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Recommended Titles: Thunderhead

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I’m back with another Recommended Titles. I don’t get to do that much recreational reading anymore, around a job, family, and whatnot. But I’ve made an exception for a few series, carving out time to read or listen to them when I can. Thunderhead is one such title I’ve done this for.

Much like the first book in this series, Thunderhead engaged me from page one. It kept the momentum going from the first book and upped the stakes to boot. I absolutely adore the world that Neal Shusterman has created in this series, and I’m sure I’ll be able to put the third book in this series on the list of recommended titles as well.

This book continues the tale of our two protagonists, who have two vastly different approaches to fixing the corrupt system of the scythedom. As the titular character, the benevolent AI the Thunderhead plays a much bigger role in this book. The Thunderhead, much like our main characters, is also trying to sort out the growing problem of the scythedom, without breaking its own rules not to interfere with the job of scythes.

Like the last book, the chapters are broken up with asides from different characters. This can still throw people off, because they are generally reflections on the world that exists within the story, or musings on the age of mortality (the past that we exist in now). They can come across as arrogant or the author speaking down to the reader. There is a lot of emphasis on religion which can be grating. However, this book mostly centers on the Thunderhead’s insights into humanity, which I found more tolerable.

Because this book is a continuation it is going to be hard to read as a stand-alone. There are things you absolutely must know about this world established in the first book to understand the narrative. This is not bad in and of itself, but can deter some people. It also ends on a cliffhanger, which annoys the crap out of me because I’m probably going to have to wait another year before the third in the series is out. Grr.

That is both a compliment and a downside. If you don’t like cliffhangers, this one will make you mad. We end right in the middle of a big plot point, and will have to wait to see how it is resolved.

That said, I love this book and I would recommend it and the first book Scythe to any lover of YA fiction. I’m actually looking into reading Shusterman’s other series to see if there are any similarities. If there are, I’m sure I’ll love it.

Sorry this is a short one, but I can’t get into much more without going into massive spoiler territory. I’ll end by saying this was a thoroughly engaging read, which I finished in two days. Mr. Shusterman deserves high praise. And a boot in the behind for that cliffhanger. Damn it.

As always if you have any suggestions, feel free to express them in the comments below. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again with another review soon.

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Recommended Titles: The Dresden Files

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Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the Dresden Files. My love for this series has spurred me to construct cosplay for it, and write fanfic (something I don’t do for any old series. Anymore.) I daydream about this series and I cannot wait until the newest short story anthology Brief Cases will be out this summer.

For those who don’t know, the series revolves around the titular character Harry Dresden, a wizard and PI working in Chicago. In the course of his cases he faces of against demons, ghosts, vampires and more. Sound like your regular supernatural fare? Well think again.

Butcher is skilled at creating complex, three-dimensional characters out of even the worst monsters. I think it’s the mark of a very good writer that you can both sympathize with the character’s pain, and be repulsed by their monstrous nature. Our main lead Harry is a flawed individual and has gradual power-ups over the course of the series rather than Godmoding it all the way, as I’ve seen other series do *cough, cough Anita Blake cough*. 

The world building is excellent, introducing us to monsters, magical governmental systems, supernatural power struggles and so much more. The magic system is easy to understand and has a lot of possibilities. Aside from a few minor continuity errors in the timeline (one character’s age is off in a book, but the rest of the series follows with the new age, and Harry’s birthdate is a little hard to pin down) the timeline is pretty solid, and Butcher doesn’t do a lot of retconing or retelling of history as I’ve seen a number of other urban fantasy writers do. Any errors I’ve spotted are pretty inconsequential and don’t affect my enjoyment of the series.

The humor is great, the characters are authentic, and people act in ways that flow logically from their characterization. That said, I’ll get into some of the things readers might take issue with.

It takes about three books for the series to find its footing. Storm Front and Fool Moon read more like stand alone novels than a continuation of the same series. In Grave Peril we kick off the overarching plot and the overall quality of the series gets better. You can’t completely skip the first two without missing some essential information. They are still enjoyable, but I’d say less engaging than the others in the series. This could be a product of it being the first series he’s published. According to my husband who as read Butcher’s other series The Codex Alera and The Cinder Spires, these don’t suffer the same false start that The Dresden Files did. That said, I don’t find it a struggle to get through the first two.

Another thing that might deter readers is that Butcher has a habit of absolutely packing his books with plot lines. It can take awhile for the books to get to the main plot, often obfuscating it in red herrings. This isn’t a bad approach necessarily, but I find that my favorites in the series (Blood Rites, Turncoat, Changes, and Skin Game) have one main plot point and less diversionary stories packed in there. This may be just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.

