What I Read… vol. 12

Too strange that this is the last regular SUYB link-up of 2017. I managed to link up with every single one this year! Thanks so much for hosting, Steph & Jana!

Next year I’m revamping my book review outline and images, but for now let’s get to it.

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This month I finished 3 books and two of them were duds.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain | ★★★/5
Summary: As she sets off to complete the first solo female flight from east to west (London to NY), Beryl Markham looks back on her life and the people and places that shaped the woman she’s become. | Why I Read It: Originally I picked it for Erin’s challenge categories. | What I Thought: When I started this book I was trying to read it alongside West With the Night. That was a mistake. Once I abandoned the autobiography, I started to enjoy this novel. As is the case with many hist-fic books, there were lulls and slow moments. I liked McLain’s descriptions of Africa, though. I think the county was a HUGE part of who Markham was and the descriptions of the country helped to further define this remarkable, wild, fearless woman. Man, she had it rough… She brought on some of her hardships, but others were dealt to her and she survived out of shear will and necessity. I didn’t envy Beryl for even a second, but I admired her throughout the whole book. I’m also interested in picking up West With the Night again. I’m curious what stories the real Markham shared with readers.
You should read it because… you enjoy historical fiction and being transported to a new world and era while riding co-pilot to a fierce, independent, flawed woman.

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart | ★★/5
Summary: Nicola Ferris planned to meet her cousin Frances on the remote Grecian island of Crete, escaping touristy crowds, stress, and drama. Unfortunately, before even stepping foot in Agios Georgios, Nicola is swept up in a web of murder, thievery, and danger. | Why I Read It: I picked it as my Disney book in Erin’s last challenge. | What I Thought: Considering it has +4★s on Goodreads, I am clearly in the minority here. The book was a fun story, but it was a lot to get through and it took coaxing to keep picking it up. It’s actually more like a 2.5 rating for me. I enjoyed the descriptions of Greece and I liked the banter between characters, but everything felt too simple and straight forward. Maybe because it’s a romantic thriller written in 1962? Folks on GR seemed to enjoy the movie so I guess I’ll give it a shot now that I’ve read the book.
You should read it because… you’re in the mood for a dated thriller with likeable characters and a Disney-esque ending.

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino | ★★/5
Summary: No one is born bad, right? Even Snow White’s evil stepmother had a story to be told. | Why I Read It: I found it on Kindle Unlimited and figured why not. | What I Thought: This book is more of a 1.5 stars but I rounded up 🙄 Honestly, the story itself isn’t bad. Nothing groundbreaking, especially with all the fairy tale rewrites and TV shows (like OUAT), but it was an entertaining story. It’s the writing that’s just so. freaking. terrible. It’s sweetly awkward and juvenile and simple. Sometimes simple is great, but not in that combination. The book is too dark for elementary age/middle school kids (IMO), but the writing feels SO young. I don’t know. I have no idea what age level this book is considered. Also, I think these books are released/claimed by/associated with Disney? I can’t believe they’d be ok with this. I won’t lie- I rolled my eyes every other page and totally should’ve quit this book.
You should read this because… just… don’t. There are waaay better fairy tale books out there to suit your taste.

At the end of the month I’ll link up again with Steph and Jana for an annual review 🙂 And on January 1st Erin’s next challenge starts (see my picks on Thursday!).
2018 feels like it’s going to be a good year for books!

What’d you read this month?

Life According to Steph
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What I Read… vol. 11

I participate in Erin’s Book Challenges & when I first started doing it I was barely making time to read for pleasure. In high school I devoured books, but then college happened and I felt guilty reading anything that wasn’t for a class. My habit of pleasure reading went into hibernation. Thanks to Erin, I’ve been slowly but surely reading more and more over the last few years. I’m no 12-books-a-month kind of reader, but hitting 3 in a month makes me feel good. All that to say, I didn’t finish the challenge this time around, but I’m enjoying books and reading for pleasure and I don’t mind that I gave up on the challenge. I plan to complete her challenge in its entirety soon, but moving houses and summertime stress just didn’t allow for that this time. Thank you for being an amazing, wonderful, gracious host, Erin!!

Also, happy birthday to my dad!

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And now I’m linking up with Steph & Jana for Show Us Your Books!! (Happy Anniversary last month, ladies! Sorry I forgot to say anything!)

