Weekly Recap #36: Week of 1/14 – 1/20

 

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.

Unfortunately I’m not off to the greatest start on my resolution to get more organized and schedule my posts far in advance.  Hopefully today will be productive, but as of right now, I have only two posts scheduled for the rest of the month.  Usually I’m a little better off than that, but someone unexpectedly quit at work last week and there was endless drama about it that followed me home each night and I just couldn’t focus on writing anything.  Thankfully we’ve come up with a game plan to move forward until her replacement is found, so hopefully now I can buckle down and really work on my goal.

That said, I have managed to finish reading all of my January ARCs and am writing the last of the reviews today so I guess I am doing better at staying on top of my ARCs so far, lol.

I’m thinking of following in the footsteps of several of my fellow bloggers and just doing mini reviews for most of the backlisted books I’m reading.  Unless I have a lot to say about a pre-2018 book, I like the idea of just making the review short and sweet and moving on, saving my lengthier reviews for ARCs and 2018 releases.  I’m thinking/hoping it will allow me a little more time to focus on things like discussion posts, which I really want to do more of this year.

On the non-blog front, I had this random nostalgic moment and started rewatching the old Party of Five series on Netflix.  I had forgotten how much of a crush I had on Matthew Fox, lol.  And the new season of Grace and Frankie dropped this weekend too, so I can’t wait to dive into that. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda are just comedy gold in that series. Love it!

Oh well, time to start working on reviews and posts to schedule!  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

     
   

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

      
  
  
     

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

        

 

TOTALLY RANDOM

Book Review: UNSUB by Meg Gardiner

Book Review:  UNSUB by Meg GardinerUNSUB by Meg Gardiner
five-stars
Series: UNSUB #1
Published by Dutton on June 27th 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 366
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB is my first read for the 2018 Beat the Backlist Challenge and I have to say I don’t think I could have possibly picked a better book to start with.  UNSUB is a riveting serial killer thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the last, and not only that, but it will also have you screaming for the next book in the series because it ends with a cliffhanger that will blow your mind.

UNSUB follows a cold case that features a serial killer called The Prophet that appears to have been inspired by the Zodiac Killer.  The Prophet terrorized residents of the San Francisco Bay area for several years, leaving behind a trail of bodies, each with the ancient symbol for Mercury etched into its flesh, and accompanied by cryptic messages that were seemingly impossible to decode.  Not only did The Prophet excel in committing increasingly gruesome murders, but he also took immense pleasure in playing mind games with both the families of the victims and with local law enforcement, particularly the lead investigator on the case, Mack Hendrix.  The Prophet was never caught, but he left a trail of wreckage in his wake, including Mack Hendrix, who lets the killer get too far into his head and ends up in a psych ward for six months.  By the time he is released, his career and his marriage are over, and his relationship with his daughter Caitlyn appears to be on the same path.

Fast forward more than twenty years and bodies suddenly start turning up in the Bay area again, complete with the Mercury symbol and more cryptic messages.  All signs point to either a return of The Prophet or else they have a copycat killer on their hands.  It’s all hands on deck to stop the killer as soon as possible, only this time it’s not Mack Hendrix on the case.  Instead, it’s his daughter, Caitlyn Hendrix, who like her father, has joined the police force. Caitlyn is a rookie cop who typically works in narcotics, but because she possesses extensive knowledge of The Prophet’s original case, as well as access to the biggest resource of all, her father, she ends up being assigned to the new case.

Caitlyn immediately seeks out her father, but he is understandably reluctant to help.  This case has already destroyed his life once and he doesn’t want to let it in his head again. And he most certainly doesn’t want The Prophet to target his daughter and ruin her life as well.  Caitlyn chooses to ignore her father’s pleas that she stay far away from the case.  She is determined to capture this killer and bring him to justice, not just because of all of the murders he committed, but also because he haunted her childhood and destroyed her family as well.

Is this killer actually The Prophet returned or are the police just dealing with a clever copycat?  Whoever it is, can Caitlyn find and stop him? And most importantly, can she work the case without letting this killer get inside her head, thus avoiding the mistakes her father made?

