WWW Wednesday – September 15, 2021 #wwwwednesday

Well, I’m back. Last week I missed WWW Wednesday due to the sickness in our house that kept me at home. The kids keep me a bit too busy for blogging so I tend to not get anything done. Thankfully, that means I have nothing but progress to report this week.

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme where bloggers share weekly progress and plans for future reading endeavors. This meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

I’m currently reading the book club selection on audio. It is The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer. So far this is an incredibly exciting book and its kept me on the edge of my seat. Things are really starting to get moving at this point. I’m also reading Verity by Colleen Hoover. It’s a very fast read, and I also find this one very exciting. It’s been difficult to put down, which has caused me to get a bit less sleep this week because I keep staying up late to read more. I hope to finish it today.

What have I just finished reading?

Speaking of Colleen Hoover, I just happened to read two books of hers almost simultaneously. And that was really just a coincidence and not something I did purposefully. They are two very different books. The one I just finished is It Ends With Us. I haven’t yet gotten my review finished of this one. I listened to it on audio, and it was a really enjoyable read despite the heavy subject matter. I also finished the historical fiction novel I was reading, The Girl in His Shadow. I really enjoyed this one and I’m glad I stumbled across it. I have both of these reviews to work on this week, but I’m doing a lot more reading due to due dates at the library for books that I can’t renew.

What Will I Read Next?

Next I will read The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris. I’m finally getting back to the reading challenge. This one takes the place of the Oprah’s Book Club pick for the reading challenge. I really need to get cracking on the last few categories or I won’t get finished despite surpassing the 52 books for the end of the year. I’ve done a lot of duplicating, especially lately. I will also probably get the chance to pick up A Promised Land by Barack Obama. It came available for me on Overdrive but I put a freeze on it until I get the book club book finished. I anticipate it will be ready for me again in a few days, hopefully just enough time for me to get done with the other one. Then I’ll be able to tackle this monster of a book, which will also take a place on the reading challenge as the Nonfiction New York Times bestseller.

That’s it for me! What have you accomplished this week? What do you plan next! Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!

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Sunshine Blogger Award

I am here with my first every Sunshine Blogger award! Thanks so much to Leslie at Books are the New Black for the nomination and some seriously great questions. It took me a few days to get to this. One of the kiddos got sick so my routine got seriously messed up this week and I spent a few days doing everything but blogging. What a great post to come back with.

WHAT IS THE SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD?

The Sunshine Blogger award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring while spreading sunshine into the blogging community. Each blogger chosen is given questions by the nominating blogger, and they will then:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated them in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated them.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Here are Leslie’s questions:

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading a historical fiction book called In His Shadow by Audrey Blake, which is actually a pseudonym shared by two different women, Regina Sirois and Jaima Fixsen. I’m really enjoying it despite the fact it’s very full of medical jargon. From the cover, it sort of has a softer vibe more similar to a romance novel, but it’s quite intricate and has a really strong feminist undercurrent. I was really expecting something completely different and I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. Looking forward to finishing it today. I’m also listening to Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us, which is a novel recommended by a friend. Honestly, I’m not really sure how I feel about this one yet. I’ll get back to you.

What is your most anticipated read this year? If you’ve read it… did it live up to your expectations?

My most anticipated read I haven’t read yet. It’s Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. I look forward to any new Moriarty read and have so far been through them all. This one I should be able to read soon.

Have you read a book that surprised you this year (good or bad)?

Unfortunately, this isn’t a good surprise. I found myself pretty surprised by how disappointed I was in The Nature of Witches. I wasn’t very nice to that one in a review, and I’d had high hopes for it. I was seeing good reviews come in for it and the cover was extremely appealing. Sadly, it did not live up to my expectations.

Which book has the nicest cover on your bookshelf?

Oooh, this is a good question. I’m going to have to say the nicest cover is for my leatherbound Yale Shakespeare collection. This isn’t a very readable book. I’ve never actually read out of it because it could be used as a murder weapon if dropped from a certain height, but it’s more decorative and I keep it on the top shelf of my bookshelves with the other nicer books.

What are your favorite blog posts to read?

I would say I’m a bit more traditional, in that I love a good book review. I enjoy reading spoiler free reviews for books, that is, as this is where I get a lot of my TBR’s. I also like the WWW Wednesday posts where I get to see the progress of my colleagues and get a quick overview of what they liked/didn’t like throughout the week.

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Yes, absolutely. And as I alluded to in my post about the surprise, this can sometimes bite me in the ass. Some books look incredible based on the cover and then wind up being a letdown. I will say this… I won’t usually NOT read a book because the cover isn’t extremely compelling. But I will sometimes read one because the cover draws me in. I guess what I’m saying is it takes a lot more than a cover to get me to read something but if I’m just walking through the library or a book store, I will allow a cover to grab me and pique my interest. I hope that makes sense.

