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Jennifer | Book Den

A book blogging mom who loves to read, run, and watch TV. All at the same time.

Currently reading

Blake Crouch
The Winter Family: A Novel
Clifford Jackman

The Fire Sermon

The Fire Sermon - Francesca Haig The Fire Sermon was an enjoyable read despite the fact I'm a bit burned out on the dystopian genre.

The dystopian hook with The Fire Sermon revolves around twins. In each pair of twins there is an Alpha and an Omega. The Omega always has a genetic defect and is split off from their family and their twin. The twins are still linked, however, and when one twin dies, so does the other. It's an intriguing concept. I'll be honest - I didn't grasp how some of the twin phenomenons in The Fire Sermon could realistically occur, but it was easy for me to "go with it".

Since Cass and Zach were both seemingly born with no defects, their story goes far beyond the typical Alpha and Omega twin existence.

I'm not sure if The Fire Sermon is classified as a YA novel or not, but it is probably best suited for YA readers. It's unfortunate The Fire Sermon is being released into an oversaturated market. I can imagine it would have been extremely popular about four years ago, but it's going to have a tough time standing out against the crowd. The Fire Sermon is the first book of a planned trilogy so hopefully it can pick up traction and find a good audience.

Like most series books - especially of the YA flavor - my rating for the series will likely be higher than my rating for the individual books. As it stands now, The Fire Sermon is a solid 3-stars, with plans to read book two.


Astrotwins - Mark Kelly, Martha Freeman Astrotwins is a cute book. Mark and Scott are adventurous twins who love to take things apart and put them back together. Their grandfather suggests they spend their summer working on a project. The twins and their friend Jenny ("Egg") decide to make a spaceship for Jenny's next science fair project.

There are many things I love about Astrotwins. It's science heavy, which is cool, and it is presented in a way that educates the reader. There's also a lot of information on astronauts and the space program. Astrotwins is set somewhere around 1974 (I think), and the women and girls are strong, capable characters. I also love that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

That being said, I did find issue with the lack of incredulity and excitement over accomplishing the impossible. I have no problems suspending my disbelief of kids being able to build a spaceship and launch into orbit. I'm a big fan of the movie Explorers. I do, however, think building a functioning spacecraft would be a huge deal. I want my kids to believe they can do the impossible, but I also want them to understand and acknowledge their accomplishments. I want them to be excited when they reach their goals. Intrinsic rewards, for the win. There was an emotional disconnect for me, and it made it hard for me to celebrate the impossible the way I did while watching Explorers (or Space Camp! I loved that movie, too.)

Despite the emotional disconnect, I did enjoy reading Astrotwins. I'm adding it to my kids' bookcase because I think they will enjoy reading it, as well.

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey I went into this book knowing only that it was being categorized as horror and that it had great reviews. My ignorance to the plot greatly enhanced my enjoyment of The Girl with All the Gifts. It makes writing a review all the more difficult, though. I enjoyed it so, so much, but I can't bring myself to go into detail as to why for fear of spoiling that enjoyment for others. There really is no statute of limitations on spoilers as far as I'm concerned.

What I will tell you is I loved the hell out of this book. The writing, the characters, the tension, the questions, the science, the horror, that thrill you get when you are loving what you are reading. I have no doubts The Girl with All the Gifts will be high on my list of favorites for the year.

I realize this review is pretty useless as far as recommendations go, but I'm comfortable with asking you to take a chance.

Revival: A Novel

Revival: A Novel - Stephen King Revival was book molasses for me. It took me forever to get through it. It was a good read, but mostly because it was written by Stephen King. There is something about his writing that just feels so darn right. It's a place I love to be.

Unfortunately, my expectations stemmed entirely from this blurb:
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written.

I spent the entire book longing for the end which is never a good sign no matter how you look at it.

But like I said, it was a good read overall. There were some great moments, and I did enjoy the ending once I finally got there. Revival was a better read than [b:Mr. Mercedes|18775247|Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1)|Stephen King|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403347795s/18775247.jpg|26680281], too, so there's that if you were wondering.

If you are behind on your Stephen King catalog, this probably isn't one you need to pick up right away, but I think any Stephen King fan will read this for the obvious reason.

Frankie Stein

Frankie Stein - Lola M. Schaefer, Kevan Atteberry Frankie Stein was my son's library pick this past week. It turned out to be a really cute Halloween read.

