Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Golden Son

Book Notes

Okay, this is book two of the Red Rising trilogy, and I have to ask myself again, "WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO FINISH THIS BOOK?"

I swear, Luke is probably like, "WTF, Kitt, finish the book already. There's book three to go, too!"

Hell, I'm thinking that now.

I am full of Wow at this point about this series. The blurb is all about Darrow's continued saga as a Red in, well, his rising. How much do I give away in this review? I mean, the title is "Golden Son," so how much am I really giving away with the fact that the kid is a man and a Gold at that?

What I really like about Brown's writing is the way wise words come out of a 20 year old's mouth. Doesn't really happen in real life, but does in fiction.

Anyway, I'm diving into the last book next. Highly recommend the series.

Trouble

Book Notes

Okay, I will say, this is another one of the books-chosen-by-Mom, which means I pretty much had no idea what the book would be about, if I would like it, or why it was in my collection. I sometimes wonder why I read these books, they are often so much not what I normally read. Exposure to the things you don't normally read is a good thing, expands the mind.

That all said, I completely and totally rolled my eyes when a dog showed up in the story. I seriously thought this was going to be another "Old Yeller" (which I have never read) "Where the Red Fern Grows" (which I have read a dozen times, it remains one of my favorite books) boy-has-dog-dog-dies-in-the-end book.

I was wrong.

This is a book about prejudices and anger, about hope and love, about anger and acceptance. Which is to say, it was completely not what I expected it to be.

The book opens with all-star American golden boy Franklin's accident that lands him in the hospital. A Cambodian student from Franklin's prep school is charged with manslaughter. He admits to hitting Franklin. He tried to help Franklin after the accident. He accepts the law and it's punishment.

The rest of the book is about prejudices of a people agains outsiders, about younger sons proving themselves against the memory of an older brother, about secrets revealed, and a world coming full circle.

It's a quick read. While not my style, and it isn't destined to become a literary classic, it's a cute book. Was fun to read.

Gods of Risk

Book Notes

While not normally a fan of same-universe stories that aren't about the main plot of a saga, say, with this book being a supplementary book to the The Expanse series, I have to say that Jim Butcher rather broke me of that dislike with the extra Harry Dresden books. When you enjoy a series a lot, you want whatever sized book and whatever plot line the author (or authors) want to write.

Such is the case with this book.

In this book, we have a glimpse into Bobbie's world after her ordeal, "treason," and homecoming from Abaddon's Gate. It's only a glimpse, as the story is actually about her nephew, but that's okay, because we learn more about the universe, more about the school systems, and more about Bobbie. All good things.

I enjoyed this book a bit, it being in the Expanse universe and all. If you're reading and enjoying the series, include this one in your reading.

Now, where's my rocketship?

To Be Sung Underwater

Book Notes

This was not the book I was expecting. This is a sad, wonderful book.

Yes, another one of the books from Mom's pile. Having just finished The Expanse, I have to say I wasn't really interested in another science-fiction or fantasy book. I picked up this one since it didn't appear to be a mystery either. And yet.

And yet.

It's a mystery of sorts, as we learn about Judith's life as it currently is, and Judith's past as it previously was. My first thoughts were along the line of, "Ugh, this is going to be a book about nothing, isn't it?" But the story draws you in, and, without noticing when, you care about Judith and her high school friends and her crazy mother and her lovable father who isn't the perfect father figure we want him to be. There's adventure. There's mystery. There's romance, but not too much. There's strife and conflict and, well, human emotion. There's danger. Oh boy, is there danger.

Really, the last thing I expected to do when I finished this book was bawl my eyes out and call my mom to see if she had read the book so that we could talk about it. Fortunately, she had, and she understood what I was feeling.

Gah, without giving the book away, how do I explain just how heart-wrenching lovely and beautifully painful this book is? I don't think I can, so I'll keep it as recommended.

