Book Review: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe

New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe returns to the world of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane with a bewitching story of a New England history professor who must race against time to free her family from a curse

Connie Goodwin is an expert on America’s fractured past with witchcraft. A young, tenure-track professor in Boston, she’s earned career success by studying the history of magic in colonial America—especially women’s home recipes and medicines—and by exposing society’s threats against women fluent in those skills. But beyond her studies, Connie harbors a secret: She is the direct descendant of a woman tried as a witch in Salem, an ancestor whose abilities were far more magical than the historical record shows.

When a hint from her mother and clues from her research lead Connie to the shocking realization that her partner’s life is in danger, she must race to solve the mystery behind a hundreds’-years-long deadly curse.

Flashing back through American history to the lives of certain supernaturally gifted women, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs affectingly reveals not only the special bond that unites one particular matriarchal line, but also explores the many challenges to women’s survival across the decades—and the risks some women are forced to take to protect what they love most.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs is a sequel ten years in the making, following the author’s 2009 debut novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and the story itself picks up 10 years later too. Former graduate student Connie Goodwin is now a history professor at Northeastern University, under consideration for tenure and living happily with her boyfriend Sam Hartley, whom she met during the events of the first book.

Sam’s feelings are hurt by Connie’s continuing refusal to discuss marriage. What he doesn’t know is that Connie is descended from a line of witches going all the way back to 17th century Salem, and that the male partners of the women in the family all seem to die young, in tragic circumstances. As their relationship becomes complicated in new ways, Connie is determined to find out the truth about the curse, and discovers a startling secret: there is actually one woman in the family’s history who managed to break the curse for her own husband.

Armed with this knowledge, Connie races against time to crack the mystery of the “weather work”, the elusive and seemingly highly dangerous spell that once upon a time saved her ancestor’s mate. Connie applies her scholarly skills as she unearths manuscripts and deciphers centuries old clues, this time enlisting friends, colleagues, and her own mother in a desperate attempt to get it all right.

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs is a great second chapter in Connie’s world. It’s quite fun to see her 10 years after the original book, now established and respected as a professor, mentoring up and coming grad students of her own. And it’s wonderful to see the enduring love between her and Sam, who is a lovely, kind, and sexy man. The interludes in which we see episodes from Connie’s family’s past are really engaging in their own way as well, although it’s definitely sad to see the persecution of these women who were considered different from the norm.

I enjoyed the characters, the plot, the research, and the historical elements, and the magical aspects are presented in a matter-of-fact way that still manages to have an eerie, otherworldly feel.

I suppose you could read The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs as a stand-alone, but you’d be missing out on big chunks of Connie’s personal history as well as all that family history. I’d strongly recommend starting with The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and continuing on from there. Well worth it!


The details:

Title: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs
Author: Katherine Howe
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication date: June 25, 2019
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley








Take A Peek Book Review: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.



(via Goodreads)

The second book in the Ghost Roads series returns to the highways of America, where hitchhiking ghost Rose Marshall continues her battle with her killer–the immortal Bobby Cross.

Once and twice and thrice around,
Put your heart into the ground.
Four and five and six tears shed,
Give your love unto the dead.
Seven shadows on the wall,
Eight have come to watch your fall:
One’s for the gargoyle, one’s for the grave,
And the last is for the one you’ll never save.
For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows.  She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away.  When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.

Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight.  Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down?  Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?

There’s only one way to know for sure.

Nine will let you count the cost:
All you had and all you lost.
Ten is more than time can tell,
Cut the cord and ring the bell.
Count eleven, twelve, and then,
Thirteen takes you home again.
One’s for the shadow, one’s for the tree,
And the last is for the blessing of Persephone.

My Thoughts:

This has been quite the year for me and Seanan McGuire. I was a fan of her Wayward Children books already, but this year I obsessively consumed her October Daye and Incryptid series — so of course I had to read the Ghost Road books too.

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is the sequel to the 2014 book Sparrow Hill Road. I first started Sparrow Hill Road about a year ago, and couldn’t get into it. This year, in the midst of my Seanan McGuire frenzy, I decided to give it another try, and actually enjoyed it — enough so that I was keen to read The Girl in the Green Silk Gown as well.

