Reading · Top Ten Tuesday

Ten Upcoming Releases

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature currently run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I don’t track a ton of upcoming releases, so instead of fulfilling the real prompt ‘Upcoming Releases I’m on The Fence About’, I’m going to just make a list of upcoming books I’m looking forward to. I’ll leave out the ones I listed here though. Since I’m on a book-buying ban *and* trying to read books I already own in 2019, I’ll probably only end up reading The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter. She’s an insta-buy for me, book ban or not.

  • The Invited ~ Jennifer McMahon
    • I like the look of this one – a couple flees suburbia just to build a house and end up building a haunted one. I already own, but haven’t read, her other book The Night Sister.
  • The Last Letter ~ Rebecca Yarros
    • I think this is the only romance on this list. I don’t know why but the letter in the description caught my interest.
  • The Missing Years ~ Lexie Elliott
    • Missing dad + Scottish Highlands + creepy house + possible ghosts? Might be a contender for Creepy October/Blogoween.
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton ~ Sara Collins
    • This looks so amazing I can’t do it justice here – just go read the Goodreads description. I might have to get this from the library in 2019.
  • Never Tell (D.D. Warren #10)~ Lisa Gardner
    • I may not get to this one for awhile, but I’ve read the first 7 D.D. Warren books and once I’ve read through some of the books I already own, I’d love to read 8 through 10.
  • The Night Olivia Fell ~ Christina McDonald
    • A mother tries to figure out what happened to her daughter – a chain of events that ends with Olivia falling off a bridge while pregnant. Seems like a good mystery.
  • The Raven Tower ~ Ann Leckie
    • I’ve been looking to get more into fantasy lately so this one caught my eye immediately when I saw it on the Goodreads giveaway page. The author is apparently a great sci-fi writer so we’ll see how that translates!
  • The Victory Garden ~ Rhys Bowen
    • I love fiction set during and directly after WWI and the description of this novel seems really touching and I think it looks like a really good read.
  • The Lost History of Dreams ~ Kris Waldherr
    • I got really into Gothic historical fiction last year and the reviews for this one are so, so good. If I decide to do creepy October again this year this might be one of the books I get for that.
  • The Last Widow (Will Trent #9)~ Karin Slaughter {not pictured}
    • I cannot wait for this! It’s on the “okay to buy during No-Buy 2019” list. It’s been awhile since there was a Will Trent/Sara Linton book and I’m pumped.
Reading · Top Ten Tuesday

Best Books I Read In 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature currently run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2019 is the best year yet.

I realized while making this list that I read very few books I really loved in 2018. I can do better in 2019. Obviously not every book I read will be a winner, but I can definitely choose books that are more likely to be ones I really enjoy. Anyway, I’m fairly sick (thanks allergies), so I’m presenting this list without commentary.

  1. City of the Lost – Kelley Armstrong
  2. The Broken Girls – Simone St James
  3. The Queen’s Poisoner– Jeff Wheeler
  1. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride – Cary Elwes
  2. Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber, and the Invention of Criminal Profiling – Michael Cannell
  3. Classic Style: Hand it Down, Dress it Up, Wear it Out – Kate Schelter
  4. The Bullet Journal Method – Ryder Carroll
  1. Obsidio – Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman
  2. About a Dog – Jenn McKinlay
  3. Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate

I hope you have an excellent first day of 2019.

Blogmas · Reading · Reviews

Christmas with You: Gabriel’s Angel / Home for Christmas {Review}

Cover image of Christmas With You by Nora Roberts

3 Stars because half the book wasn’t even about Christmas. It was wintery, but not Christmas.

Gabriel’s Angel is a really cute story and predictable in the best way. I love a good ‘rescue from a snowbank’ and this one delivered. It was a little bit ‘insta-love’, but I feel like that’s really due to the length. I wish it was about 150 pages longer. Everything just moved way too quickly. The resolutions were too fast, too unsatisfying, and just not super believable. 

Home for Christmas, the actual Christmas story, is next. Look, this is not a novella for those who want twists to come out of nowhere. I could tell you the big reveal within a few pages. But it’s a sweet ‘the one who got away’ and ‘we should probably have just had a simple conversation a decade ago and saved ourselves a lot of time and angst’ story that makes you believe that the two main characters are legit in love. I dated losers in high school so I don’t have that connection, but I’d say that if Shane bounced for an understandable reason (can’t think of one, but still) I’d still be in love with him if he showed up a decade later. So I can buy that, to a point. I wouldn’t say it’s the most likely scenario – it’s more likely that they’d have to fall back in love, but it’s groovy. 

