Don’t you dare tell me you’re not a reader

I’m coming to you this week as the host for an awesome group of people writing for #BookishBloggersUnite. If you haven’t checked out the rest of these lovelies, what are you waiting for?! From Texas to Australia, we’re talking some recent reads that have really had an impact on how we think, how we feel, or how we view ourselves.

It’s not a newsflash that I read a lot. Currently sitting at 95 books for the year actually (believe it or not I know several people who have blown past that already this year). I read them for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes I’m just bored and there’s nothing on tv that sounds better. Sometimes it’s just habit. Then there are those times where something grabs you by the heart and you forget that the story isn’t real. That’s not true though, is it? Fictional stories can be just as real as anything. Even before there was written word, there were stories that explained the universe. They explained the human condition and how we are who we are and where we came from. The impact of those stories are just as real as any true story you may ever hear. That connection is real. Do the people exist? No. Do they need to? No.  So, then why have stories always been used in this way? I don’t have the answer for that. What I do know, is that a story can connect directly to someone’s heart in a way that many people often can not.

Sure, there are silly stories that make us laugh, or complex stories that make us think, or kissing stories that make us glad someone’s getting their happily ever after. But sometimes? Sometimes there are stories that just melt your heart in places you didn’t know could liquefy. Sometimes there are stories that make you just want to call someone up and say “I see you”.  Sometimes those stories just feel like arms wrapped around your soul.  Maybe that sounds crazy to you, but if it does you just haven’t found the right stories yet. I think that’s the biggest part of why I am so determined to be a writer. and yet so terrified to actually do it. I want someone to read my words and feel like I see them. I want to put a smile on someone’s face and make them fall in love. I want to give them a reason to block out all the noise, even for just a few hours.

There have been a couple of books that have really made me think lately in that ‘sucker punch to the heart when I wasn’t looking’ kind of way. The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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I went into this book with the recommendation that it was “If Eleanor Oliphant worked in a bookshop and had tattoos, and was slightly less problematic” or something similar. It’s a story of Loveday, a bibliophile who has worked in a bookstore since she was 15. Her childhood is parceled out in small snips here and there as she is confronted with certain things in her life. An ex boyfriend is kind of, sort of stalking her. Books that should never have been around start showing up and forcing her to confront her past. A lost book introduces her to someone who she can’t quite figure out how to be with. He is patient, kind, and a poet. She is, she thinks, just too damaged. Her tattoos are first lines of books that meant something to her. They remind her of parts of her life that have shaped her into who she is. It’s not as big of a twist as Oliphant has and I think that’s a good thing. Even being able to predict how this was going to end didn’t lessen the impact when it was over. There are a few poems sprinkled throughout that help the characters express what they are feeling and it’s an incredibly effective device. It says something really powerful about communication and self trust. Before reading this book I have never considered getting a tattoo. They’re just not for me is all. When I was done with this story though, my brain immediately asked “which line would you get” and for me, that’s a mark of a great story. It pushes you to consider something about yourself. Even if it’s something as simple as getting a tattoo.

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I’m not even sure I can put into words how I felt about this book. I originally picked it up because the audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. If there is anything that rivals my love of reading, it is my admiration for LMM (Don’t challenge me to a Hamilton lyric based conversation. Been there, won that my friend). I’d heard a few good things about this book, but I wasn’t prepared for it in any way. Honestly? This may be the most beautiful story I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a tough read (trigger warnings for violence). Two teenagers in the 80s are learning how to grow up and figure out who they are. They’re best friends. One is gay. One is lost. All they really have for sure is each other. Once I turned it on though, I couldn’t bring myself to turn it off. I was cheering for them and refusing to look at how much time was left because I didn’t want it to end. And when it did, I just sat there. Silent. Exhausted. Heartbroken, but Happy. In love with the beauty of a story that needs to be told because there are so many people that will read it and say “I see me. That’s me” and I hope they feel seen. I hope they feel loved. And then I hope that they know I see them too.

So maybe these stories aren’t for you. Maybe you don’t want something that feels quite so heavy, quite so loaded. That doesn’t mean you’re just not a reader. Don’t you dare tell me you’re not a reader. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can say to me. I will search day and night until I find that book that you can’t put down. The one that sticks with you, niggling at the back of your brain. The one that wraps you like a warm blanket, or makes you smile like an ice cream cone in the middle of summer. Or even, the one that leaves you sobbing on the couch, hugging a book to your chest because what you needed most in the world at that moment was to just cry and let all that weariness flow away. Trust me, it’s out there.

