Artemis

⇒The author of The Martian takes us to a bubble city on the moon where a smuggler just might become a savior.⇐


Author: Andy Weir

(3.67 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 305 (Hardcover)

#Artemis


Hey, if you want to play life safe, don’t live on the moon.


I have had Artemis on my TBR for some time now, and I am glad to say that I finally added it to my “Read in 2018” pile because it was a really good book! In recent years I have shifted away from Sci-Fi novels. I called myself branching out into other genres after almost exclusively reading horror, thriller, and sci-fi for many years thanks to my Dad’s reading influence (and the free books he was lending me!). But I’m so glad I picked up this little gem of a book from my local Goodwill store and made it one of my November reads.



Check out the Goodreads blurb for Artemis:     Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. 
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.


After reading this book, I read other reviews on Goodreads – which is often my habit. I just want to know if any number of people felt the same way I did about the book. Surprisingly, many of them said that this wasn’t the book that they were expecting. Those comments seemed to point to the fact that they didn’t want the sci-fi in this sci-fi novel. Hmmm… As for me, it was exactly the book that I was expecting: a science fiction novel.

He’s right, Dad. I am an asshole. But Artemis needs an asshole right now and I got drafted.

Artemis is the type of book that I read sci-fi for – it’s taut, smart, and still manages to weave saucy humor into every situation – no matter how life-threatening. 
Sci-fi can get technical and often it involves advanced science and math. Those weren’t my favorite subjects in school, but I love to see how those advanced concepts can be incorporated into a thrilling novel such as this one. Plus, it had maps! And who doesn’t love a great story with maps! Extra points!
Jazz Bashara, the protagonist, is brilliant but in an entirely underrated way. She is strong-willed and smart-alecky, but it only makes her more likable. If you’ve read other some of my other reviews, you know how much I appreciate an “average joe” hero. Her cohorts were varied and interesting, especially her Ukrainian super-hacker friend (what? Every hero needs one), Svoboda.

Artemis was intriguing, action-packed, and big-screen worthy. Four moon-sized stars for this genuine sci-fi story by an author who understands what the genres fans really need to make them happy!

Read an excerpt of Artemis here

(courtesy of andyweirauthor.com)


Andy Weir

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ANDY WEIR built a career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects such as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.


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Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum, #25)

⇒Apparently, Cinderella isn’t the only one leaving shoes behind and disappearing anymore. Trenton has a new kidnapper and, unfortunately, Stephanie Plum is on the case!⇐


Author: Janet Evanovich

(3.99 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Humor

Published November 13, 2018, by Putnam Pub Books

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

#LookAliveTwentyFive


Once again, the key to true happiness is lowered expectations.


What do you love about your favorite literary characters? Are they intrepid travelers? Ultra-genius spies? Are they strong-willed detectives? Beautiful romantics?

Why does that particular character stand out to you? Are they creative problem-solvers? Handsome mavericks? Are they earthy survivalists or alien wise men/women? Are they powerful and heroic or freaky and flawed? Lovers or fighters?

Most consistent readers have at least one lit character that they label as a favorite for one reason or another. One of my faves is Stephanie Plum. Steph is the protagonist of Evanovich’s Plum series that began with the book One for the Money (You may have accidentally seen the 2012 movie adaptation of that book starring a brunette Katherine Heigl – if you did, I won’t judge you because I’ve seen it more than once). The reason I like Stephanie Plum is that she is quirky, energetic and ultimately average, but – when pushed – she becomes brave and heroic. Maybe I see a lot of who I am and who I’d like to be in her.

I’ve been following this Evanovich character from Book 1, so I feel like she and I are friends. I’ve made decisions on love and doughnuts for her (we agree on Boston Cream doughnuts, but she’s stubbornly resistant to my plans for her long-term hookup with Ranger), and her family and friends are as familiar to me as my own. That is why each time one of the Plum books is released I eagerly devour every chapter. Although my anticipation for Look Alive Twenty-Five was no different, my overall opinion at the end of the book definitely was.


Here’s the Goodreads blurb for Look Alive…
There’s nothing like a good deli and the Red River Deli in Trenton is one of the best. World famous for its pastrami, coleslaw and for its disappearing managers. Over the last month, three have vanished from the face of the earth, the only clue in each case is one shoe that’s been left behind. The police are baffled. Lula is convinced that it’s a case of alien abduction. Whatever it is, they’d better figure out what’s going on before they lose their new manager, Ms. Stephanie Plum.


Some readers characterize themselves as “mood readers”. When I’m not under blog or release-day deadlines, I’d say I fit into that category.  One of the reasons I look forward to these Plum books is because I can always count on them for genuine LOL comedy. That’s the feel-good mood that I want to be able to always count on. I want those actual, literal laugh-out-loud moments.