What is the most recent book that made you laugh out loud?

Oh my… Hmm… good question. I’ve done some mild chuckling to some recent reads, but the last book that left me in stitches was probably Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. That book was positively delightful.

Do you have any hobbies besides books and blogging about them?

Hmm… while I’ve really let myself go by way of hobbies lately, I have recently started playing piano again. I used to do it a lot and after getting married and having kids I let it slide. My husband seems to be going through some kind of mid-life thing where he’s decided to pick up the saxophone as a new hobby at age 40, so I decided it’s about time for me to get back into music as well. Boy am I rusty, but I’m bent on getting back into the swing of things. I also really enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles from time to time. And I often allow myself to get way too frustrated with Bingo Blitz on my phone. It’s a problem, and I’m working on it.

What was your last 5 star read?

I have read a book I gave 4 1/2 stars to (One Two Three by Laurie Frankel) but the last full-on 5 star book I read was Project Hail Mary back in May. I positively adored that book and couldn’t really think of anything that Weir could have improved upon. I can’t wait for the movie, despite the fact that I think Ryan Gosling is a terrible choice for Ryland Grace simply because he’s not at all what I see in my head. No offense, Ryan, but boo…

What was in your last book haul?

Ok, here’s a terrible truth. It has seriously been a minute since I’ve done a book haul. I haven’t bought a book in ages. Perhaps it’s Covid or just the busyness of life but I just haven’t been to a bookstore at all. I think the last time I received books that were actually purchased was when my husband gifted me two books for my birthday, I Am Mahala and Becoming. And that was for my birthday two years ago. I’ve also bought a couple of books online from authors I follow. They were Night Witch in Berlin by Joanna Brady and The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell and both were several months ago, at least. EEK! Maybe I need to plan a trip somewhere.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color is green. I think that’s because, to me, green represents life. Without green things in this world nothing would be possible and we wouldn’t be here at all, so I think it’s the most beautiful and most important color.

Hope you’ve enjoyed visiting with me for my first Sunshine Blogger Award post.

For the bloggers I tag, here are your questions:

  1. Do you have a book or author that first got you into reading? If so, what or who is it?
  2. What book do you find yourself recommending the most to other readers?
  3. To which character in a book do you find yourself identifying with the most and why?
  4. Do you have a book in mind in which you actually wound up liking the movie adaptation better than the book? *GASP, I know, but I find that we all usually have at least 1 (Looking at you, Forrest Gump)* lol
  5. To which Hogwarts house do you belong, or is HP not your thing?
  6. What’s one food that you could eat every day for the rest of your life and not get tired of it?
  7. If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 things would you not be able to live without?
  8. Unpopular opinion time… name a book that you seemed to have the opposite reaction to than the majority of other readers. Either they loved it and you hated it or vice versa…
  9. If you could live anywhere other than where you do right now, where would it be?
  10. What’s the perfect place for reading? comfy chair at home, coffee shop, outdoors? What do you think?
  11. What do you find to be the most surprising aspect of having a book blog?

I’m nominating the following bloggers for the Sunshine Blogger Award. These are all bloggers who have wonderful, inspiring bookish content and they are a joy to follow. Check them out! Amy Leigh Reads Tessa Talks Books Charley with Books and Bakes Jolie with Read With Me Lori at Fifty-Two Books Adira with Introvert Interrupted Molly with Silver Button Books Laurel-Rain Snow Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies Jess at The Booked Reader Ahaqir at Books of Brilliance

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The Comfort of Monsters by Willa C. Richards – a Book Review

I’m so torn on this book that I went to goodreads first to get a gauge of what other readers thought of it before putting my thoughts together. I’ve come to the conclusion that readers either love or hate this book. I find myself in that rare position of being somewhere in between, which is an odd place to be. I’ll do my best to explain that. I feel like I was able to respect the very human story Richards created without actually enjoying the book. I will also include fairly minor spoilers, in which I don’t discuss how the book ends but how I thought the book SHOULD have ended, so if you don’t want to know how it DOESN’T end, stop reading. Weird enough for you and slightly intriguing? Let’s get started.

