The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book -  'Dave McKean', Neil Gaiman I think this is the third Neil Gaiman book I've read, and I think I have a weird relationship with his books. I find myself loving the story, loving some of the characters, and enjoying some of the writing...but I also kind of hate his writing :/ I don't know how to explain it (my husband gets it, though), but it's like I feel like there's too much and not enough detail. Too much of things I don't care much about, and not enough for the things in the story I find most interesting.

Anyway...I really liked this book, and I wish it had been around when I was a kid. I probably would have loved it more back then. It wasn't really what I was expecting, even though I actually went into this only knowing "there's a kid who lives(?) in a cemetery with ghosts or ghouls or something, even though he's alive."

I loved the setting. The graveyard was really interesting especially the way Bod was kind of part of it, and could move around like the ghosts, and so were the many ghosties we met. I really would have liked more details about some things, though like how the whole thing with Bod being able to pass through walls and stuff actually worked.

The characters were great. I liked Bod, loved most of the ghosts, and really would have liked to know more about Silas and Miss Lupescu and the Jacks, because that just kept confusing the hell out of me. Liza was my favorite, though. I'm not sure why, but I really liked her.

I'm still just kind of confused about stuff. I don't know if I'm over-thinking or what, but I felt way less satisfied by this than I thought I would. I kept waiting for things to be explained a little more, or for something to make sense, and it never did. While I can enjoy a bit of mystery and leaving things to the imagination, with this honestly kind of felt lazy, like the reader should dream up huge chunks of the plot. I'm not a fan of that. What was the deal with the prophecy or whatever it was? How can Bod move around the cemetery like he does? What the hell were the Jacks? Why could Scarlett and that other girl (Mo?) notice Bod when he Faded, but other people couldn't? Why could Bod see the ghosts for so long, but then suddenly couldn't when he was 15? What was the Sleer? Who was buried in the mound? So many questions. And I still feel like the whole bit with the ghouls was unnecessary. I thought it was going to be important later, but it never was. I mean, sure, Bod opened the gate, but he could have easily learned how to do that from Miss Lupescu or someone. Speaking of her, what was she fighting with Silas? Were they Jacks, or what?

Basically, I think my problem with Gaiman's books is that I read them and feel like my book had missing chapters. Lots of them. I'll almost certainly continue to read them, but I think I need to go into them not expecting to be satisfied at the end.

Everything Must Go

Everything Must Go - Jenny Fran Davis Full review on my blog.

I’m not really sure what I expected, going into this, but it’s not what I got. I think I was expecting a possibly humorous, but otherwise generic, contemporary YA story. What I got was different. It was still funny, but it was way deeper than I’d expected. It was also pretty funny at times, and there were a few lines I had to put the book aside after reading, until I could breathe again and wipe away the tears.

Flora is like the very best of Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl) and Cher Horowitz (Clueless). She was a privileged, upper east side, vintage-fashion-loving, private school girl, but she was also aware of and passionate about things like feminism, the environment, etc. In the beginning, I was prepared to hate Flora for running off to a new school pretty much just because of a boy she'd met, but she won me over really quickly.

Jenny Fran Davis did such a good job creating a realistic world and cast of characters. She didn’t shy away from difficult topics, and I think she handled all of them so well in this book. Flora grew so much as a character by the end, and I was so proud of her.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, partly because it’s really hard to describe, but mostly because I think this is a book you should start without really knowing too much about it.

This has been one of the hardest book reviews I’ve ever written. I have so many feelings about it, and the characters, but it’s hard to talk about it without giving things away

I won a copy in a goodreads giveaway

A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1)

A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1) - Anna Quindlen, Madeleine L'Engle This isn't really a review, and I'm only writing this so later, if I start to wonder why I rated it the way I did and if I should read the next book, I'll remember.

I can't decide if I'm glad I read this as an adult, or if I wish I'd read it as a young child. I think I would have certainly enjoyed it more, had I read it between ages 5 and 8, but that was also while I was living with very strict Christian family members. Briefly, after that, I lived in a slightly less strict household with more diversity in the town I lived in, so I was (finally) exposed to more, before abruptly going back to the strict Christian home. So, before age 8, I would have had no problems with this book at all, other than probably thinking it was a bit ridiculous (but in an entertaining way). After age 8, I would have been more perceptive and critical, and would have been a bit uncomfortable with the heavy Christian tones. (I also would have felt that way about the gorgeous scientist mom being at home while her husband is off having an adventure, but I wouldn't have been able to explain why at the time.)