The Churn

Book Notes

After finishing Nemesis Games, book five of The Expanse series, I was thinking, "Well, crap, I've read them all." Except there's book 6 which is out, but it's in hardback only and not available at the library quiet yet, and I'm trying not to buy so many books (yes, I have a stack 4' tall of books to read, one more can wait), so I haven't read it yet.

Except! Except!

There are four books, novellas, set in the same universe and omg yesssssssssssssssss!

This one is the story of how Amos Burton ended up in the stars. We know a bit of the history from Nemesis Games, where we learned the histories of most of the Rocinante crew.

There are also references to the Churn in the book. Had I read this book before Nemesis Games, I would have caught the references. Instead, I caught the latter book's references in this book.

I enjoyed this book, once I understood what was going on. If you're reading the series and enjoying it (let's ignore book 4, shall we?), then read this one, too. Who wouldn't want more Amos?

Nemesis Games

Book Notes

Okay, wow, now we're talking. Back into the Expanse world, and back into the Holden future.

After the last Expanse book, I was very very hesitant to read this one. I hemmed and hawwed about it, wondering if I was going to dislike the next one as much as I disliked the last one, and oh, that would just ruin the series for me, because I read a series until 2 in a row are bad, and then, nope, you can't recover.

Oh boy did this one recover. Loved this one. This one might have been my second favorite of the series. We follow Alex and Amos and Naomi and Holden as they have their adventures. We learn about them, their pasts, their futures, their fears.

The book still doesn't (books still don't) convey time scale well, but I think it works. We don't see how the days are filled on a spaceship (always, always, always fixing things), or how long time passes, which is fine.

Really really really liked this book, almost as much as the first one. Wheeeeeee! Can't wait for book six!

Deadlocked 1

Book Notes

Yes, I like zombie books. My delight with the genre started with Mira Grant's Feed / Newsflesh trilogy, and has continued through a large gamut of good to crappy zombie books. This zombie book is the first of an eight book series. It isn't long, it's a fast read (all of sixty-nine whole pages), and really, would be a great first part of, say, a longer story, say of eight parts.

It follows the story of David, who is in an office building when the zombie apocalypse breaks out. The plot follows his journey home, and his family's escape.

AND I AM GOING TO COMPLETELY SPOIL IT FOR YOU, if you keep reading this.

What I find very odd about the story is that the story, as told from David's perspective, has information in it about the beginning of the zombie apocalypse and its origins that he can't possibly know, BECAUSE HE DIES IN THE END. How the f--- could he know that the apocalypse was man-made and started with lots of needles poking people if he's dead?

Okay, maybe he's not dead in the end, though getting eaten by a hoard of zombies usually means dead in zombie books. David wasn't just bitten, there are several series that discuss how "bitten" could mean zombie fever, followed by a craving for blood/flesh, but a normal(-ish) person otherwise, he was eaten. Dead. Nothing. Nada.

Yeah, so, I'm not likely to read the rest of the series. The one was a quick fun read, though.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Book Notes

This is, once again, one of those books that I'm unsure why I bought other than I heard about it from somewhere and thought, okay, this is a book that maybe I should read. The book is actually 7 short stories, the main one being The Yellow Wallpaper, and the reason I bought this book. This, I recalled, was the story I had heard about.

When I read the stories, I stopped after each of the stories to ponder them, get a feel for the message being sent, and well, to be honest, read the stories as if I were in English class in high school. I read them, asked the various questions, who, what, why, what is the context, what is being said, why is this important, how has the context changed over the last 100 years?

So, the seven stories:

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper

    This is the main story of the collection and the one from Gilman is the most well known. It's the story of a woman who moves to a house and essentially isolated "for her health." It is a fascinating description of a woman's descent into psychosis, well written and more than a little creepy. It is also a commentary on the crappy system of isolating women "for their health" (isolation is considered torture these days), along with how society continually ignoring women's opinions in favour of men's "because men know better." I sat with the story for a bit before looking up the analyses on the story, and I hit the top two main interpretations. The other interpretations required a better understanding of Gilman's life, so I'm okay having missed them.

