The Mid Year Freak Out Tag

 

I was tagged by Laurie at Laurie’s Bookshelf to complete this tag and it sounded like fun so I decided to give it a try, especially since I’ve been thinking about my year in reading so far anyway now that we’ve hit that mid year mark.  I’m also terrible when it comes to tagging people so if this looks like fun and you haven’t done it yet, feel free to consider yourself tagged.  🙂

 

 

1.  BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?

 

It’s hard to choose a favorite just because I’ve had some great reads so far this year, but I’d have to say The Cruel Prince is probably my favorite since it’s the one where I’m most anxious to get my hands on the next book in the series after the way this book ended.

 

2.  BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ IN 2018?

 

I definitely have to go with Legendary here.  It far exceeded my expectations and has me impatiently waiting for the third book in the series.

 

3.  NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO?

 

I ran out and purchased a copy of this book as soon as it was available but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’m determined to read it this summer.

 

4.  MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR?

 

I truly cannot wait to get a book that’s all about Felicity, especially since she was my favorite character in the first book.

 

5.  BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?

 

I had high hopes for this book.  The first book had been an average read for me but ended with an exciting cliffhanger that made me want to continue to the second book.  Unfortunately, the second book was an equally average read that built up to yet another cliffhanger.  I just lost interest at that point and have decided to quit the series.

 

6.  BIGGEST SURPRISE?

 

I definitely have to go with Legendary here as well, especially considering I wasn’t the biggest fan of Caraval and had been really thinking about quitting the series altogether.  Legendary was everything I wanted Caraval to be and more, so now I’m all about continuing this series.

 

7.  FAVORITE NEW TO YOU OR DEBUT AUTHOR?

 

  

I’ve started to read more contemporary fiction in 2018 and so both of these authors were new to me this year.  I adored these two books and can wait

 

8.  NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH?

 

I still need to write a proper review for this book, but it’s another of my favorite reads for 2018, and Prince Elian, who is a Prince but who prefers the life of a pirate/sailor is definitely one of my biggest fictional crushes so far this year.  He’s brave, determined, and also super snarky at times, which I really loved. His banter was Lira was pretty much EVERYTHING for me in this book.

 

9.  NEWEST FAVORITE CHARACTER?

 

I’m also going to throw this one over to To Kill a Kingdom because as much as I adored Prince Elian, I also fell in love with Lira.  She’s the Princes’ Bane and a total badass, but she also has some of the messiest relationships ever, particularly with her horrible mother.  Lira is a very complicated character and I became more and more fascinated by her the more I got to know her.

 

10.  BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?

 

This is one of the hardest books I’ve read so far this year.  It’s beautifully written the subject matter is just painful and brutal.  I cried a lot while reading it.

 

11.  BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY?

 

Starry Eyes wasn’t a laugh out loud funny book, but it was just one of those books that made me smile a lot while I was reading it.

 

12.  FAVORITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?

 

This probably isn’t a surprise to anyone, but I adored the film adaptation of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.

 

13.  FAVORITE POST YOU HAVE DONE THIS YEAR?

 

I suck when it comes to having to say I like something that I wrote, so I’m just going to go with the post that seemed to get the most feedback from my fellow bloggers, which was the one where I pondered why there are so many “GIRLS” in mysteries and thrillers.  I was referring to the titles of course, but that post generated a lot of discussions so I was pretty happy with it.

 

14.  MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT THIS YEAR?

 

15.  WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?

 

    

Honestly, the list of books I need to read by the end of the year is truly endless, but here are three that are priority reads for me as of this moment.  I really want to read Vicious asap since V.E. Schwab will be releasing the second book in the series soon.  I’m anxious to read In a Dark,Dark Wood soon because I just read my first book from Ruth Ware and loved it.  This one has been sitting on my shelf for a year or so now, so it’s time to read more Ruth Ware.  And lastly, I’ve been seeing a lot of great reviews for The Mermaid.  I love mermaid stories anyway so of course I want to read one that’s getting high marks from so many of my trusted blogger friends.

