Tag Archives: book reviews

2017 Books Archive

Time again for my annual housekeeping where I archive for my own posterity the things I read over the course of the year. These are in reverse order because I successfully avoided the OCD trap that screamed I needed to put them back in order of reading. I initially aimed for more reading in 2017 but fell short. Since I’m still in school and a lot of the books on the list this year were textbooks, I count it as an overall achievement that I read more than the year before.

  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid – this was a short read over Christmas break. It was confusing during the reading but couldn’t put it down because it was so different. It left me with a WTF kind of response but it keep me thinking about it for days later which was pretty cool. If you like psychological mind twists, this one is good.
  • Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline – read for upcoming book club discussion. A quick read that gave me some insights to events in American history that I hadn’t heard of before. I wish it had been longer and gave more details but it was entertaining.
  • Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Engdahl *didn’t finish* – It is rare that I don’t finish books but sometimes it happens. No one has time for books that don’t hold your attention and this one read like Star Trek fan fiction rife with “telling” rather than showing. After giving it a fair shot, I put it down. It was a book pick for a SciFi/Fantasty book club I’m in but it wasn’t for me.
  • The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – highly recommended for artistic types. This was a quick read but had a ton of “Ah-ha!” moments (as well as “oh shit” ones) when I discovered a lot of behaviors I had been doing that follow self-sabotaging patterns. 2018 will be much more productive because of this little book.
  • 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor (editor) – one of my textbooks for my creative writing degree. Great collection of short stories arranged by decade. I enjoyed it as a reader and as a writer studying successful authors.
  • The Book of Joy, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu – a book club read. If you’ve ever read any self-help/enlightenment books it will seem like a recap but if you haven’t ever read this particular genre it was a great one to start with.
  • First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham – I read this after I became a supervisor of people at the recommendation of my manager. It has lots of insights about the nature of people and how to play to their strengths (instead of focusing on weaknesses) to lead more effectively. It was a great book, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • IT, Stephen King – this was a re-read after I watched the latest movie version. I initially read this when I was a teen and wondered if it would scare me as much as an adult. Surprisingly, I remembered so few details and I thoroughly enjoyed all the tie-ins to the Dark Tower series that I hadn’t realized were there until now. Still love this book.
  • The Real World: Introduction to Sociology, Kerry Ferris – surprise, a textbook! This course taught me that while I really enjoy reading about Sociology, I don’t like writing papers about it. No more plans for a Sociology minor for me.
  • A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman – a book club pick that I didn’t love in the beginning but ended up SERIOUSLY loving by the end. It’s a slow build but so worth the read. One of the best books I read this year.
  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – finally read this one when I saw the trailer for the movie coming out in early 2018 and after hearing a bunch of hype from friends who had read it. It’s a fun book, mostly because I’m a child of the 80’s and lived all the things that were referenced (and adored) in the book. A surprisingly enjoyable read based solely on the entertainment value.
  • Unwind (Unwind #1), Neal Shusterman – I had several people recommend this book to me when they heard the premise of my latest novel. It was a quick, YA read that held my attention enough to entertain me but not enough to keep reading the series. Another example of the dystopian YA trend that has been done to death in my opinion.
  • The Art of Writing Fiction, Andrew Cowan – a fabulous book on how to write that was used as a textbook in one of my classes. I made a ton of notes, used it to build a new presentation that I taught to high school creative writing classes, and will continue to reference. If you’re a writer, you should have this on your to-be-read list.
  • A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson – a book club pick that was very entertaining. Adult themes and a story about three generations of women full of twists. A great discussion at book club. If you’re looking for an accessible book, easy to read with lots to talk about for your book club, I recommend this one.
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams – another pick of the sci-fi/fantasy book club. I read this mostly because so many people quote this classic and I felt left out (and not geek enough) having not read it. It was disappointing. I liked the movie much better!
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot – book club pick and a fascinating Non-Fiction read. I came away from this looking at the medical profession and the medical research field completely different. A fabulous read for anyone, especially for a book club.
  • The Lie that Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction, John Dufresne – another book on the writing craft used as a textbook. This one had fewer takeaways for my personal writing but it did influence me to do more free-writing to collect character sketches from real-life. A good one, but not a great one.
  • A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire #1), George R.R. Martin – I gave into the hype (hubby watches the HBO series and I met George R.R. Martin in person this year) and wasn’t disappointed. Although, I wonder if I would have been able to keep the characters straight if I didn’t have actors to picture from the TV series. I don’t have much time for epic tomes of this size much but I will slowly make my way through the series at some point. (It isn’t like they come out very regularly, so I hear!)
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – a book club pick this year which I had read previously. I listened to it again to refresh my memory for the discussion and loved it just as much the second time around. Still one of my all-time favorite books.
  • Sustainable Energy, Jefferson W. Tester – a textbook (no surprise) about one of my favorite subjects. I loved this course and would take it again if they’d give me credit for it. Interesting tidbit: three years ago I had a discussion about current research my brother in law (a materials engineering major at the time) was up to. At the time, I used the future possibilities he told me about as world building for my current novel. Then I got to see what had already been implemented and what is already emerging commercial technology now when I wrote the research paper for this class. I’m definitely a science geek (minus the math skills!)
  • Introduction to Mythology, Eva Thury – a textbook for a class I thought was going to be my favorite and which was actually my LEAST favorite to date. I wanted this class to be something totally different (not sure why) and ended up hating it. I don’t want to read old texts and analyze them, I’d rather discuss myths and what they all have in common I guess. *shrug*
  • Finders Keepers, Stephen King – a second in the series book with only a slight tie-in to the original book’s cast of characters. Not sure I love that approach but I’ve got a signed first edition of the third book in the series so I had to read this one.
  • The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson – my attempt to read classics in the horror genre. Apparently I’m a jaded horror girl who doesn’t like her horror subtle. This felt like watching a sixties movie today. So disappointed.
  • Bluescreen (Mirador #1), Dan Wells – who knew I liked cyberpunk!? This was a great read from one of my favorite local authors. If you like science and like to imagine what the future is like, pick this one up.
  • Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult – book club pick that was just meh for me. If you’re a privileged white person who’s never considered how it is to be black in America, you’ll probably love this book. (Because that’s who it was written for.) If you already read very diverse books, this will fall somewhat flat for you like it did for me.
  • Service Fanatics, James Merlino M.D. – I read this because our new CEO at work was quoted in it and I wanted to know the culture of the Cleveland Clinic where he came from. It was a fantastic read! I love that my company will help shape the future of medicine in the U.S.
  • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides – one of my all-time favorite books that someone else picked for book club so I got to re-read it. Just as good the second time around!
  • The College Handbook of Creative Writing, Robert DeMaria – the first textbook on the subject I’ve read. It slants a LOT toward literary fiction but it had many great lessons to teach me that I have already applied to my writing toolbox. A great starting point if you’re a writer.
  • Red Queen (Red Queen #1), Victoria Aveyard – my teen couldn’t stop talking about this book and finally convinced me to read it. It was, you guessed it, another YA dystopian world. It had some great ideas and was entertaining, but I have no desire to keep reading the series.
  • Dark Matter, Blake Crouch – an impulse buy for myself at the bookstore that I couldn’t put down. I ended up picking it for book club this year and everyone else who read it raved about it, too. If you’re a fan of sci-fi and like mind-twisting plots, you’ll love this one.
  • Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross – book club pick based loosely on evidence that there once was a woman who pretended to be a man so she could be educated and ended up as Pope. It was entertaining and fascinating from a historical perspective.
  • The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7), Stephen King – this rounded out my re-read of the entire series that I started in 2016. Overall, I still love the ending (especially as it plays into the new movie of the same title that came out in 2017.) I love the first four books in the series much more than I love the last three which came out so close together I had never re-read them. Still my favorite King series.

