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[Short Reviews] April Favorites

Hello, friends! Spring is always a busy time of year, and this year was no exception. Between the Houston Rodeo and a quick trip home to Indiana, it was harder than usual to squeeze in extra reading time. Also this month, I attended a reading by the amazingly talented Margaret Atwood during her visit to Houston. While she couldn’t share details of her follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, it was definitely the highlight of the month!

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Rosewater by Tade Thompson: Set in Nigeria, Rosewater is a futuristic town built along the edges of a mysterious alien bio-dome with healing powers. Part science fiction, part spy thriller, Rosewater is as engaging as it is intriguing, promising readers an atmospheric look into first contact and delivering far beyond any reader’s wildest dreams. (5 Stars)

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: Barely a teenager and serving a life sentence, Grace Marks has become a murderess of notoriety, but is she truly guilty of the crime? Her account takes center-stage when a young, and eager, doctor is hired to prove her innocence. Alongside the doctor, readers are forced to decipher fact from fiction as Grace depicts herself as both innocent and devious alike. Having read both The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m in awe of Margaret Atwood’s ability to write a character so profound, she truly lives and breathes. (5 Stars)

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Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen: On a maddening, quixotic journey across the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, renowned psychologist Dr. Leo Liebenstein will stop at nothing to find his precious Rema, but when her doppelganger joins the chase, he’ll find himself at a loss for action. Does he stay the course, or make peace with his wife’s replacement? There’s nothing I love more than an unreliable narrator, and Dr. Leo is one of the best I’ve read. Exceptionally convincing, I struggled to distinguish what was perceived, and what was truly a dark, and despairing descent into madness. Perhaps his wife really was replaced by the nefarious Royal Academy of Meteorology? (4 Stars)

The Binding by Bridget Collins: A creative new take on the mysticism of literature, The Binding is, at the very least, intriguing. From the start, Collins’ imaginative world pulled me in as I tried to understand the binder’s role in society and the stigma surrounding their work. But, after a sudden change in narration and a long, drawn-out twist, the pace slowed dramatically toward the ending, which felt somewhat unfinished. (3 Stars)

What are you reading?

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Lost in the Library: Ten Hidden Gems from 2018

This week on Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, we’re sharing ten books we loved with fewer than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads. During the last go around in 2016 (Read Here), most of the titles I shared turned out to be some of my favorite reads that year – and this time is no different!

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A Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: Beautifully written, A Way Past Winter is a snow-sprinkled adventure filled with magic and heart as a young girl battles ancient lore to save her family. If you loved Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy – this is the book for you! (274 Ratings)

The Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy: Both heartbreaking and hopeful, The Little Snake explores the magic love can bring to a world full of war and despair, if only you let it. (341 Ratings)

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr: A magical adventure, The Language of Spells will leave you delightfully charmed as a young dragon learns the true power of friendship.  (349 Ratings)

Scribe by Alyson Hagy: An atmospheric tale set amidst the aftermath of a brutal civil war, Scribe draws from Appalachia folklore as it explores the dark side of humanity at a crossroads. (654 Ratings)

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Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jenson: An entirely new take on Beauty and the Beast, Jenson’s novel follows a young servant girl employed by the monstrous Chevalier de Beaumont as she discovers there’s more to a beast than meets the eye. (898 Ratings)

Nightbooks by J.A. White: A delightfully dark middle-grade adventure, Nightbooks is the perfect mix of the modern-day Goosebumps and classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales. (908 Ratings)

Mem by Bethany C. Morrow: Told as an alternate history, Mem is set in a world where memories can, not only be extracted, but be made into mirror-like images of their source, like a clone. Thought to be mindless zombies, Delores Extract #1, the oldest of her kind, will force the world to rethink the nature of its creation. (188 Ratings)

Genesis by Brendan Reichs: Following the aftermath of Project Nemesis, the teens are left in a world to themselves – a world in which they can never truly die. While the majority resign themselves to outright chaos, Min is left to discover the truth of their lives, or what may be left of them. (1,016 Ratings)

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In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt: A dark tale of femininity amidst the strictures of Puritanism in colonial New England, one woman must choose freedom or family as the woods call her home. (1,152 Ratings)

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner: Beautiful cover aside, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is as enchanting as it is magical. (1,711 Ratings)

What little-known books do you love?

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[TBR List] Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

With only one day left, it’s finally time to narrow down my TBR for Dewey’s October Readathon. It might seem a simple task, but after months of ‘saving’ books for the readathon, I have a LOT of options!

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The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr: I love to start a readathon with a middle grade read, especially when dragons are involved! It’s the perfect way to ease into the day.

Only Human (Themis Files, #3) by Sylvain Neuvel: Back on Earth, the team discovers the world has drastically changed after accepting the presence of extraterrestrials. Halfway through, I’m hoping to finish before the readathon starts, but if not…

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The House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt: The House in the Dark of the Woods is set in colonial New England just as a young Puritan woman is discovered missing. I’ve been looking for an eerie read after watching The Witch – I’m hoping this one fits the bill!

