Dang Rover: Cover to Cover

Dang Rover: Cover to Cover

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My Books. Lots and lots of books.

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3 Stars
#TheRoad: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy

Dante's hell has more hope than you're going to find in The Road.


At least Dante made it out.


My daughter was assigned The Road by her high school Lit teacher, so I'm reading it along with her. I'm glad I did, because there is a lot we'll need to talk about.


It's the most dreary, dark, and depressing book I've ever read.


I appreciated its brilliance. Cormac McCarthy is obviously an artist with his words. I loved that the book was written with no quotations, no chapters, and no names. What an effect! Chill. Harsh. Grey. Flavorless. Cold. Fear. No break. Never ending. I can only dream of being able to move people with my words they way he is able to move people with his. His words moved me. I cried.


They just moved me the wrong way. And I cried because I was sad.


The Road offers no relief from the despair. Not a single glimmer of hope. There's no happy ending here. Only sadness, tragedy, and despair. Others who read The Road find the opposite. They find strength in the unconquerable human spirit. The never-give-up-ness of the man and his so-relatable-it-makes-my-heart-ache love for the boy. And they are right, I do want to go home tonight and hug my kids a little tighter and a little longer.


Because I don't want them to die or be eaten by cannibals.


I don't need despair to stir those feelings. I'll be hugging my kids tight regardless. I'll hug them longer and tighter when moved by joy than when moved by despair.


There's enough sadness in the world. I don't need to read books about it.


I don't read just to feel. I want books to lift me up. I read to feel joy.


Recommended for 15-and-ups are too happy and need to have more sadness in their life. If you just appreciate good literature, you'd probably be glad you experienced The Road too.


Just read it with puppies.


Happy Sad(?) Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

4 Stars
#TheDiabolic: You might want to get to know S.J. Kincaid...
The Diabolic - S.J. Kincaid

S.J. Kincaid tells a great story. Too bad no one knows about her.


The Insignia Trilogy is her first, and it's worth checking out if you like YA light ScyFy that skews more toward young than adult and more toward fy than scy. It started out fun and got to brilliant by the third book.


The Diabolic is her sophomore effort. It's a YA light ScyFy stand alone...and that by itself is a big plus for me.


Don't we all need more quality stand alone's in our lives?


No sophomore slump here. The Diabolic was great.


It's future ScyFy YA, and this time it's a bit more adult than young. The characters are excellent--including a strong female lead, and the story was engaging. There's a realistic love interest (no geometric shapes involved--another plus), some good character growth, and a satisfying ending.


Diabolic's are human-engineered body guards who form an unbreakable bond with the person they are designed to protect. They are singularly focused killing machines with no emotion, feelings, or motivations outside protection of their charges. But what happens when protecting your human means you have to pretend to be human?




We get a cool book to read.


There were parts that dragged a bit. Love made the strong female character a little less strong. Like Insignia, the science fiction is quite a bit more fiction than science. There's some strong violence, but nothing that I would keep my teenagers from. No sex, no language. Plus, plus.


Many more pluses than minuses here. Give The Diabolic a try, and add S.J. Kincaid to your list.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#TheInvasionoftheTearling: Getting better...
The Invasion of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

I liked this one better than the first, and I'm being pulled along by the story.




There's just enough wrong here that I don't feel any urgency to advocate for this series. Everyone's a caricature. Odd and frequent use of the f-word. Lots of characters to keep track of. There is a strong rape scene in this one--not that it's wrong to have in the book, but you may want to be aware that it's there before you start.


This continues to be a series that is all about the story, not the characters. Not a deal breaker, more an annoyance.


The 3rd book comes out in a couple of weeks, and I'll be reading it when it does. Who knows, a great finish could change my tune.


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#TheQueenoftheTearling: Teetering on the edge of awesome...
The Queen of the Tearling  - Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling teeters on the edge of awesome, but spends too much time on the side of annoying to really become what I hoped it would be.


I was intrigued by the story.