On to the books. My rockin’ husband bought me a Kindle for my birthday so you’ll hopefully see some NetGalley books around these parts! For now, it was a pretty slow reading month.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie | ★★★/5 
Summary: When the wealthy Emily Inglethorp is murdered in her own bed, surrounded by family and staff, Hercule Poirot is on the case to solve who dun it. | Why I Read It: I’ve found that I really enjoy Christie’s writing and I plan to make my way through the Hercule Poirot series. | What I Thought: While Hastings drove me right up a tree (he was such a naive, over confident, horny creep IMO), I loved Poirot. He was an absurd little character, but the mystery made sense to me once it was all explained. And I never even came close to guessing the outcome.
You should read it because… you enjoy a classic mystery with a twisty twist and quirky characters. No thriller mystery here.

DNF: West with the Night by Beryl Markham
I might come back to this book someday, but I wasn’t feel it from the time I picked it up. Good stories, but not a pace I enjoyed (for now).

Erin’s Challenge ended Oct. 31st at 11:59pm…

|5 points| Freebie: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
|10 points| Starts w/ “B”: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
|10 points| Yellow cover: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
|15 points| An animal on the cover: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Published in 2017: The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
|20 points| Compass/cardinal direction in title: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
|25 points| A most commonly banned book in America: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
|30 points| About mental illness: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
|30 points| Non-human main character: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
|35 points| A Disney movie /book/ based on a Disney movie: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

I ended with 135 points. I can’t wait for the winter challenge!

What did you read this month?

Life According to Steph

What I Read… vol. 10

Again we find ourselves at the second Tuesday of the month! That means I’m linking up with Steph & Jana for Show Us Your Books!

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I struggle with the review image that I post each month… I hate how it looks but I haven’t found an alternative yet. Maybe by next month I’ll have something new:

Between moving and cleaning and life I only read and finished one book. And I hate it. Oh well- can’t win ’em all.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides | ★★/5
Summary: In less than one year’s time the five Lisbon sister end their lives. The neighborhood boys watch with fascination, admiration, and confusion as the girls mourn, heal, call for help, and eventually die. | Why I Read It: Somewhere along the line this book ended up on my TBR list so I used it for the challenge. | What I Thought: I’ve read my fair share of depressing YA fiction. This book just didn’t do anything for me. While I truly believe Eugenides is a skilled writer, I was bored and unattached through (almost) the entire thing. Right around the 200 pg mark I started to get into it, but then he lost me again. The story is interesting in that the neighborhood boys piece together what happened to their female neighbors, but there was so much blah to it. Just not my thing at all.
You should read it because… you’re looking for a long retelling about the breakdown and destruction of five frustrated teenage girls. Honestly, just don’t read it.

 

Update on Erin’s Book Challenge

|5 points| Freebie: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
|10 points| Starts w/ “B”: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
|10 points| Yellow cover: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
|15 points| An animal on the cover: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Published in 2017: The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
|20 points| Compass/cardinal direction in title: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
|25 points| A most commonly banned book in America: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
|30 points| About mental illness: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
|30 points| Non-human main character: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
|35 points| A Disney movie /book/ based on a Disney movie: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

Coming in hot with 135 points.

What’d you read this month? 🙂

What I Read… vol. 9

Best blogging day of the month! Let’s get to the books!

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If you’re new here, this is how the review goes:

Ok! On with the show!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood | ★★★★★/5
Summary: With Congress gone and the Constitution suspended, American men and women are forced into new relationships and roles. | Why I Read It: Everyone has or is reading it (I was 78th on the library waitlist- it took 2 months to get) & it filled a spot in Erin’s Challenge. | What I Thought: This book was like nothing I’ve ever read. I have so many thoughts but at the same time I’m speechless over it. It’s so relevant and scary and foretelling… especially for being written in 1985. It read like an actual retelling and it ended so vaguely. I think that the reader is meant to walk away with their own epilogue depending on how you felt by the end- you might have some hope for Offrend and think that she’s going to be alright but you might be feeling completely hopeless and beaten down by the end, in which case you probably imagine the worst for her. Also, I wonder what it would’ve been like for Offred if she’d have been in a different position of power or even a different part of the US or a different relationship when the changes started…. I don’t know… this book was eerie and engrossing and unique.
You should read it because… you’re a reader. If you are someone who enjoys reading I think you should give this book a try.

