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Sex on Earth: A Celebration of Animal Reproduction
Jules Howard

Dear Daughter: A Novel

Dear Daughter: A Novel - Elizabeth  Little Ultimately Dear Daughter suffered from an author who seemed to use a snarky and obnoxious protagonist and overwrought and pretentious descriptions/metaphors to distract from the fact that the plot was cliché and mediocre.

...the slow gurgle of blood from a wound. I looked at my left shoulder. “Shit,” I breathed. “Red is so not my color.” Loc4640

Jane seriously does not know when to quit it.

The plot, which is extremely slow moving and at times leaves you wondering what the hell the point is, involves criminal/mystery cliches such as: cutting/dying hair for a new “identity”, police station break-in to somehow quickly find the very files you are looking for, decades old diary that breaks the case wide open found and complete strangers in a small town yapping openly about the very person the protagonist is attempting to locate. There are far more clichés, but this is a good handful of them. There was also a very aggressive and irritating blogger that in this day and age also felt cliché, though for different reasons. Said blogger also was predictable and added nothing to the story, in my opinion.

The author was also very, very fond of using obscure references which only seemed to be in order to show-off her highly thought of interests as a reader, movie and unknown (to me) furniture consumer. Unfortunately such references were to be found on, at the very least, every other page. Such as:

An accent out of a Tennessee Williams play and a genetic inclination for a farmer’s tan. He grew up in some asshole of a town in Mississippi, shit poor and hungry for everything but daddy issues, but his optimism remained improbably intact. I bet he still goes home every year for Thanksgiving thinking that this time he’ll finally talk the family into getting over Brown v. Board of Education. Loc177

He redeemed me by mere association. The Tourvel to my Valmont. The Hillary to my Bill. The Cindy Lou Who to my Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Loc188

Kristof had been in L.A. for a year or so when I saw him for the first time, cutting a line of coke in a club on Melrose like he was Michelangelo with a cube of baby laxative–laced Carrara. Loc1351

They may as well have been carrying matching copies of Rubyfruit Jungle. Loc1694

Overall I found the writing style overwrought and subsequently too eye-roll worthy to enjoy. The author's talent is weighed down by her attempts to be clever and her plotting needs serious work. I am unlikely to read the author again.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness - Susannah Cahalan Overall I found Brain on Fire to be interesting, albeit not terribly engrossing. The medical aspect of the account was by far more interesting to me than the personal account by the author, especially as her personality was oftentimes a turnoff. I also found the book bordered on too long, which may not have been the case if the author had included a more linear account from the time her illness was determined until the time she was recovered. This passage of time was not nearly as well chronicled and made the recovery seem too quick.

I did not feel particularly warm towards the author, her comments irritated me often. Such things as indicating to us how intelligent she was, which was all tell and no show. She had many “lacking in common sense” moments, even in terms of her disease, and it made me wonder if it was a personality flaw or the disease. However, she noted many times how adamantly stubborn she was so I took it as indicating low common sense. She also highlighted how superficial she was as she continually berated herself for gaining weight due to the medications, while also letting us know when someone was checking her out. It also felt as though despite her acknowledgment of others going through this disease and psychosis in general, she never stopped to think what her many negative comments (nuts, crazy and other such terms) would sound like to someone still or permanently afflicted.

Her hair was bleached blond, but it looked attractive, not whorish. Loc298

She herself bleaches her hair, I'm guessing she has the non-whorish type.

Normally I was someone people wanted to include... Loc2598

Do tell us more.

Even though my brain was still repairing itself and it’s undoubtedly dangerous to mix alcohol with antipsychotics, I insisted on drinking. I didn’t care how self-destructive it might be—this was something tangible that connected me to the “normal” Susannah. Loc2610

Smart, so very smart.

Susannah's mother speaking of one of her moments during the disease's stronghold:

“Oh, and you were totally nuts. You walked into a restaurant and demanded food. Just demanded it. Although I guess that’s not too far outside your normal personality.” Loc2803

Great normal personality.

Dr. Najjar gave me permission to highlight my hair, because the scar, which prevented my hair from growing back as promised, had finally healed enough to stand up to the harsh chemical treatment. Loc3015

I especially loved that this followed a lengthy discussion regarding how environmental factors (such as chemicals) could play a major role in developing this disease. Yet again, the author's common sense is missing.

I did, however, find a number of quotes interesting as well.

The girl in the video is a reminder about how fragile our hold on sanity and health is and how much we are at the utter whim of our Brutus bodies, which will inevitably, one day, turn on us for good. I am a prisoner, as we all are. And with that realization comes an aching sense of vulnerability. Loc3165

“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness,” Aristotle said. Loc804

We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it. Loc719

A small subset of those with temporal lobe epilepsy—about 5 to 6 percent—report an out-of-body experience, a feeling described as being removed from your body and able to look at yourself, usually from above. Loc708

The symptoms from this type of seizure can range from a “Christmas morning” feeling of euphoria to sexual arousal to religious experiences. Loc703

Temporal lobe issues seem to be the foundation of many religious stories people like to claim to have experienced. Not shocking in the least.

Overall I did enjoy a number of aspects of Brain on Fire, mostly the various symptoms and how they cropped up and the medical explanations that followed. I do, however, find it incredibly alarming that the author's answers came not from such a well-known hospital and many established doctors with every test at their disposal, but from one lone doctor that happened to know about a specific study. I could argue that the test this particular doctor conducted that no one bothered to do so before was the key, but without the doctor knowing the subsequent studies I doubt it would have made a difference. It definitely gives you an idea as to why doctors and other healthcare professionals need to continue to learn about up and coming research.

