Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Publication Date: September 20, 2011    |    Rating: 5-heartfelt stars

This Story! I decided to read this book mainly because I selected Circe, Miller’s second book, as my BOTM Club book a couple of months ago and I really wanted to read this one first. This story took me completely by surprise. I knew nothing about it going in besides that fact that it is based off some events in Homer’s, The Illiad. Despite the fact that I took 4-years of Latin in high school, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about The Illiad today; so, no spoilers there!

I was completely floored by the absolute beauty of this story. The center of the tale is the love between Achilles and Patroclus. I am not a romance reader AT ALL and oftentimes the romance will be my least favorite aspect of a given story but for some reason…this one…struck me straight in the feels. There was something so pure and confident in their love – they were loyal and brave and kind to one another in a way that had me reaching for the tissues instead of choking down my mirth. I just knew from my level of attachment that this one wasn’t going to end well for me. Puddle, puddle of goo, right on the floor. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of feeling this story was able to elicit from my cold, dark heart. The Ice Queen hath melteth.

If you are considering reading this yourself, for whatever reason, I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. This narrator absolutely nailed the feeling of the story – plus, his voices for all characters was just so expressive and was always recognizable for who he was portraying at the time (if this makes any sense at all). In particular, his voice when speaking as Achilles…straight up Chris Hemsworth, which honestly, not a bad picture to have in mind whilst listening to a book.

So, yah, in summation: READ THIS BOOK! The world would indeed be a better place if this book were required reading and I honestly believe that.

Original review: 💔😭😭😭😭😭 oh my gods & goddesses! This book. Those last few lines. I am going to curl up in the fetal position somewhere and stare at the wall for a few days.

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Publication Date: July 3, 2018    |    Rating: 5-glorious STARS

Riley Sager has done it again!! Thrilling from beginning to end. This one kept me guessing until the final pages!

When Emma Davis first went to Camp Nightingale she was late; her parents doing. Subsequently, she got stuck in a cabin with girls much older than herself. Luckily, the pretty and popular bunkmate, Vivian, quickly took Emma under her wing and she began to have a camp experience unlike anything the other girls her age were experiencing. Unfortunately, one night, on the 4th of July, her three cabinmates disappear, never to be seen again. That night continues to haunt Emma, even fifteen years later when we meet her. Now a successful painter living in NYC she continues to meld the haunting images of her camp experience into her work. Invited back to Camp Nightingale by the wealthy owner, Franny Harris-White, to be an art instructor, Emma begrudgingly accepts, thinking she can finally figure out what happened to her friends.

Once Emma returns to Camp she is reunited with many individuals who were also there her first time round; including the handsome Theo Harris-White, Emma’s crush from THAT summer. This story is darkly atmospheric and filled with mystery and dread. For me, Sager’s writing is so cinematic – as I am reading, the entire drama is unfolding in my mind with the perfect clarity of a movie – I felt the same way with Final Girls. His descriptions and feelings are so easy to follow and imagine and are definitely one of my favorite things about his writing.

As the story unfolds, there are multiple occasions where you think you know what happened all those years ago, but those thoughts are quickly dashed away by new information becoming available. The cast of characters was fantastic and past and present unfolded with such ease and excitement that it made this novel very fast-paced! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this book – I loved it – would read it again and would recommend to any thriller or horror reader. I cannot wait to see what Sager comes up with next! You better believe I will be waiting for it and buying it on release.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Dutton Press, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. It was a highlight of my year for sure and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!

Retellathon Wrap-Up

It’s wrap-up time! So, if you follow me on social media or this blog, you may recall that last week I participated in my FIRST ever readathon. I had so much fun and ended up completing 3 books for it and meeting 4 out of the 5 challenges! I’m proud of that – between working full time and being Dog Mom of the year with three times a day long walks – I think that is a pretty solid week. In completion order the books I read and challenges met are as follows:

1. The Beast Within by Serena Valentino (Villains #2): Rating 2.5-stars.  This one was really rough for me. I hated the Beast/Prince. He was a complete ass and I don’t feel his character changed at all during the course of the story. I did not want Belle with him and don’t know why she would choose to be. I understand when a guy gives you a library that can be tempting but he must have some other sort of likeable qualities as well. The story itself was all over the place and felt very rushed. Overall, may be a better fit for readers aged 10 to 13. I read this book to satisfy Challenge #1, which was to read a retelling of your favorite fairy tale. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite and I have actually owned this book for a while, so, even though it wasn’t the best book for me, I am happy to cross it off my backlist!  For my full review on Goodreads >>> Meg’s Full Review

2. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes (Queen of Hearts Saga #1): Rating 4.5-stars. This is essentially an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I love retellings from the villains perspective, that’s honestly one of my favorite subgenres of YA. This one felt very true to the atmosphere of the original story but brought a lot of new concepts and unique twists. I loved the deep, dark overall feel of the tale. There were parts that were very gritty and creepy which works perfectly with the story. Alice in Wonderland is not a feel-good tale; it is dark and scary with twisty-turny, upside-downy things that just make you feel on edge. I read this book to satisfy two challenges actually. Firstly for, Challenge #3, which was to read a fairytale retelling from your heritage. I chose to go with my Irish heritage for this one and since Ireland was a part of UK&Ireland at the time the original story was written, I think that counts. I made that executive decision, yes. The second challenge it met was Challenge #5, which was to read a retelling with a dark twist, and as the hosts of the readathon pointed out, this would include stories from the villains perspective. So, check and check! For my full review on Goodreads>>>Meg’s Full Review

3. Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – Rating 4.5-stars rounded up to 5 on Goodreads. This is a fabulous feminist retelling of Snow White and the Evil Queen. (Side Note: I always want to call her the Wicked Queen – I am from New England, everything is wicked to us.) Honestly, I haven’t even written a review for this yet because I am still grappling with how much I loved it. It was a long one too – almost 400-pages.  If I had one critique, that would be it.  I think probably 40 to 50 pages could have been edited out of it. Other than that, it was fantastic – and a debute – gurl, what!? I think this is probably the best retelling I have ever read. I am so happy that I finally got around to it as it has been on my shelves since it first released in September of last year. The Challenge this met was Challenge #2, to read a queer or gender flipped retelling. This story features a f/f relationship. I promise to write a full review of this book soon!

There was one challenge that I did not complete and that was Challenge #4, to read the group book, The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill. After hearing other Retellathon participants thoughts on it, I am actually glad I did not start with that one.  Let’s just say the overall opinion is not high and I wouldn’t be surprised if a copy or two got tossed in the actual garbage.  Luckily, the cover is insanely gorgeous so even if I never read it, at least I can look at it once in a while and soak up its prettiness.

What is your favorite retelling? Have you read any of these? I want to know – leave a comment below or contact me through any of the social media links to the right!

 

Review: The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Publication Date: March 20, 2018     |     Rating: 5-STARS!!!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is pretty much perfection in my opinion. This book exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I went into this book knowing two things: prep school for girls/mystery. This book is so much more than that. The novel is replete with a gothic atmosphere that transports you in time and place into the storyline. It is the perfect blend of mystery/thriller with extra special paranormal goodness sprinkled the whole way through!

The main portion of the story alternates back and forth between 1950 and 2014, following different girls/women in and around Barrens, Vermont, and more importantly Idlewilde Hall. I do not want to say too much about the story itself, as I wouldn’t want to risk giving anything away to potential readers. Just know this – I put off reading this book for many months. I don’t know why – I can’t explain it – it just kept getting shuffled down the ole’ tbr. Now, I can say, I am physically distraught at not having read this as soon as I got it. Okay – that may be taking it a little far but I do wish I would have picked it up immediately. I honestly do not have even one constructive criticism of this. Because of that this will be a very short review: This book is incredible. This book wants you to read it. This book will keep you up nights after…read it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy to review. I apologize to you, as well as to myself, that I didn’t get to it until now. I am even going to run out and buy myself a copy so that I may read it again and share it with others – I love it that much!

Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oates

Publication Date: May 3, 2016    |    Rating: 4.5-stars!!!

I enjoyed this so much – I listened to the audio to complete some challenges for Retellathon. This book hadn’t even been on my radar (and I LOVE retellings) but I needed an audiobook to get through the week and SCRIBD had this one. After seeing that the overall Goodreads rating was only around a 3.6, I didn’t have the highest expectations going in. I didn’t read any of the reviews in advance, so I have no idea what the issues are with this one after listening to it.

This is essentially an origin story for the Queen of Hearts. I love retellings from the villains perspective, that’s honestly one of my favorite subgenres of YA, and who doesn’t love an origin story? This one felt very true to the atmosphere of the original story but brought a lot of new concepts and unique twists. I loved the deep, dark overall feel of the tale. There were parts that were very gritty and creepy – blood, gore, torture – it’s all in here but not in an obnoxious way. IMO it all works perfectly with the story. Alice in Wonderland is not a feel-good tale; it is dark and scary with twisty-turny, upside-downy things that just make you feel on edge.

I loved the relationship between Dinah (the Queen of Hearts) and her Father. He is a demonic, evil, spiteful little man and I really hope he gets his in the next book! Speaking of the next book, I ordered this and the second book this morning from Book Outlet and I need them like yesterday! This left off on such a cliffhanger – I cannot wait to see where the next book takes Dinah.