The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver | ★★★★/5
*ARC provided by Ashley Weaver (but it’s available now!)
Summary: Summoned to France by Milo’s childhood nanny, Amory and her husband find themselves in the middle of another high society death. Was it an accident or something more sinister? | Why I Read It: I like this series & it worked out with Erin’s Challenge. | What I Thought: First of all, I’m so happy I got my hands on an ARC. Sometimes all you have to do is ask and an amazing author says “yes” 🙂 I love the high society and historical vibe in these novels. This one was no exception as it introduced the Ames duo to the French Belanger family, master perfumers. With the recent loss of their patriarch, the company, fortune, and family are in a state of covert disarray. While I enjoyed Milo and Amory’s strengthening relationship, I felt like his secrecy and lying were serious (& annoying) setbacks. Also, Milo’s effect on women was a little overstated. That said, I still loved their chemistry and I’m liking Amory’s backbone as it grows a little in each novel. I think my favorite parts were Milo’s reaction to men flirting with his wife. He’s much less of a cool cucumber than Amory in those situations.
You should read it because… you’ve read the first three books and/or you enjoy historical murder mysteries.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman | ★★★★/5
Summary: New to town and already bored with her home and routine, Coraline decides to explore the dark mysteries of her new home. | Why I Read It: It’s been on my TBR list forever because I thought it looked spooky and entertaining. | What I Thought: For whatever reason, it took me over 2 months to finish this book. It was enjoyable, but it was easy to pick up other books instead of this one. I liked Coraline very much. She started off with a pretty decent level of maturity but by the end she’d become very wise and clever and brave for her age. I’ve read that this book is creepy and scary for adult while children tend to find it more empowering and encouraging. I can see that. The villain (“the other mother”) was delightfully terrible. I think there were many details hinted at by Gaiman that weren’t blatantly explained and I enjoyed that. It was a very descriptive and visual book- perfect for a fall afternoon.
You should read it because… you enjoy spooky, contemporary tales of evil and trickery (defeated by clever, good little girls).

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling, Jim Kay (Illustrator) | ★★★★★/5
Summary: (Really?) After 11 years with his abusive aunt and uncle, a young boy is suddenly immersed in a world of witchcraft and wizardry, trolls and dungeons, unicorns and werewolves. | Why I Read It: No one needs an excuse to read HP. That said, I’m rereading all the books as their illustrated versions are released. I’ve had this one for a while now and finally cracked it open. | What I Thought: Bloody hell. I didn’t think there were any Harry Potter stones unturned. If you haven’t gotten your hands on the illustrated novels then you need to do so right now ❤︎ I’ve heard that the Kindle/ebook versions are animated! I’m ashamed that it’s been so long since I’ve read this magical book. Next week I’m dedicating an entire blog post to it so stay tuned for that 😉
You should read it because… it’s one of the greatest series and stories to ever grace the literature world. #fact

DNF: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
*I didn’t finish this book this month and I ran out of renewals (because I got it at the beginning of the summer and kept putting it off). I fully intend to re-borrow this book and finish it, but I’m taking a break for a few weeks and giving it back to the library for now 😉

Here’s a quick challenge update:

|5 points| Freebie: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
|10 points| Starts w/ “B”: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
|10 points| Yellow cover: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
|15 points| An animal on the cover: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Published in 2017: The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
|20 points| Compass/cardinal direction in title: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
|25 points| A most commonly banned book in America: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
|30 points| About mental illness: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
|30 points| Non-human main character: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
|35 points| A Disney movie /book/ based on a Disney movie: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

I have 105 points now.

Not a bad month for reading 🙂 What’d you read this month?

Linking up with Steph & Jana for Show Us Your Books!

Life According to Steph

What I Read… vol. 8

It seems like I do my best reading in two weeks leading up to SUYB… I finished these the first week of August & I’m currently reading three different books.

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I made a new image to explain my reviewing method…

On to the books…

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden | ★★★★/5
Summary: With Christianity spreading throughout the land, old guardians are awakened and troubled at the edge of the cold Russian wilderness. When disruption puts Vasya’s people at risk she must repair and protect the world they live in with the world that protects them. | Why I Read It: I think Olya praised this book on her blog and put it on my radar so I used it for Erin’s Challenge. | What I Thought: This story was a powerful mix of feminist rebellion and uniqueness celebration and mostly-good verses very-evil and family loyalty and protectiveness. I’ve never read a Russian fairytale-esque novel but this story didn’t disappoint. It was a slow read for me- I felt like I needed to reflect on each season of weather and Vasya. I also found myself totally smitten by three different characters, one being a monk and one a demon. Ha. It was a long, good, well flavored story and I really enjoyed Vasilisa’s courage and spirit throughout the whole thing.
You should read it because… you’re in the mood for a unique and beautiful tale about a strong and unique girl from the coldest forest of Russia.

