Reading Round Up – October

51. Cinder

Marissa Meyer

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. 

She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Cinder was a strangely addictive novel. I say strangely, because I can’t quite explain why I kept reading despite how predictable the story was. I should say as well, that I don’t mean it was predictable in the sense that it’s a Cinderella retelling, so of course she’ll go to the ball, she’ll meet the prince etc. No, it was that the central “mystery” of the book was so incredibly obvious. It was so obvious I kept reading to see if the twist would in fact be that the incredibly obvious mystery actually wasn’t true at all. 

Additionally, none of the events of the book seemed to impact the characters. Both Cinder and Kai lost people during this story, but aside from the occasional mention that someone looked like they’d been crying, did these character deaths actually affect the characters? Nope. But that would probably get in the way of all the flirting.

Overall, this was a very shallow book. However, it was easy to read, and I shot right through it. Will I read the sequel? I’ve heard the series improves, and it’s just become available to take out at my local library. But… it doesn’t rank very high on my TBR list.


52. Promise of Blood

Brian McClellan

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1)

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets?

I had high hopes for this book. I’m a history nerd and so was drawn in by the French Revolution style setting, as well as being interested by what I’d heard of the powder mage magic system. 
On reading it… I’d say it was fine. I think the many magic systems and the magic driven storylines got in the way of the historical aspect I was hoping for, but that’s on me. I’ll find a historical fiction for that next time. I had some interest in some parts of the book, with my favourite parts usually in Taniel’s storyline. 
Overall, my main complaint was the lack of female characters. True, of the four POV characters, one is female, but her chapters probably make up ten percent of the book. Yes, the world it’s set in is sexist, blah blah blah… I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse. There are plenty of books in similar worlds that have great female characters, so why is this one mostly just about men? It’s especially annoying as the magic systems in this book affect men and women equally, and there are female powder mages and privileged, so why does the world not reflect this?
Will I read the sequel? Possibly, but there are a lot of other books I’d rather read first.


53. Not Without Your Love

Lexi Ryan

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Not Without Your Love (The Boys of Jackson Harbor #7)

Colton McKinley has turned his life around—no more booze, no more drugs, no more self-sabotage. With a new business to run and old promises to keep, the last thing he needs is wild, impulsive Veronica Maddox disrupting his world. But when his friends ask him to give her a job as a personal favor, Colton doesn’t feel like he can say no. Even if she pushes his buttons and makes him want to pull his hair out. Even if the only time they get along is when they cave to the inexplicable chemistry between them. He doesn’t want this complication in his life, but soon enough he realizes he just might need her.

I’m such a sucker for this series, so when this book came out I knew I had to read it. While it didn’t disappoint, it wasn’t as good as the previous novel (If It’s Only Love, my favourite of the series). 
I must admit I’m getting a little tired of these books now. I like all the different situations each half of the couple brings to complicate the romance, but ultimately every book seems to be about the same people (perhaps more differences are there with the female characters, but the men are just the same character with a different name/job).
Without getting into spoilers, the ending of this one was weak. As usual, obstacles are constantly thrown at the couple, and of course by now I know the routine in Lexi Ryan’s books, I know they’ll overcome them. But… this one just felt a little sudden and easy. Especially as there was a child involved, the motivations of one of the antagonists and the resolution felt unbelievable. 
SPOILERS!!!
Furthermore, I think the character of Kristi needed more exploration. She was set up only as an antagonist, but like Veronica has likely suffered the same manipulative abuse from Marcus. She clearly can’t have children, and to go to the lengths she went to to try to have one, then suddenly stop at the end of the book, she must have been under great pressure from her husband (who acts like it’s all her, but given what we know about him, is it?). The fact that Kristi wasn’t explored more as a character also made her motivations feel a little… offensive? Not a healthy way to portray women who can’t have children? That didn’t sit right with me. I hope Kristi returns in later books as a main character.


54. The Hound of the Baskervilles

Arthur Conan Doyle

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes, #5)

Could the sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville have been caused by the gigantic ghostly hound that is said to have haunted his family for generations? Arch-rationalist Sherlock Holmes characteristically dismisses the theory as nonsense. And immersed in another case, he sends Watson to Devon to protect the Baskerville heir and observe the suspects close at hand. With its atmospheric setting on the ancient, wild moorland and its savage apparition, The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the greatest crime novels ever written. Rationalism is pitted against the supernatural, good against evil, as Sherlock Holmes seeks to defeat a foe almost his equal.

This was my first Sherlock Holmes novel. It’s very much written as books were at the time and would not get published today. Because of this writing style, I found myself distanced from the story, though I was still able to appreciate it, and what it was for its time.


55. Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Jeff Lindsay

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Dexter, #1)

Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened—of himself or some other fiend.