But, reading this as an adult has been strange. I think the story had the potential to be really interesting, but it was jarring at times with the way it switched from "yay, science!" to dumping quotes from The Bible and the like. I'm not against religious fiction, but I'm not a fan of it in books like this and The Chronicles of Narnia. (I also went into those books as an adult, totally unaware of the religious aspect before reading them.)

Then there were the characters. I actually really loved the first few chapters of this book. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which were fun to read about, but I gradually lost interest. I'm getting tired of the self-deprecating young female lead characters. I realize this was published several decades ago, but I was also annoyed by the (brilliant?) scientist mother, who's apparently beautiful, just hanging out at home being a mom for the most part, while her (also brilliant scientist?) husband is off on some super secret mission/adventure thing. Then there were the basically pointless twin boys (I assume they'll actually be important in later books), the super-genius preschooler, and the obligatory dude who's slightly older than the lead girl (I assume he'll become the love interest, especially since both seemed fond of each other and they had that kiss) and also "better" than her.

Basically, I just don't get the hype. I want to, kind of, but I have a lot of thoughts about this book and not many are very good thoughts. I'm definitely reconsidering handing it off to my kid now, though. I just heard it's becoming a movie, and the cast looks good, so maybe I'll see that if it ends up on Netflix or something. I liked the first Narnia movie more than the book, so maybe that'll be the case with this.

27 Hours

27 Hours - Tristina Wright Full review on my blog.

(I want to start by saying that I really liked this book. It was one of my most anticipated 2017 releases, and I literally screamed and danced around when I was approved for an eARC from Net Galley.)

The writing is fantastic. I didn't have much trouble picturing everything, everyone, etc. And, even though there were several characters to keep up with, I never had to think about who's POV I was reading from and try to remember who they were, because the voices were all distinctive. I do wish we'd had some POV chapters from the chimera, but I'm still hoping maybe we'll get that in later books.

Then there's the moon. Oh. My. Gods. The moon, you guys! I don’t want to say much so I don’t spoil something, but holy crap it’s awesome and I want to know more! There are other things I really want to know more about that involve at least two of the characters and the moon and the chimeras, but I don’t want to talk about that because ~spoilers.~ (Although I might come back later and add some spoiler tags and talk about it.)

The diversity was great, but see other reviews from people who know a lot more about the different identities than I do. I can only really talk about the pansexual rep, and I thought it was fantastic. I related so much to her and I've waited so long to see pan rep in a book.

I'm not a huge fan of romances, whether it's a side plot or the main point of a book, but the ones in this book were so freaking cute omg. I was rooting for the relationships and I just really liked the couples and wanted them to be happy.

All that said, I have been sitting, thinking about this book and how to review it for a couple of weeks because I had mixed feelings.

When I first started this book, I liked it. Very soon, I loved it. But, the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking something was a little “off,” or at least something made me feel a little weird. The idea was a confused, insubstantial thing in the back of my mind until I came across a couple of reviews that put it into words far more eloquently, I’m sure, than I can. Long story short: it's the colonization part of the story, and you should really look at other reviews (especially Aimal's) because they've done a great job laying out everything.

Another thing that just confused me was how all the people seem to have gone from varied cultures from all over Earth to being very Westernized and speaking one language (“the human language”), as far as I remember. This is set in the future, but I don’t remember there being any indication of how far in the future it’s set.

I also don’t remember race (with humans) really being addressed much, other than indicating POC or white characters. So…is racism and all the other nasty prejudices on Earth right now, no longer part of this universe? Did we actually manage to get past it between now and when the story takes place? Is it only like that for the people on the moon, or was it like that on Earth before their ancestors left? Maybe I’m over-thinking all of this, idk, but I have questions. (It’s also possible that I missed some explanations in my binge read.)

Lastly, while I thought the world-building was very good, there were times when I was really confused for a while. I think I eventually caught up because things were explained later, but the characters are, in my opinion, more developed and stronger than the world-building. It didn't feel like the world was under developed, but it was definitely left unexplored and open enough for further explanations in later books.

