Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jodi Taylor

About the Book

Published by Accent Press on August 20, 2015

GoodReads Description

Max is back! New husband, new job, and a training regime that cannot fail – to go wrong! 

Take one interim Chief Training Officer, add five recruits, mix with Joan of Arc, a baby mammoth, a duplicitous Father of History, a bombed rat, Stone Age hunters, a couple of passing policemen who should have better things to do, and Dick the Turd.

Stir well, bring to the boil – and wait for the bang!

My Thoughts

WARNING!  I WILL DEFINITELY HAVE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!

OK.  Who the heck thought it was a good idea to let Max be Chief Training Officer???  I definitely did not see that one coming or going well! And, with that title to boot?  It would have been more appropriately named "What ELSE Could Possibly Go Wrong?" 

Much like the rest of the St. Mary's books, this one is meant to keep the audience on their toes.  It seemed to me, however, that this book starts to show that Taylor may be running out of ways to keep her audience in suspense.  With all of Maxwell's concerns about Hoyle, I was not surprised when he went nuts.  If she had been more concerned about Atherton, for example, then I would have been so much more blown away.  I will admit, however, that the end of this book made my heart leap with joy.  She definitely got me there!

Despite somewhat stifled suspense, Taylor is still able to turn out a well-developed book.  This is especially proven by her use of characterization.  So far in the series, Randall has not been someone that the audience spared a thought to.  The letter he leaves behind with his will is so surprising and so heart wrenching, that he becomes a strong character in his death. 

Once again, I'm leaving a short review so I can go find out what happens in the next installment.

My Rating


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

About the Book

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 30, 2016

GoodReads Description

This is a love story.
It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

My Thoughts

If I had seen Words in Deep Blue on a library or bookshop shelf, I would not have picked it up.  I would have passed over it completely.  Why?  The cover does not draw me in, though it is gorgeous.  The story does not sound like something that would be filled with adventure or excitement.  Luckily, I did not find this book on a shelf.  It came in the mail from a good friend of mine who told me that it was one of her favorite reads of 2018.  I set it on my bookshelf and promptly walked away from it.  One night, out of sheer boredom, I picked it up and started reading.  Less than 48 hours later, I finished it.  I was in love with it.  I was suggesting it to people around me.  I know that 2019 has just started, but I truly believe that this will be the title that surprises me the most this year.

This book deals heavily with loss and acceptance.  Both can be difficult concepts for the human mind and emotions to deal with.  They are especially difficult for Rachel as she loses everything she once knew.  She has no idea how she fits into the world anymore.  Instead of undergoing some form of huge and dramatic change, Crowley allows her audience to see the subtle and realistic changes that a person must go through in order to deal with such an extreme amount of pain and loneliness.  There is no extraordinary depth to Rachel because the depth isn't realistic to the character.  What's needed is some brutal honesty and that's just what Rachel delivers.

Henry, on the other hand, struggles with regret, confusion, and loss.  He is forced into a peacemaker role that was never should have been his role to fill.  Life forces him to learn the difference between love and lust. He is steamrolled by the consequences of his decisions.  Again, Crowley delivers a very subtle character because we don't need all the fancy bits for this novel to create magic.  We simply need to see the portrait of stark reality that her words paint.

Additionally, the plot of this novel is rather predictable.  I know that this has been a huge issue for many of the reviewers that I've read.  For me, it makes perfect sense.  I believe that Crowley wrote this novel to bring us a beautifully written snapshot into the lives of these characters.  Life is often predictable.  It would have taken away from the poignancy of her words if the story was filled with wacky twists and turns.  After all, this is not a book to make us laugh or send us on a crazy attention.  This book simply hands you the lives of the characters and asks you to love them the way they are.  Even if it is a little predictable.  Even if the characters don't change in a gigantic way, they learn from the things life hands them.  That, in itself, is a lesson we all need to learn.

