Waiting On / Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

New WoW

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  This week I’ll also be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa.

My selection for this week is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.  It’s the second book in The Bear and the Nightingale series, the first book in which is one of my favorite 2017 releases so far.  I can’t wait to further immerse myself in all of that beautiful Russian folklore all over again.

 

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

Publication Date:  January 9, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

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Praise for The Bear and the Nightingale (for those who haven’t yet read the first book in the series):
 

“A beautiful deep-winter story, full of magic and monsters and the sharp edges of growing up.”—Naomi Novik

“An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale . . . A Russian setting adds unfamiliar spice to the story of a young woman who does not rebel against the limits of her role in her culture so much as transcend them.”—Robin Hobb

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Authors I’d Automatically Buy Anything They Wrote

 

On Tuesdays I usually participate in the popular Top Ten Tuesday meme, which is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  However, they are officially on hiatus until August, so while waiting for their return, I decided to take the opportunity to go back through their archives to see if any of the topics they had covered prior to my joining were of interest.  I saw this topic and thought it would be fun.  I’d discovered so many new authors since I started blogging that my auto-buy list has grown almost as fast as my TBR.  The list below contains a few authors from my pre-blogging days, but most are authors that I’ve fallen in love with because of you guys. 😉

 

Top 10 Authors I’d Automatically Buy Anything They Wrote

 

1. V. E. SCHWAB

I had never heard of V.E. Schwab prior to my blogging days, but the moment I opened A Darker Shade of Magic and experienced those glorious four Londons and Kell and his many-sided coat, I was hooked.  I’ve since completed the Shades of Magic series and have plans to read Monsters of Verity and to go back and pick up Vicious as well.

 

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2. EMMA DONOGHUE

 

Emma also joined my auto-buy list after I started blogging because her book Room was one of the first books I ever reviewed.  That book mesmerized me, as did Wonder, which I read soon after that.  Emma’s writing is gorgeous and her books are those that always make me think and questions what I would do if in the same situations her characters are in.  I’ve been buying up a few of her older titles but really can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

 

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3.  TONI MORRISON

Toni Morrison has been on my auto-buy list for most of my adult life.  I took a graduate course where we studied all of her novels in great depth and I just couldn’t get enough of them.  Morrison is a master storyteller and creator of flawed yet sympathetic characters, and here we are 20 years after I took that course and I still eagerly await every new book that she releases.

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4. DAN BROWN

I know some think that there’s way too much hype surrounding Dan Brown’s books, but I don’t care. I love books that deal with solving puzzles, secret societies, history, and especially those which can combine all of that into an action-packed, suspenseful tale.  Over-hyped or not, Dan Brown always delivers so he has earned a spot on my auto-buy list.

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5. MARISSA MEYER

With her impressive and imaginative series, The Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer quickly earned a spot on my auto-buy list. Heck, I haven’t even finished this whole series yet and I’ve already purchased Heartless and can’t wait to get my hands on her latest book Renegades as well.

 

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6. YAA GYASI

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel was so gorgeous and so poignant that I am anxiously awaiting news of her next book and hope that I won’t have to wait too much longer.

 

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7. LEIGH BARDUGO

Leigh Bardugo is another author who I learned of and fell in love with because of my fellow bloggers.  So far I’ve only read Six of Crows, but the characters, the setting, the writing – all of it – just blew me away and now I’ve got Crooked Kingdom on deck, have purchased the first book in the Grisha series, and also cannot wait to read Wonder Woman:Warbringer.

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8. ALICE HOFFMAN

Alice Hoffman has been on my list since my pre-blogging days, but I’d definitely still buy anything she wrote today because of her lyrical prose and memorable characters.  Practical Magic and Faithful are two of my favorites, but I’m also very much looking forward to The Rules of Magic which is coming out this fall.

 

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9. BECKY ALBERTALLI

Becky Albertalli is another author that I had never heard of prior to joining the book blogging community, but I quickly fell in love with her books and especially with her diverse characters when I began reading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.  My love has continued with The Upside of Unrequited, so I’m eagerly awaiting Becky’s next book.

