Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018.

Looking back, I see that I spent a big chunk of my reading time in 2018 with authors already familiar (and much loved), but I did manage to try a bunch of new ones too. Here’s a selection of my favorites:

1) Kristin Hannah — loved The Great Alone! I just picked up a copy of Firefly Road to try next.

2) Christina Lauren — who would have thought I’d enjoy their contemporary romances so much?

3) Susan OrleanThe Library Book was fascinating. Must read The Orchid Thief!

4) Celeste Ng – I read Little Fires Everywhere with my book group, and am looking forward to reading Everything I Never Told You.

5) Josh MalermanUnbury Carol was so strange and wonderful. I’ve read another book and a novel by him so far in 2019, and can’t wait for his new book, Inspection, coming out this spring.

6) Madeline MillerThe Song of Achilles was beautiful. Can’t wait to read Circe with my book group this summer.

7) Jennifer Ryan – I loved The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, which was a debut novel. I hope this talented author releases another book soon — her writing is terrific!

8) Jenny Han – Got totally hooked on the Lara Jean books after watching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix. Should I read her other books too?

9) Neal Shusterman — how had I not heard of him before? I loved Scythe and Thunderhead, and thought Dry was pretty good as well.

10) Jasmine Guillory — yet another contemporary romance writer. I read two of her books in 2018. Between those and the Christina Lauren, maybe I need to stop saying that I don’t read romance?

Are you a fan of any of these new-to-me authors? Are there any of their works that you’d particularly recommend?

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The Monday Check-In ~ 1/14/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Reading goals

Or should that be: #readinggoals (???)

Nah, I’m not really a fan of random hashtags. In any case, I kind of swore to myself that I’d request fewer ARCs and concentrate more on my existing stacks of books, plus focus on reading whatever the hell I feel like at all times… and yet, I already have 18 (yes, 18) ARCs lined up to read between now and the beginning of June. So, trying to meet my obligations as well as stick to my plan, my current plan of attack is to read one ARC per week, more or less in sync with the books’ release dates, and read according to my whims in between all those ARCs. Will this plan stick? We shall see.

What did I read during the last week?

I read two works by Josh Malerman — a novel (Bird Box) and a novella (A House at the Bottom of a Lake), and really liked them both. I’m probably the only person who hasn’t watched the Netflix version of Bird Box yet, but as soon as I do, I plan to write up some thoughts on the book and the movie.

I wrote one book review this week:

The Nowhere Child by Christian White: A contemporary thriller set in both Australia and Kentucky. My review is here.

I also finished In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire late Sunday, and loved it (just like the rest of the books in the Wayward Children series). I’ll write up my thoughts a bit later in the week.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4. Last week’s post went up a little later than usual – check it out:
Episode 410, “The Deep Heart’s Core” (aired 1/6/2019) – the post is here.

And here’s the newest:
Episode 411, “If Not For Hope” (aired 1/13/2019) – my reaction post is here.

Pop culture goodness:

More Game of Thrones! The kiddo and I are about halfway through season 4. He’s loving it, and I’m loving having a good excuse to rewatch the entire series.

Fresh Catch:

I picked up a couple more books for my Great American Read challenge:

… and treated myself to one more new release that I’ve been wanting:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Roomies by Christina Lauren: I picked this up at the library on a whim, because there’s never a bad time for a Christina Lauren pick-me-up.

Now playing via audiobook:

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: This is just so frickin’ adorable! I’m about halfway through – can’t wait to hear the rest.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing reads with my book group:

  • A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: Continuing our journey through all of the Lord John books and stories.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Our next classic read starts the end of January. Can’t wait!

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 11

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 411: “If Not For Hope”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie, Claire and Young Ian embark on a long uncertain journey to rescue Roger, while Brianna forges a friendship with one of Jamie’s old friends as she fends off Aunt Jocasta’s attempts to secure a husband.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna is staying at River Run with Aunt Jocasta while Claire and Jamie search for Roger.
  • Jocasta is trying to find a suitable husband for Brianna.
  • Lord John visits River Run and begins a friendship with Brianna.
  • Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian continue to follow Roger’s trail.
  • Claire and Jamie soothe their hurt feelings and end the distance between them.
  • Roger is still captive, and finally arrives at the Mohawk village.

