Halloween Reading Round-Up (Mini-Reviews)

I only read 3 of the 6 Halloween-ish books I set out to read in October. That makes me 50 % successful (see — glass half full thing). Part of it is being a mood reader and also this weird thing I’m going through. I really enjoyed the books I picked so I decided to round them up in one post and, at the end, talk about if I think they were good Halloween reads.

 

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs:

What It’s About In A Sentence: Jacob’s grandfather has always told these tales about his life growing up that were filled with strange and unusual things but, when his grandfather dies, he realizes maybe they were not tall tales and embarks on a journey to find the orphanage where his grandfather grew up.

What I Thought: This book was delightfully strange & wonderful. The cover made me think it was going to be kind of scary but in fact, honestly, the bottom of my purse right now is probably scarier — this is more of a fantasy/supernatural-y kind of story. I really enjoyed this one and really marveled at the brilliant writing and storytelling and it’s a book I would hand to people who think that YA isn’t well written. Despite the fact this book wasn’t scary like I thought it would be, it still had a perfect Halloween vibe. The photographs that are scattered about the book really added to the story,  the depth of the characters and the general feel of this extraordinary adventure. There’s magic, strange happenings and this mystery that is just woven so carefully and so smoothly that you can’t help but find yourself mesmerized. I didn’t know what to expect at first and was curious about these tall tales that Jacob’s grandfather seemed to tell and then when Jacob starts questioning if they are made up stories I was just absolutely enchanted by this life he lived. I cannot wait to see what the sequel holds in this incredibly unique series.

 

RATING:

RATING-loved-it

 

 

The Fall by Bethany Griffin

The Fall by Bethany Griffin

What It’s About In A Sentence: Madeline’s family, The Ushers, are cursed — they are plagued with strange illnesses, are not able to leave the house that seems to haunt them and watch their every move and nobody knows how to free them from it.

What I Thought: This one was creepy but not scary! It’s inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of The House of Usher and I was a little familiar with it but not enough to really know what was going to happen. The writing was fantastic and I was drawn in immediately to this sinister house and its history though there were points that were kind of slow for me..like really slow. If I’m honest I’m still a little confused as to what happened at the end for sure and also I THINK I get what was behind everything but also maybe not? As far as atmosphere goes, this book had it. PERFECT book to curl up with on a cool Fall day and just get lost in the life of a girl who lives in this house where strange things happen and whose family has this mysterious illness that eventually kills them. The house became its own character really. I will say that sometimes, while interesting, the storytelling — the chapters alternate from Madeline at different ages — was hard to keep track of and I’d have to flip back to double check what age we were at. This book would definitely be a great movie and when I kept reading I was visualizing so many scenes and the setting of everyone room and of the exterior of the house and outside of the house. Very creepy and I’m glad I read it around this time!

 

RATING

RATING-LIKED

 

 

Rooms by  Lauren Oliver

Rooms by Lauren Oliver:

What It’s About In A Sentence: A family comes together to clean out the house of estranged patriarch and secrets and the past hurts come unearthed as the ghosts of the house, wrought with their own secrets, watch on.

I really liked this one! Lauren Oliver is such a great writer and I think her adult debut was very solid. It’s definitely different than her YA and I think those looking for exactly THAT could be disappointed as this is definitely more character driven and more of a slow paced story but it really worked for me. It was NOT scary at all if that matters to you. There are ghosts but it didn’t feel like a typical ghost story and definitely explored some emotional things. The family dynamics were fascinating — a family comes together to clean out the house of house of their ex-husband/estranged father. All 3 of them are carrying their own burden and secrets and then the other two perspectives we get are the two ghosts that inhabit the house who have their own secrets they can’t let go of.  The multi-POV’s can seem daunting at first but I really enjoyed the perspectives from the family members and also the ghosts because ALL of their threads in the story were SO fascinating to me and I got swept up in them and the ever so slightly unraveling mystery. Lauren’s writing is just so haunting and beautiful and so full of depth.

