Posted in Reviews

Pre-Publication Review: 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard (8/17)

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard
Release Date: August 17, 2021

Recommended: yes!!
For an actually mysterious mystery, for fascinating characters who grow a lot as you learn more about them, for whiplash-inducing twists that still make sense, for Covid as a setting but not a plot point (ie no illnesses)

Summary

No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?

56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.

TODAY
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?

Thoughts:

WOW y’all, maybe it’s because I admittedly had low expectations for this, but DANG did it blow me away! I was iffy on all the Book of the Month Club options, but chose this because it was by my fav publisher, Blackstone. And I should have known to trust that. ^.^ They held up, as always!

First off: a lot of people side-eye this book because it’s set in 2020 in the real sense that it’s the start of COVID-19 and discusses lockdown and other protocols enacted as it spread across the world. The whole premise is that two almost-strangers shack up because otherwise they won’t have ANY contact for who knows how long. It’s all or nothing, and they change it going all-in. But that’s it — there’s not a lot of play with COVID beyond working from home and the unease going out in public. If anything, it was weird how often the characters say “well no one else was wearing a mask so I took mine off.” Anyway, point being, the scope of COVID in this book is probably fairly light all things considered.

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ARC Review: Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
Expected Release Date: July 6, 2021

Recommended: yep
For a delve into Arthurian legend from the side of Elaine the seer, for a form-shifting read that excels at mirroring the readers’ experience with the characters’, for a dark yet hopeful spin

Summary

Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come–for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future.

On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends–countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate–and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

Thoughts

The first thing I’ll say is that I have NO IDEA who Elaine is outside of this story. I have no other context to compare her to, so I really can’t speak to that aspect of the experience. If you’re familiar with the lore already from other media, I have no idea how this might align with the way it’s been told elsewhere. That said, I think the way it was told here was quite compelling.

My absolute favorite aspect of this book (besides the plot itself) is the way my experience reading it mirrored Elaine’s experience as a seer so well. Past, present, and future all blend together with timeline and perspective shifting often, and not always with clear delineations. If this might drive you crazy, then be forewarned, but I promise it enhanced the book, not detracted. Elaine’s glimpses of the future bleed in to every action of the present and affect her memories of the past. How can you act on love when you literally KNOW it will lead to heartbreak of the most dire kind?

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Posted in Book Talk

In Progress with MEMORIAL

Progress: page 149/303 (49%)

The slog continues…. I really wish I were enjoying this more, but the first half was super weird and so much seemed unnecessary (why did we see a pigeon pick up a quarter… why did it get mentioned AGAIN five pages later…). Then I finally adjusted to the rhythm, and the POV changes and is completely different. /SIGH. To be honest, I have gotten nothing from this so far…

Why did I start reading it?

It was a BOTM that I grabbed, after hearing some good things about it. I originally scorned it because I super-hate the cover. Then I learned more about it, looked at it again, saw more details of the cover that made me hate it a little less, and decided to actually read it. The premise involves relationship examining and culture shock, going new places, learning about others, etc. which always wins me in.

Why am I still reading it?

This isn’t usually a question I include in my In Progress posts… but I think it warrants asking at this point. xD I have so far not enjoyed the book at all. I don’t think I’m getting anything else from it. I don’t want to read it, frankly. But I’m very slowly continuing… because I bought it, and I don’t want to have wasted my money and book pick for the month. 😐

Lines that linger

My mother smelled like chocolate. My father wore his nice shirt. You’d have been hard pressed to think that this was a man who’d thrown his wife against a wall. Or that this lady, immediately afterward, stuck a fork into his elbow.

Posted in Reviews

Review: How Lucky by Will Leitch

How Lucky by Will Leitch – Expected Publication: May 11, 2021
Verdict: eh, not for me but I’m confident others will really love this

Recommended: sure, for other people
For folks curious about life with SMA as a wheelchair-user, for a light mystery heavy on character introspection, for small laughs about dark things

Summary

Daniel leads a rich life in the university town of Athens, Georgia.  He’s got a couple close friends, a steady paycheck working for a regional airline, and of course, for a few glorious days each Fall, college football tailgates. He considers himself to be a mostly lucky guy—despite the fact that he’s suffered from a debilitating disease since he was a small child, one that has left him unable to speak or to move without a wheelchair. 

Largely confined to his home, Daniel spends the hours he’s not online communicating with irate air travelers observing his neighborhood from his front porch. One young woman passes by so frequently that spotting her out the window has almost become part of his daily routine. Until the day he’s almost sure he sees her being kidnapped. 