Insta-reaction:

Gotta admit it — I didn’t love this episode. I didn’t hate it either. I guess this is more of a move-the-story-along episode, where events proceed but there’s not a huge impact.

Okay, so what happened?

The bulk of the episode is spent on Brianna. She’s settled in at River Run, drawing portraits and worrying about poor Roger. Aunt Jocasta is not one to just let things be. She’s aware that Brianna is pregnant, and having an illegitimate child is not something she wants for her niece. So, she takes it upon herself to round up a bunch of eligible bachelors and invite them to a dinner party, hoping one of the gentlemen will be a suitable match for Brianna. Brianna, obviously, wants nothing to do with her scheming aunt’s matchmaking.

Lord John is one of the guests, and is most chivalrous toward Brianna. Later that night, she stumbles upon John in an intimate encounter with another of the male guests. (Dude, why are you doing it in the pantry? Couldn’t you at least have found a hidden place outside the house or something?) The next morning, Phaedre informs Brianna that her aunt wants her downstairs because Mr. Forbes, yet another of the party guests, is going to ask her to marry him. Brianna slips outside, asks John to join her, and basically tries to blackmail him into marrying her.

Although John’s not willing to marry her, his heart melts a bit when Brianna tells him about Stephen Bonnet, the rape, and that she doesn’t know who the baby’s father is. She wants to wait for Roger to return, but she can’t be sure he’ll still want her when he learns that she may be carrying another man’s baby. (Clearly, Brianna doesn’t know Roger as well as she should!) Lord John talks to Brianna about his feelings for Jamie, and also about his admiration for Claire. Ultimately, he saves her from Jocasta and Forbes’s plans by announcing that he and Brianna are engaged.

Let’s see, what else? There are some random scenes of Marsali, Fergus, and Murtagh, and I’m sorry, but the Regulator business is too boring for words. Murtagh and Fergus do manage to track down Stephen Bonnet, but Murtagh himself is arrested before they can get away with Bonnet.

Maybe this was only a “meh” episode for me because of the limited Claire and Jamie time. Yes, Brianna’s story is the most dramatic at the moment, but there’s only so much time I want to spend with her at the expense of our true power couple. Claire and Jamie are at odds, each carrying around a ton of hurt and guilt. Ian tries to get them to patch things up, and eventually, they do. Claire reassures Jamie that he is a good father, that he is a good man, and that she loves him. They both are blaming themselves for the mistakes they’ve made that led to this point, but at least they’ve reestablished their bond and will continue on their hunt for Roger together.

Roger only gets a couple of scenes at the beginning and end of the episode. He ends up at the Mohawk’s village after weeks (months?) of travel, and is immediately put through some sort of gauntlet where everyone gets to take a swing at him. Welcome to your new home, Roger!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Like I said, I was fairly underwhelmed. I didn’t appreciate the attempted fake-out at the beginning, as the episode opens with Roger in a hot shower. Aha, he went back to the 20th century after all! Like anyone would really think that — not at all convincing. Of course, the shower is just a fantasy, and he didn’t go anywhere. I’m a little annoyed that the show didn’t let us know whether he walked away from the stones himself or was captured before he could attempt to time-travel. I hope they make this clear later on — it’s an important distinction that shows Roger’s frame of mind, and I believe it should not have been left so ambiguous.

I’m not clear on why Jocasta felt such a need to marry Brianna off. If they need a suitable cover story for the sake of her social position (and that of the baby), why not just say she’s a widow? Or that her husband was lost on a perilous voyage, so if he shows up later, it’s all good. Bree doesn’t need a husband to care for her — she has her parents, and for that matter, she could have a home at River Run for as long as needed. Why the rush, Auntie?

And ugh, that dinner party “game” Brianna invents, invoking psychology and the interpretation of dreams. I mean, what the hell was that? I was afraid for a moment that they would actually go around the table and make us listen to each individual person’s response to Bree’s question, which could have taken up the rest of the episode and then some. So weird. So unnecessary.