I was a big fan of the TV series (until, you know, it got terrible…), and with a new TV series coming I thought it time to finally read the books.
Firstly, I loved Jeff Lindsay’s narration. I don’t know which came first, but this narration felt very much like Michael C Hall’s Dexter, so it almost felt like extra footage of season one. 
I’d forgotten enough of the show to make the twists and turns enjoyable, and the things I could remember played out differently between book and tv, so even more surprises. 
My only criticism was that it wasn’t long enough. I felt like a lot of time was spent building up the character of Dexter, and how he lives his double life, and then the plot was quickly rapped up. But it’s not too much of a criticism to wish there was more book! 


55. This Lie Will Kill You

Chelsea Pitcher

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This Lie Will Kill You

Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Clue meets Riverdale in this page-turning thriller that exposes the lies five teens tell about a deadly night one year ago.

One year ago, there was a party.
At the party, someone died.
Five teens each played a part and up until now, no one has told the truth.

But tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion in the hills, expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 grand prize. Of course…some things are too good to be true.

Now, they realize they’ve been lured together by a person bent on revenge, a person who will stop at nothing to uncover what actually happened on that deadly night, one year ago.

Five arrived, but not all can leave. Will the truth set them free?
Or will their lies destroy them all?

I borrowed this book from the library after reading the blurb and knew nothing more about it. It took me a while to get into it, mostly during the debate of whether they should go to the strange mansion or not (obviously the answer was no, come on guys!), but once they all got there and the fun began, I was hooked. 
Were teenagers this shady at my school? Not that I remember, but then, i thriller probably wouldn’t have been written about my friends… we didn’t murder anyone. 
Each character had great pasts and motivations, and certainly at the start I suspected everyone. However, once we learned a little more about everyone, nothing happened that really surprised me. I guessed the ring master, I guessed the character responsible for Shane’s death, and I guessed who was behind everything. I kept looking for further twists because I thought it was surely all too obvious, but nope. I guessed it all, sigh.


56. Dearly Devoted Dexter

Jeff Lindsay

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Dearly Devoted Dexter (Dexter, #2)

He’s a charming monster… A macabre hero… A serial killler who only kills bad people.

Dexter Morgan has been under considerable pressure. It’s just not easy being an ethical serial killer – especially while trying to avoid the unshakable suspicions of the dangerous Sergeant Doakes (who believes Dexter is a homicidal maniac…which, of course, he is). In an attempt to throw Doakes off his trail, Dexter has had to slip deep into his foolproof disguise. While not working as a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, he now spends nearly all his time with his cheerful girlfriend, Rita, and her two children, sipping light beer and slowly becoming the world’s first serial couch potato. But how long can Dexter play Kick the Can instead of Slice the Slasher? How long before his Dark Passenger forces him to drop the charade and let his inner monster run free?

In trying times, opportunity knocks. A particularly nasty psychopath is cutting a trail through Miami – a man whose twisted technique leaves even Dexter speechless. As Dexter’s dark appetite is revived, his sister, Deborah (a newly minted, tough-as-nails Miami detective), is drawn headlong into the case. It quickly becomes clear that it will take a monster to catch a monster – but it isn’t until his archnemesis is abducted that Dex can finally throw himself into the search for a new plaything. Unless, of course, his plaything finds him first…

With the incredible wit and freshness that drew widespread acclaim to Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Jeff Lindsay now takes Dexter Morgan to a new level of macabre appeal and gives us one of the most original, colorful narrators in years.

This one wasn’t as enjoyable as the previous book. Two slight irritations I over looked in Darkly Dreaming were the telling style of the book and that everyone other than Dexter was useless. The former was perhaps not so heavy or I was too invested to notice, while the latter I could write off as La Guerta’s politics hampering things. This time… the only other component player was the serial ‘killer’ Dexter was up against. Even the special agents brought in to help tackle him, who certainly talked a big game, were useless. 
The crimes of the serial ‘killer’ (yes’m the quotations are needed), are particularly gruesome, and stayed with me more than the last book. I don’t want to know how Jeff Lindsay came up with that one… well done.


57. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder

Holly Jackson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, #1)

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it.

But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

Blooming fantastic! If the library had the sequel available on audiobook, I’d be reading it now instead of writing this review.
Firstly, I really enjoyed the format of the book (especially with the audiobook, different voice actors were used for the interviews). It was really well done. Secondly, there were just so many suspects! It was almost impossible to guess at who did it! I called the outcome of one part of the investigation on an early hunch, but even the reveal of it through surprises out there. I devoured this book and would highly recommend it.
Also, after recently reading so many American novels, the Britishness of this one was fantastic. The word ‘Plonker’ was used. Enough said.