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Witches, and Vamps, and Daemons oh my!

The yellow plague is here, aka pollen season. Being my only allergy, it is a little like feeling you’re slowly dying for a few weeks. Breathing is a bit essential so it’s miserable. Thankfully I can still get some quality reading time in as well as keeping up with my bookish friends. Speaking of, there are several out in the blogosphere that have been doing link-up posts about various topics under #BookishBloggersUnite This week is Favorite Side Characters. I’ve thought about this for a few days, but I couldn’t settle on one. Initially, I looked at this as sidekicks. For instance Dr. Watson. He is a great side character, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted someone who stood out, someone who really stole the show. It needed to be someone who grew with the story and really evolved as it went in unexpected and brilliant ways.

As of today, I think I have finally found that side character. I finally started reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness a few weeks ago. It’s the first book in the All Souls Trilogy. Diana Bishop is a history professor visiting at Oxford who specializes in the history of alchemy. She stumbles across a magical book that starts to bring out her own suppressed magic that she has fought her entire life. She also stumbles upon Matthew de Clermont. A vampire who can brood with the best of them. What follows is a love story, a war, and hope for a new world. I got sucked in from the very beginning! The cast of characters expands to include several other vampires, witches, and daemons (I’m looking at you Kit Marlowe). Daemons here are the incredibly creative and sometimes a bit unruly, not the evil, glowing-eyed monsters many think of.  Vampires meld into society largely unnoticed but live by their own very strict set of rules and loyalties. Then there are the witches. Some power hungry, some genial, all powerful to some degree. And the book? It could very well hold the answers to where they all came from…and how to get rid of them. It appears to have chosen Diana, but unfortunately, EVERYONE wants to get their hands on it.

The world that Harkness creates is so rich in history and characters, that it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Phillipe, the patriarch of the de Clermonts has been writing history the way he wants for as long as anyone can remember. Gallowglass is a sweet vamp whose protectiveness makes him a valuable asset. Chris, a human scientist and Diana’s best friend, doesn’t come into play until Book 3 but he isn’t afraid to put Matthew in his place and keep him in line. Any of the 16th century School Night players, Christopher Marlow/Walter Raleigh/Lord Northumberland and their brotherhood of sorts. They all play such a crucial role along the journey, but as I finished book 3 today, one character stood out as so beautifully fleshed out and spirited I knew I had found my answer.

Ysabeau.

Ysabeau if Matthew’s creator-mother and matriarch of the de Clermont family. She is stubborn, wily, loving, and clever. All along the way, she grows from a cold, hard, witch hating vampire you wouldn’t want to cross in an alley to the number one person you want with you were you to cross her in an alley. She evolves so much over all three books that you can’t help but grow to love her. At one point Matthew tries to explain to Diana that people always knew Phillipe was in charge but that Phillipe always knew it was actually Ysabeau who ran the show. He wasn’t kidding. There’s a scene late in the story when they need to get past a vamp guard. She walks right up and says “meet your grandmother” before she stabs a dagger into his heart. At the same time, she loves more fiercely than anyone else when it comes to her family despite her personal views. My heart broke for her time and again but her strength comes across on the page as clearly as if she walked into your living room.

Conveniently, she may be doing that soon. It appears it will be a tv show this fall. Matthew will be played by Matthew Goode, and if that isn’t enough to convince you to check it out, you may need your head checked. He’s a perfect choice! Why do the Brits get all the good television?! I digress. Trust me, if you want to feel allllll the feels, go check out A Discovery of Witches and hold on for the ride.

“Don’t move” – Moriarty

Hello out there! March has almost come and gone. Can you believe it? I certainly can’t. Time is flying by this year, and let’s face it, when is it not? Life moves at a never-ending pace it seems. Kiddo birthday parties and snaps of cold weather are filling the days lately. Speaking of kiddos, Greatest Showman is still their obsession for those of you keeping score. Yes, the movie that came out in December. They still beg for it daily. It could be worse I suppose. Working from home two days a week now has been a treat. Well, “Mori”arty seems to think so at least:

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On the writing front, February was so crazy we hit a stall, but we’re meeting up this week to kick back into gear. I’m about 90% sure I’ve figured out where I want a new character to go but we’ll see if she agrees or not.