Ah, Lord John. Always a lovely man. It’s fun to see him with Brianna. As I mentioned before, he was being AWFULLY indiscreet, which is tremendously out of character for him. BUT, at least this is an improvement over the presentation in the book, where Brianna catches him sneaking back to the house from the plantation slave quarters where, it is implied, he had a tryst with one of Jocasta’s slaves. Thank goodness the show didn’t go down that problematic path.

It’s nice to see Fergus and Marsali, but I wish they had something to actually do.

The Jamie/Claire reconciliation was sweet and emotional (oh, the tears in Jamie’s eyes!), but there just wasn’t enough of them to satisfy me. They’re still the main characters of this show, and episodes that are light on Jamie and Claire feel like a cheat.

And furthermore…

I do like how Young Ian’s attire keeps getting little bits of ornamentation that show how much he’s been interacting with the Cherokee and becoming comfortable with them. Between the armband, the fringed boots, and the hanging knife sheath around his neck, he’s really picking up bits and pieces, which I think show that he’s developed a friendship with the Cherokee near Fraser’s Ridge. And now we learn that he speaks some Mohawk too. That’s not going to be important down the road, is it?

Only two episodes left! Here’s hoping the remaining too have a little more oomph that this one.

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Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, The Nowhere Child is screenwriter Christian White’s internationally bestselling debut thriller of psychological suspense about a woman uncovering devastating secrets about her family—and her very identity…

Kimberly Leamy is a photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-six years earlier, Sammy Went, a two-year old girl vanished from her home in Manson, Kentucky. An American accountant who contacts Kim is convinced she was that child, kidnapped just after her birthday. She cannot believe the woman who raised her, a loving social worker who died of cancer four years ago, crossed international lines to steal a toddler.

On April 3rd, 1990, Jack and Molly Went’s daughter Sammy disappeared from the inside their Kentucky home. Already estranged since the girl’s birth, the couple drifted further apart as time passed. Jack did his best to raise and protect his other daughter and son while Molly found solace in her faith. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist group who handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship, provided that faith. Without Sammy, the Wents eventually fell apart.

Now, with proof that she and Sammy are in fact the same person, Kim travels to America to reunite with a family she never knew she had. And to solve the mystery of her abduction—a mystery that will take her deep into the dark heart of religious fanaticism where she must fight for her life against those determined to save her soul…

The Nowhere Child is a contemporary mystery with a premise that reminded me of some teen thrillers that were popular in the early 2000s. What happens to a person who discovers that the life she thought she knew is built on a lie? What if it turns out that your parents aren’t really your parents? How would you handle finding out that you were kidnapped, way back before you were old enough to remember, and that you have an entirely other family out there in the world?

Kim’s life is turned upside down when a stranger shows up claiming that she’s his long-lost sister. DNA testing quickly proves that they are in fact siblings. But Kim knows that her mother was a good, loving person — how could she be a kidnapper?

Kim agrees to go to the United States with Stuart to meet her biological sister and parents, to see the Kentucky town where she was born, and to try to unravel the mystery of her disappearance. What happened all those years ago? Who took her, and why? And how did she end up growing up in Australia with woman she believed to be her mother?

The town of Manson, Kentucky has its own creepy secrets, among them a formerly popular pentecostal congregation with an outsized influence on its members, including Sammy/Kim’s mother Molly. Church members bear their snake bite scars as badges of honor — those who survive, anyway. As the narrative switches back and forth between Kim’s present trip to Manson and the past, almost thirty years earlier, when Sammy disappeared from her home, the clues and connections start to add up. And while Kim/Sammy’s kidnapping happened so many years ago, there’s still a threat lurking in the town when she comes too close to uncovering the truth.

I enjoyed the story and the puzzle of trying to figure out exactly what happened to Sammy, and the description of the different family members, townspeople, and their secrets. Some of the threads between “then” and “now” seemed a little flimsy to me, but overall, the plot is pieced together in such a way that the answers aren’t too obvious. I had a pretty good idea of whose stories had holes and where the missing connection might be, but it was still interesting to see it all come together.

We never really see much of Kim’s life in Australia, and I would have liked that piece of her life to be better fleshed out, especially to have seen more memories of her time with her mother. It felt like an important piece was missing, to see how Kim was raised and what her relationship with her mother was like. Likewise, it wasn’t entirely clear to me why some of the people in Kentucky in the “now” timeline acted as they did, and even once we had all the answers about the kidnapping, I’m not convinced that the motivation for taking and keeping Sammy made a whole lot of sense.

