Dirty Book Club

DirtyBookClub

The Dirty Book Club

Written By: Lisi Harrison
Published: October 2017
Grade: B+

M.J. Stark thinks she has built the perfect life in the wake of losing her mother, father, and sister in a tragic accident. She has a gorgeous doctor boyfriend, a fantastic Manhattan apartment, and is a shoo-in to take over running New York’s City magazine when her boss retires. However, when her boss informs M.J. that, due to her asocial way working, she’ll have to share her promotion with another coworker, M.J. impulsively decides to take her boyfriend up on his offer to join him in California. After weeks of self-pity, M.J. decides to bring a thank you gift to a neighbor after Dan, M.J.’s boyfriend, borrows their patio furniture while they’re out of town. There she meets Gloria, a sassy older woman with a taste for strong martinis and juicy gossip. After Gloria’s husband dies suddenly, Gloria decides to pack up and move to Paris in honor of a decade-old pact with her friends, leaving M.J. alone and friendless. Then, shortly after Gloria leaves, M.J. is sent an invitation to a secret club, along with a date and time for her first meeting. When she arrives, M.J. meets the other members: Addie, a women’s clinic nurse with a healthy sexual appetite; Britt, an overworked mother of two who’s tired of husband’s lack of interest in her; and Jules, a hopeless romantic who’s blissfully ignorant of her husband’s affairs with other women. Together they learn the purpose for the club: to read quote/unquote dirty books and cultivate a lasting friendship. Intrigued, the four women decide to give the club a try for the summer before returning to their own, hectic lives. However, as the group begins reading the selections and the letters the original group wrote to accompany them, they find they have more in common than they originally though, and learn that sometimes the strongest friendships are forged in the most unusual circumstances.

While author Lisi Harrison usually write for the YA set, her adult novel debut is solid. Her characters are well-developed, including the original club members, whom we mostly learn about through the letters they wrote to accompany the books. While M.J. is clearly the main character, the book is written in the third person and rarely deviates from her, though it would have been interesting to read firsthand what we learn about as the information is being relayed to her.

Chick lit is usually a safe bet for authors, as there are many who enjoy a light, simple read. I was able to finish the novel in a little over a morning without missing any of the information. The plotline manages to hold your interest and doesn’t read like it was originally meant for teenagers.

Anyone looking for a fun, easy read who doesn’t mind books gear towards women should enjoy this. It’s a little jarring in the beginning to start with Gloria and her friends and then jump over to M.J. I spent a little time wondering if M.J. was somehow related to one of the original club members until I figured out that she wasn’t, but aside from that, the book is easy to follow.

Check your local library or bookstore for availability, or purchase through any participating on-line retailer.

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The Darkest Minds

DarkestMinds

The Darkest Minds

Written By: Alexandra Bracken
Published: December 2012
Grade: B+

In the near future, children between the ages of 10 and 18 are afflicted with a disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration, which is referred to simply as IAAN by most characters, which kills most of those who contract it, and gives the ones lucky enough to survive super powers. On her 10th birthday, Ruby Daley wakes up to find that her parents no longer recognize her, and she is sent to the brutal Camp Thurmond along with several other children from her area. While there, Ruby learns that the children are being separated into groups by color: Greens, who are highly intelligent and are good at solving puzzles and breaking codes; Blues, who are telekinetic; Yellows, who are electrokinetic; Reds, who are pyrokinetic; and Oranges, who have telepathic abilities. She manages to convince the doctor doing her intake exam that she’s a harmless Green, and for six years she tries to keep her head down and hopes that no one notices that she’s actually an Orange. One day, after a test of the facility’s suppression system, Ruby is informed by a doctor that they know she’s really an Orange, and that she has a limited amount of time before they come to eliminate her. After escaping with the doctor and another inmate, Ruby learns that the people who rescued her, the Children’s League, aren’t what they seem, and she runs from them as well. In her escape, she teams up with a small group of other kids who have run away from a different camp, consisting of Liam, the group’s leader, who is a Blue; Chubs, who’s a Green, and Zu, a young Yellow. Afraid that her new friends will cast her out if they learn she’s an Orange, she keeps up the ruse that she’s a Green for as long as she can as she and her new friends seek out a safe haven for kids like them. On their way, they meet some familiar faces, as well as discovering new threats that they must face.

The Darkest Minds is the first book in this series, so not all of the characters are well developed. You learn the most about Ruby, who is the main character and narrator, and most of the more minor characters don’t get much more than a name and a color, if they even get that much. With Liam and Chubs we learn that their parents attempted to hide them from the government before they were eventually caught, and we also learn about Liam’s brother and his history with the Children’s League. Zu is the one we learn the least about since her character is voluntarily mute for the time being, due to the torture and experimentation she received at the camp she, Liam, and Chubs were at before they escaped.

Released in the midst of the YA dystopian craze a few years ago, The Darkest Minds holds up okay. Most of these books have similar plots, which a small group of special-in-their-own-ways teens accidentally stumbling on a governmental conspiracy and then leading the charge to topple said corrupt government, and in the realm of these books, this looks to be one of the better ones. I haven’t read/started the remaining books in the series (there are two more in the series proper, with a collection of short stories and a post-series follow up novel as well). The biggest issue I had with the book was the was oversimplification of the powers the kids developed. It would have been interesting, at least in my opinion, to see slight variations on the categories, but it’s understandable that she would want to keep things easy to manage.

