Kate Reads

Icons - Margaret Stohl Icons grabbed me from the beginning and didn't let me go. It was one of those reads where you sit breathless, waiting to know what happens next, wishing you could read faster.
Driving Mr. Dead - Molly Harper It's been a while since I've picked up anything by Molly Harper, and now that I've finished Driving Mr. Dead, I honestly can't remember why I fell behind! This novella was a lot of fun, and a super enjoyable read.Since the setting of Driving Mr. Dead took place almost entirely on the road, this was a novella where the relationship really took center stage. This was no “instalove” scenario, it was more a situation where as the main characters the relationship got closer as they spent more time together. As they experienced one ridiculous situation after another, they learned more about each other and get pretty close in a short period of time.While Collin isn’t a vampire that I would immediately swoon over (for an example of those, see: Bones, Ethan, or Eric), as we get to know more about him, he becomes more attractive, to the reader and to Miranda. I feel like this is certainly a plausible reaction to the situation- especially if two people are thrown together like Collin and Miranda were. Miranda was great and I pretty much instantly liked her. She’s working hard to disprove everybody’s expectations of her, and her commitment to the job was admirable. I liked that she was a bit bossy at times- definitely reminds me of myself. :) I already got the next book in the series, The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires, and I can’t wait to delve further into the Half Moon Hollow series, especially if it is anything like the first.
Dance of Shadows - Yelena Black I honestly can think of no other word for this book then "ridiculous."
Trapped - Kevin Hearne I wasn’t super enamored with Tricked, the fourth book in the Iron Druid series, and I was really hoping that with Trapped, the series would be redeemed. One my biggest complaints about Tricked were the frequent info dumps by way of story-telling. Since Trapped returned to a mythology more familiar to readers of the series, I was hoping that tactic would be avoided. However, it happened several times, and whenever it did, it interrupted the action and broke up the flow of the narrative. I felt like the stories were unnecessary distractions from the main plot line.Another issue I have is that we were not able to see Atticus’s and Granuaile’s relationship develop. The span between the last book and this one is twelve years, but when the book opens, I didn’t perceive any difference in their interactions with each other. Certainly no signs that would suggest twelve years of constantly spending time together. The twelve year gap didn’t make much sense all around, in my opinion. It’s an insult to the readers to expect them to believe that after the events of the first four books (and one short story), nobody managed to locate Atticus for nearly the entire training period, and then all of a sudden, everybody’s after him. Vampires! Elves! Greek Gods! They all managed to locate exactly which outdoor goods store he is in and attack him. Twice. Of course, Atticus takes care of all that. There are frequent fight scenes where he manages to dispatch beings that are, by way of what explanation we get, older, more powerful, and frequently have special powers. I can’t think of a situation where there is any real concern that he and Granuaile might not make it out. He always has a convenient solution to escape any scrape he finds himself in. Obviously, I want a character who is strong and triumphs in the end, but it is also hard to believe that he never stumbles on the path getting there. Luckily, we do have Oberon the dog, who almost single-handedly got me through the book with his witty quips and confusion about human “mating habits.” There were a few other characters that I liked as well, including Perun, the Slavic thunder god, who was pretty great in the first few chapters. Unfortunately, for me, that’s about it. While the major story line hasn’t been tied up yet, I’m confident that at the end of it all, Atticus will be victorious. However, there just isn’t enough development to keep me invested as to how he gets there. I may give the next book a try, but it won’t be high on my to read pile.
