Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype

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 Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype.  Hyped books are always tricky.  All of that hype is so exciting and has readers just dying to get their hands on a copy of what sounds like a sure fire fabulous read.  But sometimes all of that excitement builds up to unrealistically high expectations and we end up feeling underwhelmed by that super-hyped book.  Sometimes it actually leads me to put off reading a book because I’m just so uncertain about whether or not my expectations have become way too high for me to actually enjoy the read.  If I’m feeling that way, I usually back off and wait for the hype to die down a bit before I give it a go.  That said, however, there are still plenty of hyped books that not only met my expectations, but actually far exceeded them.  Below are ten books that really lived up to the hype for me…

 

 

10 Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype

 

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1.  TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo

 

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2. THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black

 

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3. SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo

 

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4. A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab  (the entire series honestly – loved it!)

 

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5. NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff

 

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6. THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee

 

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7. THE HARRY POTTER SERIES by J.K. Rowling

 

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8. STRANGE THE DREAMER by Laini Taylor

 

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9. THE LUNAR CHRONICLES by Marissa Meyer

 

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10. SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli

 

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Question:  What are some books that lived up to the hype for you?

Review: BELIEVE ME by J.P. Delaney

Review:  BELIEVE ME by J.P. DelaneyBelieve Me by J.P. Delaney, Tony Strong
Also by this author: The Girl Before
three-half-stars
Published by Ballantine Books on July 24, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
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:

J.P. Delaney is back with another riveting psychological thriller that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.  Believe Me follows Claire Wright, a young British woman living in America who aspires to be an actor.  When we meet Claire, she is struggling financially.  She doesn’t have a green card which makes it difficult to find legitimate employment.  She ends up working on the sly for a team of divorce lawyers, where she uses her acting talents to entrap cheating husbands and obtain video evidence for their wives.

Everything changes in Claire’s life, however, when one of the wives she is trying to obtain evidence of cheating for turns up dead.  Believing that the woman’s husband is the murderer and that his wife might not be his only target, law enforcement officers approach Claire about using her talents to try to lure the husband into a confession.  With the promise of a green card and a lot of cash dangled in front of her, Claire agrees.

Claire is a brilliant actor, but will she be able to help law enforcement catch the killer or will she end up in over her head?  All I can say is buckle up and prepare for a wild ride!

Believe Me is one of those novels that I feel like I can’t say much about because I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m just going to mention a couple of quick highlights that I really enjoyed.

It probably seems weird to start off talking about the structure of a novel, but I have to admit this was my favorite part about Believe Me.  The main character Claire, who as I’ve mentioned is an aspiring actor, often goes through life imaging incidents in her life as if they are scenes from a script.  Since we are watching the events of the story unfold from Claire’s perspective, Delaney actually weaves together a tale that is mostly straight narrative, but which occasionally has little bits of script incorporated in as well to mimic how Claire imagines certain scenes playing out, complete with stage directions and dialogue she has scripted out in her head.  At first, I worried that the script bits might seem a little gimmicky, but in the end, they really worked well for me.

Aside from the unique structure, I also enjoyed that the plot was filled with suspenseful twists and turns that kept me guessing from start to finish.  The twists were such that it oftentimes made it hard to distinguish between what was real and what was fake in terms of Claire’s role in the murder investigation as well as what exactly was going on with the husband.  I tried to predict what direction the story was taking a few times along the way but was so wrong each time that I finally decided to just settle in and enjoy the wild ride Delaney was taking me on.  The fact that his writing flows so smoothly makes it easy to do that and just trust that the ride is going to be worth it in the end.

The main issue I had with Believe Me was that I just never really felt a connection to Claire.  Because she played so many different roles throughout the course of the novel, I never felt like I knew who the real Claire was.  Whenever she said something about herself, I took it with a grain of salt because I was never convinced she was being honest.  While that kind of personality was helpful in terms of maintaining the novel’s premise of not knowing what was real and what was fake, it left me feeling very detached from Claire.  Even when she was potentially in danger, I found that I didn’t really care.  I wanted to know what was going to happen, of course, but it wasn’t a case where I was worried for her well being at all.  If I had been able to better connect with Claire, this would have easily been a 4 star read for me.