RATING

RATING-reallyliked

Overall Scare Factor Of My Halloween TBR reading:

So none of the books I read were super scary. The Fall definitely was creepy and atmospheric but not scary — definitely takes the cake for “scariest” out of these . Rooms wasn’t at all creepy or scary and the ghost element wasn’t of the scare variety. Miss Peregrine’s was delightfully strange and all the magic and supernatural elements made it a great Halloween read. They all, though The Fall & Miss Peregrine’s more strongly than Rooms, had that FEEL of a good Halloween read.

I will say next year I’m hoping to add an actual SCARY book into my reading experience (hit me with recs in the comments!!) but I’m really pleased with the books I chose for my Halloween reads! So if you want solid, non-scary books but still have that FEEL for your Halloween reading I’d check all of these out!

 

What books have you read so far in your Halloween/October reading? Any REALLY scary books to recommend to me for next year (or just good recs in general)?

Before I Blogged I Read: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: September 2008
Genre: Literary Adult Fiction

What it’s About:

Nice year old Oskar is precocious, bright an inventor and someone who definitely sees the world with a different lens. Oskar has also just lost his father who was killed during 9/11. After his death, he finds a key that was his father’s and he is certain that finding what it goes to will solve some sort of mystery and will maybe help his mother in her grief. He sets off to find what the key belongs to and how it relates to his father and meets people all across the city. Other chapters are letters telling another story that gives a bigger picture to the members of Oskar’s family.

THOUGHTS:

1. THIS IS ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS & I FELT ALL THE THINGS READING IT:  This was the book that got me back into reading in general (you should check out my reading history to get an overview) after not having read much in high school and college. It was one of those books that was the most all-consuming experiences that I hadn’t felt in a LONG time when I did read books here and there. I DEVOURED IT. I lived it. I bawled. I belly-laughed. My heart tore and twisted in ways in the way that only a special book can do to you. I’m honestly afraid to reread it for the reason I explain here. I mean, I got a lot of other people to read and love it but a close friend of mine read it and was like, “that was the most pretentious boring book I’ve ever read.” DAGGER TO THE HEART I TELL YOU. But, for me, this book was everything and more.

2. Oskar will be one of the most memorable characters ever. Oskar is just one of the best characters that always makes my heart flip flop when I think of him. Precocious and honest and funny. I just adore him and my heart broke for him as he tried to solve this puzzle. I loved the way he saw the world. I loved his phrases and made-up words. I will still always use the term “heavy boots” for how I’m feeling some days.

3. Some of my all time favorite passages and quotes come from this book:  The way that Jonathan Safran Foer conveys even the simplest of things just really resonated with me and I dog-earred so many pages. I read the funny bits out loud to Will. The emotions and the little truths just really hit me. I really loved this author’s writing style and read his other book, Everything Is Illuminated, and enjoyed that too though less than this one.

Favorite Quotes:

 

“I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.” ”

 

“We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families and our friends, and even the people who aren’t on our lists, people we’ve never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe.”

 

“Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret was how much I believed in the future.”

 “It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about my life at all.”

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought!

More reading:

Before I Blogged I Read: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
Before  I Blogged I Read: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Before I Blogged I Read: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Book Talk: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Talk: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins ReidAfter I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher/Year: Washington Square Press- July 1, 2014
Genres: Adult Contemporary, Adult Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Other Books From Author: Forever, Interrupted

 
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Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

 

A1

Lauren and Ryan have been together since they were in college. Now, many years into their marriage, it’s all fallen apart. In an attempt to figure out what to do next, they decide to take a year off from their marriage — no communication at all — in the hopes that spending some time apart they would fall back in love again or figure out what their future is. They both end up on a journey of self-discovery and that year questions what they think about love and marriage and their ideas of it.

a2Should I wake Will up to talk about this book now or wait until morning?! (I chose waiting because he might receive all my THOUGHTS better if I don’t wake him up). Also, CRAP it’s 1:30 in the morning and I have to be up early!!

a4Oh my soul. OH MY HEART. OH MY THIS BOOK. This is a must for anybody who is married for sure but even if you aren’t married it’s a great story and there is so much to glean from it regarding relationships — especially romantic ones. Estelle and Hannah both raved about this book and THEY WERE 100% RIGHT. It’s freaking amazing. No seriously.