Stephanie’s antics and those of her friends and family – particularly Lula and Grandma Mazur – have sent me into side-splitting spasms. I mean happy tears rolling down my face and everything! I kept waiting for that moment to happen in LA25, but it never came. I was underwhelmed.

I’m like an inept pet, beloved but pretty much a disaster.

The story started off well enough – favorite characters in their true forms doing wackadoodle things and actually achieving little or nothing. Usually, that formula is hilarious; however, in this book the wacky seems more nonsensical than usual, and the buildup to action goes on for far longer than necessary.

So what could have made it better? Here are some of my unprofessional but I’m-seriously-invested suggestions:

  • More, more, more Grandma Mazur. She’s the sole source of so many LOL moments and this book needs more of them and her.
  • Less Wulf. Correction, no Wulf. He is annoying and even though I do get the Wicked series tie-ins, Wulf’s paranormal presence in all-too-real Trenton, New Jersey feels like too much of an incongruent twist when compared with the rest of the action.
  • Pacing. The daily grind for Stephanie and Lula at the deli feels too much like reading about someone’s whole day at a real job. That’s not why I read these books. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of why I read these books.
  • No car explosions! Did I miss a chapter? Usually, I can count on someone blowing up one of Stephanie’s cars in some dramatic fashion. But not in book #25. So disappointing.

Normally, I would be the very last person to have even one critical thing to say about one of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books; however, her latest effort left me wanting more (or less). Even so, I’m not yet soured on the series, and I am still looking forward to Book #26.

Read an excerpt of Look Alive Twenty-Five here.

(courtesy of evanovich.com)


Janet Evanovich

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Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the Lizzy and Diesel series, twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels and Trouble Maker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, as well as the Fox and O’Hare series with co-author Lee Goldberg. 
(Bio from Goodreads)


Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1)

⇒My October Spooky Reads book #2 is Prodigal Son, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1. The monster has become a face-tattooed monk and his creator is plotting a global takeover with a pack of perfectly placed zombies!⇐

by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson
SmellRating4
(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 25, 2005, by Bantam

Genre: Fiction / Horror / Thriller

Format: Paperback

Pages: 469

#Prodigal Son   #Frankenstein

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)He cannot understand why Father would create him to be… dysfunctional. Father seeks perfection in all things.

Say “Frankenstein” to almost anyone and you can just about guess what image pops into their brain: a big, green, rectangle-headed monster with crazy stitches marking where his body parts have been sloppily meshed together.

Whether you’ve read the classic novel by Mary Shelley or seen any of the many movies about this well-known scary guy, you come to realize that the monster isn’t, in fact, the raging creature that terrorizes a town. The monster turns out to be that creature’s creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

It’s still hard to separate the name from the creature,  but leave it to Dean Koontz to figure out a way to do just that. Not only do we see the “monster” as a man, but we also see the hero in him as well.

Every city has secrets – but none as terrible as this.

Here’s the book summary:

Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself – and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more – and less – than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac – but his deranged maker.

My origins are a prison graveyard, the cadavers of criminals – combined, revitalized, reborn.

As the book opens, we see that both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster have achieved a level of immortality (200+ years of it) and find themselves living in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Nope, not joking.

Dr. Frank – now going by the name Victor Helios – has become a local entrepreneur. In public, he is a do-gooder and a powerful, influential man. But behind the scenes, he is creating a New Race of people – having perfected the method he used to create his first “person” so many years ago. As he strategically places his minions in key positions within the police force, religious institutions, healthcare, and government, his plans to achieve a future global takeover are coming together.

Frankenstein’s original monster – who has given himself the name Deucalion – spent time in the mountains of Tibet becoming a monk and getting all zen and stuff. Not kidding. He had to find a way to suppress his rage, the monks accepted him (warts and all), so he stayed. That is, until, he receives a letter from a trusted friend telling him that Dr. Frank is still alive and the S*^# is very close to hitting the fan! Deuc high-tails it to NOLA to finally confront his creator and try stop him from destroying everyone on the planet.

One man’s resistance, while admirable, cannot turn back the most titanic forces of nature.

As powerful as Deucalion is, he isn’t battling old Frank alone. He’s hitched his horse to two homicide detectives, Carson O’Connor and her partner (maybe eventually boo-thang) Michael Maddison – who weren’t exactly expecting their homicide case to turn into a supernatural saga.

