Casey reads Modern Romance.

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If you were ever curious about just how relationships were formed over the course of human history, particularly in this day and age where your phone tells you when there’s a single person nearby, you’d probably super enjoy comedian Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. And if you enjoy Aziz Ansari, I mean, you are definitely going to enjoy this. I should have led with that. This is why I haven’t written my own bestseller on contemporary dating. Spoilers to follow…

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Casey reads Dead to the World.

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If you are here for the amnesia and tortured romance trope, you came to the right book. If you are here for witches, you also came to the right book. If you are here for both of those things, then why am I recapping these, you could do it for me and I could be reading something a little less bloody. Prep yourselves for all sorts of nudity and brain matter (not at the same time, thank God) in Dead to the World, the fourth book in the series. Spoilers to follow…

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Casey reads Club Dead.

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In Club Dead, the third book in the series, Sookie finally get seriously introduced to the shapeshifting community. Unfortunately, she only does so when Vampire Bill goes missing and she has to chase him down. Plus, there’s a dance routine, a hot new man, and a dead body in the closet. Spoilers to follow…

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Casey reads Living Dead In Dallas.

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Living Dead in Dallas, the second book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, is a hot mess of someone who ran out of story but still had to make word count. There’s a murder mystery involving an illicit sex club, which is not nearly as interesting as it sounds, there’s a maenad, which is also not as interesting as it sounds, and then a lot of vampire blah blah that take Sookie out of state and introduce a bunch of unimportant one-offs. It’s… it is a book and I read it. Spoilers to follow…

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Casey reads Dead Until Dark.

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For 2017, I decided a decent book-related resolution was to re-read all of the books I already own, as justification for my having bought them. Inevitably this has led to a re-read of the Sookie Stackhouse series (some may know it as the True Blood books, on which the show was based) by Charlaine Harris. These go fast (admittedly I’ve read further ahead than I’ve written, so bear with me if it gets a little rough-hewn and detail-light) but it’s a fun little series, if not at times corny, horny, and just plain bizarre. So prep yourselves for some telepathy, vampires, and a murder or two, in book one, Dead Until Dark. Spoilers to follow…

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Casey reads Heartless.

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If you know me, you know I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And if you know the world of YA, you know that authors love to attempt to reinvent the wheel as far as Wonderland is concerned. So many of them like to paint the land as one at war, usually over the use or abuse of magic. And the rest love to paint it as a land where madness is mandatory. And neither of them of those interpretations (taking the infamous quote “We’re all mad here” as literally as possible), really capture what I love about Wonderland, which is less sinister and more whimsical. Yet I still devour all of it, in hopes that eventually I’d find the book that understood what I was looking for on a deeper level, and would be able to articulate what I loved in a way that I cannot do here.

And I think I finally found it. Heartless, by Marissa Meyer of the The Lunar Chronicles, is a prequel to Alice’s Adventures, examining how a girl could grow to be the cruel Queen of Hearts. And what I like most about it is that it’s not set in the center of a war-torn nation, nor is the queen the stereotypical hat-askew bloodlust “mad” the way these things often paint the beloved characters. Instead, the elements we recognize are woven in seamlessly to a love story we don’t know, and the result is just a delight. Spoilers to follow…

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Casey read books in August.

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Regardless of what the title of this post claims, I have read books in months other than August! But, you know, here are the ones I’ve read in August, as I try to get back in the habit of doing these things. Standard rules apply, a quick and spoiler-free synopsis, my opinion in a paragraph or less, and a thumbs up/thumbs down vote if it is worth your time.

Driving Heat, Richard Castle

  • The possible last in the Nikki Heat series by fictional author Richard Castle (now that the Castle TV series that spawned the books has been cancelled) finds the titular character facing some large changes in her life: assuming the captaincy of her precinct, and being engaged to long-time boyfriend, journalist Jameson Rook. But then her underlings are at professional odds with one another, her fiance is hiding some secrets, and before she can have a good chat about it, her therapist gets murdered. It’s a bad time all around.
  • Weighing in: I’ve always supremely enjoyed this book series. It’s super fun, you don’t need to watch the show to follow it (but if you do, it ends up being a lot funnier as a result – big props to the ghostwriter, who one hundred percent makes it sound as though Richard Castle is writing it. Nikki is a fleshed-out character in a surprisingly expansive world and I hope the series goes on so I can find out what happens to her.
  • Worth reading, Yay or nay?: Yay.

