1. Dust and Shadow (audio) ****
– (28 Dec 2016 – 1 Jan 2017) While the entire story is terribly far-fetched, and you do have to take Sherlock Holmes with a grain of salt, I really loved the time period, the tone, the pace, and the characters. It was a fun alternate history and as far as I know (not being a historian or that well acquainted with the case of Jack the Ripper) it fit in with the known facts of the case (this may not be true, so if you’re a massive JtR … fan seems the wrong word, but you know what I mean, someone who studies it intensely… it might irritate you if there are facts out of place). I found it fun and, despite the gruesome nature of the story, relatively light reading.
CHALLENGE: PS/URC, Book with a Subtitle
2. Bad Blood ***
- (3 Jan-3 Jan) It’s an easy-to-read page-turner, but there were just some aspects of it that bothered me. I didn’t love that the female Sheriff had to fall into bed with the detective, and it seemed especially weird considering the investigation (it’s a spoiler, but you’d know what I mean if you read it… it’s super-squicky to think they’d be, uh, up for it). Really cookie cutter, cliché characters, though they were decently fleshed out and not completely two-dimensional, they were still extremely stereotypical. There were some odd turns of phrase (a “lobe” of her hair fell in her face?!) and the writing style was almost too laid back, in times it felt more like a blog entry. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it seemed inconsistent. And lastly, the amount of product placement was Return of the Killer Tomatoes hilarious. Really, really obvious and at times out of place.
CHALLENGE: PS/URC, Book about a difficult topic / Book Club
3. The Winter People (audio) ***
- (2 Jan-10 Jan) I found the historical half of the book far more compelling, the modern-day portion was simply lack-luster and in a lot of ways (paranormal bits notwithstanding) far less believable. I didn’t like the characters as much, didn’t feel as drawn to them as I did descent into madness by Sara. And I was hoping for more of a surprise ending, something not what it seemed (many reviews mention being disappointed by the ending, and I agree), but it just ends with more of a whimper, and a “yeah, totally predictable and what I expected, bummer.” I would recommend it for hard-core paranormal fans, the majority of the story moves well and is very compelling, but if you aren’t into ghost stories I’d probably give it a miss.
CHALLENGE: PS/URC, Book set in two time periods
4. The Tuesday Club Murders ****
- (14 Jan – 14 Jan) A classic from one of the greats of mystery, it loses a star for two reasons. One, Miss Marple has become less of a favorite of mine, and I’ve come to see her as more condescending and know-it-all than I did as a child. I much prefer Hercule Poirot these days. Two, while one of the hallmarks of Agatha Christie’s stories is that she gives you all the information you need to solve the crime yourself, time and distance (different countries) has made this much harder. There are names, holidays, and turns of phrase that have changed (or are different country to country) that are what Miss Marple focuses in on as the solution. They’re still fun to read, but not as solvable.
CHALLENGE: PS/URC, A book with a day of the week in the title
5. The Aftermath **
- (10 Jan-14 Jan) Engineers after an apocalyptic event, what can you expect? Apparently lots and lots of committee meetings and things going ridiculously smoothly. It was almost funny, and would have made a really great farce, but instead it drowns you in history and minutia. The characters were shallow and a bit lost in the story, with it focusing a lot on the technology and planning. So much planning. And, honest to goodness, of the 14,000 “able-bodied” survivors, they designated 200 of them as FULL TIME government workers. Seriously?! That’s a job for the not able-bodied, if you could wield a hammer, take care of livestock, or garden, you should be doing it in a survival situation. But instead our main characters give dance lessons, put on plays, and take meeting minutes (these are young people in their 20s). Like I said, it would have made a good farce…
CHALLLENGE: MRC, A book set 5000 from your location / ORC, A dystopian novel
6. Wicked Autumn (audio) **
- (10 Jan-17 Jan) This seriously suffered from info-dumping and unnecessary explanations, with too little time being given to the murder at hand. I get that it’s the first book in the series and the author was trying to give us as much backstory about the main character as possible, but it felt forced and out-of-place. We didn’t have to know everything about him all at once, as it was probably planned to be a series of books, a slow reveal would have worked much better. Also, the last 20 minutes of the audiobook was literally two characters explaining the entire story we just listened to back to the reader again. In case we didn’t connect all of the dots (which wasn’t entirely possible, since not all the information was given, but it could have been done more gracefully and as part of the actual story). The characters aren’t bad, and it’s possible the series gets better as the author settles into the characters, I’m not sure, but it’s not a book I’d recommend.
