Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Publication Date: July 8, 2014

I really enjoyed this! It was exactly what I needed right now. I have been reading a lot of heavy fantasy/sci-fi/horror and my mind felt like it had too many worlds being built in it. This was the perfect ‘this world/this time’ tale that I could listen to without too many mental acrobatics! I went into this without knowing too much about it and I am so glad. It was such a fun, unique concept. I would classify it as a very modern, retelling of A Christmas Carol.

The writing was very smart – I loved the main character and I really enjoyed going along with her as she comes to some pretty serious realizations about herself, her relationships and life in general; what it’s all about. The side characters were very well drawn – her best friend, Seth, her sister, Heather and her Mom were my favorites. They were a quirky bunch that definitely added a lot of humor to the story. I listened to the audiobook and felt like the narrator was perfect for our MC, Georgie. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, witty contemporary read!

What type of book do you gravitate towards when your brain needs a break? I love a good contemporary or cozy mystery when I am in those kind of moods!

Review: The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

Publication Date: May 15, 2018

My final rating for The Favorite Sister would be between a 4 and 4.5-stars. I really, really enjoyed this. It wasn’t what I expected and it is not really the type of book I would normally pick up for myself but regardless, it was a blast to read. Since finishing, I have been thinking about how best to classify this one. We know the world loves to categorize things – as this book definitely points out! I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as a thriller if I were discussing it with friends. I found it more ‘contemporary women’s fiction’ than ‘thriller’. There is a dead character, you know that from the beginning and then the narrative fills in, taking you through the events leading up to that death; but I personally didn’t feel it was psychologically suspenseful. It was a great character piece; the characters were full of it – ambition and snark galore!

In addition to very strong character development, I loved the overall writing style. It was very modern – full of current pop culture references and slang. I had never read a book that follows a cast of reality television stars…in fact, I don’t even watch reality television. The author did a wonderful job of creating a fun and fast-paced novel that actually had a much deeper level of societal analysis; misogyny, feminism, women/women relationships – I ended up being pleasantly surprised by this! The way the author constructed the relationships of these women laid bare a common problem – we are raised, as women, within a society that forces us to view other females as a constant source of threat and competition – statistically, very few women succeed at the levels the characters in this story succeed – so if your friend is succeeding, does that mean there is no room for you too? Maybe I am reading too much into it but I felt this was an excellent expose on the current state of the feminist movement/status of women in American society!

My only negative, and it is a very small one, would be that I felt through the middle it dragged just a little bit. Besides that, the pacing on the front and back-end were both excellent. Thank you so much to the publisher for allowing me to read this book early and to share my thoughts on it. I am really looking forward to this book being released and to reading other people’s opinions on it. I think it is going to be well received and I will definitely be recommending it to some friends!

Top 5 Favorites – 2018, Quarter 1

Happy Friyay Geeks & Gals! Today I thought I would write-up a list of my top 5 books that I read in the first quarter of the year (January 1st to March 31st). I have watched a few booktube videos that inspired this idea for me. It was really hard to choose just 5 so I will definitely be including an ‘honorable mentions’ list at the bottom! So, without further ado, let’s get into it. In no particular order:

