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Dare to Do - Sarah Outen, 4/5, 288 pages
I've been wanting to read this book pretty much ever since I first heard of it... which was while Sarah was still on her London2London expedition, so it's been awhile :)

Sarah Outen's first book, "A Dip in the Ocean" was a clear 5-star book, and this came very close to being the same, but unfortunately it suffered somewhat from the expedition being so much longer, and the book (by necessity) therefore couldn't go into as much detail.

I still loved reading it though. Granted, I knew much of it in advance from following Sarah Outen's blog and youtube channel, but it was still great to have it all wrapped up here, and I enjoyed living vicariously through her experiences... well knowing that there's no WAY I could follow in her footsteps in reality. Didn't make it any less fascinating to read about - probably quite the contrary.

My one complaint is that there wasn't nearly enough photos for my liking - only 8 pages worth - but fortunately the rest are easily found online.

The Prince of the Moon - Megan Derr, 4/5, 93 pages
A fairly traditional fantasy that was made utterly charming by the very sweet two main characters. Granted, their 'insta-romance' was perhaps not entirely believable, but I found myself not minding, because of the very stereotypical "fairytale feel" of the entire novella - most of those have rather instant romances as well. That this was a M/M romance just changed the parameters around a bit.

Short and enjoyable. I liked both main characters, and appreciated how we got to hear the story from both sides. I would have liked a bit more resolution near the end, but accept that the comeuppance was never to come and that Solae's best revenge was to live well and be happy.

The Last One to Die - Kelly Garrett, 2/5, 218 pages
Huh! I'm starting to wonder if I read a different book than the others did! So many 4 and 5 star reviews, and mine can only just sneak its way up to 2.

Because my honest opinion is that this book was absolutely ridiculous. None of the characters seemed believable or acted in an even half-way realistic manner.

A shame too, because the plot had potential, and could have been really interesting if the characters hadn't been so hopelessly exaggerated. And twist seemed completely unmotivated and was never properly resolved or explained.

Granted, it did keep me reading, and despite how overdone everything was, I did want to know how it ended. But when push came to shove, I couldn't really bring myself to care about any of the characters other than Maggie, and most of them seemed more like charicatures than anybody you'd meet in real life.

With all the awesome YA books out there, give this one a miss.

The Lightning-Struck Heart - T.J. Klune, 5/5, Audiobook ~18hrs
Oh boy, where to start!

I have two simultaneous thoughts I want to get out through this review.
1) This book was HILARIOUS and I loved every minute of it. Can't remember when a book has last made me laugh this much and this often. Not to mention that it was just SWEET! ... at times... in places...
2) This book should come with a shit-load of warnings for language and content and is NOT for everybody!

(And for once I'm not going to apologize for my language, because I'd rather scare you off now, than after buying the book. Just trust me on that one. Consider it a VERY mild example).

Meet Sam of Wild - a 20-year-old wizard's apprentice, who has an incredible talent for getting captured by Dark wizards... but fortunately they just. can't. stop. monologueing!
Gary - a hornless gay unicorn who snorts coloured sparks and poops rainbows and cupcake-smells.
Tiggy - a half-giant who'll smash all of Gary and Sam's enemies if they let him.
Kevin - a sexually aggressive dragon.
'Mother' - Sam's fairy drag-mother.
Dmitri - the 6" tall gay fairy with a size-kink whom Sam almost got gay fairy married to that one time...
And of course - Knight Ryan Deliciousface... oops, sorry, I mean Ryan Foxface, who's the object of Sam's abject devotion, but unfortunately betrothed to Prince Justin.

Add all this together, and you get the FUNNIEST book it's been my pleasure to read in a very, very long time (I laughed out loud more times than I can count), while at the same time being incredibly rich in sexual jokes and very crude language. So if (explicit) M&M romance and (even more explicit) sexual banter is a dealbreaker for you - this is your warning.

