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The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro 3/5
Right after finishing the first book, A Study in Charlotte, I started this second book in the trilogy.  I like this modern version of Holmes and Watson.  I didn't score this one as high as the first book because the end was super confusing.
 
The story takes place shortly after the end of the first book.  (The first book was pretty much their fall semester at boarding school.)  This book takes place during their winter break.  Charlotte and Jamie spend their break together, first at Jamie's house and then at Charlotte's.  However, while at Charlotte's house, her uncle Leander goes missing, and they must solve the mystery of where he is and rescue him.  Leander was in the middle of trying to solve his own mystery about art forgeries in Germany, so Charlotte and Jamie travel to Berlin.  They figure if they can solve the art forgeries mystery, then they'll also find Leander in the process.  Keep in mind these are 16-year-old kids traveling around Europe and doing detective work by themselves, but whatever.  It's fiction.
 
And now I have to wait until next March until the final book comes out.
 
Running with a Police Escort: Tales from the Back of the Pack by Jill Grunenwald 3/5
I stumbled on this while on a sub shift at the library.  I saw in the upcoming events booklet that "This Cleveland librarian will be talking about her new book..."  I was intrigued because she's a local author, and she's a librarian, and she's a runner who is usually one of the last people to cross the finish line.  I thought I'd like to read her book and go to the author event.  I did both!
 
I liked the book, but not enough to buy it and have her sign it at the author event.  She writes about what her life was like before she started running, and why she started running.  (Jill's sister had sent her an email expressing concern for Jill's unhealthy habits.)  She wrote about getting started with running and building endurance.  Then she wrote about each race in pretty much the same way.  "I couldn't believe I signed up to do a [5K, 10K, half-marathon].  I thought it was going to be really hard, but I trained anyway.  Turns out it was really hard, but I finished.  And I was in last place."  The races had some differences of course, but it seemed repetitive.
 
I think part of the interest for me was that Jill lives in a Cleveland suburb, so I was fairly familiar with all of the places and landmarks she referred to.  I also like how she doesn't worry that she doesn't look like a runner, or that she's so slow at running.  That part is inspiring.
 
The author event was cool.  Not huge - about 40-45 people.  Jill talked about her story of running, which I already knew from reading the book.  Then she read an excerpt, which was neat to hear in her voice.  The best part was the Q&A because people asked questions that weren't answered in the book.
 
A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson 1/5
In choosing another modern Christian romance, I guess I got confused.  I thought this was the same author as the really good one I liked last month.  It wasn't.  Lots of annoying things in this book, but I was still prepared to give it 2 stars until the end.  Then the ending was really stupid.
 
The story is about Gretchen, a 32-year-old kindergarten teacher.  18 months earlier, her fiance broke up with her four weeks before the wedding.  She still hasn't quite gotten over it.  Now it's the end of the school year and she decides to spend the first part of her summer break flipping a house.  She knows exactly how to do this because she watches HGTV all the time and her dad is a retired contractor.  Her dad has some health problems so it turns out he can't help her much with the renovations.  Instead, he recommends she hire Noah to help.  Noah is a carpenter and a single father.  Gretchen's dad tried to play matchmaker six months ago and get them together, but she wasn't interested because he's too gorgeous (?) and also divorced.
 
Annoying things about this book:
  • There are tedious conversations going over every detail of a plan.  And tedious descriptions of taking care of pets.  I don't need to know every time she lets her dog out or feeds her dad's cats.
  • The timing of events seemed way off at the beginning.  Like saying school ended in a week, and today is Wednesday, but later, school ended on a Friday.  And she has six weeks to renovate the house - the first week is clean-up, then she takes a week off (on such a tight deadline?), but somehow she still has five weeks left.
  • Gretchen buys Noah's daughter some clothes so she can help at the house without worrying about getting her nice clothes dirty.  The new outfit consists of overalls, a t-shirt, and flip-flops.  And Gretchen buys flip-flops for herself too.  Why are these people wearing flip-flops while renovating a house?
  • How does Gretchen not know what a circuit breaker is?  Even I know and my dad is not a retired contractor.
  • Gretchen is really judgmental.
  • Gretchen's response to new information is always, "Oh."
  • Gretchen calls her best friend Holly to come RIGHT NOW and look at this house she wants to buy.  Holly can't come right this second because she has plans.  It's her father-in-law's birthday.  Gretchen gets angry and jealous about this.  She's seriously mad that Holly isn't available at a moment's notice.
  • At this point, I'm sure none of you are going to read this silly book, so I'll tell you the ending.  Noah secretly puts in an offer on the house, but he has one condition.  Gretchen goes to the house to talk about the condition with her potential buyer, and she's surprised to find Noah there.  Then he proposes marriage and she says yes.  While I believe it's possible for a whirlwind six-week romance to result in many years of wedded bliss, that isn't exactly what happened here.  They weren't dating or romantic with each other during the six-week renovation.  They had one semi-date when Noah offered to escort Gretchen to a friend's wedding.  But she wasn't even considering it a date.  And a couple weeks later they shared one kiss.  And the next thing you know, they're totally in love and engaged?  That's pretty far-fetched.
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My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick 3/5
I had listened to The Boy Most Likely To a couple years ago, not knowing that it was a second book that focused on different characters. This book was the first.  While I knew some of the events of this book before I read it, it didn't take away from my enjoyment of it.  It's about 17-year-old Samantha, whose life seems so easy and perfect.  Her mom is a state senator.  They have a big, luxurious house, and Samantha attends a private school.  However, Samantha isn't such a fan of her pristine world, and instead, longs for the world of her next-door neighbors, whom she watches from her bedroom balcony.  Her neighbors are a big family with eight kids.  They're always playing in the yard, swimming in their pool, and being generally noisy and rambunctious.  Then, Samantha meets Jase, the neighbor boy who is also 17.  They start dating, but she has to keep it a secret from her mom.  Then things happen that force everyone, especially Samantha, to make difficult choices.
 