There’s so much to love about this book.  Serial killer cases have always fascinated me, as do shows like Criminal Minds, where so much emphasis is placed on behavioral analysis and building profiles of the killers law enforcement is trying to catch.  In many ways, UNSUB reads like an episode of Criminal Minds, which made it a great fit for me.

I loved the pacing, the constant building of suspense as more and more bodies piled up, along with more and more of those cryptic messages.  The author’s use of those messages was actually one of my favorite parts of the book. At times, I felt just as desperate to decipher them as Caitlyn and her team did.  There was something so familiar about them, yet their overall meaning felt just out of reach, and it was maddening at times but, man, did it keep me turning the pages!

Caitlyn Hendrix was also a big draw for me.  I really liked this character and thought Gardiner did a wonderful job fleshing her out and giving her more depth than I was initially expecting from this kind of book.  She’s smart and tough, with great instincts for her job, but then there’s also a touch of vulnerability to her because of the way The Prophet case has impacted most of her life and strained her relationship with her father.  I loved the exploration of the father-daughter relationship that we get throughout UNSUB too. I think it adds a layer of emotional depth to the story without distracting from the serial killer case itself.  That personal touch really took the book to the next level for me and made it a much stronger read than if it had been a straight procedural.

That cliffhanger ending!  I’m kind of kidding here because the cliffhanger in UNSUB is actually brilliant, but I just hate cliffhangers so much.  Thankfully I was approved for an ARC of the second book in the series so I was able to jump right in and continue this gripping story.

UNSUB is truly an outstanding read.  If you’re into serial killer thrillers, you won’t want to miss this one!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.

Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

five-stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Spotlight on GOODBYE, PERFECT from Sara Barnard

 

“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.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

* * * * *

My selection for this week is Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard.  I’m excited for this book because I just finished my first book from Sara Barnard last week, A Quiet Kind of Thunder, and fell in love with the way she develops such amazingly realistic characters and with the way she writes about friendships.  I was ecstatic to learn that she has another book coming out and that I only have to wait a few weeks to get my hands on it!

 

GOODBYE, PERFECT by Sara Barnard

Publication Date:   February 8, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild – what am I? 

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

 

 

 * * * * *

 

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 CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – My Top 10 Bookish Goals & Resolutions for 2018

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!

This week’s TTT topic is Bookish Resolutions/Goals for 2018.  This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately since we’re at the start of a new year. I did pretty well with most of my goals last year, but there’s definitely always room for improvement.

Here are some areas that I hope to work on for the upcoming year…

 

* * * * *

MY TOP TEN BOOKISH RESOLUTIONS/GOALS FOR 2018

 

1.  GET BETTER ABOUT SCHEDULING AHEAD (I.E. STOP PROCRASTINATING!)

Procrastinating is probably one of my worst habits as a blogger and it’s something I really need to work on.  I finally started using the built-in Schedule Posts feature on my blog late last year, but thus far, I’ve not been very good at scheduling more than a few days ahead.  I’d like to work toward having at least 2 weeks’ worth of posts scheduled at all times.  I’m a procrastinator at heart but if I can improve on this, it will make my life so much easier.

 

2.  MAKE A DENT IN THE ENORMOUS PILE OF UNREAD BOOKS THAT I ALREADY OWN.

Between the physical books in my house and the e-books on my Kindle, I probably have enough unread books to keep me busy for at least a couple of years.  It’s time to really do something about that, both in terms of reading more of them and in purging the ones I’m just not interested in reading anymore.  I’ve joined the Beat the Backlist Challenge again this year in hopes that it will keep me motivated to achieve this goal.

 

3.  WRITE MORE DISCUSSION POSTS.

This was one of my goals last year as well and while I did okay with it, I’d like to do better this year.  Part of my issue last year in addition to the eternal struggle to come up with topics to write about is that because of my extreme procrastination (see Goal 1), I never seem to have enough time to actually sit down and write discussion posts.  If I can get Goal 1 under control, hopefully there will be more time to work on discussion posts.  I also joined a discussion challenge in hopes of facilitating this goal.

 

4.  FINISH MORE SERIES.

This goal kind of ties in with Goal 2.  I have so many series where I read the first book, loved it, purchased the next books, and then nothing…  Since I am also constantly starting new series, it’s time to finish up some of those that have been lingering for ages.