In the clearly attainable goals dept, I’m up to 44 of the 75 books in my Goodreads challenge for the year. Perhaps I should bite the bullet and up the goal seeing as it’s only March. I know the year only gets crazier from here so we’ll see.

Speaking of good reads (see what I did there *insert eyebrow wiggle*) I’ve read a few good ones lately. I was a little disappointed by the new Sophie Kinsella. I love her books for quirky characters as you’ve all probably figured out by now, but this wife was so desperate I just felt sorry for her. I’d highly recommend SK’s other books for a fun read but Suprise Me fell a little short for me.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce was a little slow to start but by the time it was over, I was really touched. It was lovely! I was finishing it up while family was over and I had to put it down because I was starting to cry. If you like music at all (especially if you love a good vinyl) check it out.

For book club, we’re reading Drama High by Michael Sokolove before Rise starts on NBC. It’s their new show about how music theater transforms a high school. I can’t count how many times I stopped reading it and thought “wait, it wasn’t like this for everyone?”. So THANK YOU to my amazing drama teacher and friends whom I still love very much to this day. Sorry if I didn’t realize how special we had it back then.

Lastly, I just wrapped up The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr and boy was it delightful! It’s exactly what you think. Two women swap bf’s at Christmas so their parents will be appeased and/or get off their backs. It ends about exactly as you think it will and it’s adorable!!

 

 

A month of love-liness!

What a start to a year! It seems like life has been nonstop since I last checked in, and here we are, almost to March already! Time flies when you’re having fun I guess. Some BIG NEWS, some fun news, and some life as usual:

BIG NEWS: I know I’ve mentioned writing before (don’t judge me on the quality of the writing here haha). I’ve been kicking around a story since NaNoWriMo 2012 that was “finished” but not revised. No matter what I do, I keep coming back to that story. I normally don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but I decided to just rip the band-aid off. I’m going to get this story actually done this year. I’ve found a local editor that I know and trust and we’re working slowly but surely to get it to a version I can submit. It has been a difficult process to hand over something I’ve lived with for so long and trust that their feedback comes from a positive place. Yes, I kicked my feet at several of her suggestions but ultimately came to the conclusion that she made more sense than I did. I’ve had to let go of a character I’m particularly partial to, but I get to create a whole new one that makes so much more sense for the story I’m trying to tell. While it feels like a major rewrite of practically everything, I’m happy with where it’s going. Fingers crossed!

FUN NEWS: Y’all know how much I read, and I may have mentioned Book Riot a couple hundred times. They provide some cool perks to monthly contributors that range from exclusive newsletters, a new release index, up to a private Slack for the top tier. Due to the Slack population being restricted, I’ve been waiting for the chance to get in for awhile. Lo and behold, I finally got in recently and it is either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, depending on whether you want to actually judge the amount of time I’ve spent on there. Y’all. I have never found so many helpful, funny, like-minded people in one place before. Anything ranging from what we’re reading, to interview help, to live chatting our Olympic love, I have fallen in love with this community all over again. I highly recommend supporting your passions and finding others that share your interests. It definitely leads to a more fulfilling day amidst all the crap we can sometimes have to deal with.

LIFE AS USUAL: So far, I’ve hit 27 books on the year so I’m ahead of my Goodreads challenge. I’ll be glad for that later in the year I bet. I’ve read some good ones and some really, really bad ones. Seems to be par for the course. I’ve been pretty good about tracking what kind and where I’m getting books so far and am finding the results interesting already. It’s still the month of love, so a few reads of love-liness lately to keep things light, breezy, and happy:

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright. This was such a cute story about an American who goes to Oxford to fulfill a posthumous request from her mother to discover her family roots. While there she finds Edmund who turns out to be a prince, and a connection she’s not quite sure she even wants. I am big fan of royal fiction and loved The Royal We. This story reminded me of TRW, and I smiled so much while reading this. There are several instances you need to suspend disbelief (I mean come on, who doesn’t recognize a Prince of England while in England) but overall, I’d recommend this for someone looking for a light or beach read.