Away with the Fairies/Murder in Montparnasse/The Castlemaine Murders/Queen of the Flowers, Kerry Greenwood

  • Books 11-14 of the Phryne Fisher mystery series (the one off which the show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is based) finds twenties Australian lady detective Phryne, in turn, working for a woman’s magazine, fighting her abusive ex-boyfriend from Paris, solving a decades-old murder, and searching for her kidnapped daughter.
  • Weighing in: The series can be a little up and down, depending on how much you enjoy a given mystery and/or tertiary character, but Phryne is a fantastic, nuanced character with a rich world built around her, so she’s always a fun use of your time. (She’d say that about herself, as well.)
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Mycroft Holmes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • Did you know Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a Holmesian? And not just a casual one, he’s deep enough in the fandom that he published his own story, the origins of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, as he travels to Trinidad to help best friend Cyrus Douglas solve a series of disappearances, and also track down his own suddenly missing fiancée, Georgiana Sutton.
  • Weighing in: This was a bit of a dense read, with a lot of time spent on a boat, but once it got going, it really got going.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Night Shift, Charlaine Harris

  • The third installment of Harris’s Midnight, Texas series (which neatly blends together bits and pieces from her other varying series). The latest finds the residents of this literal crossroads town facing a supernatural evil when people keep being lured to town by an unknown force to commit suicide.
  • Weighing in: The ending to this is really, really weird.  But the rest of it is pretty fun – the characters at this point are all well enough drawn, and it’s a closely knit community, that I’m suitably invested in their drama at this point, even if it is really, really weird.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

All the Feels, Danika Stone

  • When the Starveil movies kill off main character Spartan at the end of the most recent film, college freshman Liv can’t handle it. She’s not a fic writer, so instead she ropes her actor best friend in, and they secretly launch a massive fan campaign to convince the studio to revive Spartan.
  • Weighing in: This book hits on the latest mini-trend in YA, which is, as authors skew a little younger, the subject material focuses more on Fandom (and internet fandom), and how it ends up being a large part of a teen girl’s life. All the Feels is not the best example I have read of this, because it ends a little too neatly, and on such a large scale, with a romance thrown in. Nothing about my or any of my friends’ teen fandom experiences ever involved a hot steampunk boyfriend with a fake British accent.
  • Yay or nay?: Nay.

Casey read books in February.

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Hello, again.  While I haven’t read anything spectacularly worth reviewing this month, here’s a quick look into what I did read, just to have things to talk about at parties.  (I do not go to parties.  I am usually staying home at reading.  But feel free to use these synopses next time YOU are at a party, friend!)  Same rules as last month apply: a quick overview, what I liked or did not like, and a thumbs up/thumbs down review, in the style of overseeing a gladiatorial bout.  (None of these books will be fighting to the death.  They don’t have hands.)

The Aviary, Kathleen O’Dell

  • Clara is an invalided tween whose mother is the live-in caretaker for an invalided octogenarian on an estate which boasts a sizable aviary.  After the lady’s death, Clara starts uncovering the mystery of what really happened to her mom’s boss’s deceased children, as strange things start happening with the birds.
  • Weighing in: A really good mystery with a surprising twist.  Unlike other books I read last year, there is a slow and reasonable build to supernatural happenings.  Kidnappings, mystery, mind control, and codes, all used well.
  • Worth reading, yay or nay?: Yay.

Lies We Tell Ourselves, Robin Talley

  • School integration in 1959 Virginia, what a playful romp!  I’m just kidding, it’s got all the overt and casual racism you’d expect, with aggressive use of the n-word tossed around.  Plus, in these already high stakes world, black integration student Sarah and proud segregationist Linda are forced to work together on a school project, AND are both struggling with their lesbian identities.
  • Weighing in: This is pretty heavy-handed all of the time, and the eventual romantic payoff does not really feel earned in the slightest.  It feels a lot like they’re trying to cure racism and homophobia all at once, which while admirable, is a lot to cram in one go, and in a historical context, to boot.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

This Dark Endeavor, Kenneth Oppel

  • A prequel to Frankenstein, where Victor Frankenstein is a moody teen boy perpetually jealous of his twin brother.  The brother gets sick and Victor undergoes a quest to gather hard-to-obtain (but conveniently located?) items to create an elixir of life to save him.
  • Weighing in: The quests fall on the duller side, the villain is a little too suspicious right from the get-go, the threat is minimal, and the love triangle is blah-blah.  Victor, in this, comes off as a surly alchemist with little regard for science, and no real motivation beyond being an irritating teenage boy.
  • Yay or nay?: Nay.

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

  • Carry On makes the most sense if you’ve read Rowell’s Fangirl (I did!), since it is a bastardized version of Fangirl‘s Cath’s fanfic, Carry On, Simon.  (Which itself is based on the fictionalized world of Simon Snow – so Carry On is ostensibly a fanfic of a fanfic of a book within a book.)  It’s about young mage Simon Snow in his last year of mage school, trying to stay alive while the Insidious Humdrum is after him.
  • Weighing in: God, was this fun.  It starts off at the end of a (fake) canon but manages to make you feel like you read the other books (that don’t exist).  Plus, the magic used in this is actually incredibly creative, the female characters are developed, and the big reveals all feel earned.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith

  • The third in Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series, this one starts rough when Strike’s assistant/secretary/partner Robin gets sent a dismembered lady’s leg in the mail.  This sends her and Strike on a manhunt investigating all three candidates he knows that might send him body parts in the post.  Meanwhile Robin is still edging ever closer to her wedding, but her relationship is very far from perfect, less so as she is being sent body parts.
  • Weighing in: I think my favorite in the series yet; it doesn’t have all of the gruesomeness of The Silkworm, but the working relationship of Strike and Robin is really evolving.  There are times when I felt the references to their non-working relationship were A Bit Much, but it is actually natural in the context of their friendship deepening.  Plus, did I mention there’s a trunk of body parts somewhere?
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Casey read books in January.

