Hat on Top, Coat Below


archives    home    e-mail   

Books 2015

Books I read in 2015, organized by category and then alphabetically by author:

< < 2014  2016 > >

Non-Fiction—Memoir, Autobiography, Biography:

We Are the Road Crew, Ken Barr
Would have benefited greatly from editing; the lack of possessive apostrophes in particular distracted me, especially coupled with instances of apostrophes where they did not belong (for instance, “on it’s own”). It was also frustrating when the author would allude to things he wasn’t writing about. “South America back in the eighties was a wild place. There is a lot I would like to talk about, but I don’t think this book is the right place.” Really? A book about your experiences traveling with bands is not the right place to share stories from those travels? Or this: “There were things that happened at the last show that I think we all could have done without. I don’t think it merits details, just to let you know the road isn’t all sunshine and roses.” I don’t get it. Either tell us or don’t, but “vaguebooking” is just annoying. Even the stories that were told didn’t have enough detail for me—I want to know what was in the author’s workbox, and what the reasoning is behind the advice on which side of the bus to grab a bunk on—yet I got way too much detail on the two gross poop stories that were included.

Double Header, Diphallic Dude
So glad I didn’t spend money on this one. Early on, reference is made to an editor; if that’s true and there was an editor involved, that person needs to find another line of work. This was a mess, with many typos, much repetition, lack of elaboration in important areas, and on and on. At least it was short.

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Debra Ginsberg (P)
I’ve never worked in food service (except for a one-afternoon stint in a concession stand when my brother was in Little League) so looked to this book for insight into what goes on in that world. I got some of that, and some information about the author’s life family life, and an odd chapter about waitresses as depicted in movies that seemed like a college paper dropped into the book to pad out the page count.

Five Weeks in the Amazon: A Backpacker’s Journey Sean Michael Hayes
This really could have used more editing. I reads like barely touched up diary entries, and was so easy to put down that it took me ages to finish it. I have no doubt the experience was transformative for the author, but it was told in such a way that I was not engaged.

Follow the Yarn: The Knitting Wit & Wisdom of Ann Sokolowski, Reba Linker
This is an odd combination of knitting tips, stitch patterns, biography, autobiography, and writing memoir. None of the topics seems covered especially well.

3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White, Ron Miles
This was the perfect book for the sentimental Disney theme park fan in me. Sure, there were some parts that reminded me of the tedious trip reports that I tend to skip when I come across them online, but those were a minor aspect. I loved seeing the Florida parks through this family’s eyes, and sobbed my way through the last chapter because it was Disney magic at its best.

Coming Clean: A Memoir, Kimberly Rae Miller
This memoir of growing up in a hoarding household struck such a chord with me. I am impressed that that author was able to write it while her parents are still alive and was able to write it without demonizing them.

Seriously Mum, What’s an Alpaca? , Alan Parks
A memoir about a couple who retire to Spain to raise alpacas despite not speaking Spanish or having any experience with livestock. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** If it were just the people who struggled in this story, I would have enjoyed this more, but I had a hard time with the animals who suffered. It seemed irresponsible to me for the authors to start raising alpacas in a remote area of a foreign country where they lacked easy access to an experienced vet or even other alpaca farmers. I get that sometimes you need to make a leap, but to do so at the expense of innocent animals feels wrong.

Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart: An Adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail, Carrot Quinn
This is the third book I’ve read in the last several years by someone who hiked the PCT. I thought this one could have used more editing, but perhaps it was as long and repetitious as it was to give a flavor of the long and repetitious journey the author was on. I’m glad I stuck with reading it; there were some funny moments in the later section that I would have missed if I hadn’t.

Off My Rocker: One Man’s Tasty, Twisted, Star-Studded Quest for Everlasting Music, Kenny Weissberg
In contrast to “We Are the Road Crew”, I felt like I got plenty of details in this memoir. I didn’t get the sense that too much was glossed over—if that were happening, surely the author would have left out the part where his future wife was married to someone else when they met and started their relationship. I didn’t know all the names that were dropped here, but knew enough of them to stay interested. I appreciated the section where the author reflected on the changes he’s seen in music and other areas, probably mostly because I’ve lived through a lot of those same things.

Daddy: A Memoir, Madison Young (P)
I was not familiar with Ms. Young’s career before I got this book as part of a package deal. It was interesting to read the vignettes of her experiences in the worlds of art and porn, less interesting to read of her midwestern childhood (maybe because I had one of those myself and hers wasn’t woven into her later experiences in a way that felt it really needed to be in the book at all).

Non-Fiction—Everything Else:

No Stone Unturned: The True Story of the World’s Premier Forensic Investigators, Steve Jackson
Though this book was about the NecroSearch organization, I was most interested not in that organization and how it came to be but in the people in the case stories that form the bulk of this book, the families and detectives affected before NS showed up.

