Author Archive for Kara Horgan


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 27: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

UnknownTrying like mad to get as much in before we leave today on our Summer vacation. One more review should do it for me.

A few weeks ago, popcultureboy wrote an intriguing review about a new mystery called Elizabeth is Missing. He sold me on it in his very first paragraph, in his descriptions of the extremely forgetful narrator, Maud. And I know, I’m definitely on a popcultureboy-recommended book kick these days. Thanks.

Maud is an octogenarian, living on her own, but with daily “carers” coming in to help her out. Maud is clearly suffering from some sort of Alzheimer’s-like malady and simply can’t get by on her own any longer. She starts to make a cup of tea, and then walks away. She goes for a walk, and finds herself lost. She often can’t even remember her own daughter’s name. But she does know one thing: she hasn’t seen her friend Elizabeth in quite some time. Maud is convinced Elizabeth is missing.

Maud’s attempts to find out what has happened to her friend are often heartbreaking and tough to read. Maud would write herself notes, to help remind her of the clues she had uncovered so far — but then couldn’t remember when or where she had written the notes. She would make phone calls and lists, but then wouldn’t remember that she had done it.

I’m going to be honest, Maud’s scenes in the present filled me with dread. Dread that someday I might end up like Maud, or worse, that someone that I love will end up that way.

But Maud’s detective work only makes up half of the story. In the other half, Maud loses herself in memories of her sister, sukey. Sukey disappeared in the 1940s under very mysterious circumstances, and Maud never gave up hope that she might find out what had happened to her beloved sister.

Maud’s memories of the events that took place almost 70 years prior were sharp and detailed, a distinct contrast to her day-to-day doings. But somehow, the two stories and two narrative voices blend together to paint a complete picture of Maud — who she was and who she became.

All in all, a wonderful mystery from a talented author. Difficult to read at times, but totally worth it in the end.

My one complaint? The US hardcover had none of the charm that the UK version had.


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 26: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

UnknownRecently, bunnybean and I discovered an awesome new (newish?) book store really close to our house. It’s on a weird little side street, and we had no idea there was a whole little world down there — coffee shop, Lebanese cafe, and a book store. And we found out that Sasha and Malia shop there, and that their dad does, too. Really, it’s a great little store.

One of my favorite things there is that all of the employees make notes on all of the books they’ve read or are reading. They put little paper stars on the front of display copies, saying things like “If you think Twilight ruined vampire stories for the rest of us, check out this one” on the cover of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, or a sign over a display of Rainbow Rowell books that simply says “THESE. YES. NOW.”.

I was in there a few weeks ago and saw the following:



And so, well, I had to buy it.

I’m so glad I did. This story cracked me up. And it made me want to listen to the Rolling Stones.

Yes, it’s a dire tale about the end of the world being brought about by the stupidity of a bunch of high school jocks in Iowa. Yes, it has heartbreakingly real scenes about sexual identity and general teenage confusion. Yes, there are depressing bits about injured soldiers and alcoholic mothers. And yes, I found myself giggling throughout the whole of it.

Austin is a teenage boy who lives in Iowa. He has a beautiful girlfriend, who he very much would like to have sex with. And he has a gay best friend, who he just might like to have sex with. Austin just doesn’t know. He does know that he loves them both, more than anything.

When the world as they know it starts to come crumbling down around them, Austin and his friends quickly piece together a bit of a crazy mystery. Ages ago, their town had been home to a company creating biological weapons for the government. Among those weapons, corn that would destroy the testicles of any man who ate it, and 8 foot tall insect soldiers. Insects that only want to eat (humans taste best) and create more and more insects. This company also created an underground bunker, in which to recreate civilization when and if the bugs were ever let loose into society. Luckily, when the bugs do arrive in town, Austin and his friends know about the bunker and get as many of their loved ones there as possible before the end.

The book is written as a series of journal entries — Austin fancies himself a bit of an historian, and writes down everything that happens to him. Everything. He’s obsessed with his Polish heritage, the history of his town, and how small decisions (like kissing your best friend on the roof of a pawn shop) can change everything. I’ve read a lot of criticism (including this fine review from ardaigle) about this narrative choice, but I think it worked. I liked the perspective here: Yes, everything is terrible…BUT, maybe, somehow, we could find a way to have sex?

This book is clearly not for everybody. Some of the bug scenes are grisly and disgusting. But I enjoyed it immensely. It reminded me a lot of a book I read ages ago…Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King. The plots are very, very different, but the feeling of the book is the same. I’ll be on the lookout for more by Andrew Smith.

And yes, this was the greatest book about giant homicidal praying mantises in the history of literature.





Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 25: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Unknown-1I’ve been a Stephen King girl ever since summer camp in Jr. High, when someone handed me their copy of The Shining. Later that summer I read The Stand and ‘Salems Lot and every other worn paperback I could get my hands on before camp was over. I was hooked.

I’ve read pretty much everything the man has written over the years (not every non-fiction piece, and a few short stories printed in obscure journals have eluded me). Some of his books are among my all-time favorites: The Stand, The Dark Tower series, The Eyes of the Dragon, Night Shift, and ‘Salem’s Lot, to name a few. Yes, most of those were written decades ago. It’s true that some of his newer books don’t pack the punch of his older works, and that his endings haven’t quite worked, but there’s still some good writing to be found in there if you look hard enough. But something switched for me around the time of 11/22/63 — I felt like we were getting more of the old “Uncle Stevie” again. Look at parts of hi bibliography for the last few years (since Under the Dome, which is best left alone): Mile 81, 11/22/63, The Wind Through the Keyhole, In the Tall Grass (folks, that one was so freaky, I couldn’t even review it. OLD SCHOOL KING), Joyland, and Doctor Sleep. All are really quite good.

Which brings us to Mr. Mercedes.

Folks, this is the first King book that I’ve actually stayed up into the wee hours to finish in years. Whenever I tried to put it aside, I kept saying to myself, HEY, I REALLY NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN. PICK THAT BOOK UP AGAIN. And today I’m paying the price for it, but I’m not sorry that I did it.

Mr. Mercedes is about a retired detective in a dying mid-west city. Bill Hodges’ entire life was being a detective, and now that he isn’t anymore, he’s simply waiting to die. He flirts with the idea of suicide and he treats his body like a garbage disposal. His marriage is over, his friends are all still active police, and all he has is daytime television.

Until one day, he gets a letter from the one criminal he wished he had caught, Mr. Mercedes. A few years prior, someone drove a big Mercedes into a crowd of people waiting in line for a job fair. The car killed 8 people, including an infant, and seriously injured many more. The case the failure to solve it has haunted Hodges, and hearing from Mr. Mercedes snaps Bill out of his depression and brings him back to life.

In alternate chapters, we hear from Mr. Mercedes himself, young Brady Hartsfield. And Brady’s goal is to convince Hodges to kill himself. And then, maybe he’ll blow up a huge crowd of people with all of the plastic explosive that he has sitting in his mother’s basement.

Bill Hodges, knowing that his attempt to investigate without the knowledge of the police department would be highly illegal, decides to do just that. With his rag-tag team of assistants, Bill is in a race against the clock. They know Mr. Mercedes is going to strike again, and soon. But they don’t know much else, and it’s up to them to solve this mystery in time. As Bill and his team get one step closer to figuring out who Mr. Mercedes is, Brady takes one step back, his sanity and patience slowly unraveling.

This was a taut and exciting thriller from King. While he’s still best known for stories about monsters and other things that go bump in the night, I find that his scariest stuff is usually about things that could potentially happen and the darkness that lives inside some people. Those are the monsters that scare me.

I’ve heard this is the first book in a planned trilogy. While I can’t possibly imagine what the next two books could be about, I look forward to them anyway. It’s not like I’m suddenly going to stop reading Stephen King.




Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 24: Cress by Marissa Meyer

imagesI’m still so far behind in my reviews, I’m starting to get anxious about it. We are leaving for a month-long vacation next week, and I just might not be able to get a chance to say everything I want and need to say. Sorry that these next few might not get the detail that they deserve :(

Even thought it feels like ages ago, I think it was only about two weeks ago that I finished Cress. For those that don’t know (which, really, I think most of you do know), Cress is the third book in the awesome Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. These books tell the story of a future world where earth is being threatened by the evil Moon queen, thousands are dying of a mysterious plague, and a half-cyborg teenage girl is our best hope for survival.

What I love most about these books is the fun way that Meyer loosely bases her characters on fairy tales, but that they aren’t in any way “princess-y”. In book one, Cinder, Linh Cinder lives with her evil stepmother, falls in love with a handsome prince, and even has a big scene when she’s dressed up at the ball (but here, instead of a glass slipper, she leaves behind her cyborg foot. Potayto-Potahto.). In the second book, Scarlet, Cinder’s adventures continue, and along the way we also meet Scarlet, a girl in a red hoodie sweatshirt who lives with her grandmother, and meets a scary guy who happens to be named Wolf.

The adventures of Cinder, Scarlet, and friends now intersect with a new character — Cress. A girl imprisoned alone in a satellite, circling the earth, Cress has long, long, LONG hair. She only has her computer to keep her company, and she’s starving for some human interaction, especially if it could be with a certainhandsome, rakish, Carswell Thorne.