I'd put this in the genre of teen romance drama.  It's a good story, and well-written.  The drama doesn't really come from the romance though. Samantha and Jase are basically perfect as a couple from the start. The drama comes from other events that happen to them.
 
Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour Through the World of Pun Competitions by Joe Berkowitz 4/5
Pun competitions are a real thing!  I had no idea.  I saw an article online about this author and his new book.  I thought it sounded really interesting!  And it was!  This book focuses mainly on two pun competitions: the monthly Punderdome 3000 in New York City and the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships in Austin, Texas.  The two competitions have different structures, but the basic idea is that contestants have a topic and a time limit, and they have to come up with as many puns as they can.
 
One of the cool parts about this world of pun competitions is that there are contestants who are well-known in that world, and I was able to find YouTube videos of them competing.  So I could read about their stories and then also see them on YouTube.  
 
The Two of Us by Victoria Bylin 4/5
I read an advance copy of this book through NetGalley.  It's a contemporary Christian romance, which I was in the mood for, and this one was really good!  Mia is a 29-year-old nurse practitioner in Denver.  She's had two broken engagements and isn't in a hurry to meet anyone new.  Her 18-year-old sister, Lucy, calls her with the news that Lucy is pregnant and going to Las Vegas to marry her boyfriend, Sam.  Mia is shocked, but flies to Las Vegas to be the maid of honor.
 
Sam's mother was a police officer, but she died three years ago in the line of duty.  Sam asks his mother's former partner, Jake, to be his best man.  So Jake also flies to Las Vegas.
 
Then Mia and Jake meet and it's all cartoon hearts.  Except that Mia is planning to permanently join a medical mission group and she'll be sent to a different country for the foreseeable future.  So she tries not to get involved with Jake.  Plus, due to past relationships, she has trust issues.  But with her feelings for Jake and her commitment to the mission group, she is torn about what to do.
 
It's a book about wanting to follow God's plan, but not knowing exactly what that is, and about learning to trust.  I felt like the characters and story were relatable, and not eye-rolly.  I'm interested in reading other books by this author.
 
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro 4/5
Technically finished this book this morning (August 1), but I don't care.  I want to talk about it now.
 
16-year-old Jamie Watson is the great-great-(etc.)-grandson of Dr. John Watson, the friend and colleague of Sherlock Holmes.  Jamie is sent from London to a boarding school in Connecticut on a rugby scholarship.  There he meets Charlotte Holmes, the great-great-(etc.)-granddaughter of Sherlock.  When one of their schoolmates turns up dead, Jamie and Charlotte are the prime suspects, and they have to work together to clear their names.  Charlotte, like her ancestor, is already very good at noticing details and piecing clues together.  Jamie, on the other hand, is new to the business of solving murders.
 
I thought this idea for a modern Holmes and Watson was very clever.  The story is interesting too.  Some of the reviews on Goodreads are from people who already love all things Sherlock, and they tended to think this story didn't bring anything new to the fandom.  Maybe my perspective is different because I'm not familiar with all things Sherlock.  I've read some of the original stories, and I liked them, but I haven't watched the movies or TV shows.
 
This is the first book of a trilogy and I'm looking forward to reading more!
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May 2017

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer 3/5
I didn't realize Chris Colfer was an author!  He's Kurt from Glee!  Apparently, he also has a series of children's books.  This is a YA novel.
 
This book is about Cash Carter, a 22-year-old TV star, and four friends who have just graduated from high school.  The four friends are big fans of Cash's TV show, and they're very surprised when Cash takes them up on their (joking) offer for him to join them on a pre-college road trip.
 
All five of them have a secret that they haven't told the others, so of course, the secrets are all revealed by the end.  It was a good story.  The writing was fair, but not great.  I'm a fan of Chris Colfer, but maybe he wasn't the best choice as the voice for the audiobook.  There were too many times where it sounded like he was reading the book instead of acting the book.
 
The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion 3/5
Adam Sharp is a professional database architect and amateur pianist from England.  He and Claire have been together for 20 years, but never married.  They seem to have let their relationship drift into the realm of friendly roommates, rather than two people in love.  22 years ago, while working in Australia, Adam fell for a actress named Angelina.  A lot of the first part of the book is a flashback to show the time that they were together.  In the present, Angelina emails Adam out of the blue.  She is married to another man, but the emails quickly become flirty.  Angelina invites Adam to spend a week in France with her and her husband.  Then there are unexpected turns everywhere, and it all works out in the end.
 
This is the same author of The Rosie Project, and boy, these two books are verrrry different.  Where The Rosie Project was funny and charming, The Best of Adam Sharp is nostalgic, and full of characters making questionable choices.  I was engrossed in the story, despite the questionable choices.  The relationships were well-written, and the emotions were complex.  But if you read it, just don't expect The Rosie Project.
 
 
June 2017

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak 4/5
The Birch family is rarely all together for holidays anymore, especially since the older daughter, Olivia, is often away on medical mission trips.  It's almost Christmas, and she is about to return from fighting an epidemic in Africa, and has to be quarantined for seven days.  Her family decides to be quarantined with her, so they spend Christmas together at the old family estate in the country (somewhere in England).  The dad, Andrew, used to be a war correspondent, but now he reviews restaurants.  The mom, Emma, is dealing with a medical issue that she's keeping a secret.  The younger daughter, Phoebe, has just gotten engaged.  It's amazing how much happens to them and how many surprises they get during this one week of their life.  But that's why it's an interesting story.  I liked the format and how the secrets were revealed to different characters at different times.
 
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams 3/5
This is a love triangle set in 1920's New York City.  Theresa is a married 40-something woman with a 20-something boyfriend, Octavian.  He wants to marry her, but she prefers their current arrangement, since divorce is so frowned upon in high society.  Theresa's brother is all set to marry 19-year-old Sophie, and it seems that Sophie is willing to marry him, until she meets Octavian and falls for him.  Octavian can't help but be swept away by Sophie too.  Throw in family secrets and a murder trial, and this is now quite a story.  I liked it, but I thought it got confusing near the end.  I understood how it all turned out, but the way it got to that wrap-up lost me a bit.
 
