Book Review: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: October 21, 2021
Length: 373 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Under the Whispering Door is a contemporary fantasy about a ghost who refuses to cross over and the ferryman he falls in love with.

I absolutely adored TJ Klune’s 2020 novel, The House in the Cerulean Sea, so I had very high expectations for Under the Whispering Door. While I enjoyed this novel, it doesn’t quite live up to my (admittedly super high) expectations, but it’s still a sweet, lovely read.

In Under the Whispering Door, we have a very unpleasant first encounter with lead character Wallace Price. Wallace is a powerful, wealthy partner in a powerful, wealthy law firm, and an absolutely awful person. His whole life revolves around his work, and he’s completely heartless in dealing with an employee in need.

Which makes it kind of ironic that he soon drops dead from a heart attack.

When Wallace regains awareness, he’s at his own funeral, which is attended only by his business partners and his ex-wife, none of whom have anything good to say about the dearly departed. But there’s also a stranger there — a young woman whom Wallace has never seen before, who takes charge and informs Wallace that (a) he’s dead and (b) she’s a Reaper, there to escort him to his next step on the journey.

Where they end up is at a strange little tea shop in the woods, run by a kind man named Hugo, and inhabited by Hugo’s ghost grandfather and ghost dog. The tea shop is a real place, with real (living) customers, but it also houses the door to the next world, a portal for dead souls when they’re ready to move on. It’s a lot to take in, and Wallace goes through all the stages of denial and anger and so on — but ultimately, he comes to accept that what’s happening to him is real.

The longer Wallace remains at the tea house, the more he begins to reclaim something like his own humanity, as his contact with the people of the tea house helps him to see how terrible he’s been, and to remember times in his life when he actually experienced the joy of caring and being kind.

The book deals with loss and sorrow and depression throughout, and while the overall tone is whimsical, there’s a seriousness underlying everything that keeps the story grounded even during its most fantastical or silly episodes.

I loved the characters. Hugo, the ferryman, is kind and patient and possesses endless wells of empathy. I got a huge kick out of his grandfather Nelson (and also the very good dog Apollo). Mei, the Reaper, is one character that I couldn’t quite connect with — her scenes are always entertaining, but I didn’t feel that I had a very good grasp on who she was as a person.

Wallace is a tricky one, so utterly unlikeable to start with. It’s a real achievement that the author is able to take this awful person and show his development so carefully and believably that by the end, we really do care about him and want the best for him.

The plot itself isn’t always completely logical, in my opinion — the tea house is perhaps a little too weird to actually function in the real world as it does. And where even is it, besides being in the woods? But these little quibbles don’t really matter.

Ultimately, Under the Whispering Door is a lovely book about it never being too late to become a better person and about finding and seizing joy and choosing kindess wherever possible.

TJ Klune has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and I’ll read whatever he writes next! And meanwhile, I’m going to need to spend some time on his backlist.

Don’t miss Under the Whispering Door!

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Shelf Control #287: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction by Annalee Newitz

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!

Title: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction
Author: Annalee Newitz
Published: 2013
Length: 305 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In its 4.5 billion–year history, life on Earth has been almost erased at least half a dozen times: shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and torn apart by unfathomably powerful megavolcanoes. And we know that another global disaster is eventually headed our way. Can we survive it? How?

As a species, Homo sapiens is at a crossroads. Study of our planet’s turbulent past suggests that we are overdue for a catastrophic disaster, whether caused by nature or by human interference.

It’s a frightening prospect, as each of the Earth’s past major disasters—from meteor strikes to bombardment by cosmic radiation—resulted in a mass extinction, where more than 75 percent of the planet’s species died out. But in Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, Annalee Newitz, science journalist and editor of the science Web site io9.com explains that although global disaster is all but inevitable, our chances of long-term species survival are better than ever. Life on Earth has come close to annihilation—humans have, more than once, narrowly avoided extinction just during the last million years—but every single time a few creatures survived, evolving to adapt to the harshest of conditions.