Review: LETTING GO OF GRAVITY by Meg Leder

Review:  LETTING GO OF GRAVITY by Meg LederLetting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on July 17, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 432
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:

Meg Leder’s Letting Go of Gravity is a beautiful, emotionally engaging story about a young woman named Parker and her twin brother, Charlie.  When the novel opens, Parker, as Class Valedictorian, is giving a speech at her graduation.  Parker has been wildly successful in her academic life – making straight As, achieving perfect scores on her SATs, getting accepted to Harvard where she plans to study to become a doctor, and landing herself a spot at a very competitive internship at the local children’s hospital.  Charlie, on the other hand, even though he’s Parker’s twin, is not graduating.  Instead, he is being held back because he missed too much time from school.  Why?  Because Charlie has been battling cancer.  He was diagnosed with it for the first time when he was in fourth grade, went into remission, only to have it return the summer before his senior year.

Parker is obsessed with making sure her twin is safe.  She watches over him like a hawk, reporting back to her parents anytime she fears Charlie might be doing something that will cause another relapse.  While Charlie understands where his sister is coming from, ultimately he can’t stand being around her because she makes him feel like he’s a caged animal with no freedom to do anything he wants to do.  Needless to say, their relationship is quite strained and Parker begins to wonder if things will ever be normal between them again…

 

I really loved Parker.  I thought she was just such a sweetheart and even though it drives Charlie crazy, I loved how devoted Parker is to him.  I have a sister, and she’s not even a twin, but I feel that level of fierce protectiveness for her that Parker has for Charlie.  Parker has devoted most of her life to watching over Charlie, so much so that he’s actually the main reason she’s planning to study pre-med at Harvard.  She wants to be a pediatric oncologist, specifically because of what has happened to Charlie.  Her parents are giddy about her decision, with her dad already starting to call her Dr. McCullough.  Parker, however, has been experiencing anxiety every time she thinks about going to Harvard in the fall, and when she arrives at the hospital to begin her internship, she has a full on panic attack and has to leave.  At this moment, Parker begins to seriously question if this is what she really wants.

The story is told from Parker’s perspective and this was fantastic too because the author does an incredible job of portraying all of the conflicting emotions that were at war in Parker’s head.  While Charlie may feel like a caged animal because everyone watches him like a hawk, Parker starts to feel equally caged in by her fears – fear of failure, fear of disappointing her loved ones, and of course, fear of losing her loved ones.  Being inside of Parker’s head was kind of a messy place to be because she has so much going on in there, but everything she’s thinking, feeling, and fearing just felt so realistic.

The relationships in Letting Go of Gravity were beautifully written as well. The very complex and strained sibling relationship between Parker and Charlie was my favorite, but I also loved the friendships.  Parker has three incredible friends, Finn, Em and Ruby, and they are as devoted to Parker as Parker is to Charlie.  Their support is unwavering but they are also all there to give Parker a kick in the pants when she really needs it.  There are also a couple of potential romances that come out of these friendships, but the author does a wonderful job of weaving those in gently so that they don’t get in the way of what I would say is more of a coming of age story than anything else as these friends give Parker the love and support she needs to figure out who she is and what she really wants out of life.

Lastly, this story is just packed with moving, relatable, and relevant themes, which is something that always makes a contemporary novel appealing to me.  This novel tackles how cancer and other serious illnesses impact, not just the patient, but also the entire family – the fear that comes when faced with the possibility of losing someone you love, the sacrifices you’re willing to make to do everything in your power to keep that from happening, and so on.  Letting Go of Gravity also explores anxiety and the pressure of putting too much on yourself, especially if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, but really, even if you think you’re doing it for the right reasons.  As the title implies, sometimes you just have to let go of what is weighing you down.

 

The only real issue I had with Letting Go of Gravity was that I found some of it to be a little too predictable.  I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything for other readers, but I guessed almost immediately how things were going to go for Parker.  I can’t say that it really lessened my enjoyment of the overall story, but I always prefer it when plot twists actually surprise me.

 

Letting Go of Gravity is a beautiful and moving book.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to fans of John Green, Jennifer Niven, and Brigid Kemmerer.  If you like emotional books that feature sibling relationships and great friendships, and that might make you shed a tear or two, give Letting Go of Gravity a try.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Twins Parker and Charlie are polar opposites.  Where Charlie is fearless, Parker is careful.  Charlie is confident while Parker aims to please.  Charlie is outgoing and outspoken; Parker is introverted and reserved.  And of course, there’s the one other major difference: Charlie got leukemia. Parker didn’t.