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch: A historical thriller set in medieval Germany, The Hangman’s Daughter practically screams Halloween.

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The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner: Full of magic and lore, two sisters must trust in each other if they’re to save their family.  I’ll have to take a few ‘extra’ breaks to finish the audiobook, but a quarter way in, I’m sure that won’t be hard to do. It’s simply enchanting!

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert: Another magical treat, I’ve been saving The Hazel Wood for the readathon since it came out last year. Fairy tales are just made to be read in the fall.

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The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: The Library at Mount Char is a secret library full of ancient secrets… everything about this book sounds mysterious and odd in the best way.

The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: Just in case I’m in the mood for a loooooong ghost story.

What are you reading this weekend!?

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[Short Reviews] 6 New Fall Favorites

Congratulations friends, we finally made it to fall! Tis the season for pumpkin spice and everything nice, including, I hope, a good book. Being my favorite season, I’ll gladly admit I kicked off my fall TBR the minute Pumpkin Spice Lattes were back at Starbucks. If only the Houston weather would catch up… 😊

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The Hollow of Fear (Lady Sherlock, #3) by Sherry Thomas: Set at Lord Ingram’s country estate, the latest installment of Lady Sherlock takes a dark turn when his own wife is found dead in the ice house. With wicked wit and a slew of plum cakes, Charlotte stops at nothing to prove his innocence. I can’t wait to see where the next book takes these characters! (5 Stars)

The Castle of Kings by Oliver Potzsch: On the hefty side of 600 pages, A Castle of Kings proved to be the perfect start into my fall TBR. Full of magic and knightly intrigues, the novel instantly transports you to medieval Germany as lifelong friends Agnes and Mathis are trapped amidst lore and legend. (5 Stars)

Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley: A charming fall romance countered by the unlikely pairing of a young girl and a gallant, although very French, soldier during the Seven Years War. The modern-day romance made this a delectable read as the male counterpart is perhaps the sincerest suitor I’ve ever read, but sadly, the ending to this one felt rushed and unfinished. (4 Stars)

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Nightbooks by J.A. White: For fans of Neil Gaiman, Nightbooks conjures a magical middle-grade adventure full of courage and creativity. I’ll most definitely be adding The Thickety to next year’s fall TBR, also by J.A. White. (5 Stars)

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: Set amidst the wilds of Vermont, The Winter People sets the stage for Halloween as an old legend comes to life, begging for its next victim. If you’re looking for chills, this is the book for you! (4 Stars)

Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #3) by Kerri Maniscalco: Voyaging across the Atlantic Ocean, Audrey Rose and the cunning Mr. Cresswell take centerstage as a murder takes advantage of the cruise line’s entertainment to hide his mischief. Though eerily like the last installment (just insert Houdini for Dracula and a boat for a castle), I can’t help but fall for the couple’s witty banter as their cat-and-mouse game continues. (4 Stars)

What are you reading this fall?

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[Top Ten Tuesday] My Ten Longest Reads

This week on Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, we’re sharing our ten longest reads. As part of my 2018 Reading Challenge, I’ve tried to tackle my fear of the long novel by reading 5 books over 700 pages, and by George they’ve all made today’s list! Some I loathed, but more often than not, most became new favorites. It’s kind of like being trapped in an elevator with strangers – you either become best friends, or, you leave with a semi-weird feeling of kinship having gone through it together. Either way, the experience leaves a lasting impression that you’ll never forget, and almost always mention at fancy dinner parties (because let’s be real – you finally read the book instead of lying about reading said book).

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: It’s perfect that this list should come out in the fall time, because The Count of Monte Cristo may be the best fall read there is! Despair, revenge, sword fights… it’s really no surprise that I’ve read it three different times. (1,276 Pages)

It by Stephen King: I finally read a Stephen King novel, and It was amazing! I couldn’t help but feel a part of the Losers’ Club. But, readers beware, there is a disturbing scene towards the end of the novel that offers absolutely nothing to the plot or advance of the characters and is deeply upsetting. I’d love to meet Stephen King one day just to ask him about the scene – surely there could have been another way to affect hope amongst the Losers? (1,116 Pages)

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: If this hadn’t been required reading for class, I don’t think I’d have finished. Being more of a reader these days, and a little older, I can’t help but wonder how I’d rate it now… (1,023 Pages)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: I loved the experience of reading Anna Karenina, but ultimately, was not a fan. The writing is impeccable, the story amazing, but Anna, detestable. (964 Pages)

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: I still can’t find the words to describe 1Q84, other than it’s worth every single page. (925 Pages)

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: Speaking of detestable characters, Becky Sharp is the worst! But, I still couldn’t help but hang on every word, waiting to see what she’d do next. (912 Pages)

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg: An atmospheric read, City on Fire brings the 70s punk rock scene to life as New York City takes center stage, almost reading as a character itself.(911 Pages)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling: Oh, the good old days… Did anyone else go to the midnight release parties, only to read the book all the next day? (870 Pages)

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: I highly recommend the audiobook – Davina Porter is hands down the queen of all narrators. (850 Pages)

Winter by Marissa Meyer: Honestly, Winter could have been even longer, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to let go of The Lunar Chronicles. (827 Pages)

What are your longest reads?