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch 4/5
This is different from the books I usually read.  It's a suspenseful, mind-boggle of a story.  Jason has a happy life with his wife and teenage son in Chicago.  He is a physics professor at a small college.  One night, he is abducted and taken to an abandoned warehouse.  The next thing he knows, he wakes up in a lab facility and the life he knows is no longer reality.  His wife isn't his wife.  They have no son.  A bunch of scientists seem to know who he is, but he has no memory of them at all.  Jason has to figure out where he is, who he is, what is real, and how to get back to the life he knew.  Ultimately, it's about the choices we make, and how each choice, even small ones, shape our lives.
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The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer 2/5
I thought the premise sounded interesting.  The main character is on the run from her former employers.  She works hard to stay anonymous and sets booby traps in her house every night, in case they have found her and have come to kill her.  This has been her life for three years when one of her former co-workers contacts her.  He says they have one last job for her, and if she helps them, she will be free to live a relatively normal life with no one chasing her.  The book started off so well.  It was interesting and mysterious.  There was suspense for a while.  And then it went downhill.  A sudden, unrealistic romance was introduced.  There was way too much description of everything from emotions to what was inside a toolbox.  It got too long and tedious.  The mystery and suspense were gone.  Overall, it was just okay.
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One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak 3/5
A book of short stories by that writer/actor from The Office.  Some of the stories are very, very short.  Overall, they are creative and have an element of surprise.  I really enjoyed reading this.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman 3/5
I liked listening to this book read by Nick Offerman (AKA Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec.)  He's interesting and funny.  He told about his childhood and how he got started in show business.  He's also fairly vulgar.  I didn't realize that he's married to Megan Mullally, who played his ex-wife on Parks and Rec.  It's funny how in many ways, he's a lot like his Ron Swanson character.  He has woodworking skills and likes to be out in nature.
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Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple 3/5
Bernadette is a genius architect who hasn't created any buildings in a long time.  Her 15-year-old daughter, Bee, goes to a private school in Seattle.  The other moms of kids at the school think Bernadette is eccentric, but she didn't seem that weird to me.  Just kind of a recluse.  Which is okay for the most part, because her husband makes lots of money working at Microsoft, and Bernadette can hire out most of her tasks to a virtual assistant in India.  Bee starts planning a family cruise to Antarctica.  Bernadette has some altercations with the other moms.  And her husband thinks that maybe Bernadette needs to spend some time in a mental hospital.
I liked that this book made me care about Antarctica.  Honestly, I didn't even know that regular people could take a cruise to Antarctica.  I thought only scientists went there.  I wasn't a big fan of how most of this book is told through letters, emails, faxes, and other correspondence.  I don't mind that in some books, but not so much this one.  (For example, there was a part where two spouses were faxing each other, and I thought that was weird.  Why weren't they talking in person, or at least emailing?  This book isn't set in the past when faxing was common.)  Also, Bernadette was the best character, and, as you can tell from the title, she goes missing, so she wasn't even around for a big chunk of the book.  I mean, Bee is the main character, not Bernadette, but Bernadette was my favorite.  Anyway, it's a good story, clever, well-written.  The things that bothered me meant that I just liked it, not loved it.
Black River by S. M. Hulse 3/5
For my library internship, my supervisor wanted me to attend a book discussion.  I searched for one that was at a fairly close library branch, was being held at a time that I could attend, and would be discussing a book I was willing to read.  Also, bonus if I could find the book on the shelf at the library where I'm interning, instead of having to request it and wait.  This was the book, and I liked it.  The main character is Wes Carver.  He used to be a corrections officer at a prison.  About 20 years ago, there was a riot at the prison and Wes was held hostage and tortured by one of the inmates.  Now, Wes's wife has just passed away, so he's on his way back to their hometown of Black River, Montana, to spread her ashes.  Coincidentally, this is at the same time that the inmate from the riot is up for parole, and Wes has the opportunity to speak at the parole hearing.  It's not the kind of book I would have chosen on my own, and in many ways, it was very sad.  But overall, very well-written and thought-provoking.  I can see why it was chosen for a book discussion.  Also, going to the book discussion made me like the book even more, as we examined the character relationships and certain plot points.  It just got me thinking about it more than I normally would have.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld 2/5
This is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in Cincinnati, and there was a lot that annoyed me.  The parts that I liked were the ones that were most true to the original book.  The modernized parts didn't improve anything, and usually didn't make any sense.  I didn't find much to like about Liz.  She's very pushy with her family, taking charge of things that really aren't her business.  For example, her parents are deep in debt, so it's clear to Liz that they need to sell their big house and downsize to something smaller.  But instead of letting her parents handle it, she gets a real estate agent and starts decluttering the basement herself WITHOUT TELLING THEM.  Liz doesn't even live there anymore!  Why is she getting involved?  And later, her actions are praised as an example of how she selflessly takes care of her family.  And her family was just the worst.  Only Jane was likable.  I liked Liz and Darcy together, but it was hardly enough to redeem the book.  Overall, I didn't think it was well-written, and the chapters were ridiculously short, often ending abruptly.  I guess the 2 stars are because at least it kept my interest.
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Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot 3/5
I finally got around to reading the last Princess Diaries book! (It is the last, right?) It was cute and I liked it. Not as funny as the earlier books, but maybe that's because Mia is 25 now. No longer a teenager. The books are so much better than the movies. I love Julie Andrews and all, but Book-Grandmére is a much funnier character.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer 4/5
It's difficult to describe what this book is about.  There are characters, and they do things, and things happen, but there isn't an overarching plot.  I guess it's a character-driven novel?  The characters are the Bloch family - Jacob and Julia, with their three boys: Sam, Max, and Benjy.  They live in Washington, D.C.  Jacob and Julia's marriage is rocky.  They are planning Sam's bar mitzvah, even though Sam doesn't really want a bar mitzvah, and neither Jacob nor Julia feel particularly religious.  But they are Jewish, and that's what you do when you're Jewish.  Jacob's cousin from Israel comes to visit.  While he's visiting, there is an earthquake in Israel.  The book is about the characters, and their relationships.  It's kind of sad, but beautiful.  Jonathan Safran Foer is an excellent writer.  I like character-driven novels when they're well-written.
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I didn't post for October or November because I didn't finish any books then.  I finished one in December.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven 4/5
Libby is 16.  When she was 13, she was named "America's Fattest Teen" and had to be cut out of her house.  Now, she's lost a lot of weight, but she's still pretty big.  She's finally going back to school.  She is confident and excited and loves to dance.  Jack is 17.  He has prosopagnosia, which means he can't recognize faces.  No one knows this about him, except that he tells Libby.  They become unlikely friends, and then maybe more!  Kind of like a Rainbow Rowell book.  I really liked it.  Although I have no idea why it's called Holding Up the Universe.
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I never got around to posting these two from September.  October has been a dud so far for books.  I've started a few, but now I'm kind of hooked on listening to podcasts instead.  So there might be no books in October.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris 3/5
I knew a little about Neil Patrick Harris before listening to this book.  Now I know a lot more, and he seems like a delightful person.  I knew he had hosted the Tony Awards one year, but apparently, it was four years.  I didn't realize he was so involved in lots of Broadway musicals and plays.  He even won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical in 2014.  After playing Doogie Howser, he had a difficult time breaking into other roles, but I'm glad he persisted and was able to do so.