But now that Charlie is officially in remission, life couldn’t be going better for Parker. She’s landed a prestigious summer internship at the hospital and is headed to Harvard in the fall to study pediatric oncology—which is why the anxiety she’s felt since her Harvard acceptance is so unsettling. And it doesn’t help that her relationship with Charlie has been on the rocks since his diagnosis.

Enter Finn, a boy who’s been leaving strange graffiti messages all over town. Parker can’t stop thinking about those messages, or about Finn, who makes her feel free for the first time: free to doubt, free to make mistakes, and free to confront the truth that Parker has been hiding from for a long time.

That she keeps trying to save Charlie, when the person who really needs saving is herself.

four-stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Sarah Henning’s SEA WITCH

 

“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 SEA WITCH by Sarah Henning.  I just recently read and loved To Kill a Kingdom, which is a Little Mermaid retelling, so when I saw that this book was also a Little Mermaid retelling but from the perspective of the villain, it immediately became a must-read for me.

 

SEA WITCH by Sarah Henning

Publication Date:  July 31, 2018

 

 

From Goodreads:

The fairy tale you thought you knew…

The story of the Sea Witch, the villainess from Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale The Little Mermaid, told from the viewpoint of the Sea Witch when she was a twelve-year-old girl…

Evie has been wracked with guilt ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned. So when a girl appears on shore with an uncanny resemblance to Anna, Evie befriends her in an effort to make amends. And as the two girls catch the eyes – and hearts – of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at happy ever after. But is Evie’s new friend really who she says she is? Or will Evie discover, too late, the truth of her bargain? A gripping story of friendship, betrayal and the power of hope…Because ‘though magic can shape life and death… love is the one thing it cannot control

 * * * * *

 

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 – The Snail’s Pace Edition: Top 10 Series You Probably Think I’ve Quit, But I Swear I Haven’t!

 

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 Series I’ve Given Up On/Don’t Plan to Finish.  I’ve done a similar topic recently and don’t really have any new series that I’ve quit since then.  For that reason, I decided to tweak the topic a bit and instead share with you a list of series that it probably seems like I’ve quit because it’s taking me so long to actually get through them.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I really struggle to keep up with series. I hate waiting for the next book in the series to come out, and if the series goes on for too many books, I tend to lose interest, etc.  In the case of the series below, however, I love what I’ve read so far and I’m determined to finish them, no matter how long it takes me.  Even if in some cases, I’m looking at you ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ I’ve been reading it since late 2012, lol.

 

* * * * *

Top 10 Series You Probably Think I’ve Quit, But I Swear I Haven’t!

 

THE GRISHA TRILOGY by Leigh Bardugo

It took me forever to start the Grisha trilogy but I finally did manage to get through the first two books earlier this year.  I loved them both but then kind of stalled out on the series.  I’m determined to finish it this summer though.

 

RED RISING SAGA by Pierce Brown

I read the first book in this series back when I first started blogging, fell in love with it, and then promptly fell asleep when it came to continuing the series.  I have purchased the second book though so we’ll see if I get through that this year.

 

A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R.R. Martin

I have been reading this series since late 2012 and although I seriously love it, the books are just so darn long!  I read one every year or so and that’s about all I can take.  I’m up to the fourth book now and I’m determined to finish the series no matter how long it takes.

 

THE FIFTH WAVE by Rick Yancey

I have no excuse on this one aside from I completely forgot about it until glancing at my bookshelf to put together this list and seeing the second book in the series still sitting there unread.

 

PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS by Rick Riordan

I was reading this series with my son and we got through the first two books before he seemed to lose interest in it.  I, however, am still very much interested in continuing and will do so on my own if my son doesn’t wish to continue.

 

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes

The first book just gutted me so thoroughly that I’ve been hesitant to continue.  I will though. I just have to work myself up to it.

 

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA by Lauren Weisberger

I loved the first book in this series back in 2010 and really enjoyed it, but then I went through a phase where I wanted to read absolutely nothing that was labeled as Chick Lit.  I feel that I’m starting to come out of that phase a bit so I definitely see myself continuing this series at some point.

 

KINGDOM ON FIRE by Jessica Cluess

This is another series I haven’t yet continued because I forgot about it.  (Did I mention I have a real problem when it comes to keeping up with series?)

