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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!

Happy Monday! Minus the hour lost, we had a pretty great weekend. Despite all the terrible wisdom tooth horror stories I collected over the last couple of weeks, everything went much better than expected! I didn’t have too much pain, and still made it to the Alan Jackson concert on Saturday!

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Suffice to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of reading done over the week, but being in the middle of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, I had no choice but to finish it! An all-consuming story riddled by fear of the unknown and a hunger to learn more, each book was more un-put-downable than the last! I’m still thinking about the overall ending of the series, which is probably the point, but I can’t help but want to listen to the entire thing all over again. Especially since the first book, Annihilation, will be coming to theaters this September starring Natalie Portman! And to top that, Jeff VanderMeer will be in Houston this summer to introduce his new release, Borne!!

This week I’m finishing up Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart, known best for you YouTube series, My Drunk Kitchen. Her story is one of hardship, but told in an up-beat spirit full of can-do and positivity. I highly recommend the audio version, narrated by the author herself!

What are you reading?

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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!

Another rainy Monday in Houston – all I want to do is stay home and cozy up with a good book! Oh well, at least it’s a short week for me since I’ll finally be getting my wisdom teeth removed on Wednesday. EEK! Originally planned for last week, we figured I’d have plenty of time to recover before going to the Houston Rodeo this weekend, but of course, plans do change. Hopefully I’ll be semi back to normal on Saturday because there’s no way I’m missing out on Alan Jackson! On the bright side, I have a fresh pile of library books to keep me busy.  🙂

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Back to my usual reading habits, I finished two World War II novels last week, The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff and Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit, both with amazing audio narrations. The Orphan’s Tale, set during the start of the war, follows a young woman, Noa, rejected by her community and family alike after becoming pregnant by a German soldier. In an unusual turn, Noa is unabashed by her actions. Throughout the novel, Noa takes on a childlike mannerism, looking at the world with big, puppy-dog eyes and buying into the glitz and glamour of the circus, but all the while, refuses to apologize for falling in love with the soldier. Full of emotionally complex characters and the budding friendship between Noa and long-time trapeze artist, Astrid, The Orphan’s Tale is not to be missed! Likewise, Anna and the Swallow Man, through its creative use of word play and symbolism, paints a curious tale of a young girl rescued by a mysterious stranger. Narrated by Allan Corduner, who voiced The Book Thief, the novel’s poignant mix of folklore and magical realism will leave you breathless for more, and ever so hopeful.

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This week, I’m hoping to get through Area X by Jeff VanderMeer, a compilation of The Southern Reach Trilogy, in audio. I’ve already finished the first book, Annihilation, and OMG, this series is going to be crazy! One book in, I’m still not exactly sure where the story is heading, or what Area X even is, but I’m so excited to find out! In print, I belatedly started reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang because it’s due back today. I didn’t have high expectations for this one, given the title, but I was so wrong. Rooted by mental illness, and only extenuated by sexual abuse, scandal, and estrangement, Yeong-hye’s nightmares are spiraling out of control, and into real-life in this truly Kafkaesque novella. I definitely see what all the fuss is about now!

What are you reading?

 

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[Short Reviews] February Reads – Part 2

Chalk full of mystery/thrillers and emotionally hard-hitting historical fictions, this month’s reading was unquestionably effecting. I’ve read a variety of works from short stories to novellas to even (gasp!) a sports memoir, set from a total of 13 different countries. While I haven’t made a dent into my reading challenge, I’ve certainly made progress on filling my reading map!

To see Part 1 of this month’s reads, click here!

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The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead: Never in a million years did I think I’d read a sports memoir! Recently divorced and in a rut, Colson Whitehead takes a $10,000 stake and assignment from the online magazine Grantland to see how far he could get in the World Series of Poker, a daring move for an average home player, but for Colson Whitehead, the making for a hilarious adventure into the Poker underground. (5 Stars)

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis: Raised in a small town in Ohio where sexual abuse is considered the norm, Alex Craft makes it her personal mission to make the guilty pay, provoked by the release of her sister’s murderer three years ago… until Jack Fisher gets in her way. I loved how their relationship was built on friendship, rocky at the start but gradually becoming more vulnerable as Jack’s pure intentions were made clear. But, not all stories come to a happy ending. Some require tissues – this is certainly one of them. (4 Stars)

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen: An affecting collection of short stories with an extra wide-range of perspectives on the Vietnam War, from the Vietnamese refugee in America, struggling to understand a new culture, to an American war vet, trying his best to understand his daughter who identifies as Vietnamese. These are their struggles, their successes, and most importantly, the stories they have to tell. While not factual, Nguyen’s work exposes the thousands upon thousands of lives touched by the war, and the memories they carry. (5 Stars)

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 effecting change, a photojournalist exposing the truth, and an indigenous woman raising her family in a world of chaos. Intense and hard-hitting, each of its 120 pages will leave an impression not easily forgotten. (5 Stars)