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller 3/5
Overall, a pleasant book.  But also weirdly unexpected, with some plot holes that I could complain about.  Olivia (Livvy) leaves her job at a prestigious dinner club in Boston and goes to Vermont where her best friend Hannah lives.  Livvy ends up starting a new job as a pastry chef at an inn owned by an old woman named Margaret.  She also starts falling for Martin, the son of Margaret's best friend.  Based on the title, I was expecting Livvy to be like a fish out of water being in the country, but she really wasn't, so the first half of the book wasn't what I was expecting.  Then the story took a weird turn and the second half of the book became predictable and kind of cliche.

Even though the title says Livvy is a city baker, she didn't seem like a "city girl" to me.  She plays a banjo and grew up attending contra dances.  Her new employer, Margaret, gives her an old sugarhouse to live in, and Livvy thinks nothing of it.  It has to be heated by a fire furnace and there's a bathtub in the middle of the room.  (Although later they talk about how there's no indoor plumbing in the sugarhouse?  But she never complained about that.)  She has no cell service, and she doesn't find it at all frustrating or inconvenient.  She asks Margaret if she can get a landline in the sugarhouse.  Margaret says no, and Livvy doesn't even care.  Sometimes Livvy will have a thought like how she can't imagine growing up in a place that doesn't have any record stores.  But that's about as far as her city girl background goes.  The only thing that shocks her about small town life is how much gossip there is.

I still liked the book, but there were a lot of things that just didn't match up with what a character had said earlier.
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A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade 2/5
The third book in the Porter family series.  It's an okay Christian romance story, but for me, this one went over the edge of cliché and preachy.  This one is about Jake Porter (brother of Bo and Ty).  His childhood friend Lyndie moved away with her family when she was ten and he was twelve.  Now it's 20 years later and she's back in town.  Jake is the trainer on the thoroughbred horse farm that Bo manages.  Lyndie gets hired on as an exercise rider.  She and Jake start having feelings for each other, but Jake doesn't want to admit it because he is so closed off from anything that might make him happy.  He's so tall, dark, and brooding that in her mind, Lyndie refers to him as Tall, Dark, and Brooding, like it's a nickname.  I'm also realizing that these book titles have nothing to do with the story itself.  They're so generic, you could switch the titles around on the different books, and it wouldn't make any difference.  (The first two are Undeniably Yours and Meant to be Mine.)

Her One and Only by Becky Wade 3/5
The fourth, and final (I think), book about the Porter family.  This one was back on par with books one and two.  Mostly predictable, but still enjoyable.  Plus, this one had elements of a mystery to solve and some action scenes.  Dru is the fourth Porter child, and the only girl.  She is ten years younger than Jake, the youngest boy.  She's a very tough, no-nonsense kind of girl.  Like her brothers, she had been a Marine.  Now in her mid-twenties, she works for a security agency as a bodyguard.  She gets assigned to Gray Fowler, a professional football player who has been receiving threatening letters from a stalker.  The book is about solving the mystery of the stalker, trying to stay out of danger, and Gray and Dru trying to not fall for each other.  Overall, I liked it.  I'm interested in reading more by this author.

Side note: Dru had been mentioned in the previous books, and when I finally got to her story, I was expecting to learn what Dru was short for.  Like Drucilla or something.  But no.  I guess it's not short for anything.

All's Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant 3/5
This is a cute book - another light-hearted Christian romance story.  Kat is a 26-year-old, living in a small town in Louisiana.  She works in her aunt's bakery where they sell chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry cupcakes.  On her own time, Kat experiments with lots of different cupcake flavors.  She longs to sell them in the bakery, but her aunt only wants to stick with the standard flavors.  (Why?  That makes no sense.)  Kat's best friend is Lucas.  He is the high school football coach.  They have romantic feelings for each other, but they're both too scared to do anything about it, for fear of ruining the friendship.  Kat is very insecure about everything because no one except Lucas believes in her abilities as a cupcake baker.  So Lucas surprises her by signing her up for a cupcake baking competition TV show.  The grand prize is a one-year internship at a prestigious bakery in New York City.  Kat agrees to do the competition because she wants to get out of small-town life.  Lucas didn't realize what the prize was when he signed her up, and now he's stuck because if she wins, she'll be out of his life for a year or more.  Oh, what to do...