This world of queens, castles, and magic is inhabited by people whose ancient ancestors left America and England by boat long ago in search of a place to create an Utopian society. They found a new home across some unknown angry sea in a land not found on any map. Technology was intentionally left behind, and the ship with the educated people--including anyone with any medical knowledge--was lost at sea. Some books did survived the journey (including The Hobbit, LOTR, and the "seven volumes of Rowling"), and these "ancient" texts comprise the entirety of the knowledge of this civilization.


(Ya, I'm really not sure how that works either.)


Unfortunately, the Utopian ideals of the founders didn't survive the test of time. The people of The Queen of the Tearing now live illiterate lives under the rule of wicked leaders who are a gross characterization of all things wrong with the Catholic Church and a male dominated society. Debauchery is the norm here. Women and children are kept as sex slaves. The Church uses it's influence to justify evil. And the slave-owning, sex-addicted, immortal, power hungry, magic witch queen in the neighboring kingdom is the worst of all.


This is a bad, bad place.


Enter the hero, the Princess who has been in hiding since birth and raised to become the Queen who will save them all. She's turned 19 and has come of age. Now she can rightfully claim her crown and save the day by discovering the power of her magic necklaces. And by being awesome.


Except that she's not awesome. She's annoying.


These characters stink. They do dumb things. They say dumb things. They did their best to make me roll my eyes and want to skip to the parts where they stop talking.


That sums it up. A story far-fetched enough to be interesting but with characters that make you wish the story sucked too so you could stop reading. I'm actually going to go ahead to the second book, mostly because I already own it...but also because I want to see what happens.


Not sure why I do this to myself.


Adult only. F-bombs that are out of place. Descriptions of violence. Debauchery.


Happy reading! Or not...


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

4 Stars
#LordoftheFlies: Tell Piggy to watch out for the rock!
Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Team reading this one with my 12-year-old. He doesn't love it, and I don't blame him, really. The language and tendency to use a bunch of words with out saying anything is kind of grating. According to my pre-teen: "This author just says 'and' over and over. And this and this and that and that."


But, that's not what Lord of the Flies is about.


I'm afraid he's probably not going to get the subtleties of the journey to madness for THESE 12-year-olds, but I do. That's the best part of Lord of the Flies.


Here's the freaky part:


For a 12-year-old by, it's not a long journey.


If any book deserves an updated re-write, it's this one. It happens with movies all the time. Why not books?


This is one kids are asked to read before they are ready and end up spending the rest of their lives thinking books are dumb.


The lesson?


Read with your kids.


And tell Piggy to watch out for that rock!


Happy reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#TheCrescentMoon: Zzzzzzzz....
The Crescent Spy - Michael  Wallace


I was in the mood for some good historical fiction, and The Cres....


Zzzzzz. Zzzzzz. Zzzzzz...


Oh, sorry. Fell asleep.


Like I was saying--I wanted to read some engaging historical fiction. The Cres...cent Ss...p.......yyy...


Zzzzz. Zzzzzz. Snort. Zzzzz....


[Jolts awake, disoriented. Wipes drool from cheek]


Dang, it happened again.


I guess I can't even write about this one without being bored out of my mind.


That's probably not entirely fair. The story has promise, and there are many very good reviews. Maybe I was just in a cynical mood while reading The Crescent Spy. There is a strong female heroine in a time period when women were not supposed to be strong, and I like that. It's a Civil War story that re-imagines navy battles on the Mississippi. I haven't read anything like that before, so that was cool. The content is clean, and I like that too.


But the exciting parts weren't exciting. The intrigue wasn't intriguing. The tension wasn't...tight?


So I'm calling it boring. But don't let that stop you if you're interested, maybe you'll find more there that I did. If you do, I'd love to hear about it.


Happy Reading!



The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

5 Stars
#TheRook: Don't read this if you're lame and/or boring...
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley

The Rook frustrated me for the first 40 pages or so. 


I was expecting a serious mystery with a supernatural twist, but this crazy author kept trying to be light every time things were getting heavy.  What the heck?  Doesn't this guy know how to write a proper serious mystery with a supernatural twist?!


Ya, probably. 


But I hope he never does.


