Linda78

Stranger Things Have Happened (An Adrien English Choose Your Own Adventure)

Stranger Things Have Happened: An Adrien English Write Your Own Damn Story - Josh Lanyon, Catherine Dair

I'll say this upfront: if you're not a fan of CYOA books or of the Adrien English series, then you're probably not going to get much out of this. If you are a fan of Adrien-with-an-E and so-so on CYOA, then I think this will still be enjoyable. If you're a fan of both, you will LOVE this!

 

I used to read Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was kid. Remember those? They were little paperbacks, usually stapled together, and you got to choose which way the story would go back picking what storyline to follow next. They could be quite entertaining to see all the different ways a story could be told. Now, by the time Ms. Lanyon wrote Come Unto These Yellow Sands, I had completely forgotten CYOAs existed, but reading that book sparked a lot of fun memories. Then Ms. Lanyon gifted us with this gem and ... I didn't get it and dragged my feet. I finally got it shortly after So This Is Christmas came out and still didn't read it. I guess I was waiting until the right moment, and this moment was it. 

 

Oh, what joy! Ms. Lanyon is certainly creative and she's given us so many different paths to choose. There are wacky shenanigans amok, and tentacles, and pirates, and some truly disturbing twists which thank God the actual story didn't go that way, let's just put it like that. The only thing that was missing was the Scooby Doo ending. :) But I'm sure if we ask real nice, she might give it to us as a Christmas Coda.

Chaser - DNF @ 11%

Chaser (Bad Habits Book 2) - Staci Hart

Poor little rich boy. "Innocent" little country girl. No chemistry. Bored now.

 

The writing itself isn't bad, and the characters aren't unlikable. I'm just not wooed by The Life of the Rich and Useless and most of the focus so far is on Connor.

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White, Garth Williams, Rosemary Wells

I probably had this book on permanent check out from my school's library when I was a kid. I don't even know how many times I read it growing up, feeling awkward and out of place and wanting that one person to think I'm special. I loved Wilbur and Charlotte and their amazing friendship. <3

Still don't like spiders though. ;)

Infected: Life After Death (Infected #3)

Infected: Life After Death - Andrea Speed

Aw, poor Roan. :(

 

There were a lot of heartfelt and bittersweet moments in this installment, which again gives us two books in one. Roan's mourning has been significant, and while he's now back in the land of the living, he's still not yet finished mourning. His depression has also hit an all-time low, even with friends and a possible new love interest making sure he doesn't retreat back into himself. 

 

The characters continue to be the strong point of this series. Paris still has a presence here, especially in Book 1, and his wish to see Roan looked after is very much fulfilled. We get to meet a couple of new characters also, including the hilarious dominatrix Fiona and the complex hustler Holden. And of course, there's Dylan, who understands Roan in a way few others can. He's also loved and lost, and he offers an ear and friendship when Roan needs it most. 

 

 

The cases in Book 1 aren't as involved, and one even gets dropped, though there's a note at the very end briefly explaining it's outcome. Book 2 brings back the political unrest of the first book, along with Eli, and the new cases here are a bit more involved. It's suiting to Roan's moods as the book progresses that the cases get more complex, but they're still not quite at the level I'm used to expecting.

 

I still wish Ms. Speed would delve more into the hows and whys of the virus. We get a teensy bit more here, but not much. It's still unknown how the virus started (but come on, there have to be conspiracy theories) or how it really works, or why Roan's case is so vastly different from every other infected. I'm getting a little better at rolling with all this shifter business, though I am worried Roan's going to give himself throat cancer or something if he keeps tearing up his larynx like that. The shifter stuff is interesting, I suppose, though I'll never respond in a "ooh-la-la" way to it. I mean, I love my cats. I just don't loooove my cats. ;)

 

The ending of Book 2 was rather rushed. The final chapter was definitely epiloguey in the way it wrapped everything up. I'm greedy when I'm enjoying the world I'm in. Don't sum up; show me everything! The big talk between Roan and Dylan is completely skipped and barely even glossed over. I wanted to see that. That's a very important step not just for Roan moving on with his life but for Roan and Dylan figuring out their fledgling relationship. Why would you skip that?