The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane. I’ve read 2 other books by Rebekah and this one doesn’t disappoint. I did a longer review over on Goodreads with a bit more detail, but this YA love story is about “Jane” who is the sole survivor of a plane crash in Ireland, but has absolutely no memory of anything when she wakes up. She convinces a stranger to help her escape the hospital in a (misguided?) attempt to regain her memories so she can reclaim her life without all the pressures of being told what that life is. It’s a sweet story of searching for answers and finding more than you bargained for along the way. The characters are fun. The scenery is lovely. Would also recommend for a quick read about falling in love and finding yourself.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. Sophie always delivers fun, quirky characters that make me laugh and this is no exception. Katie works for an advertising firm and has the boss from hell. Well she thinks so anyway. Having her dream of living in London crushed by losing even the menial job she had sends her back home to a father and step-mother who want to start what is essentially a campground. Using what she learned about branding, she helps them get the idea off the ground and success comes quickly. So does her former boss and her former crush. There are misconceptions, clever insights, and a little bit of soul-searching thrown in for good measure. I laughed out loud several times. The story does such an interesting take on how our perceptions are so easily crafted by either/both advertisers and our own experiences, drawing the parallels between product promotion and life outlook before you realize it. If you want a pick me up to blaze through over the weekend, this (or several others of Sophie’s books) is a good place to start.

No NaNoWriMo and Oct theme reading!

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I’ve been debating over and over whether I am going to participate this year. The more I think about it, the more I think I’m not going to.  I need to focus on what I’ve already written and finish it once and for all and get it submitted somewhere. I haven’t figured out where I want to submit yet, but starting something else doesn’t make sense when I already have 1 finished, 1 half way and a 3rd about 3/4 done. I think I’ll use November to really fine tune the finished manuscript and my Christmas present to myself will be hiring an actual editor for the final touches. Stay tuned to see if that actually happens ….

I’ve been a bit under the weather for weeks, so that means reading, reading, and more reading! I have never attempted a theme reading month (surprising, I know!) so I thought I’d give it a shot for October and read only fantasy/mystery themed stories. I started out with a cozy mystery Witch P.I. series by Adele Abbott. It’s a cute story about a woman who was adopted only to finally meet her birth mother on her deathbed. Oh yeah, and birth momma has some news “you’re a witch”. Enter a whole new side of the family and The Dark One that wants her dead. No biggie. Each one only took about 3hrs to read so I polished them off in an evening. I figured with 21 in the series, it would last me a while. I got to book 14 and the time jump and just needed a break so I switched over to A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab . It didn’t grab me enough to finish the series so I went in search of something else.

Again Book Riot filled my TBR list and I searched out Shades and Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. I knew that name sounded familiar and then it finally clicked! She’s one of the cohosts for a favorite podcast of mine: Writing Excuses. It was promoted as “Jane Austen if she wrote fantasy” and that is totally in my wheelhouse. Well, it sounded like it would be. I suppose it had the makings of a Pride and Prejudice retelling but if just fell kind of flat for me.

Finally, I landed on the The Ministry of Curiosities series by C.J. Archer. I knew this format felt familiar only to realize she also wrote the Glass & Steele series that I really liked. It’s a good thing I liked that series because I’m not joking. This format is exactly the same as G&S with different characters. There were several times I laughed out loud during the first 8 books in this series. As a whole, I think I actually like this one better than G&S. Book 9 comes out Dec 5 and I can’t wait!

Speaking of release dates, The Delphi Resistance by Rysa Walker (Book 2) comes out  Tuesday! I loved her Chronos Series and this new Delphi trilogy is good so far. 17yr old Anna Morgan has a unique ability: ghosts like to catch a ride when she’s near. These mental hitchhikers won’t let go until she helps them take care of what they need to finish before they pass on. At least she gets to retain their knowledge and special skills, so there’s that. Happy early Birthday to me!

Last but not least I just finished up A Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock #2) by Sherry Thomas. I think Thomas does a good job emulating Sherlock’s investigating skills and there are some interesting choices here how she feminizes Sherlock, but I can’t decide if I like her or not. Charlotte Holmes I mean. I need someone to read this so I can discuss it with them, because I guess the choices make sense for the time period but I can’t put my finger on what irks me about her.