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10. JOHN GREEN

John Green has been an auto-buy for me ever since The Fault in Our Stars left me sobbing like a hungry infant.  Some of his books are much better than others, but I still can’t help myself. If a new John Green book is coming out, I’m guaranteed to buy it.  I’m anxiously awaiting Turtles All the Way Down as I type this post.

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Question: Who are some of your auto-buy authors?  Do we share any favorites?

Weekly Recap #9: Week of 7/9 – 7/15

 

Hey everyone!  It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

It has actually been a pretty quiet week for me.  The summer heat has arrived and with temperatures hovering near 100 and the humidity making it feel well above that, I’ve spent way more time inside than I would have liked.  One of these days I really want to have a swimming pool put in to make days like these more tolerable.  A girl can dream, right?

I’ve also been one of those moods lately where I want to watch movies, but not new or recent releases.  This week I watched Sister Act, The Breakfast Club, Dead Poet’s Society, The Empire Strikes Back, and the animated Beauty and the Beast.  Those just made me hungry for more older movies so I have E.T., The Goonies, and Raiders of the Lost Ark on deck for the upcoming week. Still plan to get lots of reading done though!

On the blog, I’ve had a good week as well. I posted the last of my July publication date ARC reviews so I’m keeping up with those nicely.  I also published another discussion post (finally!), so I’m excited about that since doing more discussion posts was probably my biggest blogging goal for this year. I also knocked 1,200 pages from my TBR this week (It was only 2 books, but they were huge, okay?  Haha!) I’m not doing great on my Summer TBR Challenge though – so far I’m only on my second of 12 books but hopefully I’ll turn that around soon.

On the agenda for today is lots of blog hopping and commenting since I’ve been kind of lax about that the past couple of days while trying to finish up Strange the Dreamer.  Incredible book, by the way. One of those that’s so amazing, it’s almost hard to put it into words for a review.

Well, that’s pretty much it for me.  Have a great week, everyone!

 

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

   

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

     
 

 

STACKING THE SHELVES

 

   

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

via cartoonstock.com

Discussion Post: My Complicated Relationship with Book Series

I’ve had book series on my mind a lot lately. I think it stems from the Top Ten Tuesday topic a few weeks ago where we had to list ten series we want to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. I did my list of 10, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could have easily listed 2 or 3 times that many series. That of course got my wheels turning and thinking about not only the series I haven’t gotten to yet but also all of the ones I’ve but have yet to finish. Again, the list is endless. All of this really got me thinking about my overall relationship with book series. Why I put off starting series forever and why even once I start one do I take so long to actually read all of the books?

And here’s what I came up with…IT’S COMPLICATED!

 

 

I seem to have a lot of random quirks when it comes to series, so I thought I’d share and see if I have any kindred spirits out there.

 

1. Series are amazing in the sense that they give me more time to get to know my favorite characters. I especially love all of the added opportunities to get more backstory on them. Lucien from ACOTAR and Holland from the Shades of Magic series immediately come to mind with respect to the backstories.

As much as I love this though, there’s a downside as well. The more I get to know characters, the more attached I get, which means when it’s finally time to say goodbye to them, I’m left with a broken heart. The Harry Potter series is a prime example here. I cried like a baby when I finished that last book.

via GIPHY

So yeah, series can be a very emotional experience for me.

 

2. I’m not really a fan of series where the books can all work as standalones. There are a few I’ll make an exception for, like the Stephanie Plum series just because it’s so hilarious, but otherwise I tend to avoid these. What I don’t like is that each book in a series like this tends to spend a lot of time rehashing and summarizing who all of the characters are and their basic relationships to each other. I always get bored and find myself skipping a lot of pages because it’s like deja vu: “Wait, didn’t I read all of this, almost verbatim, in the last three books in this series?”

via quickmeme.net

My definite preference here is a series where you have to read all of the books in the correct order and where one book picks up right where the last book left off.

