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[Filling the Shelves] A Mini Book Haul

Typically, I share a book haul once per season, saving all my purchases for a massive post of bookish delight… but a few recent purchases just couldn’t wait!

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4321 by Paul Auster: I finally got my copy of 4 3 2 1 in the mail! I’m not sure when I’ll get to it, considering the length, but Auster’s innovative work is sure to be a hit. Archibald Isaac Ferguson is born nearly two weeks early on March 3, 1947 in Newark, New Jersey, but from a simple beginning comes a story of four “simultaneous and independent” Fergusons as four copies of the young boy lead very different lives after leaving the hospital.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough: Thanks to Target Cartwheel, I got this one for free! After meeting a handsome stranger at the bar, Louise gets the shock of a lifetime when she discovers he’s her new boss the next day. Of course the drama heats up when she not only meets his beautiful wife, Adele, but the two become friends. A love triangle in the purest fashion, Behind Her Eyes will keep you guessing until the very end!

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: Mentioned by just about every blog I follow, We Were the Lucky Ones is the latest and greatest World War II novel that everyone is reading, following a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the war. Each struggling to survive and driven by the fear of never seeing their family again, the family relies on hope and sheer tenacity to persevere.

The Year of the Comet by Sergei Lebedev: A coming of age story set in the Russian suburbs during the Soviet Union’s collapse, an idyllic childhood scene turns perfectly sinister as rumors of a serial killer spread throughout the neighborhood. From the changes in Russia’s political climate to the terrifying possibility of a killer on the loose, The Year of the Comet is definitely my most anticipated release this month!

What books have you hauled lately?

 

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[Unexpected] Ten Surprising Reads that Left an Impression

This week on Broke and the Bookish, the topic for discussion is expectation. No matter how many blogs you read, or Instagram accounts you follow, you’re bound to see a few books overlap between them – building the hype, and expectations alike. Here are five books that blew my expectations out of the park… and well, five that left a less reputable impression.

The Good:

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Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin: Even though I’d read the book description for Fever Dream, I had a feeling it would be a hard one to nail down before reading. And boy, was I right! Fever Dream blew me away from the very get-go – full of mystery and emotional strife, just when you’ve figured it out, Schweblin throws you for another loop. I’d read several reviews on it before reading, so I knew it would be good, but still, I wasn’t quite expecting it to be SO GOOD!

The Hike by Andrew Magary: The Hike could easily have been the biggest let down of the year. It had a little mention on the blogsphere at publication, enough to spike my interest, but then it kind of dropped off the radar. Between the self-hype and a six-month-long wait for a library copy, my expectations were extremely high for this one, which made it all the more surprising when The Hike became one of my most favorite reads of 2016!  If you’re into the weird, you should definitely check this one out!

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The Noble Hustle by Colson Whitehead: I recently picked up a copy of the audiobook at random, not really expecting anything from the title, but recognizing the author from his more recent novel, The Underground Railroad, I figured it would be good. Instead, I was blown away by the different facets an author can hold. If you’re in a reading slump, or need a good a laugh, I’d highly recommend The Noble Hustle, but also because Colson Whitehead is a gem of a person.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal: Again, another random audiobook from the library. It’s amazing how many hidden gems I’ve found scrolling through the Available Now section on Overdrive. The premise was intriguing from the start, a young girl who inherits a love for food from her father, but what I found was even more surprising. A totally unique thread of multiple viewpoints and a ridiculous cast of characters who feel like someone you know; Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a delectable treat to read.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West: Another YA fantasy with fairy tale flare, I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by Kingdom of Ash and Briars, especially with its promise to unite Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, AND Mulan. Yeah, you read that right, Mulan… how could that possibly work? Oh, but West ties them all together flawlessly, like they were always meant to belong to the other. That plus an ancient race of shape-shifters and an all-out war between them, Kingdom of Ash and Briars might be the best YA fantasy you’ve never heard of.

The Not So Impressionable:

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All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: An early read from 2016, I hadn’t seen it mentioned much online, but seeing it in the “New” section at the library I figured, why not? Turns out, a lot of reasons support the not side of that argument. Even in the fantasy realm, the friendship between the two main characters is too far-fetched as they continuously cross each other paths and force a reconnection time and again, followed by an unbelievably over-hyped ending where everything is magically fixed with little effort on their part. I expected so much more…

To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin: I so wanted to love this book! Romance, Paris, the Eiffel Tower… it should have been an un-put-down-able love story, but instead, I met characters who took miscommunication to a frustrating extreme. I lost interest in no time, but the ending was definitely worth the days of force-reading required to reach it.