There’s so much more I would love to say about Believe Me, but because I don’t want to spoil the mystery, I’m just going to say that I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys riveting psychological thrillers and to fans of Delaney’s last book, The Girl Before.  If you enjoyed that one, I think you would also enjoy Believe Me.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation.

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy…and who is the prey?

 

three-half-stars

About J.P. Delaney

J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name. .

Weekly Recap #63: Week of 7/22 – 7/28

 

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.

This was a very good writing week for me.  I was 6 reviews behind at the beginning of last week but managed to get five written this week so I’m not feeling nearly as bad about backlogged reviews as I had been.  Of course I also finished reading two more books so I still need to write 3 to be fully caught up but such is the life of a book blogger, right?  LOL!

I hate when this happens, but I am a few days behind on blog comments and visits.  I’m fully placing the blame for that on Mother Nature.  After the rainiest summer I can remember in recent memory, we finally had three days of sun in a row so I’ve been outside as much as possible trying to work on those home improvement projects we started weeks ago and haven’t had enough dry weather to complete.  We’re so desperate to get those projects wrapped up that I even spent part of my Saturday night helping my husband start hanging our newly painted shutters.  We hung shutters until about 9pm when I finally had to quit because it was too dark and because the mosquitoes were eating me alive.  We still have two sets to paint but the end of that project is finally in sight!

In other blog-related news, I actually set up an Instagram account for my blog this week.  Now that I’ve set it up, I of course have cold feet about posting anything but we’ll see how that goes.  I may just end up using it to follow other book bloggers and like their pics.

Not too much else is really going on.  We’ve already started back-to-school shopping, which has my son a little crabby.  The county we live in voted to change the school calendar, starting with the upcoming school year.  We have historically gone back to school after Labor Day in September but this year because of the calendar change, the kids lose three weeks of their summer break and go back to school on August 13.  It will be nice in the spring because they’ll end up getting out before Memorial Day, but my son is mad as hell about losing so much of his summer break this year.  I’m sure he’ll get over it as soon as he’s back with his friends, etc., but right now, it’s like living with a grumpy old bear every time someone even mentions the word “school.”  Fun times!

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

 

Source:  inkygirl.com

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SAVE THE DATE & NOT THE GIRLS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SAVE THE DATE & NOT THE GIRLS YOU’RE LOOKING FORSave the Date by Morgan Matson
four-half-stars
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on June 5, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 417
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.

There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo.

Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractingly…cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Review:

Prior to reading Save the Date, I had never read a novel from Morgan Matson before.  I had always heard great things about her books though so when I was recently looking for a fun summer read and saw this book’s hilarious cover, I knew this was the book I had been looking for.  Everything about that cover just screams fun!  And let me tell you, this book seriously delivered too.  I devoured it in just over a day and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish.

Save the Date follows the Grant family and is set over the course of the three days leading up to daughter Linnie’s wedding.  And wow, what a three days it is!  Seriously, everything that can possibly go wrong with the wedding preparations goes wrong and then some.  The wedding hijinks had me literally laughing out loud and oh so grateful that my own wedding went so much more smoothly than poor Linnie’s.  In addition to the wedding chaos and its ensuing hilarity, however, Save the Date has a heartwarming focus on family that I adored even more than the humor.  The Grant family is what I would call perfectly imperfect and Matson does a beautiful job making each family member so loveable, flaws and all.  I was able to relate to each of them easily, especially Charlie, the youngest Grant.  It is from Charlie’s perspective that we watch the story unfold and it’s such an interesting perspective because she has always seen her family as picture perfect and practically worshipped the ground they all walked on.  Now that she’s older and watching her family reunite for Linnie’s wedding, she has to come to the somewhat painful realization that no one is perfect, not even the family that she idolizes.  It really makes her rethink her own identity and choices in life, and I loved that the novel had that coming of age theme included to really add some depth to the overall narrative.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced read that will make you laugh out loud but also shed a tear or two at a flawed but loving family coming together as a team when it counts, I’d highly recommend Morgan Matson’s Save the Date.  As I said, this is my first Morgan Matson read, but I can guarantee it won’t be my last!  4.5 STARS