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir - Liz Prince Overall I enjoyed the message of Tomboy, but I was largely bored. I am not really a fan of graphic novels in general so that does skew my opinion a bit. I did think the book was too long, especially as much of the content took too long to get to the "point" of the inclusion or lacked a reason. Personally I felt it lacked depth and only had a handful of meaningful moments and statements. Yes, the message was good but the extent of the trivial elements made me lose interest. Also, I found the graphic novel rather juvenile when it did not need to be even in order for a juvenile to read it. A great message, but could have been stronger. I still think anyone who considered themselves a tomboy at some point should give it a try.

"The slew of fairy tales and Disney movies I consumed presented women in need of a savior." p33

Regarding swimming in a t-shirt: "It takes the fun out of swimming and puts a visual metaphor to the burdens of negative body image." p94

"Do you hate girls? Or do you hate the expectations put on girls by society?" p211

How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate: Let Science Do the Talking the Next Time Someone Tries to Tell You...

How to Change Minds About Our Changing Climate: Let Science Do the Talking the Next Time Someone Tries to Tell You... - Seth Darling, Doug Sisterson "Skeptics standing in the way of solutions are asking us to stick our heads in the sand."p211

I am not a skeptic and I am not the target audience for this book precisely since this book held nothing new for me as I have written on this topic many many times before. However, anything on the topic interests me. Unfortunately I found this particular book tedious and lacking seriousness. Honestly it felt more like propaganda for non-skeptics and that just left a poor taste in my mouth. Science does not take sides, it just presents the facts.

All of the attempts at making it layman and I don't know, readable?, made it difficult to read. The level of red ink I would have taken to this was ridiculous.I know scientists are not known for their writing abilities but they should have been able to do better than this. There were far too many poor attempts at humor, seemingly hand-drawn diagrams and exclamation points everywhere. Exclamations do not belong in serious scientific writings, every time I saw one I cringed. There was also a lack of high-brow writing, with the authors choosing to use words such as "stuff" to refer to natural gas etc.

"For example, for the most recent complete assessment report (2007), there were more than eight hundred contributing authors. (Makes you wonder if the IPCC's Nobel Peace Prize was for peacefully figuring our in what order to put all their names!)" p30

"So what sort of thing might make the polyps kick the algae out? It's not cheating with their best friend, if that's what you were thinking." p62


I also found the number of parentheses distracting, such as (we'll discuss that in chapter 13), and it made the arguments feel disjointed. I particularly found the following tendency annoying:

seventy billion (that's with a "b")

Nearly every time a billion or trillion was mentioned the authors made a point to include a parentheses reinforcing which letter came before -illion.

In terms of the actual science rather than the writing, I did not feel as though the arguments were very concise. The distracting writing style certainly added but the authors chose to use more layman explanations that were little better than skeptic claims. Where was their evidence? Yes, they stated information found over the years but why not include specific studies and their findings? Simply telling the audience findings that support climate change will not convince a skeptic, they truly have their heads in the sand. I wish there had been more specific science, studies included and just something to bolster their arguments. They did not need to convince me, they need to be able to convince skeptics. I know many of the studies they took the information from, I've read the actual studies. Why not include them??

Overall not a well-written book by any means, a frustrating read for me in general. I think they needed someone with writing skills and knowledge of climate change to look this over, it appears this step was skipped.

Notable statements:

"Nearly all skeptics arguments are based on a common error: cherry-picking pieces of data without seeing the big picture." p11

"There is an important role for skepticism in science, but skeptics' arguments regarding climate change are usually governed more by money and politics than by the rules of scientific reasoning and consensus." p11

"Of the forty-eight contiguous states, thirty have warmed by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, and seventeen have warmed by 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit or more." p87

"Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, a former Saudi Arabian oil minister, famously said in 1973, "The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones." p210

Into the Darkest Corner

Into the Darkest Corner - Elizabeth Haynes Into the Darkest Corner is a wholly believable dark thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I could not bring myself to put it down at times. The psychological elements rung absolutely true to me as a reader and the OCD elements truly helped shape Catherine as a character. I found myself cringing at the thought of Lee reappearing and having Catherine's mental torment become real once more. The suspense was exceptionally well built-up and I found myself not wanting the novel to end, but at the same time Catherine became rather real to me and I wanted her to have a HEA.

I knew it was locked, but I had to check nevertheless. As I checked it, six times, one-two-three-four-five-six, I told myself it was locked. I locked it last night. I remember locking it. I remember checking it. I remember checking it for fucking hours. Even so, it might not be locked, I might have made a mistake. What if I’d unlocked it again, without realizing? What if something went wrong with the checking, and I wasn’t paying attention.Loc3393

After a while, my breathing calm, back to normal, I wondered if I should go upstairs and knock on his door. I found myself having the conversation in my head: Oh, hello. Did you knock? I was in the shower . . . No, that wouldn’t do it—how would I have known it was him? Again, I heard my mantra coming unwanted into my mind: This isn’t normal. This isn’t how normal people think. Fuck off, world—what the hell is normal anyway? Loc560

The relationship between Catherine and Lee, while never feeling wholly right to me (either because I knew what was to come or because I just don't like Lee's type even without the psychotic behavior, I can't say) was a good examination of how slowly a relationship can become something from a crime show. While the behaviors in the beginning were not terribly likable, they were not glaring signs pointing to an end that will likely see Catherine dead. So he has a secretive job? Odd but there could very well be a good explanation. He disappears for days...again, could be that job. There were just so many elements of Lee's behavior that could be explained by something on the straight and narrow that Catherine continually dismisses her gut feelings. And if anything can be taken from this tale it is that a woman should trust her gut.

It was heartbreaking to watch how Lee was also able to manipulate not only Catherine but those around her, leaving her completely alone and easier prey.

“With Lee. I’m just—sometimes I’m just a bit scared.”

At last she stopped what she was doing. “Why are you scared? You’re not scared of Lee, surely—he’s wonderful. Are you scared of losing him, somehow?”