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Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin: Set in a future post-apocalyptic world after a devastating epidemic caused by electro-magnetic pulses, technology has been abandoned, but Nell decides to go against the grain in order to prove its worth. Full of contradictions, I still have so many questions about Nell’s world – What’s it like in the city? How was her project received? I could really use a sequel to tie up a few loose ends.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: One of my most anticipated reads from 2016, The Nest was destined for disappointment. Following the Plumb siblings as they squabble over what to do with the family “nest”, I couldn’t find a single character I liked. Each selfish in their own way, reading The Nest is like watching girls in college fight over who gets a larger allowance.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund: After weeks of seeing wintry Instagram posts featuring the History of Wolves, with its stunning cover of birch trees, I finally picked up a copy from the library. I couldn’t have picked a more frustrating read! The story is intriguing, but the untidy ending seems rushed and incomplete.

What novels did you love more/less than expected?

 

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[TBR Check-In] What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, a great place to meet up and share your reading plans for the week. I love finding new blogs and new books – so a link-up that helps me do both? Sign me up!

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Well, it’s another rainy Monday here in Houston. Hopefully it’ll clear out before it’s time to drive home! Luckily, the weather was perfect for the weekend – making for great driving weather to visit the family! During the drive, I read Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest collection of short stories, The Refugees. An affecting collection, his work explores the far-reaching affects of the Vietnam war as his characters struggle to accept the changes in their lives. While creating a new future, in new country, they’ll always carry the war with them in their memories. I also finished reading The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld, an amazing story based on the writer’s own experience as a young Holocaust refugee immigrating to Israel. Written in a dream like state, the main character struggles to define himself as a man, bearing down on what it means to be a refugee, the language exchanged and the people left behind. It’s a novel I haven’t stopped thinking about, and likely never will.

Unfortunately, I finally broke my on-going record and finally had my first DNF for the year… well, actually two: Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente and Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. They’re beautifully written, but the audiobooks just weren’t for me. I’ll definitely be trying them again in print… someday. Instead, I spent my Valentine’s Day listening to Caraval by Stephanie Garber! Between the romance and the mystery, and the AMAZING Scarlet, who’s modesty equals her smarts, it all adds up to an amazing listening experience. Best. Audio. Book. Ever!

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Right now, I’m in the middle of Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jimenez, a poignantly written account of the Peruvian conflict during the 1980s as experienced by three very different women, a guerrilla, a photojournalist, and an indigenous woman living in the highlands. Intense and hard-hitting, it’s one of the most difficult reads I’ve experienced in while, even at 120 pages. From there, I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I have a few library books to get through, but I’m so tempted to throw them all aside to jump into my new copy of We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter!

What are you reading?

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[Short Reviews] February Reads – Part 1

Recently, it’s become a bit of a chore to write reviews. I’ve been wanting to write a full review on recent favorites, especially The Bear and the Nightingale, but I just haven’t had the time, not to mention they’re not always worth the effort in readership. So, in effort to improve the blog, and make my life easier, I’m expanding my monthly recaps. I might throw in a review post here and there, but for now, a few short reviews on recent reads:

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden: A beautifully written mix of history and Russian folklore, The Bear and the Nightingale is the first of a promising new series, fully of rich imagery and a unique cast of characters. Set in the snowy white of the Russian wilderness, Vasilisa struggles to live by her step mother’s rules, namely, abandoning the old traditions for a new religion, but abandoning long-held superstitions rarely goes well, especially when a storybook monster leaps from the page and into real life. I can’t wait to read the next one! (4 Stars)

Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard: Mark and Maggie’s marriage is in trouble. From the very beginning, this much is clear, but after several meaningless squabbles, the two manage to side-step their issues as the tension builds uncomfortably high. It’s like watching a scary movie, expecting the worst at any moment, perhaps there’s a clown around the corner, a murderer with a chainsaw at the door… but in the end, it’s just a shadow.  (3 Stars)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin: While on the short side, Fever Dream is perhaps the most affecting novel I’ve read yet. From the very first page, Schweblin weaves a heart-rending mystery as Amanda struggles to recall the last few days, and ultimately, what happened to her daughter. Just when you think you’ve solved the mystery, you’ve found the important moment, something else happens, leaving you completely mystified until the very end. (5 Stars)

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: The final installment of The Queen of the Tearling, at least a few questions are answered… in addition to new mysteries all-together. Perhaps the most frustrating end imaginable, it seems Johansen wrote herself into a corner with this one. At least we know who Kelsea’s father is now, as well as the monstrous becoming of the Fetch. (3 Stars)