  1. The Shining by Stephen King – This was my second time reading this psychological horror classic. The first time I read it, I was in high school and not going to lie, it scared the shit out of me. The slow burn narrative style and descriptions of the happenings at The Overlook Hotel, leave you with a feeling of dread and suspense throughout the book. Certain aspects sent chills right down my spine! Without giving too much away, I will just say elevators, topiary gardens and playgrounds are spooky to me now. As an adult, I think I have an even greater appreciation for this book in regards to the more ‘adult’ themes of addiction, family life and career struggles and aspirations. I certainly picked up more details my second time through as well and I know I will end up reading this fabulous book again in the future. The Shining is hands down one of my favorite books of all time!
  2. The Troop by Nick Cutter – I finished this book back on March 18th and still haven’t written a review.  The reason for this is mostly I am nervous about being able to adequately express how much I enjoyed it. This is a horror novel that follows a group of boys who are taken by their Scoutmaster to a island off the coast of Eastern Canada for a weekend camping trip. When a very ill stranger stumbles into their cabin a horror is unleashed that is beyond all expectation. The characters were so well drawn and their relationships and inner thoughts and desires so well expressed that in spite of being a horror novel, this can be appreciated as a true character piece. In a way, it reminded me a lot of the Lord of the Flies – with this, I am thinking of how each character is sort of placed into a stereotypical societal role and then we see how those roles play off one another. Among the group of boys we have the tough guy, alpha male; the nerdy, know-it-all, mother of the group; the golden boy who excels at sports and gets along with everyone; a wiry, cagey little guy with the absent father and bad temper; and finally the sociopath who’s inner thoughts are a horror story unto themselves! I was so impressed with the quality of Cutter’s writing and have already purchased another book of his, The Deep, which I plan to read in May.
  3. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman – This is a prequel to Hoffman’s novel, Practical Magic, which was made into a very successful movie starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. In this book we get to follow the early life of the Practical Magic Aunts, Jet & Franny (along with their brother Vincent, who I personally, didn’t even know existed – sorry Vincent!). At its core, this book is a beautiful coming-of-age tale/family drama sprinkled with magic. Hoffman’s writing style is so lyrical and flows in such a way, that as a reader, you can completely immerse yourself in the story, forgetting the world around you. In my opinion, no one does magical realism better. It can be a truly beautiful experience. I cried, I laughed out loud and as I closed that final page my soul wept with the fact that it was over. Yep, I loved this book.
  4. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas – This books sticks in my mind mostly due to its originality and boldness. The story is present day and follows the lives of four women as they experience different ‘women’s issues’ from their perspectives of age, familial status and place in society. The content was topical and didn’t shy away from very difficult topics related to sex, women’s health and motherhood. The writing style was riveting and kept me engaged from the very beginning until the final chapter. This is definitely a story that will make you think and as a woman, I felt that there were aspects to each character’s arc that I could relate too. I felt the author showed real courage in writing this book and appreciate her quality of work (this was her first published novel, y’all!). I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!
  5. A List of Cages by Robin Roe – This YA Contemporary novel is honestly one of the most moving stories I have ever read in my life.  Because of this, I think it would definitely take a spot in my favorite books of all time list. This one took me completely off guard. I had heard it mentioned over and over again on booktube and finally picked up a paperback copy for myself on the cheap from Amazon. I annotated it as I was reading and there are literally tabs galore on that baby! The story follows the perspective of two male high school students who have had completely different life experiences but come together in this most charming way. These characters are so well drawn. Julian, so sweet, innocent and trapped in his loss. Adam, fun, popular and extremely caring. I love the relationship of the two boys and how it evolves over the course of the book. This will be a hard one to forget. It was heartbreaking, I was shattered after reading it but also filled with love and hope. I ended up feeling a strong connection to these boys, just such good eggs, the both of them. There is a strong message of kindness and empathy here that should not be missed! I highly recommend this one.

So, those are my top 5 for the quarter, however, I have read a lot of good books so far this year, some honorable mentions would be: The Wastelands (Dark Tower III) and Wizard & Glass (Dark Tower IV) by Stephen King; NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, MacBeth by Jo Nesbo, The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, Final Girls by Riley Sager and Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. What have been your favorite books that you have read so far this year? I want to know! Leave a comment below or message me on Instagram or Twitter – contact links on the side menu bar. Thanks for reading!

Cheers~

Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: November 6, 2012

4-strong stars for Days of Blood and Starlight.

This is the second book in Laini Taylor’s hugely popular Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the first of which I have reviewed previously on this blog. The good news is, I did enjoy this book a lot more than I enjoyed the first one.

In this book, we find Karou thrust into the role left vacant by Brimstone, her father figure and one of the higher-ups in the Chimera society, and it is one she definitely grows into as the story unfolds. She is suffering with grief and loss and because of this her character is raw and has an overwhelming need for vengeance. I like this Karou. I feel like her finally knowing who she is and what she is allows her to gain more strength than she had in the first book.