 

CLASH OF KINGDOMS by Erin Summerill

Yet another series that I forgot about until I recently saw that the third book will be coming out soon.

 

DC ICONS by Various Authors

I’ll admit that my excitement for this series waned a bit after seeing a lot of mixed reviews for the Batman: Nightwalker book.  I did adore Wonder Woman: Warbringer though so I definitely plan to continue, if for no other reason, than I need to get to the Catwoman and Superman books.

 

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Question:  Are there any series that are taking you forever to get through, but you’re determined not to quit them?

Review: ALL WE EVER WANTED by Emily Giffin

Review:  ALL WE EVER WANTED by Emily GiffinAll We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
four-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on June 26, 2018
Genres: 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:

Emily Giffin’s new novel All We Ever Wanted is an emotionally charged drama that deals with the wide ranging fallout from a party gone wrong.  The story follows Lyla Volpe, a young woman, who through hard work and good grades, has earned herself a spot at the prestigious Windsor Academy.  Because her family is not wealthy like most of the other families who have kids there, Lyla often feels she doesn’t quite fit in  Overall, she’s happy but does wish that she fit in better socially with her classmates. When the opportunity to attend a big party where the boy she has a crush on is sure to be, Lyla is immediately on board.  Things go south at the party though, when after having too much to drink, Lyla passes out on someone’s bed and a sexually explicit photo is taken of her, and along with a completely racist caption, is passed around on social media.

Finch Browning, who is actually the boy Lyla had a crush on, is the one who is accused of taking the photo, putting the racist caption on it, and sharing it with his friends.  When Finch’s parents find out, they are understandably upset, although for very different reasons.  Finch’s dad is worried that Finch’s acceptance to Princeton will be revoked if this incident goes on his school record, while Finch’s mother is appalled because what does it say about her as a parent if Finch really did do this and has so little respect for women.  Add Lyla’s father, Tom, into the mix, who would probably really just like to murder Finch for messing with his little girl, or at minimum, get him kicked out of school, and you have a recipe for contentious encounters and a highly emotional and dramatic read.

What I enjoyed most about All We Ever Wanted is how realistic and relatable the overall plot of the story is.  In this day and age of social media obsession, what happens to Lyla is pretty much every parent’s nightmare, whether you’re the parent of the girl in the photo or the parent of the boy who is accused of taking the photo and sharing it with all of his buddies.  I could easily see what happened with these students happening at pretty much any party in any community.

Not only was the situation itself realistically portrayed and relatable, but the characters were drawn equally realistically as well, especially Tom and Nina.  As a parent myself, I thought that every parent involved reacted as I expected they would.  Lyla’s father wants to protect his daughter at all costs and make those responsible for humiliating her pay, while Finch’s mother, although she of course loves her son and wants to protect him, knows that he also needs to face the consequences for his actions.  The reactions were dramatic and often messy, but they manage to be that way without falling into the melodramatic, soap opera category, mainly because it was just so easy to understand where each of them were coming from with their reactions. I felt the same about Lyla, who is torn between wanting to make someone pay and wanting to just forget that it even happened and move on with her life.

I also found All We Ever Wanted to be a powerful read in the sense that in addition to exploring all of the fallout from the actual incident at the party, it also exposes and explores a lot of other important and sometimes ugly issues: racism and prejudice, slut shaming and victim blaming, white privilege, and elitism. It even exposes those ugly people that we all know who thrive on other people’s problems because those problems make for good gossip.

Although I think the story would have been engaging no matter how it was presented to the reader, I really liked that Giffin has the story unfold from the perspective of three narrators: Lyla; her father, Tom; and Finch’s mom, Nina.  I felt like this approach added so many layers to the story that we might otherwise not have gotten if the story had come from – say, Finch—instead.  This way, we don’t hear from Finch so whether or not he actually did take the photo remains a mystery for much of the book. Instead, however, we are presented with some backstory of each of the other main characters, which further fleshes out their motivations for why they act the way they do upon learning about the photo incident.  The incident dredges up a lot of painful experiences from the past and causes both Nina and Tom to really start to question themselves, past choices they’ve made, and whether the lives they are currently living are even what they want anymore.  So, in this sense, the story is so much more than just the incident at the party and whether or not someone is going to be punished for it.