This book is the continuing story of Rose Marshall, who was killed in a car crash on the way to her prom back in the 1950s, and has haunted the highways of North America ever since as a hitchhiking ghost. Rose is the stuff of urban legends, who escorts doomed drivers to their afterlives but also helps those that she can to avoid a deadly fate. All the while, she’s been on the run from Bobby Cross, the driver who killed her, and this time around, it looks like he finally has her trapped.

Sparrow Hill Road is more like a bunch of interwoven stories that make a whole, whereas The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a novel with a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s a hero’s journey, an epic quest, and a story of belonging and home. Rose makes unusual choices, accompanied by unexpected friends and allies, and has both bravery and kindness to see her along her way.

The ghostly elements aren’t scary — this isn’t a horror story — but create an atmosphere that’s otherworldly and strange and (yes) haunting in the best sense of the word.

For those who haven’t read Sparrow Hill Road, I’d say start there — but you can also start with The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, as there are enough reminders and exposition to get you up to speed even without prior familiarity with the general story. Also, for those who’ve read the Incryptid books, you’ll see some familiar names popping up in this book. Not being familiar with Incryptid won’t get in your way at all, but if you have read those books, you’ll smile in recognition at least a few times.

Rose Marshall is a memorable lead character, and I hope we’ll see more of her!


The details:

Title: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads, #2)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: July 17, 2018
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library








Book Review: Feedback (Newsflesh, #4) by Mira Grant

There are two sides to every story…

We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we unleashed something horrifying and unstoppable. The infection spread leaving those afflicted with a single uncontrollable impulse: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the Rising, a team of scrappy underdog reporters relentlessly pursue the facts while competing against the brother-and-sister blog superstars, the Masons.

Surrounded by the infected, and facing more insidious forces working in the shadows, they must hit the presidential campaign trail and uncover dangerous truths. Or die trying.

Feedback is a full-length Newsflesh novel that overlaps the events of the acclaimed first novel in the series, Feed, and offers a new entry point to this thrilling and treacherous world.

Okay, first things first: DO NOT pick up Feedback thinking that you can start the Newsflesh books at this point. I would absolutely not consider Feedback “a new entry point”, as the blurb says. Instead, it’s a story set within the world of Newsflesh, telling a story that parallels the story of Feed (book #1 in the series). A knowledge of the world of Newsflesh is required in order to enjoy Feedback… and Feedback will absolutely spoil the original trilogy for you. So there — we’ve gotten the warnings and disclaimers taken care of right from the start!

So basically, the deal is this: Feedback starts at about the same point in time as Feed, 20 years after the Rising, just as the presidential campaign is kicking off. The Masons — stars of the original Newsflesh trilogy — are the stars of the blogging world, and have just gotten the sweet gig of following the Republican candidate expected to grab the nomination, and maybe even the White House. Meanwhile, in Feedback, we meet Ash North, an Irish expatriate who’s an “Irwin” — a daredevil blogger who goes out in the field and pokes zombies — along with her team. Ash and company would love to be anything close to as successful as the Masons, but they remain in the crowded field of lesser bloggers until they get chosen to accompany one of the Democratic candidates, Governor Susan Kilburn.

Ash is a sassy redhead, married platonically to her partner Ben and in love with her other partner Audrey. Along with their techie/makeup guru Mat, they hit the road with the campaign, and immediately find themselves in all sorts of horrifying and life-threatening disaster situations. With lots of zombies. And death. And zombies. And carnage. And, you know, zombies.

I was a little nervous about starting Feedback after reading some fairly negative reviews… but you know what? I liked it! While Feedback includes enough context to explain the origins of the zombie Rising and what’s happened since, it doesn’t feel like a repeat. It’s pretty cool getting another take on the events of the presidential campaign, as seen from the more limited viewpoint of Ash and friends. Ash, Ben, and Audrey stumble pretty quickly across similar clues to those unearthed by Georgia and Shaun in the first three books, but they don’t get as deeply involved in the ghastly conspiracies at play behind the scenes of the US political system.

The plot moves along quickly, and it was interesting to note the parallel events here, and to line those up with the events we know about from Feed and the later books. I liked Ash well enough to enjoy her company, and thought her relationships with Ben and Audrey were unusual enough to keep things fresh and different.

