ouroboros freelance

read. review. repeat.

Book Review Rating System

When I am asked to rate a book, I always feel like 5 stars or even 10 half-stars are such limiting options.  Let’s say, I love the unfolding of the story but the ending was terrible (Girl on the Train).  I’d still give it 5 stars.  Or, what if I love, Love, LOVE the book and will tell all my friends that they should read it but it’s not for everyone because it is extremely sad (A Little Life) – yep, 5 stars.  How about Grady Hendrix’s really scary and inventive, My Best Friend’s Exorcism?  Really good scary story, but is it really on par with Toni Morrison’s Beloved?  You see what I mean?

So, I’m going to try something different and see how it goes.  I’m going to use a 100 point scale.  Just like grading papers.  Here’s the rundown:

1-20:  I will probably try to forget that I read this book.

20-40: Passable effort, but overall did not care for this book.

40-60: Either the story, the idea or the writing is good, but there are major flaws.

60-80: Now we’re getting somewhere; liked it; may recommend to friends.

80-90: Loved this book and will recommend it to friends.

90-99: I probably will not be able to shut up about this book.

100: (Not sure this is an achievable score – we’ll see.)


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The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death – a book review in 200 words

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

by Charlie Huston

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This has been on my to-be-read list for literally 10 years. I added it to Goodreads in 2009!

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is about a crew of crime scene cleaners, but also so much more than that.

I want to say this is a fun romp, but it’s not really that. You see, the main character, Web, is a first class asshole. But he’s an asshole for a good reason. He’s an ex-teacher who’s been out of work for a year, getting less civilized each day. (Telling you the why of this will ruin the story, so I won’t.) He’s finally hit a rock-bottom of sorts and so, reluctantly, begins a career cleaning up after suicides and violent crimes. And then…a mystery, a turf war, a horrendous crime or two, and other life-changing exploits ensue.

In some ways, this is very different from what I usually read. It’s gritty and dark and very…bro. (I don’t really know how else to describe it.) But it was also interesting and enjoyable and humorous and a good read. So if you are looking for something a little different then what you normally read, you should give this one a shot!

Rating: 84/100

Buy this book at Barnes & Noble | Amazon

The Invited – a book review in 200 words

The Invited


Jennifer McMahon


Jennifer McMahon has done it again. Every single time, she delivers a completely new experience and a fantastically creepy story line. The Invited, her newest, is no exception.

Helen and Nate decide to escape the city, but they cannot find a house that meets all their requirements. That all changes when they spot a huge piece of rural, Vermont property that is, of course, suspiciously cheap.

And it includes swamp land.

And it once belonged to Hattie, who was hanged as a witch… in the 1920s. (If I’m remembering correctly. In any case, it was definitely a very late date for a witch hanging).

And they decide to build a house to suit.

And the happy couple find themselves building a house made for a haunting.

There is also a girl mourning the loss of her mother who left rather abruptly, a treasure hunt, some suspicious spiritualists, an albino deer hunt, more than one ghostly figure and a whole lot of heart.

If you have not read McMahon before, you really should. This is my fourth or fifth, and not one has disappointed. I’m so glad that my anticipation surrounding this book was duly rewarded. What a GREAT scary story!

What’s your favorite McMahon book? Let me know in the comments so we can discuss!

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Review: 90/100

Buy it at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

Five Unicorn Flush – a book review in 200 words

Five Unicorn Flush

(The Reason [or Space Unicorn], #2)


T. J. Berry



First, if you have not read Space Unicorn Blues by T. J. Berry, go do that now. Like, right now.

Done? Good. Wasn’t it fantastic?!

Now for the review of the second in the series:

In Five Unicorn Flush, the full cast is back, including Captain Jenny, Cowboy Jim, Bao Zhi and Gary, along with elves, fairies, sentient spaceships and all manner of mythical creatures.

Gary, the half-unicorn and prince, is struggling to keep the rest of the Bala happy on the new world to which they have been sent to keep them safe from humans. But on their new world, there are no modern conveniences, they are starving, and bone-strippingly acidic water and drag-you-into-the-woods shadow creatures are trying to kill them.

In the meantime, the Reason is in search of the place the Bala have been sent. How are they to function in any capacity without their servants (slaves) and without Bala magic? There is a contingent of humans on the way to the new Bala world, but the journey is fraught with danger, including cannibals, pirates and spies. It’s crazy…and also makes complete sense.

Berry’s voice is clever, funny and unique. I’ve never read books quite like these and I am so glad that this is a series! Go read her so she keeps writing this series, please and thank you!

Rating: 97/100

Buy it at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

Never Tell – a book review in 200 words

Never Tell

(Detective D.D. Warren #10)


Lisa Gardner


Never Tell is the 10th book in the Detective D.D. Warren series and the 3rd book with Flora Dane as a POV character. The dynamic between Warren and Dane is fantastic; one is a great detective with a loving family who can’t help but do things a little outside the box. The other a tortured (kick-ass) young woman looking for revenge, but also for forgiveness.

The mystery in this book revolves around a pregnant woman who has probably shot her husband and most definitely his computer; the same woman who accidentally shot her father when she was 16. Coincidence? Her mother is a crazy person and her relationship with her husband was definitely not normal. She’s a brilliant mathematician but works as a math teacher in a public school. There’s some weird stuff going on here and Gardner unfurls all of the clues and reveals with skill.

Flora Dane’s story line is also advanced here, with a deeper look into her kidnapper’s nefarious activities.

