The Countess Conspiracy (Courtney Milan)

The Countess Conspiracy is the third novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 4.1.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, miscarriages

Plot:
Sebastian Malheur has quite a reputation, and the least of it is that he is a rake. No, he is known for his scientific endeavors about the inheritance of traits, a topic bound to rile people up. Only what people don’t know is that Sebastian is merely the public face of these theories. They are actually the work of his best friend, Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Violet would like to remain respectable and pursue her work in peace. But Sebastian needs for things to change. This causes the two of them to re-evaluate their relationship and come clean about more than just their science.

I enjoyed The Countess Conspiracy, though maybe not quite as much as I hoped I would. I just didn’t fall in love with Violet and Sebastian as a couple.

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Pumpkin (Julie Murphy)

Pumpkin is a novel by Julie Murphy. It’s a companion to Dumplin’ and Puddin’.
Finished on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Waylon Brewer is a gay, fat boy stuck in a small town. He is desperately waiting for High School to be over, so he and his twin sister Clementine can get out of there and he can actually start to be as flamboyant as he wants to be. Not that he is able to hide that he is gay, even if he wanted to. But there is “being femme” and then there is “being a sparkling queen”, and Waylon isn’t ready to be the latter in Clover City. That doesn’t keep him from creating Miss Pumpkin Patch and making an audition video for his favorite drag reality TV show though. When that video gets out and is circulated in school, it leads to him being nominated for prom queen, and Clem’s girlfriend Hannah is nominated for prom king. Waylon has a choice to make: turn himself down as much as he can, or finally go full Waylon, even if that means spending a lot of time with gorgeous, but infuriating prom king nominee Tucker.

Pumpkin is a wonderfully sweet, funny read that gives you just the right amount of fluff and romance, with a nice dose of life advice we can all take to heart a little more.

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Weapons of Math Destruction (Cathy O’Neil)

Weapons of Math Destruction is a non-fiction book by Cathy O’Neil.
Finished on: 15.12.2021

“Plot”:
Algorithms are practically everywhere now, running evaluation programs, deciding about search results or job applications. But they are far from the objective tool people would like it to be, and often they are harmful instead of helpful. O’Neil examines algorithms in this book and how they go from simple mathematics to Weapons of Math Destruction.

Weapons of Math Destruction is a very readable and very comprehensive look at the effect of algorithms, tracing both the areas in which they are used in a general way, and personalizing the effects with stories of particular people. It’s definitely a good primer on the subject.

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Forever After (Ashley R. King)

Forever After is the first book in the Vampire Reality Show series by Ashley R. King.
Finished on: 12.12.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Plot:
Autumn has spent her entire life in her hometown where she works as the librarian. She needs a change, so when the bachelor-style reality show Forever After, where the eligible bachelor happens to be a vampire, comes to her town, she applies as a contestant – and makes the cut. The show is about to start shooting when Autumn runs into the bachelor, Oliver. Sparks immediately fly – but they are sparks of dislike. Still, Autumn is determined to stick to her decision and have as much fun as she can. Meanwhile Oliver, who decided to do the show to save his family estate in England, tries his best to get into the spirit of the show at all. When the show starts spinning out of control and people turn up dead, Autumn and Oliver try to figure everything out together.

Forever After is a fun, quick read that didn’t quite blow me away but kept me entertained enough. I’m not sure if I will seek out the rest of the series once it comes out, but I definitely didn’t mind reading this one.

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Tintentod (Cornelia Funke)

Tintentod, translated as Inkdeath, is the third book in the Inkworld Trilogy by Cornelia Funke.
Finished on: 8.12.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other two books.]

Plot:
Things in the Inkworld are still pretty dire. Politically, Mo’s plan has backfired severely, and Mo himself becomes the Bluejay more and more, much to Resa’s and Meggie’s worry. Farid is still desperately trying to bring Dustfinger back to life, and has pledged himself to Orpheus in the hope that he can achieve it. Fenoglio is still unable to write. And for all the people in the Inkworld, the Adderhead and his people become increasingly more dangerous. Something has got to change and very soon, or it will be too late.

Tintentod is a really great ending for the story, that makes good use of the pieces it put into play and gives satisfaction – despite a couple of issues I had with it.