This brilliantly speculative work of popular science focuses on humanity’s long history of dodging the bullet, as well as on new threats that we may face in years to come. Most important, it explores how scientific breakthroughs today will help us avoid disasters tomorrow. From simulating tsunamis to studying central Turkey’s ancient underground cities; from cultivating cyanobacteria for “living cities” to designing space elevators to make space colonies cost-effective; from using math to stop pandemics to studying the remarkable survival strategies of gray whales, scientists and researchers the world over are discovering the keys to long-term resilience and learning how humans can choose life over death.

Newitz’s remarkable and fascinating journey through the science of mass extinctions is a powerful argument about human ingenuity and our ability to change. In a world populated by doomsday preppers and media commentators obsessively forecasting our demise, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember is a compelling voice of hope. It leads us away from apocalyptic thinking into a future where we live to build a better world—on this planet and perhaps on others. Readers of this book will be equipped scientifically, intellectually, and emotionally to face whatever the future holds.

How and when I got it:

I know exactly when I bought a copy of this book — summer of 2019.

Why I want to read it:

The reason I know when I bought this book is that I know why I bought this book — this non-fiction pop science look at human survival patterns was mentioned in Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. Wanderers was published in July 2019, and I loved it (check out my review, if interested). In short, Wanderers is all about a mass extinction event and the small group who survive it. One of the survivors pulls together important reading material, and one of his selected books is this work by Annalee Newitz.

I would have assumed that a book mentioned in a work of fiction was also fictional, but I recognized the author’s name (having also recently picked up one of her works of fiction), and so I had to know more.

Non-fiction is not usually my jam, but I do make exceptions, and this book sounds fascinating. While I most likely wouldn’t have come across it without Wanderers, I’m intrigued enough to want to check it out. (I still need to read the two books of fiction by this author I now own, and those will probably come first in my reading priority, to be honest…)

Once the pandemic started, I was not in the mood to read anything about the potential doom of humanity, but maybe in the coming year, I’ll finally give it a try.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

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 or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie — Series that I haven’t kept up with or finished

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 a freebie, meaning we all pick whatever topic we feel like writing about.

I’m going to focus on series that I’ve at least started, or read a few books from, but haven’t finished. Some of these I intend to get back to, and some I likely never will. If you’ve read any of these and think I should commit to moving forward, please let me know!

My top 10 are:

The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey

Books I’ve read: #1 – 5
Books remaining: 4
Will I continue? Absolutely. I love these books — but they’re so big and involved that I need time in between volumes.

The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski

Books I’ve read: I’ve gotten through 4
Books remaining: 4 more
Will I continue? Maybe. I’ve lost a little steam, and I’m kind of far ahead of the Netflix series. I’ll probably hold off for a while and then see if I feel like getting back into the books.

Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Books I’ve read: #1 – 4
Books remaining: One more so far
Will I continue? I’d say no. I’m so turned off by JKR at this point that I no longer want to buy new books or support her. (Although as a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I can’t say I won’t be spending money on her works at all… inconsistent, I know, but there you have it.)

Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Books I’ve read: #1 – 3
Books remaining: 3
Will I continue? Probably not. I really enjoyed the first three books, but there was a satisfying ending to the original trilogy, and I haven’t felt the need to continue. But feel free to try to convince me otherwise!

Discworld by Terry Pratchett

Books I’ve read: #1 – 4
Books remaining: Thousands. (Actually, depending how you count, I think it’s 37, but it’s hard to say how many books are in the main series vs related spin-offs. I think.)
Will I continue? Maybe… ??? I started with the grand idea of reading one book per month, in release order, but only stuck with it for 4 months. People warned me not to go chronologically, but did I listen? I may dip back into the Discworld books, but not any time soon.