We still follow along with Akiva’s story as well as he re-immerses himself into the Seraphim regular life – training, fighting, politics – we see it all here and meet a lot more very interesting characters along the way. The world building in this book is really strong. The world we saw in the first book is built upon and built upon in this one until you feel like you are looking at this vast empire of angels v demons. It is truly astounding!

I also like how the romance of the first book really takes a back seat in this one. There is really no ‘romance’ storyline here in an obvious sense, although some may be lingering just under the surface. This book is packed full of action and you definitely can feel that the whole storyline is rushing towards a final, conclusive battle. We see old side characters reemerge here; including my favorites, Zuzana & Mik. (of note: I am so excited to read, Night of Cake & Puppets, now that I know what it is actually about! This is a companion novel to this series that follows Zuzana & Mik as their relationship first begins.)

I listened to this one, as I did the first, on audiobook and I think the narrator just does a spectacular job bringing this incredible world to life. I have already started the third book and it is even more action-packed, picking up right where the second book leaves off. I am sure I will be shook by whatever the conclusion to this is going to be! 

Review: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch

Publication Date: February 20, 2018

My final rating is 3.5-stars for this book. The Woman in the Water is a prequel to the Charles Lenox Mysteries series, of which there are currently 10 books. I have read the first book in the series, A Beautiful Blue Death, and enjoyed it quite a bit. When I saw that a prequel was coming out, I figured I would read it before the rest of the series. This was a good book but I did not enjoy it as much as ABBD. For me, the investigative matters were secondary to the rest of the character development and I really think that the murder investigation should have been front and center. I did feel the second half of the book was a lot stronger than the first half and the ending was satisfying.

Prequels to me are either necessary or not necessary. I don’t really feel this one is necessary in order to enjoy the rest of the series. I didn’t pull too much new information about our protagonist, Charles Lenox, from this that I couldn’t have gleaned from the books in the main series. One aspect of this that I did enjoy a lot however was the relationship between Charles and his right-hand man, Graham. I feel that Graham’s contribution to Lenox’s work and life was really highlighted here and that was nice to see. I also enjoyed the exploration of Charles relationship with his father -some of those details were truly beautiful to read.

Overall, this is a good book, I do enjoy a Victorian mystery, especially with a gentleman detective. However, in my opinion the story could have been stronger if it stuck more to the traditional ‘whodunnit’ format throughout. I will definitely continue reading the books in the Charles Lenox series! Thank you so much to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing me with the opportunity to read this book and share my opinions!

Do you read a lot of mysteries? I have always loved mystery series, cozy or otherwise! They are just so relaxing and easy to get swept away in – I love trying to figure out whodunnit. Leave me a comment with your favorite mysteries – I would love to add more to my never-ending tbr!!

Fierce Competitors

Hey bookies!  Happy Hump Day (…and I’m already ready for the weekend!) – this has seriously just been such a busy week and I have barely gotten any reading done which makes me sad.  Since I have no books currently to review, I figured I would write a post today showing some love for fierce competitors in books.  I love competitions in books – they are actually one of my favorite plot lines.  Not sure what that says about me but I am Slytherin after all and I can admit to being a fairly competitive person. In addition to the competitions themselves, I also really enjoy the training that oftentimes leads up to those competitions.

What got me thinking about this is one of my current reads, Nyxia, by Scott Reintgen. This is a fairly recent YA sci-fi novel that I am absolutely loving! It was published in September 2017 and although I do not see too much buzz about it through social media channels, it definitely deserves some. The book is set in the near future where this huge corporation, Babel, picks ten teenagers to go to space and compete for a chance to be sent to the planet of Eden to mine a new miracle substance called, nyxia. The characters are very diverse, coming from countries all over the world, and the competition is fierce. The author, who is a teacher, writes teens very well- the dialogue and how they relate to one another is spot on.  I am about half way through and the gist at this point is training, training and more training. These kids have so much to prepare for, being sent onto alien soil, that is in fact inhabited by aliens! A lot of the training takes place in VR (virtual reality) which adds a super cool gaming element to it as well!  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a great sci-fi story with teenage protagonists!