Frankie Stein was born into a family with a long history of being scary. Cute little Frankie Stein didn't look scary at all so Mr. and Mrs. Stein set out to help Frankie fit in.


In the end, Frankie turned out to be the scariest Stein of all just by being himself. (As it turns out, hugs and kisses and cuteness will stop a monster right in his tracks!)

The illustrations in Frankie Stein were awesome. I think I'm going to be obsessed with hunting down more Kevan Atteberry books. We are going to have to add this book and Frankie Stein Starts School to our personal Halloween library.


If you are looking for a wonderfully illustrated Halloween book full of monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky without the book actually being spooky (so cute!), Frankie Stein is a perfect fit.

Gone Girl: A Novel

Gone Girl: A Novel - Gillian Flynn I'm not sure I've had another reading experience quite like this book.

On one hand, I hated the characters. All of them. The entire time. When I met Amy on the pages, I thought "Please let this be the girl who is gone".

On the other hand, I couldn't stop compulsively reading the thing. I've never been so glued to a book I hated so much.

Gillian Flynn is a fantastic writer.

I've been going back and forth on how I want to rate Gone Girl, and the ending is my deciding factor. If the ending had lived up to my compulsive reading to get there, I'd be all over recommending this book to the page turning masses, but in the end I'm going with a solid 3 stars.

Gone Girl is a good pick if you are in the mood for some compulsive reading or have a deep love for twisty plots. It will keep you guessing (and guessing). You'll hate it, but you might also really love it.

The Shunned House

The Shunned House - H.P. Lovecraft If you are looking for a book to read this October, The Shunned House is an excellent choice. I could not have kicked off this month any better.

"We never - even in our wildest Halloween moods - visited this cellar by night."

The Shunned House is a house on Benefit Street where a large number of people passed away. Due to the smells, the humid environment, and the amount of fungus present in the house, it was declared to simply have "unhealthy" conditions. At worst, the house was deemed "unlucky". No one (with the exception of the narrator's uncle) suspected anything supernatural was going on.

Once the narrator learned of his uncle's suspicions, they decided to investigate the house.

I really, really enjoyed The Shunned House. I could read spooky house stories all day, every day, but there were some great stand out moments that will stick with me.

If you love literary horror and you haven't read this yet, put The Shunned House on your list. It's one you will want to read. At 48 pages, it also makes a great atmospheric read for those who are just looking to up their spookiness level around Halloween.

Mister Dog: The Dog Who Belonged to Himself

Mister Dog:  The Dog Who Belonged to Himself - Margaret Wise Brown, Garth Williams Margaret Wise Brown wrote my favorite childhood book Home For a Bunny. She also wrote Goodnight Moon which is one of my favorite books to read to my kids. Surely I would love a book about Mister Dog the pipe smoking dog who belongs to himself!

It turns out Mister Dog is not his name. His name is actually Crispin's Crispian.
"His name was Crispin's Crispian because he belonged to himself."

Sure. That makes perfect sense.

This is one odd little book.
"He was a funny old dog. He liked Strawberries."

It seems there are people who are against this book due to the pipe smoking and the fact that a little boy goes home with the dog, etc., etc. It's a 1950's Golden Book with a pipe smoking dog. I'm not sure what folks really expect, but I do know that I expected a nice story at the heart of Mister Dog. Unfortunately, this book was a weird mess with one odd event after another.
"This evening he made a bone soup with lots of meat in it. He gave some to the boy, and the boy liked it. The boy didn't give Caspian his chop bone, but he put some of his bright green vegetable in the soup."

The writing style changed several times throughout the book which added to the overall strangeness.

The only way I would recommend Mister Dog is in the "Hey, you want to see a really strange book?" kind of way. I haven't read this to my kids, and I don't plan to. I remember their reaction to But No Elephants. I'm not bringing them down that road again.

All I can say is I'm a glutton for punishment. After writing this review I decided I'd try reading Mister Dog to my kids after all. My oldest declared: "That doesn't make any sense." I knew better. I really did.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald Who knew reading about wealthy people having affairs and throwing lavish parties could be so boring?

I feel so guilty that I chose to read The Great Gatsby in honor of Banned Books Week. I want to stand up and shout "How could you want to keep this masterpiece from our youth?" but instead I'm quietly asking "Do we still make our children suffer through this?"

