Books I Read in February

This February I read five books.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

My first book of the month was Holly Black's The Cruel Prince, which I wouldn't normally pick up, since faeries aren't usually my thing. But everyone and their dog was raving about this, and I did enjoy the one other Holly Black book I'd read, so I took a chance. While I enjoyed the story, it did feel like a lot of set up for the next book in the series. And they weren't kidding about the cruelness. These are some mean fae.


I found some of the big twists predictable, but still fun to read. If you're a fantasy or faerie fan, take a gander.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer's market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show. 
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?

I spotted Sourdough on sale at Barnes & Noble and I picked it up, having thoroughly enjoyed the author's first book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. This book was quirky and fun, though at times a little too pleased with its own quirkiness.


My main complaint was that the main character was a woman, but read like a man. Since it was told in 1st person POV it took me longer than it should've to realize the character was a woman. But the plot was adorable and funny and got me making my own sourdough bread, so I'd say it was a successful read.

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

I'd been waiting for this book to come out because I love school stories and magic and going out into the world for adventuring and spying, and when you throw in a mysterious past, I'm sold. I loved the set up of the story and how the mystery threads all unraveled, and I even liked the plot twists I saw coming. But everything was a touch too simple for the character to do and solutions to problems relied a bit too much on convenience.


Like it ticked all the boxes and beats, but without enough obstacles for Brienna to overcome. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series to see what happens next.

Oh - and avoid looking the family tree at the beginning of the book. It's got serious spoilers and I don't know why they included it, or didn't at least put it with the end pages or something.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. 

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Okay. So. My biggest problem with this book, and what really detracted from my overall opinion, was that there's no indication this is the first book in a series. Anywhere. And, being a mystery, you expect the mystery to be solved by the end of the book, right? You're reading along, having a grand old time being stunned and amazed and surprised, and the closer you get to the end the more you wonder, how are they going to wrap all this up in sixty pages? Then fifty pages. Then forty. And so on. Until there's ten pages left and you realize they're not going to be solving the mystery. Or that other mystery. 

There are two mysteries. In two different time periods. And neither gets really resolved. Now the book is a great read, and I love the setting and the characters, and I do actually love the mystery. Both mysteries, in fact. They're both great what-the-hell-happened-I-need-to-know-right-now mysteries. But. They don't really give you a resolution to either, particularly. I feel like if you promise a mystery and don't say anywhere this book is the first in the series and indicate maybe you won't be getting a satisfying ending until the next installment, you've made an oops.


Soooo, it's a great read. But not a complete story? I'll read the next one. In a year. Cause that's how we solve mysteries now. In a year.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them."

Yes, this book is full of stereotypes. Yes, I think I read too many thrillers/mysteries, so I kind of guessed the truth. Yes, there were a couple too-convenient moments. But overall this is a fun read filled with all the things you want from a high school murder book. I love the gossip app, and all the gossip, and all the different POVs.


The ending was also a little cheesy, but hey. Sometimes you need a piece of cheese.

The Cloverfield Paradox, or What Did I Just Watch?

I didn't watch the Super Bowl, but I did follow along with bits and pieces of it on Twitter. And in the middle of these bits and pieces, I saw there would be a new Cloverfield movie on Netflix made available immediately following the game.


Since I loved 10 Cloverfield Lane and mostly didn't remember Cloverfield but sort of remember enjoying it, I got excited. Unreasonably excited. Like


I don't know why. I mean, I love space and space movies and space disaster movies, so maybe that's why. And the movie started and I was like, "Oooh. This is fun." And I was also like, "I'm pretty sure I know exactly what's going to happen here." And then I was also like, "There is an awful lot of music in this movie."

Then they set off their whosy-whatsit machine and couldn't find the earth. Which, firstly, it ends up hiding behind the sun, and it seems crazy that a bunch of space scientists thought the Earth was just gone. I'm no genius, but I'm pretty sure you can find planets in space, when you're in space, and also you're an astronaut.


And secondly, why would it occur to me they obviously slid into another dimension, while it took them like thirty minutes to figure it out. Even after they find the woman in the wall who none of them have ever seen before. 


And I can't remember if the Russian with the googly eye was before or after they discovered her. But you'd think he would've mentioned his googly eye to someone. But no. He waits till he goes bananas and then nobody seems that put off that he's full of a bajillion worms.

And, okay, maybe the bajillion worms they had on board the alterna-dimension spaceship could end up in this Russian guy. But also, why would any ship have that many friggin worms onboard? And who cleaned up all the worms?? And why would they make that guy's eye all googly? Pretty sure a gut full of worms doesn't make your eye go googly. Maybe the eye was caused by the giant sphere inside his stomach. Which probably just would've killed him immediately if it was actually in there, but whatever. Like, if I had some worms in my stomach and an energy sphere, I'd assume the enormous sphere would make me drop dead immediately. But I'm no Cloverfield space scientist.


There was also a woman in the friggin wall. Threaded through with a  bunch of pipes and wires. They somehow manage to extract her and safely pull all the bits and pieces out of her and she heals to the point where she can go sprinting around the ship. Like, I've been incapacitated by splinters. I highly doubt you could be impaled with space pipes and space wires and go about your evil alterna-dimension day. That's the other thing. Shouldn't you assume the weirdo who appeared in the wall is evil? I would. I mean, I'd get her out. But then lock her in a broom closet. Evil. OBVIOUSLY. It's like these space scientists have never watched a space movie.


