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:

The End of All Things

Book Notes

I've read all of the main books of the Old Mans war by Scalzi. I really like Scalzi's works, with a few minor exceptions, and those mostly because they seem derivative and not Scalzi in all his glory. So, when the Human Division came out, even in its serialized format, I devoured it. The serialized format was torturous in the slow release, but awesome in the suspense that it built. The End of All Things was released in the serialized format, but, for some reason, all my new author alerts missed them. It wasn't until Luke mentioned starting it that I remembered I even had the book, auto-purchased on in Kindle format.

Shock. Reading a book this year that wasn't chosen by my mother? Amazing.

So, I picked it up and, unlike my reading for most of this month, zipped though it. I even read the alternate version, which I have to say, kinda bit. I'm glad that Scalzi listened to himself and chose the version he published.

It's a great conclusion to the Old Man's War series, in the same way the Lost Colony was a great conclusion, which is to say, if Scalzi wants to keep writing books in this universe, he can.

In this book we see many of the same characters from previous books in the series. I don't know how Luke read this book without having read the previous four (no, Zoe's Tale does not count), but he said it worked for him.

This series is recommended, this book in series is recommended. I recognize I will read pretty much anything Scalzi writes, and I am not ashamed to say this.

White Teeth

Book Notes

Talk about a breaking dry spell. I hadn't finished a book in two weeks, and was, thankfully, under a deadline to finish reading Present. Between that book and this book, I'm hoping the drought is over.

This book is yet another in the ongoing series of books my mom left for me to read. I am amused by her selection, and happy for the exposure outside of my typical science-fiction-fantasy genre of reading (though, with Harry Bosch, Virgil Flowers, Jack Reacher, and Walt Longmire, apparently mystery-crime-fiction-action has become an acceptable genre in my repertoire, so maybe my fiction tastes aren't really that weird any more).

So, yeah, this book. It was okay. It's about three generations of two families connected by an Englishman and a Pakistani man of the middle generation who are best friends, having bonded during World War 2 at the end of the war. The stories are meant to be intertwined, with actions that were thought to be inconsequential at one point, flapping their wings and becoming a hurricane later in the characters' lives. I didn't particularly care for the abruptness of the non-linear story-telling, but, well, honestly, the style worked for this story.

The book is longer than most I read, and less ACTION-PACKED than the ones I read, so it took me a while to read. It was okay. I won't hand it to someone recommending it, but I wouldn't stop anyone from picking it off my shelf to read. I'll likely put it in Andy's little library for someone else to read.


Book Notes

I received an advanced reading copy of this book. I am unable to publish review until the book is published, but suffice it to say, you want to buy this book if you are interested in starting to speak in public.

My review will be quite favorable.

Preorder here at, which leads to






Bridge of Sighs

Book Notes

Not recommended.

I did not like this book. This book was yet another Mom book in my stack of books. I started the book and was struck immediately with how much it read like the Brothers Karamazov. After which I thought to myself, "If I wanted to read the Brothers Karamazov, I would read the Brothers Karamazov, and I have already read the Brothers Karamazov, so I don't need to read this." Which is pretty much true. I've read that book, but I read that book because it is a classic Russian, which this book is not.

I did not enjoy this book at all. I had to force myself to keep reading it. I asked Mom about it after I finished it. She didn't like it either. She really likes some of the other books by Olen Steinhau. Not this one.

Not recommended. At all.



Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Book Notes

I found this book on the list from Having recently read Being Mortal, having recently had to accept the frailty of old age as I watch the grandparents and parents age, and having recently noticed just ALL THE GREY HAIR I've had (really, I've had it for a while, shaving my head rather brought them out), reading this book didn't seem too far out of the current progression.

I am glad I did.

I highly recommend this book. All my family members are getting this book, possibly others. I might buy many copies of this book for the library at work, I think it's that great of a great book.

The book's description includes the paragraph:

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures."

... which I think is a good description of the book. I don't agree with the "strange" and "bizarre" adjectives in the book description, necessarily, but the rest is good. Doughty (gah, I really want to say, "Caitlin," as after reading this book, I would love to have as a friend) does a great job of weaving stories of her life though an inventory of different customs surrounding death. I knew about many of the ones described, but a few were new to me.