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The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant: Sometimes you need to read something happy, and for me, that something is always a middle grade novel. After her parents die in a tragic vacuum-cleaner accident, Anastasia is taken in by her long-lost great-aunties, but turns out their “authentic” Victorian mansion is actually an abandoned asylum for the criminally insane… and even worse, her aunties aren’t who they say they are. Part Roald Dahl, part Lemony Snicket, Holly Grant takes you on a whimsical, laugh-out-loud adventure, complete with a magical escape and an egging mystery just begging to be solved. (4 Stars)

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley: Ditto on the tissues. I made the grave mistake of listening to the audiobook at work, and well, there were more than a few tears. Aza suffers from a mysterious lung disease, unable to breathe on most days, it’s as if she’s drowning in a sea of air. One day, after a particularly bad spell, she glimpses a ship in the sky, even hears a distantly familiar voice calling her name… but is it real? Or is it another side effect of her medication? You be the judge… but soon after, something goes terribly wrong, and after the most heartbreaking scene I’ve ever read, Aza is completely lost to our world. Navigating a new world in the clouds known only as Magonia, Aza can breathe for the first time, but after the euphoria fades, she’ll find herself caught in the midst of an unimaginable war, and even worse, a sea of lies. The first book of the series, it’s only the start to an incredible new journey! (4 Stars)

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough:  After meeting a handsome stranger at the bar, Louise gets the shock of a lifetime when she discovers he’s her new boss! 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 plays the long-game, keeping you in chase while saving the biggest punch for last – an OMGOMGOMGOMG ending that you will not stop talking about! (5 Stars)

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: Set in a small rural village in Chechnya during the early 2000s, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted by Russian soldiers and her home burned to the ground. Rescued by their neighbor Akhmed, he takes her to the nearby hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, reluctantly agrees to help. A celebration of the connections we make throughout life, as well as the transcendence of humanity throughout wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was a surprising read that ended in happy tears. (5 Stars)

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: From their creation to their future destruction, Gaiman breaks it down for us in this who’s who of Norse mythology. A huge fan of Neil Gaiman, I had very high expectations for this one, but it read a little too watered down for my tastes in an almost childlike tone. Still, for fans of mythology, it can’t be beat. (3 Stars)

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney: Read directly after Behind Her Eyes, The Girl Before was destined for disappointment. Told by two different perspectives, inter-chronologically, both Emma and Jane have suffered a traumatic loss before moving into a modern, minimalistic home that has no shortage on rules. Long story short, Jane quickly discovers that Emma was killed in the home in which she now lives, but can she uncover the truth before it happens again? Riddled by daddy issues (because a girl can’t be sexual without one) and a tangled web of lies centered around a millionaire egomaniac, the ending was far too predictable, not to mention the author’s abhorrent use/non-use of quotation marks. (3 Stars)

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella: It’s been a few years since I’ve read a Kinsella romance, but even so, I expected more from her long overdue release of My Not So Perfect Life. Katie’s always dreamed of living in London, but as a junior member of a branding firm that’s an hours commute from her shared apartment, her reality includes a brief escapade into the art of dumpster diving. Applying the “fake it ’til you make it”, Katie’s story is all about making the imperfect perfect for you. (3 Stars)

** This month I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy as part of her Quick Lit Series. Be sure to check it out! **

What have you read lately?

 

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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!

Technically, it’s not Monday anymore, but really, does it matter? I hope not! Life gets busy, and deadlines slip away – it happens to all of us. But, I haven’t missed a Monday post yet, and I’m not about to start! I kicked off my weekend with a long overdue visit to the dentist – probably not my best idea, but it ended up ok… I only have to get my wisdom teeth removed. No big deal, right? Well… okay, so maybe it’s going to be worse than I originally thought, but at least my pantry is full of Jell-O! The big day is next Wednesday, so my blogging might be a little sparse in the next couple weeks.

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In the meantime, I have a full line-up of novels to keep me busy (and away from Google). Last week I finished two of the hottest thrillers around, Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough and The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney. Both insanely hyped, and incredibly mystifying, I flew through both in no time at all. The Girl Before was a bit of a let-down, but by the time I’d lost interest, I’d read enough to still keep reading – I couldn’t not find out who the killer was! Fair warning though, J.P. Delaney will drive you CRAZY with his haphazard use of quotation marks. Use them, don’t use them, I really don’t have a preference, but you can’t go both ways in the same novel! Behind Her Eyes, on the other hand, is an inconceivable story with a sucker-punch ending. I thought for sure I’d figured out the ending, but I was wrong. SO wrong!

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This week, I’m finishing up the audio version of The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff, following a young girl cast out by her family in the midst of World War II. I’m also in the middle of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, which I’m enjoying, but not nearly as much as expected. But, I scored the audio version of The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro to end out my week. The audio version of A Study in Charlotte was AMAZING, so it should be too!

What are you reading?

 

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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?