Overall, I’d give it a 4 star rating *if* both of the novellas dealt with Christmas. I’d definitely recommend it for some fluffy, light, wholesome vacation reading. If you need something to do while avoiding your weird uncle, this is a solid option.

PS – I thought about giving you the description from Goodreads, but it’s honestly not a big deal. 

Blogoween · Reading · Reviews

The Right Hand of Evil {Review}

Book Cover for The Right Hand of Evil by John Saul

7 out of 10? I really liked it but didn’t love it.

This is probably the first (only?) actual horror novel I’ve read for Blogoween. I used to love John Saul books, and this one has just sitting on my shelf, begging to be read. I finally gave in because I needed a not-just-Gothic-or-semi-creepy-but-actually-horror book in my October lineup. I’m really glad I did! I definitely remember why I love John Saul books and I’m not sure why it’s been so long.

The basic plot (without giving too much away) is that an alcoholic’s aunt dies, he inherits a house, moves his family in, and then everything goes insane. There’s a lot of Catholicism which I don’t really connect with generally but was a nice counterpoint to the evil going on. I absolutely have to mention that there’s violence against animals. Like, fairly graphic violence against animals. Almost quit reading, to be honest. I held out though, and while it wasn’t my favorite part of the book, I got past it.

John Saul has a talent for making me continue reading a book even if I’d normally roll my eyes at whatever’s happening. Hell? Demon faces beneath normal faces? Usually I’m out, but I stayed interested here. There’s a ton of hallucinating in this book and the images he paints are bananas. There’s a lot of atmospheric creepiness, which I always adore.

This is a legit horror novel that lingered in my mind and somehow pushed past the normal suspension of belief I have for the supernatural. I definitely recommend it.

A final note:
Last weekend at my mother in law’s farm I was there alone and had to go outside. I spooked myself because I realized that anyone could be lurking in the pines and the Farm Dog would probably not even notice. Also, I had a nightmare Tuesday night that wasn’t actually related to the novel at all, but as I walked to and from the bathroom for water all I could think of was that there could be people just standing in the apartment and I wouldn’t be able to see them. That fear is directly related to the novel, so thanks for that John Saul.

Blogoween · Reading · Reviews

The Darkling Bride {Review}

darkling.jpg A solid 4 stars.

This book refuses you to miss the connections with Jane Eyre. It’s a quality book, though. Eerie vibes throughout the novel help set the stage and unexplained references to a main character’s shady past help to set the mood for most of the novel.

There’s a lot going on in here, by the way. There’s the thread of the Darkling Bride going through everything as well as a ton of story lines. There’s a mystery in the 1800s involving an author and his ‘mad’ wife, a 1990s murder/suicide mystery which involve several people from the current day shenanigans. Current day, the Lord of the Manor Castle is trying to sell his family’s home to the Heritage Trust which brings everyone back to the Castle. Oh, that’s right, there’s a creepy 700 (800?) year old castle in rural Ireland  with a monastic city’s ruins nearby. And a super creepy tower. Carragh is an American hired to catalog the family’s library and has A Very Dark Past that she references a bit until It All Comes Out later on. There’s also a brand new Detective Inspector from Dublin down to investigate the unsolved murder of Aidan’s parents. She has her own story line as well. The other characters have stories, obviously, but they aren’t given their own chapters/portions of chapters.

Overall, I really liked this book. My only issues were that the lurve story (of course there’s a love story) goes from 0 to 100 suddenly, Aidan’s kind of a dick & his redemption isn’t super redemption-like, and there wasn’t enough ghost stuff. There’s some ghost stuff, but not enough. I wanted haunting. I think I’d have added a part of a star if the author had included the ‘real’ story of the Darkling Bride instead of leaving us with bits and pieces.

-S-

Blogoween · Reading

A Zombie Apocalypse Reading List

I love reading about the zombie apocalypse! I don’t read nearly as many as I would like, but I truly enjoy the genre. I enjoy the apocalypse in general, though. Here’s a list of books I think should be on your Zombie Apocalypse Reading List. It’s a mix of books I’ve read and books I’d like to read. The list is barely scraping the surface, so add your favorite zombie books down below!