At one point in the book, she speculates the lack of customs and mourning around death, has lead to the obsession of youth in the United States. Without any experience or research into the subject, basing my opinion on the cultural views of death gleaned from American literature since the 1700s, I have to say this speculation rings valid to me.

After reading this book, I feel more comfortable in planning the funerals of my parents, and helping with those of my grandparents (hoping all of them are a long way away). We won't be embalming, since that is pretty much an expensive way to keep their bodies around. Embalming is for the living, for those unable or unwilling to let go just yet. I've been trying very hard to let my family know that, with all my failings, I'm doing my best and I love them as best I can.

That my family can have the conversations about funeral arrangements, years before such discussions are necessary, is a gift that Doughty as given us. I can't express my appreciation for that gift enough.

I highly, highly, highly recommend reading Being Mortal and this book. The pair of them, old age care and funerals, wow, such great reads. Incredibly timely.

Opal Fire

Book Notes

Okay, at this point, I have no idea if this was a book from Mom or a book I received as a gift. It was on my stack of books to read. It is no longer on my stack, as I have read it.

This is book one of the Stacey Justice series. Stacey has recently returned to her hometown from elsewhere. Her family is a family of witches. Her cousin owns a bar in downtown. She has a dog and a cat. Her dad died when she was younger, her mom disappeared soon after that. And her family believes she is a chosen one.

No pressure.

The book opens with her cousin's bar in flames, Stacey trying to get her dog out of the bar. His collar is stuck on something, preventing him from escaping the burning building. Stacey manages to free the dog with the help of her cop boyfriend, they all escape. The bar burning is considered arson, with the rest of the book a saga on figuring out how the flames were really started, and what the hell, whose bones were discovered in the basement after the fire?

There are a few "not fair" scenes, with people abusing their power, a few close calls, and a run of emotion in the book. Everything turns out okay, the good guys (girls?) win, and a new mystery presents itself at the end of the book.

The book was a quick read. Again, not really my style. Unsure why, because Dresden is my style. This one, not so much. I likely won't continue the series, though the first book was a quick fun read. And yes, that 2am "finished reading" timestamp is accurate.

Storm Damage (Cliff St. James Novels)

Book Notes

Ugh, do you know how much of a pain it is to write a review when you've read two more books since you finished this one? You don't? Okay, here's a suggestion: write the review when you finish the book so that you have it fresh in your head.

This is another one of the books my mom bought and added to my stack. I swear that pile is becoming smaller, but only because I'm stalled on a couple other books, one at least I know I should be focussing on instead of these books in Mom's stack.

This is book one of three (? maybe? I think) currently published about Cliff St. James, an ex-cop turned private investigator in New Orleans after Katrina. He is asked to solve a murder that happened just as the hurricane was about to hit, so all the evidence is pretty much washed away.

In investigating the murder, St. James is beaten up, has a lot of sex (not related to the being beaten up), torched (well, his stuff anyway), and has another couple people die before he solves the mystery. I have no idea just how plausible any of the book would be. I'm pretty sure if I have a large gun pointed at my face, I'm not coming back with wise-cracks. Though, that's likely part of the training / world that happens if you're exposed to it. I prefer not to be exposed to that, but recognize that the fictional world portrayed likely exists.

The book is a modern day, crime mystery, set in New Orleans. It was a fun read. I likely won't continue in the series, as the premise isn't one that captivates me.

At the Mountains of Madness

Book Notes


Okay, sure, this is the first HPLovecraft I have ever read, and I had no idea what to expect, but really, a pilot and a geologist stumble into a strange 500 million year old cave with a series of carvings and suddenly know an entire culture's history?


Let's just skip the story set up and just go straight to the Old Ones history, instead, shall we?



Okay, having never read Lovecraft, I had no idea what to expect. I enjoyed the history lesson, though seriously doubted one could come up with such an elaborately detailed history by walking through hallways adorned with statues and frescoes for a couple hours. That part was a little absurd. Okay, a lot absurd.

The full text is available online. It's a quick read if you're curious about Lovecraft. Having not read anything else by him, I am unable to compare this to his other works. This one was fine for me.

Beacon 23

Book Notes

Having read Howey's Wool, Shift, and Dust, I know I like his writing, both his style and his scenarios. So when Beacon 23 popped up in my Amazon recommended list, I was immediate intrigued.

Howey writes in small books, mostly long chapters or such, and serializes them, releasing them weekly to biweekly-ish (as in "fortnightly" and not the way you're thinking of you're thinking "semiweekly"). Sometimes the serialized books are bundled into a single volume, sometimes not.