Dealing With Your Money $hit: Money Management That Focuses On Investing In Your Happiness And Creating A Budget To Attract Abundance, Cassie Parks
This had way too many links to the author’s website embedded in the text; it’s not the kind of book you can read offline and get the full effect. I think there might be some good ideas in here (if you aren’t put off by new-agey positive thinking) but I kept getting annoyed by accidentally tapping on a link and being prompted to turn on wifi.

Brain Fog and Stress: Better Brain Health by Managing Stress Now, M. Chris Wolf
If one is writing a book targeted at people who are stressed and suffering from brain fog, one should pay extra attention to structure and editing so as not to further stress one’s readers. This author didn’t do that. There’s a mish mash of general information, anecdotes that do not at all ring true, random tips thrown in with no support or explanation, and gems like this: “A long jogging session combined with an intense yoga practice or a refreshing swim after a stressful day at work will greatly help you to relieve stress and lead a stress-free life.” At least I got a few laughs from statements like that one. If I went for a long jog plus did an intense yoga session after my stressful days at work, I’d get home about midnight, which would add to my stress, what with not being able to get enough sleep before heading into work the next day. At some points, the text reads like it was written by a non-native English speaker and not edited by one either. For instance, “Did you engage in some activity like meditation, listening to relaxing music, yoga, watching a humorous film, did some deep breathing exercises, took a break from your work?” Just no; that’s not how to make a list.

Fiction—Paranormal, Romance, Erotica:

It’s In His Heart, Shelly Alexander
This contemporary romance was not for me. The repeated references to the heroine’s Beamer grated on me. Some word choices struck me as odd (photographs “garnished” the walls instead of decorated them, a brand of underwear was “used” instead of worn). The hero lost a lot of points with me when it was explained how he’d never dated a particular woman because he had respect for her. The heroine’s references to how much money her romance novels had made her and how popular they were seemed unnecessarily braggy. The heroine finished a draft of a novel and immediately sent it to her editor without reviewing or revising or anything, which may explain some things about this book. What really grated was a section about a charity raft race. I am not a whitewater expert, but I’ve paddled enough to know that you don’t run an event that allows newbie paddlers to negotiate a class four rapid without setting safety at that rapid. I also know you don’t use double bladed paddles unless you are not in a raft but a duckie. And that there’s no such thing as “an expert Olympian rafter” since there is no rafting in the Olympics, just kayaking and canoeing.

Christmas With You, Tracey Alvarez
Cute and fun. Any romance with a sly reference to How the Grinch Stole Christmas is for me.

Prince in Exile, H. J. Bradley
Pro: bisexual hero. Con: stilted dialog, editing issues (many homonym issues—discrete instead of discreet, weary instead of wary, etc.—overly repetitive use of some words and phrases), too abrupt of a cliffhanger for my taste.

Lost Highlander, Cassidy Cayman
Pro: I was actually surprised by a couple of plot points. Cons: Time travel, typos (more than one it’s that should be its, for instance) and some odd word choices (a flight being “maxed out” or a Sub-Zero appliance described as “chrome” instead of stainless, for example).

The Air He Breathes, Brittainy Cherry
I picked this as my October checkout from the Amazon Prime lending library because it was so well rated. It took me nearly six weeks to finish it because I apparently am at odds with the majority of reviewers. There are some elements of a good book here, but the plot coincidences and spiral into a mystery/thriller near the end just didn’t work for me.

Raspberries and Vinegar, Valerie Comer
I picked this up because it’s set in northern Idaho, which I one day plan to make my home. I didn’t realize a) it’s a chaste Christian romance where characters talk about God a lot and espouse anti-abortion sentiments or b) the author “took the liberty of redrawing the state’s map north of Coeur d’Alene” (quoting from her afterword here). Both of those things frustrated me, the first so much that I put the book down for a while. I did pick it back up, and mostly enjoyed the story, with the exception of an unnecessarily cruel plot point. The geography was very distracting, though. I spent a lot of time thinking things like “okay, if the town is 3 hours from Couer d’Alene starting north on 95, either this guy drives really slowly or the Idaho panhandle in this universe is either very wide or extends up into Canada quite a ways” and “if Wynnton is an hour from Galena Landing, which is 3 hours from CdA, it’s not really halfway between the two like that chick said”. This maybe is why I shouldn’t read contemporary novels set in the real world.

A Game of Brides, Megan Crane
Not sure where I got this, as it doesn’t seem to be on Amazon now. I liked this short romance; since the main couple had a history, the compressed timeline felt more reasonable. I had a few quibbles, sure, but overall it was a good read.