 

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SAVE THE DATE & NOT THE GIRLS YOU’RE LOOKING FORNot the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi
three-half-stars
Published by Feiwel & Friends on June 19, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Lulu Saad doesn't need your advice, thank you very much. She's got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It's all under control. Ish.

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can't find her way out of this mess soon, she'll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She'll have to go looking for herself.

Review:

I’m a complete sucker for books that center around female friendships, so as soon as I heard that Aminah Mae Safi’s Not the Girls You’re Looking For features Lulu Saad and her best girl friends, I knew I had to read it.  While I did love getting to know Lulu and her friends and watching them go through their ups and downs, I have to say that overall, this was just a good read for me, not a great one.

I thought the author did a brilliant job of accurately portraying the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to friendship dynamics.  I also liked that even though these girls clearly loved each other and would have each other’s backs no matter what, it’s definitely not all sunshine and roses for them.  Some of their fights really took me back to my own high school days and made me think back to my core group of friends back then and all of the ups and downs that we managed to make it through.  Safi perfectly captures all of those messy high school relationships that we’ve all experienced and it made the book so relatable (almost too relatable at times, lol).

Along similar lines, I was also a huge fan of the portrayal of Lulu’s family, both immediate and extended.  Lulu’s family on her father’s side is Muslim and I loved seeing that side of the family interact, both with each other and with Lulu’s mother, who is not Muslim.  The awkwardness is palpable as Lulu is caught in between and then gets herself into hot water when she disrespects one of her relatives.  I have a thing for messy family dynamics so Lulu’s family was a highlight for me.

So, what didn’t I like?  There were a few times in this book where it just felt like I was following Lulu around waiting and hoping for something exciting to happen.  Thankfully, exciting things eventually did start to happen, but for a few chapters there, my attention was starting to wander.  I was also a little disappointed because I found what I think was supposed to be a huge plot twist regarding Emma way too predictable.  I still loved the plot twist and her friends’ reactions to it; I just wish I hadn’t guessed it so early on.  All of that said, however, I still think this is a wonderful read, especially if you’re into realistic and sometimes messy portrayals of families and female friendships.  3.5 STARS

four-half-stars

About Aminah Mae Safi

Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer who explores art, fiction, feminism, and film. She loves Sofia Coppola movies, Bollywood endings, and the Fast and Furious franchise. She’s the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest. Originally raised in Texas, she now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner, a cat bent on world domination, and another cat who’s just here for the snacks. NOT THE GIRLS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR is her first novel.

About Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College as a theater major, but halfway through, switched her focus to writing and never looked back. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and then a second MFA in Screenwriting from USC.

She is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, all published by Simon & Schuster.

She currently lives in Los Angeles with her rescue terrier, Murphy, in a house with blue floors that’s overflowing with books.

Can’t Wait Wednesday – SUMMER BIRD BLUE by Akemi Dawn Bowman

 

“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 SUMMER BIRD BLUE by Akemi Dawn Bowman.  Bowman’s Starfish was one of the loveliest books I read last year so I’m very excited to see that she has a new book coming out in September and that it sounds just as moving as Starfish, if not more so.  I’m always drawn to books that deal with grief, and there’s just something about these “boys” (especially the 80 year old boy, lol) who are helping the main character work through her grief that really intrigues me.  I’m envisioning this book as equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and can’t wait to see if I’m correct.