Harry’s characterization might offend some, because of the character flaws that Butcher has deliberately instilled in him. The Dresden Files finds its roots in Noir, so like many Noir detectives Harry is a sucker for a pretty face, doesn’t see certain things coming when the crime is perpetrated by a woman, and has a bit of a white knight complex. This is acknowledged as a flaw, and Harry works to overcome it over the course of the series.

I take umbrage with reviews that declare that Jim Butcher must be a raging sexist for this to be such a strong element of Harry’s personality. I just don’t see it that way. Harry is old-school, sure, but Jim doesn’t let his ladies be any less badass than his protagonist. Often women are actually saving Harry’s ass, and there is nary a swooning damsel in sight. Women aren’t treated like a reward in this series, and Harry rarely gets laid. Again, this element is missing in his other series, and I think it’s only present in this one because this one draws from an older genre in which it was a staple.

Anyways, that’s about all I can say without major spoilers for the series. I could give endless examples of why I think this series is fantastic, but I’d have to delve into canon, and I really would like for you all to read it for yourselves.

Thanks for reading, and as always if you have anything you’d like to request or comment on, you can do so below and I’ll get back to you.

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Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: Fireblood Dragon Series

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The Fireblood Dragon Series is totally a guilty pleasure read for me. I recommend it for lovers of romance, but I think of it as mostly a potato chip book, as my mother calls them. It’s a light, entertaining read you  can finish off in a day. There’s nothing super challenging in these books, but there’s nothing very offensive in them either.

I actually bought this book as an assignment for my first long-term ghostwriting project. I had very little familiarity with the shifter genre before starting the contract, and my client wanted me to get a feel for it. So I bought five books assigned that were in the top one hundred best-selling amazon books and wrote up book reports on them, identifying commonalities and tropes I liked and disliked. I ended up writing a bear shifter story instead of dragons, but this book stuck with me. Of the five I read, it was the only one I was intrigued by enough to continue the series.

Like the Demonica Series by Larissa Ione, my fascination is more about the world building than the characters. World building is something I personally struggle with, and there’s little I like more than a good solid world. That said, there are a few things that strain my suspension of disbelief.

Without going too deeply into spoiler territory, this story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. No, we didn’t nuke ourselves. The apocalypse was caused by a rift that opened between our world and the home of the dragon shifters. The dragons ate people and destroyed a lot of our civilizations. It’s dangerous to be outside the protection of human “forts” which are small pockets of survivors. But it’s not safe inside the cities either. Many are run by despots.

However, the state of the world outside the forts should not be as cozy as it is for our heroines and their dragon men. Maybe it seems like a silly quibble in a world where dragons can turn into men and fall in love, but it chafes at me. I see this a lot in post-apocalyptic stories. Even though the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, somehow the heroes find a place that has all the creature comforts that they missed from their life before.

In every story the women seem to find places with running water and food that hasn’t spoiled. I can believe that non-perishables, some canned goods, and things absolutely stuffed to the gills with preservatives might have survived for seven years (which is how long it’s been since the rift opened in the books). I cannot however believe there is any running water. It takes a lot to keep indoor plumbing going, and even if by some stretch of the imagination water was still being pumped around (which would be a massive effort that you wouldn’t think people would risk their lives for) it wouldn’t be sanitized and therefore unsafe to drink. Everyone should die of dysentery.

I think this is mostly to spare the author and audience the unpleasantness of the girls having to do their business in an outhouse or in the bushes. There could have been several ways to get food and water to the girls that were more believable. Aforementioned preserved food, discovering a doomsday prepper’s home, someone’s garden growing out of control with no one alive to tend it. As far as water goes, there are lakes, rivers, and the ocean to bathe in. Obviously don’t go drinking sea water, but any fresh water found could be boiled to kill the organisms living in it.

But yeah, it’s just one thing that bothers me. Overall, the books were alright, and I do buy the new ones when they come out. Ruby Dixon updates regularly and has several series under belt. This is one indie author I tend to like. She also has all but her newest books on Audible if you prefer audiobook.

I give this book a six to seven out of ten. It’s above average, and I do like several of the books. Mostly, I just like the premise and wish the books were a little more high stakes. But hey, it’s a romance, so its main focus is going to be on that element. What do you think of it? Feel free to comment below.

Posted in Recommended Titles

Recommended Titles: Scythe

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Some spoilers ahead.