My Rating


Monday, February 11, 2019

Audio-book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

About the Book

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Read by January LaVoy
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 18, 2012


GoodReads Description

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

My Thoughts

One of my personal goals for this year is to listen to more audio-books.  This has been a struggle for me.  I am not very good at auditory tasks.  It is much easier for me to read something and carry out a task than it is for me to remember directions or a plot line.  It's especially difficult when the story is interrupted.  The constant stopping and starting of the audio-book is absolutely terrifying.  I started with shorter books, but The Diviners was a HUGE task.  I was terrified.  January LaVoy made it so much easier to follow along despite all of the required interruptions.

LaVoy is an absolutely wonderful reader.  I was always excited to hear the different voices that she used for the different characters.  This made it so much easier for me to follow along with the plot for the entire audio-book.  I will definitely be watching for her as I shop around for future audio-books.

Not only does The Diviners have a wonderful reader, it has a wonderful author.  Bray's writing style entranced me from the beginning to the end of the novel for a variety of reasons.

First, she creates and brings to life a large number of characters.  These characters are vivid and realistic and they have so many layers that the reader feels like they truly will never know enough about them. Then, slowly but surely, Bray connects the dots.  She brings them together and uses their unity to introduce new information about each one.  I was absolutely amazed by how well Bray was able to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat.

Second, her villain was hauntingly terrifying and absolutely brilliant. I loved that Naughty John was such a smart aleck!  Without this charming characteristic, he would not have been the monster that he was.  Naughty John filled me with dread.  He is not a man I would ever want to come across.

Bray uses her characterization of the main characters and the villain to pull off some absolutely wonderful world building in this well-researched novel. Instead of relying on descriptions of the world, she uses the perspectives of her characters to show the audience around.  Nicely done!

There was one character, however, that I was a little disappointed lived through the novel.  I HATED Evie O'Neill!  I thought she was the most annoying and selfish piece of crap character that I have ever read about.  I was very excited to see that the ending was going to go well for Jericho, but Evie's evil selfishness destroyed that for me.  I can only hope that Bray purposefully wrote a nasty character to do some impressive character development in the following books.

My Rating




Friday, February 1, 2019

Review: No Time Like the Past by Jodi Taylor (Some Spoilers Too)

About the Book

No Time Like the Past by Jodi Taylor
Published by Accent Press on February 28, 2015

GoodReads Description

Jodi Taylor’s best-selling series The Chronicles of St Mary is back with a bang…

St Mary’s has been rebuilt and it’s business as usual for the History department.

But first, there’s the little matter of a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr Markham can see.

Not to mention the minor inconvenience of being trapped in the Great Fire of London…and an unfortunately-timed comfort break at Thermopylae leaving the fate of the western world hanging in the balance.

Re-join Max’s madcap journey through time in Jodi Taylor’s fifth inter-dimensional installment No Time Like the Past.

My Thoughts

This book was not fair.  You can't just take a reader's emotions and destroy them like that.  People are likely to cry when you do that!  It's not nice!  But you do it anyway, Taylor, and I come back for more.

This series, you guys!  It's going to be the end of me, I swear!  Let's start with the obvious statement, here.  Just like the rest of this series, Taylor knows how to hit you right where it's going to hurt.  After five books with these characters, one cares about their well-being.  And then, *spoiler alert* someone jumps off a building or characters are found DEAD and DETERIORATED.  Just when you get used to that, Taylor happily swings your emotions back the other way with a huge amount of happiness and *spoiler alert* matrimony! Not to mention the reappearance of a certain car and a happy little tree...

On top of the emotional experience, this book contains a wonderful plot.  St. Mary's is back at it again.  I am so excited to see that Taylor's world building and characterization skills have not suffered even though she's been carrying on a series for this long.  Too often, when an author writes the same series for as long as Taylor has, it seems that they start to add things that simply don't fit or exist purely for the sake of continuing the series.  If it's done, let it end.  Taylor's not done and I'm so glad that she has not let this end.  I still have four more books and a new one coming out in 2019!  This series is a drug and I am one proud addict!

I would love to stay and write more, but I'm already reading the next book!

My Rating