I paused while I tried to find the right words. “He’s not always wonderful.”

“You been having fights?”

“Sort of, I guess. I don’t know—I’ve been tired, he’s been working a lot. When I do see him it always seems to be on his terms, and he doesn’t like me going out without him anymore.”

Sylvia sighed. “To be fair, though, honey, he’s kind of got a point. Look at the way you were—the way we all were—when he met you. You were going out every night you could with the sole intention of flirting. No wonder he’s nervous about letting you out.”

I didn’t say anything, so she went on, “You’re in a relationship now, hon. It’s a whole different ball game.” Her voice softened a little. “Lee’s a good man, Catherine. Don’t forget some of the complete shits you’ve been out with. I’m sure he’s just being protective of you. And not only is he totally fucking gorgeous, but he loves you, he really does. Everyone said that, after the dinner party. He’s so obviously completely and totally in love with you. That’s what we’re all waiting for. I wish I had that. I wish I had what you have.”

“I know.” I was trying not to let her hear my tears.

Both major characters in the book (aside from Lee), Catherine and Stuart, were immensely likable. I think this made Catherine's tale all the harder to swallow, especially as it does happen to women all around the world, in some way everyday. Stuart was a calming, non-pushy presence for Catherine, one she severely needed. However, I do think that Stuart “happening” to be a psychologist was a bit too convenient seeing as he moved into the apartment upstairs, but I was more than happy to overlook this seeing as how well the plot was laid out otherwise.

“Do you know what the worst thing was?” I said at last, into his shoulder. “It wasn’t sitting in there, in that room, waiting for him to come back and kill me. It wasn’t being hit, it wasn’t the pain, it wasn’t even being raped. It was that afterward nobody, not even my best friend, believed me.” I sat back then, looked out at the river, a barge going slowly past, downstream. “I need you to believe me, Stuart. I need that more than I’ve ever needed anything in my whole life.” Loc4237

Overall the story was rather realistic, however, there were moments that I found difficult to accept. For instance, Catherine is attempting to overcome all of her fears and at times feels claustrophobic in dealing with them. One such instance found her deciding to be brash and investigate what sounded like someone breaking into the apartment downstairs. She then essentially makes her way to the apartment and so on and so forth. This seemed completely unlikely and just plain idiotic, even for someone without OCD and major fears.

But I found the flaws in this novel to be minimal and the overall journey engrossing. This is by far one of my favorite suspense novels and I will definitely partake in the author's writing in the future.

Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic

Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic - Esther Perel I saw Esther Perel on The Colbert Report and as always, Colbert made the conversation interesting. I'm not one for self-help books or couple advice, but I was intrigued after that interview. I should have just stayed away.

The basis of this book appears to be "familiarity breeds contempt." Emotional distance, according to the author, equals a better sex life and therefore better marriage. I found this wholly contradictory and I could not get on board with her "therapy" message. Honestly Perel comes across as a poor therapist and the couples detailed do not, in all practicality, seem to belong together. I absolutely did not relate to the author or the couples and their problems. The overall lack of statistics and anything resembling facts or studies turned me off further. No, references to other writers' quotes and individuals (such as Tony Robbins, oy), do not bolster the book.

I also disliked that the author puts a lot of the pressure and fault on women. Women talk too much, women want to be too close, women are too prudish due to feminism. That was more than enough for me to call it quits with this ridiculous book.

Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes

Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes - Svante Pääbo Overall Neanderthal Man is a book that appeals to me as a reader and holder of a biology degree. However, it failed to deliver a concise and interesting focus throughout. The author included far too much superfluous information and too little genetic information- the most interesting part in my opinion. There were also far too many trial and error science moments depicted. Yes, this IS science but it does not make an interesting book to read with such repetitive inclusions. I also found the author himself to be quite distracting, the random inclusions of personal information felt out of place and odd. Overall the autobiography aspects were unnecessary and unwarranted. They also so often came out of the blue that it was jarring. One second we are speaking of another genetic test in the laboratory and next he is stating that he slept with this person or spent days naked on a particular beach. Did this add to the story? No. Did it distract? Quite well.

Neanderthal Man definitely covers an interesting topic, however, it is too long winded and infused with personal information to be wholly enjoyable. I did, however, enjoy the following passages:

The most common type of damage that occurs spontaneously in DNA molecules, whether nuclear DNA or mtDNA, is the loss of a chemical component—an amino group—from the cytosine nucleotide (C), turning it into a nucleotide that does not naturally occur in DNA called uracil, abbreviated U. There are enzyme systems in the cells that remove these U’s and replace them with the correct nucleotide, C. The discarded U’s end up as cellular garbage, and from analyses of damaged nucleotides excreted in our urine it has been calculated that about ten thousand C’s per cell morph into U’s each day, only to be removed and then replaced. Loc177

In fact, the genomes in our cells would not remain intact for even an hour if these repair systems were not there to maintain them. Loc184

I'm quite frankly always struck by the fact that humans have not disappeared from this planet, between our own behavior and our bodies we don't stand a chance.