Koontz’s writing is as interesting as ever – drawing you into a web of complex characters and laying the foundation for a thrillingly monstrous series. I never would have thought of the story of Frankenstein and his monster this way, but now I can’t wait to see how Deucalion, Carson, and Michael manage to save the world!

There are a whole lot of characters, but you quickly get used to the multiple POVs and all the different “voices”. By the middle of the book, I even began to anticipate which character’s story was coming up next. Don’t take that to mean that I’m calling the story “predictable”, it was… sensible.

If you’re picking this up expecting a bit of a fright for your October TBR, you may be disappointed. There are some gruesome moments, some mystery, and some definitely off-kilter characters, but all-in-all it’s basically more of a thriller than a horror novel.

That does not, however, make it any less enjoyable a read!

Koontz’s Frankenstein series continues:

Book 2: City of Night (2005)
Book 3: Dead and Alive (2009)
Book 4: Lost Souls (2009)
Book 5: The Dead Town (2011)


About the Authors

Credit EngstromKevin J. AndersonDEAN KOONTZ and KEVIN J. ANDERSON

Acknowledged as “America’s most popular suspense novelist” (Rolling Stone) and as one of today’s most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human.

Kevin J. Anderson has written spin-off novels for Star Wars, StarCraft, Titan A.E., and The X-Files, and is the co-author of the Dune prequels. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series and the Nebula Award-nominated Assemblers of Infinity. He has also written several comic books including the Dark Horse Star Wars collection Tales of the Jedi written in collaboration with Tom Veitch, Predator titles (also for Dark Horse), and X-Files titles for Topps.

(Bios from Goodreads)


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Uprooted

⇒Bet you’ll never look at the woods the same after this magical fantasy featuring a very unlikely heroine.⇐

by Naomi Novik
SmellRating3.5
(4.1 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 19, 2015, by Del Rey

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 435

#Uprooted

UprootedThere was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.

I know, I know. September is supposed to be Shelf-Discipline Month, but I had to take just an itty bitty detour to read Uprooted because it finally became available for me at my library AND because I really wanted to read it since I finished Spinning Silver a little while ago.

I am determined NOT to compare this book to Spinning Silver because I believe it deserves to stand on its own merit, but I have to say that I do understand why so many reviewers like one of these books and then end up not caring for the other – and the one they love is usually whichever one they read first!

I have to admit that is true for me as well; however, I give Uprooted all due respect for having me thinking I was about to read a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but instead, I read a clever fantasy that was – surprisingly in this day and age – a clever, original fairytale.

His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales.

Uprooted is the story of Agnieszka (“Nieshka”), an average girl from a small village with no big dreams or aspirations. In fact, her biggest goal is to make it through one day without muddying her dress or tangling her hair. She isn’t anyone’s idea of a brave heroine.

Then The Dragon comes.

Sarkan, “The Dragon”, is a powerful wizard who comes to the village to select a young female who will serve him for the next 10 years. No one knows what happens to the girls who enter The Dragon’s tower – no one dares to ask. But this is the price required to keep the villages safe from The Wood – a forever encroaching force that would force them away from their homes and families if not for The Dragon’s magic holding it back.

Nieshka’s friend Kasia has been groomed to be The Dragon’s choice almost since birth. She is beautiful, poised, skilled, and ready. But Kasia is not who Sarkan has in mind this year…

What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.

I love, love, love books with unlikely heroes/heroines. I love it when the men are physically flawed in some way and the women aren’t always beautiful and perfectly put together. That is why I loved Agnieszka (even though her name is a b**** to type)! Novik’s descriptions of her remind me of myself as a child: torn, muddy clothing, hair falling out of braids, scuffed shoes, etc.

She becomes a heroine for the masses, not the elite. She battles the forces of evil with splotches of mud on her sleeves and her hemline half torn and dragging. That’s my kind of heroine!

I also loved that Sarkan stayed true to his innate character – a crotchety old wizard who prefers scowling and bitter insults to doe-eyes and niceties. It only made me love him more. Judging from both of her books so far, Novik really knows how to make an unlikable bad guy loveable.

‘You intolerable lunatic,’ he snarled at me, and then he caught my face between his hands and kissed me.

So why only 3.5 stars? you might ask. Well… the book was good, but in certain places, the story seemed to drag. I can’t put a finger on whether there was just too much detail or if we just “lingered too long at the party”. And there were other places (particularly toward the end of the book) that seemed out of place with the rest of the story – as if someone else came in and stuck in story parts that didn’t quite fit. But overall it was a solid book that kept me engaged and entertained – even if the ending was a little less “tied up” than I was expecting.

We may soon get to see Uprooted on the big screen as Warner Brothers has purchased the rights and Ellen Degeneres has signed on to produce this movie adaptation!