Beacon 23, relatively new, is available in 5 parts. It is a quick read. The basic premise is that there are gravity wave beacons that send out location information about hazards in space, the way that lighthouses would send out local information about land. The narrator lives solo on/in one such beacon.

Over the course of the five parts, we get his history, and we get the saga of his life. We read about his struggles, against his past, against his inner demons, against the loneliness, and his fate.

It's a great read. Highly recommended.

Beyond Exile

Book Notes

Okay, having finished the first book of, well, apparently a three book series, I went ahead and read the reviews of the next two books. The ending of the first book was so stunningly unsatisfying that I was nearly jumping at the chance to read the next book, Beyond Exile, to have some closure. So, I bought the next book.

Many of the annoying things with the previous book had been worked out by the time the author was writing this one. The jarring history that shouldn't exist in one's journal because the knowledge is assumed, is gone. We are on the journey with the narrator, so experience his life with him.

Much better.

The story continues exactly where the previous one left off. There's a helicopter crash and the narrator has to travel by foot for about 300 miles through zombie-infested backcountry to return home. He receives some unexpected aid, meets another journeying-solo man, and discovers some fantastic technology.

We also learn the source of the zombie in this universe. While I appreciated the closure, the particular suggestion is eye-rolling, which makes me giggle, given how preposterous the idea of zombie-ism is in the first place. That I'm willing to think, "okay, this scientific explanation for why dead people continue to function and crave living flesh," but, "this explanation isn't valid" is amusement-inducing.

I enjoyed this book more than the previous one. Yay for the narrator. Boo for bureaucracy.

Veiled (Alex Verus)

Book Notes

I really like the Alex Verus series, by Benedict Jacka. It might be because of the broken hero, or maybe because the realistic results of various choices. The book reminds us that we make decisions as best we can at the moment, and they don't always turn out to be the best one in the long run, but they are the best at the moment. This series, about Alex Verus, a diviner mage living in London, pretty much exemplifies this concept. Best decision at the moment, hope for the best, so much outside of our control.

This is book six of the series.

There are a lot of explanations in the book about this political structure and that bit of history. There were times where I was thinking, "Ugh, more explanation than I really needed." Given that I read relatively fast, I didn't mind the history lessons, but the fact that I even noticed means there were a large number of them. The history lessons not withstanding, there was enough intrigue and mystery and ACTION that, again, I enjoyed this book.

Though, now that I think about it, this book might not be able to stand on its own... It's a good continuation of the series, but not really a book to pick up to read. If you're reading the series, this isn't the first of two to cause stopping (my rule, two bad books in row in a series and I stop reading the series), but it's not a stand-alone book. Read books 1-5 first.

Day by Day Armageddon

Book Notes

Okay, I like a good zombie book. Feed, by Mira Grant, totally started me on this zombie kick. I followed up reading that series with World War Z, the book is better than the movie. I watched the Walking Dead series, then started reading the graphic novels (and oh boy, there are a lot). I read the not-so-great-in-my-opinion Raising Stony Mayhall, and while I didn't like the book per se, I did like the way the zombie world was portrayed. I had a delightful zombie surprise in The Girl With All the Gifts, which just means I was lulled into thinking zombie books are good fun reading.

Which they are, for the most part.

This zombie book, however, rather broke that trend.

The book is supposed to be a journal of one guy who happens to be military personnel and a pilot, who manages to avoid the first wave of infection in the zombie apocalypse. He finds a companion, then a few more, and survives. The journey is reasonable (if you can accept the premise of "the dead rising up to continue walking and having the single-minded desire of canabalism"), but the writing is somewhat jarring, especially in the beginning. When I write in my journal, I write "Talked to Pete today," and not, "Talked to Pete, my buddy from the academy who trained with me those first six months, today." There are better ways to weave a person's history into a story than overt explanation. I find overt explanation that way very jarring and prefer a more subtle narrative mode.

The saving grace about the narrator is that he isn't a brilliant, super-intelligent, physically-imposing, amazingly fit and athletic person. He gets hurt. He makes mistakes. That's a good thing, otherwise this book would be boring.

And the end? OMG the end is soooooooooooooo unsatisfying. It was like the author thought, "Damn, I'm tired of this book, I'm just going to stop writing now," and stopped writing. The ending annoyed me so much that I had to see if there were sequels and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, there are.