Synopsis

It was the summer of 1991 in Milwaukee, the summer that Jeffrey Dahmer was discovered as the monster guilty committing of unspeakable horrors against young men, victims the media and law enforcement would later turn on due to their “lifestyle choices.” It was a time of community fear and intense shame for those who should represent every member of society no matter class, color or social status. That same summer, a young woman known as Dee would go missing, her disappearance relatively unnoticed due to the distraction of a more titillating crime spree in their midst. Thirty years later, the young woman’s family still has no answers and they’ve exhausted nearly every dollar they have and every ounce of strength on uncovering the truth. All they’ve been told for thirty years is “No body, no crime.” When they hire a psychic with wide national acclaim, they believe this might be the moment they will uncover the truth of what happened to Dee.

Review

First of all, this book hasn’t exactly been marketed well. It is not, as described, an exciting thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn. Yes, I agree that it mirror’s Flynn in an important respect, as Richards spends a lot of time developing her characters. It’s very much a dark story about inner turmoil. Where it diverges, however, is there really isn’t much mystery. There’s merely frustration, frustration that never really gets abated. There’s no harrowing conclusion. There is a conclusion, but it is far from a satisfactory one. Flynn goes out like a lion. This book whimpers in the corner like a frightened and neglected dog.

I don’t mean for that to sound harsh. My point is this book is purely psychological. It’s about a community and a family that has been irrevocably damaged. It’s about a character who will never be whole. Peg, the surviving sister of Dee and the last person to see her alive, is not an enjoyable protagonist. She’s angry, bitter, and more damaged than you can ever imagine. Even before her sister disappeared, she struggled with her own identity. She had an odd relationship with her sister that seemed too close. She was almost obsessed with her, often really strangely sexualizing her, wanting to touch her, calling her “baby.” The flashback scenes where they were together were extremely uncomfortable. Honestly, I think with all the weirdness surrounding their relationship there was only one way to end this, and it’s not the route the author took. Peg needed to be the killer. Her intense jealousy over not being able to own Dee the way she desired pushed her over the edge. Peg was unhinged. This was a missed opportunity, I believe, especially considering how many clues were included in the narrative to make me think Peg was hiding something. For that to go nowhere was a major letdown, but it didn’t calm my uneasiness about Peg’s character. It just left me feeling confused.

If you think Peg’s relationship with her sister sounds unhealthy, don’t even get me started on her relationships with men. That is an absolute freaking train wreck. I wanted to shake some sense into her. But, honestly, there’s something so desperately authentic about Peg’s story. It’s heartbreaking, but there are so many women caught in the cycle of abuse that Peg experiences. Not just women, but men too. There’s an intense psychological hold some people are able to assert over significant others, and it’s really difficult for those of us on the outside to understand how someone could stay in that situation.

Now, I don’t want to make it seem like I feel completely negative about this book. It’s well written, for sure. While it’s not exactly satisfying, it does make a profound statement about society and its treatment of victims, especially the glorification of perpetrators at the expense of those victims, which merely causes more harm to come to the families left to pick up the pieces.

I liked the incorporation of the Dahmer case, and I understand why she included it. Many people thought it was a useless distraction, but I completely disagree. There was a definite relationship, and it played a part in the main story. I was 7 years old in the summer of 1991. I distinctly remember this case and how shocking it was. I will say, however, that I didn’t understand or pick up on the details or the context of the effect it had on the gay community. I definitely appreciated that part of this book. Richards made me look at this case in a completely different light, and it wasn’t a good light. It was a representative of a deep social sickness that permeates our society even today. I thought the psychic was the completely useless distraction. Honestly, I don’t really see what the point of his presence was besides maybe further commentary on the types of capitalization that come from crimes that shock the nation. Just one more person preying on the desperation of sad people with nothing to lose.

Really, this book is bleak. It’s not an easy read because it’s just depressing and uncomfortable. Trigger warnings out the wazoo for abuse, rape, and… geez, just everything I guess. You have been warned. This book is very sexually graphic but not in a titillating way. Sex in this world is grotesque. It’s more likely to make you cringe and give you deep anxiety. Honestly, there wasn’t a heterosexual man in this book who wasn’t either guilty of or capable of some kind of atrocity. They were scum, plain and simple. I certainly hope there’s not a community out there in which that’s an accurate representation. Yikes.

Overall, this book just left me feeling despondent and unsatisfied. The writing is great. The character development is good but extremely odd. It was an effective character study for a deeply damaged individual, but I don’t think I’ll find myself recommending it to anyone, and I certainly won’t reread it. Once was plenty. Two stars.

As an aside, I want to commend Richards on the title which is incredibly apt for this book. On the one hand, the comfort of monsters could allude to the comfort experienced by the monsters themselves. Dahmer and others receive glory and attention. As white men, they are often afforded privileges others aren’t allowed. Their victims are either forgotten or dissected by the media while they receive what is akin to adoration. They become mythic and legendary. It can also allude to the false comfort a woman like Peg finds with an abusive monster of a man, a slow relinquishment of power on the part of a woman to the whims of a cruel man. It’s a multi-purpose title and I really like it.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal – a Book Review

A while back I read my first Jaswal novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I seriously loved this book. It was charming, witty, and more than a little bit raunchy. If you’d like to read my detailed thoughts, you can see my review here. I didn’t find this novel quite as enjoyable, but it’s still a very worthwhile read.