My only dislike, and I’m pretty sure we’re meant to dislike him, is Finch’s father.  He was arrogant, obnoxious, and although I did appreciate that he didn’t want to see his son’s future destroyed by a single lapse in judgment, I still found it appalling that he thought he could just throw money at a problem and make it go away.  He had no interest whatsoever in imposing any kind of real punishment on his son to teach him a lesson and he had equally no concern for Lyla who was the real victim in the whole incident.  He was just a horrible person and I felt my blood pressure rise every time he appeared in the book.

This was my first time reading one of Emily Giffin’s novels and I have to say it was just overall a very enjoyable read.  Giffin’s effortless writing style, along with such relatable characters and scenarios, made me breeze right through the story eager to find out how all of the characters would fare in the end.  I look forward to going back and trying some of Giffin’s earlier novels now that I’ve gotten my first taste of them.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

four-stars

About Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin, a Chicago native, graduated summa cum laude from Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, she moved to Manhattan and practiced litigation at a large firm for several years while she paid back her school loans, wrote a novel in her very limited spare time, and dreamed of becoming a writer.

Despite the rejection of her first manuscript, Giffin persisted, retiring from the legal profession and moving to London to pursue her dreams full time. It was there that she began writing Something Borrowed (2004), a story of a young woman who, upon turning thirty, finally learned to take a risk and follow her heart. One year later, Giffin’s own gamble paid off, as she completed her manuscript, landed an agent and signed a two-book deal on both sides of the Atlantic. The following summer, Something Borrowed, hailed as a “heartbreakingly honest debut” with “dead-on dialogue, real-life complexity and genuine warmth,” became a surprise sensation, and Giffin vowed never to practice law again.

Dubbed a “modern day Jane Austen” (Vanity Fair) and a “dependably down-to-earth storyteller” (New York Times), Giffin has since penned six more New York Times bestsellers, Something Blue (2005), Baby Proof (2006), Love the One You’re With (2008), Heart of the Matter (2010), Where We Belong (2012), The One & Only (2014) and First Comes Love (2016). Her eight novels, all filled with endearingly flawed characters and emotional complexity, have resonated deeply with both critics and readers around the world, achieving bestseller status in a number of countries, including the United States (#1), Canada (#1), United Kingdom, France, Brazil and Poland (#1). The books have been translated into thirty-one languages, with over eleven million copies sold worldwide. In addition, five of her novels have been optioned for the big screen and are in various stages of development. The first, Something Borrowed, hit theaters in May 2011, starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinski.

Giffin now resides with her husband and three young children in Atlanta. Her ninth novel, All We Ever Wanted, will be released on June 26, 2018.

Weekly Recap #58: Week of 6/17 – 6/23

 

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 been another quiet week for me, busy at work and lots of lounging around in my down time.  The highlight of my week was that I finally got to sit down and watch Love, Simon yesterday.  Such a super cute movie. It’s slightly different from the book but I still really loved it and highly recommend it to everyone, even if you don’t plan to read the book.

This weekend has been crazy at my house. Two of my nephews, ages 17 and 12, are up visiting from Florida.  We only see them once or twice a year so it has been a real treat for my son, who absolutely adores them and really looks up to the 17 year old.  All three of them are also video game nuts so they’ve been glued to the X-Box, yelling and screaming and just having a grand old time.  It sounds like party central at my house and thankfully the weather has been good this weekend so the hubby and I have been leaving the noise behind and hanging out outside on our deck.  My poor cat is so ready for them to leave though.  He does not like the noise and in his mind, the stranger danger, and I think if he could figure out how to pack their bags and set them on the doorstep, he totally would, lol.

I didn’t accomplish nearly as much reading as I had hoped to this week, but I did finish To Kill a Kingdom, which I thought was fantastic.  I’ve also started Letting Go of Gravity and am really enjoying that so far too.

