[Ren] Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant

Black Dog (Bannon's Gym #1) by Cat GrantReview copy badgeAvengers vs X-Men badgeTitle: Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1)
Author: Cat Grant
Published: April 1st, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblegoodreads

Ever since Isa called it the “dog book by cat author” this book makes me giggle. It’s actually a pretty sad book about a runaway kid with an abusive father who is taken in by the owner of a diner. Then the kid starts training with the same boxing trainer who used to go out with the diner owner, but of course there are Issues and Emotional Baggage to deal with before everyone can get their happy(ish) ending.

What threw me most about this book is the three different POVs, one of which is in first person POV for whichever reason. That bothered me so much because it was like it made Eddie the protagonist in a way, while overall it felt as if Tom’s narrative was the most important. Even though at the end Eddie and Danny are together so by M/M romance standards this is “their” book. I don’t know, I felt as if my attention was being pulled in different directions without a clear focus. The ending too felt unfinished, like this is just a piece of a bigger story rather than a standalone book.

Character-wise, though, I liked all three protagonists and quite a few of the secondary characters. I actually got emotional towards the end because I was so invested in Tom’s story. To be honest I’m basing my rating almost only on feelings here; I might complain that the ending was predictable but it still had me worried sick over the fate of the protagonists.

I’m definitely going to check out the next book, and hopefully with a longer page count every character’s storyline will be tied together in a more cohesive way. For now I don’t feel like recommending this book to everyone, but if you’re looking for a quick read that first sucker-punches you in the feels and then pats you lovingly, this book is your book.
Ren

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Top Ten Tuesday • Books I Want To Reread

top ten tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme/feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Top Ten Books I Want To Reread

Harry Potter 1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Because I always want to reread Harry Potter. I used to read all of the old books when a new one came out, which means I read Philosopher’s Stone dozens of times but Deathly Hallows only once. I tried to reread them all a while back but I only got up to Prisoner of Azkaban before getting distracted. Rereading all of Harry Potter is tough, as Isa knows well.
A Song of Ice and Fire 2. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Even less likely than Harry Potter. I might eventually reread this when The Winds of Winter comes out, if only because it’s been so long I’ve forgotten half of the plot threads.
Discworld series 3. Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
I love this one, but with 30+ books it will take me a while. Usually I just reread Monstrous Regiment, which is my favourite and also a standalone, so I’ve quite forgotten what happens in the other books. It would be interesting to go back to the very start, though.
Good Omens 4. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
If my sister hasn’t stolen it. This one’s easy, I’m definitely going to reread Good Omens every couple of year because it’s one of those books I’ll never get tired of.
Red Seas Under Red Skies 5. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Every time I try to reread this book I just go and reread The Lies of Locke Lamora instead. It’s like a curse. Red Seas isn’t bad, but I just love Lies so much! And I’m scared to read the third book because terrible things will most likely happen to the characters, so I’m stuck rereading the first book, in which terrible things still happen but at least I know about those in advance.
Know Not Why 6. Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson
Another of the “must reread once a year” books. I’ll save it for a rainy day, because it’s just adorable and always warms me up from the inside of my cold frozen heart.
Temeraire series 7. Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
Like with the Scott Lynch books, I started rereading this series but didn’t make much headway. I’ve got to reread the first books if I want to find out what happens to Granby in the newest book, though, so sooner or later I’ll get around to them.
Sandokan 8. All of Emilio Salgari‘s Corsairs books and Sandokan books
I’m sure they will be quite terrible but they’re my childhood. Unfortunately my paperbacks are literally sellotaped together and I’m not sure I’ll find an ebook version. I’m not sure I even want an ebook version, I like my cheap paperbacks with the footnotes explaining about how Salgari basically didn’t research anything and just made up stuff. But the paperbacks are falling apart, so it’s a vicious circle.
Captive Prince 9. Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Except the author is still finishing the third book and if I reread the first two now it’ll be painful because I’ll be left with the cliffhanger. It’s not a really awful cliffhanger, but still…
Keeping the Castle 10. Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
I’ve read it only a few months ago but it’s such an adorable book, I think it’s be another book I’ll reread again and again. I liked the light-heartedness and the humour.