 

3. I’m quirky when it comes to series length as well. I enjoy duologies and trilogies, but once I get past the 3 book mark, I start to get a little testy and nitpicky. I find myself more critical of the books the longer a series get, almost editing them in my mind as I’m reading, questioning whether certain passages or, in some cases, whole chapters were even necessary because they felt like filler. I did this quite a bit this week actually as I was reading A Court of Wings and Ruin. I think it’s my brain’s way of trying to shorten the series for me because I’ve about reached my limit.

via memegenerator.net

Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia are probably the only exceptions to my series length preference.

 

4. I typically won’t start a series until at least two books have been published. Why?  Because if there’s a cliffhanger ending in the first book, I want to have the option to keep reading immediately rather than waiting a year to get the next book.  That’s not to say I actually will continue with the series immediately (see # 5)..  I just want to know the possibility is there.  Having that second book at the ready is like a security blanket for me, I guess, haha.

via movieboozer.com

5. I don’t usually like to binge read series. I think this goes back to the whole saying goodbye to the characters issue (see # 1).  In my mind, the faster I read a series, the sooner I have to say goodbye so binging is a big no.

via fyireblue.com

 

So there you have it, all of my bookish quirks when it comes to reading series.  Do we share any quirks?  Do you have quirks of your own when it comes to series?

 

ARC Review: The Library of Fates

ARC Review:  The Library of FatesThe Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
three-half-stars
Published by Razorbill on July 18th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 354
Source: First to Read
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

MY REVIEW

 

Aditi Khorana’s The Library of Fates is a beautiful coming of age story that follows the journey of Princess Amrita of Shalingar as she sets out to save her kingdom from the grips of the power-hungry emperor Sikander who is looking to expand his Macedonian Empire by invading and conquering Shalingar.  Shalingar is a prized territory for Sikander because it is where the mystical Symballines are hidden.  The Symballines produce a rare and powerful substance called chamak that Sikander is dying to get his hands on.  Why?  Because when given to Oracles, chamak substantially increases their ability to predict the future.

When the novel opens, Amrita’s father and Sikander have worked out a tentative arrangement to appease Sikander and hopefully keep him from taking control of Shalingar.  Amrita is at the heart of this agreement because Sikander is determined to take her for his bride.  Amrita is not especially excited about this match because 1) who wants to marry a power hungry Emperor and 2) she is already in love with someone else, her childhood friend, Arjun. But she’s willing to make the sacrifice if it means her people are protected.

When Sikander arrives at Amrita’s palace, however, things do not go according to plan and Sikander’s men go on a rampage, killing or imprisoning anyone who gets in their way.  Amrita manages to escape from the palace, along with an Oracle named Thala that Sikander had been keeping as a prisoner but had offered up to Amrita as a wedding gift.  Together Amrita and Thala set off on a journey to find the Symballines and warn them that Sikander is coming for them.  At Thala’s suggestion, they also set out to find The Library of All Things, a library where according to legend, contains a book about every person.  Thala tells Amrita that if they can get to this Library, then they can locate their books and edit them to change their destinies.  Amrita can save her people, while Thala can go back and rewrite her history so that she was never imprisoned and taken away from her family as a young child.  While the journey starts out as a physical one, however, it becomes so much more.  It becomes a journey of self-discovery for Amrita as she begins to find clues that indicate she may not be who she thinks she is and that with her true identity, she possesses the power to change the course of history and save her people.