 

There were a few continuity errors - such as Book 2 being noted as being "one month later" after Book 1, but then it's said Roan hasn't seen Matt in a year. No, it's been a month. There are also several mentions of Roan's funky bedsheets in Book 1, which even get bloodied at one point, and Roan keeps thinking about washing them, but who knows when he ever does. They're little things, but they bugged me. A good content editor should've pointed those things out. (And since we find out later Roan had just gone through a transition cycle four days before the start of this book, there's no reason for his sheets to be funky at all - at least not until Roan gets into bed all bloody and gross. He was in a cage every night for at least three nights in a row. No one thought to do some laundry? Epic fail, guys. At least spritz some Fabreeze, geez.)

 

I don't recall if I already mentioned Ms. Speed's used of parentheticals. I love parentheses, so that doesn't bother me. What did start to annoy me was the use of (?) and (!) throughout the text. It started to feel like the author wanted to nudge the reader toward certain emotional responses. And in one case, the transexual prostitute, who we learn a great deal about but never actually meet, the use of (?) after her name was ... I'm not sure what it was. At first I thought it was supposed to indicate that Roan wasn't sure it was actually her, even though he identified her immediately in the previous paragraph. But as I read on and she was mentioned again later, I started to feel a transphobic vibe from the text. It was very odd. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt, at least for now, and assume clumsy exposition. 

Going Postal (Audiobook)

Going Postal - Terry Pratchett

I know these are all supposed to be (supposedly) stand-alones, but I still get the feeling at times that I'm missing things by jumping around. Like Moist Van Lipwig. It felt like I should know who he was at the start of this, even though this is listed as the first Moist Van Lipwig book. True, anything relevant to this book was stated up front, but that niggling feeling that there was more backstory than the book was giving me didn't quite go away. Maybe it's just the completist in me. *shrug*

 

Anyway, the idea of the post office as a sort of purgatory was great. And not just any post office, but the dead mail post office. Full of mail from literally everywhere and everywhen. This has all the typical Pratchett humor and wit, and the little observations about the idiosyncrasies of our own world that get leaked into Discworld to warped proportions. 

 

Moist, a conman in his former life, learns to put his skills to better use and even rights some wrongs - though not all of those wrongs were his. I really enjoy the way Pratchett does character development here. Moist clearly has things to learn, and does learn them, but not at the expense of who he is but through learning to use his powers for good instead of selfishness. Plus, it's just fun. :D

 

I was hoping for a guest appearance from DEATH, but sadly he never showed up. Oh, well, maybe the next book. :)

 

The narrator, Stephen Briggs, was perfect for this story and captures the whimsy of the characters and settings very well. 

Infected: Bloodlines (Infected #2)

Infected: Bloodlines - Andrea Speed

If you read the first book, none of this should be a spoiler, but if you haven't, then proceed with caution.

 

Let me get my one gripe out of the way first. Paris is pretty. Like, really super duper fantabuloso everyone-with-eyes-wants-to-bang-him sexy hot. I know this because the author reminds the reader of this repeatedly. If I cut and paste all those passages together, it would probably take up five pages minimum. I vaguely remember being annoyed by this in the first book, but in this book, we're told that Paris's tiger virus has reached critical, that he's lost 50 pounds and is only 150-something, pale, always cold - he's sick, chronically so. So I don't need to hear about how super duper mega hot sex-on-legs he is every other page. One, I actually remember that from the previous book. Two, he's SICK! And at over six feet and only 150 pounds, he's not broad-chested. He's a toothpick. I just found the constant fascination with his sex appeal to be really shallow and misplaced in this book, and I could've done without it. Especially since the author could've gotten the same point across by showing and not telling...and telling...and telling...and telling...

 

Moving on to the actual story:

 

On the mystery front, I give this one three stars. The mystery wasn't really that involved here, and the revelation of the whodunit comes almost by accident. Almost. And since Roan's in an emotionally unstable place, that outcome isn't what you'd expect it to be - and that's all I'm saying about that. 