Do you reread books? Which series would you reread?

Ren

[Ren] Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin #5) by Jordan L. Hawk

Bloodline by Jordan L. HawkAvengers vs X-Men badgeTitle: Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin #5)
Author: Jordan L. Hawk
Published: October 7th, 2014
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

In this new instalment of the series we go back to New England and foggy Widdeshins for a mystery that’s centered on Whyborne and his family. That’s… more or less all I can say without spoiling the story, but suffice to say that it’s a very solid entry in a very good series. I like some books better than others but so far there isn’t a single “bad” entry in the series — which is the highest praise I can think of. Every book has its place in the series, and all those details about the Whybornes that we learned in the previous books come together in Bloodline.

I complained a couple of books ago that the interactions between characters were starting to feel repetitive. It happens sometimes, with longer series, when the author finds a formula that they like and they don’t want to change it for fear of alienating their readers. I thought that was happening here too. I stand corrected: Bloodline not only changes the status quo, it blows it to smithereens.

Whyborne is still himself but he’s slowly gained confidence about his magical powers and he’s not second-guessing himself at every step like he used to. The genre doesn’t feel like horror any more, though, it’s more of a suspenceful story with occasional monsters. Maybe I’ve become inured to cosmic horrors after a while but I miss the chill down my spine that the first two books gave me. The mysterious fish people from the sea weren’t very scary at all, though they were certainly entertaining to read about.

Some of the plot twists (especially the one about Whyborne’s sister) were easy to guess but others were complete surprises; I still can’t believe the author went there! It’s a gamble, and I’m sure it will alienate some readers, but personally I loved that Jordan L. Hawk had the guts to take the characters in this direction. For the last several chapters I was convinced that this was the last book, because so much was happening and it felt like a series finale. And then in the last page… the announcement for the next book.

It will be interesting to see how the series goes forward after this. Whyborne and Griffin (and Christine!) are still favourites of mine and if you like M/M romance you owe it to yourself to check out this series.
Ren

Pick-For-Me • November

Pick For Me

Pick-For-Me is a monthly feature where each of us picks two books for the other to read. Click here for details.


October Thoughts

October Picks

Isa: Those were some neat picks! Since I can barely manage to read one book per month these days, I opted for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I liked it well enough, too!. Obviously I didn’t get around to Patrick Ness. Ren is not the first one to tell me to read it, so I swear I’m not going to just kick it off my TBR one day. It’s going to be read. I swear.

Ren: After last month’s picks were posted, I saw two or three reviews about Salt and Storm that were less than positive; in particular they said that the story was very romance-heavy, and since I was mostly interested in this book for the magic and the adventure, I’m not sure I’m going to read it any more. I did start The Kneebone Boy but unfortunately I’m not fond of the narrator so it’s slow reading. On a more positive note, though, I finally finished The Heiresses from August’s Pick-For-Me! It was hilariously terrible and I’m going to post a review soon!

Goodreads Links:
The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieSalt & StormThe Kneebone Boy


November Picks

Ren for Isa

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Witch for Hire

On Goodreads:
Witch For HireThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

Ren: Since it was Halloween and all, I thought Isa might like a book about witches. And, er, one about wallflowers, which has nothing to do with Halloween at all. I only have a vague idea of what The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about, so I’m hoping Isa will read it and tell me. I hope those books are short enough that you’ll find the time to read one of them!

Isa for Ren

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas

On Goodreads:
Moon CalledThe Midwife’s Tale

Isa: Ren requested short books, so I picked these because they are short. Ish. They’re shortish, Rennie. I’ve been eyeing Moon Called for a while now, though not necessarily for myself, so I hope to get Ren’s opinion on it. The Midwife’s Tale I chose because midwives. I dunno why but I connect midwives with you now, Ren.