I thought it was kind of adorable, even though there were a lot of elements that I don't think would happen in real life.  I get that they don't want to lose their friendship, but they're not teenagers.  She's 26 and he's 28, and they've been friends for ten years.  I find it hard to believe that neither of them ever even hinted at something more than friendship.  Also, I don't get why Kat's family makes her feel so worthless, especially since her father is a pastor.  I'd think they'd be more loving and supportive.

Take a Chance on Me by Susan May Warren 2/5
This story wasn't quite what I was expecting, so maybe the only okay rating isn't the fault of the book itself, but of my expectations.  I found this one at the same time that I started the Porter Family series, only this one wasn't available digitally and I had to wait for the CD version.  This is the first in the Christiansen Family series, and I was laughing when I saw all the titles because they're all songs that I know.  (This title is an ABBA song.)  I thought this would be a light Christian romance story just like the Porter family.  I think it was kind of trying to be a light Christian romance, but it had this dark undercurrent of past events that made it a bit of a downer.

The story is about Darek Christiansen, the oldest of six Christiansen siblings.  He is a widower with a 5-year-old son.  He lives in the small town of Deep Haven, Minnesota.  Ivy Madison comes to town as a new county attorney.  They kind of start dating, but they only have like three dates, and suddenly he feels like she's had such a huge impact on his life and he's in love with her.  The back of the book makes it sound like the entire story is about Darek and Ivy.  But no, there are actually two other main characters, Jensen and Claire, who I think have a more interesting storyline.  They're old friends who haven't talked in a while.  Jensen helps Claire with a project, and they start a little romance.

I'll probably try the second book in the series to see if it gets any better.  Maybe the next one won't be bogged down with super sad events.  (Not that books with super sad events are all bad, but it helps to have the right expectations.)

Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting by Darya Pino Rose 4/5
I really enjoyed this book.  The author is basically saying that processed food is bad for us.  Instead, we should eat real food: vegetables, beans, eggs, fruit, meat, and cheese.  Vegetables are the best.  Sugar is the worst.  But she also says that you don't have to eat perfectly all the time to be healthy.  You can enjoy unhealthy things sometimes, but she recommends making sure it's quality enough to be worth the calories/fat/sugar/salt.  Good advice overall.  I also liked the sections on changing bad habits and adopting good habits.  She recommends making changes slowly, focusing on one or two changes at a time, until they become habits.  Then keep those habits and focus on changing something else.

Even though I liked the book, some things annoyed me.  I felt like she was judgmental at times, like looking down on people who don't practice mindful eating.  Also, she seems to assume certain things about people, especially people who want to lose weight.  For example, she talks about cooking a LOT.  She talks about how important it is to cook at home, and how anyone can learn to do it, and how it's not as daunting as it sounds.  She seems to think that overweight people don't/can't cook, and they eat at restaurants all the time, which isn't the case at all.  But I think she talks about it so much because for her, it was a game-changer.  She didn't really know how to cook before, and then she learned how to cook healthy things at home.  Well, it's possible to cook lots of unhealthy things at home too.  I'm not sure if she's thought of that.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg 3/5
This book takes a look at relationships and communication, and comparing today's methods of romance to those of past generations.  It was really interesting, and funny because it's Aziz Ansari.  My only gripe is how he kept saying that I was lazy for listening to the audiobook instead of reading it myself.  I'm pretty sure he was just joking, but I didn't think it was funny.  Jokes like that usually contain at least a half-truth of a person's real feelings.  I found it insulting.  There are a lot of reasons people listen to audiobooks.  I don't think laziness even makes the list.  But other than that, I enjoyed the rest of the book.
[identity profile] hestergray.livejournal.com
I decided to post this now instead of waiting until the end of the quarter.

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews 2/5
Cara is a florist in Savannah, Georgia.  Business is booming, and yet she's struggling financially.  I don't really understand why.  Maybe just because of rent and bills and paying her assistant, so she doesn't have enough left over to pay back her dad.  Anyway, another florist comes to town and tries to bring Cara's business down.  Everything goes wrong for her, except that she meets a good-looking carpenter named Jack.  Then she gets mad at him, and he doesn't understand why.  I don't understand why either.  Their conflict made no sense to me.  Besides the weak conflict, I thought the characters sometimes used slang that felt really out of place.  Also, is Savannah a small town?  They kept referencing how it's a small town and everyone knows everyone else.  I looked it up - it has a population of almost 150,000.  That's not my idea of a small town.  Overall, for light listening, it was okay.  I enjoyed hearing about the weddings for which Cara was doing the flowers.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter 5/5
Everything Lin-Manuel Miranda touches turns to gold.  Listen to the Hamilton soundtrack, and if you like it, read this book.

If you're skeptical about a hip-hop musical, I recommend watching this video first.  It's the video that I watched first, and it got me hooked to listen to more.

Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade 3/5
I was in the mood for a nice Christian fiction romance story.  At first, my search turned up historical Christian romance.  You know, like all those pioneer books.  I realized I wanted something modern, so I changed my search tactic.  I landed on this book, the first in a series about the Porter family.  It was exactly what I was looking for.

Meg Cole's father has recently passed away, and she has inherited the family oil business and a huge fortune.  She's not interested in being in the oil business, but she's trying her best.  She also wants to get rid of her father's other business venture, a thoroughbred horse farm.  Bo Porter is the good-looking cowboy who runs the horse farm.  He doesn't want her to close it down.  They try to ignore their mutual attraction, especially because he is her employee, but of course, they can't!  It's predictable, kind of cheesy, and the main characters are nearly perfect in every way, but I still liked it.  I liked that it was a romantic story about people who just happen to be Christians.  It wasn't about any characters trying to convert other characters, or the author trying to convert the reader.  The characters think about God, and pray, and attend church, and it's all just woven into their everyday lives.