Read an excerpt of Uprooted (courtesy of npr.org): Click Here


About the Author

Naomi NovikNAOMI NOVIK

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An avid reader of fantasy literature since age six, when she first made her way through The Lord of the Rings, Naomi Novik is also a history buff with a particular interest in the Napoleonic era and a fondness for the work of Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen. She studied English literature at Brown University, and did graduate work in computer science at Columbia University before leaving to participate in the design and development of the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Shadow of Undrentide. Over the course of a brief winter sojourn spent working on the game in Edmonton, Canada (accompanied by a truly alarming coat that now lives brooding in the depths of her closet), she realized she preferred writing to programming, and on returning to New York, decided to try her hand at novels.

Naomi lives in New York City with her husband and six computers.

(Bio taken from Goodreads)


 

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Guess Who

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW (almost): Fame and fortune turn out to be a lot less fun than anticipated for a TV detective when he awakens in a room full of strangers, handcuffed to a bed – with a dead man in the tub. ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Hanover Square Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Chris McGeorge

SmellRating2

(3.66 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: September 18, 2018, by Hanover Square Press

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 368 pages (Hardcover)

#GuessWho  #NetGalley

Guess WhoTime was escaping from the room. They were standing in an hourglass, with hands out trying to catch the sand.

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but reading a book that I am not enjoying makes me angry! I feel obligated to finish it – especially if I have promised a review, but I’m never happy about it.

So I guess you know by now what my emotion is as I write this review. To put it mildly, I didn’t care for this book. To put it less mildly, @#$%^&*()_(*&^%$#!!!!!!!!!!!

If you’ve seen the movie Saw, you’ve already experienced (a much better version of) this book. But besides the fact that it seemed derivative and unimaginative, ultimately, you discover that it was also extremely unrealistic and improbably in its execution! I don’t want to be more specific because, spoilers.

Trust me, I REALLY HOPE I HAVE THE UNPOPULAR OPINION HERE!

It doesn’t give me any kind of pleasure at all to hand out low ratings for books that an author has obviously toiled long and hard over. It pains me. But this book pained me too, so tit for tat.

Was his really a wasted life – only half lived? Maybe this was to be a fitting end.

OK, so let me stretch past my anger and at least tell you what Guess Who is about…

Morgan Sheppard rose to celebrity status on the wings of a scary event in his youth. His teacher was found hanging in his own classroom, and Morgan gave the police information to solve the case. From there, he became TVs “Resident Detective”, with his own show, fans, and substance abuse issues.

When he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange hotel room handcuffed to the bed, at first he thinks its just another night of partying gone a little wrong. But when he sees that there are five other people in the room with him – strangers – and a dead man in the bathtub, things start getting real.

Sheppard is then forced to put his over-hyped (nonexistent?) detective skills to work to find out why they’re all there and who killed the man in the tub. Does he? Do they all live? Who put them there? Honestly, in the end, it really isn’t all that interesting – even though it sounds like it should be, and I hate that it wasn’t.

I didn’t care about these characters at all. The most interesting one was the girl called “Headphones” who only spoke a handful of times. Maybe that’s why I liked her – she was the least annoying (and the least transparent).

The writing was clipped and, at times, disconnected. I know this is an ARC, but I felt like I was reading the first draft. Initially, the dual timelines flowed and brought more depth to the story, but that effect fell apart toward the end, making the story feel disjointed and, at one point, like you had entered a different (almost better) story altogether.

I felt like I labored through the second half of the book – already knowing who the perpetrators were and just waiting for the MC to realize it. Turns out, surprise! I was right and the denouement was easily apparent, but more than that – it wasn’t even interesting getting there.

If you have read Guess Who and enjoyed it, please tell me why you did so that maybe I can see it in a different light. I don’t think I’ll change my mind, but I welcome the different perspective.


About the Author

PictureCHRIS MCGEORGE

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Chris McGeorge has an MA in Creative Writing (Crime / Thriller) from City University London where he wrote his first crime novel Dead Room for this thesis. He constantly told stories from a young age, whether they took the form of comics, short stories or scripts.

He is a lover of Golden Age crime, like Christie and Conan Doyle, leading his crime stories to be a mix of the old and the contemporary. He likes weird and wonderful plots, with plenty of intrigue and twists. 

His often coherent ramblings about everything pop culture can be found on his blog Festival of Blood and occasionally he produces the Sarcasmicast podcast with a group of friends.