Another thing I enjoyed about this was Cheshire. He is an aide to the King and you can tell he is all kinds of devious. I’m not sure at this point what his true motivations are but he sure is a tricky one! He is described with similar qualities to the Cheshire Cat from the original, yet in this tale, he is a man. We also meet Dinah’s main caregiver, Harris, who is just such a sweet man, who loves her like her Father never has. He is just a pure and precious gem who I hope survives the wrath that is the King of Hearts! For Mad Hatter fans, have no fear, he is in here too; as are all the cards, the croquet games and general royal chaos.

Overall, I feel like this book needs some more love. I definitely plan to get the entire series and will probably even read this one again. I am majorly geeking out over this right now. I am going to go back now though and read other reviews; I am really curious to see what others didn’t enjoy about this one!

SIDE NOTE:Retellathon Book #3: I am using this to meet two challenges. The first is challenge #3 ‘Faraway Land’ (to read a retelling that is based off a story from your heritage) – I am choosing to go with my Irish heritage for this challenge. At the time Alice in Wonderland was written, and a time when my ancestors were still there, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland so technically, this works. I am also using it for challenge #5 ‘Unhappily Ever After’ (to read a retelling with a dark twist) – as this is told from the villain’s perspective, the infamous Queen of Hearts, this works! BAM!

Review: Hangman by Jack Heath

Publication Date: June 12, 2018    |    Rating: 4-gritty STARS

WICKEDLY entertaining~ Sherlock Holmes meets Hannibal Lecter!!! I really enjoyed this one. It is so bizarre in theory but somehow it just works. Let me break this down: our main character is a cannibal (you read that right…a cannibal) who ends up making a deal with an FBI Agent that he will help with investigations in exchange for free bodies from death row inmates. Why? Why would an FBI Agent want this man working with him you ask? Well, the guy is a freaking genius of course! A modern day Sherlock Holmes with a photographic memory who obviously can see into the minds of criminals because, well, he IS one…oh, and of course, the cannibal knows about the Agent’s coke habit… Intrigued yet?

I would recommend this book to ANYONE who loves a new twist on the thriller genre. Obviously, you need to be a open-minded with the whole concept behind this but I tell you, that Timothy Blake (our MC) is pretty lovable. Honestly the first cannibal I have ever rooted for in a novel. But in addition to the weirdness of it all, this is actually a really taut crime thriller. There were a few times that I was convinced I knew what the answer was to the string of kidnappings that Blake was trying to unravel, but in the end, I turned out wrong every time and was surprised by the reveal. The writing style was fast paced and the mystery well developed. It’s definitely dark and gruesome, so if that is something you aren’t into, best to stay clear of this one!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Hanover Square Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review! I really hope that this becomes a series. I would hate to think that this is the last I am ever going to see of Timothy Blake. There’s more to his story, I can just feel it! I look forward to hearing other opinions on this book as well. If you have read it, what did you think??

Review: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino

Published: July 22, 2014   |   Rating: 2.5-☆s   |   Villains Series Book #2

Okay. This one was rough. There’s not a lot here and what is, wasn’t great for me. Ugh, this hurts my heart to write this. I have all the books in this series and am obsessed with the covers and naked books. I have read the first book in the series, Fairest of All, and gave it four stars. I don’t know if maybe the fact that Beauty & the Beast is my favorite fairy tale of all time made me judge this one differently -I just don’t know.

First, let’s get this right out of the way: I hated the Prince/Beast. There was nothing redeemable about him and his story arc was completely flat. I don’t feel he evolved as a character at all. Belle ends up with him and you’re like, gurl, NO! While reading his character, all I could picture in my head was Joffrey Baratheon, and any GOT fan knows that is not a pretty picture.

The story was all over the place. Some parts of the book were taken directly form the Disney movie (the original animated one that I have watched 2,568,401 times) which normally wouldn’t bother me, but the dialogue was exact and it didn’t explore any of the scenes at all. It felt so rushed and like there was no heart behind it at all. Picture: Beast saving Belle from wolves, here’s a library, Gaston & Beast fight, a kiss, THE END – in about 20 pages with no coherent connection or exploration of ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc.

One thing I did enjoy was the friendship of the Prince and Gaston prior to him being cursed. That was interesting and I thought that added to the original story in a unique way. Even though this one let me down, I am definitely planning to read the rest of the books in the series. Maybe the others will work for me more as I am not as attached to the stories and characters. I would recommend this for a much younger audience; perhaps tweens wouldn’t feel so bent with it as I was! Thanks for reading my rant – I truly do not enjoy having to write a review like this. It makes me sad 🙁

As a side note, I read this book to complete one of the challenges for Retellathon, which I am currently participating in. I mentioned Retellathon in an earlier post – basically, the first challenge was to read a retelling of your favorite fairy tale. That being said, I really wish I would have enjoyed this more.  What is your favorite fairy tale? Have you ever read a retelling of it that disappointed you?  I want to know! Leave a comment here or contact me through the comment links to the right >>>

Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Publication Date: 1966    |    Rating: 5-stars!

