The Gender Game by Bella Forrest

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If you like the Hunger Games and Divergent, this is an excellent read alike for you.

What happens if the world is divided into two factions? Matrus, where women rule and men are subservient, and Patrus, where men rule and women are subservient, are at odds with each other. Our main character Violet has grown up in Matrus and has had a few two many run ins with the authorities there, after the last incident of possible womanslaughter, she is offered a choice: go undercover to Patrus to retrieve an item that was stolen from them, or be executed. Violet’s arrival in Patrus sets off a plot to steal back the item, but along the way she finds love with someone that should be her enemy. Excellent plot twist at the end that definitely made me want to read more of this story, as it appears that it will be a series from the way the ending is written. Strong female vs male tension that builds from a simmer to a boil. Highly entertaining and looking forward to the next installment!

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

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This has been the year of the 80’s throwback in books at least for me and this one scratched that same wonderful itch. Teenage boys planning an Ocean’s 11 type heist to get a coveted copy of Playboy featuring the babe of the moment, Vanna White, from the local store. All Billy has to do is romance the shopkeeper’s frumpy and nerdy daughter Mary into giving him the alarm code. But in getting to know Mary, he realized they both have an incredible love of computer game programming and team up to win a coveted prize from a top game designer. Suddenly that all important Playboy doesn’t really matter much to Billy, even though his friends are pressuring him to stick with the plan. Mary now understandably holds his interest.

Full of 80’s pop culture and computer programming references, this book was highly entertaining, especially for an 80’s kid like myself. The ending even had a bit of a twist I never saw coming that added even more of a dimension to Billy and Mary’s relationship.

 

The Spider and the Stone by Glen Craney

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One of the issues I usually have with historical fiction is that often the scenarios and backdrops described in a story don’t quite have the historical accuracy and detail that they really need in order to effectively blend in the fictional aspect.  This book does not have this problem in any way.  Craney’s extensive research and attention to detail comes through during the entire book.  His vivid descriptions of the passion of the Scottish people were emotional and powerful.   The battle scenes are exciting and well written.

As this was my first time visiting this specific period of history, I found that I had very little trouble following the events described,  and was completely wrapped up in this book as it drew me in.  I had actually set aside some time from my schedule in order to be able to read through this in one sitting and I am so glad I did. It is a perfect blend of history, adventure, love, and faith.  I look forward to reading more of Mr. Craney’s books in the future!

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

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Take teenage angst, set it in the 1980’s and throw in a little demonic possession for good measure and you have a book that is a fun ride. Abby and Gretchen, along with Margaret and Glee, are a tight group of friends. Until one night of skinny dipping doesn’t go as planned, and Gretchen seems somehow “changed.”  Word of warning: Do not read this book at night because you will get the creeps big time.

The thing I liked most about this book is how the “possessed” Gretchen behaved towards her friends, and how accurately this parallels how girls in high school tend to treat each other: kind one day, brutal and hateful the next. Half the time I was wondering if Gretchen was truly possessed or just a jerk. If you love YA and horror, this one will scratch both itches.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

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I don’t know what else to call this book other than perfection. Amor Towles has created an entire world within the walls of the Metropol Hotel.

After having been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel after the Communist Revolution, Count Rostov, a former aristocrat, finds himself having to make an entirely new world and life for himself while confined in the luxurious building. And he does it with grace and charm and manners that completely befit his former life as a Count.

This book oddly enough reminded me so much of “The Little Princess.” Its cast of characters make you smile throughout the entire book and the ending is nothing short of exactly what I was hoping for. Go and get this book immediately. Buy it, download it, borrow it from the library. When I literally hug a book after I finish it, you know you cannot go wrong.

The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths and the Movies by Matt Hurwitz & Chris Knowles

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As a fan from the very beginning of both the show and films, I was very happy to get my hands on this edition and was not disappointed. Updated to include new information about the recent reboot, filled with color pictures and behind the scenes stories about the show. Die hard fans will love it. Really enjoyed how in depth the process was of creating a show like the X-Files in a time where nothing else existed like it in television. The Truth is definitely in this book….

