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I purchased Skipped Parts on December 17, 2011. I know this because Amazon told me so. It also told me that I shipped it to my mom’s house, which probably means that I first attempted to read it over winter break. Four years ago.

Then it moved with me twice (from Wisconsin to New Jersey, and then again within the state of New Jersey), and I really forgot about it until I had to find a book I’d started and never finished for my 2015 reading challenge. I don’t abandon many books (as you can see by my “abandoned” shelf on Goodreads), so this was a tough one.

I vaguely remembered reading this book. Or trying to, I guess. I didn’t even abandon it because I hated it. I don’t really recall, but I probably had to go back to school in the middle of the book. And I probably forgot it at my mom’s house. I hate leaving books unfinished, so I’m glad it’s done now. Almost four years later.

Skipped Parts is the story of Sam Callahan, a thirteen-year-old boy who, along with his mother, is exiled to middle-of-nowhere Wyoming by his wealthy grandfather. Sam and his mother, Lydia, are fully disappointed with their new home. The weather’s awful, the people are worse, and they can only get one station on their television. The one shining light for Sam is his classmate Maurey, a beautiful and actually intelligent young woman who suggests that the two of them “practice” for their future by experimenting with sex.

Lydia is not only ok with Sam and Maurey’s new relationship, but she actually encourages it, going so far as to give them sex tips. Her one rule: the fun stops when Maurey gets her first period. But who would have imagined that Maurey would get pregnant first?

What follows is a book full of Sam and Maurey’s ups and downs, the development of their relationship as they come of age, and a number of (often ridiculous) plot twists. The characters are all interesting, in a love them or hate them kind of way. I think I related the most to Sam and his blind devotion to Maurey, even when she was being absolutely awful to him. I would like to be surprised by Lydia’s attitude, but I’m not. I’d also like to be surprised by the idea of thirteen-year-olds experimenting with sex, but I’m not. Although this book is set in the early 1960’s, it’s relevant to today’s society of Teen Mom entertainment and parents who couldn’t care less that their babies are having babies.

So here’s the verdict: Skipped Parts is neither the best or worst book in recent memory. I have no strong feelings one way or the other. I was compelled to keep reading in hopes of a happy ending that I knew I wasn’t going to get. Above all, I’m glad to have finally finished a book I started almost four years ago.

Final rating: 

★★★☆☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #50: a book you started but never finished.

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Libba Bray has been one of my favorite authors since I was in high school and I first read the Gemma Doyle series.  I’ve looked forward to every book she’s released since then, and was not at all surprised to fall in love with The Diviners back in 2012.  I waited, and waited, and waited for Lair of Dreams, devoured it as usual, and loved it almost as much as its predecessor.

A word of caution: if you haven’t read The Diviners since its original release, I would suggest at least reading through some reviews prior to starting Lair of Dreams, because it does build upon a lot that happened in that book.  It took me probably a good 50-100 pages to immerse myself in this world again, but once I did, oh it was worth it.

In Lair of Dreams, Evie O’Neill and her supernatural crime-fighting band of Diviners are back, ready to take on New York’s sleeping sickness.  In this installment of the series, Naughty John is gone, replaced by a mysterious sickness that seems to lock people in their dreams.  Memphis, a dream walker, is their only hope at uncovering the mystery, but what if he too gets locked in a dream?

On the sidelines, Evie has become wildly popular as the host of her own radio show.  She reads listeners’ belongings on air, but when she’s alone, she experiences the devastating consequences of what happened in the last book.

Bray introduces a new character, Ling, who initially seems like too much, but fits so well once her story gains momentum.  It always amazes me how she’s able to connect so many characters and weave so many different plots together.  Instead of becoming a confused jumble, the connections become more and more obvious until her final message becomes crystal clear.

I loved the depictions of New York, even more than in the last book.  This is possibly because I now frequently visit New York.  I’m familiar with what she’s talking about.  I can picture it better.  It’s so magical, and I can just imagine some of these creepy things happening in the subway tunnels.

I can’t wait until the next installment comes out.

Final rating: ★★★★★

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Today’s theme is a Thanksgiving freebie.  I chose to list ten authors I’m thankful for this year, and it was much harder than I expected.  I chose the first ten that came to mind, but I’m sure I forgot some good ones.

Which authors are you thankful for this year?

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I’ll admit it. I was first attracted to Movie Game because of its cover. Bad choice on my part, because this was just not my kind of story.

It begins as Joe, a self-professed cinephile, follows a couple home after they spent an entire movie talking. “Movie talkers attract stalkers,” he tells them as he sprays a mixture of soda and condiments on their door.

Now there are federal agents following Joe. Why are they interested in him? Later, we’ll find that it’s actually his missing father they’re interested in. But it’s not just the federal agents interested in Joe. Everybody is interested in Joe. For being such an unlikable character, he’s sure got a ton of people wanting to be with him. It must be his dashing good looks, because it’s certainly not his personality.

Joe is very detached from reality, in a way I couldn’t really sympathize with. At the beginning of the book, Joe seems a little over-the-top, but still kind of cool in the way he goes after movie talkers. As the book progresses, we find that Joe really just uses people for what he needs, plays with them however he wants to, and lets them go. He doesn’t even show remorse for playing with his sister’s feelings. It’s all a game to him.

This book is touted in the blurb as being “a fast-paced, humorous novel.” It is neither. I found that it dragged. It took me almost a week to read it, and it’s only 302 pages. It isn’t funny, either. A teenage boy spiraling out of control and living as if he’s in a movie after the traumatic death of his girlfriend is not funny. A teenage boy abandoned by his mother after his father leaves town is not funny. It’s more sad than anything.