I’m a little late on this one, I’ll admit. In the past year or so, reading has not been super high on my priority list, for reasons I’ve discussed in my update post last October. I’m not going to be giving hot takes on every new book that comes out. Between ghostwriting and trying to raise a family, I just don’t have enough time to do the weekly read through and critical thinking that an endeavor like that would require. I’ll be posting what I can manage to squeeze into my life in-between tasks and only then if I really do like them or find them laughably bad I just have to share.

I’m glad to say that Scythe falls in the former category for me. I started Scythe yesterday morning while I was cleaning the house. I listened to the audiobook the whole way through. It was ten hours and thirty two minutes long in total, and I could not put it down for long. This was my first time reading Shusterman, though I’ve been aware of another series of his, the Unwind Dystology for some time. I’ll have to pick them up and read them sometime soon. I will definitely be reading Scythe‘s sequel Thunderhead soon.

I found the world building in this book fascinating. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for YA dystopian fiction, if it’s done well. I like speculative fiction, and exploring the dark and twisted parts of the human psyche. It’s a part of my predilections that my mother didn’t like, always afraid it would take me down a dark road. I find it rather cathartic to see it expressed. In the world of Scythe death has been mostly eradicated. Only fire and the Scythes (essentially appointed grim-reapers) are the causes of death. People can regress in age back to twenty-one, whenever they like. Pain does not last long, and death is almost never permanent.

Our two main characters are selected by a Scythe called Faraday to be trained as Scythes. At the end of a year, one will become a junior scythe, the other will leave in disgrace and return to normal life. But soon the competition turns deadly, and their very lives depend on winning the title of Scythe.

This book is a drama, a murder mystery, a love story, and a look at human nature all in one. For some, that might be a detractor, but for me it always struck the right balance without feeling too preachy or too slow. The pacing was a little off at times, but never so much it pulled me out of the narrative. I found both main characters compelling for different reasons. Their voices felt distinct and I felt for both. This book does tend to jump perspective, which is also something that could distract readers. I found it pretty easy to follow, but it is a concern.

If you don’t like philosophical discussions and just want to get to the action, then the journal entries that start each chapter will grate on you as the book goes on. I found them thought-provoking and interesting. The point the book tries to strike home, which I think it does well, is that without the fear of death and pain–which are all but gone in this world–our emotions are shallower, and we don’t live as freely as we once did. Without the fear of the pain, we do not feel joy as acutely. Death is so uncommon, no one has any urgency to do things.

Without going into deep spoiler territory, I found this book a really interesting take on a supposedly utopian future. The benevolent AI called the Thunderhead was also really interesting to read about, and I look forward to seeing more of it in the sequel.

So I give it an eight out of ten, and I would recommend people read it. As always, I welcome comments. What did you think of Scythe? Let me know.

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Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: A Stroke of Midnight

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Alright this one I do feel a little bit guilty about. Normally I don’t feel too badly about my guilty pleasures. Normally when I examine them critically I can find some element there that makes it worth the read.

This one…well I really am kind of ashamed of how much I liked it the first time I read it.

So back up several years when I was a sixteen year old Mary Sue. My family was planning to visit relatives in another state and I went to the library, seeking reading material to keep me entertained on the road. I found this in the audiobook section.

The cover art intrigued me (poor innocent thing I was, I didn’t recognize the glaring red flags that should have alerted me to the fact it was a “romance” novel). The blurb on the back sounded interesting as well. So I put the CD  in my Walkman and listened to it on the road.

Boy was I surprised. If I’d heard of this author before I would have known about the frequent sexual escapades of the main characters. I would have also known that all the interesting bits would be at the beginning and not be mentioned again until the end.

I did like two of the many love interests, and the magical lore was interesting enough to compel me to finish the book. All in all I found it sort of inoffensive on first reading.

Then I moved onto her other series, Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter and it was jarring. I disliked Anita intensely upon first reading and my contempt just grew with every successive book.

Most people read the Meredith Gentry series after Anita, since it was published after that series had been started. I had the opposite experience, and moving from this book to The Anita Blake series was a really rude awakening to Hamilton’s worst tropes.

They are there in this one too, which is why I feel sort of icky admitting I have some nostalgia for this book.

All in all the only justification I have for it at this point is that the Meredith Gentry series is more honest about what it is. It’s smut. Fantasy-themed erotica, with a plot to bookend all the sex. Meredith’s character seemed a lot less obnoxious than Anita’s (in this book at least). I would have to read the rest of the series to give a more complete analysis on Meredith’s character.

And yes, you can jump into this series at any point. It isn’t like some novels where skipping a few will completely baffle you. The book will give you the needed info through exposition whilst the characters gear up for another orgy.