 

5.  REQUEST ARCS MORE SELECTIVELY.

Now that I’ve been consistently reviewing for almost 2 years, I have been getting approved for a lot more ARCs than I used to.  I’m starting to reach that point where I have too many sitting in my queue waiting to be read and because I don’t want my ARCs to turn into the same problem I have with older books, I want to work on being more selective about the ARCs I request.  I’d love to be able to keep my Netgalley percentage at 80% for more than 10 minutes, lol.

 

6.  READ AND PROMOTE MORE DEBUT AUTHORS.

I guess this one is self-explanatory but I also signed up for a challenge to motivate me to achieve this goal.  I’m hoping to read at least 12 debut authors this year.

 

7.  CONSISTENTLY POST AT LEAST 5 TIMES A WEEK.

I’m pretty confident that I will never be one of those bloggers who is able to post everyday.  I’m just not a good enough planner for that, and I know I’d be setting myself up for failure to even attempt it.  I managed to post at least 4 times a week all last year and sometimes even made it up to 5 or 6 posts on weeks where life wasn’t too chaotic.  I’m aiming for 5 posts every week this year. Fingers crossed!

 

8.  STOP COMPARING MYSELF TO OTHER BLOGGERS.

This is probably as much a mental health goal as it is a blogging goal, but I want to really focus on just doing my own thing and not comparing myself to other bloggers.  My favorite part about blogging, aside from the community itself, is that there really is no right or wrong way to blog.  When I first started blogging, I remember reading comments out on social media from fellow bloggers “I don’t understand why some bloggers do __________.” (fill in the blink with the nitpick of your choice).   Comments like that used to stress me out and make me second guess everything I was posting and feel like a failure.  After almost two years of blogging, however, I’m getting better about ignoring comments like that.  Once I was able to do that, I started enjoying blogging so much more.  I want to continue that trend this year.

 

9.  REMEMBER REAL LIFE IS GOING TO GET IN THE WAY OF BLOGGING SOMETIMES & THAT’S OKAY.

This goal ties in with Goal 8 and not stressing over my blog.   Even though I know real life comes first and that it’s occasionally going to get in the way of whatever I’m doing with my blog, I still have those freak out moments when I don’t get to post as often as I had planned or if it takes me a few extra days to visit all of the blogs I want to visit.  My goal for this year is to really stay mindful of the fact that blogging is a hobby.  If I have to step away from it to attend to real-life issues that come up, it will still be here when I come back.  The blogging community isn’t going to forget I exist because I had to take a few days off.

 

10. EMBRACE MY INNER MOOD READER.

I had a few moments last year where reading felt like a bit of chore.  I won’t call it a slump because I was still okay with the books I was reading, but even though I enjoyed them, sometimes I felt like I was forcing myself to read popular books even if I wasn’t really into them at the moment.  This year I want to make a point to listen to my inner mood reader.  If my inner mood reader has no interest in reading a popular book that has been super-hyped, but would rather I pick up my old copy of Pride and Prejudice and re-read that instead, then I’m going listen to the mood reader rather than force myself to read something I’m just not feeling at the moment.

 

* * * * *

 

Question:  What are some of your bookish goals for 2018?

Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Book Review:  A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara BarnardA Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
four-half-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on January 9th 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Buy on 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 know we’re only halfway through January, but I have a strong feeling that Sara Barnard’s A Quiet Kind of Thunder has already secured itself a place on my Best of 2018 list.  It’s one of the most gorgeous contemporary stories I’ve read in a long time and I don’t know that I’ve ever related to a main character more than I related to Steffi Brons.

Steffi is a high school student who was diagnosed with selective mutism as a young child and who has lived with social anxiety and chronic shyness all her life.  What this means for Steffi is that, for most of her life, it has been nearly impossible for her to effectively communicate verbally with pretty much anyone outside of her immediate family.  And because there were even times when she had trouble verbally communicating with her family, she and every member of her family learned how to use sign language as a workaround.

About the only non-family member Steffi is able to easily communicate with is her best friend, Tem.  Steffi and Tem have known each other since they were toddlers, and in many ways, Tem has acted as somewhat of an interpreter in social settings such as school over the years when Steffi has just not been able to get the words out on her own.  Up until this year, that is.  Tem ends up transferring to a new school, and Steffi is on her own.  With the help of her therapist, however, Steffi begins taking some new medication and also starts making plans to slowly but surely challenge herself to better cope with her anxiety and shyness.