The only part of the book that I really enjoyed was the movie game itself. Joe and his friends shoot back and forth, quickly connecting actors and movies, going into more and more obscure vintage and foreign films in an attempt to knock each other out of the game. It made me wish I had enough film knowledge to play along!

Final rating:

★★☆☆☆

Not my cup of tea, but entertaining enough.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy. 

Interested in reading Movie Game?  Goodreads First Reads has a giveaway through December 6, 2015 – click here to enter.

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It’s not often that I rate books so low.  I had my rating set at two stars, but then I thought that wasn’t fair to the other two-star books in recent memory. Love Me is on a whole different level.

I first downloaded this book years ago, before I even had an e-reader to read it on, back when I was trying to find something – anything – to read on my lunch breaks at work.  It was free for Kindle, and it gathered virtual dust for about three years before I remembered I had it.

The plot is supposed to go something like this: Luke and Janica have known each other since childhood.  Luke’s brother married Janica’s sister, and so they’ve kept their feelings for each other buried so as not to upset the delicate balance in their lives.  One night, Luke’s in such an awful place that he can’t think of anywhere he could go but Janica’s house.  Romance ensues.  Feelings combust.  Fireworks.

What actually happens: Sex.  Some more sex.  An argument.  Sex.  Argument.  Sex.  Tragedy.  Sex.  Marriage.

This book really doesn’t have a plot.  It’s a mess.  Neither of the characters are likable.  Janica starts off alright but ends up losing her spirit at the end.  Luke didn’t work for me.  There was nothing in his personality that appealed to me whatsoever.  They didn’t have any chemistry.  The sex scenes aren’t even sexy.  I hardly think it’s a spoiler to share that the author resorts to insta-marriage to wrap up this story nicely, because that’s exactly what I would expect from a story of this caliber.

I have seen Bella Andre’s name come up so often when it comes to good romance, but I won’t be seeking out other books by her any time soon.  I’m glad this book was free.  I can’t imagine suggesting that anybody should spend money on it.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆

The 17th has come and gone, and I was again able to successfully finish three books that I’ve owned for over a year and never gotten around to reading.  This month, they were:

  • Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin
  • Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum
  • Love Me by Bella Andre

I wasn’t planning on reading Love Me this month, but as I previously posted, I can’t find my copy of Middlesex – and I did dust off The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (in Spanish) but didn’t feel I had enough time to tackle it before the end of the challenge.

Instead, I ended up going through my Kindle to find books I’d downloaded and forgotten about.  There are actually a ton of them!  Love Me wasn’t great (in fact, it was actually pretty terrible – review to come), but I’m glad I got it off my shelf.

I did enjoy both Don’t Look Back and Skipped Parts.

Next month, I’m going to try for:

  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

I have until December 17 to finish.

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In the third and final installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra has been kidnapped by her mother. She’s been drugged into a deep sleep, presumably for her own protection, as her mother has just now started feeling maternal instincts, however misguided they may be. It’s up to Will to rescue her so they can continue on their journey from the previous book.

Lyra and Will must head into the world of the dead for two reasons: for Lyra to make amends with Roger, and for Will to speak with his father. As the two of them search for the way to the world of the dead (because it’s not quite as simple as just cutting a window), they meet tiny Gallivespian spies and sassy angels. While Lyra and Will journey into this unknown world, Mary Malone begins a new life with the Mulefa in a parallel world, where she inadvertently expands upon her previous research on Dust.

Oh, this book broke my heart. I cried. More than once. This one wasn’t particularly fun to read, and it doesn’t have a happy ending. But the ending was fitting, and if you’ve read the other two books of the series, you wouldn’t expect this installment to be particularly fun anyway.

Lyra and Will grow up in this book. Sure, they started to grow up in The Subtle Knife, but they become almost-adults here. They learn tough lessons. They get their hearts and spirits broken. Pullman’s not shy with destroying their hopes and dreams, or the hopes and dreams of his readers.

As with my previous reviews of the series, here are four things I really liked in this book:

1) Mary Malone and the Mulefa. Of all the parallel worlds we encounter in this trilogy, I think the world of the Mulefa was my favorite. These oddly diamond-shaped creatures who roll around on wheels was such a departure from Pullman’s other worlds, whose creatures were fairly similar to ours. The ability of the Mulefa to live hand-in-hand with nature was wonderful, and I loved the way Mary’s previous research tied into their needs.

2) Death. I loved the whole idea of death in this book, in particular the idea that your death is floating around you all the time, and if you just acknowledge it, it can be almost a comfort to you. However, if you fear your death, try to avoid and ignore it, it becomes something that haunts you. I really liked the idea of personifying death to be someone that will help you through to the world of the dead.

3) Mrs. Coulter. I know, I know. How can I have liked her in this book? It’s not so much her character that I liked, but what Pullman did with it. Is she good? Is she evil? Has she had a change of heart? Does she really care about Lyra, or is she just using her? Does she plan to betray Lord Asriel or not? She kept me on my toes. I much prefer that to a character who is obviously a bad person.

4) As with The Subtle Knife, Will and Lyra’s relationship. These two were responsible for at least half my tears in this book. The way things turned out was heartbreaking, but it fit with the overall theme of the book, and I can’t fault Pullman for that.

What a book. What a series. I’m so glad I read it, and only upset that I didn’t do it sooner.

Final rating: 

★★★★☆

For my 2015 reading challenge, I’m crossing off #42: a book you own but have never read.