 

SUMMER BIRD BLUE by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publication Date:  September 11, 2018

 

From Goodreads:

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

 

 

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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 – 10 Books That Take Me Back to the Innocence of My Youth

 

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 with Sensory Reading Memories (These are the books that are linked to very specific memories for you: where you were, what time of year it was, who you were with, what you were eating, what you were feeling, what you were seeing, etc. Ideas include books you read while on vacation, books that you read while you were eating, books you read at work/at a family or social event/on the train or plane, books you’ve buddy read with loved ones, books you read during an emotional time in your life, books you read by the fire, etc.)

I have to admit that I drew a blank for a long time while thinking about this topic, but then I landed on “books you read during an emotional time in your life” and I knew that was the angle I wanted to go with.  I’m sure there will be many more emotional moments, both good and bad, as I move through life, but as of right now, aside from the moment my son was born, the most emotional time of my life were the months leading up to my parents getting a divorce.  I was ten years old when they split up, so I was old enough to know things just weren’t working out and that moving out was the right thing to do, but that obviously didn’t make it any easier for me.  Sorry it’s kind of a downer, but my list this week focuses on some of the last books I remember reading while my parents were still together and we were all living in the house I grew up in.  Every time I see or even think about these books, they conjure up memories of me reading, either curled up on the bed in my very first bedroom or sitting by the big windows in our attic playroom.  They also take me back in time to those many evenings when I was a kid where my Dad and I would sit on the couch reading together.

It really is amazing when you think about how books can become so interconnected with defining moments of our lives.  Anyway, I couldn’t even decide what to call this since I didn’t really want to go with Books I Read Before My Parents Got Divorced, so instead I went the innocence route.

 

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10 Books That Take Me Back to the Innocence of My Youth

 

BAMBI by Felix Salten

THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis

THE BLACK STALLION by Walter Farley

SOCKS by Beverly Cleary

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS by Laura Ingalls Wilder

BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell

STUART LITTLE by E. B. White

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS by Soctt O’Dell

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl

THE NANCY DREW SERIES by Carolyn Keene

 

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What are some books that take you back to your childhood?

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for A FEAST FOR CROWS & RUIN AND RISING

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for A FEAST FOR CROWS & RUIN AND RISINGA Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
Also by this author: A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)
three-half-stars
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire, #4
Published by Bantam Books on October 17, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 1061
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

With A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth volume of the landmark series that has redefined imaginative fiction and stands as a modern masterpiece in the making.

After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes...and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors.

Review:

I always feel like I have accomplished something monumental every time I finish one of George R.R. Martin’s books and A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, is no exception.  Every book in the series is challenging and a major time investment because of the intricate plots, detailed worldbuilding, and all of the machinations of those who are jockeying for position to seize control of the Iron Throne.  These are not light reads by any stretch of the imagination.

What makes A Feast for Crows so much more of a challenging read, however, is that several of the major players from the first three books are suddenly missing and their absence, at least for me anyway, poses a huge distraction. With each chapter that I finished, I kept turning the page expecting to see a chapter from Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targaryen.  I found their absence incredibly frustrating, especially since they are three of my favorite characters.  It was also frustrating because not only was I not getting three of my favorites, but now all of the sudden, four books into the series, I’m suddenly getting a whole slew of new narrators. While these new players are no doubt important to the overall series plot, they just weren’t who I wanted to read about, especially after the events of the third book.

A Feast for Crows also has a slightly different feel from the others in that there was a lot less action (i.e. favorite characters dying) and a lot more character development.  Brienne of Tarth’s chapters were probably my favorite because I’m just such a huge fan of her absolute determination to keep her oath to Catelyn Stark, even as her journey continues to take more and more dangerous turns and trying to fulfill that oath may end up costing Brienne her own life.  After Brienne, I’d have to say that Cersei Lannister’s chapters are a close second favorite. Even though she probably has the most uphill battle of all of those vying for the Iron Throne, she will stop at absolutely nothing to try to take it. Cersei possesses this unique combination where she comes across as utterly ruthless yet somehow still a bit vulnerable.  I love to hate her, but at the same time, I find myself cheering her on even as I ultimately want her to fail. Other favorites who appear in this book are Jaime Lannister, whose journey toward redemption continues, as well as the Stark sisters, Arya and Sansa, who each appear to be on journeys where they must give up their own identities, at least temporarily, in order to survive.