2016 Book Archive

Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!

  • Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
  • The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
  • The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
  • Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
  • Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
  • Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
  • Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
  • Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
  • Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
  • Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
  • Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
  • A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
  • The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
  • David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
  • Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
  • Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
  • The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
  • The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
  • The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
  • The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
  • The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
  • Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
  • Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
  • Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
  • Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.

Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!


Review: Pretty Things by Christine Haggerty

Pretty Things Cover

When Maddie’s father catches her with a boy, he hauls her into town in a pig wagon and finds her a husband. But Peter’s cabin in the woods promises something very different than Maddie’s happily ever after.

Pretty Things, a retelling of “The Robber Bridegroom,” is the first novella in the Grimm Chronicles series. Warning: not your granny’s fairytales!

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been one for fairy tales – because I always thought of them in the flavor of the Disney franchise or Mother Goose. But this is not your typical children’s fairy tale and it grabbed me from the first line. Christine Haggerty weaves a tale with adult themes of seduction and betrayal with a splash of daddy issues to the classic tale of the Robber Bridegroom.

I’ve rarely been tempted outside my preferred genres, especially when it comes to retelling an already famous tale. However, this one made me wonder how true to the classic it was and I found myself researching the original. While those with a love of The Brothers Grimm and their ancient tales will surely recognize key elements, this is a fresh new take on the old. It is a short novella, easily dispatched over a large coffee, yet the characters are full of depth. At times I found myself rooting for Maddie and other times loathing her and siding with others. This is a gem of a find everyone should treat themselves to.

For a peek at the book trailer, check it out HERE.

Purchase the novella HERE – currently priced at 99 cents.

 

Pretty Thing Banner

Christine Nielson Haggerty grew up in rural Utah with three brothers, a sister, several chickens, a goat, and an outhouse. She always loved the escape of fantasy and the art of writing, and her passion for life is to craft stories of strength and survival.

As a former high school language arts teacher and a black belt in karate, Christine has found a niche in combining those skills to help authors write effective fight scenes.

An award-winning young adult author, she is now launching her dark fantasy fairytale novella series The Grimm Chronicles.chaggertypic

 

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