There are probably spoilers down below, buds. Just a warning.

I did manage to place the books in some loose groups. These three have something about zombies that I enjoy.

  • The Passage by Justin Cronin ~ Okay, okay, they’re vampires. But they’re controlled by an entity outside themselves, so I’m shoehorning them into the zombie category. It’s my blog, I do what I want. I loved reading about the vampire-zombies’ behavior and the suspected reasons behind the things they do. I highly recommend the entire series, I’ll probably end up reading them all again one day. Which is saying a lot, since they are all enormous.
  • The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey ~ Have you ever finished a book and been mad at the book so you give it a low rating but then you can’t stop thinking about the ending for weeks and then you boost the rating to 5 because if the book wasn’t as good as it is you wouldn’t be this upset at it? That was this book for me.
  • Extinction Horizon by Nicholas Sansbury Smith ~ I tend to avoid military apocalyptic fiction because I find a lot of it tries too hard to prove how manly the characters are. Which is not completely untrue with this series, but there’s enough going on otherwise to make it recommendable. There’s science-y type stuff and the zombies are pretty cool and there’s a lot of shooting. Try to spot the improbable but totally predictable love interest.

These are books with a little something different going on. Goodreads says I haven’t read the first two, but I have. Feed is on my TBR pile.

  • The Zombie Autopsies by Steven C. Schlozman, M.D. ~ I think I read this when it first came out – 2011 or 2012 – and I still clearly remember entire sections of this book. It’s a far more scientific zombie book than normal.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks ~ He wrote World War Z so you know it’s good. It’s also appropriately funny. If you want to read about zombies, laugh, and not be completely freaked out, get this book.
  • Feed by Mira Grant ~ This is apparently more of a political/journalism/freedom of speech book with zombies! It’s making the list because so many people have suggested it to me that it should be here.

These are books that have come highly recommended but I haven’t had a chance to read them, so I don’t have much to say about them.

  • The First Days by Rhiannon Frater ~ I read the first few pages of this while flipping through my friend’s copy. I remember it being pretty action packed, so why not check it out?
  • The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell ~ All I really know about this one is the Goodreads synopsis and that my friends really liked it.
  • Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry ~ The Goodreads description is pretty vague for this YA series, but Maberry is a really good author, so it makes the list.
Reading · Reviews

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate {Review}

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

I’d say a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

I knew about Georgia Tann (thanks Unsolved Mysteries!!), but this book really drives the awfulness home. It also had tidbits that I didn’t know, so that was interesting. The only issue I had with her section was that it was unrelenting horror. Which was the point, so I guess that’s a good thing.

To be honest, it really doesn’t carry that sense of loss and pain into Rill’s adult life. A second book following her into adulthood and her search for family would be great. The book seemed to close up with a rush and left a lot to wonder about. I just really wish we had more information about everything. This is so hard to write without spoliers!

The other main character, Avery, is a bit annoying but her story is okay. I would have liked to spend more time on her search instead of her worrying about if she wants to be a politician. Also, her obsession with people knowing her last name and treating her differently made me laugh. Your daddy may be a senator but did he play football, Avery? It’s a real thing, sure, but her attitude about it struck me as funny.

This novel covers a very important (and hushed up) time in history. Joan Crawford adopted her children from Georgia Tann. People should read it, then read more about the whole shenanigan, and then give past US authorities some serious side eye.

Before We Were Yours has some weaknesses. Avery is a snoozefest and I was left dying for information about what happened when the ‘orphans’ became adults. And why did Big Trent hate his dad so much? Why is Jonah given such a weird backstory? But its strengths greatly outweigh the weaknesses. Wingate hits every awful thing that could have happened to a Tann child and I don’t think I’ll ever forget reading Rill’s story. Read it.

-Sarah-

Reading · Top Ten Tuesday

Books By My Favorite Authors…That I Still Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature currently run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This one is tough, since I generally read everything an author has written as soon as I figure out I love that author. Please see Karin Slaughter & Simone St. James. However, I have plenty of ‘guilty pleasure’ authors & a couple of non-fiction authors that I read more sporadically. 