Of course, one of my favorite books of all time featuring a fierce competition would be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This book is pretty much the epitome of competition narrative. When this book was released in 2008 it quite literally took the world by storm.  Everyone of every age seemed to be reading it. The story takes kids seriously and puts them into a competition where the ultimate goal is to be the last man (or woman) standing – it was gritty and ground-breaking at the time and has seriously inspired a great assortment of other similar stories in YA-literature.

One of the main reasons why I love The Hunger Games so much is Katniss Everdeen.  I absolutely adore Katniss as a protagonist due to her smarts, her strength and her ability to overcome any obstacle set before her.  Her will and drive is unsurpassed and although at times aloof, I feel her character is one of the most likable around.  After she volunteers to be a tribute for her district, in order to save her younger sister, Prim, Katniss is swept away to the Capital for training. She is definitely in the position of underdog going into this competition. Firstly, she is a girl which people tend to underestimate in competitions of strength and survival, and also because she comes from one of the poorer districts. Once the media coverage for the games begins however she is quickly able to transform herself, owing especially to a cleverly plotted ‘romance’ with her district’s male tribute, to a crowd favorite. If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, at least watch the movie! A very well done adaptation in my opinion.

Now, I couldn’t possibly write a post about competitions in books without mentioning Harry Potter! Although a vein of competition runs throughout the series, through everything from Quidditch games, to the House Cup, my ultimate for the series would be the Triwizard Tournament. The Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in J.K. Rowling’s epic fantasy series, has always been my favorite and I think a lot of that is due to the competition itself. In The Goblet of Fire, we get to meet wizards and witches from other schools, which is also very cool and unique to this book. Even the legendary quidditch player, Viktor Krum is in residence at Hogwarts for this one! (swoon) The Tournament itself, well, it is by no means an ordinary competition – the level of danger and mystery is unequaled and this one, I know, will always stand on a pedestal to me!

Another book with an intense and highly satisfying competition element is, Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas.  This is the first book in Sarah’s hugely popular Throne of Glass series and it is where we meet 18-year old assassin, Celaena Sardothien. Celaena is a great character and has quickly taken a place on my ‘favorites’ list.  She is snarky, bold and haunted by a violent and mysterious past. In this start to the series, you learn that Celaena has been a prisoner at a labor camp, a mine to be exact, and she gets pulled out by Prince Dorian who offers her a chance to win her freedom.  In order to do so, she must act as his champion to compete for the chance of becoming the royal assassin. She agrees to his conditions and travels to the capital to begin her training. Once there she meets all the other champions, all strong, murderous burly men – okay, she is definitely an underdog but does she let it get to her? No way! Not Celaena – this girl is fully confident in her abilities and indeed they seem to be unmatched. She begins training with Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guards and Prince Dorian’s long-time friend. No matter what he throws at her she never backs down.  I love this girl! The competition is brutal and it pushes all contestants to their limits. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a hearty competition!

Finally, the last book I would like to mention in this fierce competitors post is, Warcross, by Marie Lu.  This YA sci-fi novel was released in September of 2017. I pre-ordered a copy of this one for the cover alone but it ended up being one of my favorite books of 2017! The competition in this book is the International Warcross competition – what is Warcross you ask? In this story, Warcross is a VR game that essentially has taken over the world. Everyone in this story plays or at least it seems that way. Set in a rather bleak near-future, Warcross isn’t just a game, it is a way of life.  Our main character, Emika Chen, is a brilliant computer hacker who makes her living as a bounty hunter tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When she uses her hacking skills to actually glitch into the real Warcross games she attracts the attention of the game’s creator, Hideo Tanaka, and our main course of action begins there. The gaming elements and competitive feel of this book keep it rolling along nicely with plenty of action. The final two chapters left me with chills. They say so much about our times, real life issues and philosophical ideas that could be hotly debated.  The second book in this duology is being release on my birthday this Fall (September 18th) so how perfect is that?  I will definitely be pre-ordering this one as well!

Do you know of any books with a strong competition element to the storyline that I haven’t mentioned here? If so, let me know about them! Comment here or message me on IG – I want to know and add them to my tbr! Cheers for now and happy reading!