  2. Three Thanksgivings

    This is the story of a woman who has two adult kids, each of whom want her to sell her gigantic house and move in with them. Problem is, both kids are selfish and neither wants what is best for the mom. To make things worse, the mom has a mortgage on her giant house, one coming due in 2 years, so she's running out of time to save her house, her huge house that she grew up in, raised two kids in, and loves. The story has a nice ending.

  3. The Cottagette

    Nice endings seem to be Gilman's desire. Nice endings are definitely not life, but they are nice escapes from the ugliness of life. This story is about a woman and her friend who find peace and delight in a remote cabin on a boarding property, where breakfast is a short walk away, but the world is their own, with fields of flowers and forests to enjoy. Along comes a man the woman likes, and the woman, at her friend's insistence, begins changing to win the man over. She wins the man over, with a twist. And, of course, a happy ending.

  4. Turned

    Okay, now this one hit me hard. Wife. Husband. Servants. Husband goes away, servant gets sick, author implies a bunch, things get weird. This one gave me chills, reading it.

  5. Making a Change

    This one also gave me chills, but for a different reason. Still. Chills. A woman is clearly suffering postpartum depression. Her mother-in-law lives with her and her husband. The new mother is not an experienced mother, though trying hard to "do it all," having sacrificed herself, her dreams, and her desires for her husband and child. She hits the breaking point, gives her mother-in-law the child, and leaves to commit suicide. Her mother-in-law figures out what is going on before the new mother succeeds, and changes happen. Except not everyone is so excited about the changes: in a society where a man supports is mother and wife and children, he's less of a man if any of them have to work, even when said people want to work. An interesting contrast at how society has changed. Well, "changed."

  6. If I Were a Man

    Okay, this one is obvious. A wife becomes her husband, sees the world through the granted privileges of being white and male, such power! She, as her husband, causes him to stand up for women, despite the full-on ragging about how daft and stupid women are. She comes away with less of a need to prim and buy shit, he comes away with an understanding that women are people, too, and any particular preening and primping that happens is because men insist on it happening.

  7. Mr. Peebles' Heart

    Happy endings, right? Right. This story is about a man who has done his duty all of his life, and his "meddling" sister-in-law who sets him free. Said sister-in-law is pretty wonderful. I want to grow up to be just like her.

Red Rising

Book Notes

Wow, this book sat for a long time in my "I'm reading this book" queue. I'd make a little progress on it, put it down, read a different book, pick it back up, repeat. I likely would have continued in this way with this but three things happened around the same time:

  1. Luke strongly recommended it
  2. I realized that I have read only 8 books (before I dug in in earnest) so far this year, and I should probably finish one I had already started if I wanted to keep my 52 books a year pace
  3. The last book in the series was published, and
  4. I started to enjoy the book

Really, the last one was the key.

The first part of the book sets up, I presume, the full series. It takes a bit to fully set up what is going on, and why Darrow, the main character, is motivated to do what he does. Once everything has been set up, oh, boy, are we on a wild ride.

I enjoyed the book, and have Golden Son ready to continue reading. I've been warned it'll be gut wrenching, so I have prepared my gut to be wrenched and survive.

Recommended.

Cibola Burn

Book Notes


Okay, to start, I love the Expanse series. I love the writing styles (because there are two authors). I love the Rocinante crew.

I did not like this book.

Here's the blurb:

"An empty apartment, a missing family, that's creepy. But this is like finding a military base with no one on it. Fighters and tanks idling on the runway with no drivers. This is bad juju. Something wrong happened here. What you should do is tell everyone to leave."

The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity's home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.

Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world. The struggle on Ilus threatens to spread all the way back to Earth.

James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.

And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilization that once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed it.

Great. But you know what this book is really about?

That "corporate ship" and the "independent settlers" and just how much assholes people can be to each other when property, life, and liberty are in question.