(Bio from www.dhhliteraryagency.com)



 

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER continues with this peculiar story about unconventional people with unusual abilities.⇐

by Ransom Riggs
SmellRating3
(3.9 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published June 7, 2011, by Quirk

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Paperback

Pages: 382

#MissPeregrinesHomeforPeculiarChildren #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I finally committed to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. A girl can dream!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Sleep is not, Death is not; Who seem to die live.

You may already know the story of the X-Men. People with genetic mutations that give them superhuman abilities. Shunned by common society, some of them gather at Professor X’s school in order to hone their abilities. The school is a safe haven for them – a secure location where they are free to be themselves without threat from the outside world.

Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children are gathered together for some of the same reasons – to protect themselves from outsiders who don’t understand their gifts, but also from other, darker, things as well.

House you were born in, Friends of your spring-time, Old man and young maid, Day’s toil and its guerdon, …

Here’s the blurb:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

They are all vanishing, Fleeing to fables, Cannot be moored.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The story was just meh to me. The pictures were, by far, the most interesting and captivating things about the book to me. While the premise of the story is an intriguing fantasy, the pictures scattered throughout its pages are – for the most part – real. And creepy.

A note in the back of the book verifies that they’re authentic:

All the picture in this book are authentic, vintage found photographs, and with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered. They were lent from the personal archives of then collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few, rescuing images of historical significance and arresting beauty from obscurity – and, most likely, the dump.

There were peculiar children, threatening creatures, mysteries, hints at romance, and a few scares along the way; however, I realized as I neared the last chapter that I’d be required to read the sequel and maybe further to feel like I’ll receive any resolution to the story.

The story is X-Men, mixed with elements of  WWII and time travel. If those themes interest you, this could be the book for you. The book is well written and has a thread of suspenseful tension woven through it from beginning to end. The book has gotten a lot of buzz, won several awards, has spent a good while on the Best Sellers list, and was even adapted into a feature-length movie. I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it were a standalone novel.

The sequels include Hollow City (2014), Library of Souls (2016), A Map of Days (Pub date Oct 2, 2018), and a prequel Tales of the Peculiar (2016).

Read an excerpt of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Courtesy of TeenReads.com) HERE

Or see info on the 2016 movie directed by Tim Burton HERE


About the Author

Ransom RiggsRANSOM RIGGS

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“HI, I’M RANSOM, and I like to tell stories. Sometimes I tell them with words, sometimes with pictures, often with both. I grew up on a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland and also in a little house by the beach in Englewood, Florida. I started writing stories when I was young, on an old typewriter that jammed and longhand on legal pads. When I was a little older I got a camera for Christmas and became obsessed with photography, and when I was a little older still my friends and I came into possession of a half-broken video camera and began to make our own movies, starring ourselves, using our bedrooms and backyards for sets. I have loved writing stories and taking photographs and making movies ever since, and have endeavored to do all three, in some form or another. These days I make my home in Los Angeles with my wife, fellow novelist Tahereh Mafi.”

(Bio taken from ransomriggs.com)



 

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Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER continues for me with my third off-the-shelf read this month – a twisted thriller featuring a truly unique and seductive serial killer.⇐

by Chelsea Cain

SmellRating4
(4.05 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 2, 2008, by Minotaur Books

Genre: Fiction / Crime Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 325

#Sweetheart #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I finally started reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell, #2)He had been happy for a minute, he thought. That was his mistake.

It has been a while since I read Heartsick, the first book in the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. But even though there has been a long stretch of time in between my reading of these two thrillers, anyone who meets Gretchen Lowell would find it hard to forget her.

But that’s something that Archie Sheridan clearly already knows. He’s never been able to forget Gretchen – even after she abducted him, held him as her prisoner for 10 days and carved him up pretty good during that time too.

But now he’s back. Back at work, back at home with his ex-wife, Debbie, and his kids, and back hunting down the next sadistic killer in town. Gretchen’s in jail and life can finally get back to normal. Sure. Sure, it can. <laughs villainously>

The drills did not take into account Gretchen Lowell. She was predicatable. She would kill until someone stopped her.

I refuse to give anything away with this review, so there are no spoilers (even though this book is 10 years old), but I’m not giving it away if it’s in the blurb, right? I think the best summary of Sweetheart comes from Chelsea Cain’s own words from her website:

Serial killer Gretchen Lowell escapes.  ’Nuff said.

Yes, indeed. With just that one sentence, Cain says enough to let us know that the ish is about to hit the fan in this book. 

Archie is just a teensy bit obsessed with Gretchen, still. And her escape not only puts him back between her crosshairs, but it also endangers his family and anyone else he’s close to.

Sin is rearely without complication.