All Souls series by Deborah Harkness

Books I’ve read: #1 – 3
Books remaining: One (so far)
Will I continue? Yes. I loved the original trilogy, and I have a copy of the 4th book, Time’s Convert. The only reason I haven’t read it yet is that I think I’d need a major refresher on the original books before I read it. Maybe once the TV series airs its 3rd season, I’ll feel more prepared.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan

Books I’ve read: #1 – 4
Books remaining: 2
Will I continue? It’s possible — but I’d have to start over again at the beginning if I were going to have any hope of following the story. I did like the volumes I read, so maybe eventually.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Books I’ve read: #1 – 4
Books remaining: 1 novel and 1 novella, so far, more to follow
Will I continue? Yes. I really do want to read more Murderbot! Just haven’t made time yet.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Books I’ve read: #1 – 2
Books remaining: 14 so far
Will I continue? Unlikely. I enjoyed the first book, wasn’t as gripped by the second, and don’t feel much of a need to continue.

The Poldark Saga by Winston Graham

Books I’ve read: #1 – 7
Books remaining: 5
Will I continue? Possibly. I enjoyed them all so far, but in conjunction with watching the TV series. Now that the show has wrapped up, I have less incentive to keep going with the books, which move beyond the events covered by the show.

Have you read any of these series? And if so, which do you think I should make a priority to continue?

What TTT topic did you choose this week? Please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 9/27/2021

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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.

Life.

Another busy week ahead! I’m heading back east — again!! — later in the week, and I’ll be there for about 10 days. We have a couple of family events coming up, and in between, I’ll be seeing how the working-remotely-from-another-timezone thing works out.

This past week flew by! I had a day off for a Jewish holiday (Sukkot), and we ended up getting together with friends we haven’t seen in a while. Nice and mellow, but really fun.

What did I read during the last week?

Miss Kopp Investigates (Kopp Sisters, #7) by Amy Stewart: Yet another terrific addition to a great series! My review is here.

An Observant Wife by Naomi Ragen: A follow-up to the author’s earlier novel, An Unorthodox Match. My review is here.

Puzzle of the Week:

Woo hoo! I did my first puzzle in about a month! It was nice to finally take some time, and this was a fun one:

Available via Ravensburger

Pop culture & TV:

Sex Education is back! Season 3 dropped on Netflix last week, and I’m about halfway done.

Fresh Catch:

Even though I already had an e-ARC, I ended up buying myself a physical copy of Miss Kopp Investigates from the author’s husband’s bookstore. It came signed by the author, plus “signed” by Fleurette Kopp too!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune: I haven’t had as much time as I’d wish for just sitting and reading, so I haven’t made a ton of progress… but I’m really liking this so far!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: This is a re-read for me (first time on audio) — a book related to this one is coming out in two weeks, and I need a refresher!

Ongoing reads:
  • Outlander Book Club is doing a speed-re-read of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, #8 in the Outlander series. We’re reading and discussing 5 chapters per week. This week: Chapters 106 – 110.
  • Doctor Zhivago is our new group classic read! We’re just getting started this week.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: An Observant Wife by Naomi Ragen

Title: An Observant Wife
Author: Naomi Ragen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: September 14, 2021
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In this rich and compassionate novel, An Observant Wife, Naomi Ragen continues the love story between newly observant California-girl Leah and ultra-Orthodox widower Yaakov from An Unorthodox Match.

From the joy of their wedding day surrounded by supportive friends and family, Yaakov and Leah are soon plunged into the complex reality of their new lives together as Yaakov leaves his beloved yeshiva to work in the city, and Leah confronts the often agonizing restrictions imposed by religious laws governing even the most intimate moments of their married lives. Adding to their difficulties is the hostility of some in the community who continue to view Leah as a dangerous interloper, questioning her sincerity and adherence to religious laws and spreading outrageous rumors. In the midst of their heartfelt attempts to reach a balance between their human needs and their spiritual obligations, the discovery of a secret, forbidden relationship between troubled teenage daughter Shaindele and a local boy precipitates a maelstrom of life-changing consequences for all. 

In An Unorthodox Match, we were introduced to Leah, a 30-something woman who turns to ultra-Orthodox Judaism after leading a mostly secular life, desperate for meaning and true connection to something greater than herself. As she enters the religious community of Boro Park in Brooklyn, she comes to care for a widowed man named Yaakov and his motherless children.