Are you also doing the pick-for-me challenge with a friend or over at Amy’s LJ community? What do you think of our picks this month? Let us know in the comments!
Isa and Ren

[Ren] The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia Grey

The Circus of the Damned by Cornelia GreyReview copy badgeAvengers vs X-Men badgeTitle: The Circus of the Damned
Author: Cornelia Grey
Published: November 3rd, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

The summary of this book ticked all my boxes — steampunk, m/m romance, set in a circus! And written by an author who’s from the same corner of the world as me. I was very curious to read this, and happily it did not disappoint. The Circus of the Damned is about magician Gilbert Blake, who has to skip town in a hurry after he’s caught using his magic to cheat at cards. He joins the titular circus to have a place to hide, but he realizes too late that all the performers are cursed never to leave the circus, not even after death.

I flip-flopped for a long while on the rating, because while I did enjoy the story a lot there were also some parts that made me roll my eyes. I even made a list of pros and cons. The pros were that it was a quick read, despite the 300+ pages I finished it in two days. I liked the minor characters (Humphreys!) and the setting was great, I loved the atmosphere of the circus. The reveal about the devil Farfarello was completely unexpected and I enjoyed that very much. Also, that sex scene with magic.

The pacing was mostly good: the book started off in the middle of Gilbert trying to cheat some guy at cards and then things kept happening one after the other. Unfortunately that made it even more noticeable when the action lulled. I felt like a couple of chapters could have been skipped entirely because nothing at all happened and they felt like padding. Some of the minor characters also felt like padding, there were so many people in the circus that I couldn’t keep all of them straight in my head. Is the bear Mildred or Matilda? And who the hell is Ramona again?

The cons were that I’m not completely sold on the two leads, there was a bit too much instalove and I much prefer UST and pining. For being as old as he is, Jesse acted like a fucking teenager who didn’t consider the (obvious) consequences of his actions. Also, I expected a little more out of the ending; after all the build-up to the final confrontation, everything was tied up too neatly. Gilbert’s mouse was completely useless: she’s mentioned often in the beginning, and then less and less, until I kept forgetting she was even around. I didn’t get the point of the mouse. Also, there was some weird phrasing here and there. My biggest pet peeve is that I have no idea where the story is set. The only city mentioned by name is Shadowsea so I’m thinking fictional universe with magic. But then the author mentions Italy and Asia, so… I got nothing.

Overall, though, I think this book is better than the sum of its parts. There are books where after a week I remember only the bad bits, while with this book what I remember most is that it was fun! So, four full teacups, and I’d definitely read a sequel or another story set in the same world, wherever that may be!
Ren

[Ren] Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham

Reunited by Hilary Weisman GrahamTitle: Reunited
Author: Hilary Weisman Graham
Published: June 12th, 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Alice, Tiernan and Summer used to be best friends but they broke up in freshman year over a quarrel. Now, in the summer after graduation, they decide to get back together and drive 2,000 miles to the reunion concert of the boy band they used to love.

I have mixed feelings on Reunited. The first few chapters were the ones I liked better, while towards the end the book definitely started to become boring and predictable. I’m a big fan of storied centered on friendship, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. My favourite bits were definitely the friendship, the road trip, and the way the girls were nostalgic about the past and at the same time worried and excited about the future.

However, I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to anyone who’s not in their teens. As you might know I read a lot of YA, and I don’t mind reading about characters who are younger than me, but in this case the girls wasted so much time arguing over the kind of issues that only bratty teens consider important. The whole book felt somewhat immature. Alice in particular frustrated me more and more as the book went on. She’s supposed to be the organized, anal-retentive one, but in the end she’s just the biggest ditz. If she typed a timetable detailing how many hours and miles they’ll have to drive every day to reach the towns where she planned to stay the night, and if she checked three different weather websites for those towns, how come she didn’t bloody book accommodations in advance?

Towards the end of the book especially, it felt as if the girls kept screwing things up, were saved by a really contrived stroke of luck, and then managed to screw things up again anyway. Rinse and repeat. I felt like there wasn’t any character growth at all — yes, the girls made up in the end, but they remained the same brats that they were in the beginning. It feels like a shame, given how much potential they had.