As a fan of The Walking Dead, I will mention that there was a section toward the end of the book that felt a bit too Negan-ish and Savior-y for me… but I suppose the idea of a strong, well-armed man taking over and setting up his own society, with himself at the center, isn’t that unusual for a post-apocalypse tale.

As always, Mira Grant’s writing is sparkly and shiny, alternating between describing scenes of incredibly disturbing zombie attacks (and yes, there are a few truly gruesome, terrible attacks in this book) and applying humor even to tense situations, so I never had to go too long without a laugh (or a snort or a chuckle)… in between wincing in horror, cringing at the gore, and being struck by the devastation to the characters’ souls.

Some light and not-so-light snippets:

“Hello, and welcome to the Huntsville Convention Center,” said the attendant. “We’re so very sorry that you’ve been exposed to a biohazard. Please, pick your preferred scent profile and drop the tabe into your shower as you enter. Your shampoo and body wash selections will be set to match.”

The all-terrain vehicle trundled through the woods like an armored bear: fast enough to be better than walking, bulky enough to make driving a continuous adventure, and sturdy enough to give no fucks when I overcompensated for the slopes and side-swiped a tree…

(what I pictured while reading those lines… )

I hoped [he] and the others had had a moment — just a moment, because sometimes a moment was everything in the world — to call their loved ones and say they were sorry, that they’d always known it would end like this, but that they’d been hoping it wouldn’t end quite so soon. There were always things left unsaid, undone, and I wanted, desperately, for them to have had the time to say at least a few of them.

Our part in this tale was done, and we were getting the hell out. Leave the lies to the living and the truth to the dead. Nothing ever stays buried for long.


I’m really glad that I read Feedback, and recommend it — but only if you’ve already read the other Newsflesh books. I love the world that Mira Grant has created, and reading Feedback allowed me to stay in it just a little bit longer.


The details:

Title: Feedback
Author: Mira Grant
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: October 4, 2016
Length: 560 pages
Genre: Horror/science fiction
Source: Purchased












Book Review: Stand-Off by Andrew Smith


front cover

Stand-off is the name of a position in rugby. Stand-Off is also the name of the newly published sequel to Winger, Andrew Smith’s 2013 young adult novel that both made me laugh and broke my heart into little, tiny pieces.

Ryan Dean West is the main character in both books. Please note that his name is Ryan Dean, not Ryan — it irks him no end when people get it wrong. In Winger, Ryan Dean is a 14-year-old junior at Pine Mountain, a co-ed boarding school located in rural Oregon. He’s used to being different, and considers himself somewhat of a loser, and yet he’s incredibly funny, a great rugby player, a talented cartoonist, and a good friend.

Winger ends with an absolute gut-punch, and that’s all I’ll say about it here. If you haven’t read it, you really should. Check out my review for my rather emotional reaction to Winger, and then rush out to the library to pick up a copy. Seriously.

In Stand-Off, it’s the beginning of senior year, and Ryan Dean is kind of screwed. He’s stuck in a ground-floor, teeny-tiny dorm room — and what’s worse, he’s sharing it with a 12-year-old freshman named Sam Abernathy, an adorable, eager little kid who favors soccer ball pajamas, cooking shows on TV, and leaving doors and windows open to stave off his raging claustrophobia. Needless to say, this does not sit well with Ryan Dean, who just wants to get through senior year, and maybe, just maybe, finally find a private place to have sex with his amazing girlfriend Annie.

Stand-Off back

back cover

Of course, nothing goes as planned for Ryan Dean, and the real problem is not Sam or the dorm room — it’s Nate. Nate is Ryan Dean’s abbreviation for the Next Accidental Terrible Experience, and Nate seems to be waiting to pounce on Ryan Dean at every turn, behind every corner, and in every dream. Ryan Dean suffers a series of panic attacks and night terrors, and it just seems to get worse and worse. How will he make it through senior year?

That’s the general overview of the plot. Trust me, it’s great.

One of the most delightful ingredients of Andrew Smith’s books is the language, and the writing in Stand-Off is no exception. Told in the first-person, Stand-Off is pure Ryan Dean, with all the horniness of a 15-year-old boy, plenty of snark, and tons of laughs. Open to any random page, and there are priceless gems. For example — page 193 (see, I’m being random):

“Hey, Ryan Dean, do you know what these cherry tomatoes remind me of all of a sudden?”

No. Just no.

