrist her story of how she was recruited by a secret organization whose mission is to rid the world of evil. Her story is unbelievable and action-packed, but is it only a story, or is there something to it?

I really knew nothing about this book going in and that’s probably best (I mean, I kinda think that’s best with most books honestly, but whatever) because the less you know about the plot in this book the more likely you are to be surprised by it (wow, again, feel like that’s almost every book).

This book was so fun and had me hooked so hard from page one that I read it all in one sitting (much to the detriment of Future Millie who still had to get up and go to work after a sad five hours of sleep), which is a rarity for me (excepting graphic novels or something).

Jane works for a group called the Bad Monkeys which is just one of many sections of “the organization” that works to eradicate evil from the world. There are several other departments like Good Samaritans, Scary Clowns, Malfeasance and Cost/Benefits and they work in specialized areas to take out those who are truly committing what they deem as evil. As Jane bumbles through recruitment it becomes clear there’s a counterpart to the organization; one trying to cause evil in the world.

I found Jane to be an incredibly likable character. She’s smart, bold, bull-headed, smarmy and…let’s say…questionable. “Questionable, Millie?” you ask. “What even does that mean?” Look, I hate the term “unreliable narrator” because I think it scares people away from books (kinda including myself in that group). Jane is the narrator but I don’t feel that she’s unreliable so much as unwilling to reveal all her cards from the get-go (getgo? Get go? I’ve never typed that before…). Take that as you will.

After perusing some reviews on Goodreads I can understand the problems people have with this book, but I don’t share the same outlook. I do think the ending was a little over-complicated (mentally I was whipping my head from side to side going, “he what?” “she who?” “wait, what?”) and maybe predictable for people who pay more attention than I do when reading. But I don’t think it detracted from how fun the rest of the story was, nor do I think it weakened the whole book.

I highly recommend this book for fans of the super-spy/agent tales that have some humor and especially fans of The Regional Office is Under Attack. Wow, this might be the first time I’ve ever done an “if you like this book, check out that book” type thing. Normally I’m really bad at that. But the whole badass female character, what the hell is going on plot, and shadowy supergroup with ultra-technology thing was really making me want to reread Regional Office.

Matt’s site.

Book Review: The Girl With the Ghost Machine

pic from NetGalley

The Girl With the Ghost Machine
By Lauren DeStefano

My Edition:
ARC ebook, 224 pages
2017, Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781681194448 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: June 6

After the loss of her mother, Emmaline’s father begins tinkering with a strange contraption that he believes will bring back the ghost of his wife. Still suffering from the loss of her mother, Emmaline now feels she’s losing her father to his work on the machine. When confronted with proof that the machine works, Emmaline must battle with how she feels the machine should be used and if the cost is even worth it.

I’m going to come right out and say that I found this book underwhelming and forgettable. I love the concept and how thought-provoking it was, but the characters were weak and I couldn’t connect to the story because of that.

Nothing about Emmaline’s personality stood out to me. Her situation was sad and I enjoyed the way she approached the idea of the ghost machine and how she struggled with her feelings upon discovering it works. For each visit with a ghost, the person using the machine would have to give up a memory attached to the person they’re bringing back. Emmaline was wary of the cost immediately and she posed very thoughtful arguments to her father as to why this machine shouldn’t be used. But her personality didn’t come through so I didn’t really feel for her, more for the situation itself.

The rest of the characters made even less of an impression on me and it caused what I believe should have been an emotional and pivotal part of the book to fall so flat that I found myself wishing I could force myself to react appropriately. I wanted this scene to evoke some emotion in me other than “huh,” but I just couldn’t muster up more than that. I know page counts in middle grade are often on the short end and I think this stopped the characters from feeling developed.

This is still a good book to broach the subject of the loss of loved ones and what we would sacrifice to see them again – and if we should even be allowed to make that choice. Younger readers might find this book more moving and I would still recommend it even though I didn’t get the feels I was looking for.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Check out Lauren’s site.