Sweetheart is the second book in its series and one that I had been meaning to read for a very long time. Gretchen Lowell is a scary-as-hell, uncommon enemy. She is cunning and is 100% invested in the long-game. Archie Sheridan is… complicated. He’s dealing with a healthy dose of PTSD from his last encounter with Gretchen, The Beauty Killer, and really can’t be held accountable for his own actions. (That’s me making excuses for some of his crazy choices in this book).

No excuses for Susan Ward, the headstrong young news reporter who’s preoccupied with Archie and with seeing one of her stories on the front page of the Portland newspaper. She makes some dumb decisions in this book and I’m more than a little mad at her because of them. <insert salty side-eye here>

It’s fast-paced, definitely thrilling, and packed with characters that will attach themselves to you on so many different levels. They’re smart and stupid, loyal and deceptive, perfect and flawed, innocent and dangerous.

Fans of crime thrillers – especially those featuring prolific serial killers – should definitely not miss this series. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Evil at Heart.

Interested in the series but haven’t read Heartsick yet? Read an excerpt (courtesy of ChelseaCain.com): HERE


About the Author

CHELSEA CAIN

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Chelsea Cain is the New York Times bestselling author of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers HeartsickSweetheartEvil at HeartThe Night SeasonKill You Twice, and Let Me Go. Her book One Kick (August, 2014) is the first in her Kick Lannigan thriller series. Her book Heartsick was named one of the best 100 thrillers ever written by NPR, and Heartsick and Sweetheart were named among Stephen King’s Top Ten Books of the Year. Her books have been featured on HBO’s True Blood and on ABC’s Castle. Cain lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)



 

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The Dinner

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER starts off for me with this dark dinner party of unlikely antiheroes.⇐

by Herman Koch
Translated by Sam Garrett
SmellRating4
(3.22 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published February 12, 2013, by Hogarth

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 292

#TheDinner #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I’ll be finally committing to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

The DinnerWhen people get a chance to come close to death without having it touch them personally, they never miss the opportunity.

Every month or so, my friends and I get together for a fun little dinner party. We prepare our own food and share it around a table that is overflowing with laughter, life stories, and goodwill. And, oh yes, wine. There’s always wine!

After reading this book, I am so thankful for those cheerful parties and each one of my affable friends.

Only one time did something run amiss at one of my parties – an uninvited person crashed the party and uneasiness threatened to suck all of the air out of my normally welcoming home. It was uncomfortable for a time, but my wonderful friends managed to salvage the night and we laughed about it later.

Unfortunately for the characters in The Dinner, the only laughing being done is somewhat sinister and there is absolutely no salvaging of this strange summer night in Amsterdam.

Unhappiness can’t stand silence – especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.

The story starts off harmlessly enough. Paul Lohman and his wife Claire meet his brother Serge and Serge’s wife, Babette, for dinner at a swanky restaurant. It’s not just a casual night out, there’s something they all need to talk about. A discussion about both of the couples’ sons needs to be had. But that’s not why Paul is annoyed. He seems to be bothered by… everything: The choice of restaurant, the waiter describing the food, even the guy who comes into the bathroom next to him. Claire is cautious too because Babette had been crying before they even reached the restaurant, and for other secret reasons as well. Serge, who is on the political trail to become the next prime minister is his usual confident and demanding self, with something else lying just under the surface. Uncertainty? Anger? Fear? Yes.

By the time dessert is served, the gloves have come off and their lavishly prepared dinner has become only a bothersome backdrop to a frightful new reality. One in which everything they each know is threatened by the actions of people that aren’t even present at the table.

Happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn’t have to be validated.

The Dinner was not at all what I was expecting. Reading a book like this – one that defies your assumptions and charges down the road less traveled – is what most of us look for from this form of entertainment, right? But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

This was definitely a dark path and the people I met upon it are not the sort you want to run into after the sun goes down.

I can say, thankfully, that I could not relate to any of these characters. They each had something dark and foreboding about them that made them monstrous in their own right – our unreliable narrator, Paul, the chiefest among villains. His unrelenting negativity and criticisms left a figurative bad taste in my mouth before their dinner had even begun. And Serge, his charismatic brother is the kind of smarmy politician that sours any event. Babette the weepy sister-in-law who constantly interrupts the meal with emotional outbursts may be the most normal out of them all because Claire, Paul’s wife, eventually reveals that her moral compass is dangerously off-kilter.

Koch tells a cheerless but magnetic story where something obviously ominous is hovering over the dinner table at all times. As we start to learn what that “something” is, it’s clear that the darkness isn’t only present at the table, but within these characters and their relatives as well. I was left searching for even one redeeming character among them all – maybe Valerie, the daughter/niece that is hardly mentioned? Maybe her autism gives her position that is apart from and above all the rest of them, so that’s why she has no place in the story (or at the table).

