The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic – Audio Book Review

October 5, 2015 Review 0 DNF

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic – Audio Book ReviewRelease Date: August 1, 2013
Title: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Author: Emily Croy Barker
Narrated by: Alyssa Bresnahan
Publisher: Recorded Books
Source: Audible
From the Publisher: n imaginative story of a woman caught in an alternate world—where she will need to learn the skills of magic to survive

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.

For lovers of Lev Grossman's The Magicians series (The Magicians andThe Magician King) and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night).
DNF Stars

Sweet jesus, when will this ever end?

I’m pretty sure if that’s your constant thought while reading and/or listening to a book… that book is not meant for you.

When I read a book, I usually become very intimately ingratiated into the life of the main character. And generally speaking, when you’re reading a book – you’ve got the MC who is strong and maybe rebellious. S/he is the type who doesn’t fall under enchantments – or if they do, they work like hell to break them. The rest of the characters in the background are the ones who aren’t special. They’re the “sheep” – those who end up not thinking for themselves or just accepting what happens to them (think early Hana in Delirium, Lavender Brown in Harry Potter, early Effie Trinket in Hunger Games, Jonathan on Buffy, etc.). You don’t want to read their stories; they’re not interesting.

This book is one of those stories.

Nora is boring. And a moron, quite frankly. I don’t care how her story ends.



The Sisters Club – Review

September 28, 2015 Review 0 ★★★★

The Sisters Club – ReviewRelease Date: August 18, 2015
Title: The Sisters Club
Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Pages: 340
Publisher: Diversion Books
Source: NetGalley
From the Publisher: Four women have little in common other than where they live and the joyous complications of having sisters. Cindy waits for her own life to begin as she sees her sister going in and out of hospitals. Lise has made the boldest move of her life, even as her sister spends every day putting herself at risk to improve the lives of others. Diana is an ocean apart from her sister, but worries that her marriage is the relationship separated by the most distance. Sylvia has lost her twin sister to breast cancer, a disease that runs in the family, and fears that she will die without having ever really lived.

When Diana places an ad in the local newsletter, Cindy, Lise, and Sylvia show up thinking they are joining a book club, but what they discover is something far deeper and more profound than any of them ever imagined.

With wit, charm, and pathos, this mesmerizing tale of sisters, both born and built, enthralls on every page.
4 Stars

The Sisters Club was such a refreshing read for me. It’s rare that I read something that’s not paranormal, romance, or YA. And this was none of the above. Technically, this book probably falls under what’s commonly known as “chick lit” – but I’m just going to call it fiction.

No matter what goes wrong in life, I thought, the bookstore is always the best place to go. -Diana

This book resonated with me in so many ways. Diana is lonely. She just married and moved to another country. She has no friends and no life outside of her marriage. So she decides to do something about it. She places an advertisement in a bookstore’s newsletter, looking for women to come together and share stories about their lives and what they’re reading.

That’s something I should probably do.

Three women – Sylvia, Lise, and Cindy – respond. And through the pages of the book, their stories become intertwined with one another. 

It’s been my experience that if you have a book in your hands, and you keep your nose in it the whole time, even the most die-hard talker that sits down next to you will eventually get the message and shut up. -Lise

Sylvia is the oldest, with a severe face and deep voice – she never hesitates to give her opinion. But she has a secret.

Lise is a writing professor who wants to write the next Great American Novel.

Cindy is young, and stuck in a relationship with a man who is not very nice.

Diana is overweight, and she has always defined herself by her weight and her appearance.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to go through your entire life knowing it doesn’t matter what you do or what you accomplish, you’ll never achieve your ideal? -Diana

 Together, these women work towards becoming the selves they always dreamed of being. Walls are hit. Hurdles are leapt over. And bonds are formed that shouldn’t be broken. I am reminded of a line in a movie I watched recently, “Brothers fight. But they’re still brothers.” That applies to this book in so many ways. These women may not be sisters by blood, but they become sisters by choice.

And I enjoyed every second of the journey.


Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins – Review

September 21, 2015 Review 0 ★★★★½

Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins – ReviewRelease Date: December 30, 2014
Title: Off Campus
Series: Bend or Break #1
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Pages: 317
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Source: Owned
From the Publisher: Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.

But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.

Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.

Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.

Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.
4.5 Stars

I’m going to be honest here, at the risk of sounding like a terrible person.

I’d never really read m/m romance before. I did read a novella by Amy Jo a while back, but that’s been my only experience with this particular genre. I always assumed that I’d never enjoy reading about two men falling in love and getting their rocks off.