Enter Rhys Gold, the new boy in school.  Rhys is deaf and has transferred to Steffi’s school, and since Steffi is the only student at the school who knows sign language, their teachers decide it would be a great idea to pair them up so that Steffi can help Rhys get acclimated to his new environment.  Because Rhys can’t hear, it doesn’t matter to him that Steffi usually cannot speak.  They find plenty of other ways to communicate that don’t involve speaking and form a fast friendship that quickly turns into something more.

With so many changes going on in her life, Steffi starts to have a lot of questions:  Can she ever overcome her anxiety and go out and live a normal life? Can she go off to college and live away from her parents?  If there’s an emergency, would she be able to cope with her crippling shyness enough to get help?  And then there are the matters of the heart – is she really falling for Rhys or does she think she is because the relationship is easy because no speaking is necessary?  And finally, after all of these years of living this way, if Steffi is able to overcome her anxiety, will she even know who she is anymore?  Will she recognize herself?

This is one of those books where there’s so much to love.  It has wonderfully-drawn, realistic main characters in both Steffi and Rhys.  I fell in love with both of them immediately – Steffi, because I could relate to her crippling shyness and social anxiety as those are issues I’ve dealt with all my life as well, and Rhys, because he’s charming and friendly, and I loved that he left his deaf school because he wanted to challenge himself in an environment where everyone around him was not hearing-impaired.

I especially related to Steffi because of her determination to challenge herself a little at a time to better cope with her anxiety. I remember doing similar things when I was in school, challenging myself to raise my hand and answer questions in class, etc.  Watching Steffi in many ways was like reliving many of my own school experiences so of course I was cheering her on every step of the way.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself in a character as much as I see myself in Steffi.

In addition to having these two amazing main characters, I also loved the focus on friendships and family that Barnard presents in A Quiet Kind of Thunder.  I absolutely adored the friendship between Steffi and Tem.  Tem is a fabulously well-developed character in her own right, but what I loved most about her was that she just “gets” Steffi. She accepts her exactly the way she is and supports her in every way that she can.  I loved how realistic the friendship felt, especially when it came to some of their heart-to-heart conversations.  Their conversations are honest and intimate and were conversations that I could totally imagine myself having with my best friend when I was that age.

The family support that we see in A Quiet Kind of Thunder is wonderful too. So many times we see parents that are oblivious to what is going on in their teen’s lives or they are unsupportive.  Thankfully, not in this case.  Yes, Steffi’s parents are of course concerned about her and are apprehensive about the idea that someday she will move out and go away to college.  They’ve known her all her life and have seen firsthand just how crippling the anxiety has been for Steffi.  But, that said, they have also done everything parents can possibly do to get her, not only the professional help that she needs to cope with it, but also the support at home.  And we see the same kind of support at Rhys’ house, with his parents being on board with the idea of him challenging himself at a mainstream high school, etc.  It just made for a nice reading experience to actually like all of the parents that were in the story for a change.

I could probably write for days about everything I loved about this book, but I’ll wrap up by talking a little about the diversity and the portrayal of mental illnesses and disabilities.  One of Barnard’s main characters has selective mutism and severe anxiety, while the other is hearing impaired and also happens to be bi-racial.  Tem is a POC as well.  I thought Barnard did a beautiful job of writing a book with a diverse cast of characters without making it feel like she was just checking off boxes.

I also thought she handled the selective mutism, the social anxiety, and the deafness in a well-informed and respectful way.  I felt like I learned a lot about all of them, and I loved the book’s positive message that even with any of these conditions, you can still live a productive and meaningful life, and not only that, but yes, you can find love.

Speaking of love, I’ll admit I got a little worried that the book’s message would be that having a boyfriend is somehow a magic cure-all for anxiety.  Thankfully, A Quiet Kind of Thunder does nearly the opposite.  Steffi clearly acknowledges throughout the story that she is probably doing as well as she is with her anxiety because of the new meds.  There never comes a time when she attributes it to having a love life.  So no worries at all on that front.