Using the models for how fast different types of mutations occur in mtDNA, we estimated that the mtDNA ancestor common to all humans alive today, the Mitochondrial Eve, lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, as Allan Wilson and his team had found. However, the ancestor that the Neanderthal mtDNA shared with human mtDNAs lived about 500,000 years ago; that is, she was three or four times as ancient as the Mitochondrial Eve from whom all present-day human mtDNAs are descended. Loc325

...we suggested that Neanderthals were probably similar to modern humans in having little genetic variation and that they had therefore expanded from a small population, just like us. Loc1439

There are two species of chimpanzees, both living in Africa. The “common” chimpanzee lives in equatorial forests and savannahs in a patchy distribution stretching from Tanzania in the east to Guinea in the west, while the bonobo, sometimes called the “pygmy chimpanzee,” lives only south of the Congo River, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Comparisons of DNA sequences had shown that the two chimpanzee species are the closest living relatives of humans, our lineages having split perhaps some 4 million to 7 million years ago. A bit further back, perhaps 7 million to 8 million years ago, humans and chimpanzees shared an ancestor with the other African great ape, the gorilla. Orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra share with the other great apes and humans an ancestor who lived perhaps 12 million to 14 million years ago  ... Loc1678

 I had always thought of myself as gay. In the street, I would certainly mostly notice good-looking guys. But I had also been attracted to women,  especially those who knew what they wanted and could be assertive. I’d had relationships with two women before. Yet, I thought that being together with Linda, who was married to a colleague and had two children, was not a great idea. It could be a temporary thing at most. But over weeks and months it became more and more clear that we understood each other at many levels, also sexually. Nevertheless, when Mark and Linda returned to Penn State University after their year in Munich, I was sure that my relationship with Linda would end. But that was not to be. Loc1579

Again making comparisons between randomly chosen pairs, he found an average of 13.4 differences between any two individuals. It was, to my mind, an amazing observation. Seven billion humans hugely outnumber chimpanzees, perhaps numbering fewer than two hundred thousand. And humans live on almost every speck of land there is on the planet while chimpanzees live only in equatorial Africa. Yet any two chimpanzees carried three to four times as many genetic differences from each other than two random humans. Loc1686

Genetic variation is known to be a marker of a healthy population, which also leads me to wonder how humans continue to exist...at this point it seems mere numbers.

The mammoth sequences were identical to those of the Asian elephant but differed at two positions from the African elephant version, suggesting that mammoths were more closely related to Asian than to African elephants. Loc1825

The giant sloths had left behind large amounts of droppings, which archaeologists dressed up with the fancy name of coprolites. In fact, in some caves in places like Nevada, the entire floor, to some depth, is largely made up of old ground-sloth feces. Loc1881

I need to go to a Nevada cave, stat.

His results suggested that people who are of European or Asian ancestry have inherited between 1 and 4 percent of their DNA from Neanderthals. David and Nick did a different analysis where they essentially asked how far Europeans and Asians are toward being 100 percent Neanderthals. The answer varied between 1.3 and 2.7 percent. Thus we concluded that less than 5 percent of the DNA of people outside Africa came from Neanderthals—a small but clearly discernible proportion. Loc3385

But since we are humans, we are more interested in what makes humans human than in what makes chimpanzees chimpanzee. We should not be ashamed of being “humancentric” in our interests. In fact, there is an objective reason to be so parochial. The reason is that humans, and not chimpanzees, have come to dominate much of the planet and the biosphere. We have done so because of the power of our culture and technology; these have allowed us to increase our numbers vastly, to colonize areas of the planet that otherwise would not have been habitable for us, and to have an impact on and even threaten aspects of the biosphere. Understanding what caused this unique development is one of the most fascinating, perhaps even one of the most pressing, problems that scientists face today. Loc3585

I have to disagree with the author here, there is all the reason to be ashamed.

According to the fossil record, Neanderthals appeared between 300,000 and 400,000 years ago and existed until about 30,000 years ago. Throughout their entire existence their technology did not change much. Loc3593

Amazingly, even crude measures such as the size of the testicles relative to the body reflect this difference in male competition for fertilizations. Whereas chimpanzees have large testicles, and the even more promiscuous but smaller bonobos carry around even more impressive sperm factories, the intimidatingly huge silverback gorillas have puny little testicles. Humans, as measured both by testicle size and evidence for positive selection on genes relevant for male reproduction, seem to be somewhere between the extremes of chimpanzee promiscuity and gorilla monogamy, suggesting that our ancestors may have been not so unlike us, vacillating between emotionally rewarding fidelity to a partner and sexually alluring alternatives. Loc3674

The Enchanted

The Enchanted - Rene Denfeld Honestly the only thing I enjoyed about this novel was the cover. I wish I could say I was being hyperbolic.

The author failed to write a profound, meaningful novel that she seemingly so desperately wished to create. Instead it was a dull tale about a hallucinatory killer. It was also a fiction with an agenda. The author clearly wished to stir within us empathy/sympathy for those on death row, however, I failed to be moved and found the agenda irksome. There were far too many coincidences and seemingly everyone suffered a similar terrible childhood. Yes, terrible childhoods are awful but they are not an excuse for these individuals to rape, kill and mutilate others. I only have sympathy for individuals on death row if they are actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted of. The author also seemed to think that I cared what books the convict was reading or had read. Continually listing books does not warm me to the convict, so he reads...what else does he have to do? And listing so many books does not appeal, it simply comes across as pretentious.

Once, early on, I tried endlessly to say the word “Sioux” inside my head. I am still not sure how it sounds. Is the X silent? I would think for hours how strange it was that some parts of words are silent, just like some parts of our lives. Did the people who wrote the dictionaries decide to mirror language to our lives, or did it just happen that way? Loc241

Yet another profound failure.

“His father?” the lady asks carefully. “Who knows? She slept with the whole town.” The old woman checks from under shaggy gray eyebrows to see how the lady responds to that information. The lady doesn’t respond. In her heart, she just hears warm voices. Loc371

Slut shaming? Check. Weird warm voices in the heart? Check.

The setting is ambiguous, aside from it being mostly in a prison. The fantasy elements were not true magical realism, they were simply hallucinatory crazy talk from the prisoner. I do not think it qualifies for this listing, although many seem to disagree. Although a great number of reviews also indicated how well written the novel was as well, when I feel it failed to be anything but dull and shallow. Overall the author's use of an ambiguous setting and hallucinatory elements gave the author too free reign to be vague and use obscure or simply odd metaphors. I also felt the author's choice of having the main female character simply be referred to as “the lady” annoying and distancing to the reader.