Get a sitter if you do a FB live book club

The best advice I can give you if you somehow go crazy and decide, hey! let’s do a book club meeting via FB Live, and then you forget that the hubs isn’t available. Kids 4 & 6 are great at entertaining themselves. Right? Very, very wrong. I set the video up and let the kids play on the floor in front of me. We get started and five minutes in D starts shouting he has to go to potty! Instead of walking to the bathroom like a normal potty trained child, he continues to stand there and lets it run down his leg. Onto the brand new living room carpet. It gets better. He then starts yelling that he is also pooping in his pants. OH, yes. It is captured on video to be replayed later at his rehearsal dinner. I manage to say “interesting” about 50xs and then wrap the video up and take the kids to shower. I then realize the salted caramel cookie crunch gelato I splurged on (because let’s face it, I knew I was going to earn it somehow) never made it to the freezer. Totally soup at this point. Moral of the story: this is why I don’t do video. YAY Parenthood.

I think we’ve talked about my Goodreads Challenge before. I thought getting to 55 was going to be a struggle but it’s September and I’m at a whopping 96! You read that right. 96. Thank goodness for Kindle Unlimited and free audiobooks! (FYI, there are a ton of mindless romance books that only take about 4hrs to read. I’m not talking Fabio, just a normal hot girl meets hot guy, they click, they fight, they end in love.) 2017 has definitely been the year of audiobooks. I used to refuse to count an audiobook as “read” because it felt a bit like cheating. It seems like this is the age old debate among bookworms. The conclusion I have finally come to is: what is really the difference? If you consider why you’re reading, ie. to enjoy a story, then the vessel for that story is irrelevant. That in mind, what have I been reading? Here’s a quick round-up of some fantasy series standouts to close us out:

YA Vampire Duology (I hope we get a 3rd one here to make a series): 

The Casquette Girls and Romeo Catchers by Alys Arden. 16yr old Adele goes back to a post-Katrina New Orleans only to discover that vampires now live among them. There’s magic and ghosts and plenty of Creole fun in this series. I normally am not a huge vampire fan, but I really enjoyed these. (NOTE: I did read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. The last 2 books in that series weren’t great, but the books were actually quite different than Trueblood. I believe they’re better except the last 2, which I think were more to perpetuate the show.)

Fountain and Wizard Magic Series: 

The Kingfountain and Muirwood series by Jeff Wheeler are fantasy stories full of fountain magic, battle scenes, and destiny steeped with the feel of Arthurian legend. Kingfountain will have 6 total books and Muirwood has 3 unless you count the follow up Covenants of Muirwood series. Most are free with Kindle Unlimited and are a lot of fun. Check out Wheeler’s website for some crazy in depth world building and definitions, etc.

Victorian Magic mystery series:

The Glass and Steele series by C.J. Archer takes place in a victorian London where trades are run by Guilds who are frightened of the magicians. Magicians have one skill each: A watchmaker can fix any watch and make it work perfectly, there are Ink magicians, Mapmaker magicians that create interactive maps, etc. Matt Glass almost died until a doctor magician and a watch magician discovered they could combine their magic. Now he depends on the magic contained in a special watch to keep him alive; problem is, the watch is running out and it’s up to India Steele to help save him. There are 5 books in this series in this mystery series with a female lead.

Currently reading: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Story sample and Women who do what they want

Since we last met, I’ve bumped up to 512 total and 66 on the year. Shew! Some good, some bad, and some just so-so. Being sick in the summertime sucks, but it also means no one bothers your extended reading time. One of the books I read actually inspired me to rewrite a character in one of my stories. If you’ve been following along, I have a fully written novel draft in revision, and 2 others that are in various stages of writing at any given time. I find it difficult to focus on just one, so when inspiration hits, I pick up any of them. The main character I chose to re-write started out as college student, then a fresh college grad. I mapped out the story (which I never do), but I was really struggling with how to fit her in. Enter: last night. I decided to age her up to 30, give her an actual career/life in crisis before I sent her on the road. Magic. 6 pages poured out and I think it now makes much more sense why she’s there. I want to use a good bit of what I already had, so I just need to update the tone in parts of it to finally be able to continue. What do we think of this sample?

