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The Pitch:

Magic meets machine in this pre-apocalyptic future earth.  We follow as childhood friends Laurence and Patricia navigate coming of age and into their own as the dark future looms in front of them.  Can their complicated relationship survive these tests?  Will it save us all or end us?

The Pros:

Coming into this novel knowing that Anders had won a Hugo Award made me a little leery that it might be too sci-fi for me – but I was grossly mistaken.  This novel is tightly wound with almost every plot point being significant to the final few.  The characters are well drawn out without the typical tropes you see in young adult characters.  The interweaving of themes was brilliantly handled and left a lasting impression on me.

The Cons:

The first third of the novel is a bit hard to get through – BUT – is completely necessary for the remainder of the novel.  Every time I started to think Anders could have pulled back a little those agonizing moments had big meaning toward the end.  

There were some time jumps that were a little jarring.  These time jumps also left some holes that weren’t filled in.  There is also the plotline of ASSASSIN that was teased and opened up in the first third of the novel but then left for dead for the remainder, much like his character.

Also, while the end of the novel isn’t a pretty wrapped up box (much appreciated) I felt it was almost too open to feel contented.  Perhaps that’s intentional but it continues to nag at the back of my mind.

The Soapbox:

Putting aside the very interesting plotlines of the progression of technology to a doomsday device and the existence of magic and how it helps save the world, I want to focus on the interpersonal plotline of acceptance.  Surprisingly this plotline also includes technology and magic (which is why this novel is so good).

The restrictive nature and neglect of Laurence’s parents and the outright physical and mental abuse of Patricia’s parents led to both of them being outsiders within their own cloistered communities of peers.  Each character stood out as ‘other’ within these secretive and regulated groups and both were given the impression that while their talent was appreciated it needed to be regulated.  As such they spend a majority of the novel grappling with the idea of denying their full potential.  It isn’t until the world starts to actually turn apocalyptic that their two universes collide (both with the best of intentions) and they must both use their full potential – but against each other.  We, the reader, are briefly left with the notion that unleashing your inner most self will ultimately be your downfall.

Yet, as the world starts to crumble around them Patricia and Lawrence find each other once again.  Both now knowing what the other is capable of they still can’t help but find acceptance of one another.  Ultimately because they can accept the other for everything that they are it is the love they share that saves the world.  They would have never been able to come to a place where Peregrine and the Tree could find each other if they had not always known the true nature of the other first.

It’s kind of complicated to get there, but I feel like it is a powerful and important message.  We really must love each and every person in our lives for exactly who they are – not who we want them to be, or some shade of that.  Full acceptance is love, and in this current intolerable environment I can’t think of more important message to give.

 

The Breakdown:

Rating: 5 Stars

Reasoning: Wonderfully executed idea with authentic characters and a lasting message.

Recommended For: Sci-Fi fans, technology fans, magic fans, young adult fans, anyone needing a book they can’t put down!

Skewed

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The Pitch:

Janie Perkins, half of the famed “Haiku Twins”, is thrust back into the blinding spotlight as new evidence emerges 30 years later surrounding the murder of her mother by her estranged father.  Janie must sift through evidence, the past and red herrings as she closes in on who the real Haiku Killer is.

The Pros:

I did not see that ending coming.  I had my suspicions, but that was a real plot twist for me, in a very good way.  The writing was tight and well thought out.  The alternating POV worked extremely well as flashback to set the mood and urgency of the novel.  McAneny did an excellent job of showing not telling the setting and characters (much appreciated).

The Cons:

Quite a few of the characters were a bit two dimensional – Janie’s brother Jack, Nickles, Lucendia even Wexler.  People might disagree on Wexler but I’d argue you’re just getting lost in the romance and not seeing the whole picture of him – which is very flat.  I also could not really get behind Janie’s constant string of insults toward her brother.  Some of them were funny but they were so standoffish and angry that it became a trope instead of a tool.