1. As a married lady, this book resonated with me in more depth than I could have imagined: It was a lot like Landline by Rainbow Rowell in the way it made me think about marriage and relationships but this one affected me even more so to be honest. Will and I have been happily married for two years this month and this book made me want to vow to never stop talking, never let apathy lead the way and resentment to build and SO MANY OTHER THINGS because this story broke my heart in ways and I don’t want my marriage to ever get to the point this one did. There were little things that were in this book that scared the hell out of me because some of them I could see happening to us if I’m being honest. The beginnings of things that don’t look like a big deal but ARE.  I’d recommend this to everyone but ESPECIALLY YOU MARRIED PEOPLE. It was Thinking Book for sure and I am so thankful for it.

2. From page 1 I was just captured by this story: We know from the start that they are in a bad place so it’s super bittersweet when we get the story of them falling in love. Despite that, I loved learning how they met, their engagement and then life as newlyweds and then we get these chapters of these small cracks in the foundation and then each little section gets progressively sadder and worse with their relationship. I could FEEL the resentment and the anger there. And then we get into the present where they are deciding to separate from each other for a year. I found myself furiously reading because I HAD TO KNOW how it would turn out. I enjoyed watching what Lauren was learning in her year away from him and I just was so nervous to see what would happen at the end of the year. They both learned a lot about themselves/their marriage but would they be able to fix it? I HAD TO KNOW.

3. This book made me WEEP multiple times: There were just so many things about this story that made me emotional — especially the ending. But watching them leave each other, witnessing the sad moments and the loneliness, the doubt, the realizations of where things went wrong. It all just killed me and there were these perfectly written moments that just stirred up something in my heart so forcefully. And when the ending came…I was just a mess. It was just so unflinchingly honest and poignant that my heart couldn’t handle it.

4. I’m so used to reading books about people FALLING IN LOVE that it was refreshing to read something different: Sure, we see the beginnings of their love story but then we start to see this unraveling of it. And I liked that I really didn’t KNOW if they were going to get back together in the end. To watch how hard sometimes you have to work at love was just really refreshing because like the tagline says, “falling in love is the easy part.” And I honestly was glued to this unraveling but then this year of self love and reflecting on the marriage and the love for each other.

 

a6RATING-beyondloved

factors+ plot, characters, FEELINGS, how it made me think
- NADA

Re-readability: YES!!
Would I buy a copy for my collection? I got this out from the library and I REALLY want a copy for myself now!

a5readers of contemporary adult fiction, people who like reading about messy love, people who liked or were interested in Rainbow Rowell’s Landine, married folk because it’s super relatable (even if it you AREN’T married it’s great)

a8I highly recommend After I Do and I can’t wait to pick up Taylor Jenkins Reid’s debut novel next. I loved this story and how I connected to it and the characters. It was definitely a book I NEEDED to read and hit me right in the heart with how it dealt with the complicated nature of love and marriage. As I approach my 2 year marriage anniversary, this was just the right book for me at the right time.

 

review-on-post-it

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
* If you haven’t read it, is it something on your radar or that you think you will read?
* DID YOU WEEP AT THE ENDING IF YOU READ THIS BOOK??
* Married ladies, did this one hit ya right in the feels?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt | Book Review

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt | Book ReviewTell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Publisher/Year: Random House- June 2012
Genres: Adult Contemporary, Adult Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Other Books From Author: None, this was her debut. WHY CAN'T SHE HAVE MORE BOOKS OUT!?
AmazonGoodreadsTwitter

 

 

 

 

book synopsis Fourteen year old June’s uncle Finn, her best friend and the only person who gets her, passes away from an illness that her parents are hush hush about and seem ashamed of. As she tries to grapple with the loss of the one person that means everything to her she finds a stranger reaching out to her — a stranger who knows Finn almost as well as she did..maybe even more so. June reluctantly spends time with him and together they try to heal from their mutual loss.

good books to read

Oh, this book! My heart. Do you ever read a book and feel like the weight of the world is just sitting on your heart the whole time? One of my favorite expressions to describe how I feel, from one of my all time favorite books, is as having “heavy boots.” Tell The Wolves I’m Home was excellent and completely made me feel a whole array of emotions.  Thank you, Margot, for letting me borrow it and pushing it on me!