A classic! An absolute masterpiece of true crime literature. Gritty and intelligent. This should be on everyone’s ‘books to read in a lifetime’ list. As many of you may know, In Cold Blood is the true account of the heinous murders of the Clutter Family in 1959 Kansas. In my opinion, the writing style of this account is absolutely flawless. Through Capote’s words, you are transported to this small town; you get alternating accounts from the family, from the killers, from other residents close to the crime. The account of the actual murders is bone-chilling and can disturb sleep, believe me!

This is my second time reading this book and I found it just as impactful during my reread. To me it is interesting to think about Capote compiling his research for this. He actually went and lived in this town, along with one of his closest friends, Harper Lee, and they painstakingly interviewed hundreds of people associated with the events. Just the sheer amount of data compiled and how it was intricately woven together fascinates me – yes, I know that is what nonfiction novelists do but this was a truly groundbreaking piece of journalistic writing at the time and should be appreciated as such.

Another interesting aspect of this for me is how interested Capote was in the psychology behind the killers motivations and actions, as well as their complex relationship with one another both before and after the crimes. I think anyone who enjoys true crime, criminology, psychology and even sociology will find this book absolutely captivating. If you have been putting off reading this for any reason, please stop, read this…now!

Do you like nonfiction books? If so, what is your favorite sub-genre within nonfiction? I want to know! Tell me about it in the comments below and you can reach me through the contact links to the right >

Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Publication Date: June 7, 2016   |   Rating: 5-glorious-stars

Why did I wait so long to read this? Bad life choices, I guess. I loved this so much – now I can FINALLY watch the movie! There really isn’t too much I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said. I think pretty much everyone knows the basic premise of this so I won’t reiterate that here. What I do want to touch on is how this book made me feel. I am in a long-term relationship, having been with my partner for 11-years this month. In the beginning of our relationship we were long-distance. A lot of our initial ‘getting to know you’ period was perpetuated through online correspondence, via email. I absolutely adored the use of mixed media in this, showing the emails between Simon and his love interest, known as ‘Blue’. It just made my heart sing reminiscing on that feeling you get when you see a new email has come through, opening it up to behold what the person you are crushing on has written you, seeing the initial low-key flirting and how that grows into more and more over time.

Ugh, I just can’t. It was so freaking great and I thought the transformation as they explored the boundaries of their relationship was really well handled. I liked Simon’s family a lot and in particular, I felt his relationships with his sisters were supportive, well-formed and great examples of kind sibling relations. I also enjoyed his interactions with his parents, in particular, his father. As far as Simon’s closest friends are concerned, I really enjoyed those relationships as well. At times I got a little frustrated with a couple of them, particularly Leah, for the way they were treating Simon. I felt at times he was treated a little unfairly by them, held to a higher standard so to speak, but maybe that was just because I was so attached to him, I instantly took a Team Simon stance. He was like a sweet, precious baby bird I wanted to put in my pocket and protect from all harm. If you have read this book, you can probably relate. If you haven’t read this book, what are you waiting for? 🌈💖☆☆☆☆☆

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Publication Date: March 8, 2018    |    Rating: 3.5-stars

I liked this one. Some aspects of the story I really enjoyed and others were just okay for me. There were moments, toward the beginning in particular, that I was a little confused as to what type of story this was trying to be. Thinking back on those early chapters, I am still a little confused by them. A literary sleight of hand perhaps; they got your brain going in one direction which, at least for me, ended up being flipped completely on its head. The book follows multiple perspectives but the two main ones being, Anna and Murray. Anna is a young woman who recently lost both parents to suicide. Murray, is a semi-retired criminal investigator, who ends up looking into Anna’s parents suicides when she begins to suspect that foul play may have been involved.

There were plenty of twists and turns in this and the end in particular was so wild in bordered on ridiculous. This being said, ridiculously far-fetched plot points aside, it was also wildly entertaining. It did keep me engaged the whole way through; I was particularly drawn to the chapters from Murray’s perspective. Although his chapters were not as wrought with turmoil as Anna’s, there was something very relatable and likable about his character and experiences. I also liked the way this book took classic societal gender roles and challenged them; it challenged what the reader would typically expect to happen. I really enjoyed that actually. I felt like someone had played a trick on me which made it very unique!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I very much appreciate the opportunity! I had some fun with it and really look forward to checking out other reader’s reviews now that I am done.