 

On the personal story front, I give this five stars. Read this with a box of tissues close at hand, because you're going to need it! In only two books, or two and a half if you read the novella "Infected: Paris" before this one, Ms. Speed created a beautiful couple in Roan and Paris. They're flawed, they're sometimes stupid, they're occasionally too sweet to bare, and they're real. And in this book, they're raw. They both know what's coming, and while Paris is preparing for the inevitable, Roan's living as close to denial as he can get for as long as he can, because to face reality would be the end for him as well. The supporting cast is all back. Dee is a saint of an ex-boyfriend, and Kevin's still a mess. Matt's much more prominent here. We don't see as much of the coppers, but when we do we get to see their concern and support. 

 

There are a couple of things that are brought up and then dropped, and some things are mentioned that happened between books that I would've liked to see on page. The editing is better than the first book but could still use work on making the "he's" and "his" more clear on who is being talked about. Still, the editing here is better than many. 

The Time Machine

The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

This was better than The War of the Worlds. H.G. Wells kept it short this time, so no overly long descriptions, though he's still allergic to giving his main characters names. The science is ridiculous, of course, but once you get past that this is a fun little story about the future of mankind, but there's not much else here than that. 

 

I did see the Guy Pearce movie (OMG has that been 15 years ago already?!) and yikes, I can see why people who read and loved this novella hated the movie. It's not really anything like the story at all. Let me just express my appreciation that H.G. Wells realized that the ability to time travel is motivation enough for an inventor to build a time machine - no fridging of a girlfriend necessary. Take note, Hollywood: STOP FRIDGING WOMEN!

 

I will leave you will this thought:

 

The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds (Atria Books) - H.G. Wells

I'm sure if I were alive in 1897 when this was first published, the long drawn-out passages of endless details would've blown my socks off. H. G. Wells certainly did have a healthy imagination, and the average reader back then wouldn't have anything to compare this to. The details would've been necessary. But in a world where we have thousands of alien invasion books and movies, including that recent "adaptation" of this book with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, I found myself wishing that Wells would stop setting the scene and just get to the point already.

 

The first several chapters are all setup. When the action finally gets underway, it's well-written and well-paced, and the vividness of Wells' writing is appreciated then. And then the action will be over and goes back to its previous dragging pace. The narrator is never given a name, nor much of a personality since he spends most of his time describing what everyone else is doing. He's just a TSTL dude from a podunk town outside London, and he's clearly not prepared for these alien shenanigans. 

He really is TSTL. He gets his wife out of town after the killing starts, and then he GOES BACK for no other reason than to see what happens. The fact he doesn't die disproves Darwinism.

(show spoiler)

 

I found myself comparing this to other alien movies I've seen, and figuring that Independence Day is the closest update of this book. (I can't comment on the Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning movie, since neither of those actors inspires me to go to the movie theatre.) I also wondered what a movie would look like if it was actually set at the same time as the book in the late 1800s - and then remembered Cowboys and Aliens. :D

 

The narrator, James Spencer, was decent. He was easy to follow along though his dialogue was stilted. The cool thing about him is that his voice had a very Cecil-esque tone to it, which made me really wish that Cecil Baldwin, who voices the podcast program Welcome to Night Vale, would narrate this story at some point. Given its broadcast history when Orson Welles decided to update the story in 1938, it just seems too meta to not happen. 

Wizards at War (Young Wizards #8)

Wizards at War - Diane Duane

After my disappointment in Wizard's Holiday and the cliffhanger ending that led into this book, I wasn't sure what I would get or how I would like it. Well, I am now officially protesting only being allowed to give a book five stars. This deserve every star ever born! This was phenomenal, and a definite one to read with a box of tissues close at hand. There will be sad tears and happy tears alike. 

 

I'm really impressed with how Duane managed to turn Roshaun's character around. Not that he stops being a pompous ass, mind you. But with more background on him and his situation on his home planet, and more time spent with him as he and Dairine become friends, lends a lot to being able to appreciate his character better. I even came to appreciate his pompousness. :D Filif and Skeer'ret continue to be great, we get some great character development for Carmela and Ponch, some expected, and some very much not expected. That Duane can still surprise her readers this far into the series is a testament to her skill as a writer.