Here, in An Observant Wife, we follow Leah and Yaakov as the story continues with their wedding and early marriage. Leah has found true love with a good and kind man who loves her back, and she’s found fulfillment by becoming a mother to his young children, whom she loves unreservedly. She’s also made piece with his 17-year-old daugher Shaindele, who in the first book was set on sabotaging the relationship, but has now come to accept and even appreciate Leah’s innate goodness and the joy she’s brought back to their little family.

While Leah is committed to her family and to the complicated rules of behavior that come with with life in the religious community, the community does not truly accept her. Seemingly innocent moments get blown out of proportion and become the fodder for increasingly hostile gossip. When Shaindele is unwise and gets involved in a secret relationship with the black sheep son of a powerful family, the scandal can only be contained by agreeing to a harsh set of decrees from her school principle, but these in turn put Shaindele at risk. And when Leah and Yaakov take a stand to protect her, their entire way of life, as well as their family’s safety, is on the line.

Without going into detail, I will say that once again the author delivers an insider’s look into a world that feels like a completely alien culture. Even as someone raised in an observant Jewish household, I find this setting among the ultra-Orthodox startling and eye-opening. The rules governing every single moment of one’s life seem oppressive and often degrading to me, yet the author does an effective job of conveying how the people within the community find meaning and reinforcement of their faith by virtue of these guidelines for how to live a proper life.

The book perhaps spends too much time on introspection, as we follow the thoughts and feelings of not just Leah, but also Yaakov, Shaindele, and the family’s grandmother, Fruma Esther. It’s interesting to see how they deal with their lives and their religious obligations, but the plot can bog down when there are pages of contemplation and inner turmoil.

The plot takes some dramatic turns, and by the end, I was very invested in the characters’ well-being and their relationships. I did feel that the wrap-up was a little too neat and ideal, but the path to get there was certainly worthwhile.

Overall, An Observant Wife is a fascinating look into a world that can feel like a throwback to an earlier century for a 21st century reader, yet it’s set very much in the contemporary world of the ultra-Orthodox. I really came to care for the characters and could appreciate their devotion to their way of life, even while knowing that the religious elements that would absolute send me running in the other direction if they ever applied to my own life.

This book and An Unorthodox Match are both worth reading — the unusual setting and the memorable characters bring this world and its people to life.

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Buy now at Amazon – Book Depository – Bookshop.org

Audiobook Review: Miss Kopp Investigates by Amy Stewart

Title: Miss Kopp Investigates (Kopp Sisters, #7)
Author: Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication date: September 7 , 2021
Print length: 320 pages
Audiobook length: 8 hours 17 minutes
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher; audiobook via Audible
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Life after the war takes an unexpected turn for the Kopp sisters, but soon enough, they are putting their unique detective skills to use in new and daring ways. 

Winter 1919: Norma is summoned home from France, Constance is called back from Washington, and Fleurette puts her own plans on hold as the sisters rally around their recently widowed sister-in-law and her children. How are four women going to support themselves? 

A chance encounter offers Fleurette a solution: clandestine legal work for a former colleague of Constance’s. She becomes a “professional co-respondent,” posing as the “other woman” in divorce cases so that photographs can be entered as evidence to procure a divorce. While her late-night assignments are both exciting and lucrative, they put her on a collision course with her own family, who would never approve of such disreputable work. One client’s suspicious behavior leads Fleurette to uncover a much larger crime, putting her in the unlikely position of amateur detective.  

In Miss Kopp Investigates, Amy Stewart once again brilliantly captures the women of this era—their ambitions for the future as well as the ties that bind—at the start of a promising new decade.  

The Kopp Sisters books are a mix of historical fact and fictional storytelling, as author Amy Stewart follows the lives of three real sisters and brings them to glorious life through her excellent writing.