Unsure if I'm going to read them yet.

If you're going for zombie books, go for Grant's Feed trilogy and World War Z.


Book Notes

I'm uncertain what it is about some of these books I've been reading recently, but they all seem to be blurring together. Not that the plots or characters are all the same, it's just they read with the same voice in my head and the same actors and actresses portraying different characters. It is a little bit disconcerting, to be honest.

Yeah, so, this book, the main character's life is completely falling apart just as she seems to be achieving her life's work. Her modern-stoic (versus the ancient definition of stoic) husband takes off with her two girls just before Christmas, leaving her to work over the Christmas break, and possibly leaving her, we aren't sure exactly what's going on because, well, that's the whole point of the book. Because it's on the back of the book, I don't feel I'm spoiling anything by saying, "She finds the phone from her childhood in her childhood bedroom, and discovers using it to call her husband dials her husband from 15 years ago, not her current day husband."

How... odd, and a clever premise for a book, for a story.

An opportunity for redemption.

An opportunity to make a different choice.

An opportunity to change a life.

Or is it?

So, yeah, it's a cute story. Given that it's similar to other stories I've read, I can't say that I'm all excited about it and bouncing to recommend it. I feel this is more because of the books I've already read and less because it's not a great book. It's a fun "I'm on vacation and need a nice story to read" book, but not a "buy it in hardcover and reread it in 10 years" book.

Unsurprising, to be honest, the basic premise of the book and the conflict of the story.

How to Talk to a Widower

Book Notes

The third of three books I have by Jonathan Tropper from Mom. As predicted, I ripped through them in a week. I liked this book a lot. A large number of literally-laugh-out-loud parts that I laughed out loud to.

I currently have enough empirical data to state Tropper's style is first person narration of a guy who has had someone close to him die, has a screwed-up-in-some-way family, and is trying in some way to get his life back together in a way where he can move forward. 

In this book, yup, that's the plot. The narrator's wife died a year before and he is still grieving. He is rather sucking at moving on, despite his screwed up family attempts to help him. He has a twin sister, another little sister, an actress mom and a doctor dad. Things aren't particularly clean, though, as he's more than a little odd, even before he met his now deceased wife, his family is screwed up in odd ways (but still family), and, well, as the book shows so well about human nature, sometimes you just want to keep the pain, wrap yourself in it, and use that cloak of pain to keep everyone else away.

The book has enough truth in it about human nature and how we are all screwed up that I suspect anyone reading it will find himself in the book somewhere. Or maybe discover something new about human nature (as I did: that guys will trim their pubic hairs to make their penises look bigger. Who knew?).

I enjoyed this book a lot more than the previous, and a bit more than the first one by Tropper I read. My first reaction after finishing was to go look for another by him, though I don't know if he has more written. I then realized that three in a row by him is likely one too many in a row, so didn't check if he has another. I'll read something else next, and come back to Tropper later.

Way enjoyed the book. Recommended. 

Everything Changes

Book Notes

This is the second of three Tropper books I have from Mom. I enjoyed the first one well enough that I am likely to rip through all three, maybe this week.

This one was much shorter than the previous one I read, the Book of Joe. It was a harder read than the first one, as the first person narrator (same as the Book of Joe, this might be the author's style) has a friend who died (come to think of it, so did Joe in the last book). 

The basic premise is that the narrator is engaged to be married to one woman, and in love with his dead best friend's widow. How's that for sucky?

Answer: way.

This was a shorter read, less amusing than the previous one, more talk talk talk, and that's okay, the book was a good read. I liked the ending, full of hope after a serious screw up. 

If you're ripping through Trooper books, include this one. Otherwise, skip it for one of the others. 

Book of Joe

Book Notes

This is another one of those books my mom bought and I had around, so I figured I would go ahead and read it. It is the first of three books I have by Jonathan Tropper, having read nothing about the book or by this author before.

I was delightfully surprised by this book. It was tragic and amusing and entertaining and funny all. I really enjoyed the book. 

The basic plot is a guy has a crappy childhood in a small town where basketball is king, has no connection to his widowed dad, has no connection to his basketball-star older brother, moves away, writes a book about said small town (exposing everything, making up a lot of things), becomes a success with said book, and returns to the town 17 years later. 