I really, really liked this book, and I’ve been talking about it a lot. Is it perfect? No, but what book is? I think Tristina Wright did the best possible job she could, and it’s pretty clear that she put in the work for the reps in this book. You can’t please everyone or capture everyone’s identity in one book, because everyone’s experience is very different. I personally felt a connection to a couple of characters in this book at various points, but that doesn’t mean everyone will have the same experience.

This was also probably the hardest book review I've ever written, and I'm not really sure I've done a great job articulating my thoughts, but I tried.

The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir I finished this in a day. I started it yesterday morning, then stayed up late to finish it last night. I don't really do that anymore with full-length novels. (Not that I don't want to, but life usually gets in the way, so I'm glad I started this on a Friday.) I don't think there's much point in me writing a real review for this because it seems like I'm one of the last people to read it, but I will say that this is one I should have believed the hype about.

Halloween Carnival Volume 1

Halloween Carnival Volume 1 - Lisa Morton, Kevin Lucia, John Little, Brian James Freeman, Robert R. McCammon Review originally posted on my blog.

First, I rate anthologies like this by rating each individual story, then averaging all those ratings together to come up with a rating for the whole book. Also, because these are short stories, I don’t want to say much about them, so this should be a short review.

I received an eARC for review from Net Galley.

Strange Candy by Robert McCammon– This was a nice story to kick things off with. It wasn’t particularly scary, just a little creepy (and also a little heartwarming), and very Halloween-y. I gave it 4/5 stars.

The Rage of Achilles or When Mockingbirds Sing by Kevin Lucia– I thought this one was a little spooky, but still not very scary. It did have a nice mysterious vibe going on, though, and I actually didn’t see the twist at the end coming. However, for this one, I feel like it was a little too short, because there were too many questions left at the end about certain things. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Demon Air by John R. Little– This was my least favorite story. I thought it was boring, kind of disjointed, and overly cheesy. I gave it 1 out of 5 stars :/

La Hacienda de los Muertos by Lisa Morton– I’m familiar with a certain legend that was used in this story, and I ended up actually liking this one more than I thought I would when I first started reading it. It was like a combination western/horror, and I thought it was a bit spooky. But, it felt a little too rushed at the end and I think it would have worked better if it had been just a little longer. I gave it 4/5 stars.

#MakeHalloweenScaryAgain by Mark Allan Gunnells– This was my favorite story, and it’s also the longest, taking up just a little less than 50% of this collection. I have a few minor complaints, but they’re not really relevant to the story. It wasn’t terrifying, but it was suspenseful and felt like an homage to some of my favorite horror movies in some ways. I gave this one 5 out of 5 stars.

I was a tiny bit let down by this collection because I was hoping to be really scared by it, but it only succeeded a few times in making me feel a little creeped out. Still, it was an enjoyable read and I’ll definitely be looking most of these writers up to read more from them.

Would I recommend it? Probably, but not if you’re looking for lots of gore or something truly terrifying (unless you’re very easily scared, in which case this might work for you).

Wishful Drinking

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher I might review it later when I'm less sleep deprived. For now, I'll just say: if you loved Carrie and you haven't read this, give it a shot.

Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven

Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven - Jess Zimmerman, Jaya Saxena Full review on my blog.

If you're already a practicing witch, I might not recommend this. It's definitely not like the stuff I had to work with when I started out (like Silver, Scott, Edain, and all the others that many of us agree, now, should mostly be avoided or read critically because of the misinformation, appropriation, etc.), and that's not a bad thing. It just might not be very helpful for anyone actually practicing witchcraft for any length of time.

But if you're curious, or really new, or even if you've been at it a long time and want something different from the other books on witchcraft, this might be for you.

It's been mentioned that this book uses the word "witch" to, basically, mean an independent woman/feminist/etc., and I agree. That was slightly annoying for me, because the description is a little misleading, but I still enjoyed this book after I adjusted how I was reading it (less for the witchy stuff, more for the advice).

The spells are very simple with very few items used, and everything that's "required" is easy to come by (paper, candles, your phone even). There are things in here to help you with anxiety for a doctor's appointment, to figure out what you want out of a romantic partner, to give yourself permission to practice self-care, to heal your heart, and a lot more.

It's definitely more like a fun self-help book than a book on witchcraft, but that's pretty cool because witchcraft is constantly changing, and lots of us use it for the things covered in this book. Even the structure of the spells is similar to what many of us seem to be doing these days (obviously I can't speak for all witches, I'm just basing this on what I do and what I've seen others share online about how they do things).