It’s an adult fiction novel but the narrator is 14 years old and I found this just to be a most beautiful and heartbreaking coming of age story set in the 1980’s. There were so many things about this book that I loved that I feel like I can’t even begin to tell you about it all — the characters, the writing, this weighty grief that June has to work through and so many other little aspects of the plot.

Watching June deal with the grief of losing her Uncle Finn was so emotional because it was just all so complicated within the family and the public perception of Finn because of how he died! Finn died of AIDs and it’s back in the 80’s so everything is very hush hush and not as much public knowledge about it. Her and Finn were so close and June’s feelings towards him are kind of complicated and intense. Then she meets Finn’s boyfriend Toby, whom her parents kept a secret from her because they blame him for Finn dying, and from Toby she learns even more about her Uncle Finn — to the point where she feels like she didn’t even really know him in some ways and she hates having to had shared him with someone. I loved learning about Finn through June but also through Toby and Finn really became such a real character to me. I could feel the love just emanating from them.

While June and Toby’s friendship was one of my favorite parts of this novel, I also really loved the relationship between June and her sister even though I wanted to kick her sister in the face so many times. I love complicated sisterly relationships and this one was a thread throughout the story I was fascinated by.

It’s honestly just so hard to explain what I thought about this novel. It was just brilliant, touching and got me all choked up. I loved it! It’s a quieter novel but it moves along at a good pace and hooks you with the compelling characters and their dynamics.

book reviewsI loved Tell The Wolves I’m Home. It was just one of those really touching, complicated stories that broke my heart but also mended it in ways. I think it could be a good novel for YA readers who also like adult fiction — good crossover material! This book left a searing impression on my heart and I won’t soon forget it.

short book reviewTell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

 

for-fans-of-bookadult fiction, character driven books, coming of age stories, family dynamics + secrets, stories about grief, books that make your heart explode

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Save The Date: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

To learn more about why I started doing this Save The Date feature and how it differs from my reviews — go here!

 

landline-rainbow-rowell

* Release date according to Goodreads

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Pre-Order It | Add It To Goodreads


What Landline by Rainbow Rowell Is About:

Georgie + Neal’s marriage has been off for some time and she knows it has been. It’s not an issue of not loving each other but between jobs and kids and all somehow it just has gotten a little lost. When they are a few days out from leaving for Omaha for Christmas, Georgie has a huge work opportunity arise and she has to stay in LA for it. She assumes they’ll all just stay home but is surprised when Neal decides he and the kids are still going. Scared of what this implies, Georgie wonders if it has all fallen apart for good and if/how she can fix it….until she’s given an opportunity to talk to Neal in the past.

Why You Should Be Saving The Date for Landline by Rainbow Rowell:

1. Rainbow Rowell continues her trend of being able to write poignantly and candidly about all sorts of love: Every book of hers I’ve read (all but Attachments) just perfectly captures some intricacy of love in different stages/forms and all the beautiful messiness that comes with it. I loved that, while this was partly a story about a love going wrong, it’s also a story about falling back in love and remembering the first time you fell in love with that person as well…especially in the face of maybe losing it all. She makes love just come alive and feel true.

2. GOD HER WRITING: I just love how Rainbow Rowell writes and Landline is no exception. I love her dialogue. The insertion of some humor. How it makes me feel. And these beautiful sentences that just make you stop in your tracks. I even read a passage to Will and I NEVERRRR read him things from what I’m reading.

3. Lots of thinking re: my own marriage and really any relationship that’s important: It’s easy to be complacent and take people for granted. To not try harder to keep your love ignited and fall into bad habits. I’m early on in my marriage and things are wonderful but this was such a raw and honest portrayal of how one day you could wake up and be in a place you don’t want to be in your marriage because little by little you let it slip away.

4. She just keeps proving she can write anything: This is her 2nd adult book and 4th book total and everything of hers I read is so wonderfully different and I never know what to expect with her but each time I fall in love in my own way with the book and the characters. They are the books that linger for me and keep me up at night.