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Equal parts romance and mystery, Caraval follows two sisters, Scarlet and Tella, as they escape their abusive father and runaway to the mystical Caraval, a yearly performance/competition, but as soon as they arrive, young Tella is kidnapped and made the central target of the show. Scarlett’s search for her sister is heartbreaking as the game twists her perception between reality and performance, but the ending is well worth the chase. I’ll be needing Part 2 ASAP! (5 Stars)

If Our Bodies Could Talk by James Hamblin: Based on the title, as well as the blurb on Goodreads and the book cover, I expected to read something along the lines of Dr. Oz’s You: The Owner’s Manual, only a little shorter and definitely more current. At least the latter was true. Instead, I found a haphazard collection of journal articles on today’s hot topics in health, from risky treatments to the need for multivitamins… with no clear recommendation on anything beyond simply eating a balanced diet, drinking more water, and increasing activity. Interesting, but unnecessary. (3 Stars)

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik: After a white water rafting accident, four friends are left stranded in the wilderness and without their gear, until they spot a campfire in the distance. Thinking they’re saved, they rush toward the camp, transforming their story from an outdoor survival story to Wrong Turn 8. (3 Stars)

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: Listed as one of my most anticipated reads from 2016, The Nest was destined for disappointment. Following the Plumb siblings as they squabble over what to do with the family “nest”, I couldn’t find a single character I liked. Each selfish in their own way, the Plumb siblings have lived a life of luxury, each unafraid to flounder or fail expecting the “nest” to catch their fall… but when the money disappears, they’ll have to decide what’s more important – family, or the vacation home? (3 Stars)

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The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim: Born to a poor tea farmer in medieval China, twelve-year-old Li Jing is married off as a nursemaid to the Koh family’s three-year-old son. Continuously mistreated and ultimately sold to a courtesan house (similar to the Japanese geisha), Li Jing plots her escape with the help of the animal spirits. For a middle grade novel, the story is both emotional and, at times, upsetting, but an adventurous tale of self-discovery, nonetheless. If you loved Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon, this is the book for you! (4 Stars)

The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld: Following a young Holocaust refugee as he immigrates to Israel, Appelfeld’s words will leave a lasting impression on its readers. Throughout the novel, the main character struggles to accept the changes in his life, learning a new language, a new country’s traditions, changes that are more overwhelming than a grieving teen can bear. (5 Stars)

What have you read lately?

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[A Fault in Their Stars] Ten Couples Who Just Can’t Win

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

This week on Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Broke and the Bookish, it’s all about the romance… or in this case, the not so smooth romance. If there’s one thing I love most, it’s a complicated romance – I just can’t help myself! I’m not one for drama. Actually, I try to avoid it as much as I can, except in my reading. Whether a classic case of miscommunication or a couple that just can’t catch a break… the best romantic comedies are likewise the most dramatic.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Never in a million years would a cyborg mechanic actually end up with a prince, but luckily, Cinder’s nothing short of spectacular. I know, I said I like drama, but the relationships in The Lunar Chronicles are almost too much – so no wonder it’s one of my favorites.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Girl breaks up with a guy, then has to save said guy a mere hours later from total annihilation… and that’s only the beginning.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: I always wished this would happen to me, but then again, but then again, so did every girl who ever watched A Cinderella Story. Classic teenage romance, angst super included.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Oh Miss Meyer… Even knowing the most likely ending for the younger Queen of Hearts (spoiler alert: not good), I couldn’t help but root for her and the Joker.

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Stardust by Neil Gaiman: “Cause every cool guy needs a popular girl”… until he meets the fallen star of his dreams, and no witch is going to tell him different.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell: Who knew the descendants of the Bronte sisters would be so dramatic?

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye: No matter the version, Jane Eyre will always be her worst enemy when it comes to love, but in the best way.

Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding: Really Helen, a divorce? You have to start this one out with Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy getting a divorce!? Are you trying to kill me? They’re meant to be, just let it happen!

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: Just when they’re about to make peace… she has to turn into an adorably tiny woodland creature, because why not?

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig: Lady seeks mystery and adventure, only to have her even more mysterious male counterpart get in the way. Like to read a never ending game of cat and mouse – this is for you (twelve times over).

What’s your favorite type of romance?

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[TBR Check-In] What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, a great place to meet up and share your reading plans for the week. I love finding new blogs and new books – so a link-up that helps me do both? Sign me up!