Plus, the wall woman looks like a giant goddess and I'm wondering when Gugu said her clothes wouldn't fit, but then handed her some other clothes and said, "Try these," whose clothes are those?? Nobody else on their ship is as giant as the giant wall goddess. WHOSE CLOTHES!!?!??!?!

Then the guy's arm gets whooshed off. Which is fine. I get it. It's crazy space. But then the arm is not only mobile, but has the wherewithal to write out a message saying to check inside the wormy googly eye dude for the sphere? How did the arm know it was there? The arm has no brain. 

And if you're gonna say the arm does have the means to think, move, and write legibly, how did the alterna-dimension Irish guy know the sphere was in the guy's stomach? In their dimension did the Russian swallow it? Did he tap on his bloated tum tum at some point and say, "Ruh-roh, I somehow have the sphere thing inside my body." And somehow an arm figured it out? Again, pretty sure if I was reduced to being a disembodied arm, knowing an energy sphere was in some guy's tum would be the least of my concerns.


Oh - one more for the arm guy. The guy survives a somehow painless arm removal, and the bones and guts inside are all freeze dried somehow and that's cool, but then dies by, like, magnets and magic, pretty much.


Also, I have no idea what the deal was with the broken spinny chamber they had to poop off in the third act. And no idea why three of them had to go deal with it. And no idea why the captain guy couldn't manually move the mechanism to remove the skinny chamber until he realized he had to stay behind and die. Like, the other 2 literally stand there and don't bother helping him turn the handle and then when he's like, "I have to stay behind and do this alone" and the woman's all, "No, we can do it remotely," he's all, "No. You have to guide the ship home. Leave." And then she does. It's like why'd he bother inviting them on his death spacewalk in the first place? They could've been chillaxin' in the cockpit. Lame.


And, granted, I may not have been paying a ton of attention, but why'd the guy back on Earth drive into the wreckage of the explosion? And why was everybody dead or gone except for that little girl? I get it's an explosion, but there were no bodies and nobody attending to the bodies. Maybe they explained it. I don't care. And where did the little girl get the tablet to watch cartoons on in the bunker? And why did the guy have a bunker? Again, things to which I may have not been paying any attention.

And, okay, I get why Gugu wants to go down to alterna-Earth and see her kids, but WTF does she think they're gonna think? Like, she's basically going to break their brains. Or if they're all like, "Cool, two moms," what if they ask her why she's there? Or about their alterna-selves? Or ask her anything at all? Gugu is a flippin scientist. She should know better.

Then somehow Gugu's husband has a direct line to the head space office and they tell him they didn't have time to tell the Googs about the monsters on Earth? Unless they wanted them to come to Earth for some reason? And then I was like, what was that wacky machine that caused the whole problem in the movie even for? Was it not to kill monsters? Was it to make energy? I have no idea. But I'm pretty sure the space office could've sent Googsy and the German a note saying there were Cloverfield monsters all over the place and they could come back to Earth or not, using their best judgment. Like, the head space office has time to talk to Googs' husband, but not to tell astronauts about building-sized Cloverfield monsters?

This whole movie. 


Books I Read in January

This January I read five books.

Artemis by Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

First I read Andy Weir's Artemis, which was a fun space romp, on par with The Martian. Though, like with The Martian, whenever the author got into anything relatively adjacent to technical -- like when describing smelting -- my eyes glazed over and skipped to the next non-smelts portion of text. I enjoyed the sassy main character, the world-building on the space station, and the format of the book bouncing between e-mails in the past and present day. A pretty good hoot.

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

I also read The River at Night, because I love a good thriller. I even love not-so-good thrillers, which was what this was. Granted, I listened to it as an audiobook, so I'm thinking the irritating accent of a certain character threw me off, but still. There was a bit too much focus on the atmosphere and a couple too-convenient plot device moments that I found unbelievable. I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't mention my least favorite moments. Still, I'm a sucker for people surviving in the wilderness, and it was a fast read, so I'd recommend it for a plane flight. Not a camping trip. Definitely not a rafting trip.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.

Then was The Secret History, which I've had for years and haven't read. This was good, if a little up its own caboose, even if it was also satirizing its own caboose to an extent. I wish there'd been more to the history, plot-wise and less daydreamy, pretty writing about the characters. I also had a hard time differentiating between a few of the characters until most of the way through the book because they all had bland names, descriptions, and were all fairly similar. There wasn't also much in way of diversity. But it did keep me enthralled, even if I was a touch disappointed there wasn't more to the tale.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Every Heart A Doorway, not the other hand, was chockfull of representation and pretty writing. Unfortunately, the book was quite short and I think it could've benefited from being fleshed out a bit. Flushed out? The idea was so interesting, I wanted to know more about it, and more about all the characters. This, too, seemed a bit wrapped up in its butt, though. And it could've done with a touch more plot. I will definitely be reading the next couple books in this series, though!

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Finally, The Hazel Wood. This had the right amount of prettiness and plot and length, I thought. I loved the fairytales sprinkled throughout the story, which was a bit of a fairytale gone wrong in itself. And I loved the main character. I thought the end was kind of muddled, and I'm still not one hundred percent sure on what went down at certain points, but I loved the spookiness, secrets, and atmosphere of the whole book.