Synopsis

The three Shergill sisters – Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina – have long had an immense gulf between them. On her deathbed, their mother asks of them one thing. She wants them to take a pilgrimage to their homeland of India. They must follow her instructions precisely and make a final journey up the mountain to lay her to rest. Along the way, the sisters will battle each other and their own emotional turmoil as they attempt to fulfill their mother’s final wishes without allowing their own fragile lives to fall apart.

Review

I will admit, this novel started a bit slow for me. I didn’t really like any of the sisters, to be honest. Rajni is infuriatingly severe and stubborn, and more than slightly neurotic. Jezmeen is flippant, silly, and spoiled. Shirina is so meek it comes across as a pathetic kind of weakness. The first third of the book feels like it’s merely the sisters bickering constantly. There is, of course, a purpose for all of this. If there’s one thing Jaswal does well it’s creating a very authentic portrait of life. People are annoying. People are complicated. And most of us are stubborn as hell and completely incapable of reaching across the aisle to understand each other unless we’re forced. And if we don’t know how to communicate, we do it with a vacillating mixture of vociferous argument and pure silence. Basically the first part of this novel is her showing us that this family has some serious healing to do.

Jaswal does a very great job of building suspense. She leaves little hints along the way of things than have come to pass, but she makes us wait before revealing all of it. This is, at once, intriguing and maddening. Ultimately, I like it. It definitely serves its purpose and she has placed herself as one of those authors who knows how to make the mundane aspects of life interesting through adept storytelling. Honestly, when I finally found out what was going on, especially with one of the sisters, it made my blood boil.

I was so wrapped up in the story by the end, I didn’t realize I had actually grown to like and respect these three sisters. All three of them had extremely difficult obstacles in their lives, and the things that made them stand out as irritating or weak were actually those parts of them that proved their resilience. Honestly, life for women can be so difficult. No matter your country of origin or culture, it’s full of socially constructed difficulties that shouldn’t exist and shouldn’t be condoned. Women either respond by bending to the will of the oppressor or risking their own health and safety to defy the oppressor. Either way, there are usually disastrous consequences. Each of the Shergill sisters dealt with different obstacles, but she responded in a completely different way.

Honestly, by the end, I felt like I understood each of them. It’s similar to when you meet a person and you just really don’t click initially. This happens to me a lot, because I’m very socially awkward. If you pair me with a person much like myself, it’s a great big ball of awkwardness and we really don’t know what to say to each other. But after enough time, if we’re able to connect the ways we are alike, something magical happens and those people could become my closest friends. If an author can do this with a character in a mirror of life, that’s an effective narrative. Characters should never be perfect, because perfect is not authentic. They should be effective. They should generate some form of raw emotion in the reader besides either liking or not liking them. We should deeply understand exactly WHY we do or don’t like them. We don’t honestly have to LIKE a character to think they are a good character. Honestly, sometimes it’s more fun if we don’t. I think Jaswal has mastered this in her craft.

As far as pacing goes, I really don’t have any complaints. Yes, I mentioned it started slow, but it started slow for a reason. I actually think we needed to slog through the initial stages that set up the context for the family dynamic. Once this book got going, it forged ahead at the perfect pace. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Soneela Nankani and Deepti Gupta. It was very well done and highly enjoyable, so I recommend this format. It exceeded the average length I usually choose for audiobooks at just over 13 hours, because if I have a longer book I’d rather read it off the page, but I honestly didn’t notice because it was such an engaging read. Overall, I highly recommend this book. It’s mostly light and breezy, but it brings in some very difficult themes, especially toward the end. 4 Stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published April 30, 2019 by harperAudio. ASIN B07NY9TB61. Narrated by Soneela Nankani and Deepti Gupta. Runtme 13hrs 10 mins.

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WWW Wednesday- September 1, 2021 – #wwwwednesday

Holy crap, it’s already September! I can’t believe it. Welcome to another week of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme where bloggers share their weekly progress and plans for their future reading adventures. This meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. This week I’ve made a bit of progress but not as much as I’d have liked.

The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

I’m still reading The Comfort of Monsters by Willa C. Richards. It’s been hard to stay focused on this one. Number one, it has a pretty unlikable main character who I have a really difficult time connecting with. Number two, not a whole lot actually happens. It’s definitely a character-driven story without a whole lot of action. I do hope to finish today, however.

I did get to start a new audiobook. I’m reading It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. A friend recommended this one recently so I added it to my TBR. It is a fairly quick audio, so I should finish it in a few days.

What have I just finished reading?

I just finished The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, which was the second book I’ve read by Balli Kaur Jaswal. I really enjoyed it, as it picked up in the second half after starting a bit slow. I will try to get my review posted either today or tomorrow.

What will I read next?

Next I’m going to pick up The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake. I had been planning to pick up Harry Potter again on audio, but I had the book on overdrive come available so that’s why I replaced it with It Ends With Us. And then after I finish that, I will need to start the new book club selection, The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer. THEN… I will get back to HP. If I really storm through audios this week, I might be able to get to them both. We shall see.

That’s it for me this week! Have you been productive this week? Read anything fabulous?? Feel free to share!

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Reading Challenge Update – August 31, 2021

1. A Productivity BookStop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves – completed
2. Book Becoming Movie in 2021 The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz – completed
3. Goodreads Winner in 2020 – The Midnight Library – by Matt Haig – completed
4. Biography
5. About a Pressing Social Issue – The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison – completed
6. A Book About BooksThe Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – completed
7. Set in the 1920s – The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell – completed
8. An Author Who Uses Initials – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – completed
9. Poetry – New Poems by Rilke – completed
10. A 2020 BestsellerAnxious People by Fredrik Backman – completed
11. Recommended by a Colleague
12. With a Number in the Title – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – completed. One Two Three by Laurie Frankel – completed
13. Bottom of Your To-Read List
14. Reread a Favorite Book
15. Own Voices Story – March by John Lewis – completed
16. Published in the 1800s
17. Local Author – Drifting by Steven Cross – completed
18. Longer Than 400 Pages – The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – completed
19. A Book Turned Into a TV Series – Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – completed
20. A Book That Makes You ThinkAntkind by Charlie Kaufman – completed, Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi – completed
21. A WWII Story – The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott – completed
22. A Highly Anticipated Book – Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir- completed
23. Eye-Catching Cover – House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherlandcompleted, The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin – completed
24. A Summer ReadThe Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – completed, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal – completed, review pending
25. Coming of Age Story – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – completed
26. Bestselling Memoir – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado– completed
27. Book Club FavoriteSouthern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – completed
28. A Book About FriendshipThe Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery – completed, How Lucky by Will Leitch – completed, Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light by Liz Heinecke – completed
29. An Audiobook – Walking With Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne – completed
30. Set in Australia
31. By a Nobel Prize winner
32. About an Immigrant – Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende – completed
33. Time Travel Novel – Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi– completed
34. An Author You Love
35. Childhood FavoriteTales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume – completed
36. Classic Read in High School
37. Borrowed from the Library –Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher – completed, Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – completed
38. Nonfiction New York Times Bestseller
39. From an Indie Publisher – The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar – completed
40. Fantasy – The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox – completed
41. A Sequel – The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi – completed
42. Recommended by a Librarian
43. Psychological ThrillerIn the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce – completed
44. Oprah Winfrey Book Club Pick
45. A Book About Technology – The Future is Yours by Dan Frey – completed
46. Title with Three Words – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– completed
47. Debut Novel of Famous Author – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – completed
48. Genre You Don’t Usually Read – Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen – completed
49. A Book Everyone Is Talking About – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins – completed.
50. You Own But Haven’t Read
51. Borrowed from a Friend – The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty– completed
52. A 2021 New Release – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – completed

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Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional Crushes

What an interesting concept for today’s top ten Tuesday. The topic is favorite fictional crushes. Honestly, I don’t really feel like I commonly crush on book characters. Perhaps from time to time, so I’ll include them. But I might also include some movie characters from the adaptations that caused me to crush on the character, because I find it much easier to gravitate toward a character if I see them onscreen.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Visit her page to view her Top Ten fictional Crushes!

  1. Colonel Brandon: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I know most people pick Mr. Darcy. And yes, he is quite swoon-worthy. And Colin Firth is just OMG… But I always had a soft spot for Colonel Brandon. Perhaps it was due to Alan Rickman’s portrayal of him. But I would totally marry him despite the age difference, and I think Marianne was a lucky gal to have his quiet but loyal devotion.

2. Professor Bhaer: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This one is also because of the movie adaptation portrayal. Some people find Professor Bhaer boring, but I disagree. I love his kindly steadfast support of Jo and his understanding and appreciation for her intellect and her ambition. He’d be the perfect life partner for a strong and independent woman.

3. Gabriel Oak: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

This one is because of the book. No offense to Matthias Schoenaerts, who I believe is a fine actor, but he’s simply not what I see in my head when I think of Gabriel. That being said, I haven’t yet seen this movie adaptation, so maybe he will win me over. We shall see. I would have been more likely to choose someone like Luke Evans, classically handsome but still with a sort of brooding masculinity.

4. Mark Watney: The Martian by Andy Weir

Again, while I love Matt Damon and I do think he was right for the role, he’s certainly not why I crush on Watney. The book Watney had this amazing wit and a visceral intellect. I don’t think any movie version portrayal could ever be as powerful as the book version of this character. So book Mark Watney is a major crush, and I could only hope to keep up with him in witty banter. But I’d definitely be up for the challenge. Honestly, I could also substitute Ryland Grace from Project Hail Mary and it would be totally acceptable. But, I’m sorry, Ryan Gosling is not at all what I picture for Ryland Grace and I’m a bit disappointed. But he’s a fine actor, so maybe he’ll be able to convince me. Still… not a happy camper at the moment.

5. Atticus Finch: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I mean, how could I not be attracted to Atticus Finch? He’s a deeply honorable, introspective man who is both fiercely intelligent and kind. He’s a good dad and a fine human. Someone would be crazy to not like Atticus.

6. Jackson Lovett: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

A man during this time period who is willing to tell hateful prejudiced townsfolk to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine in order to stand by the woman he loves? And handsome and bookish to boot? Count me in! Ok, maybe he was a bit too perfect and highly unlikely considering the time period and the region, but I don’t care. He’s perfect!

7. Lincoln O’Neill: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

This was a positively delightful book, as is pretty much any book written by Rowell. As a love story, this is the kind I like. Quirky characters who seem to be truly pulled from life. Lincoln is an internet security officer for his company who is tasked with reading the emails of employees within the company to make sure they aren’t abusing the company computers. When he inadvertently falls in love with one of the employees based on her emails with a colleague, he has to figure out how to get the girl without seeming ridiculously creepy and maintaining his integrity. Lincoln just seemed to down-to-earth and real, and I thought he was infinitely charming in an average, possibly overlooked but worth it kind of way.

8. Dominick Birdsey: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

This one is possibly my oddest pick. Namely because Dominick has some SERIOUS FAULTS!! But that’s also part of his charm. He’s still well-meaning and his character arc is so wonderful, you just want to give him the chance to prove himself. Wally Lamb did such an amazing job crafting Dominick. He’s such a complete and authentic human, you really feel like you know him, and what he hides beneath his tortured exterior you want to take the time to unearth. For the record, I haven’t yet gotten the opportunity to watch the series, so I’m talking about book Dominick, though I think Mark Ruffalo is a positively wonderful choice to play the twins.

9 and 10. Samwise Gamgee and Aragorn: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Alright, this one is completely a movie pick. Neither character I found near as crush-worthy in the books, but the movies gave them so much more depth. I know what you are thinking. Could you have picked two diametrically opposed characters? And yes, I’m aware. In full disclosure, when the movies first came out, I was a Legolas girl. Now that I’m older, however, I see different qualities in a man that are attractive. First, there’s Samwise. He’s sweet, loyal, but fiercely brave. He wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t afraid of appearing vulnerable. Not to mention, he has the best monologues. He will probably always be my favorite character, and someone so wonderful is definitely worthy of a crush.

As for Aragorn, he definitely brings the more intimidating bad boy vibe. He’s the strong, silent type with the rough exterior, but he still possesses integrity and bravery that’s unmatched among his peers. He lacks the softness of Samwise, but he makes up for it with his pensiveness and sexy intensity.

What characters get your heart fluttering? Feel free to share in the comments!

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The Secret Keeper of Jaipur by Alka Joshi – A Book Review

The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is Alka Joshi’s followup to her stunning novel, The Henna Artist. I will try to do this review without giving spoilers for either novel. I will recommend that readers do read The Henna Artist first, but Joshi does pepper the sequel with reminders that elucidate things that happened in the first novel, so one could potentially read the second without reading the first. But what’s the fun in that? Knowing the events of the first novel is extremely helpful for putting events and characters in this novel into context, an it’s especially helpful when you’ve already developed an affection for the characters. Except for one pivotal character in this novel, most of those featured were major fixtures in the first.

Synopsis

The year is 1969, 12 years after the events of the first novel. Lakshmi now directs the Healing Garden at the hospital in Shimla. Malik is 20 years old and has finished his private education. He returns to Jaipur to apprentice with Manu in the building trade, completely unrecognizable to the wealthy elites of Jaipur as the young, poor street urchin who followed Lakshmi around as a boy. When a tragedy occurs on the opening night of a new state of the art cinema in Jaipur, those responsible quickly work to cover their role in the disaster and blame the most convenient source, someone very important to Malik and Lakshmi. Malik sets off on a journey to discover exactly what happened to protect his friend from the career-ending shame that would erupt with such a scandal.

Review

Thankfully, Alka Joshi appears to be immune from second book syndrome. This book is as rich and complex with character development as impeccable as the first. I don’t think I liked it quite as much, and this is mainly because Lakshmi still has my heart and I missed getting her perspective for the entirety of the novel. This time, we follow the narrations of three people: Lakshmi, Malik, and a new character named Nimmi, a young widow from one of the mountain tribes with whom Malik falls in love but must leave when he goes to Jaipur. Nimmi and Lakshmi have a bit of a strained relationship, and I enjoyed seeing how this played out. It added layers and textures to the development of their bond as the story progressed. And while Lakshmi may be more wise and seasoned than the younger girl, she still had some growing to do in this book, and I like that. It’s a fact of life that one never actually reaches perfection, and only the foolish would think they’ve stopped growing as a human.

There are really two layers to this plot from a suspense standpoint. Malik, in Jaipur, is battling the forces of power and influence among Jaipur high society. Ravi Singh, somewhat of a villain from the first novel, once again takes a principal place in the narrative, and he’s just as vile and gag-inducing as before. Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was really anything surprising about the thread following Malik, the Singhs, and the cinema collapse. It was more about Malik’s journey to uncovering the truth we knew all along.

I honestly thought the more compelling of the two narratives was Nimmi’s story that brings in a real historical issue in India that was sparked by the passage of the Gold Control Act of 1968. When the government drastically placed restrictions on the sales of gold within the country, smugglers took over and organized crime grew at a rapid pace. Even legitimate jewelers were forced to buy from smugglers in order to bring gold jewelry to everyday people. Average citizens who needed money had no choice but to aid in the smuggling of gold to feed their families. When Nimmi and Lakshmi find themselves embroiled in a dangerous game to protect the people they love, things get really intense. This part was both informative from a historical standpoint and extremely exciting.

Eventually, Joshi managed to weave the two narratives together in an expert fashion, and I enjoyed almost every second of it. While I do believe it’s incredibly accurate because… well… men… I did get a little bit tired of Malik’s constant drooling over Sheela. That being said, I did feel Joshi did an excellent job of giving Sheela a bit more depth in this novel. While I still didn’t like her very much, I did respect her and felt a bit sorry for her. She was as much stuck in her life as anyone else, something so common for women in India in this time no matter how much wealth and beauty they possessed. She certainly wasn’t without her faults, though there’s a part of me that could understand how she came to be the way she was. Women have to grasp at whatever semblance of power they can find. Sheela did sometimes try to act with integrity. as ineffective as it may have been.

While I was really looking forward to getting Malik’s perspective, his part was unfortunately my least favorite part. Firstly for the already mentioned reason of his thirst that we kept needlessly coming back to. Secondly, I became a little bit bored with the slightly repetitive construction technicalities that were essential to understanding the cinema collapse scandal. While I was rooting for him to solve it, I didn’t necessarily care about the minute details, and we seemed to go over them too much. Truly, this was pretty mild and I consider it nit-picking. I really did enjoy this book very much and will definitely pick up the third installment in the series when it’s released.

Overall, 4 stars from me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published June 22, 2021 by Harlequin Audio. ISBN 9781488211584. Narrated by Sneha Mathan, Ariyan Kassam and Deepa Samuel. Runtime 11 hrs and 8 minutes.

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TBR Thursday – Episode 11: August 26, 2021

I missed last week’s TBR cleanup as I was prepping to go out of town and didn’t do a whole lot of blogging. I added a lot of TBR’s because it’s giveaway month over at goodreads and I went a little crazy. At some point I’ll probably go through and X out a bunch of these but for now they are still lingering. So I’m starting at 650 *gulp*

Here we go!

281

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Synopsis: “Addie Baum is The Boston Girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Growing up in the North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine – a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture and new opportunities for women. Addie wants to finish high school and dreams of going to college. She wants a career and to find true love.

Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her “How did you get to be the woman you are today?” She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor.”

Verdict: I really enjoyed The Red Tent, and this book looks to have a very promising premise and not a bad average rating. I’m going to keep it.

KEEP

382

The Atlas Six (The Atlas #1) by Olivie Blake

Synopsis: “The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.

Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person’s inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society’s archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will.

Most of them.”

Verdict: Wow, this has really great reviews and I’m really encouraged by the type of praise it’s getting. Definitely keeping.

KEEP

171

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

Synopsis: “The Registry saved the country from collapse. But stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained by the state to fight to their death.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous thoughts. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.”

Verdict: This has awful reviews, in my opinion. I read through a few of them and can tell this book is not for me. Removing…

REMOVE

529

The Last She by H.J. Nelson

Synopsis: “As the only female to survive the devastating virus, Ara hasn’t seen another human in months―not since her father disappeared. The plague has swept away humanity, and Ara’s world is desolate, haunted by the ghosts of her former life. Her mother. Her sister.

Kaden and his crew live by a code: stay alert, stay alive. When they catch Ara stealing from them, they are furious―and confused. She is the first girl they have seen in three years. And while Kaden knows taking her captive is wrong, he tells himself he’s doing it to protect her.

But with Ara determined to follow through on her father’s mission―Go back to the beginning. End the plague―Kaden becomes mesmerized by Ara’s will and beauty. He knows he will do anything to help her, even if it tears their worlds apart.”

Verdict: This is one I recently added as a giveaway. I’m definitely intrigued but on the fence. Though, the average rating is really high at 4.46. I think I’ll keep it for now.

KEEP

240

One Tiny Lie (Ten Tiny Breaths #2) by K.A. Tucker

Synopsis: “Livie has always been the stable one of the two Cleary sisters, handling her parents’ tragic death and Kacey’s self-destructive phase with strength and maturity. But underneath that exterior is a little girl hanging onto the last words her father ever spoke to her. “Make me proud,” he had said. She promised she would…and she’s done her best over the past seven years with every choice, with every word, with every action.

Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she’s dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy that she’s going to someday marry. What isn’t part of her plan are Jell-O shots, a lovable, party animal roommate she can’t say ‘no’ to, and Ashton, the gorgeous captain of the men’s rowing team. Definitely him. He’s an arrogant ass who makes Livie’s usually non-existent temper flare and everything she doesn’t want in a guy. Worse, he’s best friends and roommates with Connor, who happens to fits Livie’s criteria perfectly. So why does she keep thinking about Ashton?

As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn’t have, she’s forced to let go of her last promise to her father and, with it, the only identity that she knows.”

Verdict: Ok, (slightly) unpopular opinion. I just don’t really like romance novels. They just aren’t for me, though I know they are intensely popular and I totally respect that. Just not my jam. I can handle love stories if they aren’t really the complete main focus of it. But I don’t like the sickly-sweet schmoopsy poo stuff. They only serve to piss me off and make me even more cynical than I already am. Forgive me, please. Number one… this book strikes me as exactly that kind of book. And number two, I haven’t read the first book in the series and don’t know what it is. So I guess this was a giveaway add that I’m not interested in keeping. Removing for sure.

REMOVE

Keeping 3 and removing two, I’m now at 648 at the end of my cleanup. See you next week for a new edition!

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WWW Wednesday – August 25, 2021 – #wwwwednesday #bookishmemes

Welcome to another week of WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme where bloggers share their weekly progress and plans for their future reading adventures. This meme is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. I did finally finish my two books last week, so I actually have progress to report! Yay for me! Here we go!

The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

I’ve just barely started my new hard copy read of The Comfort of Monsters by Willa C. Richards. I took it with me to Kansas City but literally didn’t read one page. So we trudged back to Ozark together and I still haven’t picked it up this week. I definitely plan on diving into it today as much as possible.

On audio, I’m listening to Balli Kaur Jaswal’s new novel, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters. I first read her novel from 2017, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I read the latter back in October and positively loved it. To read my review, click here: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. So far, this one isn’t near as enjoyable, as it lacks that endearing but slightly raunchy wit of the first, and I haven’t really grown to love the characters yet. Honestly, I find I really dislike two of the three sisters and am very “meh” about the third. Yikes. I hope that I’m able to develop some affection for them since I’m only about a quarter of the way in.

What Have I just finished reading?

I finished two books at the end of last week before I left on my trip. My review for Nine Perfect Strangers was posted earlier this week, and you can find it here. I also finished my audiobook version of The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, but I haven’t gotten a review posted yet. I really enjoyed revisiting the world Alka Joshi created with The Henna Artist. I don’t think I liked this sequel quite as well as the first, but it was still a really worth-while read and did justice to the characters I’d grown to love. I should get my review posted tomorrow.

What Will I read next?

Next I’m going to read a historical fiction book I picked up from the library, The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake. I think I stumbled upon this one on the library’s website and thought it looked interesting and girl power-ish. On audio, I’m going to do something I’ve planned to do for a long time. I’m going to reread Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone! It’s the version narrated by Jim Dale and I can’t wait!

That’s all for me this week! Until we see each other again, happy reading!

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