Cress has been forced to spy on Cinder for the leaders of the lunar colony. It turns out, Cinder is the heir to the lunar throne– long thought dead by the people of the moon. Cress knows Cinder’s secret and decides to revolt against her captors in order to help Cinder and her crew.
Cress has truly convinced herself that there’s more to Thorne than meets the eye, and is willing to do just about anything for him, even without actually having met him.

Meyer is a pro at sharing time between the characters — effortlessly jumping from old characters to new, from Cress to Cinder, from the moon to the Sahara. Yes, there were some characters I wanted to know more about, and some I was less invested in, but I was never bored, and never found myself skimming sections (hello, George RR Martin). These books are really just fun.

I hear that the fourth book will be based on Snow White (I’m guessing the wacky lunar princess holding Scarlet hostage fits that bill). I’m looking forward to continuing with this rare series that has actually gotten better as it goes along.


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 23: Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald

UnknownI almost feel like I don’t need to tell you anything at all about Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood. You already know if this is a book you might like.

It is exactly what it sounds like — a modern day retelling of a Jane Austen story, that happens to take place in Hollywood.

Wanna know more? Ok.

This particular re-telling is a version of Sense & Sensibility. Not my favorite Austen, but certainly not my least favorite, either. I was game for an update, knowing I probably wasn’t getting something of the same quality as say, Clueless, or Bridget Jones’ Diary.

And it wasn’t as good as those. But honestly, it wasn’t that bad. I even enjoyed it.

Our story centers around Grace and Hallie, sisters living in San Francisco with their artist mother when their father dies at the beginning of the book. Hallie and Grace find themselves pushed aside by their new stepmother, the awful Portia. And as time passes, they find that Portia will stop at nothing to ensure that Grace and Hallie are left with nothing. They inherit nothing (their fathers vast fortune will be left entirely to their half-brother, Dashwood), and they lose their house. They aren’t even sure where they’ll end up living, until a distant cousin in Hollywood comes to their rescue.

Their “Uncle Auggie” produces Lifetime TV movies in Hollywood and lives in Beverly Hills. He and his very young wife have a guest house sitting empty. And so the girls and their mom find themselves living jn a strange new house in a strange city filled with even stranger people.

And so the story chugs along, offering up few surprises, but still entirely pleasant. Of course we know that Portia’s awesome brother won’t end up with that horrid British nanny, Lucy. And we can see from a mile away what’s going to happen when Hallie falls for a musician trying to get a record deal, instead of the sweet Brandon who loves next door.

This book goes for about $2.50 on Kindle, and really, I’m not complaining. I think I got my money’s worth.


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 22: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

UnknownI’m about to confess something that I don’t think will be a very popular opinion around here.

I just read Dreams of Gods & Monsters. And I didn’t love it.

I know, right? What’s wrong with me? How could I think such a thing?

Honestly, I just don’t know.

I loved the first book. LOVED it. And I really liked the second one, and definitely appreciated what a great set up it was for a third book. I found myself really drawn to these characters and caring about what might happen to them. I was so excited to read this book. When I got it home from the library, I sat down immediately, and got right to it.

And I found myself, more often than not, putting it aside. This is not something that happened with the first two books. Ever.

I can’t really put my finger on the reason why, but this book (at least for the first 400 pages or so) just didn’t suck me in. It wasn’t until the scene in The St. Regis Hotel in Rome that my interest began to be piqued.

And that’s not the fault of Laini Taylor. That woman can write. She can move from humor to suspense to tragedy at the drop of a hat. Her descriptions of Rome, Morocco, and Eretz were gorgeous,  bringing to life realistic, beautiful places I could easily imagine.

But I just wasn’t engaged. And I’m sorry for it.

I really wanted to love this final entry in what is still one of the strongest trilogies out there. But I’m still glad I read it and happy that I stuck with it all the way through. I’m glad I got to know these richly drawn characters and spend a little time with them.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about the ending, but I do want to say that I didn’t really think it worked. It all seemed a bit too much like a storybook happy ending, which after three books filled with war and suffering and broken hearts, wasn’t quite what I had expected. I’m not saying I was hoping for Death and Destruction For Everyone!, because I certainly wasn’t. But I’m not sure I was hoping for this, either.

Anyway, thanks to Laini Taylor for these great books. I’m sorry this one didn’t do it for me, but I still loved them as a whole.

And I <3 Ziri. That’s all.

