April Book Reviews (2015)

April was kind of a slow month for reading. I read a couple longer books – that were great – and I finally picked up Storm of Swords again (the 3rd Game of Thrones book). I’m about 65% through it, so don’t expect it to show up anytime soon! Work has also been a bit nuts, with lots of traveling, so reading is sort of taking a back seat. May will probably be similar, but then it’ll be summer and reading time!!

Ratings

I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask, and I’ll try to clarify!

And now, on to the books!!!

Murder on the Eightfold Path (Mantra for Murder, #3)3 starsBook 3 in the Mantra for Murder series. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first two – mostly because A.J. was kinda wishy washy in it. She kept saying that she wasn’t going to get involved in “sleuthing” and yet there she went. I don’t know, I just didn’t need her to keep pointing out that Jake the detective was going to be upset about it. And, after Book 2, I wanted more Andy!! But, at least things are shaking up a bit with the Sacred Balance Studio!

Death in a Difficult Position (Mantra for Murder, #4)3 starsI am so sad that this is the last book in the series….or at least, the last book out. I think there might be a 5th book, but I haven’t found anything definite. The mystery in this one was a little silly, but I just adore the characters and the world and the yoga theme.

It's Kind of a Funny Story3 stars

This was our April Book Club Book. We wanted something lighter, having slogged through Montaigne and All the Light. This wasn’t lighter, exactly, but it was easier.

Basically, Craig is your average 15 year old, except he suffers from depression. After getting so low he’s ready to kill himself, he ends up in the psychiatric unit at the hospital. While there (a mere 5 days) he learns to love life again and becomes a happy person.

I don’t mean to be flippant, but in a nutshell, that’s the story.

I have kind of mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I thought it was super depressing. On the other, I thought it was a great way to bring the topic of suicide and depression and mental illness into the cultural vernacular. This has been made into a movie, which I’d actually like to see. Other than that, I don’t really have a lot to say one way or the other. I think it’s one of those books that everyone will find something different in.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)4 starsI debated about whether to read this right away or wait, but in the end I had to know what happened next for Celaena! This one follows Celaena as she’s serving as the King’s Champion. It’s a bit darker than Throne of Glass, and definitely more complex. There were times I got a little lost in the details, to be honest. While it’s different, I enjoyed Crown of Midnight as much as Throne of Glass, and definitely recommend the series to fans of this style of writing. The way the story ends is nice too, because she’s about to set off on a journey. It’s sort of a cliffhanger, but mostly not. It’s a nice stopping point. Book 4 is coming out in September, so I’m definitely waiting to read book 3 – I don’t want to forget what happens!

At the Water's Edge4 starsI read Water for Elephants probably 8 years ago. I remember nothing about the book except there was an elephant, a circus, someone died (maybe?) and that I really loved it. The memory of that book was enough to make me excited about Sara Gruen’s newest book, but then I read the description. The Loch Ness Monster AND Scotland? Come on, the only things missing were Atlantis and the Titanic, and it’d have been the ultimate book. (Sara, couldn’t you have worked those in there somehow?)

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a freak and will read anything even remotely connected to Atlantis or Titanic, and frankly, Nessie is pretty high on that list too. Oh, and anything with a map on the inside cover. But that’s cause I’m bizarre.
So anyway, I was super excited about At the Water’s Edge. Even seeing several lackluster reviews weren’t going to stop me.
Sadly, this book had very little about Nessie. That said, I went into it with an open mind, and was not disappointed. Gruen has written another character story…..and if you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a huge fan of well-done character novels. To me, a good book is something that resonates with me….whether that’s the world, the plot devices, or the characters, I want to connect to the story somehow.
Maddie and her husband Ellis, and their good friend Hank, venture to Scotland towards the end of WWII so Ellis can essentially redeem his family honor by proving that Nessie exists. (For the record, the book never uses the nickname – I’m just lazy and don’t feel like typing Loch Ness out every time. Gruen uses the bland, though appropriate, “monster” for most of the book.) The story is really more about Maddie, her relationships with everyone around her, and her own personal growth.
A full disclaimer – Maddie is a little hard to love at first. She’s spoiled, bratty, and pretty pathetic. What Gruen does well is take a fairly unsympathetic character and make you give her a chance. Ellis, on the other hand, is positively insufferable, and gets worse every single time you see him. That’s intentional, and though you want to punch him in the face, it’s what makes the story – and Maddie – all the more interesting.
The Unwanteds (Unwanteds, #1)3 starsI just barely squeaked this one in April….and actually, I think I may have technically finished it May 1st. Shhh.
I came across this series in the book store and was instantly hooked by the cover. The story is about a group of kids called “Unwanteds” – basically, their society deems them useless and sends them to be eliminated. Turns out, there’s a super awesome dude named Mr. Today who sort of doesn’t eliminate them. Instead, he takes them to his magical world where they get to learn how to be creative and happy and all that stuff. Basically, everything they did that made them Unwanted. Eventually, the other world finds out, and they go to war, and you can kinda guess the rest.
This series has been compared to Harry Potter….and I see that in some ways, but mostly I think it’s just because there’s magic. I like this series, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll keep reading it….but it’s nowhere near the quality that Harry Potter has. The characters aren’t really that meaningful. Case in point…I was most interested in what happened to Simber, the flying stone cheetah statue (that’s him on the cover).
This is written for middle-grade, so keep that in mind…but honestly? Spirit Animals is way better written.

Book of the MonthPretty much a no-brainer. The title this month goes to….

At The Water’s Edge

What books did you read this month? Any keepers?

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