The relationships Gardner builds between her characters are compelling, which isn’t always the case in a mystery series. Gardner writes great mysteries (police procedurals) with great characters and interesting story lines. Try her, you’ll like her.

Rating: 89/100

Buy it at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

My Lovely Wife – a book review in 200 words

My Lovely Wife


Samantha Downing


Have you read this yet? My Lovely Wife is about a wife who is anything but lovely; married to a man who is despicable and whiny and of weak character, who is also the POV of the book.

To sum up this book very broadly, it is about an extremely twisted relationship between two serial killers. They didn’t start out that way, but you know, marriage can get pretty boring when you both work, have children to take care of, and you want to climb the social ladder. And obviously, you’ll do anything to please your beautiful wife who you do not deserve. I cannot tell you a whole lot about the story line without giving some secrets away, so just know that some girls go missing and it’s a big deal.

So many people LOVE this book. Personally, for a book about two killers, this felt very tame. You are always kept one step away from all of the really interesting bits. BUT it is different than most of the other thrillers out these days, so there’s that. If you have a choice between The Silent Patient and My Lovely Wife, choose the asylum! Wait for this in paperback IMO.

Rating: 79/100

Buy it now at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound


The Ghost Bride – a book review in 200 words

The Ghost Bride

Yangsze Choo


Li Lan, a young Malayan woman, is approached with an offer to wed the recently deceased Lim Tian Ching, whose family is very wealthy. Accepting the offer rescues her father from further financial ruin and she will be set for life. Except, she will also be marrying the man who haunts and harasses her in her dreams. In an effort to exorcise Lim Tian Ching, she ends up on an epic adventure in purgatory.

I found the parts of the book set in the “real world” a little slow and Li Lan just a tad annoying. However, the peek into Malayan culture in 1800s Malacca was intriguing and the author’s narration of the audiobook a particular pleasure to hear.

Once the action moves into the realm of the dead, the story is fantastic. Ghosts, demons, dragons and all manner of strange creatures inhabit the dreamy, haunting world created by Yangsze Choo (based on Chinese folk religion). A murder mystery, and let’s say, unusual family drama, are also thrown into the mix.

So, if you enjoy weird, wonderful and completely enjoyable trips into fantasy worlds that just happen to be inhabited by ghosts and demons, then this book is for you.

Rating: 82/100

Buy it now at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

Verses for the Dead – a book review in 200 words

Verses for the Dead

(Pendergast #18)


Douglas Preston  and Lincoln Child


(Contains some slight spoilers.)

I realize that everyone has different tastes and just because I hate a book, it doesn’t mean that you will. Also, I appreciate authors for their hard work and the guts they have to put their work out there. But sometimes, a book makes me very angry.

Unfortunately, this book lacks any sort of cohesive mystery. My favorite serial characters are again absent. I am also severely disappointed in the fact that they chose to WRITE A LAST CHAPTER EXPLAINING THE ENTIRE CRIME instead of writing the actual clues into the book.

Preston and Child seem to understand that we will buy their Pendergast books regardless. Obviously, we all love Pendergast and hope that the next book in the series will be as good as the one that got us hooked. So, let me say this:

Authors, if you are bored with your characters, just stop writing them. Give us a book with a nice, going-away, this-is-the-last-you’ll-see-of-me story arc and we will grieve for a while and then thank you for it.

My god, I hope I can resist the temptation to buy the next in the series so I don’t have to experience this deep sense of disappointment again.

(Let me say though, the narrator of this audio book, Rene Auberjonois, is FANTASTIC as always, so I will need to listen to some of his others to now get my fix.)

Rating: 20/100

Buy this book (if you must) at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

Daisy Jones & The Six – a book review in 200 words

Daisy Jones & The Six


Taylor Jenkins Reid


Daisy Jones is young, wild and naturally talented.

The Six have worked steadily to get the success that is heading their way.

By chance, Daisy and The Six’s frontman, Billy, end up singing a hit song together and their respective managers decide that touring together is the best option for both.

What follows is rock-and-roll magic, except when it’s not.

Written as the transcript of a documentary film, the author’s newest book contains all of the usual plot points for a story about up-and-coming rock stars. Drugs, sex and partying. Riding the high of becoming famous. The dark places fame can take a group of people so closely intertwined. (And be warned, the probability that you will sob for two entire chapters is high.)

But the author so deftly writes about these characters that you forget the entire thing’s fiction. I often went to Google people and places only to remember this was entirely made up. I really wish that I could hear the songs of Daisy Jones & The Six. They must have been amazing!

A Taylor Jenkins Reid book is now an absolute must-read book for me going forward. You should probably try this book to find out why.

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 95/100

Buy it now at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones – a review in 200 words

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones


Micah Dean Hicks


What a deeply strange and compelling book about a dying town haunted by its inhabitants, both living and dead. Jane is possessed, her brother is possessed, her mother is possessed. Her father is so damaged that he cannot be possessed. The town, from its buildings to its machinery, is overrun with ghosts. The only place that can still be considered operating in any capacity is the pig-slaughtering factory on the edge of town.

There is so much to this book. It’s about family and regret and relationships and change and resistance to change and prejudice and longing and love. I feel like I need to re-read it just to get the meaning of everything contained within. BUT it’s also just a really good ghost story, unlike any I’ve read before. You can either enjoy it as an allegorical tale or as a straight-up horror book.

I would be interested to know what you thought of this book. Did it have any special meaning for you or did you read it as a straightforward book about a haunting? If you’d like to go read it quick, I’ll wait here for you so we can discuss.

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 92/100

Buy it now at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

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