When I first started reading, I thought I was going to have an issue with the romance between Rhys and Steffi because it definitely had an insta-love feel to it at first. I was able to get past that, however, because Barnard takes the time to have her characters explore the same questions I was asking about how they really do feel about each other:  Do they like each other because they really feel like they have a connection or do they like each other because it’s convenient?  Is Rhys only hanging out with Steffi because she’s the only one at the school who knows sign language?  And is Steffi hanging out with Rhys because she can use sign language rather than actually having to speak?  As soon as Steffi and Rhys started thinking about their own connection in these terms and started working through their own doubts, I was much more comfortable with their relationship moving forward since it added an extra layer of depth to all of the initial fluffiness.

If you’re looking for a beautifully written coming of age story that also includes a little romance in addition to tackling more serious issues like mental health, I’d highly recommend A Quiet Kind of Thunder.  It’s an engaging and moving read that is sure to put a smile on your face.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A girl who can’t speak and a boy who can’t hear go on a journey of self-discovery and find support with each other in this gripping, emotionally resonant novel from bestselling author Sara Barnard. Perfect for fans of Morgan Matson and Jandy Nelson.

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.

Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life. The condition’s name has always felt ironic to her, because she certainly does not “select” not to speak. In fact, she would give anything to be able to speak as easily and often as everyone around her can. She suffers from crippling anxiety, and uncontrollably, in most situations simply can’t open her mouth to get out the words.

Steffi’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to help him acclimate. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk. As they find ways to communicate, Steffi discovers that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. But as she starts to overcome a lifelong challenge, she’ll soon confront questions about the nature of her own identity and the very essence of what it is to know another person.

four-half-stars

About Sara Barnard

Sara lives in Brighton and does all her best writing on trains. She loves books, book people and book things. She has been writing ever since she was too small to reach the “on” switch on the family Amstrad computer. She gets her love of words from her dad, who made sure she always had books to read and introduced her to the wonders of secondhand book shops at a young age.

Sara is trying to visit every country in Europe, and has managed to reach 13 with her best friend. She has also lived in Canada and worked in India.

Sara is inspired by what-ifs and people. She thinks sad books are good for the soul and happy books lift the heart. She hopes to write lots of books that do both. BEAUTIFUL BROKEN THINGS is her first book and a dream come true.

Email: info@sarabarnardofficial.com

For promotional enquiries, please contact: Rogers, Coleridge and White

Weekly Recap #35: Week of 1/6 – 1/13

 

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’m a little late getting my Sunday post up today because I have family from Florida visiting this week.  I wish it was purely a social visit, but it’s because my father-in-law has been in the hospital since last weekend.  His initial diagnosis was congestive heart failure, which made the end sound near, so family near and far came rushing to town to offer their support and to be there to say their goodbyes, if necessary.  Thankfully, however, the initial diagnosis turned out to be only somewhat correct.  Yes, he had fluid that was forcing his heart to work too hard, but the fluid itself was being caused by a terrible case of bronchitis.  So it’s entirely treatable.  He’s responding well to the treatments and seems to be on the mend now, getting stronger everyday.  He came home yesterday so now we’ve just been using the time to visit with our relatives who we don’t see nearly as often as we would like.

In spite of all of that, or maybe because of it since I wasn’t sleeping well while waiting for news on his health, I’ve managed to somehow already read 5 books this year and have started on my 6th and 7th books.  It was a mix of backlist books and new releases so I’m off to a pretty good start on two of my reading challenges, which is exciting.  This week I’m hoping the reading streak will continue, and the writing streak as I’ve gotten mostly caught up writing reviews as well.

This week I’ll also be posting my list of bookish resolutions and goals for the upcoming year.  I’ve taken a couple of weeks to think about them and I’m feeling pretty good about the ones I’ve chosen and can’t wait to share them with you.