Even though A Feast for Crows is not my favorite book in the series, it’s still overall a solid read.  The brilliant character arcs of each of the characters I mentioned really does help to offset the frustration that the absence of Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys creates.  They better be in the next book though, and the dragons too! 3.5 STARS

 

 

Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for A FEAST FOR CROWS & RUIN AND RISINGRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Also by this author: Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
four-stars
Series: Shadow and Bone, #3
Published by Indigo on June 19, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 350
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Review:

I’m so excited to be able to say that, with my reading of Ruin and Rising, I have finally finished Leigh Bardugo’s  Grisha Trilogy!  The one thing I hate about trying to review series books is that it’s so hard to talk about the final book in a series without spoiling the entire rest of the series.  Because I really don’t want to spoil anything for those who have yet to visit the Grishaverse, I’m going to be both vague and brief in my remarks.

First and foremost, let me say that overall I found Ruin and Rising to be a very satisfying ending to the Grisha trilogy. Did I get everything I wanted?  No, not entirely, but I did get enough that I was content when I reached the last page and closed the book.  I think much of my contentment has to do with the fact that I was solely invested in Alina finding that third amplifier and defeating the Darkling to save Ravka.  I was not at all invested in any of the three romantic possibilities that presented themselves to her.  Since I usually loathe love triangles in any form, I actually consider it quite a testament to Bardugo’s storytelling abilities that I was able to fully enjoy the overall storyline without getting super annoyed by Alina’s attraction to Mal, the Darkling, and to Nikolai.  Normally something that like would have me wanting to fling the book across the room, lol.

I do have to admit that my love of the Darkling was completely obliterated in this final book.  He crossed enough lines this time around that there was just no redeeming himself in my mind.  The biggest draw for me in this third book, instead, was actually watching Alina, forever the underdog whether she’s a saint or not, regroup and come up with a new plan to take down the Darkling.  I loved watching her move so naturally into that leadership role, just as I also loved watching Alina and her team in their pursuit of that third amplifier, which was so desperately needed if she was going to have a chance of overpowering the Darkling.  And don’t even get me started on the huge plot twist involving the third amplifier. That totally blew my mind!

While I do wish that a few characters had gotten better endings (I’m looking at you, poor Nikolai), overall, I thought everything about the ending was quite fitting and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the series to anyone who enjoys reading fantasies and is looking for a quick and addictive read. 4 STARS

three-half-stars

About George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin was born September 20, 1948, in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was Raymond Collins Martin, a longshoreman, and his mother was Margaret Brady Martin. He has two sisters, Darleen Martin Lapinski and Janet Martin Patten.

Martin attended Mary Jane Donohoe School and Marist High School. He began writing very young, selling monster stories to other neighborhood children for pennies, dramatic readings included. Later he became a comic book fan and collector in high school, and began to write fiction for comic fanzines (amateur fan magazines). Martin’s first professional sale was made in 1970 at age 21: “The Hero,” sold to Galaxy, published in February, 1971 issue. Other sales followed.

In 1970 Martin received a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, graduating summa cum laude. He went on to complete a M.S. in Journalism in 1971, also from Northwestern.

As a conscientious objector, Martin did alternative service 1972-1974 with VISTA, attached to Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation. He also directed chess tournaments for the Continental Chess Association from 1973-1976, and was a Journalism instructor at Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1976-1978. He wrote part-time throughout the 1970s while working as a VISTA Volunteer, chess director, and teacher.