I think that’s it for me. I hope everyone else has a great week! 🙂

 

WHAT I POSTED LAST WEEK

 

 

WHAT I’M READING THIS WEEK

 

         
  
 

 UPCOMING REVIEWS

 

        
  
 

 

 STACKING THE SHELVES

 

     
 
 

 

TOTALLY RANDOM

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for A MAN CALLED OVE & A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for A MAN CALLED OVE & A BOY MADE OF BLOCKSA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on July 15, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 337
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

Review:

Fredrick Backman’s A Man Called Ove follows the story of, you guessed it, a man by the name of Ove.  Ove is the quintessential grumpy old man in pretty much every way.  I actually couldn’t stand him for the first few chapters of the book.  He’s set in his ways, incredibly opinionated, and can be downright mean and rude at times.  What we also learn about him early on, however, is there’s a lot more going on with Ove than just your average grumpiness.  Ove is suffering from depression and having thoughts of suicide because his beloved wife has passed away and he’s just completely lost without her.  I felt much more sympathetic to Ove after learning this news and found myself wanting to know more about him.

My favorite part of the story therefore is how the author presents us with such a complete portrait of Ove. In addition to chapters that take us through Ove’s present circumstances, the author also includes chapters that feature life-shaping events from Ove’s past.  The more I learned about Ove, both past and present, the more lovable I found him.  I especially enjoyed the chapters that focused on how Ove met his wife.  This grumpy old man was actually downright adorable as he awkwardly pursued the girl of his dreams.

The secondary characters also added a lot of depth to the story.  The author does a wonderful job fleshing them out and making them feel like people you might actually run into in your own neighborhood. I was an especially big fan of Ove’s new neighbors.  They’re loud, kind of obnoxious, and basically introduce themselves to Ove by nearly mowing his house over with their moving trailer.  This family, especially the wife and her two daughters, are determined to make Ove an extended part of their family, whether he likes it or not, and they are always inserting themselves into his days, shaking up his entire routine.  They bring a lot of comedy and a lot of heart to the story, and they also bring their own brand of chaos to Ove’s way too orderly existence and I loved every minute of it!

If you want an utterly charming read that focuses on family, unexpected friendships, and the evolution of a grumpy old man into a not-quite-so-grumpy old man, then definitely give A Man Called Ove a try.  The humor and sarcasm is sure to make you laugh, and the overriding heartfelt message of compassion will bring a tear to your eyes.  4 STARS

 

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for A MAN CALLED OVE & A BOY MADE OF BLOCKSA Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 6, 2016
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex

He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.

Meet eight-year-old Sam. Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.

When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other . . . When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?

A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heartwarming story of family and love inspired by the author's own experiences with his son.

Review:

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I first started reading A Boy Made of Blocks, but what I got was a beautiful, heartfelt story of Alex Rowe, a man who has somehow taken a wrong turn in life and lost his connection to both his wife and their 8-year old autistic son, Sam.  The novel follows Alex’s journey as he is determined to figure out where he went wrong and how he can turn things around so that he can get his family and his life back.

I have to admit that it did take me a while to warm up to Alex.  I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t see what he was doing wrong, that he was either treating everything to do with Sam as a chore or even worse, was ignoring it all together, saying that he was busy at work, and leaving the brunt of raising Sam on his wife.  I kind of wanted to throttle him and tell him to grow up and stop being so selfish.  The more I got to know Alex, however, the more I realized how much he truly did love his son and that he just needed to find a way to connect with him on a real level so that everything else would sort its way out.  And even though I was initially annoyed at Alex for having gotten himself into such a self-inflicted mess with his family in the first place, I grew to admire his effort and determination to right his wrong.  No matter how many missteps and wrong moves he makes, he never gives up on trying to reconnect with Sam.

I thought the author did an especially beautiful job of portraying the vulnerability of a child who has autism, the strain that trying to raise such a child can put on a marriage, and the overall determination of parents to do whatever it takes to make sure their child feels safe and secure and has every opportunity to live a happy and successful life.  Sam was also absolutely precious and I was moved to tears watching his own emotional growth as he and his Dad begin to reconnect in a meaningful way.

A Boy Made of Blocks was an emotional and moving read for me.  I think my favorite quote from the book best sums it up:  “Life is an adventure, not a walk.  That’s why it’s difficult.”  Alex and Sam’s adventure is one you won’t want to miss.  4 STARS

FTC Disclosure: I received A Boy Made of Blocks 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.

four-stars

About Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

About Keith Stuart

Keith Stuart is an author and journalist. His heartwarming debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a major bestseller, and was inspired by Keith’s real-life relationship with his autistic son. Keith has written for publications including Empire, Red and Esquire, and is the former games editor of the Guardian. He lives with his wife and two sons in Frome, Somerset.

