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How to Love - Katie Cotugno This book made me sad, because I really liked Reena. She was well-developed and kind of awesome. Except when she was around Sawyer. As Reena's best friend Shelby said: Whenever Sawyer was around, Reena forgot how responsible and smart she was. I think the title of this book should be "How to Have a Destructive, Dysfunctional Relationship". Has a ring to it, right?

And Sawyer was a jerk. Just an epic a-hole. I wanted to kick him in the crotch. Hard.

Very disappointing story from a writer who obviously has a lot of skill.
All the Truth That's in Me - Julie Berry I devoured this book. I can't even place my finger on why it gripped me so much, but it did. I could barely drag myself away to fulfill responsibilities, like cooking and eating supper. The main character is so smart and broken and brave, and her prospects so bleak, that I couldn't imagine a happy ending for her, but desperately wanted it nonetheless. And then there's the mystery: what happened to Judith's friend Lottie? Why would someone kidnap Judith for two years, then cut out half her tongue?

All the way through, I felt vaguely uneasy, expecting to be let down by the ending. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I definitely wasn't. The story was rapidly-paced, the world was well-built, and the ending was a satisfying conclusion that drew all the pieces together.

The unusual writing style (the book is written in choppy pieces, to Judith's longtime love, referring to him in second person) might not work for everyone, but it did for me.

Highly recommended.
Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and an Incredible Journey - Erin E. Moulton I wanted to love this book. I really, really did, in part because the cover was lovely. I usually have an incredible soft spot for stories about families who protect and care for each other. The prose is very beautiful, and the Vermont landscape is lovingly described. However... there were a couple of things about this story that drove me completely crazy by the end.

1) Everything that could possibly go wrong, does. I do mean EVERYTHING. Every time the sisters take initiative and come up with an idea, it fails catastrophically within pages. To the point that I almost started to wonder if the moral of the story is "Don't ever take initiative! YOU WILL DIE!" Every idea these two little girls have just leads to more pain and struggle. It was depressing and eventually felt annoying and a bit contrived.

2) This section is spoilery: The girls' great journey, the one that causes so much pain and hardship, that ends with them badly injured and one of them almost dying? It is for NOTHING. Absolutely pointless. The journey, quest if you will, that takes up almost the entire book... It avails them nothing. At the end, they're right where they started, just injured and traumatized. There's a pretty sentiment tacked on about how "love is the greatest magic", and it's a nice thought, but for me it wasn't enough to make up for the pointlessness of most of the book.

In conclusion: The author definitely has potential, but I'd skip this one.
Vessel - Sarah Beth Durst I've long been a fan of Sarah Beth Durst. Her stories cover a wide variety of genres, and are always worth reading. This book was quite unlike anything else I'd ever encountered, and while it isn't my favorite of Durst's, it's still interesting.

My favorite character in "Vessel" was the desert. It is beautifully described, and despite the difficulty of living in such a harsh place, I came to understand the fierce love that Liyana and the other desert people had for their home. I also loved the mythical creatures that inhabited the desert, particularly the sand wolves and sky serpents.

The human and deity characters were more or less interesting as well, though they will not be counnted among my all-time favorites. Liyana is mostly practical and competent, with moments of passion and emotion. I am a practical person, and female characters whose main characteristic is "practicality" are few and far between in fiction, so I enjoyed seeing the world of "Vessel" through her eyes.

My main problem with this story--the thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars--is the pacing and plot development. I felt that the pacing was uneven; so much of the story was spent just traveling from tribe to tribe, without a clear endgame. I kept waiting for the "real plot" to start, and then realized I was more than halfway through the book. The ending seemed abrupt and too easily resolved, and not all my questions were answered. (So what happens with the drought now? You know, the big problem that was killing the desert people AND the people of the empire?)

The Empire was underdeveloped, as well. I came away from the book with only a vague, amorphous idea of what it was even supposed to be. (A big empire that's suffering from drought, basically. Very little idea about its people or culture or customs. I would have loved to see that better developed, and by extension, the character of the Emperor. He is a very major character by the end, but still I felt that I barely knew him at all.)

Bottom line for me: This book is worth reading. It has some interesting characters, among which the desert itself is the most fascinating. The quandary about the vessels and the deities that "kill" them to inhabit their bodies provokes thought about the nature of sacrifice. Pacing is uneven and the plot seemed a bit muddled and meandering, but I would still recommend giving this one a chance. 3.5 stars.

Bad Radio

Bad Radio - Michael Langlois Really enjoyed this one. Fast-paced, well-edited, gloriously creepy. (And on a shallow note: GORGEOUS cover.) The book has a lot of action, but there is enough time spent on character development to allow readers to connect with the protagonists. The characters, and their interactions with each other, rang true to me; for example, though Abe and Anne obviously care about one another, there is no forced sudden romance.

Great quick read: nothing incredibly dense or mind-bending, just a fun story with intriguing characters and sufficient body horror to make you squirm for days after you've finished the book.

And now that I've lavished the book with praise, I'm going to address the one thing that drove me nuts:

A town of 30,000 people is not a tiny town. It's not even particularly small.