In 1975 he married Gale Burnick. They divorced in 1979, with no children. Martin became a full-time writer in 1979. He was writer-in-residence at Clarke College from 1978-79.

Moving on to Hollywood, Martin signed on as a story editor for Twilight Zone at CBS Television in 1986. In 1987 Martin became an Executive Story Consultant for Beauty and the Beast at CBS. In 1988 he became a Producer for Beauty and the Beast, then in 1989 moved up to Co-Supervising Producer. He was Executive Producer for Doorways, a pilot which he wrote for Columbia Pictures Television, which was filmed during 1992-93.

Martin’s present home is Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (he was South-Central Regional Director 1977-1979, and Vice President 1996-1998), and of Writers’ Guild of America, West.

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the Six of Crows Duology and the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising), as well as the upcoming Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Aug 2017) and The Language of Thorns (Sept 2017).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her web site, and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.

Weekly Recap #62: Week of 7/15 – 7/21

 

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.

Not much to report here this week. It’s one of those ‘I don’t even remember what I did this week so it couldn’t have been too exciting’ kind of weeks, haha.  Just work, work, and more work, with the only break in work being to take off from work to run my son over to his middle school orientation.  Still can’t believe I’m about to have a middle schooler on my hands!

As soon as the weekend hit, we were inundated with pouring rain, which according to the forecast is supposed to stay with us through at least August 4th 🙁 , so aside from driving an hour in it yesterday to meet my dad and stepmom for lunch because I haven’t seen them in 6 months, my weekend will be spent in the house staying dry.

As you can see from my Upcoming Reviews list below, I’m also way behind on posting reviews. I’m actually behind on writing them honestly. I’m not sure what happened there, but today will be a writing catch up day so I should finally knock a few books off that list.

I wasn’t a total blog slacker this week though.  I posted my first Summer TBR Wipeout challenge recap where you can see that I’ve read 6 books out of the goal of 15 I had set for myself.  So definitely lots of reading going on.  Participating in the Summer TBR Wipeout also moved along my Beat the Backlist Challenge, so I’m up to 22 out of my goal of 30 backlisted books for the year. I also posted my first discussion post in a while where I talked about how my reading tastes have changed over the years.  Once I get semi caught up on my reviews, I should have another discussion post coming along to get myself back on track for the discussion challenge I’m taking part in.

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

 

Discussion: How My Reading Tastes Have Changed Over the Years

 

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I have pretty eclectic tastes when it comes to the books I read.  A quick scan of my review archives will show that I’m a big fan of fantasies, science fiction, mysteries and thrillers, historical fiction, and retellings, just to name a few.  I haven’t always had such varied tastes in books, however, which got me thinking about just how much my taste in books has changed over the years.

I think my taste in books really started to evolve and grow once I started buying my own books.  When I was a kid, my parents bought my books so they decided what I read and when I was in high school and college, my reading choices were mostly determined by what was on the course syllabus.  Needless to say, I was fully immersed in classics during most of those years.  Don’t get me wrong though. I adored most of the classics I read and when it was time for me to take control of my book buying and actually read for pleasure rather than required reading, I still stuck with the classics for a number of years.  I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice when I studied it in college, so I felt compelled to then go on to read all of the rest of Austen’s novels on my own.  I did the same with countless other classic authors – Dickens, Hawthorne, the Bronte sisters, Hardy, Shakespeare…you get the idea.

 

    

 

After a while though, I started to get a little bored with the classics.  They started to feel so dated and I really wanted something more modern.  That was when I entered my Chick Lit phase.  For a few months, I couldn’t get enough of books like The Devil Wears Prada, The Nanny Diaries, and Bridget Jones’s Diary.  I think that phase directly coincided with me moving out of my mom’s house and getting an apartment of my own.  I identified with the characters in those books so much at first, but I got burned out on that kind of Chick Lit pretty quickly.  Maybe they started to remind me too much of my real life, I don’t know lol, but I bailed and moved on to Fantasy novels.