 

LIKES

 

Amrita.  I found Princess Amrita to be a very likeable character and one that was easy to sympathize with.  Her life up until this point has been very sheltered, so when she first escapes from the palace under siege, she really has no idea how to fend for herself.  In that sense we see tremendous growth from her throughout the course of the story.  She also didn’t really believe any of the stories about magic she had been told all her life.  In her mind, they were just that, stories.  So I enjoyed watching her make this journey and begin to understand and embrace the stories from her childhood and the magic they describe, and what they mean for her.  It’s a lot to take in, especially learning that you aren’t who you thought you were, but Amrita shows great maturity

My one disappointment with Amrita though was that I had hoped she’d be a bit feistier.  Reading the book’s synopsis and hearing that she spends most of the book on the run as a fugitive had me envisioning lots of kickass scenes where she keeps evading Sikander’s men, but her journey ended up being much more subdued than that. My fault for building it up in my own mind to be so epic, but it was a little disappointing.  She’s still a great character though and I especially enjoyed her growing friendship with Thala, especially considering how they are initially just thrown together by circumstance and forced to work together to get away from Sikander.

Varun.  I think Varun actually ended up being my favorite character in the story.  I can’t say much about him without giving away too many details about the overall storyline, but I will say he ends up being a very important character, way more important than he initially seems to be.  Amrita first meets Varun while she and Thala are on the first leg of their journey, a pilgrimage to a temple.  Varun pops up out of nowhere and self-appoints himself Amrita’s traveling companion as she hides among others who are making the pilgrimage to pay their respects to the goddess Maya.  Varun is a charming young man who keeps Amrita entertained with stories about Maya.  He seems pretty determined to educate her as much as possible and, in spite of herself, Amrita feels herself drawn to this boy.  Even though my brain was screaming “No insta-love!” and “What about your childhood love, Arjun?,” I could see why she felt an instant connection to Varun.  He’s immensely likeable and I loved his enthusiasm regarding the temple and the goddess and all of its history, especially once his connection to it all is made clear.

World Building and the Mythology.  Khorana does a beautiful job painting a vivid portrait of both Shalingar, the Macedonian Empire, and all points in between.  I also loved how she seamlessly wove in so many mythological elements to create a truly unique and incredible landscape for her characters to journey through.  I found the Symballines and their world fascinating, as well as that of the vetala spirits, and so much more.  It was like nothing I had ever read before so it made for such a magical reading experience.

Folklore.  One of my absolute favorite parts of The Library of Fates is the parable that prefaces the story.  It’s called the Parable of the Land of the Trees and it’s an enchanting story about self-sacrifice that features trees who used to be able to communicate with humans.  It caught my attention immediately and had me wanting to know how it related to the rest of the story.

 

DISLIKES

My main issue with The Library of Fates was that I felt like so much ground was covered in this one book that the author only scratched the surface on many areas that I would have loved to have read more about.  I would have loved to see more of the folklore and mythology since that was probably my favorite part of the book and I loved the way the author integrated it into the story so smoothly.  I also wanted more details in the various plots and subplots along the way because some of them could have used a little more detail to better elaborate what was happening and why.  And while I know the book was meant to focus on Amrita and her personal journey of self-discovery, I still wanted more exploration of Amrita and her relationships with all of the characters she interacts with.  As is, it was a lovely read but I was just left wanting so much more, either a longer book with all of these areas fleshed out more or maybe even a series.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Even though I had a few issues with it, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Library of Fates to anyone who enjoys a coming of age story and who wants to learn more about Indian folklore and mythology.  I haven’t read The Star Touched Queen or The Wrath and the Dawn yet, but after reading this story and seeing that this book is recommended for fans of those, I’m more interested than ever in reading those as well.

 

RATING:  3.5 STARS

 

Thanks to Penguin First to Read, the author, and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  This in no way shapes my opinion of the book.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

 

A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn

 

No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.

The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.

Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?

three-half-stars

About Aditi Khorana

Aditi Khorana spent part of her childhood in India, Denmark and New England. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University and an MA in Global Media and Communications from the Annenberg School for Communication. She has worked as a journalist at ABC News, CNN, and PBS, and most recently as a marketing executive consulting for various Hollywood studios including Fox, Paramount and Sony.