Because it turns out I'm a bonehead.  The Rook was never supposed to be proper.  Or serious.  Or heavy. 


Turns out, it's much, much better than that. 


This author isn't crazy at all.  He's actually awesome.


It's much harder to write a supernatural-thriller-mystery mixed with laugh-out-loud-funny, out-of-my-mind creativity, stories within stories, flashbacks, and characters with brilliant superpowers.  All while delicately spoofing the supernatural spy thriller I thought I was going to read.


Too much for one book, you say?


Only if your lame and boring, I say.


Plenty of colorful metaphors (of the four letter variety).  Out side of that, there is plenty of fun, lots of slime, ooze, liquefied people, and more X-Men than the X-Men.


I can't wait to read book #2!  Oh, well, I'm mean once the e-book isn't $13.99.  Then I won't be able to wait!


Just wait till you read the one about the duck that can tell the future...


Happy reading!

Reason number 1,437 why #BrandonSanderson makes my heart sing.
The Dark Talent: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) - Brandon Sanderson

Spoilers ahead...



5 Stars
#TheWestingGame: For the adult in children...
The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin

I'm always keeping my eyes open for smart books for young people. I was thrilled to read this little bit in the intro of The Westing Game, written by the book's editor and friend to it's late author:


"She said that she wrote for the child in herself, but for once I think she was wrong. I think she wrote for the adult in children. She never disrespected them or 'wrote down,' because she didn't know how."


Preach! That's exactly what I'm looking for.


The Westing Game is smart, quirky, funny, and wonderfully accessible to young people in ways that will make them think--and enjoy doing it.


Adults? Yep, them too.


The characters are the stars of this one. A couple of them have certainly followed me home. With something like 20 main characters to keep track of, you'd expect some difficulties keeping them all straight. No difficulties. It works beautifully.


What's it about? Think "Clue," but with more (and better) characters and about the same about of Tim Curry's goofiness.


All ages. It might be a bit much to keep up with for typical under-10's, but ambitious middle-graders who enjoy reading should enjoy the hunt in The Westing Game.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

4 Stars
#TheGirlWithAlltheGifts: Wait...this book is about zombies?
The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

Wait...this book is about zombies?


Those sneaky publishers. Let's put that pretty yellow cover on it! Let's make the little-girl silhouette open and hopeful! Let's definitely not give any hint to what the book is really about in the blurb!


I'm glad they didn't though. If they had, I wouldn't have read it.


I would have missed out on a really good book.


While there is plenty of cringe-worthy zombie action, it's much less overtly gory and gruesome than other zombie stories I've been tricked into starting (but not finishing...because GROSS!).


Maybe it's wrong to say this is a book about zombies.


Better to say it's a book about people--featuring zombies.


The Girl with All the Gifts will get your emotions all twisted when the bad guys do what bad guys do. It will make your heart hurt and then soar as the good guys do what good guys do. It will make your brain muscle work as you ponder some great ethical dilemmas.


Oh, and it'll get your blood pumping while everyone tries to keep from getting eaten.


If zombies normally make you queasy, maybe give this one a try. There is still plenty of "ew," just not as much "ew" as you might expect. Lot's of 4-letter words too.


Sound like something you can handle? This one's worth your time.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained


4 Stars
#TheSpiderwickChronicles: Bullseye
The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 1) - Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi, Tony DiTerlizzi The Seeing Stone (The Spiderwick Chronicles Book 2) - Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi, Tony DiTerlizzi Lucinda's Secret (Spiderwick Chronicles, The) - Holly Black;Tony DiTerlizzi The Ironwood Tree (The Spiderwick Chronicles) - Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi The Wrath of Mulgarath (The Spiderwick Chronicles) - Holly Black, Tony DiTerlizzi

Two thumbs up for the Spiderwick Chronicles!


Fun. Short. Beautifully illustrated. Fairies, unicorns, elves, trolls, dwarves, goblins--all your standard fantasy creatures get some spotlight.


Hits the bulls eye for being content-accessible for their target audience without talking down to them. In my experience, that's really hard to do.


