August Wrap-up & September TBR

Welcome to another monthly wrap-up and TBR post!

I’ve had a busy and pretty satisfying reading month. You’ll see lots of four star ratings below, and a few five star ratings that I cannot recommend strongly enough.
All hyperlinks in book titles will lead to my reviews!

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Books I read in August…

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. The Dinner List, by Rebecca Serle
    (ARC – review to come Sept. 10th)
  3. On Burning Mirrors, by Jamie Klinger-Krebs ⭐⭐⭐
  4. Goodbye, Paris, by Anstey Harris ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. The Book of Speculation, by Erika Swyler ⭐⭐⭐
  6. One of Us Is Lying, by Karen McManus ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Hunger, Roxane Gay
  8. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn ⭐⭐⭐
  9. Nightingale, Amy Lukavics
    (ARC – review to come Sept. 25th)
  10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The Book of Essie, Meghan Maclean Weir ⭐⭐⭐
  13. An Untamed State, Roxane Gay ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. Tin Man, Sarah Winman ⭐⭐⭐
  15. No One Cares About Crazy People, Ron Powers ⭐⭐
  16. The Psychology of Time Travel, Kate Mascarenhas
    (ARC- review to come Feb. 2019)
  17. Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  18. Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  19. The Witch of Willow Hall, Hester Fox
    (ARC – review to come Oct. 2nd)
  20. Rust & Stardust, T. Greenwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  21. The Woman in the Window, A. J. Finn
    (review to come ASAP)

Rust & Stardust and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo were definitely the standout books of this month. (I guess I’m on a historical fiction kick right now?) Both had outstanding characterization and handled sensitive topics with great love and care.

And now on to September…

I’m still making it my mission to catch up on my Book of the Month selections, but other books keep getting in the way. Here’s what I still have:

Ghosted, by Rosie Walsh
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
The Air You Breathe, by Frances De Pontes Feebles

I’m also working my way through a couple of novels that were sent to me by the authors:

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, by Charlie Laidlaw
Silent All These Years, by T. A. Massa

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading! What was your favorite book that you read in August? Is there anything you’re most looking forward to reading in September? Share in the comments!

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WWW Wednesday

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?

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Not Her Daughter, by Rea Frey (ARC)

This novel opens with Sarah Walker witnessing a small girl being abused by her mother in an airport. Sarah has her own childhood trauma brought on by an unfit mother, so her heart aches for the little girl and she does the only reasonable thing: she kidnaps her.

I’ve only just started this one. It’s been from Sarah’s POV so far, but based on the blurb, it sounds like it will switch POV between Sarah, Emma (the kidnapped child), and Amy (Emma’s mother.) I’m excited to get into this novel.

28449207I’m also about halfway into the audio book for Strange the Dreamer, by Liani Taylor.

What a beautiful book! So far, this story is the emotional equivalent of sinking into a warm bubble bath. Adventure, monsters, mystery, and love: what more could you ask for in a YA fantasy novel? I’m so impressed with Taylor’s writing style and the rich imagery which she has woven into this story. Lazlo Strange pulled me into this story from the very first page; his obsession with the lost city of Weep is so intense that the reader can’t help but be a little obsessed as well.

What have you recently finished reading?

 

 

Luckiest Girl Alive was reviewed here.

This Is How It Always Is was reviewed here.

I didn’t post a formal review of In A Dark, Dark Wood. I enjoy Ruth Ware’s books, but this was probably my least favorite. I believe it was her first attempt at an adult novel, so it’s a bit rustier than her other work. The plot was a bit predictable and the characters could have used better development. Overall, it was a fun read of the “brain candy” variety, but not really quality work.

What do you think you’ll read next?

23492533Next up on my TBR is Swear on This Life, by Renee Carlino.

Blurb via GoodReads:

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Have you read the books on this list? What are you reading now? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

When is too soon to DNF?

Hello, all! I hope you’re having a great Monday.

Today, instead of a review, I wanted to talk about leaving books unfinished.

The last book I failed to finish was Dune, by Frank Herbert. I adore sci-fi, and this book is so well-loved, so it pains me to say that I could not make myself get into it. I quit just short of the halfway point. I realized that I had invested my time with wooden characters, none of whom I could connect with, and their story, which felt like the literary equivalent of slogging through knee-deep sands on Dune itself.

In short: it was not for me.