The plot itself was well executed and pretty traditional for a fantasy novel - prince gets captured by dragon, knight and wizard must go free prince and return home in time for a royal wedding - yada-yada-yada. The novel's strength comes in the dialogue between the characters, and the obvious affection between Sam and his friends (including Ryan), his family, and even his wizard mentor and his King. Sam has the weirdest life ever, but it never seems forced, and much like Douglas Adams, T.J. Klune manages to make the jokes and mad escapades seem effortless and natural. The writing was excellent and appropriately witty all the way through.

The ending was perhaps a tiiiiiiny bit more explicit than I would have liked (although that may mostly have been because of the awkwardness of listening to it, rather than reading it myself), but for most of the book the sexual content is mostly talk, very little action. So download a sample off amazon, and if the language in the first few paragraphs doesn't scare you off - go for it. You won't regret it.

I "read" this as an audiobook, and absolutely adored the narrator, Michael Lesley. I've never listened to any of his performances before, but did an incredible job.

After You - Jojo Moyes, 3/5, 409 pages
I loved "Me Before You" - rated it 4 stars and sobbed my way through much of the end of it. So I was simultaneously predisposed to like this one too... as well as ever so slightly worried whether or not it could live up to my expectations.

And unfortunately it couldn't... not completely anyway. I really enjoyed parts of it - laughed at some parts, got a tad choked up at others, but there were also aspects that just didn't work for me. Jojo Moyes just tried too hard to get the reader emotionally invested to the point that it almost - almost - felt like manipulation. Fortunately she never quite crossed that line (or I'd have thrown the book away in disgust), but it did sour things for me that she even came close.

But otherwise...
I liked Lou and thought the way she worked through her grief very believable.
I mostly liked Lily... at least later on in the book.
I liked the grief circle.
I liked Mrs. Traynor.
I can't quite make up my mind about Sam, but think I liked him - I definitely liked Donna!
I didn't much care for Lou's mother, father nor sister :-/
I liked the ending, even if I didn't much care for how Lou was pressured to get there.

The Chemist - Stephenie Meyer, 5/5, 518 pages
I'd forgotten how utterly awesome it is to disappear into a brilliant book for a weekend, and not return for air until the very last page is turned. This is the best book I've read in a very long time - let me put it this way, if "The Chemist" isn't an automatic shoe-in for the "Top 10 of 2017" list, I will have had a very amazing reading year indeed!

I was a bit hesitant at first. It had been sold to me as a crime novel, and they have to be very good for me to like them - J.K. Rowling certainly didn't manage - but "The Host" is among my favourite books, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

Well! Whoever sold it as crime fiction was dead-wrong. Suspense, yes. Crime - no. Instead we got a thrilling "escape from the government" story with lots of action and humour thrown in (and yes, a love-story. Not sure Meyer knows how to write books without them, but it was believable and it WASN'T a love-triangle, so I didn't mind).

I had a very, VERY hard time putting it down for the night (stayed up much too late Saturday for "just one more chapter"), and totally disagree with the reviews calling it boring - I was hooked from the very first page.

Shaddow Man - Cody McFadyen, 4/5, 396 pages
Brilliant page-turner that made short work of the long commutes I had between Denmark and Sweden last week.

I'm very taken with crime shows like CSI, Criminal minds etc. and apparently that translates to books as well. I was instantly taken with Smoky and the rest of her team, and enjoyed reading about all the work that has to be done in order to investigate crime scenes, follow up on leads, analyse evidence etc. The crimes themselves were horrid and gruesome, but while absolutely fascinating, the book itself wasn't as scary as I'd thought it might have been... still very difficult to put down, however.

Very well written, and most of the time well translated as well, so mentally correcting the translator didn't constantly pull me out of the story - I mostly completely forgot I was reading a book in translation. There were two very obvious exceptions though, with some glaring mistakes that really ought to have been caught by the editor or proof-reader:

First the translator obviously didn't know the two meanings of "to start", meaning that "Smoky started and..." was translated with "Smoky began and..." instead of "Smoky was startled and..." - making for a rather confusing sentence until I puzzled it out.