The grown up in me didn't like they were so short, but they seem to be right in the sweet spot for my 9-year-old to read independently.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

3 Stars
#DoAndroidsDreamofElectricSheep: Huh.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick, Robert Zelazny




That's what I said when I finished "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"


Literally. And out loud. All alone.


I'm still thinking about the book, so that's a good thing. The story was weird, but I enjoyed it anyway. I like that it's making me think. The only problem is I can't figure out what I'm supposed to feel. I know there's a point...I'm just not sure I get it.




Most have evacuated Earth, fled to colonies on Mars to escape the fallout from nuclear war. Advanced androids help Earthlings transition to their new homes. Some androids don't like their roles, so they sneak back to Earth and hide among the humans that remain. Police Bounty Hunters are tasked with hunting down those renegade androids and "retiring" them--with a well placed laser blast to the head. The only way to distinguish between an actual human and an android is to administer an empathy test, since empathy is the one emotion androids can't mimic.


The only problem? Those androids sure seemed capable of empathy to me...and our hero bounty hunter agrees. And the conflict begins.


So, that's the book. It's a story about the sanctity of life. Animals are alive. Humans are alive. Androids? So who gets to be the judge?


I enjoyed that it made me think. The story was weird. I'm glad to have checked it off my list.


Happy Reading.


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

5 Stars
#TheDarkTalent: There goes Brandon Sanderson being awesome again...
The Dark Talent: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) - Brandon Sanderson

You guys are going to love this.


If you and your kids aren't fans of Alcatraz and all his Talents, is only because you haven't read about him yet.


Puns, jokes, clever characters, snappy dialogue, an outstanding and exciting plot. Hidden messages. Breaking the 4th dimension. I'm talking laugh out loud fun. Give them to your kids. Read them to your kids. Read them yourself.


If you like audio books, the performance and quality is outstanding.


Seriously, these are the most fun, creative, family friendly stories your going to find. I can't recommend them enough.


Brandon Sanderson wrote Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians as a way to clear his mind in between writing the first two Mistborn books. How he's able to do this--switch between styles and stories while maintaining perfect consistency and quality--is beyond me. But he does it, and he does it brilliantly. The 4th Alcatraz book was published in 2010, and then...nothing. The characters were left hanging, the story unresolved, and a 5th and final story promised.


6 years later...


We now have book 5, The Dark Talent. It's everything I wanted it to be as a fan of the series, but with an ending that left me scratching my head. I'm no spoiler, but I'll just warn you to not take anything BS says as Alcatraz at face value.


I think someone might have seen a few too many Marvel movies--be sure to read all the way through the end credits or you'll be extremely disappointed.


On the other hand, if you're clever enough to discover the secret, your going to close book 5 with a very big, very happy smile on your face.


Like me.


Happy Reading!


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

1 Stars
#EmpireofStorms: This Book is Smut. I'm done at 51%.
Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas

I'm completely disgusted. I've recommended this series to so many people.


I take it all back.


Stay away.


I have no idea how the back half of this book is, and I'll never know because I'm not going to read it. I do have some thoughts about the first half, though.


The story used to be told from the POV of one or two, sometimes three characters. This is a fun way to tell a story. Now the narrative shifts between EIGHT characters. That is never fun. In fact, it's ridiculous.


The story used to center around an awesome teenage assassin who discovers she's really a long lost princess with killer magical abilities--turning her into an awesome teenage magical princess assassin who has to accept who she is and take control of her lost kingdom to rid the world of the bad guys and save all the good guys.


That was cool.


Now that story gets a back seat so all those EIGHT characters can describe their smoldering, angsty, unwarranted, forced, unnecessary, obsessive, Bella-and-Edward-ish, unsuppressible physical attraction to one another. Barf.


Clearly I am no longer the target demographic for this series.


And so the first 50% of this story meanders along with the characters lusting after each other, occasionally showing glimpses of what used to make the story cool.


An then, right at 51%, this happened:


"She popped the third and final button free and he let go of her to toss his pants into the sand nearby, taking his undershorts with them. Her mouth went dry as she took in the sight of him.