 

     
 

Fantasy and science fiction novels were the ultimate escape from reality for me and unlike the Chick Lit, which I maintain was just a phase, fantasy and sci fi remain some of my favorite types of reads today.  I actually started my fantasy reading by re-reading a favorite childhood series of mine, the Chronicles of Narnia, and then I moved on to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and eventually to Harry Potter.  The Martian was probably the first book that really made me interested in sci fi.

 

         

 

I have to admit that I mainly picked up Harry Potter to see what all of the fuss was about.  I was teaching high school English at the time and many of my students were walking around with Harry Potter books in their backpacks.  Getting students excited about reading is always so challenging so I just had to know what it was about those books that had them all so captivated.  Like my students, I immediately became hooked on the series and then began to explore more YA books because I realized that I was missing out on some pretty amazing reads.  Before becoming hooked on Harry Potter, I had lived with this notion that I was too old to read books like that.   Once I entered the “Screw it, I’m a grown ass woman and I’m going to read whatever the hell I want to read” phase, however, it felt like a whole new world was opened up to me.  Again, a quick glance through my review archives will show that not only do I read a lot of YA books now, but they are often some of my highest rated reviews.

Novels like The Nightingale and The Light Between Oceans introduced me to historical fiction, which quickly became another love of mine.  I was initially drawn to novels set around WWII, but now I find myself looking for novels that focus on periods in history that I’m less familiar with.  In some ways the historical fiction calls to me because I find it similar in style and theme to some of my favorite classics but yet most of what I read focuses on 20th century historical events so they don’t feel quite as dated as the classics do.

 

     

 

I then felt the need for a little excitement and mystery in my life, so I delved into the world of mysteries and psychological thrillers.  Oh yeah, as much as I complain about them now, I was totally on board with the Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train trend.  Even though I grew tired of the unreliable/unlikeable narrator trend that those books ushered in, I remain a huge fan of psychological thrillers in general.  Ruth Ware is a new favorite of mine, and I also love Meg Gardiner’s UNSUB series.

 

       

 

Spring boarding off those thrillers, I have also most recently started to get into what I would call domestic dramas.  Books like Big Little Lies have been grabbing my attention, the ones that focus on neighborhoods and the idea that everyone is hiding something and no one’s lives are as perfect as they would have you believe.  This type of story seems to be the latest trend in fiction, and I’m hoping it sticks around for a while because I truly can’t get enough of books like this.

 

     
 

Another trend that I fell in love with and can’t get enough of are retellings.  My love for retellings started with Marissa Meyer.  I adored The Lunar Chronicles and her Queen of Hearts retelling, Heartless.

 

     

 

I try to imagine what it would have been like to run into me at a bookstore 20 years ago versus today.  In both scenarios, my arms would have been loaded down with books.  The main difference is that while back then, my book haul would have been classics, classics, and more classics.  Today, anything is fair game to end up in that book haul.

 

* * * * *

 

How have your reading tastes changed over the years?

Summer TBR Wipeout 2018: Update #1

 

I can’t believe we’ve already made it to the first update post of the Summer TBR Wipeout Challenge hosted by The Candid Cover, but here we are!  I don’t know if I’ll get through all 15 books that were on my tentative TBR for this challenge, but I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far.  I’m especially thrilled to have finished another George R.R. Martin book as well as the final book in the Grishaverse trilogy.  Overall, I managed to 6 books for this first update (5 from my original TBR + 1 library book that became available sooner that I expected it to) and I also made a good start on a 7th book, In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Go me!  LOL!  Anyway, here are all of the books I’ve read so far and what books I’m hoping to get to next.  4 of those are from my original TBR and then I added Not the Girls You’re Looking For, another library book that became available sooner than anticipated.  Wish me luck!

 

COMPLETED BOOKS

 

 

WHAT I PLAN TO READ NEXT

 

I hope everyone who is taking part in the challenge is getting a lot of reading done!