Emily Lang’s life used to be perfect. Ok, maybe not perfect, but it was perfect to her. She had a best-selling book on her resume by the time she was thirty, a very handsome and successful fiancé, and a big, fat advance on her next book. She was living out her every dream. The problem was, apparently someone else was living her dream too. Someone else who was younger, blonder, and now sleeping with her ex-fiancé for the past six months. Everyone had warned her not to get involved with her publicist, mixing work with pleasure was only going to come back and bite her. For two years she had been blissfully happy, and then the bite came. It snuck up on her one day when she ran home to grab lunch. The red pumps in the hallway really sunk their teeth in. 

Who doesn’t love a good cliché breakup? At least now she has a better reason to be stand-offish and snarky. My favorite dialogue to write. We’ll also be saving a library y’all. So yes,  I’m quite happy with this one at the moment. So stay tuned if happy endings are your thing.

Here’s some info on a few other stories I’ve been diving into. A trio of women making their own way:

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

I’ve been dying to reading this for awhile because I loved Rebecca! It wasn’t widely available, but now Rachel Weisz is bringing her to the big screen so I was able to snag a copy at BAM! I believe it was Book Riot that published the article (ok yes, I’m a bit obsessed with Book Riot. You should be too) about if you’ve seen Wonder Woman, you need to read My Cousin Rachel if you want a strong central female. The main characters are Rachel and Philip. Philip was raised by his uncle Ambrose, who takes a trip one day and never makes it back because he dies. While he was away, he met and married this mysterious ‘Cousin Rachel’. There are questions about whether his death was natural or not. Rachel is a fascinating character because you never quite figure her out. She does what she wants, when she wants. Is she impulsive, or is she just that brilliantly calculating? Philip gets caught up in her ‘charm’ and must battle his own feelings and paranoia. In true du Maurier fashion, you will really be questioning what you’re seeing. I usually refuse to see a movie of a book I enjoyed, but I’m interested to see how they play out the subtleties here because their entire point is to be open to interpretation. Besides, who doesn’t love Rachel Weisz?

Speaking of women who do what they want: check out The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Nina is a librarian that has been made redundant when her small library closes and is blended into a new multi-media center. Not able to give up her love of book recommendations, she takes life by the horns and buys a van. Her plan is to sell used books from her new roaming bookstore. Because she can’t park the van in her hometown of Birmingham, she makes the move to Scotland where the van originated and the community is in need of books. There is love, there is heartache, there is redemption and of course there is the love of books! What could be better? I’m a sucker for a book about books, what can I say? The best part of this read, was the audiobook syncing so I could hear the voice-actor’s lovely scottish accent, and still read when I couldn’t use headphones.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë brings up the rear as the least favorite of our trio. I love the Brontë sisters, truly, but Agnes just fell a little flat for me. Although, if you really enjoyed Mansfield Park, then you should check this one out. It’s along the same lines of our long suffering heroine who inexplicably finds love in the end. These are classics so I don’t think that counts as a spoiler alert. It just never really got there for me, though Mansfield was also my least favorite Austen so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Modern Romance just doesn’t work and other Tales

So after finally clarifying that Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari was actually the title to the book suggestion and not the genre, Book Babes were eager to dive. While “Treat Yo Self” was a great gag from Parks & Rec, Aziz is not my favorite comedian ever. I don’t dislike him in particular, he just doesn’t make me laugh. I can however see why others find him funny. This book is marketed as a social survey on how technology has change the landscape of “romance” over the generations. He teamed up with a sociologist to do surveys, focus groups, and reddit queries. Sounds legit right? I may not find him funny but I can ignore that for the sociology part right? Well, no. I didn’t do the audiobook because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy his cadence but the way he writes makes that inescapable. So if you find him funny then you’ll like his writing style. They are one in the same. My mental reader was him no matter what I did. There is some interesting information here but I felt like that would have fit into a handful of sentences. “There are too many options now so it’s harder for meaningful relationships. Except it’s not because you have so many options at your fingertips. Texting is less personal so it’s on the rise because it’s more comfortable. Except that women don’t actually like it all that much if they’re not the pursuer.”  The section on Japan was actually really interesting from a cultural aspect, but other than that I don’t feel like I learned anything someone in my generation couldn’t already tell you. So this book was totally lukewarm for me out of personal taste. Like I said, if you like his comedy then you’ll like this. If you don’t, it will probably seem incredibly redundant about 20 pages in.