Thoughts:

I can’t really believe I’m rating this as “just ok” but that is indeed what’s happening. I can’t really pinpoint what missed for me with this book. Objectively I can look at it’s components and think it would probably be good, but ultimately I just wasn’t that into it. Reading it wasn’t a chore, but I guess I just never really connected with the characters nor the plot.

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ARC Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Expected Release Date: May 11, 2021

Recommended: sure
For fans of Emily Henry, for a unique way of getting to know the characters, for a romance where the key conflict isn’t entirely due to the fact that they didn’t just TALK ABOUT THEIR ISSUE which is the worst trope ever, for a romance with some other actual FUN tropes

Summary

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Thoughts:

The way of telling it by bouncing between past and present is interesting, and all the stories are enjoyable. You’re not stuck wishing it would just get back to the other time frame, because they’re ALL great.

The culminating issues are done really well because you get the conflict of the current-day story and the conflict of the 2-years-ago fiasco that caused the split. So as the story progresses, you get closer to TWO explosions of plot, which is delightful. They also wind so well together, as in the vacation stories you learn their history and little jokes and personal pains, which then come up again when you switch back to the current day story. I know some people struggle with reading multiple time frames switching back and forth, but I think it’s handled pretty well here.

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Posted in Reviews

2 Second Review: The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

2 Sentence Summary

A collection of short stories and a novella with a focus on being black in America and the way race affects interactions large and small. With an incisive focus on relationships and the essence of a person, Evans examines truths of American history.

Thoughts:

The message and style are solid, but man, I just struggle with short stories. Took a risk, struggled through it. Not for me, but maybe for you.

The collection is absolutely a focus on people, in a way that is so close it made me uncomfortable and damn were these hard to read. They felt so true and accurate. I could imagine any one of these as moments happening right now somewhere, and goddamn is that just so depressing.

The effect and message in here are strong; that’s not in question. But my experience of reading this was strained simply due to the format. I know I personally don’t enjoy short stories very much, but I wanted to give this a shot. I had a hard time with, well, how short they were. I just wanted more. Combined with the fact that I felt like I did need time between reading each one for it to settle, and this took a long time to get through. By the end, I’d forgotten most of what was from the earlier sections.

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
Verdict: a slow character study kind of read, so if you’re into that style you’ll probably enjoy this

Recommended: sure
For a light mystery but mostly a self-reflective journey of discovery, for mouthwatering descriptions of tasty Korean dishes, for some very poignant moments of insight into one woman’s extremely difficult life

Summary:
Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother. Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Thoughts:
The story itself is a slower pace as you learn about Mina and Margot in their past and present. I loved the subtle intertwining of the two. The reflections of Mina’s past experiences in Margot’s present as she investigates her mother’s death linked them together in a beautiful way. The highlight here is the writing itself, as it’s very plain and unassuming yet conveys so much emotion.

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Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Verdict: Probably a better read for everyone else than it was for me. My experience was somewhat dull, but I have no doubt this will be a hit with most other readers if they think they would like it!

Recommended: eh
For a glimpse into 1920s Shanghai, for a historical fantasy gangster story (not a common combo I think), for flavors of Romeo & Juliet but ultimately its own standing story

Summary

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal. But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Thoughts:

Look, I know. This book has everything. Shanghai in 1920s, one of my favorite place-time combos. A basis in Shakespeare. A fantasy element of monsters. A touch of brutality and gore to darken the story.

So why didn’t I love it???

I’m a bit baffled, honestly. I’ve tried to pinpoint what kept me from falling in love with this book, as I should have by all rights. I think my issue was partly that I wasn’t expecting it to be intertwined with magic and I wasn’t really in the mood for that — and obviously that’s a personal issue, nothing with the book. But the bigger issue I faced was that I just didn’t really care about either of the main characters.

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Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

November 2020 TBR: obligations and explorations

Hey y’all!

I’ve got a plan again this month for what I’ll read. These plans are sometimes a bit silly though, because by the time I write this post to share it, I’ve usually already finished a few of them. 😂 Today is no different, but I’ll include the books here anyway as I’m excited about them! It’s a tidy planned set of nine this month. 😊

The best obligations

These books are each ones I’m reading for A Reason Not Only My Own. I mean, to be real, I’m still the one deciding and benefiting here, but they’re in the list for more than just “I wanted to” reasons!

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson is one that I already finished because I couldn’t resist plowing through it once I had started. I went in somehwat blind from a recommendation from my friend Elise (thanks again!), and WOW was this a fabulous recommendation! I really love it, as you can see in my review. 🙂

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