Jay Gatsby - the GREAT GATSBY - has more money than sense I suppose. He lives in a mansion and throws lavish parties, but Gatsby himself doesn't even care about those parties. All Gatsby really cares about is reuniting with his past love. In my opinion, she's not even worth the trouble, but their relationship is symbolic of Gatsby's success so he has to have her back. I do better as a reader when I care about the characters. In this case, I couldn't care less who Daisy chose, I just wanted her to choose somebody already.

I decided to read The Great Gatsby this year because I kind of always assumed I'd love it. It's F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece and a highly acclaimed work of American literature. It's not a horrible book, but it's not exceptional either.

If it's on your list of classics to read one day, go ahead and read it. I don't want to stop you from joining the club. Even though I was kind of bored out of my gourd, I'm happy to have my membership card.

Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie 3.5 stars

But No Elephants

But No Elephants - Jerry Smath 5 year old: That was weird.

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1)

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) - Hugh Howey I am in love with this series. Wool wasn't perfect, but I loved it pretty hard core.

Dystopians and I haven't gotten along for a while now, but Wool has reminded me of everything I love about a great dystopian.

So what's the dystopian hook with Wool? A silo. The earth has become uninhabitable, and those who have survived live in a giant silo below the ground.

There is a view up top of the outside, but it's dangerous to spend time dreaming or wondering about the outside. The highest crime is professing a desire to go outside. The punishment for committing such a taboo? You get your wish. They send you outside.

The first half of the book was awesome. It was exciting to have my love for dystopia totally renewed. As Wool progressed, I had more and more trouble suspending my disbelief and there were a couple of plot holes, but overall the suspense and the characters and my curiosity about the silo and the world outside was plenty enough to overcome the technicalities.

The Wool omnibus is also the first book in the Silo series, but for those of you who are series shy, it can absolutely stand on its own. If Wool hadn't weighed in at 500+ pages, there's no doubt I would have immediately picked up the next book in the Silo series. I get reader burn out easy, though, so I know better than to jump into another chunky monkey from the same series. I'm happy to add the Silo series to my current favorites, and I look forward to reading [b:Shift|17306293|Shift (Silo, #2)|Hugh Howey|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1379003176s/17306293.jpg|23965619] in the near future.

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic and dystopian books (with a strong female lead!), Wool is definitely a book you should put on your radar.

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie There is a reason And Then There Were None is the #1 mystery novel of all time. It is bloody brilliant.

I had so much fun reading this book. Have you seen the movie Clue? I now know it's a blatant rip off of And Then There Were None, but I love that movie. If you love that movie, too, you really need to read And Then There Were None.

Basically ten folks are brought to an island and each one is picked off one by one. Who is the murderer? You won't know until the end, and you'll be thrown for a loop a time or two.

I can't think of a mystery I would recommend more than And Then There Were None. It was pure entertainment and expertly done.

Earthly Things

Earthly Things - Lee  Thompson, Julian Vaughn Julian Vaughn is a pseudonym of author Lee Thompson. I'm a huge Lee Thompson fan, and although he is becoming a master of many genres, his young adult/coming of age stories are where I find him at his best. Books like [b:Before Leonora Wakes|9460858|Before Leonora Wakes|Lee Thompson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1297884977s/9460858.jpg|14345743], [b:Within This Garden Weeping|16053521|Within This Garden Weeping|Lee Thompson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348943134s/16053521.jpg|21837888], and now Earthly Things are among my favorites.

Earthly Things begins with the (almost) coming of age story of Dexter. We find out early on that Dexter is going to die young. The first half of Earthly Things gives us a glimpse into the often heartbreaking and at times endearing life of Dexter.

Dexter does meet an untimely death (this is not really a spoiler, guys), but the first person narrative continues on in the same vein as The Lovely Bones. I loved this point of view. This is not the first time Thompson has tackled a complicated point of view. It is apparently one of his many talents.

Earthly Things is a brutal book at times. It's heartwrenching, but it's also a great mystery and just a really great read. Even though I couldn't relate to the characters because their reality was so far from my own, I still felt connected to them and emotionally invested in them which I attribute to some really great writing.

Highly recommended.

Speaks the Nightbird

Speaks the Nightbird - Robert R. McCammon Reread :)


Galveston - Nic Pizzolatto Sometimes I think I am reading a completely different book than everyone else.