The Arrangement, Cat Grant
I found the first installment of this series too angsty and drama-filled for my taste, but figured I’d give this fourth book a try when I showed up on the Kindle free books list. I wasn’t won over to the series by this one, either.

The Escort, Ramona Gray
This is one of those books that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go despite credulity-stretching plot points (and more typos than I like to see in a book this short).

Untamed 1: Untamed, Victoria Green and Jinsey Reese
The authors’ forward takes pains to explain that this is a serial, not just one book chopped up into pieces, but the difference is somewhat lost on me since we don’t get a real ending in either case. Also has an annoying young heroine—hi, I’m old.

Drake Restrained, S. E. Lund
Neither a good romance or a good BDSM tale. Hero exhibits some stalkery behavior. References 50 Shades as “those books”; seems to want to be the next 50 Shades, which is not a good thing to aim for in my opinion.

Sexy in Stilettos, Nana Malone
I am all for graphic sex scenes, but there were a few too many here even for me.

Lost in Temptation, Lauren Royal
Such a light read that I’ve already forgotten most of it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, just it didn’t stick with me.

Flirting with Felicity, Gerri Russell
Romance novels often have a compressed timeline, with couples falling in love over the course of a few days or weeks. This book is no exception, and I’m okay with that; it’s part of the territory. What I’m not okay with is all the other wonkiness in the timeline and various logic/plot issues. This is a contemporary romance. These people live in the U.S., in the present day, not in some exotic realm where time works differently. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** For example, on one day, the hero and heroine meet up slightly after 10 a.m., do a cooking class, spend three hours touring the hotel they’re fighting over (the text makes it quite clear it’s three hours for this part), observe a wedding (which the text rightly says is an afternoon event), and look at some items in storage. After all that, the heroine says “Prepare yourself for a long afternoon and evening in the kitchen. It’s time to prep for lunch, then dinner.” Prep for lunch? It’s got to be at least 3 p.m. by now, way late to eat lunch, much less prepare for it. Other days were similarly jam packed with activities that couldn’t all fit in the time the narrative said they did. Leaving the timeline issues aside (maybe they had a time turner like Hermione and just didn’t mention it), there were plenty of other things that bothered me. Like a hero with his own plane saying he did not make it to a funeral because his flight was delayed. By what? Doesn’t say. He sure wasn’t sitting in the terminal waiting on a connecting flight to come in or a crew to arrive. I might not have been so annoyed by these things if the hero and heroine had been more engaging characters or the sex scenes hotter, but alas they were not. I’ve seen reviews knocking this as Harlequin-esque, which isn’t fair to Harlequin.

The Brands Who Came for Christmas, Maggie Shayne
Oh, the drama at the end—it was cinematic. I liked the heroine’s quirky family. I did not like the heroine’s out of character action that sets the main plot in motion.

Master of the Mountain, Cherise Sinclair
I read another Cherise Sinclair BDSM novel a couple years ago and didn’t especially like it. Fortunately, I’d forgotten about that when this one in a different series from her was recommended to me. This one I liked a lot. I seemed more believable and sane. Sure, it still had the unrealistic compressed timeline so typical of the genre, and the characters sometimes did dumb stuff, but I was so engaged in the scenes that I didn’t much care about those other factors.

Master of the Abyss, Cherise Sinclair
I could have done without the crime subplot and the neat resolution of the hero’s reluctance to commit but still enjoyed the heck out of this.

How to Break a Cowboy, Daire St. Denis
Even though is supposedly book 1 of something called the Savage Tales, it didn’t feel the like start of something new. I noticed editing errors (edition for addition, grate for gyrate) which tells me I wasn’t drawn in, because when I am, I am better able to scan past such things. I don’t mind M/M or M/M/F or M/M/F/M or whatever but I’d rather have it in the context of more plot than this.

Tattoo Thief, Heidi Joy Tretheway
I fear I am too old to enjoy books about 20-somethings who screw over their friends and violate their employment contracts. I wouldn’t hire the heroine to watch my dog or my apartment.

The Businessman’s Tie, Deena Ward
I almost put this down after the intial BDSM encounter, which occurred before the heroine had even said one word to the businessman of the title. No negotiation there, which is bad BDSM. I did keep reading, though, and later there were some nods to the safe, sane, consensual ethic, so it wasn’t entirely bad BDSM. I found the heroine’s reasoning about the decision she makes at the end of the book lacking. I’m not sure I’m interested enough in how that turns out to buy the other books in this series.