Overall I only enjoyed the cover, unfortunately (in this case) I do not judge a book by its cover.

The Falconer

The Falconer - Elizabeth May There may be a number of similarities to KMM's Fever series, but I felt as though The Falconer stood on its own. The similarities do appear rather obvious in the beginning but by the middle the similarities dwindle and the humor and the storyline shines through.

Aileana is a strong, likable main character and I loved that she was such a realist. She had a true strength of character and sense of self. She nor the book had an emphasis on romance, which can often overtake books such as these. Yes, there are elements near the end, which hints that the next book will contain more, but overall the romance was light to non-existent and I enjoyed the focus on the fae troubles. Even though she is betrothed to a specific man, she readily admits a lack of love for the man and does not bemoan the situation. So, no love triangle either! Win!

Lord Linlithgow said all the appropriate things and listened politely. A perfect gentleman, the product of what must have been impeccable etiquette lessons. The Aileana of last year would have considered how he’d age, and if we married how we would get on, what our children would look like. She would have found him an attractive match, certainly worthy of a second visit. The Aileana of last year was a complete and utter ninny. Loc1560

“What, exactly, is the purpose of pledging your life to someone you don’t want?” “Duty first,” I say bitterly. “That’s what my father always says. Few ladies who shame their families are lucky enough to receive an offer from the gentlemen who helped ruin them.” He goes deadly calm. “Ruined you, did he?” “Of course not. He saved my life last night, and fate was not kind to him for it.” “Couldn’t you choose not to marry him?” he asks. “If you didn’t want it?” “Women in my world don’t have many choices, MacKay. My life has already been decided for me.” “Such a prison you live in,” he murmurs without a hint of sarcasm. “I wonder how you breathe.” Loc3225

I’m like him. I’m a monster, too. For the briefest moment, I wish I was the girl I used to be. I’d wear frivolous white dresses and attend dances and never worry about anything ever again. But I had to destroy the girl who wore white dresses because she wasn’t capable of murder. And now I have to live with my choice. Loc3670

Kiaran plays a Barrons-esque role in the novel, though he has less of a role than Barrons does in the Fever series. Barrons is also more of an ass, but that is to be expected. However, I failed to get a full grasp of Kiaran as a character, he was too elusive and it added to the cliffhanger ending being somewhat confusing.

Kiaran is daoine sìth, the most powerful breed of faery in existence, and they are not known for their empathy. Rather, they are infamous for being cruel, unfeeling, destructive creatures who crave power above all else. Loc780

One bonus of this series that cannot be compared to the Fever series is Derrick. That little pixy is absolutely entertaining and I loved his character. Derrick drunk on honey is quite memorable and I have difficulty deciding if Aileana or Derrick was my favorite character. The book as a whole had a nice level of humor throughout and I rather enjoyed it.

Derrick giggles into my ear. “She’s silly. So siiiiilly.” He pats my ear. “Aileana. Aileana! Can you hear me? I know you can hear me. You can hear me. You’re hearing me. Say something. Smile. Twitch. Cough once.” Loc1726

"Daaaaaancing,” Derrick cries. “I love daaaancing! Tell him to toss you over his head!” Loc1730

The doorknob twists and catches on the lock. Kiaran swears softly. “Open the door, Kam.” Derrick dives from the windowsill, a red halo of light surrounding him. “Oh, good. He’s finally here. I believe I vowed to tear out his innards.” “I swear, I am going to kill that damn pixie,” I hear Kiaran mutter. Loc3550

Catherine studies my hair, my face, then the awkward state of my dress. “Forgive me for being so blunt, but you look ghastly.” Unconcerned, I wave a hand between us. Hair arrangement is not a great talent of mine. Nor, apparently, is tying bows over my dress to hide my injuries. “That’s a horrible thing to say,” I tell her. “What if I’d just escaped a perilous situation?” Catherine examines me from head to toe again. “Barely, I assume.” “Your confidence in me is inspiring.” Loc391

Overall I really enjoyed The Falconer and look forward to book two.

Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted - Susanna Kaysen Girl, Interrupted is a difficult book to rate. I found Kaysen's writing style at times distracting and the lack of a timeline confusing. For instance, one of the patients dies in one chapter and suddenly she is alive again in the next chapter or so. I kept questioning whether I was recalling the right names/situations at times because of this (I was). I also question Kaysen's ability to remember conversations from roughly 25 years earlier verbatim, perhaps I was supposed to just believe it was the "gist of the conversation" but the way things are said changes a lot.

Overall I found the cast of patients interesting and I rather caught myself wondering how much of their illnesses were in direct relation to their confinement in this mental hospital and/or the treatments they received there. Honestly it seemed as though just being there could put a person on edge and start wearing away at your sanity. There is also the issue of who got to decide if you needed to be in such a hospital. The doctor that decided Kaysen would be placed in McLean Hospital did not know her, barely spoke to her and simply seemed to make assumptions about her. It reminded me greatly of the treatment of women in the 1800s, where pretty much anything that bucked "polite" society or seemed eccentric from a woman caused you to be deemed under the influence of "hysteria" and needed treatment. Interestingly enough many of the treatments often considered to work in the 1800s were also used at McLean Hospital. I could not help but wonder if the same treatments were used on the male patients at McLean, only one of which was ever mentioned in the book. I'm not saying that many, if not all, of these women were not in need of help but I have my suspicions that most of them needed a different kind of help that wasn't found in the 1800s.

Honestly Kaysen made a number of interesting points about mental illness and how one can ever truly know if they are mad themselves. Can a person even really determine that on their own? Who else would be more qualified? I enjoyed that Kaysen seemed to use the book in essence to analyze her own stay at McLean and her subsequent release. I also found it interesting that some of the patients were allowed to come and go during the day and stay at the hospital at night, using the hospital as their address (with obvious stigma attached, as everyone knew where that address was).