There’s a truly disturbing scene toward the end of the book that absolutely made my skin crawl. I mean, super icky and scary. Let’s just say that if you have a problem with reptiles and rodents, you should proceed with caution!

Overall, The Nowhere Child is a good, solid read that held my interest, even when I didn’t quite buy every element of the story. If anyone else has read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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The details:

Title: The Nowhere Child
Author: Christian White
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication date: January 22, 2019
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Thriller
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Shelf Control #151: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: 20th Century Ghosts
Author: Joe Hill
Published: 2007
Length: 316 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A collection of short stories.

Imogene is young and beautiful. She kisses like a movie star and knows everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead and waiting in the Rosebud Theater for Alec Sheldon one afternoon in 1945….

Arthur Roth is a lonely kid with big ideas and a gift for attracting abuse. It isn’t easy to make friends when you’re the only inflatable boy in town….

Francis is unhappy. Francis was human once, but that was then. Now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing….

John Finney is locked in a basement that’s stained with the blood of half a dozen other murdered children. In the cellar with him is an antique telephone, long since disconnected, but which rings at night with calls from the dead….

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past…

How and when I got it:

I bought it after reading Heart-Shaped Box, which scared the hell out of me.

Why I want to read it:

I’m a fan of Joe Hill’s novels, but haven’t read his short stories yet. Well, to be honest, when I bought this book soon after it came out, I read one story — and it was terrifying and horrible (as in, bloody and gory, not badly written), and I basically had to put the book down and run away. A friend later told me that I would have been fine if I’d skipped that one story, but oh well — the damage was already done! In any case, I still own a copy of this book, and because I do love Joe Hill’s writing, I’m determined to screw up my nerve and give it another try… one of these days. (All this is putting aside the fact that I don’t usually have the patience for short stories… this book will definitely be a stretch for me.)

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019.

There are so many books on the way that have me jumping up and down in excitement! Here are the ten at the top of my list… three of which are by the same author. What can I say? I do love her books!

1) In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

2) That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptids, #8) by Seanan McGuire

3) Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

4) Inspection by Josh Malerman

5) Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

6) Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

7) Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

8) Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

9) The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

10) The Book of Flora by Meg Elison

What books are you dying to read in 2019? Please share your links!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 10

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 410: “The Deep Heart’s Core”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire keep secrets from one another as they try to help Brianna process her recent trauma. But the secrets they keep cause a bigger familial rift once they are revealed.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna and Jamie develop a deeper understanding of one another.
  • Claire offers Brianna a choice about whether to keep or end the pregnancy.
  • POOR ROGER is dragged around for the entire episode by a group of Mohawk.
  • The truth comes out — Brianna finds out what Jamie did to Roger, and is PISSED.
  • Jamie, Claire, and Ian set out to find Roger.
  • Brianna tells Claire that she’s keeping the baby and staying in the 18th century.
  • Murtagh takes Brianna to River Run to stay with Aunt Jocasta while the rest of the family searches for Roger.

Insta-reaction:

Kudos to Sophie Skelton, who gives a powerful performance as Brianna, really selling Bree’s emotional reactions as they run the gamut from despair to the first hint of healing, then rage and a step into the unknown.

First off, the early scene between Jamie and Bree is lovely. Jamie lets Bree know that he knows about the rape. She blames herself for not fighting harder, and despite Jamie stating over and over that it’s not her fault, she really can’t let go of her guilt — until Jamie physically restrains her to show her that she could not have prevented what happened, no matter how hard she struggled, and that she likely could have ended up dead if she’d tried to fight. Bree then surprises Jamie by asking him about the aftermath of his rape. Claire had told Brianna about all that happened at Wentworth. Bree wants to know if killing his rapist helped Jamie heal. He assures her that time, not revenge, is the key.