Oh well, I should probably stop being a bad host and get back to my guests.  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

     
  

UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

      
  
  
     

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

    

 

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

Source: Pinterest

Book Review: Origin

Book Review:  OriginOrigin by Dan Brown
four-stars
Series: Robert Langdon, #5
Published by Doubleday Books on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 461
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

MY REVIEW:

I know Dan Brown has a lot of critics who say that his books have become too formulaic, that they follow a predictable pattern.  While I won’t deny that may be true, especially with respect to his Robert Langdon series, I will also be the first to stand up and say “So what?”  I personally LOVE the formula and get ridiculously excited every time I hear that a new Dan Brown book is coming out.  I’m not sure what it is about Brown’s books that consistently draw me in – in some ways, I think they bring out my inner conspiracy theorist – but whatever the draw is, he always sucks me in from the first page and keeps me turning the pages well into the night.  And Origin was no exception.  I devoured its nearly 500 pages in less than two days!

For those unfamiliar with Robert Langdon, he is a professor of symbology and religious iconography at Harvard University.  He has become somewhat of a household name in academic circles as his expertise in those subject areas have helped to uncover and stop some pretty major conspiracies over the years.  In Origin, Langdon has been invited to an event at the prestigious Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain by one of his former students, Edmond Kirsch.  Kirsch, who is now a 40 year-old billionaire and futurist, plans to make an announcement at this event.  He claims to have made a discovery which he believes will change the face of science and will turn all of the world’s religions upside down. Kirsch says that his discovery answers two of the most fundamental questions of human existence:  1) Where do we come from?  and 2) Where are we going?  Because his announcement involves Langdon’s specialty, Religion, Kirsch wanted to have his former professor present at the announcement.

As soon as the presentation begins, Langdon senses that Kirsch’s announcement will be controversial and that it will have the potential to send shockwaves through the religious community.  Prior to the big reveal, however, tragedy strikes and Kirsch is assassinated before he can unveil his discovery.  In the midst of the ensuing chaos, Langdon makes a split second decision that could put his own life in danger –  if someone was willing to kill Kirsch rather than let his discovery see the light of day, then Langdon owes it to Kirsch to not let his secret die with him.  Langdon teams up with Ambra Vidal, the museum director who was most closely working with Kirsch on the details of his presentation and announcement. Vidal knows that Kirsch’s presentation was protected by a cryptic password and that without that password, they have no way of unlocking the truth.  So begins a quest to discover Kirsch’s password that takes Langdon and Vidal on a path marked by modern art, enigmatic symbols, and of course danger once those who killed Kirsch realize what Langdon and Vidal are trying to do.

Will Langdon be able to unlock the mystery of Kirsch’s discovery? And if so, what ramifications will Kirsch’s discovery have on the rest of the world?  Where do we come from?  Where are we going?

 

Okay, so I’m going to start simple here and say that I just love Robert Langdon. There’s not a lot to Langdon in terms of character development because Brown’s novels are primarily plot-driven, but I just really enjoy watching Langdon get his geek on when it comes to following and deciphering religious-based clues. He can find meaning in the most seemingly insignificant symbol and even five books into the series, it never ceases to fascinate me.  I also love that he’s kind of a famous nerd, and that as brilliant as he is when it comes to symbology and religious iconography, he still has this sense of fun and quirkiness about him. I mean, seriously, the guy wears an antique Mickey Mouse watch!  And I know Tom Hanks was cast to play Langdon in the movies, but in my mind, Langdon doesn’t look like Tom Hanks. Instead, he looks like Harrison Ford. So yeah, Langdon is a handsome, nerdy guy with a Mickey Mouse watch. What’s not to love?

Another aspect of the Langdon series I’ve always enjoyed involves the setting.  Dan Brown always places the trail of clues Langdon must find and unravel in such exciting cities.  In Angels & Demons, he took us through the streets of Rome, and in the DaVinci Code, we traveled through Paris and London. The Lost Symbol then took us through Washington, D.C., while Inferno transported us to Florence, Venice, and even Istanbul.  Origin doesn’t slack in the setting department either as it transports us to the glorious cities of Bilbao, Madrid, and Barcelona.  If you want to travel without ever leaving your reading chair, pick up a Dan Brown book and off you’ll go!

I also think that, formulaic or not, Brown does a masterful job of building up the suspense in his novels.  He structures the narrative so that we get alternating chapters between different characters in the story – some of whom are, like Langdon, clearly protagonists, while others are clearly antagonists who are trying to stop Langdon.  I liked not only seeing the story unfold from both sides of the equation at the same time, but also feeling the suspense build as each side inched forward toward their ultimate goal. The question of “Who’s going to get there first?” coupled with the desire to know the truth about Kirsch’s discovery really drives the story forward at a rapid clip.  I just couldn’t put the book down until I knew everything.