Also, Kaysen mentions a "Jim Watson" visiting her early in her stay at McLean. She also mentions the Nobel Prize. Now, is that Jim Watson genuinely the Watson of Watson & Crick of the DNA structure fame? Truly? How the hell did she know him, if so, and why the random comment??

Overall, Girl, Interrupted was a very interesting look into a genuine mental hospital stay during a time that many people were being diagnosed as needing to be in such a place. The cast of characters was compelling and the overall story believable. I just might have to watch the movie.

Interesting quotes:

The interpreter is convinced it’s unmappable and invisible. “I’m your mind,” it claims. “You can’t parse me into dendrites and synapses.” It’s full of claims and reasons. “You’re a little depressed because of all the stress at work,” it says. (It never says, “You’re a little depressed because your serotonin level has dropped”) Sometimes its interpretations are not credible, as when you cut your finger and it starts yelling, “You’re gonna die!” Sometimes its claims are unlikely, as when it says, “Twenty-five chocolate chip cookies would be the perfect dinner.” Often, then, it doesn’t know what it’s talking about. And when you decide it’s wrong, who or what is making that decision? A second, superior interpreter? Why stop at two? That’s the problem with this model. It’s endless. Each interpreter needs a boss to report to.

Mental illness seems to be a communication problem between interpreters one and two.

What does borderline personality mean, anyhow? It appears to be a way station between neurosis and psychosis: a fractured but not disassembled psyche. Though to quote my post-Melvin psychiatrist: “It’s what they call people whose lifestyles bother them.” He can say it because he’s a doctor. If I said it, nobody would believe me.

Just One Night

Just One Night - Gayle Forman This short story in this duology should really only be read by genuine fans of the first two books. Unfortunately I had mixed feelings for book one and could not come to care at all in book two. This short is a one-day window into what happened immediately after Just One Year.

Overall I just could not come to care about either of the main characters in these books. That being said, the writing in Just One Night proved rather awkward and poor. You were certainly kept at a distance from the characters, which I found strange considering it was a romance and aren't they supposed to tug at the heart strings etc? How can they do that when the characters are meaningless to you?

Also, why did the author feel the need to include such ridiculous coincidences? Was it to somehow imply that these two were "fated"? Really? So not only were they at the same random party in Mexico of all places, but the girl showing up on the doorstep thing happened identically to Willem's parents? Even in the same apartment? SERIOUSLY? WHY? What I love is that Willem's parents end up separated so I guess these two will be too, wait no, it is fate for them. Okay then.

I'm glad it is all over.

And All the Stars

And All the Stars - Andrea K. Höst If I had seen the tagline "Come for the apocalypse. Stay for cupcakes. Die for love." I probably would have skipped this one altogether. Cupcakes? Love? Is this sci-fucking-fi or what?

First of all, the writing style was poor. The writing was unclear, especially in the perilous situations, such as the very beginning and the fight scenes. The writing overall never made me believe anything that was going on was of genuine concern. Did I ever think the characters were in peril? No. The writing was just not memorable, much like the main character (more on that later).

Another element of the writing were the paragraphs of what-are-characters-doing-at-this-exact-minute-dumps. It was a different take on the infodump. I think I like this even less.

Madeleine stayed where she was, just turning so she could watch them. Fisher was self-contained, withholding judgment, while Gavin was clearly more optimistic, reassuring Emily. Nash's shoulders were slumped, and Pan was keeping a concerned eye on him. He reached up and put a hand on the taller boy's shoulder, and Nash seemed to gain strength from the gesture, straightening, but then moved away. Noi came back inside, face pensive,...

Now on to the main character, Madeleine. She was not memorable nor was she special. Yes she was the most "blue" of any of the characters but aside from this she was forgettable. Even the fact that she has more abilities seems moot.

Madeleine did not start off well with me when after the disaster, which she had no idea the cause of, she lied to her mother about how she was fine and somewhere altogether different. WHY? There seems to be absolutely no purpose to this aside from being able to keep parents out of the story so the kids can save the world. This just seemed completely freaking unbelievable.

As for the storyline, why do the damn characters just assume it was aliens? It never seems even possible to their little minds that it could be anything else. The storyline was just poorly done and unbelievable overall. Such as the alien's weaponry against the planet endows humans with the special powers that allow humans to defeat said aliens. How convenient. Aliens able to come to this planet, cause this disaster etc. are somehow still really stupid and can easily be outsmarted by teenagers. Right. Also, it had taken days for these individuals to turn into blues/greens and establish whether they were going to die or survive, YET many of them, including our lovely MC, could already harness their powers with ease. WTF? And no, the teenagers never seemed competent enough to "save the world". And why, oh why, does no one seem very concerned about the world ending and their family and friends dying? Where was THAT concern?

And vampires? What?

Also, cell phones, electricity, the internet and the water supply apparently don't stop working. It was many many days and yet everyone's cell phones still work. Where are these cell phones with the magical batteries? It was just yet another absurdity to add to the rest of the novel.

The Last Wolf

The Last Wolf - Jim Crumley As of this month, July 2014, there have been more than 2,800 wolves killed in the United States in only six of the states. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho held only about 1,600 wolves prior to delisting. Even with their reintroduction after wolves being wiped out in the U.S., wolves have never regained anything close to their natural range or original numbers.

But this book was not about U.S. wolves, it was about the lack of wolves in Scotland. Although the author does talk of wolves in the U.S. and Scandinavia, the focus is on bringing wolves back to Scotland. The wolf has been missing from Scotland for more than 200 years, which is probably why I never thought of there being wolves in Scotland at all.

Overall I felt the strongest part of the book was when the author used hard data and spoke of the illogical persecution of wolves. The history of tales regarding wolves was interesting, though at times the author did use this aspect a bit as a crutch. The prologue, in which the author essentially summarized his overall argument, was the strongest because the superfluous material was left out.