Life seems to be settling down to normal at the Ridge, with the family spending time together and enjoying the beauty of living there. Claire offers Brianna a choice — she can terminate the pregnancy by surgical abortion if that’s Bree’s wish. She doesn’t want Brianna to be forced into anything, but lets her know that if she wants to end the pregnancy, they need to do it soon. On the other hand, if Bree wants to go back to her own time, she can do that as well — but again, would have to leave now. Claire knows that it’s possible to travel through time while pregnant, but they don’t know if it’s possible to go with a baby. What if Brianna tried to travel but the baby got left behind, or even worse, got lost somewhere in time? If Brianna hopes to go back, it’s got to be now.

The truth about Roger finally comes out, when Lizzie tells Brianna that she knows what happened, and Brianna, horrified, realizes that Lizzie believes Roger is the man who raped her. When she learns that Jamie beat the man he believed to be her rapist, all hell breaks loose. Brianna is righteously furious. Jamie is upset by his anxious, but upset as well that Claire knew that Bonnet was the rapist and didn’t tell him. After Jamie beat Roger, Ian sold him to the Mohawk. They were just traveling through, probably headed back to their lands in upstate New York. Who knows where Roger could be by then, after a week has already gone by?

POOR ROGER. He spends most of this episode being dragged behind a horse, walking all day, every day, at first alongside another prisoner who eventually dies on the road. Roger’s face looks awful. Oh, Jamie, you are a scary man when you’re angry. Roger eventually gets a chance to escape his captors, and runs right into a buzzing circle of stones. At the episode’s end, we see him holding the gems he got from Stephen Bonnet, debating whether to go through the stones, or stay and try to find his way back to Brianna.

Meanwhile, back on the Ridge, Jamie and Ian vow to find Roger for Brianna. Brianna insists that Claire go with them, which makes sense. If he saw Jamie and Ian coming, he’d probably run and never look back! Claire is a familiar face, and what’s more, there’s a good chance he’ll need a doctor. Claire doesn’t want to leave Bree. It may be months before they return. She may not be back in time to deliver the baby. Bree is determined, so they come up with a different plan: Murtagh will take Brianna to River Run, to stay with Aunt Jocasta, who’ll care for her and keep her safe.

Jamie vows to Brianna that he won’t return without Roger. Yikes. That’s a big promise to make.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

A really powerful episode. The father-daughter scene between Jamie and Claire, in which they discuss her rape and Jamie helps her in a very Jamie way, is just full of beauty and emotion. You really feel that these two have a connection, that there’s a growing trust and love between them… which makes it all the harder later on when Bree, in her fury over Roger’s treatment, basically tells Jamie that her REAL father (Frank) was a good man, and Jamie is just a brute. Ouch.

I mean, yes, he did do something terrible to the man she loves, but in Jamie’s defense, he really had no idea. A sucky situation all around, fed by terrible communication (which is a recurring theme in this particular book in the Outlander series.)

Every one was just so good in this episode. Claire didn’t have as many flashy moments, but I did love how we got to see Claire’s determination to give Brianna a choice, and how she presented her with the option to go back to her own time, even though it would break Claire’s heart.

And furthermore…

The scene between Aunt Jocasta and Murtagh made me wonder if all the fan speculation about the two of them ending up together might really be correct! Either that, or the show is just playing with us all.

And how adorable was Ian getting down on one knee to offer to marry Brianna? Gotta love Young Ian.

Claire and Brianna reciting a list of 20th century foods and conveniences they miss was pretty great too. Peanut butter and jelly! And of course, aspirin per the doctor’s orders.

ARGH. Only three episodes left this season! Where did the time go?

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The Monday Check-In ~ 1/7/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Welcome to 2019!

It’s my first Monday post of the new year! I didn’t have exactly a stellar first week of reading (neither of the two print books I read blew me away) — but luckily, I’m not a big believer in omens, so I’m thinking it’s onward and upwards from this point forward.

What did I read during the last week?

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: Terrific premise, but this book turned out to be just a “meh” read for me. Here’s why.

Terrier (Beka Cooper, #1) by Tamora Pierce: I finished the audiobook! What a fun, captivating start to the trilogy. I’m just waiting for my library hold to come in so I can start #2. (As usual with the Pierce books, I’ll do a write-up when I finish the entire trilogy.)

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden: I didn’t end up writing a review for this one. I liked it well enough, and it did a good job of wrapping up the trilogy — but somehow, I was pretty much underwhelmed by the book overall, and didn’t feel the emotional connection I did with the first two.