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet - Darynda Jones Charley Davidson is quickly becoming one of my favorite urban fantasy heroines. The first books in the series established her as a quick and witty character who has no problem going after what she wants. Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet is no exception, with Charley back and sarcastic as usual. In addition, we have our ultimate bad boy Reyes Farrow, and the scenes between him and Charley continue to be smoking hot. I did miss the presence of Garrett Swopes, who showed up once or twice, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. That is an example of another strength of these books. The side characters are so well developed and interesting that I not only care about Charley, but the entire crew surrounding her! One thing I enjoy in a book is no matter how fantastic the setting is, or what special powers a character has, we see that the protagonists are still people, with believable emotions and reactions to what they experience. Charley is very affected by what happened to her in the previous book, and it shows, making her that much more of a realistic character to read. Two other characters who were more fleshed out in this book were Charley’s sister Gemma and her stepmother. It is nice to see those relationships evolve after not much interaction in the first few books. The only thing keeping this book from being a five for me were some of the random situations Charley found herself in that I felt were unnecessary. Maybe it is set up for a future plot line, but to me, it was a distraction. It didn’t appear to build up either the greater storyline that flows through all the books, or the specific conflict that was resolved at the end of this one. If you’re already a fan of Charley, then you definitely don’t want to miss Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, and if you’re not, what are you waiting for? The books just keep getting better and better and are definitely worth reading. I don’t know if I can wait until July for the next one!

The Sandcastle Girls

The Sandcastle Girls - I find it very hard to boil down my judgement of some books to how many stars I would rate them. This is not a book that I either like or don't like. This book is hard. That is not to say it is bad, or not worth the read, but it is not something you should pick up expecting a quick or easy read. I will be 100% honest here and say that I read this book solely because of its Armenian author and setting. I read this because I felt I should read it, not because I necessarily wanted to. This book dealt with a lot all at once. Individually, any one of the atrocities described in the book would be terrible. Together, they make up a terrifying, incomprehensible, almost mind-numbing narrative that is hard to deal with all at once. This is a book that I put down and picked up many times, because sometimes I needed time to absorb the story. The dual story lines, Laura's in the present day, and Elizabeth's almost 100 years earlier, did a little to break up, though not lighten, the story. However, the book was well written, and I didn't feel that there was any exploitation of the terrible events that occurred. To describe anything less than what really happened would do a disservice to the real people who lived through it, in my opinion. This is, at its heart, really a book about history. It is obviously historical fiction, but it also deals with Laura coming to terms with her family history. The end of the book leaves us to make our own conclusions about the history, conclusions about what is "right" and what is "wrong," if those are even two concepts we can apply in this case. It raised more than a few questions in my mind, about the value of discovering our history, or what the effect of unearthing a long kept secret is. Should we seek out our ancestor's history even if we may not be entirely happy with what we find there?This is a story about loss, secrets, happiness and sadness, finding and losing love, and how far a person will go to protect those they love. I read it a month ago and I am still thinking about it- and I do not think that is only because I am Armenian, but because the themes brought up in the book apply to everybody, regardless of ancestry. Obviously one of the events that most stuck with me was Armen's wife's suicide attempt, and the resulting death in the hospital which caused Elizabeth to even have a secret to keep. I first tried to rationalize it by saying she was weak, and couldn't stand to see that he loved another woman. She didn't want to stand up and tell him that she was still alive. But, she survived what had happened up until that point, how could such a person be weak? So, could it have been love for her husband that drove her actions? She saw that he had found happiness and wanted him to have that? Or was it a little of both?