Now cherry tomatoes were officially on the Ryan Dean West Things-I-Will-Never-Ever-Eat-Again List.

Or, again randomly, page 309:

Then I saw the Abernathy — all suited up in his perfectly creased Pine Mountain size extra-small boy suit (he must have thrown all the guys’ clothes in the washers and then waited for everyone to leave the locker room before changing) — winding his way like a malnourished albino chipmunk through a redwood forest of rugby players, balancing a plate of food in his hands while everyone he passed smeared their fingers through his hair.

One of the recurring patterns in this book is Ryan Dean’s questioning paragraphs, which start with “Okay. So, you know how…” and go on from there in a glorious stream of semi-connected thoughts and non-sequiturs:

Okay, so you know how sometimes when you really want to do something and so you make a promise to someone you don’t completely trust because somehow that person has just magically evolved into, like, the greatest human being you have ever known but there’s still some deep-down warning signal saying what the fuck did you just promise to do, Ryan Dean but you don’t care because you really want to believe that whatever Spotted John wants is not going to include multiple things that will ruin your life, so you hurriedly grab the pen and sign the contract on the dotted line?

Yeah. That.

It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing that makes this book so great. The characters are terrific, the writing is just so funny and poignant and honest, the cartoons interspersed throughout are so on-point and off-beat — and really, I just care so much about Ryan Dean after reading Winger that I spent all of Stand-Off just wishing for him to be okay and to be happy.

I’ll stop gushing, and just say: Read both books. I never would have thought that I’d love books about a pubescent teen boy in boarding school… but to whichever person in whichever publication wrote the review of Winger that caught my eye when it first came out: Thank you.

If you enjoy well-written young adult fiction that can make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same chapter, you’ve just got to read Winger and Stand-Off.


The details:

Title: Stand-Off
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Length: 418 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Library

Book Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

After YouI’m normally really diligent about keeping my reviews spoiler-free, but this one will be an exception.

After You is the sequel to the author’s huge bestseller, Me Before You. I don’t think I can talk about After You without referring to the events of the first book.



Walk away now.

You’ve been warned.

… end of psychotic spoiler warnings…

Moving on –

After You picks up the story of Louisa Clark two years after the tragic events which conclude Me Before You. In Me Before You, Louisa takes a job as a caregiver/companion to a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor, basically for the sake of a steady paycheck. Will is an angry young man, stuck in a wheelchair after a devastating accident, and he initially treats Louisa abominably.

Eventually, the two crack each others’ tough shells. Will delights in teaching Louisa about life outside the confines of her small town and in showing her how smart and talented she really can be. Louisa is horrified to learn that Will intends to take his own life rather than continue to live as a quadriplegic, and makes it her mission to convince him that life can still be wonderful. The two fall in love — but sadly, it’s just not enough to keep Will from the path he’s determined to take.

(See, I said there’d be spoilers.)

Two years later, Louisa is aimless, sad, and just going through the motions. Thanks to a bequest from Will, she traveled all across Europe, but came home when she realized it all meant nothing to her. Now she lives in a flat in London (also thanks to Will’s generosity), attends a grief support group, and works in a depressingly awful Irish-themed bar (complete with a ringlet-y wig) at the airport.

Louisa’s life takes a surprising turn when one night, in a drunken funk, she slips off the roof of her building, surviving the fall with broken bones and other injuries, none permanent. Two unexpected people enter Louisa’s life due to the fall — a hunky paramedic named Sam and a difficult, prickly teen girl named Lily… who announces to Louisa that she’s Will’s daughter.

Turns out that Will’s college girlfriend never told him she was pregnant, so he never had the chance to be a part of Lily’s life. Would Will have made different decisions if he knew about Lily?

Louisa takes Lily under her wing out of love for Will, both wanting to protect her for Will’s sake and, for her own sake, to hold onto the last little bit of Will left in the world. Lily’s entry into Louisa’s tightly controlled, dull, unfulfilling life basically rocks her world, and changes begin, slowly at first, until Louisa’s outlook and future are completely transformed.

Okay, enough synopsis. That’s the gist of After You. The real question readers will want to have answered is: Does After You live up to Me Before You?

In my opinion, the answer is yes… but adjust your expectations.