Can’t Wait Wednesday – Naomi Novik’s SPINNING SILVER

 

“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.

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My selection for this week is SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik.  I’ve not read anything by Novik before, although I’m constantly hearing great things about her novel Uprooted.  As most of you know, I’m kind of obsessed with retellings and I’ve never read a Rumplestilskin retellng before so reading the synopsis for Spinning Silver has me all kinds of excited!  (And look at that amazing cover too!) I also just picked up a copy of Uprooted because the e-book is on sale at Amazon so I’m all the more excited to dive into Novik’s stories.

 

SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik

Publication Date:  July 10, 2018

 

 

From Goodreads:

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

 

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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 CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Books I Plan to Read This Summer

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 Books to Read By the Pool/At the Beach (This can also serve as your summer TBR).  My plans for summer reading are a combination of cleaning out the old and getting a jump on the new.  I have several ARCs that I would like to get to this summer, but I also have several older releases that I’ve been wanting to read for months and in some cases, even a year or more.  (I think one or two of these books were probably on last year’s summer TBR too, but shhhhhh.)  I’m sure I’ll read more than these 10, but as of this moment (subject to change based on my mood), these are my ten priority reads for this summer.

 

Top 10 Books I Plan to Read This Summer

 

* * * * *

1. RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo

(I flew through the first two books in the Grishaverse trilogy but then got distracted by others books.  I need to get moving again and wrap up this fabulous series.)

 

* * * * *

 

2. VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab

(The second book in this series comes out soon, so I really need to get this one read before then. I’ve adored every book of Schwab’s that I’ve read so I don’t even know what I’m waiting for.)

 

* * * * *

 

3. IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware

(This book has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years now. I read and loved my first Ruth Ware book last month, so this is now a priority.)

 

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4. LETTING GO OF GRAVITY by Meg Leder

(A summer 2018 release that I’m looking forward to starting soon.)

 

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5. THE MERMAID by Christina Henry

(Another Summer 2018 release that I was just approved for and can’t wait to start.)

 

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6. CHARLOTTE WALSH LIKES TO WIN by Jo Piazza

(And one more Summer 2018 release that I can’t wait to get to.)

 

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7. DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING by Tricia Levenseller

(This has been on my TBR for well over a year now and I just keep putting it off.  I’m determined to get it off my backlist this summer.)

 

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8. TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo

(One of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and yet somehow I still haven’t read it 3 months after it was published.  Time to do something about that.)

 

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9. CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi

(Another of my most anticipated 2018 reads that has been sitting on my shelf for 3 months now.)

 

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10. LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer

(After falling in love with More Than We Can Tell, I really want to backtrack and read Letters to the Lost, which has been on my TBR for over a year now.)

 

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Question:  What are your priority reads for this summer?

Review: A STUDY IN TREASON

Review:  A STUDY IN TREASONA Study in Treason by Leonard Goldberg
three-half-stars
Series: The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mystery #2
Published by Minotaur Books on June 12, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Pages: 320
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:

Leonard Goldberg’s A Study in Treason is the second book in the popular series, The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries.  These books feature Joanna Blalock, daughter of Sherlock Holmes, and her husband, John Watson, Jr., who is (you guessed it), the son of Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. John Watson, Sr. as they follow in their parents’ footsteps and solve mysteries that are so tough they stump both local law enforcement and the finest detectives at Scotland Yard. I’ve always been a fan of the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries so I thought this would be a fun read

In this second book in the series, there is an imminent threat of war (WWI) and England and France have entered into a secret treaty that details strategies on how they will work together to defeat Germany if they actually do go to war.  The treaty is sent to the country estate of Lord Halifax so that copies of it can be produced, and even though the document is kept under lock and key and the room it is stored in is guarded at all times, somehow the document is still stolen. The local police and Scotland Yard are called in immediately, but when they can’t determine how the document was stolen from a locked and guarded room, Joanna and the Watsons are called in to lend their assistance.

 

My favorite part about A Study in Treason was actually the mystery itself.  It’s a cleverly crafted locked door mystery, filled with plenty of suspense and twists and turns that kept me guessing as to who the culprit was and how they did it, all the way to the very end.