So I guess in conclusion, I wouldn’t actually recommend this one unless you’re morbidly curious. And if you do read it, don’t take it with you to your grandparent’s house. You won’t be able to look your grandma in the eye over breakfast, trust me.

Posted in Recommended Titles

Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure: The Demonica Series

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Alright welcome to my new segment, blogger’s guilty pleasure. Unlike my recommended page, where I can make justifications for why a book is good, this page is specifically addressing books I know aren’t all that great. Something about these books  just appealed to me, despite my better judgement.

First up, a romance/erotica. See? I don’t hate the entire romance genre…just 90 percent of it. The Demonica series has several reasons for escaping my vitriolic reviews. First and most importantly is that I read it before I became a hardcore critic, so there is a bit of nostalgia on my part. I read these books in the summer of 2012, during my freshman year of college. Later that year I would go through an intensive writing course, which would  completely alter the way I thought of writing and criticism.

I have only read the first three books in the series. They detail the tales of three brothers( Eidolon, Shade, and Wraith), and the adventures they go through trying to find or protect their mates. The stories are fairly standard, as far as romance novels go. Ripped torsos on the cover? Check. Sexual references in the title? Check. Hackneyed cliched plots? Check.

What saves it from my poisoned pen? It’s world building actually. I find the world Larissa Ione paints very complex and fascinating. The premise of Underground General Hospital was not one I had seen before, and was a really interesting backdrop to the standard drama.

I like lore as much if not more than plot. If a book has interesting lore, I can sometimes forgive it’s faults. (It’s one of the reasons I don’t have The Host while I dislike a lot of Twilight.) 

I really liked how complex and thought out the world was. I have reread all three, and the world is still really good. Are there some groan-worthy one liners in this book? Yes. Are there some cheesy, unnecessary romance tropes in there? Without a doubt. Would I recommend it? To a person over the age of sixteen, probably.

I really have no excuse. This series have a lot of the horrible romance tropes, and would despise in another book. The only reason I can think of to account for the difference is that the characters are at least semi-interesting.

I won’t go into too much detail here, since I want you to check it out for yourself. You can buy the ebooks fairly cheaply here. Tell me what you thought of it in the comments below. I’d love to hear your opinions.


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Recommended: Creepy Kids Books

I don’t know about you all, but I was a creepy kid. I loved scary/creepy books when I was young. I still do, to a point. That’s why I’m writing this article. From the mildly creepy, to the downright scary stories, I’m going to list some of my recommendations. Whether you’re looking to spook your little ones around Halloween, have a kid who likes such things, or want to read it yourself,  here’s some children’s books to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Anything Written by Eva Ibboston 

Ah, Eva Ibboston, may you rest in peace. I cannot stress enough how much nostalgia I have for these books. They were just so good. Not all the ones listed are incredibly creepy, and in the context of the rest of this article, the books are bit tame. I like the off-beat humor, and the world building that Ibboston brings us. For a child some of these concepts are rather creepy, especially the ones in Which Witch? and Dial-A-Ghost. I highly, highly recommend these books for both adults and children.


Goosebumps books were a staple for a lot of kids when they first came out. Even now, they still remain fairly popular. Why? Because a lot of the monsters and concepts are timeless, and scare us still. Plus all that campy goodness.

Goosebumps plays with horror tropes in a way that is fun and can keep children on edge. I was never seriously scared while reading one, but I know plenty of people who were. It’s full of jump scares, and mildly creepy concepts. Goosebumps is a fairly easy read, and I recommended if you or your child like mixing your horror with 90’s cheese.

American Chillers

Much in the same vein as Goosebumps, American Chillers is 90’s camp at its finest. The book titles always use alliteration, and center around a mythical monster/creepy animal. It’s not a particularly long read, and it’s a lot of fun.


I loved Bunnicula as a kid. I have always been a big fan of vampire stories (yes, I know, shame on me. How very cliche of TheGrandHighMarySue.) It was a form of vampire literature that hadn’t been done much up to that point. It’s cute, it has a decent amount of suspense for a kid’s book. The book is also less than a hundred pages long, for those who would like to read a short book.

 Bruce Coville Books

Both series I’ve read by this author (The Magic Shop books and My Teacher is an Alien) are funny, while having some creepy/scary elements to them. My Teacher is an Alien is more irreverent tonally, and is much like Goosebumps and American Chillers. 

The Skull of Truth was more serious, and was very enjoyable despite that. The main character interacts with a skull throughout the book and it’s presence makes it so he must always tell the truth. It causes some awkward moments, as well as heartwarming ones. I recommend both series for adults and kids alike.