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Photo by Carl Larson on Pexels.com

I think it’s important to give every book a fair shot. If I dropped every book that hadn’t fully engaged my interest within a chapter or two, there are some really beautiful stories I would have missed. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, has such intricate world building. It is, by necessity, slow at times, but I’ve read and reread that book without ever feeling the urge to put it down. Something about Dune was different for me, though. It felt very much like it was prioritizing the world building over the story. The vignettes of historical documents also removed any tension from the story. It’s one thing to assume that the hero will come out on top because heroes often do; it’s quite another to be simply told that he will.

I’ve slogged through so many books that failed to live up to my expectations, waiting for them to get better on each and every page. More and more, I find myself unable to do that. There are so many books sitting on my shelf that I’m genuinely excited about reading, and I only have time for so many of them.

So, let’s discuss!

What was the last book you didn’t finish and why?

Is there a cardinal sin that will make you drop a book every time?

How soon is too soon to call it quits?

How much of a book do you need to read to feel you can give it a fair review?

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

-Oscar Wilde

WWW Wednesday

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

What are you currently reading?
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Physical book: This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel.

This is a story about a mtf trans child and her family’s efforts to support her while worrying about how the rest of the world may be less understanding. The parents in this story spend a while trying to ignore the obvious, until one day they notice their child getting smaller and smaller in each picture she draws of herself and her family. They realize that simply letting their child wear whatever she wants isn’t going to be enough when the rest of the world is going to judge her for it; what can they do to make her feel confident when she steps out the front door and has to deal with a world that’s far less accepting than her family?

This is June’s pick for my book club.

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Audiobook: In a Dark, Dark Woodby Ruth Ware.

Nora is a bit taken aback when she receives an invitation to her old friend’s hen night, ten years after losing contact. The story periodically flashes forward a bit, with Nora waking up injured, under guard at the hospital, and with a big, gaping hole in her memory. Interesting so far, with a bit of a The Girl on the Train vibe.

 

 

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Kindle: Born A Crime, by Trevor Noah

I’ve been dying to read this for ages and finally made it to the top of the waiting list at my library. Born to a white father and a black mother at a time when interracial relationships were illegal in South Africa, Trevor was living proof of his parents’ crime, something to be kept hidden, and always at risk.

I’m really looking forward to getting into this one.

 

What have you recently finished reading?

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Girl Last Seen, a debut novel by Nina Laurin.

Read my full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll.

Overall, I was not impressed with this one. Full review to come tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

My TBR pile at home is ridiculously out of control, so I really have no idea, but I have a couple of unread Margaret Atwood books laying around. I might move on to one of those next.

Girl Last Seen – Review

tumblr_p9gqe5tNHH1xuuvabo1_1280Girl Last Seen is the debut novel by Nina Laurin, released June of 2017.

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Laine was kidnapped at ten and dumped on the side of the highway three years later. Thirteen, pregnant, traumatized, and worst of all, unable to identify her attacker to bring him to justice, Laine struggled to cope with her baby being taken from her and the ever-looming threat of the monster still out there. Would he come back for her? Would he find another girl to replace her? And if he did, would it be her fault for not being able to stop him?

Fast forward to today, and Laine has spent the past ten years of her life hanging on by a thread. She numbs herself to the trauma with pills and alcohol. She works two jobs to afford her tiny apartment, and she obsesses over missing persons reports. One day, ten-year-old Olivia Shaw’s face grips Laine from a missing person poster, and she knows it in her gut: this little girl, the spitting image of Laine herself 13 years prior, was taken by the same man. Is there some forgotten scrap of detail that can help her save Olivia? Will trying to remember totally destroy her?


Girl Last Seen was an interesting read, if a bit unpolished. The fact that it was a debut novel showed through, in my opinion, but it was a relatively solid attempt. The story is gritty and dark; Laine felt real to me, if incredibly frustrating. Nina Laurin is not worried about making her protagonist likable. Laine is exactly the kind of mess one would expect after the childhood trauma she endured and the lack of proper support that followed it. She has unhealthy coping mechanisms, a fear of letting anyone get too close, and an out of proportion sense of guilt over things out of her control, in particular the actions of her attacker due to her inability to lead the police to him. She felt a bit like a Gillian Flynn heroine to me, and, despite her many flaws, I felt for her.

That being said, the plot was a bit predictable. This doesn’t always bother me, but in a mystery/thriller book, it’s a cardinal sin. With certain plot elements, I genuinely couldn’t tell if Laurin was trying and failing to shock the reader, or if she was just trying to portray Laine as too much of a mess to see the obvious right in front of her face. Either way, it took some of the suspense out of a book where the suspense was a major selling point.

My overall impression of this book was that it was just okay. There seems to be enough potential there that I’m not at all put off of Nina Laurin’s work, however. She has a new book coming out next month, What My Sister Knewand the reviews so far seem to be more favorable on average. I look forward to seeing how she’s grown as a writer with the new book.