Vamparazzi - Laura Resnick The Esther Diamond series is one which I got into after discovering the second and third books in the devastated fantasy bookshelves when Borders went out of business. I have very much enjoyed it as a urban fantasy series which really doesn't focus on the love life of the heroine, has a main character who has really no special qualities at all, and the quirky side characters are always good for a few laughs. While this installment continues to have all of those characteristics, I am a little disappointed with other aspects. Basically, my biggest issue (and this especially in the forefront of my mind after reading and reviewing [b:Tricked|12700306|Tricked (Iron Druid Chronicles, #4)|Kevin Hearne|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1324455119s/12700306.jpg|16669362]) was the info dumps. Pages and pages of discussion and set-up of the types of vampires, background on where they come from, their governing council, etc. Some of this was shown through flashbacks, but the majority of it was given to us in the form of monologues by one or two characters. I'm for setting up a scene as much as the next person, but if the series follows its pattern so far, the likelihood that these details will come up again is small. Each book so far has dealt with mostly different magic than the books preceding it. So, I worry that I read through all those paragraphs and it won't even be necessary for me to know in the future. However, I will take this back as soon as I read the next book, [b:Polterheist|12612356|Polterheist (Esther Diamond, #5)|Laura Resnick|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347928386s/12612356.jpg|17627857] if there is the continued presence of the vampire characters. (Also come on these titles! Love it!)That being said, I loved the alternate mythology surrounding vampires that Resnick created. It was creative and explains Max's issue with Lithuanians. I hope that we see the vampire hunters in the future, as well as some of the other secondary characters. Having a character who is basically terrified of everything and worried about his sick cat be a vampire is genius! That was one reveal I quite enjoyed. It did seem rather convenient that there were quite a few characters in on the "secret" already. I do keep reading these books because Esther is definitely one of my favorite urban fantasy characters. She reacts in similar ways that I feel I would react if put in similar situations, mainly, she freaks out. This is reasonable! She is a normal person thrown into this universe that is in no way normal. Obviously this requires a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it is far more believable than some series, in my opinion, since it takes place in our time, with most of the rules of physics being followed (not to say that I am not able to suspend a lot more disbelief if the situation calls for it). And also, for the most part, I don't think she does anything to terribly stupid. Sometimes heroines are really good at the "Oh what, I had no idea this really obvious situation when I am alone is a set up for me being caught by this bad guy who I have been dealing with this WHOLE ENTIRE BOOK." She sticks with her friends, argues for a police escort when necessary, and basically does what she can to be safe. Also, she's from Wisconsin. I may be a bit biased. I'd like to make a note about the cover. When I first saw it I was a little frustrated because it was Esther in a skimpy dress, but it turns out for a large portion of the book she is wearing a dress like that one. I forget she's an actress. ;) The cover, surprisingly, accurately represents many portions of the book, and I like that a lot, much more so than covers that exist solely to have the heroine in a not physically possible pose. So, while it is a bit goofy, it is pretty true to elements of the story, and I do appreciate that. I would recommend Vamparazzi if you like a little bit more silliness with your urban fantasy or if you have read the previous installments in the series and enjoyed them. If you pick this one up looking for a Kat, Sookie or Jaz, you will definitely be disappointed. For the lighthearted laughs though, I would totally go with this one.
Tricked - Kevin Hearne Okay, so I like Atticus. And I really enjoy Oberon, you know, the dog. But a few characters does not a book make. I want to like these books so bad- the male protagonist isn't something I read very often, I enjoy the variety, and a druid in the southwest? How different can you get? Here's the problem with reading other people's reviews after you read a book. They point out things that you didn't really notice before, and then, when you think about it, or go on to read more in the series, you notice it more and more, and it starts to drive you nuts. In this case, I'm referring to the treatment of women characters in these novels. Gah! It is surprising how one-dimensional the women characters are. I really disliked the development of the relationship between Granuaile and Atticus. He finds a person to teach, who wants to become a druid, and all he can think about is how he wants her?! For real?! Too much. The other thing that really wore on me were the incredible info dumps. I like it when authors use alternate mythologies, ones which may need some explanation, but the extent of the explanation of some of the concepts was excessive, and I sometimes wanted to skip entire pages of text.Complaints aside, I'm going to continue to read the series. The things that are annoying aren't so annoying I can't get past them to enjoy the witty dialogue and various characters. And it definitely is fun to step away from urban fantasy driven by shape shifters and vampires, too. :)
Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein This is the second World War II book I've read in the past week, the first being The Book Thief. I hesitate to compare the two- the subject matter is not that similar, except the setting- but I found Code Name Verity much more well done. The capacity of humans to be so cruel to fellow humans always astounds me. In the past, in the present, and, I'm sure, in the future, there are and will be stories which will stretch my ability to comprehend how somebody could behave towards another person, or group of people. One of the most compelling facets of Code Name Verity is that while the story itself is fiction, you know (because we all know what a tragedy and horror World War II was), you just know that something like it could have happened.And in the face of that tragedy, you also see examples of amazing bravery and resistance to the evil. And again, while it is fiction, you know that there were brave, everyday people such as ourselves, who acted out in a variety of ways to defy the Nazis. Books with stories such as these always make me turn a mirror back on myself and I wonder if I could ever be as courageous. This, in my opinion, is what makes a good story a great book. Code Name Verity had parts where I laughed out loud, where I was scared, where I was astonished, and where I was sad. If you're looking for a light and fluffy book, this is not going to be what you want. But if you're looking for something that will make you think, this is it. I'm of the school of thought that we should never, ever forget the atrocities of our collective human history, lest we repeat them. And if stories such as these make them more real to people, make them contemplate the fact that awful things happened to good people, then it is worth the read.
Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville #9) - Carrie Vaughn I got a copy of this book through Goodreads and have had a hard time writing a review. I really enjoy the Kitty books, but I think a lot of that is because I've read all of them, and am very familiar with the multitude of characters and plot twists. Kitty's Big Trouble was lots of fun. It was very action-packed, and once it got going, it didn't stop. I enjoyed the inclusion of the more Asian mythology/religion aspects, because it was an interesting addition to the standard western mythology that so many urban fantasy books are based on. I like that Kitty always wants to learn and this means she keeps asking questions even if she isn't sure she'll get the answers. It's brains and brawn folks! Not that she's not good at fighting her way out of stuff, either.One downer to me is Cormac and Ben. I'm kind of over them as characters. Ben seems so bland, and Cormac, while he was always a quiet character, has lost some of the tension I associated with him in the past. The whole being possessed by a 100 year old sorceress is strange, too, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that yet. Overall, Kitty's Big Trouble isn't going to cause me to stop reading the series, but it wasn't a big improvement over the previous installments. I still like Kitty, so I'll stick with it!
Practice Makes Perfect - Julie James I've only recently gotten into contemporary romance novels, and I'm still not 100% sure I like the genre. I will admit I have liked Julie James' books far more than others, but I also may be biased because they are generally set in Chicago, and I have a thing for books set in Chicago.Anyway, after reading Practice Makes Perfect, I found myself wondering what exactly it is about contemporaries as a whole that bothers me. It isn't an outright annoyance, but more an annoying feeling at the back of my consciousness as I read. Romance novels all follow the same plot line, more or less, and have pretty stock characters, so why does setting matter so much? Then it occurred to me- in a historical romance, I expect an "old school" alpha male, because in all honesty, men were kind of dense and clueless and they looked down on women- it is just a fact of the time period. I'm not saying this is great behavior, or that I would appreciate it in real life, but it is easier for me to believe, and not think the hero is such an asshole.However, when you take those stock characters- the dense, clueless men who look down on women- and put them in modern times, they generally come off as misogynistic and insulting. Which is frustrating, because I like a strong alpha male type as much as the next girl, but at the same time, I'd like them to be smart and respect women as well. I don't think the two things are mutually exclusive. James does a good job of creating heros who don't come off as total asses. For the most part, I liked J.D., though I'll admit he did a few things that made me want to not like him (calling Payton a "feminazi, for example), he did change for the better as the book went on, and the transformation was more or less believable, and didn't seem too out of character. However, the one thing that really drove me up a wall, and which seemed like an unnecessary plot point was the backstory of J.D. telling their boss that he and Payton had slept together. That made me really really want to hate him, and I felt like she forgave him way too easily. That made me a bit angry. I feel like the plot could have done without that, because there was enough tension as it was.One of my biggest issues with the book was the nature of the conflict set up between the two characters. Not only did it seem ridiculously implausible (though, I will admit to not knowing anything about law firms) but I couldn't anticipate an ending which would have made me happy. Obviously, there was a happy ending (it is a romance novel) and maybe it was clear to other readers, but I didn't especially like the tension leading up to it. A lot of that is because the conflict became a general men vs women conflict, and not a J.D. vs Payton conflict. All in all, I did enjoy Practice Makes Perfect, and breezed through it. It was a fun read, and like her other books, I liked the interactions between the main characters.If you haven't read anything of James', I would suggest starting with the FBI series first. But if you have read her books before, you will likely enjoy this one.