Now we’re getting to the disturbing stuff. Coraline has gotten more hype since it’s movie release, but is still a rather underrated book. There is a lot of disturbing imagery and concepts in Coraline. The atmosphere is very spooky, and the resolution to the story is great. I recommend it for children who are in upper elementary or higher.

The Witches 

I personally never found The Witches that scary. Apparently I’m in the minority on that. Roald Dahl seems to have a thoroughly middling effect on most readers. Some readers really like the tone and word-building, others hate it. The Witches is well-known but not always well liked, since there were accusations of “perceived misogyny” in his work.

The movie of the same name actually has a happier ending than the book. So read it if you like, and let me know what you thought of it.

In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories

This is an anthology of different ghost stories and some poems. A lot of the stories are classic horror fare, like the ghostly hitchhiker. It’s not incredibly scary, but it is a good introduction to scary stories for young audiences.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I loved this series. The books are about as dreary as one would expect, with a name like A Series of Unfortunate Events. Despite the tone, these books are actually fun. There is some dry humor, and young readers will feel clever for understanding the vocabulary (and even if they don’t, they will certainly learn a lot of vocabulary while reading the series.)

There are a lot of interesting settings in the book, and Count Olaf’s schemes to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune get more and more ridiculous as the series goes on. It’s very entertaining, though I understand the tone and content might not be for everyone.

Oh, and bonus. Timmy Curry is the voice actor for the audiobook series.

The House called Awful End

This book series had a very interesting sense of humor. The premise that starts the ball rolling is sort of funny, and things get worse and worse for poor Eddie as the series goes on. It’s similar in tone to A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Eddie Dickens Trilogy is a little simpler and could be read to younger children.

Never Trust a Dead Man

I vaguely recalled reading this book in junior high. And the premise is creepy. It starts off with a murder. Our main character Selwyn was competing with a fellow teen boy Farold for the love interest. When Farold turns up dead with Selwyn’s knife in his back, the village passes sentence on Selywn. Even though he is innocent of the crime, he is trapped in a tomb with the bodies of the dead, including Farold’s corpse.

A witch comes in to the caves to get dead bits from the corpses and Selwyn swears himself to her service in exchange for her magical help. She revives Farold’s soul in the form of a bat and they try to solve the murder. It’s a really fun mystery, and has a really creepy tone. I recommend this series for kids and adults.

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is one of the best kid’s horror books of all time, in my opinion. Why? Because it can still give me the heebie jeebies now. As an adult. A lot of these stories were based on tall tales or urban legends.

And if the content wasn’t enough, the illustrations are also incredibly creepy. A lot of the faces look like they belong in The Hills have Eyes. If you get this book, get the original copies. The new illustrations are tame and take away some of the punch of the first edition.

The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs , The Ghost of Fossil Glen

Both of these ghost stories had me on the edge of my seat when I was reading them back in the day. They are well-paced, and the books maintain a creepy and suspenseful atmosphere throughout. The mysteries are good and the themes they touch on are good. I recommend these books for all ages.

The Dollhouse Murders

This book scared the hell out of me. I never owned a dollhouse, but I’m sure if I did I would have tossed it out after this book. Our protagonist finds an old dollhouse in the attic and discovers that it used to belong to her aunt.

After hearing sounds from the attic for awhile, the protagonist discovers that the dolls in the dollhouse reenact a scene every night. The grizzly murder that occured in the house years earlier, of which there were only two survivors.

The book will be scary to adult and children, though for different reasons. I highly recommend this book. I also highly recommend sleeping with the light on afterwards.

Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes touches on many troubling subjects, least of which is the ghost. The book centers on our main character Molly, and her struggles to accept her new step-sister Heather. With their parents recently married, and the family relocating, this book captures what a struggle sudden upheaval can be for children.

While the ghost elements can be scary, most of the drama and suspense are found in the real-life troubles that are going on in Molly and Heather’s life.

And a bonus:

Edgar Allen Poe

I was a weird kid. Yeah, in fourth grade I was tested, and I had a higher reading level than many of my peers. I was incredibly proud of it, and so I spent more and more time reading, trying to do even better. I really enjoyed Poe. My personal favorite was The Fall of the House of Usher. This might be a little beyond some children’s reading level, but it’s worth a try.

Or you can let them wait until high school, since it’s highly likely they’ll have to read some of Poe’s work, one way or another.

Alright hat was all I could think of. Let me know in the comments if you have a book I didn’t list that you’d like mentioned. Thanks!