January in Review

I read 7 books last month. I haven’t checked the actual stats, but I think my overall ratings were higher in January than any previous month since I started reading to review last July. Obviously it was a great month for reading!

Here are the books I read in January:


I Want to Punch You in the Face But I Love Jesus by Sherri Lynn (5 / 5)
The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock (3.5 / 5)
Stealth Power by Vikki Kestell (4 / 5)
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson (4.5 / 5)
His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac (3 / 5)
The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin (5 / 5)
Head On by John Scalzi (4 / 5)

This list includes 3 ARCs and 0 re-reads. My favorite book from January was The Land Beneath Us. I finished 1 series, continued 1 series, and started 2 series. My ever-changing short list of to-be-reads, as well as a flag for the book I’m currently reading and an ongoing list of those I’ve read and posted about can be found here.

I’m also keeping my Goodreads page updated with a more extensive list of to-be-reads. Despite my almost too-long TBR list, I’m always looking for more to add. Feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites or just recent reads you enjoyed.

Book Review: Head On

Head On
Lock In
#2
by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Sci-Fi mystery

Head On

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the previous book, Lock In.

In the near-future world set up by Lock In, some of Earth’s population are paralyzed and are only able to interact with the world through robot bodies or by stepping inside another human known as an “Integrator.” In this world, a sport known as Hilketa becomes popular, which features these paralyzed people (known as Hadens) on the field in their robots (“threeps”) basically using weapons to beat each other up and score points by removing each others’ heads and running it through goal posts. When one of the players dies during the game, the FBI is brought in, which gives us a chance to see Haden FBI Agent Chris Shane in action again.

This book had a lot of what made Lock In so amazing, with the same easy-to-read and smoothly flowing writing and dialog, the same intriguing world where the prejudice toward Hadens emulates both racial prejudices and bias against disabled people, and the same complex conspiracies behind the initial death. I didn’t like it quite as much as I did the first book, but only subtracted half a star for this sequel.

In the first book, there was a major legislation on the horizon that would seriously financially hinder most Hadens, basically cutting off most government funding for them. The looming question of whether or not it will pass plays a role in the book. This book, set about a year later, shows some of the downfall after it did pass, and many Hadens–and by extension many companies that were involved with Hadens in some way–are worried about their financial future. It was interesting to see how the dust had started to settle after that decision.

We saw a lot more of the housemates that Chris first met in Lock In, and I really liked the way they added to the story. There were some fun scenes and conversations involving a cat that brought smiles to my face. And speaking of smiles, while I was reading this book, my husband made multiple “apply directly to the forehead” references, which made it all the more noticeable (and amusing) to me when I caught a reference in the book (I won’t presume to say for sure that it was intentional by Scalzi…but the way it was worded does not seem like it could be coincidence).

The mystery as a whole, and some of the rabbit trails the agents followed to solve it, wasn’t as enthralling to me as in the first book, which is the main reason for my slightly lower rating. However, overall, it was still a lot of fun to read. I would be quite happy if Scalzi decided to write a third book in this world. I would recommend this book for fans of near-future sci-fi and for mystery lovers, and while I will say that it’s probably very possible to read this book without having yet read the previous book, Lock In was really good and explained the whole Haden syndrome more anyway, so I’d still suggest starting there.

Find out more about Head On

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. This list should take me through most (or all) of the winter. They’re not winter-oriented at all, because I don’t usually think in those terms when it comes to reading (except for the 2.5 Christmas-related books I still want to read over the next week).  The actual order in which I read these will probably change as I go (plus more will probably be added in amongst some of these):

1. The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock
This is one of the few remaining Netgalley ARCs I have right now, and even though it’s been on my list for 2 months and I’ve been looking forward to it, I will be pushing it to read it before it releases on Jan 1.

2. Stealth Power by Vikki Kestell
Book #2 in a 4-part series, the first of which was a 4-star read for me. It’s really about time I got on with the series.

3. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
This was on my fall TBR TTT post too, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s an ARC (a re-release due out in March) fantasy kids book that begins a series.