5. She makes this THING work: There’s an element to this book, how Georgie communicates with him in the past, that COULD be super corny and she just makes it WORK. So well. Never felt corny.

 

Who Should Save The Date: Rainbow Rowell fans, people who also read adult fiction, people who like love stories that are a bit messy but beautiful

 

A Sneak Peek: “You don’t know when you are twenty-three. You don’t know what it really means to crawl into someone else’s life and stay there. You can’t see all the ways you’re going to get tangled, how you’re going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten — in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems” (this is taken from the advanced copy and could be subject to change)

Be on the lookout for my FULL review closer to the release date where I will flesh out my thoughts a little more!

 

Have you read this one? Are you excited for it?? Putting it on your TBR list? What’s your favorite Rainbow Rowell book thus far if you’ve read her?

Before I Blogged I Read: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: October 2008

1. I was MEANT to read this book. So gather around, friends, for a little story. I was assigned to read this book in high school, looked at the cover, said GAG and managed to write an A+ report without reading it. So years pass between 2003 and I never think of that book again until my last semester in college in 2008 when I’m assigned this novel to do a HUUUUGE paper on. I had to laugh. Like, world, you must REALLY want me to read this book. So I did. And I EFFING LOVED IT. I am so glad this book wormed its way into my life because it was one of the best books I’ve ever read on so many levels. And I’m not going to lie, I wrote one of the best papers of my academic LIFE because of this book. I had so many thoughts and feelings. I had never been so excited about discussing the themes of book before. EVER.

2. This book was not at ALL what I judged it to be. I thought this was going to be JUST as war story or something. NOPE. I can’t even pin down what this book is. True, it involves war stories but it is SO MUCH MORE. It’s amazing, honestly. Thought-provoking, wonderfully written and has left this lasting impression on me the way it captures just the humanness of war and the intricacies of what it is to be human.  It was the type of book that I dog-eared the crap out of because there were just so many awesomely profound things. I hugged it, I laughed, I shouted at it and I cried. I actually want to do a re-read of it.

3. If you love truly amazing writing, you have to read this one. Seriously. The way this story was told. MAN. Makes me feel like the way I write is the equivalent of a 3 year old. It’s not just the particular way he strings together a sentence that is remarkable but it’s the way he makes you FEEL like you are there in the trenches or the emotion that exudes from the pages that grips you entirely and makes you want to weep for these men. It’s also the WAY he tells the story. The story truths and the happening truths and the always wondering what is real and not real. How it all is interconnected. It’s genius.

4. It is fiction but is also very based on the author’s own experience. Sometimes I forgot this book was fiction to be honest. I felt like I was reading someone’s very vivid and compelling accounts of the war and it really ties into his theme of truths and how sometimes story-truth is truer than happening truth. Through these interrelated stories from different angles of the war, we get glimpses of the happening truth and we feel that so devastatingly so, like sitting down with an old vet, but we get the story truth that helps us feel emotionally connected to it and to ache and feel raw alongside them.

Favorite Quotes:

A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”

 

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

 

 “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

 

“He wished he could’ve explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.”

 

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Was this required reading for anyone else??

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book Review

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book ReviewStella Bain by Anita Shreve
Publisher/Year: Little Brown- November 12, 2013
Genres: Adult Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Rescue, A Wedding In December, The Pilot's Wife, Body Surfing, and many others!
AmazonGoodreads

I received this from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Stella Bain, an American woman, wakes up in France in the middle of World War I and has no idea who she is. She clings to the name Stella Bain and, after she recovers from her injuries, she decides to become a nurse’s aide until she figure out who she is or what to do next. She feels very strongly about going to London to the Admiralty but doesn’t know why so she travels there on a hunch not knowing what awaits her there. Before she makes it there, she is found outside by Dr. Bridge and his wife and they allow her to stay in their home so she can get better and soon Dr. Bridge takes her on as a patient to help her try to figure out who she is.