The first week of February was not my favorite. Work is busier than usual and so is everything at home, meaning less reading and more chores (when we can fit them in). I’m definitely not a read-to-relax kind of person, but still, I managed to find a few escapes during the week, starting with the audio version of Stars Above by Marissa Meyer. The Lunar Chronicles will always be a favorite audio series, and the final collection of stories is no exception! Complete with a long awaited wedding and surprising proposal! Next up, I finally got my hands on a copy of Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin – a fast paced novella following a woman in the midst of a fever-dream spurred by an unknown ailment. All the while she’s trying to backtrack, to finally place the moment it all went wrong, when she lost trace of her daughter. An emotional high from the get-go with an even more heart wrenching ending, it was the perfect read to end my week!

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Luckily, my week ended happily, all thanks to a special meet and greet hosted by Houston’s own Blue Willow Bookshop. I got to meet the very charming Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow!! Easily one of my favorite reads from 2016, the signing was even more amazing than expected. He started the event by sharing his inspiration for the book, stemmed by all his travels as a financer, and giving a mini history lesson on the Metropol Hotel. Did you know Nina and Sophia are loosely based on his daughter? A young spit-fire herself, she’ll be the first one to correct her being referred to as “the baby”. A delightful speaker, and even more esteemed author, I can’t wait to see what he writes next! A hint: it involves three teens traveling from the Midwest to New York City.

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Currently, I’m reading The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld following a young refugee who’s traveled from Eastern Europe to Israel in hopes of finding his family and to make a new home for himself. Throughout the story, he struggles to accept the changes in his life, finding a new language and a new country more overbearing than a grieving teen can bear. I’m also listening to Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. So far so good – the story is definitely different from anything I’ve read lately. Following a woman trying to find her place in a new country with her newly formed family, a new string of affairs threatens to change the tides beyond repair. Intimate and intense, I’m intrigued to see how this one ends.

What are you reading?

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Ten Books That Could Use More Hope (or Tiny Woodland Creatures)

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Broke and the Bookish, is all about the X-Factor. What is it we love most about reading? Is it the characters, the page-turning plot-twist… or the mysterious woodland creature that protects a character from afar? If you’ve visited my blog before, you probably know The Trees by Ali Shaw was my favorite read in 2016, a fairy tale twist on a forest’s revenge on modern-day men, complete with unicorns and ancient woodland creatures made of twigs. Their mysterious appearance guides the main characters to safety, steering them away from a pack of wolves or towards a stream of water, but even more so, they signify hope.

** A little belated, but I hope you enjoy. Yesterday was too crazy, I could use a little more cuteness myself! **

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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: A despairing quest for a long lost son across a land swallowed whole by a magical, memory-eating cloud. They most definitely could have used the steadying presence of a stag in this one, or at least a blue bird to lessen the strain of their journey.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Same goes for Station Eleven. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE this novel – it’s one of my favorites! But just imagine Kirsten strolling along, desperate to find her lost troupe, to cross paths with a unicorn, or just a glance – quick enough to plant a seed of hope.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee:Too many times did Lilliete Berne fall to the trickery of others. If only a mysterious black stallion could come to the rescue, permitting a perfectly executed escape from the tenuous Tenor and into the arms of her Composer.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys:In the midst of World War II, four teenagers cross the wintery expanse of East Prussia to join thousands of refugees at the coast, hoping to board one of the last of the evacuating ships. While the framing of the novel is, in itself, foreboding, the novel’s setting is the perfect set-up for a tailing raven or owl.

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Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke: Besides being overly dramatic, Wink Poppy Midnight is essentially a novel of teenage freedom, with pretty much every character running to the woods for some reason or other. The perfect set-up for a white rabbit situation if you ask me.

Never Ever by Sara Saedi: What’s Peter Pan without a creepy crocodile?

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: With her loyal mare Peony at her side, Lee can’t go wrong, but for much of the story the two are heartbreakingly kept apart. The novel is highly dramatic, constantly moving from one blow to the next – I definitely could have used an interlude of wild horses or scampering bunnies to break up the villainy.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand: A beautifully written novel discussing the woes of childhood depression, Some Kind of Happiness follows a young girl who finds refuge in the woods behind her grandparents’ house. Her story deserves all the cuteness of all the woodland creatures combined!

And Two That Have It All:

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: If you’re in need of adorably tiny woodland creatures, My Lady Jane is the book for you!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill: Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is chalk-full of hope (and cuteness). Following a young girl raised by a witch, a tiny dragon, and a grouchy bog monster, it’s no wonder why so many hold it so dear.

What’s your x-factor?