Origin also doesn’t disappoint in the action department.  The story is infused with danger and action-packed scenes as Langdon and Vidal try to stay one step ahead of those who are desperate to stop them!

 

The one issue I have consistently had with the Robert Langdon series is that Langdon always seems to end up paired with a beautiful woman on his quest for the truth.  These pairings are never really romantic — the pair is usually just sifting through clues and bouncing ideas off of one another while trying to keep from getting killed by whoever doesn’t want the truth to come out — so that’s not my issue.  But when it happened again in Origin, I found myself wondering why it’s always a woman.  I think it’s time for Langdon to team up and geek out over symbols and religious iconography with another guy.  Langdon needs a bro-mance!

 

I adore Dan Brown’s novels and Origin is no exception to that.  Do I think his works are destined to be considered great works of literature?  No, probably not.  But that said, they are consistently entertaining and intense, and now that I’ve finished the fifth book in the series, I’m already hoping that there will be a sixth.  So, if you’re looking for an action-packed thrill ride that will also make you think about potentially life-changing questions like “Where do we come from?” and “Where are we going?” then I’d definitely say to give Origin a read. And if you’ve never read any of the Langdon series, I’d most highly recommend Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code. Those were both 5 star reads for me.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

 

four-stars

About Dan Brown

Dan Brown is the author of numerous #1 bestselling novels, including The Da Vinci Code, which has become one of the best selling novels of all time as well as the subject of heated debate among readers and scholars. Brown’s novels are published in 52 languages around the world with 200 million copies in print.

In 2005, Brown was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine, whose editors credited him with “keeping the publishing industry afloat; renewed interest in Leonardo da Vinci and early Christian history; spiking tourism to Paris and Rome; a growing membership in secret societies; the ire of Cardinals in Rome; eight books denying the claims of the novel and seven guides to read along with it; a flood of historical thrillers; and a major motion picture franchise.”

The son of a mathematics teacher and a church organist, Brown was raised on a prep school campus where he developed a fascination with the paradoxical interplay between science and religion. These themes eventually formed the backdrop for his books. He is a graduate of Amherst College and Phillips Exeter Academy, where he later returned to teach English before focusing his attention full time to writing. He lives in New England with his wife.

Brown’s latest novel, Origin, explores two of the fundamental questions of humankind: Where do we come from? Where are we going?

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Spotlight on TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo

 

“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.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in for over a year now, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll just be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

* * * * *

My selection for this week is To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo.  This one caught my eye because of that amazing cover and because it sounds so much like The Little Mermaid with a twist and The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite tales.

 

TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo

Publication Date:   March 6, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

 

 

 * * * * *

 

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 CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I Totally Meant to Read in 2017…But Didn’t

Designed at canva.com

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is Ten Books We Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To (and totallyyyy plan to get to in 2018!!)

Boy, this had the potential to be a VERY long list since I always have such great intentions of reading all of the books on my TBR each year.  So many books, so little reading time!  Anyway, to make the list a little more manageable, I decided to limit it to 2017 releases that I had fully planned to read in 2017 but somehow just didn’t quite make it happen.  Rest assured though…they are all on my reading list for the Beat the Backlist Challenge and I will read them this year no matter what!

On a bittersweet note, this is also the last week that Top Ten Tuesday will be hosted at The Broke and the Bookish as they will be closing their doors (hopefully not forever).  Thanks for all of the effort you ladies put into hosting TTT each week.  It has been one of my favorite features ever since I started blogging.  That said, on a much happier note, starting next week Top Ten Tuesday will start being hosted over at That Artsy Reader Girl.  Thanks so much to Jana for taking on the hosting duties!

Now, without further ado, here’s my list…

* * * * *

Top Ten Books I Totally Meant to Read in 2017…But Didn’t

 

OUR DARK DUET BY VICTORIA SCHWAB

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE BY CELESTE NG

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN BY JOHN GREEN

THE DRY BY JANE HARPER

SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE

HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME

GIRL OUT OF WATER BY LAURA SILVERMAN

THE CHILD BY FIONA BARTON

DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING BY TRICIA LEVENSELLER

THE PERFECT STRANGER BY MEGAN MIRANDA

 

* * * * *

 

Question:  What are some books that you totally meant to read last year but didn’t quite get around to?