At another point, Smoky and her best friend were described as having been each others' "ladies in waiting"... I'm pretty sure the original text said "maids [of honour]" instead.

Fairly minor issues though, and in the end didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. And for once I wasn't too disappointed by the way the unsub was finally caught... in this case, it seemed like the only way it really could end.

Thirteen Hours - Francis Gideon, 1.5/5, 73
If goodreads hadn't told me otherwise, I'd have assumed this was Francis Gideon's first book. The plot showed definite potential, but was very poorly executed and the characters were two-dimensional and caricatures. The writing was choppy and needed editing, and at a mere 73 pages, the author wanted to do far too much, and had to rush through the various stages of the plot (which actually turned out to be a good thing... I doubt I would have finished it, had it been much longer). For a book containing zombies, it was awfully tame, with not even the fear of an attack to add tension to the story, and unfortunately the main love-story seemed tacked on and completely unbelievable.

A shame.

A List of Cages - Robin Roe, 3/5, 320 pages
The writing-style took some getting used to - to the point that the first 25% took me 2 months to read, and I then finished the last 75% in one sitting!

I wasn't as blown away by this book as other reviews had let me to hope I would be. As already mentioned it took some getting into, and while I loved the growing friendship between Julian and Adam and his friends (definite shades of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" there!) and found the middle part of the book captivating, the lack of communication and trust in adults was still frustrating (Adam's mother especially). Worst of all, the ending was deeply unsatisfying. The other issues I could have ignored or forgiven, but a poor ending means a poor lasting effect of a book.

It still deserves 3 stars though, as it was a very powerful book up until then. With a better ending, it could easily have been a 5-star read.

The New Rector - Rebecca Shaw, 3/5, 264 pages
A nice account of life in an English village - written in much the same style as Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy (although a LOT more simplistic). It was extremely soap-opera'ish at times, but despite its weaknesses and occasional OTT'ness, I ended up really enjoying it. The characters were likable and (with certain memorable exceptions) believable, and I got to really care for them.

Not high literature in ANY kind of way (see above re. soap opera), but a fun read, if you're able to keep your eye-rolling at bay.

Truly, Madly, Guilty - Liane Moriarty, 3/5, 415 pages
I approached this book with very high expectations, as I've loved everything else I've read by Liane Moriarty. Unfortunately, it couldn't live up to those expectations at all. Liane Moriarty used much the same tactic of foreshadowing/hinting/secrecy as in "Big Little Lies", but whereas I loved it in BLL, it just didn't work at all here, and instead came across as being rather silly. (I think the difference is that in BLL the surprise came later chronologically, whereas here, it was danced around as something that happened in the past - which just made me roll my eyes and want to yell at Moriarty to just reveal it already!)

So why still 3 stars? Despite my annoyance at her ridiculous use of foreshadowing, I do enjoy Liane Moriarty's writing style, and the pages almost turned themselves. I liked that the characters were generally nice to one another, and I liked that people talked things through, instead of letting misunderstandings and lack of communication ruin their lives. It made for a refreshing change :)

Half Bad - Sally Green, 3.5/5, 380 pages
I think, possibly, my expectations were too high. I liked it well enough, and found myself nicely entertained, but I never really got interested in Nathan's plight, and though Sally Green used too much of the book to define the universe and set the stage for the next book, and too little on the actual plot.

So though very little was actually resolved in this book, I'm in no rush to run out and pick up the next one. But I do understand the high ratings it has received - it was good... just not for me.

Book of the Month: A toss between The Lightning-Struck Heart and The Chemist. Both amazing books in VERY different ways.
Biggest disappointment: Again a toss between Thirteen Hours and The Last to Die. The former was worse, but at least it was short and quickly over. The latter had more potential and therefore disappointed more.
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