Regardless of how you feel about the witchy side of things in this book, I would still recommend it for the advice in it and the little historical bits about witchcraft and women. I really think just about anyone could find something helpful in this book.

I received a free copy to review from Net Galley


Berenice - Edgar Allan Poe I've read most of Poe's work at some time or other, having been a bit obsessed with him since early childhood, so I can't believe I hadn't read this one before. (I read it for Castle Macabre's Gothic September Poe Read Along.)

It's not my favorite of Poe's stories, and it took a little longer than usual for me to really get into it, but I enjoyed seeing how it all played out. I wasn't surprised by the teeth being pulled out, but I was somehow caught off guard by Berenice having been buried alive, and therefore being alive when Egaeus desecrated her grave and ripped out her teeth. Deliciously gothic and creepy, and one I'll certainly remember.

Batman: The Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke - Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Tim Sale, Richard Starkins Eh...I'm not sure what to say or think about this because I haven't read many Batman comics :/ I read a few when I was a kid, but most of my Batman exposure came from the films from the 80s/90s, the cartoons, and the first two Nolan films. I mean, I've read a lot online, but I realized while reading this that most of what I've explored hasn't actually been about Batman. Or the Joker. So, I'm not going to review this because I'm really unqualified. That said, I enjoyed it, but wasn't blown away by it. I can't believe I haven't read more comics from this universe, so I'm going to look into remedying that ASAP.

The Awakening

The Awakening - Kate Chopin Huh... I'm not sure how I feel about this one right now, but I'm a bit concerned with how much I related to Edna. Minus the loveless marriage, because I do love my husband and he loves me, and I'm not really worried I'll find my own "Robert," because I don't need one. I actually didn't really know what this was about before reading it, but I thought it was going to be about a bored, married woman in high society having a fling or something. It was not (exactly) that.

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book, but I'm not comfortable sharing them with the world. I'll just say that I enjoyed it more than I was expecting to while still reading, and it really packed a lot of things to mull over in such a small (my copy has 135 pages) package.

I think I've seen references to people reading this for classes that touch/focus on feminism, and I can see why. This book is from a time when women didn't really have many choices or freedoms, and I imagine it was quite scandalous and controversial at the time it was published. A woman with sexual urges?! A woman who would desire freedom?! A woman who would dare to leave her children, and not devote every bit of her being to them?! *gasps*

Even now I feel like a book with a protagonist like Edna would cause some waves. Gender roles are pretty cemented in people's minds, and Edna didn't really conform to what a mother/wife "should" be, even by today's standards. In the end, she commits suicide rather than go back to living an unfulfilling life where she has to fake happiness, lose herself, and such. So, she didn't just abandon her children by taking off with Robert or something, but let's pretend she did. In our society, if a man ran off for whatever reason and abandoned his spouse and child(ren), he wouldn't be looked upon kindly. But, if a woman were to do the exact same, the fallout would be significantly worse. I've witnessed this with people I know, and everyone is always far more critical of a mother leaving her child(ren) than of a father doing the same. In the case of suicide, it's the same,
but with a less extreme difference. I'm not saying I applaud her choices and condone them. I'm just saying that, in a way, I understand why she made her choices. But, I feel bad that things didn't work out better for her and that she finally turned to taking her own life to be free.

I said to my husband while I was reading this that I didn't think I would re-read it, but now I'm not so sure about that. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to, and now I'm curious about how I might feel about this later, when I'm older than Edna (I'll be 28 in a few weeks; Edna was, I believe, 28). I think this book is going to stick with me a very long time, and I'd love to talk more about it, but I think I'll wrap things up here.

Cicada Summer

Cicada Summer - Maureen Leurck Full review on my blog Caffeinated Bibliophile.

I won this in a goodreads giveaway I entered while browsing for books that weren't the genres I typically read (thanks, genre-reading-slump).

The first thing that got my attention was the part about restoring the house. I'm kind of fascinated by architecture and renovation and preserving old houses, so I thought that would be interesting to read about. (If that's not something you're into, you might want to skip this one because there's more than brief mentions of what they do to the house, which I imagine might not be thrilling for someone who doesn't care at all about that sort of thing.)