Meant to be Mine by Becky Wade 3/5
I got so hooked on that first book that I read the second one in the series right away.  It was also cute, fun, and predictable.  This one is about Ty Porter (Bo's brother), and how he married Celia in Las Vegas after a whirlwind romance.  They had known each other in high school, and she had always liked him, but he had his sights on another girl from his home town.  The morning after their wedding, Ty tells Celia that this was a mistake, and he's in love with someone else.  Celia storms out determined never to speak to him again.  But of course they do speak again a few years later.  He finds her and discovers the daughter she never told him about.  Then they spend the rest of the book being mad at each other, and being attracted to each other, and learning to forgive each other.  The premise is far-fetched, with the Vegas wedding and the daughter, but you know.  It's just a book.  It had elements that always seem to pop up in books like this: someone has lots of money that they can use to solve all kinds of problems; and when someone is looking for a job, they stumble upon the absolutely perfect opportunity just when they need it.  Just like real life!  :P

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard 2/5
The sequel to Red Queen. Red Queen started out great and then dragged to the end.  This one dragged for most of the book, and then got more interesting at the end.  The basic plot is that the society is divided between people with silver blood and people with red blood.  The Silvers each have a special ability.  Mare Barrow is a Red, but as seen in the first book, she suddenly displays an ability that only Silvers should have.  In this sequel, she finds out that there are more people like her, red blood, but with special abilities.  So this becomes another YA story of a teenage girl who must lead a revolution against a tyrannical government.  That happens all the time.  The ending of this book makes me want to find out what happens, but overall, I don't have high hopes for liking this series.  The third book comes out next year.  And a fourth book the year after that.  There are also two prequels out now.  That all seems unnecessary to me because it's not THAT good.

Something funny about how the authors writes - she puts in a lot of sentences that are structured like this:
"What we might find in the skies above, white fog or orange-winged airjets, I do not know."
"How my brother can protect me,... I do not know."
"What the crates once held, I can't say."
"But how long I'll be with them, I don't know."
"But what lies beyond them, I can't say."
"What it means, I don't know."
It just feels like a weird way to word things.  If there were only a couple sentences like this, I wouldn't have noticed, but she uses it all the time.  These are only some examples.
[identity profile] hestergray.livejournal.com
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 5/5
Oh, what a book.  I loved it.  It's about 26-year-old Louisa, who finds herself suddenly out of a job.  She finds a new job as a caretaker for Will, a 30-something man who was in an accident and is now a quadriplegic.  He is depressed about his life, but she takes him on adventures, and it's a beautiful story.

Read more... )
[identity profile] hestergray.livejournal.com
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Sixteen-year-old Gwyneth is aware that her family is somehow connected to a group of time-travelers.  Her cousin Charlotte supposedly carries the time-traveling gene and has been preparing her entire life for the time-traveling she will do.  However, it turns out that it's not Charlotte who carries the gene, but actually Gwyneth.  She can't control her time travel and goes back in time a few times before finally telling her mom about her ability.  Once she does, she finds out how the ability can be controlled, and she learns a lot more about the group of time-travelers.  There are some people she can trust, and some she can't.  This is the first in a trilogy.  I thought this was a very compelling story!  It has adventure and a little YA-style romance. 4/5

More books )
[identity profile] hestergray.livejournal.com
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick
This book is about a high school freshman named Peter.  He was a baseball player, but an elbow injury prevents him from being able to play ever again, probably.  Now he's not sure what to do since he can't play baseball anymore.  His grandfather is a photographer and gives him a bunch of photography equipment.  So Peter decides to take a photography class at school.  He meets a cute girl in the class and they work on assignments together and start hanging out.  Meanwhile, it seems that his grandfather is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so he has to deal with that too.  It was interesting enough.  3/5

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen
I really enjoyed this book!  My only concept of Mennonites was that they are "kind of like Amish, but not as strict about stuff."  This gave me a better idea of the Mennonite culture.  I had no idea that they are really into cabbage and beets.  There were a lot of funny anecdotes, and a lot of talk about food that made me want to get a Mennonite cook book and try some recipes.  4/5

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This book was hilarious!  I kept telling David about it and referring to it as the "Australian Sheldon Cooper book."  I love The Big Bang Theory and the main character in the book, Don, is almost exactly like Sheldon.  It felt like the author ripped off the character a bit, but that is not my legal battle.  I just got to enjoy the book.  Don is a genetics professor.  He decides he needs to find a wife, so he makes a questionnaire for women to fill out so that he can narrow the selection down to his ideal woman.  Then Rosie shows up seeking Don's help in finding her biological father.  Rosie is not at all what Don thinks he wants in a woman, but maybe she's exactly what he needs.  I could see this being a really funny movie.  5/5

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
There are no words for how adorable this book is!  I looooooved it so much.  A lot of it is told through emails, so it was better to read it than to listen to it.  Lincoln is an IT guy who is paid to monitor employee emails at a newspaper.  Beth and Jennifer are two employees whose emails get flagged a lot by the system.  Rather than reporting them, Lincoln starts to get wrapped up in what's happening in their lives, and he starts falling for Beth.  But by the time he realizes he wants to find her and introduce himself, it's way past the point of being awkward because he only knows her through the personal emails she sends to her friend.  Such a good story.  5/5

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
I found this one because I was looking for more books read by Jeff Woodman.  Then I saw John Green and I know how popular he is these days.  I haven't read any of his other books though.  I liked this one.  It's about two high school graduates who go on a road trip together.  Colin is a child prodigy who has dated and been dumped by 19 Katherines.  His friend Hassan is pretty much his only friend.  They share an adventure as they end up spending several weeks in a tiny town in Tennessee.  I enjoyed the book, but I was skeptical about a boy finding and actually dating 19 girls all named Katherine.  It seems like 19 ex-girlfriends with any name would be a lot for a boy his age.  But on top of that, they all had the SAME name?  Far-fetched.  Jeff Woodman is stellar as always.  3/5

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler is very funny.  I enjoyed reading about her life and experiences.  A couple parts felt like they dragged, but there were enough laugh out loud parts to give it 4/5.