If you like dystopian YA, or just want an easy fantasy novel to read, then you’ll probably like this one. The characters are, for the most part, likeable, and the story is easy to follow without spoonfeeding information to you. Some bits of plot stumble on longer than they should, but that can be said about nearly every book written. It also seems like something that could possibly happen, given how little we actually know about how the brain works.

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The Burning Maze

TOA3

The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze

Written By: Rick Riordan
Published: May 2018
Grade: A

The third book of Riordan’s Trials of Apollo series, Lester-as-Apollo, along with his “master” Meg McCaffrey, and Grover Underwood (from the original Percy Jackson series) end up in California, where they enlist the help of Piper McLean and Jason Grace (both from the Heroes of Olympus series) to defeat the third emperor in the Triumvirate.  While there, they learn that part of the Labyrinth has caught fire, and they need to figure out what’s causing it so they can put a stop to the wildfires raging through Southern California.

Riordan once again takes his vast knowledge of history and mythology and makes a compelling, engaging story that holds your attention and makes you wish there was more to read.  Apollo continues his character development, and we get small insights into the previously-established characters as well.  He also gives a tiny history/mythology lesson and drops some interesting and educational trivia without hitting you over the head with it.

As the series continues, Apollo seems to discovering his humanity, as he becomes more and more concerned about those around him, including a new friend he picked up on his journey.  In addition to the established characters mentioned above, there’s also a brief appearance by Leo Valdez, who also first appeared in the Heroes of Olympus series and also played a role in this series’ previous installment, The Dark Prophecy, and we meet new characters in the form of several dryads, or nature spirits, who are taking refuge on the land once owned and cultivated by Meg’s deceased father, all of whom go by the name of their plant type (Joshua Tree, Aloe Vera, Prickly Pear, etc.), and Crest, a pandos, which is a mythological race of furry, big-eared, eight-fingered-and-toed creatures from India which appeared in some ancient Greek literature.

There are still two more books left in this particular series, as is typical with Riordan’s Greek-centered books, so don’t expect everything to be wrapped up by the end.

This book should be available at your local library or through a local or on-line retailer.

Midnight Crossroad

MidnightCross

Midnight Crossroad

Written By: Charlaine Harris
Published: May 2014
Grade: B+

Inspired by my enjoyment of the Midnight, Texas television show, I dug this book out from the depths of my to-reads and sat down with it.  The plot line of the book is similar to the first half arc of the show, with Manfred moving to Midnight (though for reasons different than the show), and the mystery surrounding the death of a local woman.

I’m really only familiar with Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books, which I enjoyed.  These books take place in a similarly supernaturally-inclined world, and a little research tells me that some of the characters have crossed paths with ones in her other series, making all of her book series fundamentally connected.

Seeing as how this is the first book in a series, some of the character personalities are left a little wanting.  We learn about Manfred, an internet psychic with a touch of the real deal.  Fiji, a Wiccan running a New Age shop, who’s also genuine witch.  Lemuel, who takes the night shift at the local pawn shop, a centuries-old vampire who’s slightly different than Harris’ typical vampires.  And Bobo, who owns the pawn shop and runs it during the day, and is one of Midnight’s few truly human residents.  Other characters are touched on, but not developed much, which leaves room for future installments.

As stated before, the plot follows the first arc of the show, mainly dealing with the death of Aubrey, Bobo’s girlfriend who had disappeared several months before the events of the book.  It’s not a disappointing mystery to follow, since there are other tertiary characters in the book that weren’t used in the series who help flesh out the story.  Despite knowing who the killer was from the show, I was still interested in where the story went and how it panned out.
I would definitely recommend this book if you like Harris’ other works, or if you’re into Urban Fantasy.  It doesn’t focus too heavily on the supernatural stuff, so those who like a decent murder mystery might find it interesting as well.

Check your local library or bookstore for availability, or purchase through any on-line book retailer.

The Ship of the Dead

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Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead

Written By: Rick Riordan
Published: October 2017
Grade: A

In the third and final book of Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, Magnus and his hallmates set out to find Loki and stop Ragnarok from occurring in the immediate future.

Personally, I like Riordan’s demigod books, this one being no exception.  His unique style of writing for children makes it so that you almost don’t realize you’re learning about the various mythologies his stories are styled around, which makes them interesting, funny, and informative.

Magnus is a likeable, sympathetic hero, and some of his friends are finally fully formed and are no longer relegated to window dressing.  We get more insight into Halfborn Gunderson, Mallory Keen, and Thomas Jefferson Jr., which includes why and how they died, and what Loki had to do with it.  The previous two books already explored why Alex Fierros and Samirah Al-Abbas were, respectively, an einherjer and a Valkyrie.

About the only disappointing thing about this book is that it’s the last one in this particular series.  I’d love it if Riordan somehow managed to combine all of his book series into one giant story, with a central conspiracy about the end of the world (a common theme in all of Riordan’s books).

This book should be available at your local library.