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Here be all the books I read in January, in an attempt to keep me honest.  I’ve thrown in some quick summaries, ostensibly to entice others to read, but realistically so I can remember what any of these titles were about.  I’ve also thrown in a little bit of a review on each (though you can check my star ratings on my Goodreads page or my twitter (see: left)).  I’ve tried to keep them as spoiler-free as I could, so no cuts today, but proceed with caution just in case your definition of spoiler varies from mine.

Made You Up, Francesca Zappia

  • Alex is a schizophrenic girl trying to fit in at her new school after getting kicked out of her old one, and trying to figure out how many of the things in her life are hallucinations.
  • Weighing in: With that background in mind, the big reveal isn’t that big of a reveal, but still a really nice character beat, both for Alex and for those around her.  I don’t know how true the narration is to the schizophrenic experience, but it’s got some great character work throughout.
  • Worth reading, yay or nay?: Yay.

Ophelia, Lisa M. Klein

  • Hamlet as told from Ophelia’s perspective, which involves a secret marriage, a literal nunnery, and the usual amounts of murder and whining.
  • Weighing in: Seeing Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective just makes him seem a little more of a douche, even through her lens of (misguided) teen love.  However, everything that happens after Ophelia and Hamlet part is pretty interesting, full of religious musings and whatnot.
  • Yay or nay?: Nay.

Prom & Prejudice, Elizabeth Eulberg

  • Does what it says on the tin, Pride & Prejudice taking place at a prep school, and centered around prom.
  • Weighing in: far from the worst book I’ve ever read, though of all of the P&P versions and adaptations that exist in the world, it’s hardly the most original or the best told.  Watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube instead, thank me later.
  • Yay or nay?: Nay.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, Katie Alender

  • When Delia’s aunt dies, she leaves Delia her home – which just happens to be a former insane asylum, riddled with ghosts.
  • Weighing in: The first section of the book spends too much time hinting at the big twist that leads to the rest of the book, one that I feel would have been a much better reveal were it not for the artistic narrative attempts.  Still, this was a fun take on your standard ghost story.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson

  • Melinda called the cops following an incident at a party in August, and is ostracized as a result when the school year starts.  She has no friends, is doing poorly in her classes, and is refusing to talk to just about everyone, about anything.
  • Weighing in: I am probably the only one who hasn’t read this book before, and I’m quite sad for it.  A great look at PTSD, and the idea that while confession may be good for the soul, it is not a magical cure-all for one’s problems, and not everything wraps up neatly.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Rebel Belle, Rachel Hawkins

  • Southern belle Harper Price, overachiever, is at her Homecoming when she accidentally receives superpowers and finds out that she’s a Paladin fated to protect an Oracle from a terrible fate.
  • Weighing in: I love anything that tells you a girl can be a badass superhero while also managing to be girly.  Plus, the relationship dynamics in this are great, and while there’s never really a love triangle, there is a really interesting triangle in terms of relationship dynamics, that leads to a great conclusion.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Things I Can’t Explain, Mitchell Kriegman

Great, Sara Benincasa

  • Another adaptive work, this time of The Great Gatsby.  Modern-day teens summering in the Hamptons, with the twist being that these interpretations of Nick, Daisy, and Gatsby are all girls.
  • Weighing in: Lesbians!  And lots of them.  Jacinta (Jay) and Delilah (Daisy), as well as Naomi (Nick)’s hometown best friend Skags.  Naomi’s mother is a self-made Martha Stewart-type figure trying desperately to fit in with the old money, and that in itself is a far more interesting story than the adaptation, which follows the original too closely to be really entertaining.
  • Yay or nay?: Nay.

Miss Mayhem, Rachel Hawkins

  • Sequel to Rebel Belle (now using a pageant as its setting in place of a Cotillion), so I won’t say anything about the summary for fear of spoiling the first.
  • Weighing in: The aforementioned relationship dynamics of the first book really get explored here, which lead to some interesting twists.
  • Yay or nay?: Yay.

Casey reads Things I Can’t Explain.

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Hello, old friends. Remember me? Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter one way or the other if you do or not. For the purposes of today’s post, all you need to remember is Clarissa Darling, last seen Explaining It All on Nickelodeon in the nineties. Because show creator Mitchell Kriegman wrote a New Adult novel following her post-college adventures, called Things I Cant Explain. Spoilers to follow…

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