I grew up in the country and the closest town of any size was about 15,000 people. It has a movie theater, grocery store, Wal-Mart Supercenter, two hardware stores, two auto parts stores, five or six motels, one nice hotel with actual suites, and about fifteen restaurants. A town twice that size would not be a "small town" with just a run-down diner and one cheap motel. For that you want a population more like 800 or 1,000.

Small detail that probably wouldn't bother most people at all, but for me it was a glaring case of Did Not Do the Research.
Dark Inside - Jeyn Roberts Could not get into this one. There were too many points of view, too many characters (many of them poorly developed), and too little explanation for why anything was happening. It was very much like a horror movie: poor world-building, short on plot, lots of pointless gore. Horror movies aren't my thing, so I could barely bring myself to finish this jumble of a book.

The Woodcutter

The Woodcutter - Kate Danley This is a deeply enjoyable little story: not complex, but lovely and magical. My initial impression was that it would be a dark take on a traditional fairy tale. Instead, it turned out to be sweetness hidden beneath a thin layer of darkness, which is just fine with me. The characters are compelling, though drawn with simple strokes: I especially loved the deep, quiet, fierce love between the Woodcutter and his wife of twenty years.

Is the story without flaws? Not at all. The pacing is somewhat uneven, and it sometimes felt as though the author were cramming in as many fairy tale characters and scenarios as possible. I had to roll my eyes and smile fondly at some of the fairy tale conventions that came into play (true love! at first sight! conquers all!). But for me, the likeable characters and simple, beautiful prose more than made up for the shortcomings. I am excited to see where the author will go from here.
Splintered - A.G. Howard I did not like this book. I did not like it at all. That is disappointing, because I was very excited about reading it. (I am a pretty-cover junkie, and just LOOK at that cover!)


1) Love triangle (please God, make authors just stop already) in which both of the main character's options are controlling jerks. One of them (Jeb, her childhood friend) is also rather bland and undercharacterized; the other (Morpheus, the shape-changing moth creature) is outright evil, with rapey overtones. I cannot articulate the depths of my hatred for the latter character, so I will not even try. Most of his actions are indefensible to a point that I cannot imagine how anyone, including Alyssa, could ever care for him at all.

2) Shallow female characters. We have: bland, swept along by others' decisions, largely lacking in agency (Alyssa); locked up in a mental institution (Alyssa's mother); jealous (Gossamer); heartbroken and imprisoned (Ivory Queen); evil and manipulative (Red Queen); beautiful bitchy prep (Taelor).

3) It wasn't all bad. The twisted take on Wonderland had its moments of beautiful, sparkling prose, and some of the creatures were interesting. I was fairly indifferent on the plot; neither memorable nor terrible, in my opinion. But the characters were a deadly hybrid of bland and utterly unlikeable, and that killed the story for me.

Sleeping Helena

Sleeping Helena - Erzebet YellowBoy Jumbled mess of a fairy tale retelling, in which Sleeping Beauty is inexplicably a cruel sociopath. I think we are meant to care about her. Somehow. Though she tortures small animals for fun.

There is also an incomprehensible backstory about her aunts' dead brother who was gay, or under a spell, or both maybe? (I felt sad for him, but he was given very little character development.)

What there isn't, sadly, are many sympathetic characters, or a plot that makes any sense, or a comprehensible ending. Seriously, I still have no idea what happened.
The Dust of 100 Dogs - A.S. King I was excited to read this book; the premise sounded intriguingly different from the norm. And at first, I liked it. That was before the book began to descend into madness. Disgusting, disgusting madness.

The writing is vivid. This is not a compliment. Read this book if you would like to spend extensive amounts of time inside the head of a disturbed, hallucinating, middle-aged rapist fantasizing about what he's going to do to a teenage girl. Plus: graphic, almost torture-porn descriptions of his vicious abuse of his dog! And, as an aside, a lovely little anecdote about a young male dog raping an older male dog so brutally that the older dog dies!

If none of this sounds like it would bother you, then feel free to read this book. The writing quality is good, and the plot actually is original and interesting (though the end is perhaps a bit too tidy). I just couldn't get past the revolting details. I don't consider myself an especially fragile little snowflake, but my brain felt dirty for several days after reading this book. You have been warned.
Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1) - Cassandra Clare Do not plan to read, for reasons I'm no longer allowed to discuss. Just Google 'Cassie Claire' (that exact spelling) if you'd like to know why.
The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare, Holly Black Do not plan to read, for reasons I'm no longer allowed to discuss. Just Google 'Cassie Claire' (that exact spelling) if you'd like to know why.
City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare Do not plan to read, for reasons I'm no longer allowed to discuss. Just Google 'Cassie Claire' (that exact spelling) if you'd like to know why.
Clockwork Prince - Cassandra Clare Do not plan to read, for reasons I'm no longer allowed to discuss. Just Google 'Cassie Claire' (that exact spelling) if you'd like to know why.
City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare Do not plan to read, for reasons I'm no longer allowed to discuss. Just Google 'Cassie Claire' (that exact spelling) if you'd like to know why.
Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare Do not plan to read, for reasons I'm no longer allowed to discuss. Just Google 'Cassie Claire' (that exact spelling) if you'd like to know why.