The Dinner is not humorous or endearing in any way. It was a very good read, but maybe not an enjoyable one, if that makes any sense. However, it did make me consider mental health issues much more seriously. By the end, I felt grateful for all the dinner parties I’ve been to that ended only with hugs, more laughter, and takeaway boxes.

Read an excerpt of The Dinner (courtesy Goodreads): HERE


About the Author

Herman KochHERMAN KOCH

Website

Herman Koch (born 1953) is an internationally bestselling author. The translation rights of The Dinner (2009) have been sold to over 55 countries, which is unprecedented for a modern Dutch novel. The Dinner has been adapted into several international stage plays and into a Dutch and Italian movie. The US movie adaptation of The Dinner released in 2017, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and Dear Mr M. (2014) are international bestsellers as well.

His latest novel The Ditch is enthusiastically received upon publication, and already declared a ‘vintage Koch’.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)


 

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Spinning Silver

⇒This is not your grandma’s fairytale! Naomi Novik spins a new tale of Rumpelstiltskin that starts out as silver but ends up as pure gold.⇐

by Naomi Novik
SmellRating5
(4.35 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 10, 2018, by Del Rey

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 466

#SpinningSilver

Spinning SilverBut of course a Staryk king would want a queen who really could make gold out of silver, mortal or not. The Staryk always came for gold.

When I was a child, I imagined that unicorns lived in the woods behind my grandparents’ house in the mountains of Asheville and that fairies made little mushroom houses in the tall grass.

I imagined all their magic could be shared with good little girls like me (smirk) if only I believed hard enough and if I was nice to wild animals. I even wanted to grow wings like a fairy!

Then I watched movies like The Last Unicorn, Legend, and The Dark Crystal and I realized that the world of fantasy can be a dark and scary place.

Of course I was afraid. But I had learned to fear other things more: being despised, whittled down one small piece of myself at a time, smirked at and taken advantage of.

In Naomi Novik’s second fairy tale retelling (The first is Uprooted, a reimagining of Beauty and the Beast), the author puts a new spin on the classic tale of Rumpelstiltskin in a very original way.

Originally this story has nothing to do with rainbows or pixies – none of the niceties of fairyland. The Brothers Grimm told a tale of a greedy miller who pawned his daughter off to an equally greedy king with the promise that she could spin silver thread into gold – something that she really had no clue how to do.

The king locks her inside three progressively larger storage rooms filled with straw and threatens her life unless she is able to spin the straw into gold by morning. Each night she is rescued by a vertically-challenged, opportunistic man who collects her jewelry as payment for performing the task. The final night, she’s out of baubles, so she barters away her first-born child in exchange for the little man’s spinning services in order to save her own life.

Years later, her first born child is born and little dude comes to collect his due. She is only given a reprieve when he tells her that if she can guess his name in three days, then he will let her keep her child. After two days of incorrect guesses, one of her servants overhears the little man singing a song bragging about his impending dinner to be made of the queen’s child and in the song he lets slip his name. The servant drops the dime on the little man to the queen, and she fronts him out in front of the whole court with his name: Rumpelstiltskin! <cheers, claps, bowing, curtseying, thank you, thank you>.

You were challenged beyond the bounds of what could be done, and found a path to make it true.

So that was how the Brothers Grimm framed their story. Naomi Novik kept a lot of the symbolism of the original tale, but her reimagining takes a totally different spin. See what I did there?

Spinning Silver is the story of three women with inner power that they didn’t even realize they had:

MIRYEM – The daughter of a Jewish moneylender who realizes that she is better at the job than her dad is. Maybe too good. Suddenly she’s swept up in the icy cold world of the Staryk (think Game of Thrones White Walker) changing silver coins into pure gold. With her life always under threat, Miryem has to balance protecting herself and her beloved family back home in a town so small it doesn’t even have a true name.

WANDA – The daughter of an abusive town drunk, Wanda becomes responsible for her two brothers and her own survival during a harsh winter. Her strength of character and some old-fashioned good luck propel her into an uncertain destiny, but one that she embraces more than the cruelty of the life she once knew. Seriously, the development of this character is so endearing – she can’t be overlooked as one of the book’s true champions.

IRINA – The daughter of a duke who is only interested in increasing his household in money and in position. And if he can use Irina to do that, then all the better. But when he gives her in marriage to the demon-possessed tsar, Irina has to do more than learn how to rule and protect a kingdom; she has to learn to save her own life.