After You is a much quieter book than Me Before You. Me Before You was intensely dramatic, with life and death on the line, passionate love with everything at stake, and characters in absolutely extreme circumstances. I don’t know anyone who walked away from Me Before You with dry eyes.

After You is not that book. Instead, it’s thoughtful and serious, examining the life that’s left after the drama and tragedy have already gone by. Will’s dying wish was for Louisa to go out and live life to the fullest, and she really did try. But as we see in After You, the intention isn’t enough. Louisa took off for Paris to escape her grief, but life and grieving don’t work that way. She carried the pain with her wherever she went, so eventually there was no point in continuing to run.

What we see in After You is what loneliness and sorrow look like. There’s nothing sexy or glamorous about it. Louisa is living a very sad life when we first meet her in this book, and her lack of hope and disconnect from anyone who might actually care about her is distressing to see. And yet, I felt like it was all so real. Grief takes time. There’s no magic cure. Even meeting someone new doesn’t fix everything. It was so sad to see vibrant, rambunctious Louisa dressed in dull grey clothing and going through the motions, day after day.

Just as Louisa’s life picks up when Lily and Sam make their entrances, so too the tone of the novel picks up as well. The energy of the narrative reflects the slow return to life and purpose that Louisa goes through, building up steam and gaining more ups and downs, breaking out of the sad sameness of a depressed existence.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of Jojo Moyes’s books. I’m happy to find that After You is quite as good as some of her strongest works. It won’t “wow” people the way Me Before You did, but it does carry true emotion within its pages. This is the story of picking up the pieces, and that’s never going to be as stunning as the story of how the pieces broke in the first place (if that makes any sense).

People responded very, very strongly to Me Before You, and rightly so. Many readers cherished the idea of Louisa’s life being enriched by her short time with Will and being able to imagine her going on from there to having a life full of amazing experiences. For some, the realities of Louisa’s life in After You will be a letdown, bursting the bubble of a tragically romantic illusion. Before reading After You, I probably would have had the same vision of Louisa’s life, but I’m so pleased that After You set me straight.

Grief isn’t easy. Money and adventure can’t fix it. Recovery takes time, and a lost love can never be forgotten or replaced. In After You, Louisa gets the time to grieve, to rediscover her inner self and strength, and to finally start moving forward again. I’m so glad that I read this lovely book.

After reading After You, I felt such a strong connection to Louisa and to Lily, and I walked away feeling good, knowing that they’d found not only each other, but also a path pointing the way toward future happiness and hope.


Interested in this author? Check out my reviews of other books by Jojo Moyes:
The Girl You Left Behind
One Plus One
The Ship of Brides
The Last Letter From Your Lover
Me Before You
Silver Bay


The details:

Title: After You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publication date: September 29, 2015
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Adult contemporary fiction
Source: Library

Take A Peek Book Review: Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Secondhand Souls


(via Goodreads)

In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can’t be good—in New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore’s delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job.

Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He’s trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall “meat” waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.

To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall death merchant Minty Fresh; retired policeman turned bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; and Lily, the former Goth girl. Now if only they can get little Sophie to stop babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind…

The author with "squirrel people". Image via

Christopher Moore with “squirrel people”.
Image via

My Thoughts:

Here’s a slightly edited version of what I wrote on Goodreads:

I’ll just say it: Christopher Moore can pretty much do no wrong. Take his earlier books: Enormous lizards? Artificial whales? Stupid angels and Jesus? Shakespeare, Impressionist painters… you get the drift. For ultra-weird but extremely funny (and even touching) stories, you really can’t beat the Author Guy’s books.

Secondhand Souls is a sequel to A Dirty Job, which is an awesomely hilarious, entertaining, occasionally crude, always crazy tale — and Secondhand Souls lives up to it, not quite perfectly, but awfully darn close. The characters we love are back, in different places in their lives (and even in different bodies), but still themselves. Plus, there are some memorable new characters, including a Golden Gate Bridge painter named Mike, a mysterious man dressed all in yellow, a lovesick ghost, and a banshee with a fondness for tasers, among others.

San Francisco itself is a star, and seeing such a crazy adventure unfold in our beloved city is at least half the fun.

Who am I kidding? It’s all fun. The logic of the story gets a little thin at times, and forget about character development: We’re plopped down into the lives of the characters from A Dirty Job, and either you remember them or you don’t. But, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re a Christopher Moore fan, you need to read this. And if you’ve never had the pleasure, I’d say put this one on hold and read (at least) A Dirty Job — and possibly a few others — before picking up Secondhand Souls.