"Rowan had been bred and honed for battle, and every inch of him was pure-blooded warrior."


Ew. Barf. BARF.


I was warned about what came next, but I thought it surely couldn't be that bad.


It wasn't.


It was worse.


This fun, PG-rated story, begin with Throne of Glass and those awesome prequels. They were clean enough and exciting enough that I recommended them to my own kids as well as my friends and their kids. More books were published, and the story got a little edgier and little more violent. Some bad language crept in. The love interests got a little more mature. By book 4 the series was easily PG-13. Book 5, I expected, would continue with the trend. And I was right--I just didn't know how right. It skipped R and went straight to smut.


If I want to read smut I'll read 50 Shades.


So now I'm done, and I'll be using my influence and readership to warn everyone I know.


Read smut if you want. But go into this one eyes wide open.


What a bummer.


The Value of a Star: Ratings Explained

#EmpireofStorms: I've read 51%, and wish I hadn't...
Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas

"She popped the third and final button free and he let go of her to toss his pants into the sand nearby, taking his undershorts with them. Her mouth went dry as she took in the sight of him.


"Rowan had been bred and honed for battle, and every inch of him was pure-blooded warrior."




And...I'm out.


If I want to read smut I'll read 50 Shades.

Dan's Latest Reads

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While
3 of 5 stars
A thirty-page prequel that tells the story of how Mallow became Queen of Fairyland. I found it to be a bit wordy. All the good stuff about characters you will recognize from Book 1 happens in the last 5 pages or so.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
5 of 5 stars
A Fairytale for Lovers of Fairytales If I.Q. were a measure of strength of imagination, Catherynne Valente would most certainly be the Albert Einstein of writers. There was more imagination on display in that book than in any other book...
5 of 5 stars
Outstanding. A treasure. A pleasure. And quite spooky! I loved Coraline! It's the perfect mix of spooky and fun. It's going to be the next read aloud to my kids book!
tagged: age-reco-all-ages, my-favs-for-young-people, and my-top-25
The Sorcerer of the North
2 of 5 stars
Well, that was dumb... That ending wasn't a cliffhanger--it just stopped in the middle of the story! Too bad the story wasn't anywhere near engaging enough to make me want to find out what happens next. I should have just stopped at boo...
tagged: don-t-recommend and age-reco-13up
The Blood of Olympus
3 of 5 stars
Dang! Such a disappointing ending to an exceptionally fun series! Is it really so hard to write a satisfying ending? The Blood of Olympus, the fifth and final book of the Heroes of Olympus series, lost its way--and not even everyone's f...
tagged: age-reco-13up
5 of 5 stars
I'm so glad I picked up this series... ...because it's REALLY fun! Zero complaints. Each book introduces new characters and does an outstanding job of incorporating them into the story with out watering down the experience. The Luner Ch...
tagged: age-reco-13up and my-favs-for-young-people
5 of 5 stars
Another great surprise! I was surprised how much I enjoyed Cinder, so I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised I thought Scarlet was just as fun! I must admit though--it sounded gimmicky to write books loosely based on fairy tales. Tu...
tagged: my-favs-for-young-people and age-reco-13up
5 of 5 stars
A Great Start! I've really got to do a better job of making sure I don't get sucked into a series until all books are published...I hate waiting! Actually, this time I took one for the team and read Cinder before all the books were out ...
tagged: age-reco-13up, my-favs-for-young-people, and my-top-25
The House of Hades
4 of 5 stars
Great, with a footnote... House of Hades was great. the story was fun and the characters are endearing...which is a feat considering there are anywhere from 8 to 12 key characters you are rooting for. Here's the footnote, particularly ...
tagged: age-reco-13up and my-favs-for-young-people
The Mark of Athena
5 of 5 stars
Awesome! Yep, that's the best way to describe book three. Loved it. Quite a cliffhanger though--I'm VERY glad I don't have a to wait for the next book! Ill review the series when I'm finished. Two books to go! SERIES REVIEW Dang. Wha...
tagged: my-favs-for-young-people and age-reco-all-ages