When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

There is a whole lot of foul language in When We Were Magic, particularly at the beginning. It is way more than I expect in a YA book. In the middle of a tense situation there’s a couple sex scenes because of course friends are going to want to have sex with each other right when they are worried about getting caught having killed a guy and working on getting rid of him piece by piece. It’s like the book is trying to be too many things at once. The writing is mediocre. The plot is interesting, though. The title is misleading. They weren’t magic, they ARE magic. I assumed the ordeal would cause them to lose their magic or something, but it doesn’t (though it does do things like take away the ability to dream or cry or have freckles on your face, though). Overall I’m just meh about this one. I don’t really recommend it, but some people will enjoy it.

3 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 64
Pages Read in 2023: 20,217

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Filed under Reason: Literati, Young Adult

Forgotten City by Michael Ford

Forgotten City by Michael Ford

The first over half of Forgotten City was pretty bad. It moved incredibly slowly. There was too much world building, much of which really didn’t matter and could’ve been done just fine in fewer pages. I read it aloud to my teens and they both commented more than once that maybe we should just quit reading it and move on to another book. I have an inability to DNF books so we kept at it, though none of us were excited to read yet another terrible chapter night after night. This book is an example of why I find it so hard to abandon books. At around 55% there started to be signs of it getting better. By 2/3 in it was actually really good and the last third was excellent. Reading the book aloud was odd. I’ve been reading aloud to my kids for over two decades and I’ve never had as much trouble with the words and sentence structure as I have with this book, making it that much less enjoyable. There is a sequel, but I’m going to skip it. I only recommend reading this book if you are okay with it taking forever to get good.

2 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 63
Pages Read in 2023: 19,873

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Filed under Dystopian, Reason: Bedtime Story for the Boys, Reason: Flourish & Blotts Reading Challenge, Young Adult

Knights of the Square Table by Teri Kanefield

Knights of the Square Table by Teri Kanefield

The first half of Knights of the Square Table was really good. While it wasn’t realistic at all that young teens would take over to help a plane full of crash victims survive in the middle of nowhere, I was willing to suspend disbelief due to the grade level the book is aimed at and just enjoy the story. But then the second half just went weird. It was so unbelievable as to make my disbelief unable to be suspended. At that point the story became mostly not enjoyable. The end, when the pilot from the stranded flight comes and has lunch with the kids, was incredibly ridiculous. Because of the second half I don’t recommend this book.

3 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 62
Pages Read in 2023: 19,611

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Filed under Middle Grades, Reason: Random Choice

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

I’ve read a lot of classic retellings and The Afterlife of Holly Chase is the most clever I’ve ever read. It was slow to get started. I wasn’t super into it for probably the first third. But then I started caring about Holly and so I was fully invested. While I had briefly considered that something like the ending could happen I didn’t think it was likely and I really didn’t expect how the whole ending went. It wasn’t the fully perfect expected ending I figured it was building to, but it was still an absolutely perfect ending. The author truly did a great job ending it. I recommend this book to teens and up, especially those who like A Christmas Carol.

4 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 61
Pages Read in 2023: 19,405

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Filed under Reason: B&N Book Challenge, Young Adult

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

Nothing But the Truth is set up as if it is a book documentary telling a true story entirely through transcripts of conversations and excerpts of diary entries, news articles, memos, and speeches. It very effectively demonstrates that there are multiple sides to every story and shows how errors show up as that story is passed around, even something as simple as a news reporter’s mistake that a student is in tenth grade instead of ninth. It’s a quick read at less than 200 pages. It’s a bit dated simply because it was written over three decades ago, though the lessons are still completely applicable today. I recommend this book to middle schoolers and up.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 60
Pages Read in 2023: 18,989

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Filed under Middle Grades, Reason: Grim Readers

Clone 3 by Patti Larsen

Clone 3 by Patti Larsen

I’m glad I didn’t pay anything for Clone 3. It just wasn’t very good. There were too many variations of the Sick so keeping track of what they each did was difficult and, quite honestly, I didn’t really care to after a while. I found Clone 3/Trio to be kind of annoying and the dog storyline to be rather ridiculous considering how far past the sickness killing people off the book is set. There were too many factions of kids and too many constantly changing alliances. The ease with which opposing factions could break into other groups’ food stores but never had done it before Trio showed up made zero sense. No matter where Trio went bad things ended up happening to the point it was over the top ridiculous. I considered putting this book down permanently so many times. There were occasional interesting/enjoyable parts, but not many. I mostly just wanted it to end. I kind of felt like the author only has a vague idea of how to write a good dystopian world. The premise is not bad and in the hands of another writer this could’ve been a good book. There are three books in the series but I will definitely not be reading the other two. I don’t recommend this book to anyone.