In Miss Kopp Investigates, the 7th book in the series, the three Kopp sisters have returned home to New Jersey in the aftermath of World War I, but all is not well. Their older brother Francis has died suddenly, leaving behind a pregnant wife (Bessie), two children, and piles of debt. The sisters are grieving their loss, but they’re also the Kopp sisters — which means that they absolutely do not wallow or give up. Instead, they stand beside their bereaved sister-in-law and come up with plans to support her and the children, even though this means giving up their own dreams.

For Constance, who’s been the lead character in the series so far, this means turning down her dream job, a position with the Bureau of Investigations in Washington training women in law enforcement. For Norma, the bossy, curmudgeonly sister whose crazy ideas about messenger pigeons ended up working brilliantly during the war, it’s a return to New Jersey instead of staying in Europe to do relief work with a friend. And for Fleurette, the youngest sister who dreams of stardom on the stage, it’s abandoning her hopes of moving out and preparing for her return to her singing career.

Alas, poor Fleurette also has a damaged voice after a bad case of strep throat, and her once-beautiful voice isn’t coming back to her as it was. Now, with a new plan to support Bessie, Fleurette feels sad and unfulfilled and as though all her hopes are gone. Enter John Wood, a slick-talking divorce lawyer already acquainted with the Kopps, with a proposition for Fleurette. Why not use her acting skills in a new and different way? Divorces in New Jersey can only move forward if there’s cause, and he has clients who need evidence of adultery, even if none actually occurred. Fleurette’s role would be to be photographed (fully clothed!! nothing actually unseemly!!) being embraced by a man as if caught in the act. Her face would not be shown, she’d be protected by one of the law firm employees at all times, and she’d earn very good money for her efforts.

At first, Fleurette is shocked… but then she starts to think about it as playing a role. She’d pick her own costumes and characters, put in an evening’s work, and would earn enough to really contribute to the household. Why not?

I was surprised to discover that Miss Kopp Investigates focuses on Fleurette’s adventures — her first time as the lead character. Constance is mostly in the background, and while Norma is her grumpy, bossy self here, she’s also secondary. I admit that I was a little hesitant about spending that much time with Fleurette, who has often seemed shallow and self-centered in previous books, but I ended up being delighted by her fresh voice and her determination (as well as her occasional silliness and vanity).

Without going too much further into the plot details, I can say that Fleurette’s story takes some unexpected turns, and while her pursuits are done on her own and in secret, her story still intersects throughout with her sisters’ and with their shared goal of supporting and protecting their brother’s family.

The author once again provides snappy dialogue and distinct characters — both the Kopp sisters as well as the supporting and minor characters — and roots it all in a portrayal of post-war life that feels real and well-researched.

The plot zips along, and while settling back into post-war life is perhaps not quite as exciting as the war years, it’s still entertaining to see how the Kopp sisters fend for themselves and chart their own course.

The audiobook is wonderful, with the talented Christina Moore once again absolutely shining as she brings Constance, Norma, and Fleurette to life. Listening to her speaking as Norma, we immediately know exactly what sort of person she is — tough, take-charge, no backing down, and probably a nightmare to actually live with. Likewise for Fleurette — the narrator absolutely nails her youth, her vision of herself and what she yearns for, just by speaking in her voice.

Amy Stewart has shared that this is the last Kopp Sisters book, at least for a while. She hasn’t said she’ll never go back to their stories, just that she has no plans to do so at this time and will be working on other projects. While that’s very sad news and I hope she does end up continuing this series, Miss Kopp Investigates also ends in such a way that we readers can feel satisfied with where we’re leaving the family. As the author has said, she’s leaving them in a good place, and we can still have the pleasure of imagining what’s next!

I do love this series, and recommend the books whenever I can. If you’ve read this far, you’ll absolutely want to read Miss Kopp Investigates! And if you’re an audiobook listener, then do check out the audiobooks for the Kopp Sisters series. You’ll be in for a treat!

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The series so far:
Girl Waits With Gun
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions
Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit
Kopp Sisters on the March

Dear Miss Kopp


Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

Buy now at Amazon – Book Depository – Bookshop.org


Signed copies available via Downtown Brown Books

Shelf Control #286: Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause

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!