And for a more articulate review, here’s what my friend Heidi had to say about it:

Of all Christopher Moore’s novels, which range from the adolescent and ridiculous (Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings) to the pretty much perfect (Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal), the ones that Charlie Asher lives in are my favorites. Secondhand Souls is of course the sequel to A Dirty Job, which introduced us to Charlie, beta male junk shop owner, and the hidden world of the Death Merchants. (Also: a devastatingly cool record-shop owner called Minty Fresh, a toddler who may-or-may-not be Death and her pet Hellhounds, Lily the PerkyGoth, Audrey the Buddhist nun, The Emperor of San Francisco, The Morrigan and The Squirrel People, among others.) Read that before you read this, or you’ll be really lost. In fact, you probably are already.

With the whole bizarre gang back in play — plus some new additions — Secondhand Souls is not a mere cheesey sequel (though cheez plays a critical role); it’s more like visiting with batshit crazy old friends. Unfortunately for them it turns out, due in large part to the events in A Dirty Job, there’s a dangerous backlog of uncollected souls lurking around San Francisco, and Charlie and friends are once again embroiled in the danger and magical maneuvering that is dealing with the powers of darkness rising. Fortunately, they are more than weird enough to handle the crisis. I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I’ll just say it’s hilarious.

Maybe I love these books because they capture San Francisco’s magic in ways that ring true in my heart. It’s like an idealized version of my hometown — in the topography of Moore’s books I basically live across the street from Minty’s shop, and nobody ever has to step over homeless people sleeping in the vestibule. Crazy people are really helpful geniuses, and even normal folks can afford the rents. (I find all this somehow reassuring, as magic is in short supply around here these days.) Also, the characters have more fun talking to each other than anybody ever has had in the history of ever. (Except maybe “The Gilmore Girls.”) For nutty-but-somehow-deep dialogue, you really can’t beat Christopher Moore. 5 whole-hearted, sunny-yet-deeply-morbid stars.

(With thanks to Heidi, for letting me borrow her review! For more awesome Heidi reviews, you can find her here on Goodreads.)

So hey – if you’re new to Christopher Moore, this is not the place to start! Maybe spend some time with Practical Demonkeeping or The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, or even his first novel set in San Francisco, Bloodsucking Fiends. Bask in the absurd and wacky, soak up his crazy but somehow perfect tricks of language, and just enjoy the WTFness of it all. When you’re ready for true brilliance and lots of heart, read Lamb. Or harken back to Shakespeare as you never knew it with Fool and The Serpent of Venice. Uh oh, I feel a Christopher Moore retrospective post coming on! Stay tuned… and meanwhile, get thee to a copy of A Dirty Job as soon as possible.

Going now.

Need a cheez. (Read Secondhand Souls and this will make sense.)


The details:

Title: Secondhand Souls
Author: Christopher Moore
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: August 25, 2015
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Fiction/Humor/Supernatural
Source: Purchased

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: After You

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

This week’s pick:

After You

After You by Jojo Moyes
(to be released September 24, 2015 )

A sequel to Me Before You!!! Need I say more? I was so excited to hear about this during the past week. For anyone wanting to know more, check out the announcement on the author’s website or this article from USA Today.

Note: If you don’t want to see spoilers from Me Before You, DO NOT click on the links or read any synopses for After You!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays? Come join me for my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. You can find out more here — come play!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Book Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

infinite seaThis is the second book in a series, so here come the warnings:

SPOILER ALERT: This is the follow-up book to The 5th Wave. Events from The 5 Wave will be discussed! So, need I say it? If you haven’t read The 5th Wave, now would be a good time to look away. (Better yet, go get a copy of The 5th Wave! It’s good.)

KINDA SPOILER-ISH ALERT: There are some elements from The Infinite Sea that I’ll have to talk about in order to write any sort of review. I’ll try not to go into a tremendous amount of detail, but if you prefer to know nothing about what happens, well, here’s another good time to look away.

And that concludes the housekeeping portion of this post. Moving on…

In The 5th Wave, the subject matter is nothing less than the destruction of the human race at the hands of alien invaders. Over the course of an apocalyptic few months, 98% of Earth’s population has been killed in all sort of horrifying ways. The story focuses on a handful of survivors, each on their own, trying not only to stay alive themselves, but to save or sustain the people they love.