A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever by Marianne Williamson
The biggest complaint about this book on Goodreads is that it talks about God a lot.  ... But it says "spiritual" right in the title, so I don't know what the complainers were expecting.  I think this book helped me a lot to get me in a better mindset for losing weight.  I didn't follow all of the lessons exactly, but I got out of it what I needed to get out of it.  My biggest complaint is on behalf of any men who might read this book.  Nowhere in the title or on the cover or anything does it say that this book is for women.  And yet several times, the author makes a reference showing that she assumes the reader is a woman, like she always refers to the reader's goal weight person as a "she."  But it's not like the lessons are specific to women in any way.  Men could benefit too, and it wouldn't have been that hard to put the "he" pronoun in along with the "she."  I wonder if any men have read this book or tried to read it and felt left out.  4/5

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
This book started out really good, but then got kind of draggy near the end.  I still liked it, and I want to continue reading the series, but the next book doesn't come out until later this year.  In this society, there are people with red blood and people with silver blood.  The Silvers are the elite and they each have a special power, like being able to control water or being able to read minds.  The Reds are peasants who work as servants or are forced to join the military.  Mare is a 17-year-old Red girl who suddenly displays a power that only Silvers are supposed to have.  The king tries to cover up the incident by telling everyone she is a long lost Silver princess.  He makes Mare stay in the palace and she becomes betrothed to the younger of the two princes.  Meanwhile, some Reds are trying to start a revolution to overthrow the Silver tyranny.  3/5

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
I've caught on to the formula of Sarah Dessen's books.  A teenage girl goes to North Carolina and meets new people, including a boy, and these people help her discover her true self and deal with life.  This one is about Colie, whose mother is a famous fitness guru.  Colie has no self-confidence because she was always teased for being overweight.  She has lost weight now, but she still feels inferior to everyone.  I enjoyed this book, but the next audio book I had on hand was another Sarah Dessen book that sounded pretty much like this one, and I didn't want to listen to two in a row. 3/5
[identity profile] hestergray.livejournal.com
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
This book is about a teenage girl named Astrid, as she goes through her senior year of high school.  She doesn't have the best home life.  Not that her family is poor or abusive or anything, just that her mom and dad are very distant and worried about their own problems.  Astrid feels like she can't really talk to either of them, especially about how she feels about a girl she works with.  Astrid keeps her sanity by watching planes fly overhead and sending love to the passengers on the planes.  I think sending love to strangers is a lovely idea.  4/5

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell
I wouldn't say I "follow" Andie's blog (canyoustayfordinner.com), but every once in a while, I go there and read tons of posts in one sitting, usually looking for weight-loss motivation and food ideas.  Andie's memoir is a lot of what's already in her blog, plus more.  She talks about her dad a lot at the beginning, and it's sad, and later she talks about her years-long relationship with her boyfriend, which was also sad because I knew from her blog that they eventually break up.  She writes about how, growing up, she had always gotten bigger and bigger and eaten too much and gained weight.  Finally, in college, she decided to change and spent a year eating healthy food and exercising a lot.  She got herself down to a healthy weight and started a food blog.  In many ways, I find her to be inspiring and I'm motivated by her story.  I think she has a lot of good philosophies, like how a healthy dinner for her means eating a reasonable portion of the main course - a piece of lasagna or meatloaf or whatever - and filling up the rest of the plate with vegetables.  Lots of vegetables.

One of her blog posts that I loved was about how she doesn't understand when people lose a lot of weight, and they are suddenly so detached from their past.  They talk about being a brand new person and their old self is gone forever.  But she doesn't like that way of thinking.  She says that she looks back at pictures of herself and she has a lot of great memories.  She was obese, but she was still smiling and having fun times with friends and family.  She was herself then and she is herself now.  From the title of the book, I had hoped she would write more about that philosophy, but she only touched on it near the end, and it was pretty much what she had already said in her blog.  Still, I think she's right and I enjoyed having the reminder.  4/5

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Cady spends summers on an island owned by her grandfather.  She goes there with her mom, aunts, and cousins.  When she was 15 (I think?), she had an accident in the ocean and hit her head on a rock and now she gets really bad headaches.  She doesn't remember anything else about the accident, and it seems that no one wants to tell her.  Very mysterious.  It was a good story, and very well-written.  I was hooked!  4/5

The Infinite Sea (The Fifth Wave #2) by Rick Yancey
I enjoyed the first book so I thought I would enjoy the second book too.  It was a good story, and the writing was good, but I had a hard time enjoying it.  I was disturbed by the parts where kids, like, really young kids, had guns or were shot or otherwise died or disappeared.  I'm not expecting a book about aliens trying to wipe out the human race to be happy, but the scenes that got up close and personal with families broken apart by violence and illness started to get to me.  Several times I almost turned it off and didn't finish it, but I made it to the end.  How many more books of these are there?  One more for a trilogy?  I don't know if I'll continue.  I don't think it's worth it for how bad it makes me feel.  2/5

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I loved this book so much.  It's about Cath and her first year away at college.  She's a huge fan of Simon Snow, who is a character in a book series about a boy wizard who goes to magic school.  Cath writes fanfiction about Simon Snow, and she's very well-known in the fanfiction community.  Other things that Cath has to deal with: her wild child twin sister, her dad who has a hard time being on his own, her mom who left the family when the girls were eight, and a boy who likes her.  I related to this book because when I started college, that's when my sister and I became really huge fans of Harry Potter.  In the middle of listening to this, I texted Ellen and told her it reminded me of our HP days.  She totally agreed.  5/5

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I loved this book too.  I can't decide which one - this or Fangirl - I like more.  I relate to so much of this story as well.  This book is about Georgie, who is a TV comedy writer.  She lives in L.A. with her husband Neal and their two daughters, and she's very busy and important.  She gets an opportunity for a big break, but it's a week before Christmas.  She stays in L.A. to work on scripts for her big upcoming meeting, instead of going with Neal and the girls to Omaha for Christmas.  Georgie has a hard time getting a hold of Neal while he's gone because he never seems to have his phone on him.  But she manages to call him from a landline at her mom's house.  Except that when she calls, she doesn't reach current Neal.  She is talking to Neal from fifteen years ago, just before they got engaged.  It's a wonderful story.  I can't get over how much I loved it. 5/5
[identity profile] hestergray.livejournal.com
I didn't read any books in Quarter 3 because I had a baby.  No time for books, apparently.  So here is Quarter 4!

