August 2017 Books

Standard Deviation, by Katherine Heiny: This book was both funny and a little heartbreaking at the same time. Graham’s second wife, Audra, is the complete opposite of his first wife, Elspeth. Audra is outgoing, charming, and full of chaotic energy, and Graham adores her despite their messy life and the challenges brought by their son, who has Asperger’s. It’s hard to describe this book, because in the end it feels like nothing has really happened, but it was an interesting examination of marriage and relationships. 
Sweep in Peace, by Ilona Andrews: These books aren’t going to win any literary awards, but I liked this second book in the series even better than the first. A great heroine, a fresh take on the paranormal genre, and romance not taking center stage; what’s not to love? In this book, Dina and her inn are hosting a dangerous peace summit between two warring clans and a Merchant clan caught in the middle. VGR

Gather the Daughters, by Jennie Melamed: This is one seriously disturbing dystopian novel. Melamed does a masterful job of world-building in this story of an isolated patriarchal cult living on an island, where men reign supreme and it is an accepted part of the society that fathers rape their daughters until they are of child-bearing age, at which point they are married off. This is not an easy novel to read, and the tension and foreboding build throughout without an easy resolution. The story is told through the viewpoint of several young girls, and your heart will break and your stomach will turn throughout the book. Nevertheless, VGR

One Fell Sweep, by Ilona Andrews: Another fun entry in this series, and alas, I am now all up-to-date. In this book, Dina helps one of the last aliens of his species by offering him protection from the beings trying to hunt his race into extinction. She also rescues her sister and niece from a dire situation after her sister’s vampire husband was murdered. Dina’s romance with Sean heats up but still feels like a side story to the main one, which I appreciated.

Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory: Entertaining story about a family whose patriarch is an excellent con man. The rest of the family – his dead wife, his three children, and now his grandchildren – all have actual, real psychic abilities of various types. The story flips between perspectives of different family members as well as between the past and present, rocketing towards an impressive grand finale. There’s mobsters, a shadowy government organization, astral projection, internet romance… Gregory makes it all work despite or perhaps even because of the chaos. VGR

Life in Outer Space, by Melissa Keil: One of the best YA Contemporaries I’ve read in a while. Sam and his friends are a group of lovable losers at his Melbourne high school. (Lovable to the reader, not to the kids at school who bully them.) When new girl Camilla sweeps into their lives and forces her way into a friendship with Sam and his friends, the group’s dynamics and lives are forever changed. Great humor, terrific characters. VGR

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas: I’m mixed on this novel. For the most part, the reviews on Goodreads are over-the-top spectacular, which may have set me up for unrealistic expectations. The story was a real page-turner, but I found the main character to be rather annoying – vain, obsessed with her clothing, pouty, and yet somehow the most terrifying assassin in the realm, all at age eighteen. However, the story has a lot of potential, and from reading reviews on the later books in the series, I will definitely continue on.

The Luster of Lost Things, by Sophie Chen Keller: This novel really didn’t reach its potential for me. A misfit boy and his dog go on a quest when the book that makes his mother’s dessert shop successful (magical realism) goes missing. Walter has a gift for finding lost things, but he has no friends at school and has a lot of trouble putting his thoughts into words. Keller gave him far too adult of a voice in his internal reflections and it was jarring for me as a reader. The story was sweet and entertaining but lacked something, and the aggressively quirky characters didn’t feel natural to me.

Rituals, by Kelley Armstrong: The fifth and final installment in the Cainsville series; I was so happy to get it before the long flight from Korea! Armstrong gives a strong finish to the series. This was a great wrap-up where Liv finally has to make her choices. I’m so happy Armstrong didn’t make the whole book about Liv and Gabriel finally hooking up; of course their relationship comes into play, but it wasn’t center stage. VGR

Rosie’s Little Café on the Riviera, by Jennifer Bohnet: A very formulaic rom-com set in the French Riviera, where Rosie is using the last of her savings to open a little café on the beach. It was a good one to read on the plane when I struggled to follow a deeper storyline and kept nodding off.

 

Cracked Up to Be, by Courtney Summers: Perhaps this book suffered from being read at the end of my 50-hour day, but I just couldn’t connect to it. Parker used to be perfect at everything – perfect grades, popular, perfect boyfriend, perfect cheerleading captain – but now she is a bitchy, underachieving senior who is trying to alienate everyone in her life and drinking way too much. As the reasons for her breakdown unfold, centering around a party the summer before senior year, I found myself having zero sympathy for her and really couldn’t care less if she ever got the counseling she clearly needed.

The Lost, by Sarah Beth Durst: Really interesting book about a young woman, Lauren, who starts driving and ends up in a dust storm, and then in a town called Lost. Once there, Lauren is unable to leave no matter how far she drives or walks away from the town. There is an odd assortment of characters in Lost, and the book had a similar feel to The Hike, another strange quest novel I really enjoyed.  VGR

The Shadow Sister, by Lucinda Riley: I was so happy that my new Maryland library a) owned a digital copy of this and b) it was available to borrow immediately! Riley follows the same formula as the first two novels in the series, pairing the sister’s contemporary story alongside a historical story of an ancestor of the sister. I didn’t really care for Star very much; there was almost nothing about her I could relate to, but the historical story more than made up for that. Flora was a young woman from the Lake district in England who gets swept up in a life of secrets and intrigue when she goes to stay in London with Alice Keppel, mistress to King Edward VII. As usual, Riley freely mixes real historical figures and storylines with her own characters and plot, and the result is compulsively readable. VGR

The Lost Girl of Astor Street, by Stephanie Morrill: An interesting mystery set in 1920s Chicago. Piper’s best friend Lydia has disappeared, and when it seems like the police aren’t looking in the right places, Piper starts her own  investigation. She is assisted by a handsome young police detective as she delves into Chicago’s corrupt underbelly.

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