A Man Called Ove – Review

tumblr_p96pb7AeWG1xt2mbpo1_540“She just smiled, said that she loved books more than anything, and started telling him excitedly what each of the ones in her lap was about. And Ove realized that he wanted to hear her talking about the things she love for the rest of his life.”

A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

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A Man Called Ove opens with Ove, our protagonist and stereotypical curmudgeon, and one unfortunate electronics salesperson, as Ove attempts to purchase an “O-Pad,” with growing animosity as his woeful lack of electronic knowledge becomes apparent. The opening scene gives the reader a first glimpse at the man  we will slowly grow to understand in the following chapters. Against all odds, the grouch in this scene is one half of a heart-wrenching love story. His wife, Sonja, has recently passed away, and Ove is struggling to get along alone in a world he doesn’t really understand.

Without Sonja, Ove has checked out of the world, and he has no interest in making any new friends, thank you very much. But when new neighbors move into the neighborhood and inject themselves into his life with overwhelming openness and amiability, will Ove allow himself to love and be loved?


I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh and cry quite as much as this one. Ove and his neighbors are almost cartoonish in their interactions and Ove’s farcical outbursts, but his grief over the loss of his wife always remains poignant and present. Flashbacks throughout the book bring his marriage into sharp focus, keeping the reader ever conscious of what he has lost. Sonja, for a character existing only in flashbacks, feels remarkably fleshed out, and the sunshine inherent in her personality is a counter-balance for the stormcloud that is Ove. It’s hard not to picture her smiling and shaking her head at each of his tantrums, even in the scenes after her death.

Her friends couldn’t see why she woke up every morning and voluntarily decided to share the whole day with him. He couldn’t either. He built her a bookshelf and she filled it with books by people who wrote page after page about their feelings. Ove understood things he could see and touch. Wood and concrete. Glass and steel. Tools. Things one could figure out. He understood right angles and clear instruction manuals. Assembly models and drawings. Things one could draw on paper.

He was a man of black and white.

And she was color. All the color he had.

A Man Called Ove is about love and grief, and moving on without ever forgetting. Ove’s love for Sonja is palpable to the end, and every good thing he does seems to be in an effort to be the kind of person who deserves her love in return. Because Lord knows they’ll be hell to pay if Ove arrives in the afterlife and he hasn’t taken care of that mangy stray cat that, of course, Sonja would have loved.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Review: Artemis, by Andy Weir

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The Martian was one of my all-time favorite books, so when Artemis came out, I bought it without so much as reading the blurb first. I had high hopes for this book, and maybe it was destined to fail to live up to them, regardless. That being said, Artemis was genuinely a mess.

Artemis takes place in its namesake, the first and only city on the moon. Jazz, our protagonist, is a smuggler, using her contacts back on Earth to sneak in forbidden parcels for anyone who can make it worth her while. One of her wealthy repeat customers talks her into a mission far outside her normal work: a highly illegal and risky act of sabotage. Things get even more out of hand than Jazz could have ever anticipated, and she ends up on the run for her life.

The concept here was fun, but the execution left so much to be desired. First and foremost, Weir seems totally lost writing a female protagonist, and any and all references to sexuality seem completely awkward and forced. At no point did Jazz feel like an actual human woman. I was painfully aware through the whole book that I was reading a male author’s interpretation of a woman. This was only enhanced by her similarities to Mark Watney, the protagonist of The Martian. Both characters have the same kind of sass and use humor as a coping mechanism while stressed in a really similar manner. Both are brilliant and adaptive, but are made to feel accessible through their overly casual manner of speech.

Speaking of similarities to The Martian, that brings me to another weakness in this book. The Martian contains loads of exposition and info-dumps. This worked because of the format; we were reading Mark Watney’s log that he was writing while stranded on Mars. Info-dumps made sense. In Artemis, Jazz is constantly explaining things to us; we don’t get much of the world building naturally, by simply experiencing Artemis with her. She has to tell us how everything works. What worked in The Martian just feels lazy here.

All that being said, the concept was fun. Despite the glaring weaknesses, I did finish the book, and not solely out of an aversion to giving up on books. I genuinely wanted to see where the plot would go and see Jazz come out of it unscathed. Artemis was an interesting environment with compelling antagonists. The sci-fi tech was interesting. Jazz, while wholly unconvincing as a woman, was a fun character to join on this weird little adventure.

All in all, I still have high hopes for Andy Weir, and I’ll continue to follow his work. I hope he’ll write another book I can love as much as The Martian.