These are the three heroines of the story, but there are other characters that contribute heavily to the story and make these women successful. And then there are the bad guys who are indeed bad, but they have a reason. Or a motive. Or a defense. You decide. Either way, I love to hate them, and then I hate to love them.

But I had not known that I was strong enough to do any of those things until they were over and I had done them. I had to do the work first, not knowing.

Spinning Silver is one of those books that I really wanted to read the moment it was released; however, due to a clump of NetGalley ARCS that released in July and August, I wasn’t able to get to it until now. It became available at my local library, so I snatched it up and finally read it in three days.

And now that I’ve read it, I wish I could have slowed it down and savored it more.

I love the classic fairy tales, but often retellings can be hit or miss. This one is a hit. Although it is a reimagining of the classic Rumpelstiltskin, it earns its own identity – building a unique world with strong characters and more than one terrifying antihero.

Things I love: The originality built into a story that we thought we knew; the multiple POVs; the internal strength of the heroines that seems to come from genuine heart, not trumped up attitude; the fact that there is no clear right and wrong action for the characters to be goaded into by the reader; that sometimes even the enemies surprise you.

This book is worth a re-read (in the future when my TBR list no longer resembles a literal mountain) and it has made me add Novik’s Uprooted to that pile in hopes of finding another 5-star read.


About the Author

Naomi NovikNaomi Novik

Website

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Naomi Novik was born in New York in 1973, a first-generation American, and raised on Polish fairy tales, Baba Yaga, and Tolkien. She studied English Literature at Brown University and did graduate work in Computer Science at Columbia University before leaving to participate in the design and development of the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. Her first novel, His Majesty’s Dragon, was published in 2006 along with Throne of Jade and Black Powder War, and has been translated into 23 languages. She has won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. The fourth volume of the Temeraire series, Empire of Ivory, published in September 2007, was a New York Times bestseller, and was followed by bestsellers Victory of Eagles and Tongues of Serpents.

(Bio taken from Naomi’s Website)



 

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The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way

⇒What do you do when your neighbors are dropping dead and the police are closing in on you? Well, you Cha-Cha, of course! ⇐

**Many thanks to Andrea at Smith Publicity and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Frances Metzman

SmellRating3

(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: June 21, 2018, by Wild River Consulting & Publishing LLC

Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 451 pages

#TheChaChaBabesofPelicanWay

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican WayWe’re the amazing cha-cha babes who live on Pelican Way. We dance till we drop or they haul us off to jail. Do they dance in prison?

Celia found new life with her retirement community in Florida, and in particular with her two friends Marcy and Deb. They all Cha-Cha together and Celia has found the greatest freedom just from dancing and being with her new best friends. But when other residents start dying inexplicably, suddenly Celia and her friends find themselves in danger and the targets of a police investigation.

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way was initially engaging and seemed to be a kooky, off-beat mystery with characters that aren’t the usual mystery book personalities. But as the book went on, I found it a little repetitive and slow. Plus, I couldn’t shake the Golden Girl references that kept popping into my head. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like these characters deserved to have their own personalities and didn’t deserve my constant comparisons to Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia (Rose was kind of mixed up in there too).

Another negative for me was that these women were only in their sixties, but the impression from the story is that their age group is slow, decrepit, and basically at death’s doorstep (until they randomly broke out into the Cha-Cha or playing doubles tennis). That bothered me. I have plenty of relatives and friends in that age group who are very active and healthy and who aren’t on 1000 different medications for all kinds of ailments.

The ultimate mystery, however, was well thought out and clever, but by the end, I think my interest in the story had waned too much for me to get excited over the ultimate resolution. (Plus the daughter in the story, Allison, totally put me off and I couldn’t stand reading her chapters!) Errrggghhhh even now her disrespectful attitude makes me want to spit!

Three stars because, although it wasn’t the book for me, a certain audience might identify more with these characters and find it an enjoyable read; however, there are things about it that might keep me from recommending it to everyone.


About the Author

Frances MetzmanFrances Metzman

Website

Twitter

Award-winning author Fran Metzman is a graduate of the Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to publishing numerous short stories and co-authoring her first novel Ugly Cookies with Joy E. Stocke, she also teaches writing at various local colleges and universities. Her blog “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” can be found at Wild River Review, and deals with the mature (and sometimes immature) dating/ relationships and aspects of society that influence all relationships. Her short story “My Inheritance” was nominated for a Dzanc Books Award for Best of the Web. On February 1st 2012, a short story collection, The Hungry Heart Stories, was published. The stories feature tales of people in crisis, yearning for emotional sustenance, and where food occasionally intersects the empty spaces in their hearts.

(Bio taken from her website)



 

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