Title: Sorry I Missed You
Author: Suzy Krause
Published: 2020
Length: 315 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A poignant and heartwarming novel about friendship, ghosting, and searching for answers to life’s mysteries.

When Mackenzie, Sunna, and Maude move into a converted rental house, they are strangers with only one thing in common—important people in their lives have “ghosted” them. Mackenzie’s sister, Sunna’s best friend, and Maude’s fiancé—all gone with no explanation.

So when a mangled, near-indecipherable letter arrives in their shared mailbox—hinting at long-awaited answers—each tenant assumes it’s for her. The mismatched trio decides to stake out the coffee shop named in the letter—the only clue they have—and in the process, a bizarre kinship forms. But the more they learn about each other, the more questions (and suspicions) they begin to have. All the while, creepy sounds and strange happenings around the property suggest that the ghosts from their pasts might not be all that’s haunting them…

Will any of the housemates find the closure they are looking for? Or are some doors meant to remain closed?

Quirky, humorous, and utterly original, Sorry I Missed You is the perfect read for anyone who has ever felt haunted by their past (or by anything else).

How and when I got it:

I believe this was one of Amazon’s free monthly choices for Prime members last spring, so I grabbed it.

Why I want to read it:

Honestly, I didn’t even remember that I had this on my Kindle until I went looking for ideas for this week’s Shelf Control post! It must have been a spontaneous click on the “buy now” button…

In any case, don’t we all need light, cheery contemporary stories from time to time? I can’t tell from the description whether there is actually supposed to be a ghostly element to the story (I’m guessing not), but it sounds like fun. I like the sound of strangers becoming friends as they look into mysterious messages, and it sounds like it would be a good upbeat read.

IWhat do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

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 or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

Buy now: Amazon – Book Depository – Bookshop.org

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall 2021 TBR List

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 Books on My Fall 2021 To-read List. It’s so hard to stick with just 10! There are so many books I’m dying to read… but for purposes of this list, I’m sticking with upcoming new releases this time around.

Looks like my October and November will be especially busy!

Going by release date (except for #1), my top 10 are:

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon

Release date: November 23rd

The book I’m most excited for! My family will have to excuse my anti-social obsessive reading behavior over Thanksgiving.

Horseman by Christina Henry

Release Date: September 28th

Ambush or Adore by Gail Carriger

Release date: October 1st

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley

Release date: October 5th

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

Release date: October 5th

A Twist of Fate by Kelley Armstrong

Release date: October 5th

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Release date: October 19th

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Release date: October 26th

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Release date: November 2nd

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Release date: November 30th

What books are on your TTT list this week? Please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 9/20/2021

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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.

Life.

Photo by Genaro Servu00edn on Pexels.com

Hey, hey, it’s my birthday!

I don’t make much of a fuss about it, and my plans are pretty low-key. I’m working today, after all! But my husband and I did enjoy a nice pre-birthday dinner out this past Friday, at a favorite restaurant that has a really pretty outdoor seating set-up.

Other than that… 3 of the 4 of us on my work team have September birthdays, so we had a group lunch to celebrate last week.

And I’ve been told that we’ll do a family dinner out sometime this week, depending on everyone’s schedules.

Meanwhile, I feel blessed to have a wonderful family, all in good health!

Blogging update:

When it comes to blogging, I haven’t been feeling it, really, over the last couple of weeks — probably because I’ve been traveling and super busy. I just wrote my first review in about two weeks!

I’m still reading, but trying to balance reading the spur-of-the-moment books that I pick up with my ARC pile, so I don’t end up loaded down by obligation reading. It’s always a challenge!

All this to say — I’m still here, just pulled into too many directions right now to be very good about regular blogging or spending time keeping up with other people’s blogs the way I want to.

I’m sure things will settle down… eventually… and I’ll get back to (more or less) normal routines.

What did I read during the last week?

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1) by Seanan McGuire: Super fun to go back to the beginning of this fabulous series via audiobook!

When Sorrows Come (October Daye, #15) by Seanan McGuire: In addition to listening to the first in the series, I read the brand-new release in the ongoing October Daye series. My review is here.