 

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: September 17, 2011

Rating: 4-stars (I really liked it) 

Obviously, I am extremely late to the party on this one – I have been hearing for years now how great this book is, how great the series is, how I MUST read it. I finally decided to give it a go (on audio) and I wasn’t disappointed…but, I wasn’t blown away either. It was good but I think, for me, it fell victim to the hype – I was sort of expecting the best book ever written and although the writing style is gorgeous, the plot was lacking for me, particularly through the beginning. I did feel the second half of the book was much stronger in the ‘plot’ department and that ending crushed me.

As with other first books of a series, so much character development and world creation can occur due to it being an introduction that it can end up retracting a bit from the actual story. I will say that Laini Taylor’s writing itself is very strong. The flow and her choice and use of words is flawless. I absolutely loved that part of it and am excited to read her other series, Strange the Dreamer, as well. I also really enjoyed a lot of the characters, particularly Zuzana and Madrigal. I am excited to move forward with this series and to see what the ultimate outcome will be for Karou. I have already begun the second book, as of this morning, and already feel much more invested in it than I did with the first book!

*As a side note, for the audiobook, the narrator is excellent and I would definitely recommend it in this format! 

April is here!!

Well, April is finally here!  Ahhhh, Spring…it actually snowed today which was really strange but yes, now the sun is out and it is finally Spring.  I just wanted to write my super exciting plans for reading this month.  I do not have any reviews currently that I am in a mental space to write so we will do a general status update today.

This weekend I finished my reread of The Shining by Stephen King which is one of my all time favorite books.  I have to say, I think it was even better the second time round or maybe it is because I am so much older now I can appreciate it more.  I first read The Shining in high school, so over 20 years ago, and I was so freaked out through the whole thing that I think I may have missed a few details. I did remember my favorite chapter though when I got to it, almost paragraph for paragraph.  Chapter 36, The Elevator.  Wow.  A chapter that could be a total workshop in horror writing – but honestly, this book is a masterpiece.  I think people forget just how groundbreaking it was for psychological horror when it was first released.  The year was 1977, people! This book is a classic.  A timeless classic and I will always love it.

This leads me in to my reason for rereading it now – I am joining a readalong through Instagram called the #traintoteenytown which is a large group readalong of Doctor Sleep. For those of you who may not know, Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining which King released in 2013…quick math = 36 years later.  Little did I know when I bought it upon release day that it was the book I had been waiting for my entire life!  Danny Torrance, all grown up. After I finished Doctor Sleep, I thought to myself, ‘man, I would love to read them back-to-back someday’ – as it turns out, today is that day.  So, I finished The Shining on Saturday night and started my reread of Doctor Sleep this morning before work.

Quite literally, The Shining/Doctor Sleep combo is the most brilliant duology ever penned and I will stick to that! I am excited to be reading it this time with a group as well.  We have a certain number of pages to read each week, for four weeks, with discussion questions sent out on the Sunday of each week to discuss via group chat.  Most of the people reading it are reading it for the first time so I am really looking forward to hearing their thoughts on it.  I will be annotating it this time around so am hoping to bring some insight into the discussion as a 2nd time reader.

Also this month, I will be participating in a buddy read of Justin Cronin’s, The Passage, with a group of my book buddies (we are lovingly called the Floatin’ Troopers) – really looking forward to diving into this post-apocalyptic horror trilogy as I have heard nothing but good things about it.  It’s a pretty long book, the paperback edition coming in at 766 pages, so we are reading this one into May.  Our group usually picks one book a month that we all try to read – it is very informal though and discussions are usually steered more towards how the book is making us feel, what our thoughts are on a particular author’s writing style as opposed to plot points; that way we aren’t spoiling things for our buddies who may not have gotten as far in the book.

I have a couple other books I am hoping to get to this month.  Firstly, I hope to finish all of the 9 books I am currently reading! I have some ARCs I really need to get to this month and I definitely want to get to Tomi Adeyemi’s, Children of Blood & Bone.  What are you looking forward to reading this month? Anyone else doing any buddy reads or book club reads? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Happy reading!!!