My Guilty Pleasure Authors:

  • A Deeper Darkness by JT Ellison – I loved her Taylor Jackson series (I apparently missed one of those as well, but I’m not changing my list!), so I can’t wait to get started on the Dr. Samantha Owens series!
  • Find Her by Lisa Gardner – I’ve read all but 7 of Gardner’s books (not counting .5s or her romance novels) and I can’t get enough of them. This is the 8th in the D.D. Warren series & I’d like to catch up before the 10th comes out next year. 
  • Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag – I rediscovered Tami Hoag this year and I’m a big fan. I’ve heard this is the weakest in her Oak Knoll series, but I’d like to find out for myself. Her weakest book is still stronger than most.
  • I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark – Mary Higgins Clark is such a classic – I know what I’m getting into and that I’m going to enjoy to enjoy myself. Plus, a woman is on video kidnapping her own kid but she didn’t do it, I’m in.

The Non-Fiction:

  • The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston – I like Preston’s fiction works too, but this one has all the things I love. A lost city, mysterious illness, adventure, history, etc. 
  • Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh – I connect with Allie Brosh’s illustrations and stories on a soul-level. I don’t know how I haven’t read this.
  • Hell’s Princess by Harold Schecter – I have quite a few of his books waiting on the shelves, but I’m very very interested in his take on Belle Gunness.

The Current ‘Favorite’:

I’m currently reading all the Charles Todd books I can. Well, I will be once I get done with all the books I need to read. I’ve been turning to British cozy mystery tv shows, so it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to (what I consider) British cozy mystery books. It may be a bit cheating to have 3 books from the same author, but I don’t care. 

Life & Family · Reading

OTSP Secret Sister

Image of wrapped presentsA few years ago I found something called On The Same Page’s Secret Sister Project. Basically, people (I think mostly/entirely women, though men are welcome) send boxes of happiness to someone each month for 6 months while receiving a box from a different person. That sounds confusing…this might be better: Person A sends packages to Person B who sends packages to Person C who sends packages to Person A. Is that any better?

The level of “secrecy” depends on the duo – I had to reveal myself early last round because I moved. I figured she would realize who I was because we follow each other on Twitter. The round before I stayed secret the entire time, which was fun. Some people plan elaborate reveals, or send clues in the boxes to their true identities, and some just write it in a tweet or in a letter.

I think the group is growing exponentially, but I’d still suggest it for people who want to make bookish friends online. I’ve found my people online & OTSP Secret Sister has been a huge part of that. It’s such a cool community and even if you’ve never “talked” to som

eone online/in a letter there’s no issue with just sending a tweet their way. I love being a part of an amazing project that brings people together. Also, you get really cool, really personalized gifts – like the penguin print to the right. I love penguins, so I put this on my wish list & now I have it on my wall!

There’s a bit of an application process, but it mostly boils down to “talk to the hosts and be active on social media.” You don’t have to be a book blogger (or a blogger at all!), but a lot of people are. There are different price levels so if you just want to send letters you can, or if you want to spend as much as you want you can.

 

 

Reading

Breaking my Reading Slump

This week is apparently ‘get Sarah out of her reading slump’ week. The past few years have been stressful in various ways that I’ll not go into here, but resulted in me not doing a whole lot of anything that made me think, feel strongly, or focus on something for longer than an hour or maybe an hour and a half at most. Recently things have settled down and the urge to read has resurfaced. It was touch and go for most of this year, though. Apparently I hadn’t read regularly for so long that starting again was harder than it should have been.

What brought me out of it was a weird combo of following a lot of book bloggers on Twitter, movies being made from books I wanted to read/had read, deciding to start this blog, and accepting the fact that sometimes a romance novel is a perfectly fine reading choice. Sometimes reading 6 romance novels in a row is a fine way to spend a week or two worth of downtime. Even though I am a staunch supporter of the idea that any writing is worthy writing, and I’ve never thought less of anyone reading romance, I always thought I’d be judged for it. My brain works in weird ways. It seems that The fact that since I’m reading one thing I look at other books as a viable option instead of playing 2048 for 3 hours.

Audiobooks have also played a huge part in breaking me out of my slump. I listen to them while driving or cleaning and then I read them (usually in ebook form) when I don’t need to listen. Discovering audiobooks has been a great thing for me. I can’t listen to them while I’m working, but I drive 4+ hours at a time and they keep me entertained. That and Taylor Swift.

I do still have an aversion to reading things I *must* read, which has put a crimp in my reviewing and a Traveling Book project I’m doing. I am nothing if not obstinate.