Mirror in the Sky (Razorbill/Penguin, 2016) was her first novel. The upcoming Library of Fates (July 2017) is feminist historical fantasy, set in ancient India, and tells the story of a louche, misogynistic dictator overthrowing an idyllic kingdom, and the women who fight to wrench it back from his hands.

Aditi lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time reading, hiking, and exploring LA’s eclectic and wonderful architecture.

Waiting On / Can’t Wait Wednesday – Spotlight on All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

New WoW

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  This week I’ll also be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa.

My selection for this week is All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater.  I’ve never read anything by her before, and even though I have several of her series in my TBR pile, I’d love to start with this one because I love the emphasis on family that we see in the synopsis.

 

ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS by Maggie Stiefvater

Publication Date:  October 10, 2017

 

From Amazon:

Here is a thing everyone wants:   A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:  What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Maggie Stiefvater has been called “a master storyteller” by USA Today and “wildly imaginative” by Entertainment Weekly.  Now, with All the Crooked Saints, she gives us the extraordinary story of an extraordinary family, a masterful tale of love, fear, darkness, and redemption.

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Books I’m Pretty Sure Everyone on the Planet Has Read Except for Me

 

On Tuesdays I usually participate in the popular Top Ten Tuesday meme, which is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  However, they are officially on hiatus until August, so I decided to take the opportunity to go back through their archives to see if any of the topics they had covered prior to my joining were of interest.  I saw this topic and found it incredibly relatable because I almost always feel like I’m the last person on the planet to read some popular books.

Basically I’m thinking of this as a wall of shame because I really have no excuse for why I haven’t read these books yet.  I see people talking about them everywhere, have read countless reviews that make them sound fantastic, and yet there they all still sit.

Scrolling back through my old blog posts and anticipated reading lists, I see so many of these titles on them.  If I wanted to read them so badly,  why months — in some cases even years — later, are they still sitting on my TBR unread?  I’m looking at you, Caraval and Heartless.  Heck, I was so excited about Heartless coming out that I even did a giveaway for it to that my fellow readers could win a copy.  And yet I still haven’t touched it.  What is wrong with me? LOL!

I’ve loved every other book I’ve read by Rainbow Rowell so what’s the hold up on Carry On?  Fear that it won’t be anywhere near as good as Fangirl or Eleanor and Park?  I honestly don’t know.

And clearly I have some kind of anti-butterfly issue that’s keeping me from touching Replica and The Diabolic.

I see my fellow bloggers and even non-bloggers talking about the books all the time and they sound so amazing.  I swear I’m going to get to them some day, but when that day will be…your guess is as good as mine.  I’m going to blame some of this on a weird quirk of mine — if I own a book, I don’t feel the same pressure to read it as I do if it’s a borrowed book or an ARC that has a specific deadline.  It sounds crazy to say but if I had borrowed these same books from the library or from a friend, I probably would have read them months ago.

I think the only two books on this list that I kind of have legit reasons for being a holdout when it come to reading them are the J.K.  Rowling book and the Neil Gaiman.  The Casual Vacancy is all about the hype?  Can it live up to it?  I’d almost rather not find out.  And Gaiman,  I’m just so hit or miss with his books.  I didn’t care for American Gods at all but I adored The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  People keep telling me The Graveyard Book is incredible, so I know I’m going to give it a try eventually but always manage to find a reason to shove it off the top of my TBR.

Thankfully I am doing a TBR clean-out challenge this summer that should take care of a few of these titles, but I still have a long way to go and I have a feeling, based on my history, that as fast as I knock a few titles off this list, I’ll be adding just as many more. It’s madness, lol!

Question: Are you in the same boat as me?  Are we the last two people on the planet not to have read some of these?  What books do you feel like you’re the only one who hasn’t read them?