172 Hours on the Moon - Johan Harstad, Tara F. Chace So, I heard a lot about 172 Hours on the Moon before it came out. And I was intrigued. Teenagers on the moon? Secret government base? Sign me up. At the end of the day, 172 Hours has pros and cons (as all books do) and I almost liked it in theory better than in practice. This book had one important thing going for it: I couldn't put it down. I read it on the train, on the bus, at work, at home, and I blazed through it, because I very badly wanted to know the crazy plot twist at the end. As many people have said, 172 Hours is more of a horror story than straight up science fiction. The problem is that after a lot of buildup, and some interesting plot devices, the ending seemed sort of hurried. After they get to the moon, everything happens very quickly. I feel that it would have been better, even possibly scarier, if the second half had been drawn out a bit more, with some more suspense. Another issue is that the characters didn't seem very fleshed out to me. While I enjoyed them, and liked what glimpses I got into personalities, I wanted to get to know them better. It would have been fascinating to hear about the kids' time in training, and their interactions with the adult astronauts, etc. The biggest problem is that when I finished the book I was confused. I like it when a story ties up loose ends, and I like having questions answered. But at the ending, there was a part which didn't seem right, and I kept re-reading to see if maybe I missed something. Unfortunately, I hadn't, which bothered me quite a bit. The last thing I will say is that I also appreciate the fact that it is a foreign book translated. Americans don't generally get the opportunities to read books from elsewhere in the world (especially if they have to be translated into English) and so I really liked that aspect of it as well, even if it didn't have that much bearing on the plot. Like I said, I couldn't put this book down. The plot was fun and quick and not similar to other science fiction type books I've read in the past. As a whole though, I wouldn't say that I liked this book, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to most people, but if you like scary, you will most likely enjoy the experience.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson It is nearly impossible for me to say anything about this book without drawing comparisons to Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword. Both feature reluctant heroines who are blessed with some sort of special-ness that they don't know how to handle, they both grow significantly throughout the book, and both stories have significant portions that take place in a desert! (Okay, maybe it was the desert that did it for me.)I really did enjoy The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I liked the characters, and I felt the pacing was well done- just when I may have begun to get bored, something exciting happened that drew me in farther. Enjoyable read, altogether. Not amazing, but likable and exciting nonetheless.
Divergent - Veronica Roth Divergent is a doorstop of a book, clocking in at almost 500 pages of actual story (and maybe another 50 of extra features) with about three words a page. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration, but I was able to finish this book in a day of quick reading. Unfortunately, I'm not completely sure how I feel about it. On one hand, it was fun, action-packed, and a really fast read. I didn't invest a lot in it, thank goodness, because it does have quite a few faults. First of all, there are frequently terms or concepts that are put out there without explanation. I wasn't entirely sure what the amity faction was all about until maybe halfway through the book, and even then I apparently was mistaken because I read somewhere they were about peace, when I believed they were creative. Not a huge deal, though, in the grand scheme of things, but when I assumed things based on context clues that later turned out to be wrong assumptions, clearly the concepts were not explained enough. I get showing, and not telling, but there was a little more room for telling in this book.Another thing is that for about 30 pages in the middle somewhere, I liked the underlying "message" of the book. Or what I thought was the underlying message. I was getting the feeling that it was making a statement about change, and how things can start out with the best of intentions, but be twisted by only a few people into something different and undesirable. And then, people started killing people, and I was kind of lost. I don't want to give anything away, but I didn't really like the violence in the book. Sometimes violence can, when used sparingly (in my opinion), have a very meaningful effect on a story. In this case, it seemed like the fighting and violence were written in for it's own sake, not to make any sort of point. It was gross and gruesome in a way it didn't need to be. I will say, and this is completely my own bias, that I love when books take place in Chicago, and from the few details, I really did enjoy imagining a future Chicago and what it would look like in the society created by Roth. But, since I know Chicago, I feel like it was easier for me than it would be for somebody who is not familiar with the city at all.Roth's writing style makes it very easy to get sucked in to the book. There were times when I am sure my heart was beating faster and I was genuinely terrified for the characters. But, I was scared for the characters because I don't want anything bad to happen to anybody, not necessarily the people whom I was supposed to like. Sure, I wanted the bad guys to go down. But that didn't mean I loved the main characters. In fact, Tris drove me insane. She was reckless and immature, and didn't seem to grow at all. Like I said, there were a few moments when I thought she was getting it (when her and Four were discussing the purpose of an exercise) and then she went back to being the same annoying character she was before the conversation. So. If you are looking for something with a lot of action, and you aren't particularly picky about tons of violence, and you don't expect amazing things, you will probably like this book. If I hadn't started thinking about it, I would definitely have enjoyed it a lot more. But I will likely not be picking up the sequel.