The other thing that bugged me to no end were the constant allusions to the Winter Wonderland Dance, which is when Alice, Tiernan and Summer stopped being friends. It came up in every single chapter but the author never elaborated and what precisely happened. I guess that since the end of the book is so predictable, she felt that she needed something suspenseful. But the big revelation about the Winter Wonderland Dance is that (spoiler!) had a row because Tiernan told Alice that Summer said that her new boyfriend didn’t like her. Or at any rate something as underwhelming as that, to be honest I wasn’t paying much attention.

It’s not a bad book, there definitely were some entertaining scenes and it made me smile several times. But it definitely emphasizes the Young in YA, rather than the Adult.
Ren

[Ren] The Jade Temptress (Pingkang Li Mysteries #2) by Jeannie Lin

The Jade Temptress (Pingkang Li Mysteries #2) by Jeannie LinTitle: The Jade Temptress (Pingkang Li Mysteries #1)
Author: Jeannie Lin
Published: March 3rd, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

This second book in the series returns to ancient China and to the Pingkang Li pleasure quarter to explore the story of Mingyu, the sister of the first book’s protagonist and one of the most celebrated courtesans in the city. It took me a while to get into this book, I started it right after finishing the first one but I kept putting it off because it couldn’t hold my attention. Eventually, though, the interactions between the two leads got me hooked.

I liked this book way better than the other one, overall. I’ll admit that for me only two things really matter in regard to romances: writing style and protagonists. In this case I felt as if both were better compared to The Lotus Palace. For the writing, it might be simply that this time I already knew in advance that the plot would be too convoluted to try and guess the murderer and so I just focused on the romance part. But I also felt as if there were less loose strands at the end, less last-minute all-changing revelations. This made it much easier for me to focus on the personal aspects of the case.

As for Wu Kaifeng and Mingyu, it really boils down to personal preference: I found their romance much more believable, and their obstacles much more realistic. I’m also a fan of love-hate relationships (or hate turning to love as in this case) so this book was right up my alley. I still don’t understand while M/F authors write series about different couples linked by family or friendship ties, as opposed to M/M authors who write series about the same couple evolving over time; but I do enjoy getting to spend multiple books in the same world, and in this case having Mingyu’s backstory from the first book definitely helped because this book could start in the middle of things without having to setting up the scene.

I don’t know if Jeannie Lin is planning to write more books in this series, but if she did I’d definitely want to read Wei Wei’s story!
Ren

Top Ten Tuesday • New Series I Want To Start

top ten tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme/feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Top Ten New Series I Want To Start

The prompt said new as in within the last year or two, but I am trying to keep my TBR small and I don’t have that many new series in my TBR. So I just did new series as in within the last decade or two. Those have been recced to me at one time or another but mostly I have no idea what they’re about…

The Shadow Campaigns The Knots Duology The Dagger and the Coin The Assassini
The Shadow Campaigns • The Knots Duology • The Dagger and the Coin • The Assassini

Spiritwalker The Poisoner Mysteries The Iron Seas
Spiritwalker • The Poisoner Mysteries • The Iron Seas

Mercy Thompson The Saxon Stories The Steerswoman
Mercy Thompson • The Saxon Stories • The Steerswoman

Have you read any of those series? Which new series are you planning to start?
Ren

[Ren] The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie BerryTitle: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
Author: Julie Berry
Published: September 23rd, 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

When their headmistress and her brother die suddenly during Sunday dinner, the girls of St. Etheldreda’s School For Young Ladies immediately suspect foul play. But if they call the police, the school will be closed and they will be packed back to school. So they decide to bury the bodies in the backyard and carry on as if nothing happened…

What tripped me up about this book is that I didn’t know it would be a farce. And I mean that in the sense of “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations” (thank you, Oxford English Dictionary) which is exactly what the author was going for. Except that I didn’t know. I went in expecting a straight mystery in which the girls would be investigating the murders, so I was rather puzzled when one of them put on her dead headmistress’ clothes and impersonated her without any of the neighbours realizing there’s anything amiss. Even when I adjusted my expectations, there was a constant back and forth because the book wanted to be a farce, but it also wanted to take itself seriously. “Hey, isn’t it funny that Alice dressed up as a 60yo woman, but stop laughing now because we’re having a deep conversation about life and death.” There are some authors who can be humorous and poignant at the same time (Pratchett comes to mind) but this author can’t quite pull it off and the effect is constant emotional whiplash.