Seriously, I could not stand this book because it was how much people follow large personalities blindly and how much people are asses to each other.

A group of settlers settle a planet. The UN says, nope, it "belongs" to this corporation that has received a charter to explore it. Even as every person on both sides is about to f'ing die, some people are determined to be assholes.

And it is too much like reality.

I could not stand much of this book, because it completely and totally pushes my "I hate assholes" and "Everyone is an asshole" buttons.

Yeargh.

Not sure how long before I can read the next book in the series, this one has me spasming in annoyance.

During the book notes

Okay, so, one of the reasons I read books is to escape reality. Which is one of the reasons I am not enjoying this book. Despite being completely in another solar system, it is full of people and people issues and people politics and people power issues and I can't stand it.

Which is to say, I'm reading this book at 10x speed, appreciating the Holden parts, hating the Murtrey parts.

Abaddon's Gate

Book Notes

This is what you do when you are sick and at home all day: you read. The best sick times, relatively speaking, are when you have good books to read. This book qualifies.

Oh, boy, does this book qualify.

Unlike the first two books in the Expanse series, this book isn't ALL ABOUT HOLDEN, and that makes it both better and worse. Though, really, "worse" is, again, relative, because I still enjoyed this book so much.

This book skips a year or two since the last book, and we very quickly have Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex in a pinch. Through out the book we have way more gore than the previous books, more death (mostly glossed over), more puzzles, and, thankfully, a hell of a lot of personal growth that counteracts the power-blinded asses in the book. Of course, we cheer for the sane people, and weep for the deaths of some of the characters we've been following for books. I had a couple points where I had to put the book down.

I'm excited there are two more books to read, with the sixth book in the series coming out in only 6 months.

Of the three books I liked this one the least, which is really saying nothing, because I love and recommend them all. Read them, read them in order.

Caliban's War

Book Notes

Well, that didn't take me long to read book two of The Expanse series, which is really unsurprising, given how much I enjoyed the first one.

Reading the second book of a series is often risky literary-wise. In trilogies, book two is usually the boring one. In a longer series, the author (or, in this case, the singular-pen-named authors) usually starts out strong with the first book, stumbles with the second book (*cough* *cough* Dobby, *cough* *cough* loup-garou), and hits a stride with the third (unless you're Jordan, then, well, book 8 is where you fall completely flat on your face).

This particular book two was just as exciting as the first. Without losing any continuity, we are immediately back with Holden and Naomi and Alex and Amos in the Rocinante, off on another "o. m. g. you have the most incredible, and highly plausible, luck imaginable" adventure.

"Adventure"

This is a space opera.

The time frames of the book are similar to those of the Saga of the Seven Suns, but the telling in the time frames isn't as jarring or as boorrrrrrrrrrinnnnnnggggg as that series. You still have days of travel, you still have death from and serious health consequences of high G forces, you still have the fear of immediate death beyond that thin shell of a hull.

This book is much faster paced, much more interesting and much more entertaining. I absolutely f---ing adore Chrisjen Avasaralad and hope we see her again in later books. I was also hoping Bobbie Draper might join the crew of the Rocinante (such a great ship name). We'll see if she shows up in a later book or two.

Zipped through this book as fast as I could. Started the next one, Abaddon's Gate, immediately.

Leviathan Wakes

Book Notes

I picked up this book because I had watched the first few episodes of The Expanse on the Syfy channel, and had enjoyed them. What I was not expecting was to so completely and thoroughly enjoy the book, too. I mean, yes, I know that only very rarely is a movie or television adaptation better than the book version: books can convey nuances that are difficult to translate to any visual medium. At best, you can hope for a good movie with the same two sentence description of the book, so much being lost in the change of medium.

And yet, even with that knowledge, I was still surprised at just how much I really enjoyed this book.

We have space. We have plausible science fiction. We have yet another genre that I really like, but saying so in a review would give it away. At dinner with Luke and Jonathan, Luke let slip a small part of the ending that might have been a disappointment to learn, had the television series not already given it away, so there's the twist at the end. We have annoying politics. We have intrigue.