MEH. I was so excited for this one because the premise sounded awesome and I love adult historical fiction. I hate to say it but it was completely a disappointment for me which is a shame because the first half of the book was SO GOOD — very compelling and kept me turning the pages. But then the second part happened and I felt like the story just got lost somewhere and I didn’t care anymore. I probably should have put it down but I didn’t and now I regret that because the ending REALLY didn’t nothing for me. SO MUCH APATHY FROM ME.

So let’s talk about the only part of this book that really standout for me — the first part. I was hooked immediately. The main character wakes up not knowing her name, where she is or any other details about herself. She finds herself in France during World War I and starts working as a nurse’s aide and just starts rebuilding a life under the name Stella Bain. Something triggers her and she feels like she needs to go to the Admirality in London — on a hunch. That’s when she meets Dr. Bridge and his wife by chance and they start to work on her memory. It was compelling and I felt so sorry for her and wanted to know her story. Early on we learn who she is, but then we learn her back story and how she became to be in France which was ALL very interesting. I was really loving the book at this point. It flowed very well and I was intrigued by the main character.

But then the rest of the story happened. It seemed so scattered and pointless for me. After she found out who she was, I just stopped caring. I didn’t mean to. I was looking forward to her “redemption” so to speak but it just wasn’t there for me and I struggled to keep going. There were SO many different things going on and the storylines weren’t as strong as they SHOULD have been for me. I wanted to care about what was going on in the custody battle but I didn’t because it didn’t feel entirely urgent to me — just a thing she was doing. I should have wanted this romance but it was NOT AT ALL captivating to me despite having caught the tension early on. I think I get what Shreve was trying to do with the rest of the story but it didn’t come together well in my opinion. My friend Hannah and I read it around the same time and we both agreed that we thought the story was going to focus more on the shell shock she had experienced but it didn’t really and just seemed to lose any sort of focus.

I finished this book not feeling anything at all — and that’s the worst kind of feeling for me. I’d rather passionately hate a book than feeling nothing at all.

Ultimately the worst kind of disappointment — a very strong absorbing first half as we watch Stella try to figure out who she is, her identity is revealed and her compelling back story was shared that went downhill. Then this book kind of went off into la-la land and my mind went off with it. I was bored, the storylines were clunky and not compelling and I felt nothing at all anymore.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Have you read any other Anita Shreve books? This was my first one, unfortunately, and I’m scared to try others but totally would with a good rec. Any other good books you know that are set during WWI?

Before I Blogged I Read: The Poisonwood Bible By Barbara Kingsolver

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: July 2009

1. The Poisonwood Bible is told from multiple POVs  from the daughters and the wife of a Baptist preacher who has moved them from the US to the Congo to be missionaries in the late 50’s. I loved the multiple POVs in this instance because it really showed such a complete look at the situation and everyone felt differently about the things that were going down — from the physical and emotional response to moving, to the terrible things that happened as a result of this move, the political situation in the Congo and life in the village. I could appreciate the perspective from the daughters who LOVED their new home and were fascinated by it but I could also feel the one daughter’s HATRED, as a teenager, for a land so different and far away from what she knows. I could feel how hard it would be to adjust.

2. The setting obviously was a lot different from most of the books I had read and I was definitely interested in African culture and how these white missionaries would immerse themselves in it and adjust. Right away things go wrong with them not packing some of the right things and not quite being prepared for life in the Congo. It was interesting to see it from the viewpoints of the different girls because of their different feelings about even BEING there. I loved the observations about the culture and the landscape from the daughters that really appreciated the Congo and learning about the political situation. I also felt Kingsolver did a good job presenting the beauty of the Congo with the things that make life really hard for the villagers and the Prices– food shortages, dangerous snakes and insects, illnesses, political strife, etc.

3. I remember having such strong (hate) feelings toward Mr. Price. He is one of those Baptist preachers who is definitely all fire and brimstone and he really is that way in his approach with the villagers. He puts his family in so much danger in different ways and is just so stubborn and it infuriated me especially because his family was just falling apart and he just didn’t care it felt like. There is a lot of butting heads between Nathan and the villagers in terms of religion, culture and just the way things are done. He just came into it with so little regard for their culture and he was just altogether one of those characters I just hated because he didn’t even TRY to understand these people or their culture in his approach. Didn’t understand their needs or meet them where they were at. I don’t know if he meant to be such a douchenugget but he was.