About the crude characterization bit. I’m not sure if that bit was intentional on the author’s part, but that’s how it turned out to be. There are seven girls in the book and especially at the beginning they’re impossible to keep straight without the adjective that’s always attached to their name. Especially since the book starts in the middle of things, with two people dying over poisoned veal, and there are no introductions whatsoever. The girls just start talking, and good luck telling apart Dear Roberta from Dull Martha at that stage. Unfortunately, even when you do remember all the names, the girls’ personalities don’t go much far than those adjectives. Smooth Kitty is the closest thing to a protagonist, being the ringleader and the one with the most plans, so she gets a bunch of scenes and a bit more characterization. Disgraceful Mary Jane, Stout Alice and Pocked Louise also have a lot of scenes and show at least some depth of character. The last three girls are completely forgettable and only there to make up the numbers. (Also, according to the illustrations Dear Roberta is the one in the center despite having like two lines and no relevance whatsoever, while Smooth Kitty is on the far right. That makes no sense at all and I get the feeling someone bungled up the text under each illustration.)

Don’t get me wrong, this book is not a total trainwreck. I enjoyed the girls (at least the ones with a personality) and the farcical elements did make me laugh out loud despite the fact that I was reading it on a train and people were staring. It’s just that I feel personally affronted. It’s a book about a girls’ boarding school, I love books about girls’ boarding schools, and yet I’m only lukewarm about the Scandalous Sisterhood. The mystery was okay, and the fact that the book was a standalone did make me wonder whether one of the girls might have been the culprit after all. Unfortunately, that possibility is never really investigated in the book. The discovery of the culprit relies a bit on luck and coincidences, but I didn’t guess it at all and the revelation of howdunnit was quite unexpected.

Overall it’s a quick, easy read. But what I really want is a spinoff in which Smooth Kitty and Disgraceful Mary Jane go off to have lesbian detective adventures after finishing school.
Ren

What’s Up Buttercup • October Edition

What's Up, Buttercup?
What’s Up Buttercup is an overview of the past, present and future here on Words in a Teacup, posted around the middle of the month.

 

What's Been Going On:

  • With the two of us working full time now, we still have to find a way to set aside time for reading and blogging! Some days we miss each other completely because Isa goes to bed before Ren gets home. :( However, we’re very excited about meeting up in a couple of weeks! We’re going to the Welcome To Night Vale live show… Expect a Random Ramble or two on the subject!
  • Ren made a list of Top Ten Books on her Fall 2014 TBR List. She was a bit of a failure because she didn’t read any of the books on her summer list, but this time she’s trying to do better and she’s already read a book and a half.
  • The PFM books for October were chosen, and Isa has already finished one of hers! Way to go! Sadly, Ren might DNF one of hers because of an annoying narrator.
  • Ren listed Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels
  • Tragedy struck when Isa’s Kindle broke for apparently no reason. To cope, she thought of several things you can do when your ereader breaks.

 

Recently Reviewed

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom  by Christopher Healy Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch  Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

 

 

Recently Acquired:
stuff Isa recently gotIsa: No books this month (much like the previous months), but instead a new Kindle. Since, you know, my other one broke. Again. God. People should not give me technology. So far I am pretty happy with my new Kindle, which I’ve called Flora. It’s a bit different because I had a Kindle 4 before and now I have a Kindle 5, the main difference being touch! I still keep trying to move to the next page by pushing the buttons at the side, except that there are none. It takes a bit of getting used to but I really like it! It has some nice features too, like a vocabulary builder (oh my god I am in love right now) and Wikipedia integration and most importantly Goodreads integration, so despite the unexpected dent in my bank account, I am pretty happy with my new Kindle.

 

 

Coming Up Soon:

Upcoming Reviews
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place The Jade Temptress Black Dog The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Looking Forward To
November 4: Mortal Heart November 4: Waistcoats & Weaponry

That’s it for this month, buttercups. What’s going on with you? Feel free to share in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!
Isa and Ren