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

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Decided to thumb through my back list and finally got to a book that had come highly recommended to me about a year ago.  If you are a fan of the shows “The Office” or “Superstore”, but feel like they should included possessions, ghosts and abject terror, then this is definitely the book for you.  Orsk is a furniture store that openly acknowledges the fact that it is an IKEA knockoff.   Staffed by hundred of partners, it aims to make its customers feel like they are right at home when they shop.  However, it seems the store may be home to more than just shoppers of the living sort.  After finding vandalism had occurred in the store while it is closed, some of the staff stay overnight to figure out what is going on and find way more than they could even imagine.   This book is absolutely terrifying, yet very funny at times, and even incorporates “catalog features”, Orsk employee guides, and even a store map that is supposed to help you not get lost.  Just remember to stay on the pathway…

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

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A very accurate examination of the cycles of friendship that we all go through. There were parts of the book where I genuinely felt that Sarah and Lauren were simply maintaining the friendship out of loyalty or habit, but then there were times (i.e. Sarah’s wedding, the birth of Henry) that you could see genuine love and friendship between them. In regards to the look at the friendship, I thought the book was spot on. I have heard other people question what they perceive to be a lack of plot or story line. However, I felt that Lauren’s and Sarah’s lives were the plot and the story line. It’s our everyday ins and outs, comings and goings, arguments and apologies, that make up the stories of our lives. What left me wanting however was the ending of the book. Their story ends in a giant unknown after a huge gap in time between the birth of Henry and the upcoming arrival of Sarah’s second son. Maybe I just wanted a happily ever after for Lauren too. In a lot of ways the ending mirrors the way friendships really can be. Long stretches of time apart, but when you see each other again, you can pick up like it was yesterday.

Pottermore Presents… by JK Rowling

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Just released today, JK Rowling and Pottermore offers three new short story collections based on the Wizarding World, and they do not disappoint.  All of the books take less than an hour to read and are very entertaining and informative!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists

Gives you the backstories of the hated Dolores Umbridge, Professors Slughorn and Quirrell, as well as a history of the Ministers of Magic, Azkaban, Potions and Polyjuice and everyone’s favorite poltergeist – Peeves!!!!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies

Again, took less than an hour to read.  Find out about the pasts of Minerva McGonagall, the beloved Remus Lupin, the less than blessed Professor Trelawney, and the previous Game Keeper Kettleburn.  Now we know why Hagrid had to take over for him…

Hogwarts An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

This book was a lot of fun.  Once again, less than an hour to read, but you learn the history of Platform 9 3/4, the Sorting Hat, the Sword of Godric Gryffindor, as well as more of the secrets of the castle.

I am very happy to have these glimpses into some of my favorite places and people in the Wizarding World and hope that Ms. Rowling produces more of these short story collections in the future!  And at $2.99 each (they are only available electronically right now), you can’t go wrong.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

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This one was a hard one for me. The story is beautifully written and the character development is outstanding. But the subject matter in this book is very disturbing. In my mind, the relationship between Wavy and Kellan grows into something that in our world is considered very wrong and downright criminal. I had to keep reminding myself that in their world, where love was so entirely lacking from their own families, their love for one another made sense. It really challenged me on all of my levels. The understanding of what it must have been like to grow up in Wavy’s situation and find that one person in the world who you feel doesn’t harm you, but is she mature enough to understand what she was getting herself involved with? And the fact that Kellan knew how the relationship looked but continued to to be involved with Wavy, and find himself growing more and more physical with her made me very uncomfortable. And I think that was the author’s intent. To find yourself outside of your comfort zone as a reader and look at how two very flawed individuals tried to find something or someone in the world to hold on to-the desperate need we all have to find someone who we think understands us, whether or not that relationship is healthy or not.

Weird Girl and What’s His Name by Meagan Brothers

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Lula Monroe and Rory Callahan are the typical weird kids – so much in fact that they are collectively known as “Weird Girl and What’s His Face.” Lula, who was abandoned by her mother as an small child, is more than happy to have only one friend in Rory, and Rory, who is navigating the waters of being a gay teen in a small southern town, is secretly dating his over age 40 boss. They obsess over their favorite show, The X Files, spending hours watching and analyzing all the episodes and movies.

Lula discovers Rory’s secret relationship and is completely caught off guard by his lack of honesty with her, causing her to question herself and run away on a desperate search to find her mother and hopefully who she is as a person.

This books deals with sexual identity, friendships, family problems, unrequited love and finding out who you are as a person, instead of trying to live up to whatever is expected of you. I thought it was a very thoughtful look at teenagers today, however the whole relationship that Rory had with his boss while he was only 17 kind of left a bit of an “ick” factor on the story for me. Overall, I enjoyed this book and the topics it explored.