4. His Name Was Zach by Peter Martuneac
I’m not a fan of the zombie genre as a whole, but I’ve been stretching myself a little in some of my book choices recently, and this is another example of that. The sequel to this book is looming, so I really want to read the first one soon.

5. This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda
The premise of this book about young pen pals on opposite sides of WWII is really intriguing to me. It’s my last current ARC, and I’ve vowed to finish all 3 of these before I request more, because of how stressful it felt to get so backed up on them.

6. Head On by John Scalzi
The sequel to Lock In, which I really enjoyed, is one I’m highly anticipating digging into very soon.

7. Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
I read this book over the course of almost a year after I got it for Christmas 2 years ago. I want to read it in a shorter time period so I can give it a proper review.

8. Sneak by Evan Angler
This is also book #2 in a 4-part series (which, from what I can tell, isn’t necessarily a finished series). Unlike #2 on this list above, though, I gave the first book in this series 3-stars. I’m holding out some hope that the series will pick up.

9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My husband is antsy for me to get through these books faster, because he likes watching the movies with me. Since I’ve never read this series before, I insist on waiting until after each book to watch its respective movie. I’m trying to pick up the pace from here on.

10. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Apparently I’m going to have something of a theme going here, reading book #2 in series of varying lengths. I loved Anne of Green Gables so much that I didn’t want to put off reading the next book like I’ve (unintentionally) done with continuing other series I’ve started this year.

Have you read any of these? What do you plan to read over the next few months?

Book Review: Lock In

Lock In
by John Scalzi

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Sci-Fi mystery

Lock In

In the near future, a disease ravages humanity, leaving a large population of Earth completely paralyzed. In the time period of Lock In, technology has been developed to allow those “locked in” to live as normally as possible, either putting their consciousness into a robotic being, or into the mind of someone who has the ability to accept the mind of someone else. Set against this backdrop, the book is a mystery that starts with a murder, but deepens continually as the story goes on.

I wasn’t really expecting to like this book that much, though I don’t know why. However, I ended up liking it a lot. The sci-fi element, mainly the roles the Hadens (those who were locked in) and the Integrators (those who could let a Haden use their mind & body) played in the mystery, really enhanced the mystery plot.

The main character, Chris Shane, is a Haden and an FBI agent, who interacts with the physical world in what they call a “threep” (basically a robot that is controlled by a Haden’s consciousness). In a lot of ways, the book was similar in this area to Ready Player One, which I only read recently, so it was fresh in my mind. I was interested reading about the laws surrounding Hadens and their threeps, when it comes to crimes committed both by and against them. I also enjoyed the main character’s intelligence, ingenuity, and stoicism.

Another thing that I found myself appreciating throughout the book was the writing style. There is not a lot of description or figurative language, which to my taste, at least, can slow a story down or add unnecessary filler. There were even times that I would read through an entire page and get this feeling in the back of my mind that I’d skipped some text (I do that sometimes, essentially accidentally skimming for a bit before deciding I need to go back), but when I’d go back to try to find what I’d skipped over, there was nothing. Conversations flowed quickly, with little in the way of descriptions of what the characters were doing. Some may find this a flaw, but I personally liked it. If the characters aren’t really doing anything but sitting and talking…maybe sometimes it’s okay to not add minor actions in just because. I usually write dialog this way too, but end up going back and adding more in, because I feel like it’s expected.

Scalzi’s world-building was brilliant too, from following the progression of politics, laws, and citizen response brought on by Haden’s syndrome in America, to the slang and lingo that seemed so natural in this world. My main detraction in the book is involved in this area though. At one point in the last quarter of the book, a side character who is an expert in a field that is needed for the investigation spends about 10 pages explaining some technological and coding mumbo jumbo that I had a difficult time wading through and understanding. I was at least able to come away with some idea of what was going on, though, so it didn’t cause enough problem for me to be more than a short frustration. I also feel it prudent to mention that there was a lot more language than I prefer.

I had seen that there is a follow-up to this novel when I wasn’t even halfway into reading it yet, and I didn’t expect to have much desire to read it. However, by the end of the book, I knew I had to read Head On at some point soon!

I would recommend Lock In for fans of near-future sci-fi and for mystery lovers too.

Find out more about Lock In

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!