And we have a lost girl, an idealist, and a whole lot of adventure.

I really really really liked this book. Recommended. I've already started reading book two, Caliban's War.

The Folded Earth

Book Notes

Another book selected by my mom. I believe her selections are hit-and-miss. I really liked the Hole books (after the first one I read), and, well, am really meh about this one. As evidenced by the length of time between this book and the previous book I read, I found this one slow going (which is to say, if 10 days is a long time to finish a book, that's still 36 books read this year).

More to the book.

While the country is significantly different, the feel of this is similar to White Teeth: a long rambling story about people, with the climax coming right at the end, with no explanation of the "ever after" part.

The Folded Earth is a tale of a caste-adjusted young Indian widow who escapes the tragedy of her equally young husband by moving to a small town and taking a job as a teacher. She adjusts to the small-town life, and becomes a part of its landscape. We hear the tales of the illiterate cow girl who falls in love, the crazy animal whisperer, the drunk general, and the remaining story members, as the widow adjusts to life alone, and perhaps a resolution to her husband's mysterious death.

If this style of rambling story appeals, it could be an interesting book for you. It's not my style, so I struggled to finish it, though finish it I did.

It's going in the little lending library, it's not a keeper.

Principles of Object Oriented JavaScript

Book Notes

As part of my belief that one should never stop learning, I keep trying to learn. This month's learning involved reading this book, Principles of Object Oriented JavaScript, a relatively short book by Nicholas Zakas.

I'm comfortable in JavaScript, but, really, haven't ever taken the time to read about some of the insides of the language. I'm glad I picked up this book.

This book is a quick read, about 132 pages of content and 25-ish of index, depending on the format you read the book and the font size you select. The book covers primitive types, reference types, built-in types, function declarations vs function expressions, objects in general, property attributes, object constructors, object prototypes, property attributes, inheritance and various object patterns. The code examples are clear, the writing voice conversational.

I had a couple "Ohhhhhhhhh!" moments, which were fun, with a lot of head-nodding-yep-I-knew-that moments, too.

I liked the book. Recommended.

The Snowman

Book Notes

That's right, the seventh Harry Hole book, and, because I read these out of order, the last one in the series for me to read. This one is the first one optioned to be turned into a movie (optioned I think in 2014, though you can probably search and figure that out quickly). Of all the books, I have to say I agree that this one would make the best movie, though all of them would be good.

Having read the previous six and the subsequent three, I knew what was going on around this book. I knew how it was going to end, and I STILL didn't see all the twists. I knew a couple were false, but didn't really know that others were twists except for the fact I wasn't near the end of the book. That said, I was still deeply engrossed, reading fast, and agitated during the climax of the book.

All the expected characters were in the book. If you are reading them in order, then this book is an OH. MY. GOD. in its conclusion.

Having not particularly liked the first Harry Hole I read, I am somewhat delighted at now being a fan. Lots of gruesome, ahhhhh-cannot-unthink scenes, but Nesbø's twists and puzzles and misdirects are just way worth it. The broken hero story makes it more appealing.

This book is readable stand alone, but for maximum impact and oh shit revelations, read them in order.

The Martian

Book Notes

"I failed to appreciate just how closely Weir's humour matches yours."

Okay, I really don't know how, after a number of really good friends all tell me "You would really enjoy this book," I hadn't read the book yet. Maybe because it was near the bottom of the stack? Maybe because the recommendations came during a really sad, really emotional time of my life? Maybe because I had another fourteen books already in progress?

I don't know. Let's just go with girls are dumb and chalk it up to experience.

This book is fantastic.

I laughed out loud. I didn't roll my eyes at any of the science, though, to be honest, I was predisposed not to roll my eyes after reading many reports about how Weir researched everything to make sure what he wrote was plausible. I read the book slowly because I wanted to savour just how much I was enjoying it. And I was enjoying it. I very rarely read books as slowly as I did with this one.