2 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 59
Pages Read in 2023: 18,812

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Filed under Dystopian, Reason: B&N Book Challenge, Reason: Grim Readers

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

The four main characters in Killers of a Certain Age are so well-developed and fun and interesting people I’d want to be friends with… other than the whole trained assassin thing. While there is a lot of (not very graphic) death going on, there’s so much humor that it doesn’t feel heavy. The plans the women come up with to kill people are very creative, too. While the basic outline of how the book goes is pretty obvious from the start, there were a couple twists I wasn’t expecting. Everything in the present is written in first person while the flashback chapters are written in close third person (focused on Billie, who narrates the present day chapters). I found that to be very effective, much more effective, I think, than today’s Billie recalling the things that happened decades ago. The pacing is slower than most thrillers, but steady throughout the book. The slower pacing made sense given the ages of the women. Speaking of their ages, it was great fun to read a book about sixty-something women being totally awesome. I recommend this book to all adults, and especially to adult women of a certain age.

4 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 57
Pages Read in 2023: 18,249

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Filed under Reason: Alphabet Soup Challenge, Reason: B&N Book Challenge, Reason: Book of the Month, Reason: Flourish & Blotts Reading Challenge, Thriller

You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson is hilarious. While she is very funny in her essays in You Can’t Touch My Hair, she is also very real. She doesn’t shy away from difficult topics (racism, vaginas, and so much more). She gets her point across with humor but also honesty that will have Black women nodding their heads and white women sometimes nodding and sometimes checking themselves. I very highly recommend this book to all women.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 56
Pages Read in 2023: 17,896

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Filed under Memoir, Non-Fiction, Reason: Alphabet Soup Challenge

Untold Stories of Nurses: The COVID-19 Pandemic by Kate Kalagher

Untold Stories of Nurses: The COVID-19 Pandemic by Kate Kalagher

The stories in this book and the way they are told are excellent. I really enjoyed them and wish there had been more (it’s a very short book). I really liked that they came from all over the world. The problem with the book is that is desperately needs an editor. There were so many times the wrong word was used (elicit instead of illicit for example), or the wrong ending was used (-ing when it should have been -ed or no ending at all), words that were missing completely, or words written twice in a row accidentally, along with a few typos. The most annoying thing, though, was instead of putting quotations in quotes they were in italics. That drove me completely crazy. This book would’ve been a solid 4 stars without all those editing issues. I do wish the author had been more consistent in adding short updates to the ends of the nurses’ stories and also that there had been at least a few paragraphs at the end to complete/sum up the book rather than just ending at the end of a story. If you don’t mind reading a poorly edited book, the stories really are good and any nurse would appreciate them.

2 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 55
Pages Read in 2023: 17,655

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Filed under Non-Fiction, Reason: Asked by the Author, Reason: B&N Book Challenge, Reason: Flourish & Blotts Reading Challenge

Just the Way You Are by Beth Moran

Just the Way You Are by Beth Moran

I had my doubts that Just the Way You Are would have the happy ending the way I wanted it, but it pulled through in the last couple pages. While I found Ollie’s best friend Steph to be one of the worst, most annoying people I have ever encountered (not to mention controlling and an awful friend), I liked everyone else. I truly cared about what happened to most everyone (but definitely not Steph). The medical facts weren’t exactly right, but without personal experience with that particular illness I doubt anyone would notice nor did those errors really matter. Overall, it’s just a lovely, sweet feel good story. I recommend this book to adults who enjoy slow burn romances.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2023: 54
Pages Read in 2023: 17,563

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Filed under Reason: Book Club, Romance