The Soapbox:

I ‘read’ this book because Audible’s algorithm said I might like it.  I was intrigued since I rarely pick up any kind of thriller/mystery/romance novel.  There were several aspects of this novel that did tick boxes for me: strong female lead, set in current or near future setting, quick and sharp writing with an emphasis on economy, splash of romance alongside a different genre.

That being said the same reasons I liked it are also a lot of the same reasons I don’t read books like this, and the reason I could only give this book 3 stars.  There is a strong female lead – but she falls back on bitchiness more often than naught to assert authority.    She also attracts the attention of the new, masculine, unattainable, chivalrous male lead.  Does every male lead now have to be quirky and courtly at the same time?  The novel was set in our current time – but there are so many blatant references to current technology that it was a bit distracting.  How many times can you say Twitter in one novel?  And why should you!  Twenty years down the line when someone ‘streams’ this book they are going to have to use their hologram machine to look up what Twitter meant.  LOL.  The writing style is quick and sharp  – but the red herrings weren’t.  I was not expecting the ending so that is not part of this critique.  But McAneny continued to tease Mr. Abel as a potential killer when it became pretty obvious that he was just the christian allegory of the story.  Plus, Janie seemed to be the only one that thought Mr. Abel was a suspect so that immediately tipped me off.  You can’t have several main characters have multiple conversations about psychopaths and how normal they appear to everyone else without knowing that Mr. Able had been taken of the readers list as a suspect.  Finally, the splash of romance in this novel was a bit anemic.  This isn’t a romance novel, that much is apparent and I appreciate that.  That being said you could have taken out the physical intimacy and the novel still would have worked just fine.  The forming relationship was so lacking that I highly doubt 5 years down the road those characters would be together, so why do it at all?

This was a departure for me and I appreciated the masterful way McAneny weaved the main murder/mystery plot to the very final pages.  But, it also reinforced for me the reasons why I tend to stay away from these genres.

The Breakdown:

Rating: 3 Stars 

Reasoning: Brilliant twist ending that kept you reading, but too many other shortcomings in characters and secondary plot lines made the overall novel fall a bit short.

Recommended For: Murder/mystery fans, detective/investigation fans or looking for a quick summer read.

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The Pitch:

A woman inadvertently falls through a time portal from Post-WW2 to 18th Century Scotland during a second honeymoon with her husband.  She must navigate the land, culture and her own conflicting heart.

The Pros:

This was a sweeping novel with a very intriguing idea.  What would you do if you were transported so far back in time that it was jarring to your current sensibilities?  And would you choose to stay if you fell in love while you were there?  There were moments of high stress, passion, hilarity, cringing and horror.  Overall a very well planned plot albeit a little long.

The Cons:

My suspension of disbelief evaporated by the last third of the novel.  There are only so many times a man in 18th century Scotland can have the crap beaten out of him and not succumb to his injuries.  Also, the direction she took Captain Randall in the last third of the novel was just too much – she went too far.  He was already evil enough, she didn’t need to tack on those last few personality ‘quirks’ to round him out.  Finally, Claire started to turn into a bit of a Mary-Sue at the end there.  Everyone suddenly wanted her, she was suddenly charming to everyone around her, she possessed sudden abilities beyond what we knew her to possess.  You could argue this was set up over the course of the novel with hints (which it was) but it almost felt like the author was fatigued at the end there.  Like she just wanted to start wrapping it up so everything that had been so carefully crafted was suddenly jammed into a convenient series of event.  Perhaps I was the one that was fatigued…it was a long novel.

The Soapbox:

I would never pick up a book like this on my own.  But, between a friend recommendation and seeing that it had been turned into a TV series I figured it would be worth a try.  I did like the novel, but I felt it really fell into a meandering trap throughout the middle of it.  Instead of quickly escalating the plot and building on the momentum of the beginning it stalled out in the middle and that was very difficult to slog through.  The climax was breathtaking (and unbelievable – see above) but the denouement took so long that I found myself wanting to say, ‘yeah, yeah I get it – hurry this up!’  Perhaps it’s conditioning from how YA novels are written now, but the long and languished close of the novel changed my opinion of it a bit.