I also listened to a good audiobook short story:

Atomic Marriage by Curtis Sittenfeld: A fun, brief listen — currently a free selection from Audible, and takes less than an hour to listen to. I liked it!

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4. Last week’s post went up a little later than usual – check it out:
Episode 409, “The Birds & the Bees” (aired 12/30/2018) – the post is here.

As for the newest episode:
Episode 410, “The Deep Heart’s Core” (aired 1/6/2019) – I was a bit under the weather on Sunday, and decided to hold off on watching until I had more energy. How shocking, not to watch a new episode on its air date! I’ll watch and write up my reaction tonight.

Pop culture goodness:

My son and I have started a Game of Thrones binge! I’ve watched the show from the beginning, of course, but he was too young at the time. So now, we’ve started from season 1 (and have just finished season 2), working our way through the entire series before the final episodes in April. (There are definitely some explicit scenes that are cringe-worthy when watching with my teen, but we just kind of pretend that the other person isn’t there, and we get through it.)

Fresh Catch:

I picked up a couple of books from the Great American Read list for part of a reading challenge I’m participating in this year.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Bird Box by Josh Malerman: I’ve been meaning to read this for a couple of years now — and now that it’s a Netflix movie, I realized that I needed to read it ASAP before I end up seeing spoilers. I’m at about 50% at the moment, and loving it.

Now playing via audiobook:

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon: I picked up this audiobook on a whim while browsing the library website. I saw this book mentioned on a few “best of” lists recently, and something sweet and light really appeals to me right now.

Ongoing reads:

My book group is just starting our next Lord John story, A Plague of Zombies. I’ve read it before (of course!), but it’s always fun to do a deeper dive with the group.

And coming soon… we’re starting our next classic read at the end of the month! I’m really looking forward to our group read of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Written in gorgeous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking novel that startles and provokes, about the possibilities contained within a human life—in our waking days and, perhaps even more, in our dreams.

My Thoughts:

While I love the premise of this book, the execution screams “literary fiction” rather than “science fiction”, and that may be why The Dreamers didn’t thrill me in the end. It’s an awesome set-up: A mysterious illness begins spreading through a remote college town, with no known cause or cure. People infected simply fall asleep, and stay that way. Without medical care, they’d die of malnutrition and dehydration, and soon the hospitals and emergency triage centers are overflowing with these strange sleepers. As the weeks drag on, those who remain awake find themselves trapped within the quarantined area, living in an eerie world of deserted homes and stray dogs.

Should be exciting, right? And yet, the narrative isn’t focused on the epidemiology or the science, but rather on the individuals, their relationships, and their meditations on the meaning of life, connection, time, and reality. How do we know that what we think is reality isn’t really a dream? How do we know that our dreams aren’t an alternate reality? When does the passing of time represent a loss? Can we mourn what we’ve never had? Is it more ethical to save many strangers than to save one person that you love? On and on.

While there are some interesting developments and characters, the metaphor-heavy presentation didn’t particularly work for me. As with this author’s previous novel (The Age of Miracles), I felt that a nifty sci-fi scenario became the canvas for a meditative literary piece, and that just wasn’t what I was hoping for. Perhaps this author just isn’t for me. I don’t regret reading The Dreamers, but I can’t help wondering how the story might have gone if written by a more action-driven, science-driven sci-fi writer.

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The details:

Title: The Dreamers
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: January 15, 2019
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Science fiction/comtemporary fiction
Source: I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway

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Shelf Control #150: Echo Boy by Matt Haig

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Echo Boy
Author: Matt Haig
Published: 2014
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Audrey’s father taught her that to stay human in the modern world, she had to build a moat around herself; a moat of books and music, philosophy and dreams. A moat that makes Audrey different from the echoes: sophisticated, emotionless machines, built to resemble humans and to work for human masters. Daniel is an echo – but he’s not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he’s determined to save her. Echo Boyis a powerful story about love, loss and what makes us truly human.

How and when I got it:

I bought it a couple of years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve read a few of Matt Haig’s books by now, and just love his writing. This is a YA book, as far as I can tell, and I’ve only read his adult books, but the premise sounds really good, so count me in!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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