Shooter, Dahlia West
Yet another novel my brain wouldn’t let me fully enjoy because the plot had too many things that didn’t make sense to me. Most of the negative reviews I read on Amazon after I finished the book objected to foul language and graphic sex (the latter didn’t even start until quite far into the book), neither of which bothered me at all. Instead, I was trying to connect the dots between what happened in the heroine’s past and her reaction to it and figure out how the big bad could have possibly pulled off what he did, among other head scratchers. I’m pretty good at shrugging off stuff like this in movies or tv shows, but hold books to higher standards. A book can be as long as it needs to be to tell the story. If this book couldn’t be any longer for some reason, surely one of the multiple poker night or breakfast scenes could have been replaced with more explanation of iffy plot points.

Cover Me, L.A. Witt
I loved this so much that I started reading the second book in the series a couple days after I finished this one. It’s contemporary and first person, which was two strikes against it before I even got going, but I got pulled in big time.

Trust Me, L.A. Witt
Even grittier than the first in the series, pushing my limits of violence, but I still liked it.

Fiction—Everything Else:

Wreckage, Emily Bleeker
I just don’t know. The ending was very tidy—too tidy, in my view. A lot of plot points don’t make sense, though some could if they were fleshed out more. I wanted to know more about the whys behind the very short search and much delayed rescue. There definitely needed to be more elaboration on the infertility plot point, as I don’t think that’s how egg donation works at all. Most annoyingly, it’s not really explained why the main character did the interview that the book is framed around or pushed to have her fellow castaway do it.

Soy Sauce for Beginners, Kristen Chen
I found myself impatient with the heroine for much of the book, probably because it’s hard for me to relate to a 30 year old who seemed so dependent on her family. I did feel better about her by the end of the book, so that speaks to there being some character development, which is good.

The Midwife’s Revolt, Jodi Daynard
Female-focused historical novel set during the American Revolution, with Abigail Adams making frequent appearances. What’s not to like?

When I Found You, Catherine Ryan Hyde
This didn’t really seem like the sort of book I’d enjoy, but it was so good. Sad, but good.

Where We Belong, Catherine Ryan Hyde
Put this one on my Kindle because I so enjoyed the first book I read from this author. This one was better. The themes of the two are similar, but I could relate much more to the young protagonist in this one.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson (P)(BC)
If this were not for book club, I probably would have abandoned reading it. The initial premise was charming but after the initial climb out the window and immediate aftermath, I lost interest. The hero didn’t seem to have much interest in anything going on, either in the present day or in the many flashbacks in which he was involved with important historical figures. A lot of stuff happens, but it all felt flat. Maybe it’s the translation? Maybe it’s that I lack a Swedish sensibility that would make this funnier or more engaging?

Future Perfect, Jen Larsen (P)
(full disclosure: I know the author well enough to have gone along to a post-reading dinner) I wish I could take this book in a time machine and give it to my junior high self to read. I think it would have helped with the body image issues I’ve only recently really come to terms with.

Bum Rap, Paul Levine
Readable legal adventure. A few too many specific street name references that probably resonate with Miami natives.

Is This All There Is? , Patricia Mann
***SPOILERS AHEAD*** The heroine is a 30-something part time professor and mom who has a more emotional than physical affair with a former student. Not escapist fiction; spent much of my time annoyed with the heroine.

Younger, Suzanne Munshower
The premise of the product at the center of this novel interested me much more than the mystery that propelled the plot. The part of the experience the protagonist thought was boring was one I wished were covered in more detail.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, Camille Pagan
In contrast to Five Weeks in the Amazon, this book grabbed and and didn’t let go; I read it in one afternoon. I had some problems with how the protagonist reacted to events in the story, but that didn’t turn me off or away. I cried sometimes but was left feeling happy and satisfied with the experience.

The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher (P) (BC)
Unlike many folks in the book club, I’d never read this sprawling novel before, so had no comforting memories to associate with it. I found it hard to get through, actually. I didn’t find any of the characters particularly sympathetic, felt no emotional resonance from major events in the story, and found the reveal of a mystery surrounding one character quite underwhelming. My comfort reading these days is BDSM novels, so I suppose it’s no surprise that I didn’t connect with this slow paced, emotionally restrained, and in large part historical novel.

3 a.m. , Nick Pirog
Intriguing setup with a hero who is only awake for 1 hour a day. It’s necessary to just accept his condition, because it’s not explained in a way that makes much sense. Many of the plot points require disbelief to be not just suspended but packed up in a box and shipped far away. All that said, I enjoyed reading it.

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation, Erica Ridley
Pleasant and light, though a bit too short to really develop the connection between the hero and heroine; perhaps that gets delved into in the next book in the series.

Crow Hollow, Michael Wallace
Set in Colonial New England in 1676. Mostly an adventure tale, with some mystery and a touch of romance. I liked that the heroine had some agency, though how realistic that was for the time period, I’m not so sure.

archives    home    e-mail   

Powered by WordPress