The Breakdown:

Rating: 3 Stars

Reasoning: This could have been a much tighter novel, my suspension of disbelief evaporating at the end and the unnecessary disturbing turn of events with Captain Randall.

Recommended For: Romance fans, historical fiction fans, lovers of long novels.

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The Pitch:

Following the events of The Blood of Olympus Apollo is cast out of Olympus and made to be a “powerless” teenage boy.  He must suffer through a series of trails in order to gain favor back from Zeus and return to his godly spot.

The Pros:

 

The inside jokes.  The perfect characterization of Riordan’s Apollo.  The mystery of Meg and the “big bad” this series.  Everything comes together in a satisfying and wild ride.  I am really looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Cons:

 

If you have not ready ALL of the Percy Jackson series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus) you are really missing out on this addition to the mythology and world.  There are so many inside jokes that I think it would be frustrating as a reader coming into this book blind to all those before it.  Riordan even hints at the Kane Chronicles and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.

The Soapbox:

 

I love Rick Riordan.  I believe everyone else should love him as well and buy and read all his young adult books.  End of Soapbox.  LOL.

The Breakdown:

Rating: 5 Stars

Reasoning: It’s Rick Riordan – I haven’t given him a bad review because I love him so much.  Like all other series before this one his wit, simple breakdown of mythology, world building and hints of real life issues flourish in this new but familiar series.

Recommended For: Fans of Riordan, fans of Greek and Roman mythology, young adult fans, basically everyone else as well.  Fangirl till the end here…

Yes, Please

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I listened to the audiobook version of this publication – which I HIGHLY recommend.

 

The Pitch:

Auto-biography of Amy Pohler’s life and career thus far from her time in Second City all the way up into the final season of “Park’s and Rec”.  This book focuses mostly on her professional life, with small sections that delve into personal stories.

 

The Pros:

First a note about the audiobook version – it’s awesome.  I feel that readers are actually missing out a little bit because of all the added material and different voices to be heard in this version.  Plus, Pohler’s performance and delivery about her own life could never be recreated as brilliantly in your own head so it was a real treat to hear her read it.

 

This book had a clean, clear message that was beautifully woven throughout the course of the novel in several different examples and stories.

Pohler’s voice comes through strong and authentic with just the right amount of humor and humility.  I appreciated her honesty and vulnerability in some of the more personal parts.

From what I could tell on the audiobook version this appeared to be a short read with several parts you could easily stop at.  Each “chapter” felt like a wrap up so there was never a concern that I would forget or miss out on information.

 

The Cons:

There were pacing problems with this novel.  You are warned of this from the very beginning and a couple of times throughout – but it was, at times, very distracting.

Pohler weaves back and forth over the length of her life throughout the novel which is very stylishly done in the first two thirds.  The last third of the novel continued to use this convention but it wasn’t as smooth or easy to follow.  The last third of the novel has several different kinds of writing.  She tells a long form story about the Upright Citizens Brigade that I felt should have been more toward the middle.  She tells almost poetic short form stories about her children.  She has some lists she quickly fires through, and then (for the audiobook version) reads the final chapter in front of a live audience.  While I really enjoyed the live version it only added to the pacing issues and wasn’t as cohesive as I would have liked an ending to a novel to be.

 

The Soapbox:

There were two things that really stood out for me over the course of this novel.  The first was the idea that Pohler kept coming back to of “Yes, please”.  It is an improve standard to ensure that the action continues to move in a skit – you should never say no in improve.  But, Pohler continues to use this idea throughout her life and attributes it to much of her success.  Saying yes and having manners can get you very far, according to her.  I 100% agree.  More and more I’m witnessing the decay of manners – as if it’s some kind of archaic custom we no longer have time for.  This isn’t some rant about men not opening doors for ladies – this reaches everyone down to a very personal level.  People don’t know how to genuinely say please and thank you anymore.  We are starting to become so desensitized that no one even knows how to accept a compliment.  When you don’t have to talk to someone, or look someone in the eye to order some food or a drink you lose the level of gratitude that helps feed a low level of humility within you.  When you don’t have to use manners to acknowledge the effort someone else has either put in or is giving to you these efforts become expected rather than appreciated.  In other words – no manners create divas…and no one wants a diva around 24/7.