The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally: A fun, quick read by a terrific YA author. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

I watched the first 3 episodes of Y: The Last Man. Really liking it so far!

Fresh Catch:

I didn’t buy any new books this week, but I did treat myself to two new bookish shirts:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

An Observant Wife by Naomi Ragen: This is a sequel to An Unorthodox Match, which I found so interesting. I’ve only just started this book — looking forward to getting further into it.

Now playing via audiobook:

Miss Kopp Investigates (Kopp Sisters, #7) by Amy Stewart: A new Kopp Sisters book is always a treat, and I just love the narration for these audiobooks!

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club is doing a speed-re-read of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, #8 in the Outlander series. We’re reading and discussing 5 chapters per week. This week: Chapters 101 – 105.

Haven’t started this one yet, but our next group classic read will be Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. We’re starting next week!

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Book Review: The Pick-Up by Miranda Kenneally

Title: The Pick-Up
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: September 7, 2021
Length: 250 pages
Genre: YA contemporary
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

When Mari hails a rideshare to a music festival, the last thing she expects is for the car to pick up a gorgeous guy along the way. Mari doesn’t believe in dating–it can only end with a broken heart. Besides, she’s only staying at her dad’s house in Chicago for the weekend. How close can you get to a guy in three days?

TJ wants to study art in college, but his family’s expectations cast a long shadow over his dreams. When he meets Mari in the back of a rideshare, he feels alive for the first time in a long time.

Mari and TJ enter the festival together and share an electric moment but get separated in a crowd with seemingly no way to find each other. When fate reunites them (with a little help from a viral hashtag), they’ll have to decide: was it love at first sight, or the start of nothing more than a weekend fling? 

Miranda Kenneally, author of the terrific Hundred Oaks series, is back with a fresh new stand-alone YA novel. The PIck-Up is a quick read with sweet romantic moments as well as more serious reflections on family and damaged relationships.

When TJ and Mari meet in a ride-share, their immediate attraction gives each a fresh burst of hope and excitement, and as they spend time together at the music festival, their connection seems instant and electric. At first, seeing them separated by the crowd and trying to find one another again, despite not exchanging contact info, I thought we were in for a story about missed connections and long searches. But thankfully, this wasn’t that!

Instead, TJ and Mari do manage to reconnect, thanks to the intervention of their friends, and commit to spending more time together over the weekend.

They each bring baggage, though. TJ is in Chicago for the weekend staying with his older brother, to whom he always compares himself and finds himself lacking. TJ’s family expects him to study business when he starts college in the fall, but he secretly yearns to pursue his passion for art.

Meanwhile, Mari is staying with her dad, stepmom, and stepsister for the weekend before returning to her home in Tennessee. Her parents divorced after her father’s affair with the woman he ended up marrying, and Mari’s mother is so consumed by anger and bitterness that she takes it out on Mari. Her verbal abuse has taken a frightening turn to the physical, and Mari both wants to stay with her father and is scared to mention it, for fear that it’ll just make things with her mother even worse.

As TJ and Mari spend time together, they each experience the highs of early attraction and emotional connection, but each also has to contend with their own fears and insecurities.

The story is told in chapters that alternate between TJ and Mari as narrators, and it’s a really effective way to show how their perspectives on the same events can be different and still make sense to the person experiencing it. While they’re both struggling with family issues, Mari’s are much more serious, and her scenes of confronting her father with her feelings and her fears are deeply affecting.

While there are plenty of serious matters portrayed throughout The Pick-Up, there’s also a lot of fun, from scenes at the festival to a Ferris wheel ride to goofy beach shenanigans. Mari and TJ have chemistry, and I really enjoyed Mari’s stepsister as a character as well.

Miranda Kenneally has a gift for creating well-drawn teen characters who feel real. They’re not idealized — they’re complicated and messy and emotional, and that’s what makes them so compelling to read about.

I really enjoyed The Pick-Up, just like I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve read by this author. Check it out!

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