I also loved the feeling of nostalgia that I got while reading because Goldberg does such a fine job of writing the story in the style of the original Sherlock mysteries and in capturing the atmosphere of pre-WWI England.  In that sense, I think this series makes for a great complement to the original series.  It was like meeting up with an old friend after many years.

Speaking of meeting up with old friends after many years, I also really loved seeing Dr. Watson again.  Sherlock has unfortunately passed away by the time this story is set, but Watson is still with us and it just warmed my heart to see him and especially to see how wonderful his relationship with his son is.

I also liked Joanna, well most of the time anyway. She’s quite the feminist and doesn’t put up with anyone treating her as less than capable because of her gender.  She is also truly a chip off the old block, both in terms of her personality and her investigative skills. She’s like Sherlock in a dress and is quite a fun character to follow around, as many of her mannerisms even mimic dear old dad’s.

 

As much as I liked Joanna, I unfortunately also had some issues with her as well.  Some of the clues Joanna found while investigating seemed like clues that any trained member of law enforcement should have also been able to locate.  In that sense it almost felt like other characters were being “dumbed down” to make Joanna appear more superior.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the way she would micro-manage everyone around her as if they were dimwits who couldn’t think for themselves at all.  There was one scene in particular where she wants her husband John to observe what one of their suspects is doing, but to do so without being seen.  She actually instructs him to hold his hand up next to his face to shield his face from view, as if he doesn’t have enough common sense on his own to figure out how not to be recognized.  She speaks in a similarly condescending tone to Dr. Watson at times, as if he’s a child, and I found it annoying.  Then, if they did something well or came up with an idea on their own, she would praise them as if they were pets.  I half expected her to reward them with treats every time they did something that pleased her.  That same arrogance used to occasionally annoy me about Sherlock, so I guess it’s not surprising that it annoys me with his daughter as well, lol.

 

Overall, I found A Study in Treason to be an entertaining read. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes or even just a fan of mysteries, in particular, locked door mysteries, I’d definitely say to give it a try.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

A continuation of USA TODAY bestselling author Leonard Goldberg’s The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Treason is a new intriguing locked room mystery for Joanna and the Watsons to solve.

The following case has not previously been disclosed to the public due to the sensitive information on foreign affairs. All those involved were previously bound by the Official Secrets Act. With the passage of time and the onset of the Great War, these impediments have been removed and the story can now be safely told.

When an executed original of a secret treaty between England and France, known as the French Treaty, is stolen from the country estate of Lord Halifax, Scotland Yard asks Joanna, Dr. John Watson, Jr., and Dr. John Watson, Sr. to use their keen detective skills to participate in the hunt for the missing treaty. As the government becomes more restless to find the missing document and traditional investigative means fail to turn up the culprit, Joanna is forced to devise a clever plan to trap the thief and recover the missing treaty.

Told from the point of view of Dr. John Watson, Jr. in a style similar to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, A Study in Treason is based partly on facts in our world and partly on the facts left to us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Full of excitement and intrigue, this mystery is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Sherlock Holmes as well as the works of Laurie R. King and Charles Finch

three-half-stars

About Leonard Goldberg

Leonard Goldberg is an American physicist, professor of medicine, and the author of the Joanna Blalock series of medical thrillers.

His novels have been translated into a dozen languages and sold more than a million copies worldwide. Leonard Goldberg is himself a consulting physician affiliated with the UCLA Medical Center, where he holds an appointment as Clinical Professor of Medicine. A sought-after expert witness in medical malpractice trials, he is board certified in internal medicine, hematology and rheumatology, and has published over a hundred scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals.

Leonard Goldberg’s writing career began with a clinical interest in blood disorders. While involved in a research project at UCLA, he encountered a most unusual blood type. The patient’s red blood cells were O-Rh null, indicating they were totally deficient in A, B and Rh factors and could be administered to virtually anyone without fear of a transfusion reaction. In essence, the patient was the proverbial “universal” blood donor. This finding spurred the idea for a story in which an individual was born without a tissue type, making that person’s organs transplantable into anyone without worry of rejection. His first novel, Transplant, revolved around a young woman who is discovered to be a universal organ donor and is hounded by a wealthy, powerful man in desperate need of a new kidney. The book quickly went through multiple printings and was optioned by a major Hollywood studio.

Dr. Goldberg is a native of Charleston and a long-time California resident. He currently divides his time between Los Angeles and an island off the coast of South Carolina.