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A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

A Spark of Light is a novel by Jodi Picoult.
Finished on: 19.11.2021

Content Note: abortion, anti-abortion terrorism

Plot:
A hostage situation at the last reproductive health clinic in Mississipi that performs abortions is coming to an end. People have died and the situation is tense, as one can imagine. For hostage negotiator Hugh McElroy they are even more tense than usual – because he realized that his own daughter, Wren, is one of the patients held captive. And his sister Bex, who accompanied her, was already brought to the hospital with a potentially deadly gunshot wound. As Hugh desperately tries to find a connection with hostage taker George, and as the hostages inside – all in the clinic for different reasons, as patients and workers and even as spies for the anti-abortion camp – try to get through the terror, things start to move very quickly.

A Spark of Light is a really good read. A layered look at the complexities around the topic of abortion that gives everyone a say, but still remains firmly in the pro-choice camp. And it chose an interesting structure to tell its story.

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Die Vergiftung [The Poisoning] (Maria Lazar)

Die Vergiftung is the first novel by Maria Lazar [German link]. [I am not aware of an English translation of the novel.]
Finished on: 12.11.2021

Plot:
Ruth is 20 years old. She lives with her mother, her brother and her sister, but she doesn’t get along with any of them. Nor does she like their striving for the bourgeois ideals, or at least the appearance of those ideals. The only member of her family she relates to, at least a little, is her Uncle Gustav. Ruth herself just broke up with her older lover, a chemist, and is reeling, even more so when she realizes that her mother had an affair with the same man. With nobody to really turn to and feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere, Ruth drifts through encounters shaped by ambivalence.

Die Vergiftung is an excellent novel, a strong debut with evocative language in a lyrical style that makes sure you feel everything that Ruth is feeling. I was really impressed by it.

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Puddin’ (Julie Murphy)

Puddin’ is a novel by Julie Murphy. It’s a companion to Dumplin’.
Finished on: 4.11.2021

Plot:
Millie Michalchuk has spent every summer at fat camp, not that it had much effect on her being fat. And really, she is quite alright with being fat, but her mom isn’t, and so the threat of fat camp hangs over her head yet again. But this year, Millie has other plans. She just doesn’t know yet how to tell her mom about it. That entire thing takes a backseat though when the gym that Millie works at and that belongs to her uncle is vandalized. Millie realizes that one of the perpetrators is Callie Reyes. Popular, beautiful and mean, and now, apparently a criminal, Callie is everything that Millie is not. When Millie’s uncle decides that Callie can work off the damages at the gym, neither Millie nor Callie are thrilled to be working with the other. But Millie is determined to make a friend out of Callie yet, despite everything. And somehow, things start moving.

Puddin’ is a super cute and sweet read that I enjoyed a lot, even though I was a little disappointed because I was hoping for this turn into a romance between Millie and Callie. It does not. But it does tell a very nice story about platonic friendship and that is great, too.

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Signal Boost (Alyssa Cole)

Signal Boost is the second novel in the Off the Grid trilogy by Alyssa Cole.
Finished on: 31.10.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel in the series.]

Content Note: suicidal thoughts, mention of rape and assault

Plot:
After electricity cut off everywhere, and with it all kind of communication systems, John and his best friend Arden made their way to his parents’ cabin. Now they have settled into a more or less comfortable routine with John’s parents and his siblings. Well, as comfortable as the end of the world can probably get. Until one night, John surprises a guy as he tries to steal their tomatoes. Mykhail wasn’t as lucky in the apocalypse as them, but as an astrophycisist he brings information of what might have happened – and a plan of how he may be able to help. For that, he needs to trek to his old university. John, who felt nothing but useless recently and who finds Mykhail very attractive indeed, is determined to go along and see if he can’t help either.

Signal Boost is a quick read that draws you in and makes you root for the characters. The plot itself is a little uneven, but as it takes a backseat to the characters and their relationship, I didn’t mind that too much.

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Cold & Deadly (Toni Anderson)

Cold & Deadly is the first novel in the Cold Justice: The Negotiators series by Toni Anderson.
Finished on: 28.10.2021

Plot:
Ava Kanas always wanted to become an FBI agent and she just became an agent. When the one guy who has always helped and mentored her along the way dies, Ava is convinced that there is more to it. But nobody seems to believe her – until there is an attack at the funeral service. It is there that Dominic Sheridan, experienced hostage negotiator and friend of the deceased, starts to believe that Ava might have a point. As the two start to investigate, they realize that there might be a target on their own backs. And things get more complicated still when they admit their growing attraction to each other.

Cold & Deadly isn’t the kind of thing I usually read. While I definitely like romance novels, crime thrillers are not so much my thing. But this was included in a free set of romantic suspense novels I downloaded a while ago, and I thought I’d give it a go. For it not being my cup of tea, it worked pretty well, but overall it didn’t quite win me over.

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