4. I read this at an interesting time for myself — I had just graduated from a Christian college where I came out more confused about where I stood than before and it was mostly because of the people. I saw so much in this novel that is what bothered me about parts of Christianity — all embodied in Nathan Price. His approach is what rubs me the wrong way and so it was interesting to read this story with all my own questions swirling around my head. There is a missionary who comes into the novel that was in this village prior to the Prices and his approach definitely contrasts all that Nathan was and showed a lot more compassion, love and understanding towards these people that motivated his work there and gained the respect of the villagers. It definitely was a thought provoking read for me.

Favorite Quotes:

“Don’t try to make life a mathematics problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you’re good, bad things can still happen. And if you’re bad, you can still be lucky.” 

“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.” 

 

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Have you read any other Kingsolver novels? I read The Bean Trees back in high school and remember liking it.

Arranged by Catherine McKenzie | Book Review

20130709-165427.jpgBook Title/Author: Arranged by Catherine McKenzie
Publisher/Year
: William Morrow 2012
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance – “Chick Lit/Romantic Comedy”
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Spin, Forgotten, Hidden

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I got this out from the library!

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Blythe is by all means a successful — she’s in her early 30’s, she’s got a great job as a columnist for a magazine, she’s working on a deal for her book and she’s got a great social circle. The only thing she is missing is that special someone to share her life with. She’s had her share of bad relationships and the latest one ended in her leaving him because he cheated. On her way to start her new life alone she comes across a business card for what appears to be a dating service for when she decides she may be up for dating again. Anne hits rock bottom when her best friend gets engaged and she feels like she is going to be forever alone so she decides to call the dating service and see what happens. What Anne finds is that it is actually a very exclusive service that isn’t there to get you a date but rather to find you a husband — it’s an arranged marriage service that comes with a hefty price tag. She thinks it is absurd at first but after a lot of thought and research she decides to give it a go and soon she’s on her way to Mexico to meet and marry her husband.

I read Arranged by Catherine McKenzie on the beach and it was SUCH a perfect beach read. I originally had her novel Spin as a pick on my Books That Will Be In My Beach Bag list but it came into the library too late so I picked this one up since it was available! It was so FUN and such a deliciously good page turner and I enjoyed every single page!

Arranged is told in 3 parts and I don’t even know which one is my favorite. Part 1 is learning about Anne’s love life and her finding out about this whole process and agreeing to it. I was certainly plenty intrigued about the whole service and how it works though I, like Anne, was very skeptical. Part 2 is Mexico which was equally, if not more,  compelling as she meets her husband. As a reader, I was so eager to see if there would be chemistry between them and how awkward it would be. Part 3 is life AFTER the resort and that is where it gets to be even more of a juicier page-turner.

It was easy for me to feel for Anne. Sure, I met Will when I was 21 but pretty much all my friends were in serious relationships and I was just bouncing around so I always felt like an old maid. I know lots of people in Anne’s position — she’s in her early 30’s, doesn’t have a serious relationship and all her friends are getting married and having kids. It’s hard to feel like you are stuck in a whole other universe while all your friends are “moving on.” I felt that when we were the only unmarried couple in our group. I could feel Anne’s desire for what her friends had — true love — and I love how this story was so honest & funny about the things we do to find love. While most of us probably have not considered  arranged marriages, we’ve all done something or ignored something in our quest for love.

The writing was very accessible and straightforward which was perfect for a beach read and had characters that were easy to relate to but not in an obvious way. I was taken off guard by something that happened in Part 3 (I didn’t read the summary of this book closely) but after that I found that it remained pretty predictable to what I expect like how it is when I’m watching a romantic comedy and I didn’t mind that. I rooted for Anne the whole way through to find her true love and her story, while unconventional, was something I could relate to and loved watching unravel.