But, the author had a real issue with waxing poetic, especially in the latter half of the book. He even included a number of chapters that were solely a tale of a fictitious wolf which was quite filled with purple prose and were completely italicized (dramatic enough?). The author also spent entirely too much time on analyzing old passages from books and reports regarding wolves trying to nail down when and where the last wolf died in Scotland. These passages were dull and did not elucidate the issue at hand well at all. Some of the analysis would have been fine, but between too much analysis and waxing poetic, the overall impact of the book became watered down. I found this rather unfortunate because ultimately his goal is to reintroduce wolves to Scotland where they once roamed a very long time before man interfered.

The author did make good points regarding how ecosystems suffer without a top predator of the caliber of wolves. This is well highlighted by the overpopulation of deer in Scotland and other parts of the globe where wolves or top predators are missing or in depleted numbers. Top predators are well-known, at least in the biological/environmental fields, to keep ecosystems in check and therefore healthy.

Overall the book would have been stronger, and the appeal for wolves back in Scotland stronger as well, if the author had juxtaposed more the lack of wolves in Scotland with other worldwide locations that either did not lose them or have brought them back. Also, while I understand his goal in the book regarded Scotland, the narrowness of Scotland felt restrictive, especially since it felt rather repetitive in the way he chose to write it (especially the old passages and verbatim repeats). I would also have liked to see no purple prose wolf chapters and less waxing poetic.

Noteworthy quotes:

I did enjoy the aspect of referring to Native Americans as more in tune with the land and pushing for wolves to come back. However, when speaking of Eskimos they stated they respected the wolf etc., but they hunt the wolf. I absolutely hate this dichotomy.

They too hunted it for its pelt and later for bounty paid by the government for dead wolves.

The wolf that was handed down from the old darkness was a slayer of babies, a robber of graves, and a despoiler of the battlefield dead. The wolf that howls in our dusk is a painter of mountains.

Ah, but then the story grew legs, became what the Norwegians call ‘a walking story’. My friend heard it again two weeks later from a completely different source. The ‘concert from wolves’ at 200 metres had become a slavering pack that confronted the man and threatened him so that he had to drive them off, and was lucky to escape with his life. ‘That was in 14 days,’ he said. ‘What about 140 days? Or 140 years?’

You will also be asked to believe that the history-making wolf-slayer was a MacQueen, a stalker and a man of giant stature. He would be. Wolf legend is no place for Davids, only Goliaths. He was six feet seven inches. There’s a coincidence – the same height as Scotland’s greatest historical hero, William Wallace, or at least the same height as William Wallace’s legend has grown to in the 700 years since he died. Like Wallace, MacQueen was possessed of extraordinary powers of strength and courage; and in addition he had ‘the best deer hounds in the country’. Well, he would have. You would expect nothing less. The wolf he killed (with his dirk and his bare hands) was huge and black. Well, it would be, you would expect nothing less. And it had killed two children as they crossed the hills accompanied only by their mother. What, only two?

In the Navajo Way, people are responsible for taking good care of their livestock. If a wolf takes a sheep, it is not the fault of the wolf. The wolf is only behaving like a wolf. The shepherd is the guilty one – for not paying close attention and protecting the flock. – Catherine Feher-Elson, Wolf Song, 2004

There can be no reliable history of the wolf. Histories, after all, are only ever written by people, and there is no species less qualified and less entitled than yours and mine to write that particular history.

Wherever in the world a thoughtful relationship between man and wolf still remains, there is ample evidence – carved, painted, written and word-of-mouth – of an ancient and inherited respect for the wolf as a teacher. It is one of the great ironies of the evolution of our species that long before we began to think in terms of exterminating the wolf we spent a great many centuries learning to be more wolf-like, learning not just how to hunt more efficiently but also how to live better lives, by inclining towards a society based on the family unit that was both independent and interdependent, but also permitted the wanderers, the loners, the ones that never quite fitted in with the family structure. Today we are still apt to refer to such people as ‘a bit of a lone wolf’, and that may be truer than we think; it may be all that has survived from that ancient era when our forefathers watched the wolf and saw a role model there.

By then, of course, religion in general and Christianity in particular had transformed our ideas about our relationship with the natural world. Suddenly a jealous God had given us dominion over all the other creatures. Suddenly the Son of God was the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the flock, and everyone knew that the flock’s number one enemy was the wolf. So if Christ was the Good Shepherd, the wolf was demonised as the agent of the Devil. An illustration in the Book of Kells shows a wolf with the Devil’s tail instead of a wolf tail, a character assassination worthy of Gerald Scarfe. Christianity has always made exceptions in its doctrine of compassion and turning the other cheek.

All the ingredients of the European wolf fable are in place: it is winter, the wolf is large and black, a figure is crossing the winter landscape (the addition of two children is an adornment), the hunter is huge and possessed of great strength and will surely prevail so that the wolf-oppressed population can rest easy in their beds again, and walk the hills alone in winter with impunity and with their vulnerability unexploited.

The thing about a moose is that it is so useful to people; hunters love to hunt them and people love to eat them. (I’m with them there: I had a moose steak in Norway and it was sublime.) But you don't put a wolf head on your wall and you don't eat wolf steaks, and only in Alaska did I ever meet a man who owned up to using wolf fur for his mitts and to trim the hood of his parka.

This is terrible reasoning. So because people love to hunt and eat moose, let's not worry about them. But because wolves aren't traditionally eaten or placed on walls as trophies let us save them? I don't understand why the author even bothered with this inclusion, it weakens any argument he made previously. Yes, wolves are important top predators, but don't diminish the role moose play and their lives.