</end confession>


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 21: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Unknown-1Ugh. So far behind, and it’s only June. I’ve started working from home again, and finding myself wishing for more hours in the day to get everything done. I’m keeping up with the reading, but the reviewing is killing me. Gonna do my best.

I feel like it was ages ago that I read Persepolis. And when I was reading it, I had a lot of important things I wanted to say. That I needed to say.

And now I can’t remember any of them. But still, I recommend it highly.

Everyone probably knows this by now, but let me tell you a little bit about Persepolis and Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis is a lovely graphic novel that is split into two parts — Part 1 details Marjane’s early youth in Iran, right at the start of the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s. Part 2 is more about her teen/young adult years. She is sent to live in Vienna, where she falls in with an interesting crowd. She returns to Tehran, falls in love, and falls out of love. And all the while, changes are happening all around her, in every aspect of her life: socially, physically, culturally, politically.

This is a relatively quick read, but by no means is it an easy, or a simple one. There is a lot to think about here. I’m ashamed to say that my knowledge of the changes that took place in Iran in the 70s was next to nothing — I remember hearing about the Shah, and I remember the Ayatollah, but I had no idea about the rest of it, and how this revolution changed the lives of Iran’s citizens so drastically.

Marjane shares many stories about her family and friends, and their losses through the years. The neighbors who disappeared in the night, the uncles tortured in prison, the riots and deaths in the street. And yet, there is humor and a bit of levity in her story. When she takes an art class in college drawing human figures, the female model is covered in a full-body chador. Marjane and her sarcasm have a field day with that.

The graphics are simple black & white drawings and are lovely. We can easily see Marjane’s pain, joy, and frustration through her pictures. To be honest, I much preferred Part 1 of the story. Her time in Vienna was a bit darker than I expected, and I was anxious for her to get back to Tehran and her family.

Just after reading, I also watched the movie, which came out a few years ago. I thought it was fine, but really preferred the experience of reading her story on the page.


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 20: A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Unknown-3A few months ago, I was delighted to stumble upon Written in Red, the first in “the others” series from Anne Bishop. Written in Red was the story of a world where creatures like vampires and werewolves are real, living in cities with humans, but barely tolerating them. Their world is a world where humans are seen as little more than meat. That is, until Meg, a blood prophet on the run from her captors, finds herself suddenly wrapped up in their lives and under their protection. In particular, the protection of Simon, a werewolf who is the leader of their area of Lakeville. Written in Red ended after a huge battle to save Meg — the others and the earth’s elements had banded together to protect Meg from the men hired to bring her back “home” — to the blood prophet factory where she would predict the future for men who were willing to pay.

A Murder of Crows starts off almost immediately afterwards. The crazy snow storms brought on by Winter have tapered off, and life in Lakeside is starting to get back to normal.

Until, in nearby towns, someone starts killing crows. Not only are they murdering members of the crowgard, whoever is behind these attacks is also killing regular crows, as well as any humans that get in their path.

And there have been other attacks across the country — and they can all be traced back to two new drugs: one that makes it’s victims docile (a feel-good drug), and one that makes them violent attackers (gone-over wolf). Someone is distributing these drugs and trying to destroy the others. Simon and his friends at the Lakeside Courtyard seem to think that the drugs are created using the blood of the Cassandra Sangue — the blood prophets, like Meg and her friends. Research done by Meg, the others, and their friends in the Lakeside police department, points to a man simply known as the Controller being responsible for the extraction of the drugs from the girls, as well as for the distribution of the product and the plans to create chaos and violence.

Meg starts to have terrible, violent visions about the future of Lakeside, and of the country in general. Growing human political and social movements, like the despicable Humans First and Last group, are upsetting the balance between the others and the humans that has taken hundreds of years to set straight.

Meanwhile, Meg and Simon spend the book dancing around their feelings for each other. Although it would be wrong for a member of the wolfgard — the leader of the pack, no less — to have feelings for a human, it looks like that just might be inevitable.

I’m not going to lie. This book made me feel the feelings.  It made me laugh, and it made me cry more than once. I hope Anne Bishop writes a bunch more of these, and soon.

And yes, I totally get the criticisms that I’ve seen from other Cannonballers. Some of the descriptions of Meg’s banal, day-to-day activities can be a bit much. But I get where that’s coming from — Meg has experienced a huge trauma in coming to Lakeside. I think these basic chores and schedules make her feel a bit more human and give her something that she’s able to control on her own.

But I sure didn’t miss the descriptions of how she had to take off her boots and wipe the wet floor with a towel every single time she came in to a new building in Written in Red. Every. Single. Time.




Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 19: Champion by Marie Lu

Unknown-2This was really bad.