On the other hand, I have been waiting on The Invisible Library by Geneveive Cogman for seemingly forever. I put a hold on it at the library since I had others to read first and it finally came up. It’s part of a larger series so point 1 in its favor. It’s about a secret society called the Library that sends out Librarians to alternate worlds to ‘acquire’ fiction books for preservation and research. Who wouldn’t love that?! Alternate worlds can have Fae, vampire, werewolves, magic, steampunk tech, etc. I got about three chapters in and immediately ordered the entire series because I was so in love with the concept. The first half is great. The 2nd half is….confusing but in a way I’m glad I have the rest coming tomorrow. At first it gets more and more whackadoo and it’s fun (cyborg alligators break into a party and rip people’s legs off? There are dragons that can appear as people? WHAT?) until it just kept getting more and more whackadoo and then it got confusing. I still love the concept but I think this is an ‘I love the series’ kind of thing but definitely not a standalone. I have debated on what I felt was off and I think it’s just the wrong backstory. It’s definitely a set up book but I think she just went with the wrong one. We don’t get much info about the library before it all hits the fan in a very rushed way to get us to a conclusion of a story. The explanations about natural vs. chaos and how reality can bend get really confusing because she’s trying to explain them as they’re happening but without a foundation for it. Now that we know it settles a bit and *****spoilers redacted******** I think that a lot more of book one is going to make sense now that we can get to book two. I still have no idea what the actual relationship is between Irene/the former cat burglar, Irene/Kai, and Irene/Vale. For the basis of the story to be so rooted in the preciseness of language, that’s the only bit that bugged me. Either they’re all in love with her and she can’t choose or no one is at all. So all that said, I’m waiting with baited breath for the mail to run tomorrow so it can fall into place, because I honestly think that it will. For now I’ll reserve judgement.

 

The little book [review] that could.

I am always intrigued by the offer of free books in exchange for a review. Free books? Check! Honest review? Ok so that’s one is harder. What if I don’t like the book? What if it is truly terrible? Should I be polite or just come out and say I didn’t like it? I draw your attention to my previous view on book reviews. I hate them. Generally. Ok, may I don’t like expected reviews. IF I like a book, I’ll shout from the rooftops. If I don’t then I’ll generally just quietly click ‘read’ on Goodreads and just move on. Imagine the temptation when I came across First to Read. That’s right. A website that offers free advanced galleys for people willing to review them. Hence the dilemma. Hi, My name is Summer and I am a [book] addict. Naturally, I said ‘of course I’ll do that’ but figured there is no way I’m getting one when there are hundreds of people requesting. As luck would have it though, the clouds parted and the sun shone brightly upon my brand-new account and I got my first choice and selection. Even more luckily, I really liked it. So here goes.

“I was excited to receive Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. The blurb described the story “of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.” While this may garner an eye roll, I find that while I’m not sure I’d call her a heroine, I wholeheartedly agree it was an irresistible journey.

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty, working the same menial job, living in the same housing, eating the same thing every weekend, and entirely self-sufficient. Or so she thought. When the story first begins, you can immediately sense something is off with Eleanor. She is socially awkward and incredibly naive. Her coworkers are the worst. Seriously. It’s painful to read how they treat her and she doesn’t seem to actually get it so they’re open with their snide remarks and ridicule. Then one day she meets Raymond from IT and slowly but surely her world starts to shift. Along the way we see hints of a dark past that molded Eleanor into the person she is. While you can guess pretty early on what happened, Honeyman was still able to unpack it piece by piece and shake some of those early revelations.

I will admit that it takes some conscious effort to finish her entire journey, but you should. What I liked most about this book is how real the characters were. This book should come with trigger warnings. There were many parts that were actually incredibly difficult to read because they were so intimate. It felt like an intrusion into someone’s personal battle. I felt so uncomfortable reading into her thoughts like I was spying on something I wasn’t supposed to see. Once you get out of Good Days and into Bad Days, it becomes heartbreaking to ‘watch’, but the realness is very powerful. I loved the treatment of Eleanor’s friendship with Raymond. It was never pushed to be more than it was and always exactly what she needed. Eventually, she moves on to Better Days and you get to see small triumphs and cheer her on.