The Infinite Sea picks up pretty much right after the big, blow-out ending of The 5th Wave. Our little band of survivors is hunkered down in an old, abandoned motel, waiting for whatever comes next, listening to the rats in the walls. (The rats are important — more on this later.)

What else? Well, that’s mostly it.

In The 5th Wave, our main three point of view characters are Cassie, Ben, and Evan. Each has his or her own intense story to tell, with a unique viewpoint on the events unfolding. In The Infinite Sea, the perspective expands to include chapters narrated by several other characters. Does this help broaden the view of life after the invasion? Not really.

It’s not that I wasn’t interested in what happened in The Infinite Sea. I was. But at the same time, the story somehow feels narrow, almost claustrophobic.

Part of what really impressed me in The 5th Wave was the epic scale. As seen through the eyes of our POV characters, the destruction is devastatingly huge, yet also intimate in that the impact of the invasion is highly personal. Family members die cruel, bloody deaths. Trusted adults betray in horrible, mind-breaking, soul-damaging ways. Safe havens turn out to be hell on earth. Humans yearn for companionship, but safety lies only in isolation. The loss each character experiences, especially Cassie, is enormous not just for the character, but because of what it means for the entirety of human life.

Compared to all that, The Infinite Sea feels small. In a most literal sense, it is: Going by my physical copies of both books,  The Infinite Sea is about 150 pages shorter than The 5th Wave. The invasion is still underway, but not much has changed. We spend all of this second book holed up with our group of characters, waiting for the next awful thing to happen. The relationships barely move forward, and they have very little to do other than hide and speculate – and talk and talk and talk.

The endless talk is yet another piece that works less well for me in The Infinite Sea. In The 5th Wave, the language is often highly dramatic, much more figurative than you might expect out of the mouths of teens dealing with disaster, but somehow it matches the grand tone of the entire book. Sadly, in The Infinite Sea, the language tends toward an overuse of imagery and metaphor, and rather than feeling epic, it ends up sounding like borderline mumbo-jumbo.

I understood. In the safe room, a billion upraised faces populating the infinite, and the eyes that sough mine, and the question in those eyes too horrible to put into words, Will I live? It’s all connected. The Others understood that, understood it better than most of us. No hope without faith, no faith without hope, no love without trust, no trust, without love. Remove one and the entire human house of cards collapses.

It’s all about a search for meaning in disaster, but the discussions go in circle upon circle: There are rats in the walls. Are we the rats? Is the Earth the inhabited house the aliens want to move into? Why not kill all the rats? Why leave some rats alive? There’s the rock problem: Why not just use a big rock (i.e., a meteor) to wipe out all life? Why embed aliens inside the humans? Why play all the mind games? Why, why, why… this books amounts to a never-ending litany of characters discussing “why” — but unfortunately, we end with little more understanding than we had at the beginning of the book.

Another problem: In what felt like a baffling shift to me, the entire second half of the book is focused on Ringer, a character in a supporting role in The 5th Wave. We barely know her; we never saw her point of view in the first book. An awful lot of space is devoted to Ringer’s experience, trapped and cut off from the other characters, and it’s a weird shift in emphasis. Cassie was established in The 5th Wave as our primary character, yet she and the rest of her entourage are absent for almost half of this book. Ringer’s story adds some knowledge to the mix, but it’s kind of jarring to have the book split like this, with two stories that don’t fit together.

The Infinite Sea is clearly the bridge book in this trilogy. We need to get from the introduction of the disaster in The 5th Wave to the final resolution in the 3rd, yet-to-be-published book, but other than as a connection from point A to point B, The Infinite Sea adds very little to the world-building or the story arc of the series. By the end of this second book, I would have expected to understand much more about the reasons for the invasion and the strategies employed by the invaders. Instead, the only real progress is that the characters are beginning to understand that there’s a lot that they don’t know, that there has to be more to what to the invaders want, and that there are major pieces of the strategy that remain to be figured out.