Hilarity ensues. 

The book is written in the first person from the male perspective, in a light, self-effacing way. I enjoyed the book a lot, and lit in immediately to the second of three Tropper books I have from Mom.

Sound bite from the book that I keep coming back to: "you know [a past love] was true love when it hurts, time doesn't heal the pain, and it's too late."

Recommended. Fast read. 

Lincoln's Melancholy

Book Notes

Okay, I'm really not sure what took me so long to read this book. The subtitle of this book is How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, so it's basically about Lincoln and how he lived with depression.

I really like this book. I really like this book a lot. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has had a depressive episode, had or has clinical depression, or had or has chronic depression.

The book describes how depression, also known as the manly "melancholy" of yesteryear (yester-century?), was viewed in the 1800s (much, much differently than it is these days); how friends and family rallied around a melancholic person to help; how being sad wasn't considered a failing, it was considered different. Talk about a different viewpoint than these days, where if you're not happy, there must be something wrong with you. I liked the one point in the book where the theory that happy people are actually the unbalanced ones: they have an over-inflated sense of self and their skill-sets, versus depressed people who have a more grounded realistic view of reality.

About half way through the book, I liked it enough to buy a hard copy of the book. It helps that I'm a fan of Lincoln, I suspect. But really, there are enough good quotes in the book that I wish I had it right now to copy them all down right here.

Lincoln had depression. He had chronic depression. He didn't beat it, he lived with it. According to Shenk, there were two major episodes and a resignation after those that Lincoln had to a lifetime of suffering. Many of the questions Lincoln asked himself in letters are ones that many depressives ask themselves. That Lincoln had a calling so strong that he kept going is another example of how having a life goal, a calling, a desire for a legacy, can make the suffering bearable for people with depression.

I plan on reading the book again, possibly before the end of the year, I liked it that much.

Highly, highly, highly recommended.

Feast of the Drowned

Book Notes

Another one of those books that I'm not sure why I have it, but, eh, shrug, I guess I can read it since I'm mildly interested in it (though more for answering, "Why did I buy this again?" than for "I am WAY excited about this book!").

This was a stunningly fast read. As such, I'm fairly certain I bought this book as a free book (thanks to Bookbub), because I can't imagine paying $9 for this book.

Yes, it's a Doctor Who book, but it reads like someone is describing a television episode of the Doctor. Imagine the whole thing being read in David Tennant's voice, and you have the gist of the book.

The Doctor's character is as expected, the mystery solved, some people die, some people don't, the world goes on. Essentially, you're typical Doctor Who episode.

If you're a Doctor fan, have at it, read away (just maybe borrow it from the library). If you're not a Doctor fan, eh, skip it.

Dead Souls

Book Notes

Okay, this book.

Right, this book.

I have no idea why I have this book. I have tried to read this book three times. This time was the fourth time, and I guess that the fourth time is a charm. And, hey! I managed to finish it! Go me!

I couldn't stand this book the first three times I started this book. Aaaaaaaaaaand, well, once I managed to read to about a third of the say in, I was okay enough with it to finish it. Finally.

Right, so this book is part of the Inspector Rebus series. It was clear enough that reading the rest of the books isn't really required, which I appreciated. I didn't care for the writing style, unsurprisingly. I liked that I knew the areas (-ish) of the book. The plot was okay, and the mystery mysterious enough to be interesting. Enough clues, but not too many to make the plot obvious. It had that going for it.

I didn't like this book, so, unsurprisingly, I don't recommend this book. Maybe someone else thinks differently.

The Girl With All the Gifts

Book Notes

I'm fairly sure I bought this book after a Book Riot post of the best books of 2014. It has zombies in it, which pretty much goes right along with my current delight with zombie books. I've been lucky so far to have read some good zombie books (World War Z, and Mira Grant's Feed trilogy), and this one continues that trend.

The beginning of the book is odd, and I struggled to follow along but briefly. Once I relaxed into the story, it read very quickly. I really like the explanation of the cause of zombie-ism (new word, totally correct), along with the consequences of the continued existence and development of said cause. The social fallout of a post-apocalyptic zombie world is also well portrayed, with different levels of coping with the end of the world (as we know it).

The ending was satisfying, with pretty much the only way the zombie world could continue (given the parameters of zombie-ism provided).

I enjoyed this book and recommend it if you like the zombie fiction genre.