Everything Leads to You

Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour 2.5 stars

First of all I want to say that I loved that the author wrote a lesbian romance without any "message" or issues surrounding the characters being, in fact, gay. It was a breath of fresh air for a relationship between two women (or men) to be treated so normally, because guess what? It IS. Everyone has relationship drama and drama surrounding getting into and out of relationships, absolutely does not matter if you are gay, straight etc.

That being said, I did not quite feel the connection between Emi and Ava. It felt a bit forced, like everything just fell into place for both of them without checking to see if it really worked, especially Emi. Aside from that I also found the story to be quite predictable, especially once Ava came into the picture.

I did like the mystery aspect at the beginning of the book but this was prior to Ava and as I said, it becomes rather predictable afterwards.

I did find the book, or perhaps it was simply Emi, overly emotional and sentimental a lot of the time. The emotional/sentimental nature would have worked if it had been told from Ava's POV, as she was going through a lot, but not so much with Emi's. Emi's biggest issue most of the time was trying to get over someone who had already dumped her FIVE times before. Come on Emi, have some self-esteem.

Overall I did like the characters, although I found it a bit difficult to really believe that someone as young as Emi was being given all of these film set designer opportunities. The best thing I took away from this book was that it was a lesbian relationship, aka just a relationship.

Queen of Someday, A Stolen Empire Novel

Queen of Someday, A Stolen Empire Novel - Sherry D. Ficklin As some reviewers have mentioned, Queen of Someday is in fact a Russian version of the show Reign. This is not a good thing.

I'll call Queen of Someday a "Wikipedia Historical". In this regard I mean that the history is shallow enough to be included in a brief Wikipedia entry and nothing more. I understand that the author warned readers that she was not in fact sticking to history but creating her own, but I do not understand the point. Why not just invent entirely different people then? The connection to Catherine the Great is not strong enough to even bother, in my opinion. This is, in fact, the same case for the CW show Reign. Really, why did they bother?

My biggest issue in the novel was the love quadrangle. There was Sophie/Catherine plus Peter III, Sergei and Alexander. One thing I will note is that these are in fact Catherine's lovers, but the timelines are not right. However, why the need to have them all vying for Catherine at the same time? (I tentatively include Peter despite end results.) The author then chose to have a rather crazy series of events occur when it came to Alexander (He is threatened to be killed but Elizabeth marries him off to Sophie's friend instead. Okay, but if Alexander loves Sophie and no one else yadda yadda, well how quickly and happily you got your new wife pregnant eh?. I also did not appreciate that due to Sergei's loyalty (and apparently how much trust Sophie had in him immediately, it was insta-trust), Sophie runs to him in the end and essentially uses him for her own gains/enjoyment rather than attempting to get out of her situation with Peter III.

The main character, Sophie/Catherine, was inconsistent. Her narrative voice even differed from situation to situation. I found her irritating in large part. The beginning where she was worrying more about her ruined dressed than people attempting to kill her and her mother did not help make her likable. Seriously, they're trying to kill you. (I won't even go into the knife skills she apparently had...that was a over the top as well.)

Overall an irritating misuse of history in order to grace us with love quadrangle drama.

Quotes I found...wrong.

Her lips are large and puffy like Elizavetta's, only, somehow, they sit just right on her face. Location 841 Do tell us more!

"He likes military things," I remember.
She looks off in the distance.
"Yes, that's something you can work with."
"How?" I ask.
She sets down her cup of tea. "My first suggestion, have a gown made that greatly resembles a military uniform."
"Then what?" I ask nervously.
She begins a detailed plan of seduction.
Location 1341

What the bloody hell is that? A military uniform dress for seduction? Oy.

Half a King

Half a King - Joe Abercrombie 1.5 stars

Unfortunately while I enjoyed the very beginning of the novel, I found overall it to be lacking any true depth.

In the beginning of Half a King we have Yarvi, a reluctant king who would rather be a "minister" (expert in herbs, history etc.). A plus? Yarvi was also a self-deprecating fellow who made me smile to myself a few times. Then there was the twist about 15 percent in which I should have seen coming but I hadn't reread the summary to have it forefront in my mind. I thought the twist was pretty great, especially since I did not know it was coming, at least not so early (again, the blurb would have changed this). All of these elements should have resulted in a higher rating than 1.5 stars from me, unfortunately everything went awry from there on out.

Overall I found there to be a dumbing down of the fantasy genre by the author, which I can only assume was done because he was trying to appeal to a YA audience. What some authors do not seem to understand is that YA is a significantly broad term and there is absolutely no reason to water anything down just so it appeals to all ages. Why exactly do they believe this to be necessary? Because of this I found the worldbuilding, story and characterization to be lackluster. The worldbuilding is almost nonexistent, especially when it comes to the elves. Who are these elves and what significance do they have exactly? Yes, there are ruins and such but that is about the extent of their inclusion yet they are made out to be of such importance to the world. The characters as a whole felt fantasy cliche, buddy troupe cliche, and I did not feel as though I knew any of them very well by the end. And Yarvi? He became a character I could not even care for as he suddenly became heroic and absurdly out of character from the beginning that I saw no traces of the cowardly, self-deprecating individual I first met.

The writing was simply okay, it certainly did not blow me away in any way. There were a number of fantasy cliches and it made the twists, character traits and worldbuilding all the more annoying because not only were they cliche, they were clearly not fleshed out. Again, I suspect this is due to the whole "YA" classification. After the first 20 percent I found the book to be a dull, buddy troupe movie that I have seen before.

In addition, the random eyeroll worthy comments regarding love interests, namely between Yarvi and Sumael, were unnecessary and out of touch with the rest of the story. Again I cannot help but think that the author thought this was necessary due to it being YA. There was no supporting evidence of a relationship between Yarvi and Sumael, but we apparently were supposed to believe there was.

Overall a watered down fantasy cliche that I found to be dull for about 80% of the time.