I liked the cicada theme, and I thought it was done well. The cycle of rebirths (or, more broadly, change and second chances) is a big part of this book, and I enjoyed that aspect for the most part.

Mostly, I liked Alex. She had a lot going on and her life was pretty stressful, but I think she handled everything realistically and as best she could. I was rooting for her, overall, even though there were moments I wanted to beat my head against a wall. I think I was more disappointed with the ending than a lot of people will be, but I wasn't angry about it or anything. I just hoped it would go differently. I was particularly annoyed by her ending up back with her ex at the end. I saw it coming, but ugh. I was hoping she was going to either move on with someone new, or reach a point of being happy being single.

Overall, I liked this book and I would probably recommend it.

Buzz Books 2017 Fall/Winter

Buzz Books 2017 Fall/Winter - Publishers Lunch I really love these samplers--usually--because it's a great way to find not only new books by authors I already like, but to find new books I might have otherwise not heard of.

This one was kind of a let down for me, though. I normally come out of reading one of these with anywhere from 5-15 books I've added to my TBR, or have made a note to look up after release. Of those, I buy a few (or, sometimes, almost all of them), and check out the rest from the library.

But with this one, I only came out of it with one book I definitely want to read ([b:We're Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True|34884359|We're Going to Need More Wine Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True|Gabrielle Union||56136466] by Gabrielle Union), and seven that I might be interested in, but almost certainly won't buy unless I find them used or on sale.

The others I'll probably look for at the library and such were [b:Fever|34273721|Fever|Deon Meyer||52017495] by Deon Meyer, [b:Little Fires Everywhere|34273236|Little Fires Everywhere|Celeste Ng||52959357] by Celeste Ng (this one I'll definitely keep an eye out for), [b:The Black Painting|34888106|The Black Painting|Neil Olson||56141918] by Neil Olsen, [b:Sourdough|33916024|Sourdough|Robin Sloan||51600167] by Robin Sloan, [b:Stay with Me|32969150|Stay with Me|Ayobami Adebayo||52027766] by Ayobami Adebayo, [b:Seven Days of Us|33357622|Seven Days of Us|Francesca Hornak||54097363] by Francesca Hornak, and [b:The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion - Surprising Observations of a Hidden World|35697904|The Inner Life of Animals Love, Grief, and Compassion - Surprising Observations of a Hidden World|Peter Wohlleben||57189746] by Peter Wohlleben. A few of those were on my radar before I read the excerpt, and I was hoping to be more excited by them, but I'm still on the fence.

So, I think these samplers are always very useful, and I love them in general, but this particular one didn't really have many books I'm interested in, and only one I'm looking forward to reading.

Escapism: Words + Photos

Escapism: Words + Photos - Candice Lee, Candice Lee Full review on my blog: Caffeinated Bibliophile.

I love the photography in this book, and I enjoyed a fair bit of the poetry. It didn't blow me away, or affect me the way I expect poetry to affect me, but I think it might have if I'd more recently experienced a breakup.

I hate reviewing poetry like this because you can tell it’s so personal to the poet, but, because it’s so personal, not all if it will work for everyone else. The poetry wasn’t general, exploring heartbreak broadly, but quite specific. I think that’s why I had such a difficult time relating to it.

So, I did like this poetry book, but I was definitely not the target audience. Still, I did highlight a few parts that spoke to me.

I received a free copy to review from a goodreads giveaway

Escapism: Words + Photos

Escapism: Words + Photos - Candice Lee, Candice Lee Full review on my blog: Caffeinated Bibliophile.

I love the photography in this book, and I enjoyed a fair bit of the poetry. It didn't blow me away, or affect me the way I expect poetry to affect me, but I think it might have if I'd more recently experienced a breakup.

I hate reviewing poetry like this because you can tell it’s so personal to the poet, but, because it’s so personal, not all if it will work for everyone else. The poetry wasn’t general, exploring heartbreak broadly, but quite specific. I think that’s why I had such a difficult time relating to it.

So, I did like this poetry book, but I was definitely not the target audience. Still, I did highlight a few parts that spoke to me.

I received a free copy to review from a goodreads giveaway

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness - Sy Montgomery Review to come (probably)

Currently reading

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman
Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Progress: 153/368pages
The Trumpet of the Swan by Karen White, Fred Marcellino
The Poetic Edda by Lee M. Hollander, Anonymous
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré