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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Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Wish I Could Read Again For the First Time – August 24, 2021

Welcome to another TTT! This is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is books I wish I could visit again for the first time. In other words, experiencing them for the first time was such a powerful experience I wish I could reclaim that feeling. Of course, I could read them again but it wouldn’t pack the punch of that of the first time. I apologize if some of these lists have become repetitive. I’m often talking about favorites here, and some books apply to all! Here we go!

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

I know. I’ve done this one before. But I just love it. This book was my introduction to what became one of my favorite authors, and I just can’t describe the depth of emotion and awe it inspired. I’ve thought of reading it again, but I’m not sure it would feel the same as that first time. One day I will, however.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This book really floored me when I read it the first time. The end reveal was just super explosive and I hadn’t seen it coming. I really enjoyed experiencing that for the first time, and I realize it wouldn’t be nearly as powerful on a second run. But, wow, was it fabulous at the time!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book really gives me all the feels. There’s a reason it consistently tops reader-voted lists of greatest books of all time and has for years. It’s a timeless narrative with a delightfully charming cast of characters. And really, people who have read this book just turn out to be good people, am I right? That first read through is very special, and it would be nice to experience that again.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is another book with such a powerful message and a wonderfully rich cast of characters. Reading it for the first time was an absolute delight and I know I could never experience that again, but it would be really nice.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Reading the first of the Harry Potter books was an almost religious experience for a lot of people. It was the start of a decades long love affair that would alter the course of millions of lives, and I’m not really overdramatizing. These are the books that really instilled a love of reading into a new generation, and no matter how you feel about J.K. Rowling and the controversies surrounding her today, she should at least be given credit for that. Reading HP for the first time was a real privilege.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This book was really the first classic that I truly grew to love. I think I learned so much from Jane and from her humble but steadfast strength. I think I saw a lot of myself in her, perhaps. Usually overlooked but always underestimated. I don’t for a second believe I really rose to my own potential the way Jane managed to do, but I still believe maybe one day I can have a little taste of that thanks to Jane. Revisiting her story the same way I did when I read it for the first time would be fabulous for me.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

To be fair, I feel like this is a book best suited for the topic “I Need to Read it Again, because I loved it but I’m not sure I completely understood it.” Either way, reading it for the first time was an awe inspiring and riveting experience. I positively love Mitchell’s work, though I haven’t read all of his novels, but this one was one of my favorites from what I’ve read. I will revisit it again one day but I know it will be a different experience from the first time.

Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Jane Dyer

Ok, this one is a bit different. This is a children’s book I discovered while reading books to my daughter before bed. This one came in her monthly box from Literati, and I have to tell you this is one of the most beautiful and amazing children’s books I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, it really gives the feels and I found myself nearly sobbing while reading to my daughter, which could possibly be somewhat of a traumatic thing for a child to witness. I have since described this book to numerous people and I freaking cry every time I even talk about what it’s about! I don’t cry much so I find that very embarrassing, but this book really gets me. Seriously, go get a box of tissues and read this damn book even if you’re a grown ass adult with no children!!! *sniff sniff*

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I realize John Irving isn’t for everyone, and I really get why. He’s just so… much! But this book touched me in ways I find hard to explain. I’m not sure reading it again would ever come close to capturing the essence of that first experience, but it was something special and heart wrenching. This is, by far, my favorite of his books.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My first Backman. I laughed, I cried, I cried again, I laugh-cried. I can’t tell you how simultaneously enjoyable and painful my first reading of this was, but I would do it over again in a heartbeat, because I am a masochist. And I love Fredrik Backman. He can pummel my heart into a million pieces as often as he chooses and I will still come back for more.

That’s it for this edition of Top Ten Tuesday! I so enjoyed this one! I should have a review coming out tomorrow if I can get myself in gear long enough to sit down and get my thoughts typed up. Until then, happy reading!

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Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – a Book Review

Once again, I had an extremely busy weekend and was absent from both blogging and reading. I traveled to Kansas City for Planet Comic-Con with my sister, and it was so much fun! We stayed for three days and saw wonderful celebrity panels from a lot of our favorite shows, like Misha Collins and other cast members from Supernatural, Gaten Matarazzo from Stranger Things, William Zabka from Cobra Kai, and even Ariel and Pocahontas, Jodi Benson and Irene Bedard. We saw so many great cosplays both on the floor and at the contest on Saturday night. And the people in charge of the Con did a great job keeping people safe. Attendees were so gracious and respectful about masking and distancing to ensure we could all enjoy ourselves without worry. It was so nice to be able to get out and about again.

For one of my all-time favorite highlights with a celebrity guest, see this video. It was so cool to be there for this moment:

That was fun, wasn’t it? Now back to business! I’m back today with a review of one of the two books I finished before leaving town. What could I possibly say about Liane Moriarty? Honestly, she’s one of the few authors I believe hasn’t written a bad book. Some I liked more than others, but I didn’t dislike any of them. I was really excited for this book, but for some reason I just never really got around to it and then it sort of slipped off my radar. Now that I’ve finished it, I’ve completed all of the Moriarty library that’s already available to read!

Synopsis

Nine people, all seeking some sort of enlightenment, converge on the health resort called Tranquillum House for a 10 day rejuvenating getaway. There’s the aging romance novelist no longer in the prime of life or career, a retired footballer who no longer has the athletic physique, the single mum who was replaced by her husband with a newer model, the attorney addicted to health clubs who is avoiding difficult conversations with his spouse, the rich married couple with a gulf between them, and the family of three still reeling from devastating loss. They come looking to change their lives, but they never considered just what they could be walking into when they crossed the threshold at Tranquillum house.

Review

I notice a lot of other reviewers of Moriarty’s books, even those who are fans of her work, weren’t particularly enthused about this one. I looked on it much more kindly than most, I believe. But I feel like I understand what she was trying to do with this story. Some people think this book wasn’t about anything and had no real story. I disagree. Was it her best book? No, not even close.

First and foremost, Liane Moriarty has a particular gift that is difficult to match among other writers in her genre. She completely and truly understands her characters. She knows who they are, deep down within their souls, and she knows exactly how to bring them to readers in a way that facilitates our complete understanding of those characters. By the end of her novels, we feel as close to them as to members of our own family. Even in a book with a fairly sizable cast of characters, we’re never at risk of getting them mixed up because each is unique and special in their own super defined way. They are so flawlessly imperfect they feel like real flesh and blood humans versus the creative imaginings of a brilliant human.

My favorite of all these characters is Frances, the romance novelist who is reeling from heartbreak and humiliation in both her personal and professional lives. Though naive, Frances is infinitely lovable and funny. She’s the kind of character who manages to charm you despite all her flaws. Frankly, all of the characters in this book one could say that about. Even Masha, who is at times positively detestable, is characterized by such an intense vulnerability that you can’t help but feel for her. And once we learn her backstory, we are much more capable of understanding how she came to be the complicated tragic figure she is. She’s also proof that there’s so much more to the concept of “wellness” than we humans believe. Smoothies, spa treatments, and micro-dosing with weird shit can only lead to so much enlightenment if we haven’t really faced our inner demons.

True enlightenment comes from human connection built upon making ourselves vulnerable and accessible to one another, as well as an understanding that we all share something infinitely more powerful than any external meditative force. In today’s world of social media and much more shallow and tenuous relationships, we all tend to put on a front. We show the world what we think the world wants to see versus what we really have to offer. In doing so, we hide the greatest parts of ourselves. That’s really such a shame, because we’re all so truly beautiful without all the artifice.

Moriarty’s books, this one being no exception, also has something else I like. They are always very humorous. I find myself smiling and laughing a lot throughout the whole thing. At the same time, she doesn’t shy away from really difficult topics. Her books are real life. They are laughter and tears mixed about in a big vat of reality. No one goes untouched by difficulties of some sort. We are all the sum of a variety of different experiences, the bad and the good. I love that, and it makes her books infinitely more powerful.

There’s a tiny bit of mystery to this book. Occasionally there are some shocking moments that keep readers in suspense. But, overall, it’s a very human story about people who are all searching for the sense of place that they have lost over the years and finding it with each other. I think other readers wanted the intense read of a Liane Moriarty thriller. This isn’t really that type of book, which disappointed some of her ardent fans. I, however, have always felt Moriarty’s books are much more human-centered. Beneath the excitement and intrigue, there’s human fallibility. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to Moriarty’s next release, Apples Never Fall, coming in September! 4 Stars from me!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published November 6, 2018 by Flatiron Books. ISBN 1250069823. 453 pages.

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Shelf Control: Episode 1 – August 18, 2021

I’m introducing a new Wednesday meme since I really haven’t had much book review progress this week! This one is called Shelf Control, and it’s hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies. The concept is to pick a book that you’ve had on your shelf for a while but haven’t read and do a little feature on it. I have sooooo many books at home that I’ve set aside for a rainy day. If you’re like me, you keep patronizing the library and have a constant stream of new reads, so you completely neglect the books you have at home. For the last few months of this year, I’m absolutely determined to tackle some of these dusty, lonely books. For my first episode today, I have the perfect one to feature!

Today’s shelf control pick is:

The Master by Colm Toibin

Synopsis: “‘Colm Tóibín’s beautiful, subtle illumination of Henry James’s inner life’ (The New York Times) captures the loneliness and hope of a master of psychological subtlety whose forays into intimacy inevitably fail those he tried to love.

Beautiful and profoundly moving, The Master tells the story of Henry James, a man born into one of America’s first intellectual families who leaves his country in the late nineteenth century to live in Paris, Rome, Venice, and London among privileged artists and writers. With stunningly resonant prose, ‘The Master is unquestionably the work of a first-rate novelist: artful, moving, and very beautiful’ (The New York Times Book Review). The emotional intensity of this portrait is riveting.”

Why I chose it: I chose The Master because it’s been on my shelf for a really long time. It’s a book published in 2004, and this version is a 2005 edition, and it’s probably been on my shelf for that long. It’s moved in boxes to a couple of different houses with me. I have it on my list to pick up ASAP, and I’d already decided on it for my reading challenge pick of “A book you own but haven’t read.”

I positively love Henry James. The Turn of the Screw has long been one of my favorite psychological horror novels. My son is named Henry, partly after Henry James. But if you ask my husband it’s because of Superman. Please don’t tell him the truth and blow my cover.

There you have it! That’s my shelf control pick for this week. What’s one book on your shelf that you’ve been really wanting to finally get to. Which one calls to you from it’s place late at night when your brain is fighting sleep? Feel free to share in the comments.

HAPPY READING!

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WWW Wednesday – August 18, 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. Sadly, I do not have much to report this week. I went on a girls’ trip this weekend, which was super fun but I didn’t get any reading time at all. The rest of the week has been fairly busy with school being about to start up again next week. Consequently, this will be a very short post.

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?

Positively no news. I’m still reading The Secret Keeper of Jaipur and Nine Perfect Strangers. Both are extremely good, and I have made progress. I was honestly hoping to finish both of them by this morning, but I didn’t quite make it. By the end of the day, I should have them both finished.

What have I just finished reading?

Errr…. I finished reading the instructions for setting up my new coffee maker. Does that count???

What will I read next?

Nothing really new here to report either. I will pick up The Comfort of Monsters by Willa C. Richards in hardback. And I’m still planning to start A Promised Land by Barack Obama even though my friend who is reading it now mentioned the audiobook is almost 30 hours long. *gulp* I usually shy away from audiobooks that long and opt for the hardback book, so keep me in your thoughts. I just really want to hear this one in Obama’s own voice. Maybe I’ll break it up and have a second shorter audiobook going so that I don’t get fatigued. We shall see.

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Top Ten Tuesday – Favorite Places to Read

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday. This series is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and features a new topic each week, chosen by the host. This week’s topic is Top Ten Favorite Places to Read. What are your favorite places to get some reading time? Here are mine:

  1. Bed: This is one of my most common reading places. I’ve recently gotten back into the habit of getting a few chapters in before I turn in at night.
  2. Car: Honestly, I get a very huge chunk of my reading done during my commute. And no, I’m not one of those annoying drivers who puts a book on the steering wheel and threatens to kill people. I do a lot of audiobooks! If it weren’t for audio, I wouldn’t have near as much reading time as I do.
  3. My library (working): I spend a lot of time shelving legal books and pocket parts, which can be a pretty monotonous task, so I generally have an audiobook going while I work. It’s definitely a way to be personally productive while also being professionally productive.
  4. My back deck: I love to sit outside on nice days on the back deck with a good book. It’s been way too hot lately, but in the Spring I did a fair amount of this when I could, though my opportunities are very limited.
  5. Comfy chair: I do a fair amount of reading in my rocking chair in the living room or curled up on the couch. If I’m home and not in bed, that’s typically where I am.
  6. Coffee shop or cafe: If I’m out to lunch or just have some time to kill, I’ll generally take myself to a coffee shop for some reading time.
  7. Poolside: Let’s face it, this doesn’t really happen very often. If I’m at a pool, I’m with my kids in the water with them or constantly being disrupted by them calling for my attention. But, if the opportunity comes, I enjoy it.
  8. Park or other scenic spot: Another thing that I don’t do nearly enough. I enjoy going out to a park or a lakeside and finding a cozy spot, maybe with a blanket and reading in the quiet while soaking in the fresh air.
  9. At the gym: This is another audiobook spot. I have trouble exercising when I have nothing to do, so I often take that opportunity to tune into my audiobooks. I’ll bring an actual book sometimes, but it can be hard to focus depending on what I’m doing, so audio generally works best.
  10. While doing housework: I’ll often turn an audiobook on my phone while I’m moving about the house doing dishes, laundry, or other housework. It makes an enjoyable task somewhat enjoyable and gives me some reading progress as an added bonus.

There you have it! Those are my favorite reading spots. What about you? What’s your favorite place to curl up with a book? Feel free to share in the comments.

Happy Reading!

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