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The second book in the Divergent trilogy.  I enjoyed it a lot!  I liked hearing more about the Amity faction through the events near the beginning of the book.  4/5

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell
This is a Christian fiction book that takes place in the late 1890s.  The main character is Clara, who is seventeen and just entering high society.  Her father and aunt are pressuring her to marry a really wealthy heir, but of course, there is someone else who strikes her fancy instead.  I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would!  3/5

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
The final book in the Divergent trilogy.  I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say that I thought it was good.  4/5

The Pub Across the Pond by Mary Carter
The main character is Carlene.  She wins a raffle for a pub in Ireland, so she moves there and learns how to run a pub.  Of course, the former owner is a dashing Irishman named Ronan, so she falls in love with him, even though he's emotionally distant.  Pretty cliche throughout the entire story, including a stereotypical wise old bartender and the typical gamut of regular customers.  But I still enjoyed the story, and the reader was good, having to switch from American to Irish accents all the time.  3/5
[identity profile] mattiescottage.livejournal.com


A Tenderfoot Bride:  Tales from the Old Ranch, by Clarice E. Richards, 1920
eBook free from Project Gutenberg
Image of the Old Ranch View of Pike's Peak
An engaging, pleasant biographical (or perhaps quasi-biographical) account of the adventures of a young couple from the east as they take on cattle-ranching in Colorado.  They run into obstacles with the former ranch owner--whom they find difficult to boot out--and in keeping neighboring cattle off their land due to restrictions from the Federal Government concerning neighboring free-range land.  A mystery of perceived evil of the former owner--no one could quite pin him on it--and friendships with the neighbors and ranch hands are woven into the fabric of the story.  A major theme is the changing nature of the times and economy and the need to be resilient, to adapt and evolve, and sometimes to let go of one thing when it is time to take hold of the next.  

Read more... )
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
09. The Body on the Beach (2000) Simon Brett
Recent retiree Carole Seddon just wishes to live a quiet, sensible life with Gulliver, her Labrador Retriever. But when she discovers a dead body on the beach while walking the dog, her sensible life is suddenly quite complicated.

I just needed something to listen to and this popped up on Radio 7. When I looked it up on goodreads, I was surprised to see how recently it was written; for unknown reasons, I had imagined the whole thing taking place in the '70s. I know this is at least the second time I've "read"/listened to this --probably the third. I remembered it as it went along. By the time it is re-ran again, I will have forgotten it all. In fact, I have started forgetting it already. I like a good cozy mystery, but there isn't anything memorable about this one. (Now that I've written it down I might remember not to bother next time I see it on the radio schedule.)


10. The Popes (2011? and possibly aka Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy) John Julius Norwich
Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unques­tionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity.

I listened to the author reading passages from this over a week on the BBC. I think I would call this more of a sampler than an abridgment. Because although, I've never seen the book I just imagine it to be a tome, but the reading was pretty narrowly focused on just a handful of popes. I learned some interesting facts.


11. Mary Poppins (1934) P. L. Travers
It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial?

This Mary is more stringent than Julie Andrews ever was. Definitely different and darker than the Disney musical --a elderly woman feeds her gingerbread fingers to small children, for one-- but still good in its own way. This would have probably freaked me out when I was younger, but I remember also liking being scared just a little bit, sometimes. There were some cute and heartfelt passages as well -like the chapter about the babies knowing the language of the wind blowing through the trees and the birds song.


12. Mathilda (1959) Mary Shelley
From her deathbed in an isolated country cottage, Mathilda, a young gentlewoman with a tragic past, sets out to tell her closest friend and the wider public the secret behind her long depression and self imposed seclusion...

Mary Shelley certainly writes well, but I think I'd call this interesting but not good. Incest is one of the themes, and the heroine spends a good deal of the book depressed, guilt-ridden, and obsessed with death.
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
December: 5
2010: 59

Year's worth of books listed at my livejournal.

The Moonstone (1868) - Wilkie Collins
The light that streamed from it was like the harvest moon: the Moonstone, a yellow diamond of unearthly beauty originally stolen from a shrine in India and presented to Rachel Verinder on her birthday. On that same night, the diamond was stolen again.

I love Collins's The Woman in White, so this was a bit of a disappointment. I'm glad I've read it, but I probably wouldn't re-read. The characters and mystery are excellent. It's an easy read. However, it's just way too long, with quirky characters (the various narrators) going off on lengthy tangents and sharing a lot of details.


The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia #3) (1952) - C. S. Lewis
(re-read) How King Caspian sailed through magic waters to the End of the World.

Just a quick re-read to prepare me for the movie. :D


A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) - Khaled Hosseini
(re-read, abridged BBC radio reading) The tumultuous lives of two Afghan women intersect. Against a backdrop of three decades of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies.

I think no matter how many times I re-read this it still has the power to shock and sadden me. The two lead characters get into my heart and I can't help but cry.


A Conspiracy of Friends (Corduroy Mansions #3) (2010) - Alexander McCall Smith
(serialized daily online) A look at the lives of people living in and around a Pimlico apartment building.

For me, sometimes the first chapters of AMcS seem like a chore, but then at the end I'm almost always glad I read it. With the previous volume, I would listen everyday or save up --at most-- one week's worth of episodes. This one was particularly difficult to get into. A week and a half in, I gave up completely. Then with only a couple of installments left, I tried again and whipped right through all the episodes in two days. A mostly good read, but my least favorite of the series so far.


The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008) J. K. Rowling
Fairy tale-type stories from the world of Harry Potter, translated by Hermione, commentary by Albus Dumbledore.

I might have appreciated it more if there was more to it, but it was only five really short stories. It was good, but forgettable.

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