 

This is a long book, with a few different POVs, and it's necessary. This is the culmination of the series up to this point. We see characters returning from previous books, and we understand the stakes after the various travels we've seen our main three characters have done over the previous seven books. This was tense and the prose was beautiful as ever. This series easily could've ended here - most other authors would build up to the Doom Day book and end it. Duane doesn't do that. She leaves just enough to hint at future stories, maybe not ones that will be as intense or as high stakes as this one, but still stories worth telling. And after this long with her, I'm willing to go along with the ride.

 

I can't say much more without spoiling a bunch of stuff, but I've decided that this is the secret about dogs the Colonel was going to tell Dean Winchester before the dog-talking spell wore off. ;)

Whispers Under Ground

Whispers Under Ground  - Ben Aaronovitch, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Still fun. Still funny. Sort of cozy for an UF series. I never really feel like there are any actual stakes, of the Mr. Pointy variety or the life-threatening variety. This is more like Murder She Wrote with ghosts. 

 

Peter's still a swell bloke, and I'm really liking Leslie's role and her confidence in her ability to do her job and learn magic despite the ongoing effects of what happened to her in the first book. 

Oh please

Olive Juice - T.J. Klune

A general memo to all authors:

 

You don't get to decide what readers write in their reviews, and you don't get to decide what readers need to know before picking up a book.

 

 

It's unlikely your book is so original that no one has ever written about the topic before. And there are readers who no doubt have legitimate reasons to not want to read about said topic (whatever the frell it is), no matter who wrote it.

 

 

So please, let readers do their thing.

Standing Alone - DNF @ 28%

Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Plus) - Asra Q. Nomani

88 pages all saying about the same thing: radical Islam hates women. Which I didn't even need to read one page to know that. There are certainly a lot of interesting things here, and I enjoyed what I learned, especially about the roots of Islam and how it's changed. The issue is that while this is technically well-written (the author is a journalist and knows her grammar), it's not very absorbing. It's repetitive, and reads like an article rather than a book. Half of these 88 pages could have been trimmed out without losing anything essential.

Reading progress update: I've read 31%.

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

YES! Burn that muffa down!

 

Connection Error (#gaymers #3)

Connection Error  - Annabeth Albert, Sean Crisden

As with the previous two books in this series, traveling and getting to know each other while trapped together in a confined space plays an important part in the MCs' relationship. Unlike the previous two books, they weren't frenemies beforehand, and the traveling didn't force them to come to terms with their differences and learn to appreciate each other, with that appreciation quickly turning to love. 

 

I said in my review for the second book - Status Update? Or was it Beta Test? I don't really remember which one came first or second. - that they were too similar to each other and I probably would've done better to wait to listen to the second book so I could better appreciate it on its own merits. And that's why I waited so long to finally get around to this one. Well, that's one reason. The other would be Sean Crisden, who is at best a meh narrator for me, so he doesn't exactly inspire me to rush out and get his books. Yet somehow, despite his meh-ness, I still really enjoyed this book. 

 

I was really pleased to see that this book deviated a bit from the previous two. Ryan doesn't work for the video game developer that Josiah works for, so the first time they meet is on their flight, which they're both taking for different reasons. So there's none of that boring frenemy nonsense to bog through. They hit it off immediately and forge a really strong friendship while geeking out over the video game expansion packet Josiah is developing. 

 

And then they land - and Josiah realizes for the first time that Ryan, the super hunky Navy SEAL he's been sitting next to this whole time, is a double amputee, missing both his legs - and in true Josiah fashion he blurts out the most horrible insensitive thing you can say to an amputee. It doesn't matter that he doesn't mean it in a cruel way, that he's just stating the obvious in his shock. It's a bad thing and he knows it and immediately tries to apologize. Thankfully, Ryan's able to forgive him and their friendship continues.

 

A lot of this is told through their various texts and emails as they have a friends with benefits relationship long-distance while Ryan does his rehab in Texas Josiah works on his video expansion pack in Germany and California. We get to see them actually be friends and come to care for and like each other in that capacity. Yes, Ryan knows very early on that he wants more than just friendship, but there's no instalove here. I loved pretty much everything about their relationship and how it developed. Ryan takes longer to get to where Josiah is, but he's actually there a lot sooner than he realizes or admits. 