Ultimately Arranged was the fun, breezy romantic comedy I had hoped it would be for a beach read but I was really impressed with the smart and honest insights into the ups and downs of finding someone to love and loving– desire, loneliness, being vulnerable, trusting after you’ve been hurt, etc. It satisfied the need for a romantic page-turner filled with some laughs but also tackled the subject of marriage and love in an insightful and honest manner. It was a very unique and unconventional love story and I enjoyed it so much! Definitely recommend if you are looking for a fun romantic comedy or a good beach read!

 

Arranged-Catherine-McKenzie


Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Did you like it, dislike it or feeling mixed about it? Did you see THE BIG THING coming? I just didn’t (but I also didn’t read the summary). Have you read any of her other books?? Which one should I read next? I have Spin from the library now so I’ll probably start there!

 

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Book Title/Author: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Publisher/Year
:  Plume 2012
Genre: Mystery/historical fiction – Adult Fiction
Series
: No
Other Books From Author: The Violets of March, The Bungalow

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Jio’s website |

I checked this out from my wonderful library. LIBRARIES ARE COOL, y’all!

 

 

 

Told in alternating perspectives, Blackberry Winter tells the story of two woman, decades apart, but whose stories become intertwined when a freak weather phenomenon in May, a blackberry winter, unearths an unsolved kidnapping from the 1930s. Vera Ray is a single mother who is struggling to pay rent with her low paying job as a maid at a ritzy hotel. With no way to pay for childcare, she tucks her three year old son in bed to work the night shift, only to return home to discover that there has been a freak snowstorm and Daniel has gone missing with only his favorite teddy bear left behind. Almost 80 years later, Claire, a reporter and wife in the midst of a failing marriage, wakes up to Seattle covered in snow and her boss wanting a great feature connecting the blackberry winter of today to the one in 1933. Claire finds the story of the missing child that went unsolved and sets out to find out what happened as Vera’s story becomes personal to her — even more so than she’d ever realized.

I really, really loved Blackberry Winter! It was a captivating story that and has made me a huge Sarah Jio fan with just one book. The way the two women’s stories were intertwined and told in alternating chapters really worked for me as I learned more about each women & their life in smaller pieces — which really piled on the suspense! I was so invested in both Vera & Claire’s stories that I’d finish one chapter and be all, “Oh man! I don’t want to switch perspectives” but then immediately be absorbed in the other woman’s story.I loved learning about Vera’s back story and how she became a single mother (umm rather swoony and then completely heartbreaking) while simultaneously learning more about what happened to her and Daniel through Claire’s investigation. That storyline REALLY got to me and Sarah Jio knows how to deliver bits of answers in a way that you can’t help but hastily read because you really care so much about what happened.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to really connect with Claire with the nature of the fact that so much of what she does in the book is help us learn more about Vera and Daniel but Sarah Jio really made her into a character I loved as she had so many of her own heartbreaking issues to deal with that really drew her to this story. While obviously her investigation about Vera was the shining storyline, I thought that Claire’s marital issues and the unfortunate accident that happened in their life was really interesting and I loved the healing that went on throughout the story in different ways. The only thing that I will say is that sometimes I thought things were a little bit too much of a coincidence but not in a way that really detracted from the story at all. But besides that, this book was fantastic & I’ll be reading all of her books!

 

Blackberry Winter was the perfect blend of mystery and historical fiction, laced with romance, and a serious page-turner. The  pieces of the mystery were revealed in that way that just makes on ravenous and the two intertwined stories were heartbreaking and beautiful. Truly a moving story that will leave you a bit misty-eyed while reading about Vera’s story — both through the back story & Claire’s investigation. Sarah Jio has just such smooth & exquisite writing — the unraveling of the mystery, the scenes that make your heart ache, the amazing characterization & more — it was just all so deftly and wonderfully written. Even if you typically don’t read adult fiction, I’d recommend still checking this one out!

 

You May Also Like: Kate MortonLucinda Riley, The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rassmussen (it has that some sort of amazingly revealed mystery without being an overly “mystery” book — great characters, stories that make a mark on your heart, etc). 

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you guess how they were tied together? Have you read either of Sarah Jio’s other novels?  Which one should I tackle next?

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