But I was so, so wrong.

As is typical for me when I follow the author of a book I find myself falling into, my reaction to the book is best told through my tweets to the author:

I’m guessing a lot of that doesn’t make sense to those of you who haven’t read the book… but I couldn’t stop grinning like crazy and telling Amy Jo just how much I adored her characters.

Tom and Reese were both very broken characters – but not in a way that made me want to turn from them. It wasn’t over the top; it was really rather realistic. Humans are usually broken in some way. And sometimes relationships that try to navigate that wreckage are hard and wonderful.

And those sex scenes I thought I wouldn’t enjoy? Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.

Time to go read the next one!


The Martian by Andy Weir – Audio Book Review

September 14, 2015 Review 1 ★★★★★

The Martian by Andy Weir – Audio Book ReviewRelease Date: March 22, 2013
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Narrated by: R.C. Bray
Length: 10 hours 53 minutes
Publisher: Podium Publishing
Source: Audible
From the Publisher: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
5 Stars

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I saw that the movie comes out this fall so I thought why not?

Best. Decision. Ever.

I have never read a book in my life that has gotten me so emotionally invested in a character (I didn’t even cry when Dumbledore died). My whole life suddenly revolved around whether or not Mark Watney was going to live or die. 

Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.

If I’d been physically reading this book, I would have finished it in a single sitting without ever getting up for food or other basic needs. Instead, I chose to listen to the audiobook, so I was limited to when and where I could listen. 

Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’m not dead, so it’s a win.

And that was pure torture.

This is the first book I can ever recall wanting to give more than five stars to. And it’s all because of Mark Watney. I’m not sure I’d say this is my favorite book – but I can say without hesitation that Watney is my absolute favorite fictional character right now. His optimism and sense of humor and – well, everything about him, made me want to know more about him. Suddenly, my own emotional wellbeing was tied to the fate of a fictional character. That’s happened
before (Harry Potter, Katniss, Tris, etc.) but never to this degree.

I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.

I honestly had no idea how the story would end. One minute I was convinced it was going to go one way, and the next I was sure it was going to be the opposite.   

I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the best botanist on the planet.

My heart was constantly pounding, and I was in (or near) tears for the last half hour of the book because the emotional toll was showing. What’s happening? Oh my gosh, did that just happen? Wait, what? Why? How? How can that work? Will it work? What’s happening?

I laughed. I cried. Sometimes simultaneously (what is this, a Shonda Rimes show?). And now I can’t stop flailing because everyone needs to read this book. Seriously. You. Go read it.


The Night Sister – Review

September 7, 2015 Review 0 ★★★★

The Night Sister – ReviewRelease Date: August 4, 2015
Title: The Night Sister
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Pages: 322
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Source: NetGalley
From the Publisher: The latest novel from New York Times best-selling author Jennifer McMahon is an atmospheric, gripping, and suspenseful tale that probes the bond between sisters and the peril of keeping secrets.

Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.
4 Stars

Since this was my first novel by Jennifer McMahon, I really had no idea what to expect when I picked it on Netgalley. It sounded rather intriguing, and I like dark mysteries – especially when ther’s a hint of the supernatural.

And I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. There was nothing predictable about this book – and it’s rare that I don’t figure out what’s going to happen at the end quite early on. The Night Sister was written from the various perspectives of several characters, so we never got quite the whole story. Instead, we got snippets from each person’s experience. Looking back, it’s clear to see how the ending was foreshadowed but while reading I was totally wrong (when I wasn’t in the dark). I loved how McMahon seamlessly took us between three different timelines. It would be easy to get confused with that kind of complexity, but I always knew what was happening and when it was happening.

I ended up closing the book (or rather, turning off my iPad) before I went to bed because I was worried about reading about blood and monsters just before falling asleep. That’s silly because it really wasn’t that scary – but it was so suspenseful that I stayed on the edge of my seat. Who killed Amy? What happened to Sylvie? Is Rose really crazy? Are there really ghosts? And what is the 29th room?

Luckily, every single one of my questions was answered in the end. I hate it when books don’t answer all of the questions they raise – but in this case, I got very satisfying closure.

The book I keep thinking of as comparison is Gone Girl – but that’s not quite right. There’s not a twist of that magnitude, and the plot has virtually no similarities… but I can’t shake the comparison. I think it’s because it’s dark, it does involve murder, and there’s a mystery that you’re trying to solve before you get to the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed Night Sister, and you will too if you’re a fan of suspenseful mystery. This may have been my first novel by McMahon, but it certainly won’t be my last.