 

While I did like seeing them chit chat back and forth, these parts did kind of drag a wee bit. I'd have skimmed/skipped right over all those To:s and From:s and Subject:s if I were reading this myself so I could get to the actual messages faster. Crisden naturally had to read all those headers out in full. Also, Crisden does this weird thing with his voice when he's reading their texts and emails, like he's almost trying to make them sound a little robotic or automated. Or maybe he's just being typical Crisden. Hard to tell.

 

All the rehab stuff with Ryan and his goals and ambitions were very well done. I can tell the author did her research, and while I can't validate any of this as authentic, it did seem to be stuff that a double amputee would be reasonably expected to tackle during his recovery.

 

Josiah's issues at work though - I feel like Josiah got shortchanged in his own book. We get to meet Ryan's rehab team and see him doing his rehab and having his setbacks and successes and frustrations. Josiah's issues at work, leading a team for the first time and dealing with his ADHD and how that makes people undermine him, is mostly given lip service. We're told about it, but we don't actually see it. There's only one scene in the entire book at his job. One! Everything else we hear about secondhand, and not even from Josiah some of those times. And for all that we're told his ADHD can make reading social cues difficult, other than that first snafu on the airplane, we're also not really shown that either. There's so much focus on Ryan, that Josiah just got shifted to the side.

 

If there had been a better balance of scenes, I'd have given this four stars easily, but as it is, 3.5 is the best I can do.

The Mermaid Murders (Audiobook edition)

The Mermaid Murders: The Art of Murder, Book 1 - Inc. JustJoshin Publishing, Kale Williams, Josh Lanyon

Well, this is a first - my rating actually went down on a reread. The book just wasn't as effective for me in audio and knowing the outcome already tended to show its flaws more.

 

The narrator, Kale Williams, has a decent enough voice, but I never really warmed up to it, and I had to listen at 1.25 speed just to be able to listen to him. At regular speed, he was just too slow (most narrators are, to be fair) and he didn't really bring the story to life - at either speed, really. Much of the atmosphere that was so intimate when reading it myself was lost in the audio, at least for me, and it was the atmosphere that made up a big part of the story.

 

Then there's the story itself. A lot of the impact of the first read was learning who the whodunit was. This time around, I was looking for more specific clues or hints, and there really weren't any. And that whole climax was just non-sensical, to say the least. They really should've just pulled you know who into questioning while they called in backup to look for you know what, but I guess that wouldn't have been as exciting - and it wouldn't have given Jason a chance to face his fears, but that wasn't a big enough plot point for me to overlook the TSTL there at the end, not this time around anyway. Plus, knowing the ultimate reveal makes everything that comes before it rather a moot point, so while it was still interesting, at least in relation to Kennedy and his precarious position in the bureau, and to a lesser extent Jason's connection to the previous murders, it didn't really hold interest for the mystery itself. I was getting rather impatient with all of it, actually.

 

The biggest mystery continues to be Sam Kennedy. While I liked Jason a lot, I never got why Sam liked him - or at least why he liked him as quickly as he did. Except that this is m/m, and in order to be m/m there must be the sex, and in order to have the sex the MCs have to find each other appealing in some way. I still think this would've worked better as a dual POV instead of getting everything from Jason's POV. 

Ten Simple Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse

Ten Simple Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse - Cari Z.

Why yes, I just did use my "WAFF" tag for a book about the zombie apocalypse. What of it?

 

This was cute! Like puppies and kittens in springtime! Just ignore the killer mutant hordes coming to eat your face off. You'll be fine. There's even a quiz at the end that ramps the cuteness factor up to eleven.

 

I did think the romance was a bit on the thin side, but that didn't really bother me, since this is a fun breezy read and anything too angsty would've messed up the tone. Still, if you're looking for steam, look elsewhere. The epilogue could've answered a couple of extra questions than it did, and it was never explained what caused the plague, but again, not a big deal that it didn't. 

Currently reading

Infected: Freefall
Andrea Speed
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin
Progress: 41 %