 

Books I’m Pretty Sure Everyone on the Planet Has Read Except for Me

 

1. CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell

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2. WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

 

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3.  CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber

 

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4. HEARTLESS by Marissa Meyer

 

 

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5. REPLICA by Lauren Oliver

 

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6. THE DIABOLIC by S. J. Kincaid

 

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7. DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch

 

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8. THE CASUAL VACANCY by J.K. Rowling

 

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9. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman

 

 

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10. NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff

 

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ARC Review: Hello, Sunshine

ARC Review:  Hello, SunshineHello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
three-half-stars
on July 11th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit
Pages: 256
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 MY REVIEW

I was initially drawn to Hello, Sunshine because of its vibrant summery cover but wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I actually sat down to read it.  What I got was a timely, relevant, and thought-provoking exploration of how people present themselves online in this age of technology and social media.

Sunshine MacKenzie seems to have it all – a loving husband, a gorgeous apartment in Manhattan, and a wildly successful YouTube cooking show with millions of followers that will soon transition to an even bigger audience once it starts airing on the Food Network.  As perfect as Sunshine’s life sounds, it soon becomes clear that her life is actually more along the lines of a house of cards just waiting to be toppled over and trampled on.  You see, Sunshine’s entire online persona is just that – a persona.  Everything that her fanbase loves about her and that has made her such a success is nothing but a pack of lies.  A pack of lies that Sunshine and her associates have successfully kept under wraps, or so they thought.  When Sunshine’s social media accounts are hacked and the hacker starts unraveling her life one lie at a time, her entire life and career fall apart right in front of her and no amount of PR damage control can stop the bleeding.  Sunshine loses her show, most of her followers, her husband, and her home, and ends up fleeing to her real hometown and to her estranged sister.

The rest of the book follows Sunshine as she tries to figure out what to do next.  Is there’s a way to get her old life back or will reuniting with her sister and spending some quality time with her family, away from the media frenzy, set Sunshine on a different path?  Will she decide there’s more to life than fame, fans, and the stress of trying to maintain an appealing online persona?

 

LIKES

I think what I liked most about Hello, Sunshine was just how relevant the book’s central premise is, that so many people are not being authentic when they are online.  Just as Sunshine has an online persona that has been crafted and scripted for her, there are many who aren’t even in show business who portray themselves as how they want to be perceived online, even if it’s completely contrary to what their life is actually like.  It’s something I think about whenever I see someone online who just seems like their life is picture perfect in every way.  Life is too messy for things to always appear that perfect, if that makes any sense. Or I might even think of it in terms of myself – how do others know if I’m being authentic or if I’m, in essence, putting on a show for them by being what I think they want me to be.

Hello, Sunshine also made me think about how vulnerable we really are if we’ve put ourselves out there on social media – how easily accounts can be hacked and someone’s life can be turned upside down if they happen to make the wrong person angry.

In addition to being a thought-provoking read about social media and authenticity, Hello, Sunshine is also just an entertaining read as well.  All of the drama that surrounded Sunshine’s fall from grace kept me engaged throughout and I kept thinking what a great movie it would be.  Desperate Housewives kept coming to mind as I was reading.

As fake as her online persona is, the Sunshine we’re presented with is brutally honest and she’s dying to give us a blow-by-blow account of how she royally messed up her own life.  If you like that kind of personality, Sunshine is very likable and you’ll want to follow her journey and see where she went wrong at every step along the way.

 

DISLIKES

My main dislike is that I figured out who the hacker was almost immediately. I kept hoping I was wrong and that there would be a huge surprise revealed, but my first guess ended up being correct so that was kind of a letdown for me.  I also didn’t buy the hacker’s reasoning for doing what they did, so that slightly hampered what was otherwise a very enjoyable read.  Hello, Sunshine was still a solid LIKE for me, but a little less predictability and a little more believability here would moved it from the LIKE column into the LOVE column.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for a quick and entertaining read that still manages to be quite thought-provoking, I’d say Hello, Sunshine fits the bill.  I think it would make for a great beach or vacation read.

RATING:  3.5 STARS

 

GOODREADS  SYNOPSIS

From Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly), “winning” (Publishers Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—comes a new novel about the secrets we keep…even from ourselves.

Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

three-half-stars

About Laura Dave

Laura Dave is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The First Husband, The Divorce Party, London Is The Best City In America, and the forthcoming Eight Hundred Grapes. Dave’s fiction and essays have been published in The New York Times, ESPN, Redbook, Glamour and Ladies Home Journal.

Dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA Today), Dave has appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends and NPR’s All Things Considered.  Cosmopolitan Magazine recently named her a “Fun and Fearless Phenom of the Year.”

Three of her novels have been optioned for the big screen with Dave adapting Eight Hundred Grapes for Fox2000.

Weekly Recap #8: Week of 7/2 – 7/8

 

Hey everyone!  It’s time for another weekly recap post of all things happening on and off the blog. This week I’ll be linking to the Sunday Post, which is hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

I hope everyone who was celebrating had a happy and safe 4th of July holiday.  My husband and I let our son dictate the festivities and ended up hosting the neighborhood kids in his age group for smores and a few fireworks.  It was great fun and the kids even helped with clean up, so that part was even better!

This weekend my husband and I are celebrating our 18th wedding anniverary, which doesn’t even seem possible.  I’ve almost reached that point in life where I’ve been with him for more years than I’ve been without him.

It was a pretty busy week for the blog too.  I managed to get those writing days I was hoping for and am now all caught up on my book reviews (well, for the moment anyway!).  Right now I’m in the process of writing a discussion post for later this week and am starting to read some of the books on my TBR for the summer reading challenge I’m participating in.  Up first is A Court of Wings and Ruin, followed by Strange the Dreamer.

I also had my first DNF in a while this week.  I just couldn’t connect with the characters in Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. I found them abrasive and annoying so I ended up ditching that book.  I’ve had a run of great reads though, so I guess I was due for a DNF.  Hopefully that won’t be the start of a run of bad books.  Fingers crossed!

Well, that’s pretty much it for me.  Have a great week, everyone!

 

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

   

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

      
 

 

STACKING THE SHELVES

 

 
 

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

ARC Review – Final Girls by Riley Sager

ARC Review – Final Girls by Riley SagerFinal Girls by Riley Sager
Also by this author: The Last Time I Lied
four-half-stars
Published by Dutton on July 11th 2017
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

MY REVIEW

After seeing more than one comparison to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about whether or not I wanted to read Final Girls.  That just seemed like hype that few books could live up to. That said, however, when I then saw that Stephen King had dubbed Final Girls “the first great thriller of 2017,” my entire perspective changed. I mean, seriously, when Stephen King says I should read a book. I’m darn well going to read the book.  And let me tell you, that man knows a great thriller when he reads one.  It took me a few pages to really get into Final Girls and connect with the main character, but once I did, I literally could NOT put this book down until I reached the end.

Final Girls is a psychological thriller that follows Quincy Carpenter, a young woman who is known as a ‘Final Girl.’  A ‘Final Girl’ is a young woman that is the sole survivor of a mass killing.  Sounds like something out of a horror movie, right? Well, it basically is.

Ten years ago, Quincy and five friends went to Pine Cottage, cabin in the woods, to celebrate her best friend, Janelle’s, birthday.  Instead of the weekend of fun they had planned, however, their time at Pine Cottage quickly turns into the stuff nightmares are made of as all of Quincy’s friends are brutally murdered.  Quincy remembers little or nothing of what happened the night of the attack; all she knows is that she was being chased through the woods, while drenched in blood, and thankfully was found by a police officer, who killed the man who was chasing her.

Although Quincy is the primary focus of this novel, she is actually one of three ‘Final Girls’ who have a presence in the story.  There’s also Lisa, who was the sole survivor of an attack on her sorority house that left nine sisters dead, and there’s Samantha, who survived a late night, massacre-style attack at the motel where she was working.  Dogged by the press and a cult-like following, as well as haunted by survivor’s guilt (Why did they survive when no one else did?), all these three women really want is to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on.