Did I mention the laughing part? Weir's humour is so close to my humour as to be indistinguishable, I'd say. I can't believe this was a first novel.

Loved it. Highly recommend it. Will be reading it again. Worth all the hype is it getting. Glad I have it in hardback (will have to buy another copy to loan out, this one is staying with me).

The Redeemer

Book Notes

Okay, the sixth book in the Harry Hole series, and the ninth one I read, since I read them out of order.

And despite reading them out of order, I didn't recall one particular aspect of the books that I probably should have, about a couple characters in the series. I kept thinking, oh, this is fine, it'll all work out. Except this is a Harry Hole series, so OF COURSE it doesn't work out.

This particular book had enough twists and turns and vague language when reading that wow, I'm pretty sure I guessed wrong at least 12 times on "who did it." While part of that is the joy of allowing the author to reveal the plot and characters and motivations and mysteries at his own pace, which means deliberately not thinking things through too hard, I have to say that even if I had thought about it through, I likely would have still guessed wrong.

This might be one of my favorite Harry Hole books, if only for that reason. Which is saying something, as Nesbø is pretty good at twists and turns in all his books.

Yeah, again, if you can stand the gore and horrible things people might do to each other, the series is recommended.

Some Girls Are

Book Notes

And my pile of to-read books just dropped by one! So much for reading "only" double of my original 2015 goal of one book a week. Go for 52, hit 105.

I picked up this book after reading the Book Riot article about how a single parent managed to ban a book without going through a review process. The banned book was Some Girls Are, about bullying in high school and a bully who has fallen from grace, and is now on the receiving end of the actions she inflicted upon others.

As I was trying not to spend money on books (a near impossible task), I tried to get it from my library. No go.

I asked Mom to try her library. No go.

Eventually, on a night of drinking too much whiskey, where "too much" is defined as "more than one shot," I hit the buy button on all the books in my Amazon cart, and ended up with a stack of 24 books to read. Including this one.

I read it last night.

I will fully admit that if I were the mother of a kid in high school today, I would struggle to believe this kind of behaviour exists, that my child would be doing it, or that people so young can be so ugly in their actions. Which is not to say on an intellectual basis, I dispute this behaviour exists, I totally believe it exists. I just don't WANT it to exist.

I was an oblivious kid in school. I also went to a really big high school. I also went to a really big high school where most of the kids did NOT grow up with each other. All of these factors meant I was unaware if any of this was happening in my school, much less experience it. I am really sad that such behaviour could exist, and somewhat enraged that, rather than say, hey, this exists, maybe we should reflect on it and, as difficult as the book is to read and the ideas to consider, let's do just that, the mother stuck her head in the sand and forced the book to be banned.

The book itself is an easy read. The ideas in the book, rape, bullying, tormenting, death, are not easy. And that's what makes the book worth reading.

Highly recommended to read and think about.

I have a copy available for friends to pass along.

The Rosie Effect

Book Notes

And here we go, the 104th book of the year for me, and likely the last one I will finish this year.

This is book two of the Rosie series, the sequel to The Rosie Project. In this one, we have much of the same humour derived from a person (yes, an autistic person) taking everything said literally. Balance this with always making objective statements, without any social nuances, and you have the humour and charm of the first book.

What you also have, unfortunately, is an ass in the book. I really do not like books where one person is abusing power, which is the premise of much of the plot in this book. I should be less upset by it, given how much the world is about abusing power and not doing the right thing. Less upset, sure, and I also can choose not to seek out that particular style of conflict, given there are plenty others to choose among (Man vs. Fate/God, Man vs Self, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Supernatural (-ish), and Man vs. Technology).

It is a quick read.

It's an amusing book, but much less so than the first Rosie book. I would liken the two books to the first and second bites of a treat: the first bite is amazing and delicious, and while the second bite is good, it isn't as amazing as the first bite.

Pages