All in all this was a very hard read but an very, very good one. It’s not a cheerful story but it is a hopeful one. You’ll laugh at her quirky naivety. You’ll ache for the scars she shows. Finally, you’ll feel the warmth of new beginnings. This story is worth the effort and will leave you sincerely touched, as all good stories should.”

YA, Podcasts and Dollar Stores oh my!

Today we will be discussing YA, Series, Podcasts and some more fun music so buckle up!

First things first, I promised you a YA series and another series I just finished up. The Chronos Files series is by Rysa Walker and I fell upon these for free as part of Kindle Unlimited’s offerings. Loved them! Book one, Timebound introduces us to Kate, a normal 16yr old (or so she thought) and her time-travelling historian grandmother. Who doesn’t love time-travel, cults (though it feels more like scientology-esque), love and adventure? A really interesting aspect of this story is that Walker isn’t afraid for her characters to meet themselves or people who know them in different timelines. That can be super tricky to pull off but she does a fabulous job. Kate’s grandmother is sick and has basically recruited her to chase down a rogue ‘historian’ who has joined a whole group of people intentionally changing history. I devoured these as audiobooks (also free on KU) and love the voice actor. Great news that she will also be reading Walker’s new series The Delphi Effect. This one just came out about government conspiracies and paranormal abilities. Again, what is not to love? So on my temp scale, these are hot commodities so give them a listen or read and you won’t be disappointed.

Which brings us to 8 bodies is Enough by Stephanie Bond from the body movers series. I have waited forevvvver on this book it seems. You have Carlotta, whose parents left her as a child (as in disappeared one day amid allegations her dad stole a TON of money) and her younger brother Wes (who is always in trouble), a semi-disgraced coroner Cooper, smoldering detective Jack and a whole host of other characters who come and go. The main story arc is searching for her parents and the truth about the money as well as her mixed up love life. These are shorter books so you can read them in an afternoon if you want. I sped through the first few and the how much I liked them has been up and down. They’re kind of like watching your guilty pleasure tv show on Bravo. HOWEVER, I am so disappointed in this last installment. It has taken a long time to get to the real truth (we are on book 8 after all) but it was basically ok, here’s what happened and we’re bringing the real ‘monsters’ down in about 2 pages. Every question is wrapped up and answered but it felt like a conclusion dump and was just unsatisfying. I won’t even go into why her final love choice seems out of left field. I’m glad that she didn’t leave anything hanging but this just felt like an Epilogue that was made to be book length. Just lukewarm for me.

I have really been getting into Podcasts lately as I think I’ve mentioned. There are a couple on NPR I follow but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few others I’ve come to love. If you’re a bookworm and haven’t discovered BookRiot, you need to get out from under your rock! Not only do they have some great articles and cool clothes (Poe-ka dot socks anyone?), but can I be Liberty Hardy when I grow up? I noticed that every book from the Book of the Month Club I used to get turned out to be her picks and so looked into who she was. Enter BookRiot goodness. She and Jessica from BookRiot do a super fun podcast called All the Books about new releases and books they love. Get Booked is a great podcast they also do where you can ask for book recommendations and they actually answer you with 2 or more choices. (I was irrationally happy when they recommended Rules of Civility by Amor Towles the other day. LOVE That book). So yeah. Check out BookRiot and thank me later. There is so much book loving goodness you may never leave! Another great bookish option is “Book Club Appetizer”. It is about 30 mins with a book club suggestion and then an interview with the author. There aren’t as many episodes of this one but it’s good.

If you’re currently writing anything, you need to also check out a few podcasts like “Writing Excuses” by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Daniel Wells. 15mins of writing techniques that are so helpful! “Creative Writing Career” by Stephan Bugaj (formerly from Pixar), Justin Sloan (videogame writer) and Kevin Tumlinson (author) has great writing advice with special guests in a 40ish minute format.

SHEW! That was a long one today so thanks for waiting for it! I’ll leave you with a fun new artist this week. With great songs like “Halloween”, “Beckett”, and “Lela’s Stars”, Walker Hayes made me laugh with “You Broke up with Me” and “Dollar Store”