When we meet Quincy, she appears, with the help of a Xanax prescription, to have mostly moved past this traumatic incident in her life and now has a successful baking blog and a devoted live-in boyfriend named Jeff.  She has also maintained a somewhat friendly relationship with Coop, the officer who rescued her that fateful night.

Quincy’s life is turned upside down once again, however, when she learns that Lisa, one of the other two Final Girls, has apparently taken her own life.  Quincy had occasionally been in contact with Lisa because of their shared bond as survivors of such terrible attacks, and so she really can’t believe that after all she went through to survive, that Lisa would then commit suicide.  And then when the third Final Girl, Samantha, suddenly shows up on her doorstep, even though she had dropped off the grid and disappeared years ago, Quincy’s life is yet again rattled especially because Samantha seems intent on forcing Quincy to confront and relive that night at Pine Cottage.  The more Samantha pushes, the more Quincy questions what her real motives are for seeking her out after all these years. And then when new information comes to light about Lisa’s death, all bets are off.  Quincy has no idea who she can trust, who she can turn to, and especially no idea if she can handle possibly remembering the details of what really happened the night her friends were murdered.

And believe it or not, all of that barely even scratches the surface in terms of what happens on this wild ride!

LIKES

Flawed and Complicated Characters.  Just by virtue of what they have been through, both Quincy and Samantha are flawed characters.  Sager does a fantastic job of fleshing them out, adding more and more layers to each character the further we move into the story.  I was especially fascinated to watch Quincy’s seemingly together life practically crumble around her the more Samantha kept trying to push her out of her comfort zone and confront her past.  Even though Quincy seems to have her act together, it becomes clear pretty quickly that it was more of a façade than anything else and that without that healthy daily dose of Xanax, she would be a real mess.

Samantha is such an enigmatic character.  It’s impossible to tell what’s going on with her, what her motivations are for seeking out Quincy after all this time, and what her end game is. She’s also very evasive about where she has been for all these years – “here and there” and what she has been doing – “this and that.”  It becomes a little unnerving that she won’t offer up any real information about herself, especially when she’s pushing Quincy like she is.

Endless Twists and Turns.  Final Girls is one of those wonderfully well-crafted thrill rides that constantly keeps the reader guessing about where the story is going and who the bad guy really is.  Every single time I thought I had things all figured out, I ended up being dead wrong.  Sager is an incredible story teller and takes you on a journey that is full of suspense and twists and turns, and never once, even remotely predictable.

Past vs. Present.  Sager has structured the story so that most of what we see comes from Quincy’s perspective.  The chapters basically alternate between Quincy’s present day life and what happened when she and her friends went to Pine Cottage.  So while we’re following Quincy’s day-to-day life in the present – how she’s coping, especially in light of the new interest in “Final Girls” following Lisa’s death, etc., we’re also being fed bits and pieces about what happened at Pine Cottage.  It added so much suspense to have both stories, – the past and the present – unfold this way. I thought it was very effective storytelling.

The Ending.  All I’m going to say here is OMG, I never saw it coming. Wow.

DISLIKES

This is so random and nitpicky, but the constant mentioning of the grape soda drove me a little crazy as I was reading.  I have no idea why it bothered me so much, but by about the halfway point, I just kept thinking “No More Grape Soda!”  This is obviously a quirk with me and I’m sure thousands of other readers will have absolutely no issue with the soda, haha!

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for a well written thriller with a unique and unpredictable storyline, this is your book.  And if you don’t believe me, you can believe Stephen King since he is the master when it comes to thrillers.

 

RATING:  4.5 STARS

Thanks so much to Netgalley, Riley Sager, and Dutton Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  This in no way shapes my opinion of the book.

four-half-stars

About Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.

Riley’s second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was published in 2018 and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It was inspired by the classic novel and film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten. A television adaptation is being developed by Amazon Studios.

His next book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, inspired by a lifelong fascination with the grand apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, will be published in July.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”