A Long, Long Sleep - Anna Sheehan I bought the Kindle version of this book when it was cheap, and it took me a long time to get into it. It was slow going at the beginning, but eventually picked up, and I very much enjoyed it as a whole. The story is a Sleeping Beauty retelling, with the main character Rose waking up after decades in 'stasis.' The whole world has obviously changed, going through a dark period when many people died, and Rose is the heir to what is now a massive interplanetary corporation. All of a sudden, Rose is thrown back into living, and then somebody is trying to kill her! Fairy tale retellings are some of my favorite types of stories. And who can resist a book set in the future, with science fiction and dystopian elements? (In case it is not obvious, not me.) So when I sat down to read this book, I was very excited. I got less so as I started. The story starts out slow, and I could not get into it at all. Rose, the main character, was dull, I didn't like any of the characters surrounding her, the world building seemed mediocre, and the danger to Rose was slow in coming. Luckily, it got better. I forced myself to keep reading, and I was definitely rewarded. The book picks up after a certain point, and I went from being way unengaged to not able to put it down levels of interest. As you read, you discover why Rose seems dull, and the characters around her are fleshed out to people you want to learn more about. The level of intrigue grows, until you find out who would want to kill Rose, and why, and it turns out to be something you never would have guessed. Rose grows a lot as a character, and as you learn more about her, she makes sense and it is gratifying to watch her change. Her growth is clearly the focus of the book. I also liked that this book is a single book, and not a first in a series. While it leaves open the possibility for more, it has a satisfying ending, with the story line tied up, not in a too perfect way, but in a realistic, doesn't leave any huge burning questions way.A Long, Long Sleep is definitely worth the time, and a fun read. I would recommend it if you like young adult fiction and books with awesome characters.
By a Thread - Jennifer Estep By a Thread surprised me, I have to say. Honestly, my biggest complaint about books one through five was the constant repetition of the phrase “get dead.” Gin probably said something to that effect once every other page, and it was distracting and annoying. I got it. She is an assassin. Things could happen and she could get dead. I’ve read other reviews that pointed out the frequent mention of her knives, her ice and stone magic, and other things being repeated in general. True, there is a bit of repetition, but by book six, I frequently need the reminder of what happened in the previous books to understand some of the smaller points.In By a Thread, Gin goes off on vacation with her sister, Bria, and their respective love interests. Of course she soon discovers some local nastiness going on, with an extremely powerful vampire at the head of it. And doubly of course, she has to kill said vampire. She’s an assassin. Duh. I was worried about where this book would go, because for the first five books, Gin was so focused on killing Mab Monroe (which took five books) that it seemed like anything after that success would feel anti-climactic.Luckily, this book wasn’t boring at all. By putting Gin in a new environment, there was a new bad guy, new supporting characters, and the opportunity for Gin’s relationship with her sister to grow. There was actual substance to the feelings and emotions surrounding the two of them, and it was interesting to watch the dynamic change over the course of the book. Also, Gin’s former love interest, the man who ditched her, shows up again, and I really appreciated Gin’s reaction to him.One annoyance is that it seemed awfully easy for Gin to kill the vampire antagonist, while it took her five books worth of action to kill Mab Monroe. But now I am really curious about what direction the next book will take, with Gin and Co. heading back home.So, despite the fact that the characters are a bunch of magic using bad asses, I really could relate to the emotions and interactions, and that gave the book the bit of push it needed. This was a great quick little read, and definitely worth it for fans of the earlier books.