The more I write about The Infinite Sea, the more I realize how unsatisfying I found it. With very little story progression or character growth and very little in the way of unraveling the mysteries of the alien plan, it’s very difficult to point out much that’s gained by reading The Infinite Sea, other than a reshuffling of the chessboard and a set-up for a finale. Perhaps this series should have been two power-house books instead of a trilogy with a tepid middle. I’m hoping that the final book, supposedly to be released in September, will blow the story out of the water.

The 5th Wave was amazing. I suppose if you want to find out what happens next, you have to read The Infinite Sea. But unless something is revealed early on in book #3 that demonstrates how the events of #2 matter, I’d say that The Infinite Sea is a mostly unimportant interlude that comes nowhere near to matching the power and scale of The 5th Wave. Proceed with caution — or perhaps wait until the release of the 3rd book and read it as an introduction to #3. Read on its own, as the eagerly anticipated sequel to a fantastic first book, The Infinite Sea disappoints.


The details:

Title: The Infinite Sea
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication date: September 14, 2014
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Young adult/science fiction
Source: Purchased

Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday: Another Day

There’s nothing like a Wednesday for thinking about the books we want to read! My Wishing & Waiting on Wednesday post is linking up with two fabulous book memes, Wishlist Wednesday (hosted by Pen to Paper) and Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine).

This week’s pick:another day

Another Day by David Levithan
(to be released August 25, 2015 )

Eeeeeeep! It’s a sequel (companion?) to Every Day! The only information I’ve seen so far is that The new book is told from the perspective of A’s love interest, Rhiannon.” (Goodreads)

Good enough for me! August is a long way away, but I’ve already placed my preorder.

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Looking for some bookish fun on Thursdays? Come join me for my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. You can find out more here — come play!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Book Review: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

rosieFirst things first: The Rosie Effect is a sequel, continuing the story begun in The Rosie Project. And really, if you haven’t read the first book, there’s no point in reading this one.

The Rosie Effect picks up soon after the end of The Rosie Project, following Rosie and Don to Manhattan as they begin their lives as a married couple, with the complications you’d expect from this unusual pair. No sooner have they started settling into their lives — Don as a visiting professor at Columbia Medical School, Rosie finishing up her PhD thesis and entering med school — than a bombshell of a surprise comes along: Rosie is pregnant. And Don is thrown for a loop.

Rosie and Don take very different approaches to pregnancy, of course. Don, ever the man of science, embarks on a plan to maximize Rosie’s health — and Rosie does not take kindly to Don’s constant input on everything from appropriate pregnancy nutrition to stress levels to exercise needs. The marriage is on the rocks, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much hope.

Meanwhile, Don finds himself in exactly the sort of absurd situations you’d expect. Upon getting advice from a friend that he should spend some time observing children in order to prepare for fatherhood,  Don does exactly that… and ends up getting arrested after hanging out in a children’s playground taking videos of the kids playing.

Ultimately, the plot of The Rosie Effect boils down to a headline from a 1980s women’s magazine: Can this marriage be saved?

My reaction to this book is mixed. While there are certainly many amusing scenarios (let’s not forget the Bluefin Tuna Incident!), I’m not at all convinced that a sequel to The Rosie Project was necessary. In The Rosie Effect, it’s really just a lot of more of the same. Don is peculiar, highly intelligent, and emotionally stilted. He does some pretty amazing things, but always from a place of cluelessness. There’s a cast of supporting characters who are funny, unusual, and perfect complements to Don’s oddball nature. Rosie herself seems to be a bit absent in this book; while she’s always around and is on Don’s mind constantly, I wouldn’t have had much sense of her personality or desires without having read the first book.

Basically, everything that I found delightful and charming about the first book is repeated here in the second — and that’s the problem. The Rosie Project was new and different; The Rosie Effect is just a continuation. Without the newness, it’s treading familiar ground, and I simply wasn’t nearly as amused as I was the first time I encountered Don Tillman in all his glory.

The Rosie Effect is a quick read, but I actually think I could have done without it. It definitely picks up by the end, but there’s only so many time similar antics can play out before they become tedious. The Rosie Project was one of my favorite books of 2013, but in my opinion, should have been left as a stand-alone story. Sadly, this unnecessary sequel was mostly a disappointment to me. Still, the author is clearly quite talented, and I hope he’ll tell a new tale in whatever he publishes next.


The details:

Title: The Rosie Effect
Author: Graeme Simsion
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: US publication date: December 30, 2014
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy via NetGalley