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[TBR List] Ten Books By My Favorite Authors

This week on Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, we’re sharing ten books from our TBR lists written by our favorite authors. Surprisingly, this was a difficult list to arrange. Most of my favorite authors are relatively new, or I’ve already read the author’s entire catalog, eek! Even so, it was a great exercise to review my TBR, and I even managed to shake out a few dust-covered TBRs from the stack.

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The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw: Written by the author of The Trees, one of my favorite magical realism books, The Girl With Glass Feet follows a young girl as she explores the depths of a mystical island, full of magical creatures and icy secrets.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman: A treasured children’s tale for many, I’m sad to say this is one of the last novels I’ve left to read by Neil Gaiman.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: Barbara Kingsolver is coming to Houston for a reading in October, and what better way to prepare than read one of her most popular novels!

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch: Potzsch’s latest novel, The Castle of Kings was truly unputdownable,  so I’m hoping to read The Hangman’s Daughter sometime this fall. After all, a historical thriller set in medieval Germany spells the perfect Halloween read to me.

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The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien: Reading the last book will be bittersweet, but then there’s always The Silmarillion.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: Since getting back into reading, I’ve tried to read at least one of his works a year. I was hoping to read David Copperfield this year, but after reading Olivia Twist by Lorie Langon, I’m very tempted to reread Oliver Twist. Amazingly, it’s been over ten years since I first read it!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: After reading The Blind Assassin and Hag-Seed, I’m interested in reading more from Margaret Atwood…. and seeing if the Hulu series lives up to the hype.

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The d’Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas: While my friends were reading Pride and Prejudice, I read The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, Book 2 of The d’Artagnan Romances. In all, there are SEVEN follow-up novels to The Three Musketeers, with The Man in the Iron Mask being the last, and perhaps the most famous of them all.

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Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn: I loved reading the Veronica Speedwell series last year, and I expect the Lady Julia Grey series to be just as good. Besides, my name IS Julia, how could I not like it?

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas: Okay, so I ran out of books to list, but I’m really excited to read the next installment of the Lady Sherlock series, out October 2nd!

What books made your list?

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[Short Reviews] Top Ten 2018 Reads… So Far

This week on Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, we’re sharing our Top Ten Reads from 2018… or at least so far. It’s been a busy year so far, but I’ve still managed to read some great books!

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Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lange: The curious tale of an orphan raised by wolves, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is cited as one of the best books from 2017, and it most certainly deserves it! (4 Stars)

The Wild Book by Juan Villoro: While his parents settle their divorce, young Juan is sent to spend the summer with his uncle, but little does he know, it’s the beginning of his greatest adventure. An unforgettable story about the power of books, The Wild Book is as inspirational as it is entertaining. (5 Stars)

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey: Bringing the glimmer of the 1920s to a desperate and lonesome homestead in the Alaskan countryside, new arrivals Jack and Mabel find themselves amidst a real-life fairy tale as their child-sized snowman magically transforms into the blond-haired and very real, Faina. As Ivey brings the Alaskan wilderness to life, the couple find themselves magically transfixed by the world around them, as was I! (5 Stars)

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer: A heartbreaking story of faith and family through the annals of time, The Outcasts of Time is the perfect read for fans of historical or literary fiction as the bond of brotherhood is tested. (5 Stars)

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The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch: Torn between the comforts of home and a life of creative freedom, Marina Makarova’s life is forever changed by the onset of war as the Russian Revolution ignites. Full of complex characters and impossible choices, Marina’s story captures the plight of many who suffered through the multi-party war. (4 Stars)

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu: An account of his time working as a border patrol agent, Cantu’s memoir is more relevant today than ever. Real lives are at stake, real families, and a wall is not going to change that. (4 Stars)

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: My favorite type of book to read is one that takes the world around you and turns it upside down, making the impossible possible, and leaving you with more questions than answers… perhaps the perfect description for 1Q84, an unforgettable adventure that will certainly leave you asking…. Did I just read that? (4 stars)

Genesis (Project Nemesis, #2) by Brendan Reichs: A cross between Orphan Black and a modern-day Lord of the Flies, Genesis creates a scenario in which the last group of surviving humans (i.e. high school students) are planted into a video game with an endless supply of lives… but as we all know after reading Nemesis, there’s so much more to it than that. (5 Stars)

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What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine: A magical coming of age story centered around a young girl with a mysterious power over life and death. What Should Be Wild takes the family drama to new heights as it explores the depths of womanhood and its duplicitous entrapment. (4 Stars)

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien: Even though I haven’t finished LOTR (yet), I’ve re-read The Fellowship more time than I can count. From good ol’ Tom Bombadil to the depths of Moria, every re-read is like visiting an old friend. (5 Stars)

What books made your list?