 

The second concept that I continue to think about is about gender equality in Hollywood.  Pohler gives an example of one (of many times) that she felt there was a double standard biased against her for being a woman in Hollywood. This example includes a producer attempting to use guilt to cover up his own mistake, as well as asking for a hug (super creepy).  In the end the question she leaves with the reader is, ‘If I was a man, do you think this would have happened to me?’  Of course, the answer is no.  Pohler doesn’t give any kind of solution to the problem, unlike Fey in Bossypants, but she brings up an excellent point.  No matter how hard she’s worked, no matter how much she’s contributed, there still remains a double standard that women – especially in comedy – are stacked against.  I’m in no way an expert on the subject, but I do know that even in my own career and life there are still things that “women are just better at” and it often makes me angry to hear that.  Until we can all see each other as capable of having the same strengths and weaknesses – regardless of gender – this is just keep happening.  I don’t have an answer either, but I did feel quite a bit of solidarity with Pohler in sharing this very personal story.

 

The Breakdown:

Rating: 4 Stars

Reasoning: Quick and hilarious read, but pacing problems at the end left for a jumbled up final message.

Recommended For: Fans of Pohler, comedy writing, parents, working mom’s, anyone in need of a good laugh.

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Before you were born you were loved.

Before you were known you were wanted.

Before we knew what hit us you were here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I could have never predicted that you would double in size every three months.

I could have never predicted that you would want to make me laugh every single day.

I could have never predicted that the only baby part left in you is this same exact look when you finally fall asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

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My sweet Joseph.  So loving.  So silly.  So adventurous.

You are the child God intended for me.  The child I was meant to have.

Through your unending curiosity and unexpected kisses.

 

 

 

 

 

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Not all of our days together are good, and I suspect some will be worse.

But every day with you matters to me.

You teach me to slow down, explore, have patience, and most importantly value every moment of sleep I can manage to get.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our snuggly, clingy, dependant time is quickly coming to a close.

The smiling baby has now been replaced with a tiny toddler that squeals with delight when I try to chase him down.

But I hope that one day we can both look back on this first year and know that it was imperfectly perfect.  Just the way it’s supposed to be.

I love you.

-Mom


16141924The Pitch:

Jim Gaffigan laments on the perils of fatherhood to five children – and hot pockets.

The Pros:

The chapters are incredibly short and to the point, which made it a funny, quick read.

There were several parts of the book that were laugh out loud funny, and several other that gave me a chuckle.

Lots of pictures in the book, which I loved because it put a face to all his kids when I was reading.

Even though I only have one child reading his torments and victories made me incredibly sympathetic.

The Cons:

The book reads like a collection of blog posts rather than a novel.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I was looking for.  If there would have been a more cohesive flow I think it would have helped the book be a little more literary.

The short, blog-like, chapters were incredibly repetitive in the first third of the novel.  It only took one chapter to inform me that he’s happily married with a beautiful wife, five kids, in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City, and a successful comedy career.  Yet, he tells me this almost every chapter for the first third.

The Soapbox:

There is a lot of talk in the book about both the pros and cons of having five children.  I came from a family of four, my husband is from a family of four, all of our parents came from big families – so much of what he spoke about resonated with me.  Yet, he kept coming back to the same point that he had “no idea” why they kept having children, other than being Catholic.  I just felt that was an easy out for him instead of being reflective and vulnerable about the reason they continue to have children.  Whatever he said wasn’t going to be wrong, it’s his life, his wife, his marriage – but this personal, real moment was lost in this book because he just fell onto a joke every time instead.  I really wish he had dug just a little bit deeper on some parts.

 

The Breakdown:

Rating:  Four Stars

Reasoning: Quick, easy, summer read, funny and topical (if you have kids) and, other than the repetition, worth your time.

Recommend For: Fans of Gaffigan, fans of comedy writing, parents, summer readers, pretty much anyone.

Sara Sipping Chai

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