I wish this was one of those “this was so bad, it was good” things. Like that movie The Room, or anything starring Lyndsay Lohan.

But this one is just plain old bad.

I know, I sound like a broken record when I say that I need to stop with the bad trilogies already. A promising first novel is great, but it rarely seems to mean that the quality will continue throughout the forced trilogy. I was re-reading my reviews for the first two books in this pile of drivel (Legend, which was actually ok, and Prodigy, which was not as ok), and noted that I had actually predicted that the ending would fall short, as the plot was being pulled too thin. Would it have been better as one, longer book? I think so.

I’m not really even going to bother with a plot recap at this point. If you haven’t read books 1 & 2, proceed at your own risk. Also, this isn’t really any sort of book review. Its more of a laundry list of what bugged me about the book.

Here’s what I liked.

Marie Lu has flashes of brilliance. The scenes in Antarctica were pretty cool. A society based on a virtual points system? A living video game? I could get into that, tell me more.

But she shoves it into the story, for pretty much no reason, and then yanks it away from us almost as suddenly. And then we’re back in the world of Day and June and blah blah blah…zzzzz.

I would have liked more of the Antarctica world. And the super soldier suits? Those were pretty cool. But it made the rest of the battle detail pale in comparison. Just like in the first book, where I wanted more about dystopian LA — These little bits of cool sci-fi great, but they were also annoying because they were few and far between.

Also, Marie Lu has a great author photo on the back flap. Good for her.

Now, here’s what I didn’t like.

Pretty much everything else.

First of all, what the hell is Anden’s deal? He’s pretty much the president of the country, right? And he can’t keep his hands & mind off of a 16 year old? GET A GRIP, ANDEN. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER.

And speaking of 16 year olds, what the hell kind of government would allow teenagers to plan any sort of military operations? Its not like other dystopian books where only teenagers are left. There seem to be tons and tons of able-bodied and intelligent adults in the Republic. And yet, all of the major decisions are made by a bunch of kids. The adults make a few grumpy noises and shake their heads, but NONE OF THEM DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. I can’t with this.

Of course, I also hated the love triangle. Or love square? Whatever. I’m just glad that they didn’t have Pascao in love with Tess (I really thought they would make this happen). A love pentagon would have been too much.

And Marie Lu, why do you drop all of these details that are supposedly important in earlier books — June has OCD, Day’s necklace is so important — and then barely ever mention them again? June’s weird OCD was mentioned one time in the third book, and then never again. It was weird and it stuck out. Bad editing job there.

Lastly, here’s what I hated.

The ending. No.

God and amnesia? Just no. The last 15 pages were like a plot from a completely different book. A worse book.

So glad to be putting this trilogy behind me. I was going to give it one star, for Antarctica, but no. Zero stars. Thanks for letting me vent.


Scootsa1000′s #CBR6 Review 18: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Unknown-1I know I wasn’t the only one out there who immediately said NO WAY when I heard about the premise of this book. (It isn’t really a spoiler any longer is it? I can talk about it, right?) I mean, come on. Bridget without Mark Darcy? No thanks.

And then I read a few reviews from people that I trust, and they were mostly positive, and they were pushing me toward reading it. I filed away these trusted opinions, still unsure if I even wanted to open this particular can of worms. And then I saw it on the shelf at the library and tossed it into my bag, still not sure.

But I’m really glad I read it. Yes, it was super sad. And yes, I really missed the Mark/Bridget dynamic. But. This book made me laugh out loud. And it also made me cry. This book gave me all of the emotions.

What was great about it was it went back to the basics, a Bridget Jones 101. Bridget’s relationships with her friends, her mother, and Daniel were all front and center. Bridget still drinks too much, eats an irregular diet, and worries about her weight. She does embarrassing things in front of eligible men, sometimes showing her inappropriate underwear. All good.

And the new stuff mostly worked as well. Bridget’s struggles to cope as a single, older parent were totally relatable. I loved her attempts to joke around with the uber-controlling moms at her kids’ schools, with all of her humor veering way off track.

To be honest, I could have done without the younger boyfriend/cougar plot, but I get that it was all about making Bridget feel like a woman again, as opposed to just feeling like a mom. And seriously, I had no need for the lice bit, as that is my constant nightmare while I have three school-aged kids.

But the rest of it worked for me. And I was sad when I finished it because I wanted to visit with these characters for longer. Yes, I missed Mark and the way he always had the perfect thing to say. And yes, I was devastated when Fielding finally explained what happened. But I think she did a lovely job painting the picture of a woman’s life turned upside down by grief, and her slow and reluctant voyage to getting her life back. With humor and wine and lots of chocolate.




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