CHALLENGE: PS/URC, The first book in a series you haven’t read before
7. The Motion of Puppets ****
- (18 Jan – 19 Jan) My biggest annoyance of this book was how one-sided the love seemed. Theo is very obviously desperately in love with Kay, while Kay… just seems to like Theo. I don’t know enough about the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice to know if this was a theme in their story (if it is ever told from her perspective) but it was enough to set me slightly off the story. Otherwise, the plot was well-paced, the writing lovely, and the story was engrossing. It’s a quick and easy read, and I’d still recommend it.
CHALLENGE: URC, A book featuring something that doesn’t normally talk doing so / ORC, The first book you see in the library
8. The Waking Dark (audio) ***
- (17 Jan – 23 Jan) I wanted this book to be more than it was, the explanations and ending let it down for me. There are a lot of things we’ll never know, and those we do are pretty far-fetched and while you’re let to believe they’re true… maybe it would have been better if the author had put some real doubt in it (though how to mesh the moral point of mob mentality being the sole cause of later troubles with the sudden and random violence of the beginning without the catalyst is probably impossible, I still think the story would have had a stronger impact if it had simply been people acting badly – there is a slight unknown in the catalyst’s effects, but it’s not enough). Also, point of view changed a little too rapidly, making the story annoying to keep track of. Other than that, it was a deeply disturbing, dark story that is worth the read (though be warned, it is very, very dark and hard to get through in places).
CHALLENGE: PS, An audiobook / ORC, A book set in the state you live in
9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (audio) *****
– (23 Jan-26 Jan) I will warn you, there is a dog death, and while that would normally put me off a book, it was well-told and really had a point in the story. An important point about poverty and helplessness, so… as much as I hated it, it did work to evoke the emotions it was intended to. Otherwise, it’s a very well-told tale that is a sublime mix of humor, sadness, and hope. There are very serious topics - death, alcoholism, and bullying – but the book manages to address these without making you feel preached at or talked down to, and you truly feel for Arnold (Junior) and his dilemmas and situation. I really recommend this book.
CHALLENGE: URC, A book by an indigenous person / ORC, A book with a culture you’re unfamiliar with
10. Goblin Secrets ****
- (26 Jan – 26 Jan) A quick, easy, fun read, my only complaint was that not enough of the background and world was described. There are some things referenced that never go much further, and these were interesting things that I would like to know more about. I do realize this is a children’s book, and as such, may not have the depth and scope of an adult novel, but still. The characters were good, the story (slightly based on some mythology) was excellent, and there was even a bit of a gentle moral. I would love an adult novel set in this world so very much, but it seems that the most imaginative stories are typically in the children’s section. More imagination, less “touching, heartwarming drama that will change your life”, please! Sorry, mini-rant, but if you’re like me and want something fun and interesting, I would give this book a read!
CHALLENGE: URC, A book involving a mythical creature / ORC, National Book Award Winner
11. Laughing at My Nightmare ****
- (27 Jan – 27 Jan) A very humorous, interesting book, the only down side is it is a little disjointed and does read more like a series of blog posts (which, to be fair, it kind of is) than a cohesive book. Biographies and autobiographies are not my usual cup of tea, but I enjoyed this one well enough to recommend it if you’ve been hesitant to give that genre a try – it’s light and easy to read and is a bit of a feel-good book, when it all comes down to it. If you enjoy the autobiography/blog-like genre, this is definitely a book for you.
CHALLENGE: URC/PS, A book by or about a person who has a disability