Book Review: The Immortalists

Book Review:  The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
three-stars
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on January 9th 2018
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Buy on 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:

Based on all of the 4 and 5 star ratings I’m seeing on Goodreads for this book, I think I’m going to be the “unpopular opinion” when it comes to Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists.  Let me start off by saying I didn’t hate it – it was a solid read for me and I was able to finish it in just a few days.  It just didn’t wow me like I thought it would based on the synopsis, which hooked me as soon as I read it.

The Immortalists begins its journey in New York, the Lower East Side, in 1969.  The story follows the Gold siblings – teenagers Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya – as they set out to meet a traveling fortune teller. Rumor has it that this fortune teller has the ability to predict the exact day a person will die, and the Golds can’t resist going to see her to hear what she has to say about each of them.

Armed with this information – if the fortune teller is to be believed – the Gold siblings begin to make their way in the world.  They choose not to share their dates with one another, although the youngest, Simon, hints that the fortune teller has said he will die young.  The novel then follows the siblings, one by one, over the next five decades, from the moment they each know their date of death until that date actually arrives so that we can see how (or if) knowing that information has any impact on choices they make in life.

 

My favorite part of The Immortalists is its central question: “Would you live your life any differently if you knew the exact date you would die?” This was the question in the synopsis that initially hooked me.  It’s just one of those questions that immediately makes you reflect on your own life and mortality.  As soon as I began following these siblings and seeing some of the choices they were making, it really made me think about what I would do if I was armed with the same knowledge they were.  Would I do anything differently? Pursue my dreams more aggressively, take more risks, etc.  The thought provoking aspect of this book was its biggest asset for me.  I could see this being a fantastic book club choice because of the discussion it naturally lends itself to.

I also enjoyed the way the story was presented.  In many ways it could be considered an extensive epic history of the Gold family. At the same time, however, because of the way we follow each sibling one at a time, it manages to be an intimate exploration of their individual personal lives as well.  I liked that combination.

 

I think my biggest issue with The Immortalists was with the characters themselves.  I just didn’t feel like I really connected with any of them.  Even though I was getting an in-depth look at each of their lives, I still somehow felt like an outsider just observing them, almost as if they were a psychology experiment.  I’m the kind of reader that really wants to connect with and relate to the characters in a book, so this just made it a little difficult for me to feel completely invested in their lives.

A second issue I had was with the predictability of Simon’s storyline.  As I mentioned, he hints that he will die young.  He chooses to quit school and move across the country to San Francisco. I don’t want to give away too many details so I’ll just say that we learn he is gay and looking for love.  Since much of his story takes place in the early 1980s, based on some rather reckless choices he makes, it became instantly clear to me what was going to happen to him if the fortune teller’s prediction turned out to be true.  It was still sad to read, but the predictability took some of the emotional punch out of it for me.  Thankfully, the other three siblings had less predictable storylines, but this one was definitely an easy guess for me.

A final issue I had was with the story of Varya, primarily because it features some pretty horrifying animal experimentation that I wish I hadn’t read about.  I found it so disturbing that it made it hard to make it to the end of the book.  There is an author’s note at the end to address the experimentation, which I was very grateful for, but it was just still so jarring to read about.

 

While I wish The Immortalists has been a better read for me, it still has a lot of good points and I’m sure plenty of others will love it.  Even with the issues I had with it, I was still pleased that it was such a thought-provoking read overall.  I predict that it will become a book club favorite this year!

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

three-stars

About Chloe Benjamin

Chloe Benjamin is an author from San Francisco, CA. Her first novel, The Anatomy of Dreams (Atria/Simon & Schuster, 2014), received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was long listed for the 2014 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her second novel, The Immortalists, is forthcoming from Putnam/Penguin Random House in January 2018. The Immortalists will be published in over thirteen countries, and TV/film rights have sold to the Jackal Group.

A graduate of Vassar College and of the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Chloe also teaches workshops on the business of publishing, from writing a novel to finding a literary agent. She lives with her husband in Madison, WI.