Intrigue in Capri by Ashley Weaver | ★★★/5
Summary: While on holiday in Italy Amory finds herself drawn to a new mystery. | Why I Read It: As I’ve mentioned, I love the Amory Ames series. | What I Thought: Released as a Kindle Single, this was a short little mystery possibly released to tie us Amory&Milo-lovers over until the next book. It was a very quick and cute read. Little mystery but lots of charm from the Ames duo. It took me all of 30 minutes (maybe) to read, so it certainly was a nice way to pass some time.
You should read it because... you’re invested in the Amory Ames series.


So here’s where I’m at with the challenge:

|5 points| Freebie: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
|10 points| Starts w/ “B”: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
|10 points| Yellow cover: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
|15 points| An animal on the cover: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Published in 2017: The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
|20 points| Compass/cardinal direction in title: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
|25 points| A most commonly banned book in America: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
|30 points| About mental illness: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
|30 points| Non-human main character: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
|35 points| A Disney movie /book/ based on a Disney movie: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

I have 45 points now.

What did you read this month? Link up Steph & Jana!

Life According to Steph

What I Read… vol. 7

Serious vacation prep was happening in June (both professionally and personally) so I barely read anything that month… but then we went on vacation the first week of July and I finished 2 books in a week (which is rare for me!).

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I have 3 books listed for this link-up.

I rate the books, explain what they are about & why I read them, & then give my thoughts. Erin’s book challenge kicked off July 1st so I included an update at the end of this post, too.

Ok… on to the books!

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt | ★★★★/5
Summary: The Sisters brothers are famous for killing. As hired assassins on The Commodore’s payroll, Eli and Charlie Sister set out for gold-rush-crazy Sacramento to kill Hermann Kermit Warm. | Why I Read It: Erin read it and then offered it up. I thought it sounded good so she sent it my way 🙂 | What I Thought: I just really loved this story. (Plus that cover is ALL the heart-eye emojis.) I rarely read books that pick up at one point in a person’s life, tell a story, and end at another point in their life. Usually the book starts at birth or at a pivotal moment and ends at death or something similar. It was a comfortable, well-paced, sad yet funny, familiar but untold story. I used to watch old western movies with my dad and this took me right back. It was a little violent, but nothing I couldn’t handle (and I’m a wimp!).
You should read it because… you enjoy historical fiction and western movies… you like characters that aren’t 100% good or bad… you’re obsessed with the cover art like I am.

*Who wants it next? I’m passing this story on now, too! I’ll send it to ya for free!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie | ★★★★/5
Summary: Ten strangers collected on an island, all haunted to a degree by past transgressions. Will they make it off the desolate rock alive? And if not, who’s killing them off one by one? | Why I Read It: A friend recommended it because she thought I’d enjoy it. | What I Thought: She was right- I did enjoy it! This book was first published in 1939 but it didn’t read like an “old” book. I loved the mix of characters and the mystery of the island. I liked how certain stories came to light at different times in the plot- not just all at once. I absolutely had NO idea who’d done it by the end of the book. It was kind of strange to have it all summed up the way it was in the last 30 pages or so, but I was very satisfied with the ending and the intricate murders!
You should read it because… you enjoy murder mysteries and you like the game/movie Clue and you want to pay some respect to the OG of mysteries. Ha.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein | ★★★★★/5
Summary: Enzo the dog looks back on his life with the Swift family. | Why I Read It: I hate reading books about animals, but this one had such high praise, plus the dog’s name is Enzo ❤︎ | What I Thought: This book killed me… I was sobbing on the beach last week because of all the highs and lows wrapped up in these +300 pages. (We also lost our family dog to old age last week while we vacation- that didn’t help my emotional explosion.) Enzo is a sweet and intelligent soul that devotes his life to loving, protecting, and understanding the humans in his life. He provides insight and lessons that sound so natural coming from a dog’s mind. Amongst illnesses and births and triumphs and loss, Enzo is a sturdy rock for the family and he doesn’t take that responsibility lightly. Even the staunchest dog hater would fall head over heels for Enzo. (I also love that book-Enzo and my Enzo are presumably named after the same thing/person.)
You should read it because… it’s amazing. Even if you’re not a dog lover, you will absolutely fall in love with Enzo and his humans. This was a wonderful book & I’m so glad I broke my rule and read it.

So here’s where I’m at with the challenge, just over 2 weeks in:

|5 points| Freebie: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
|10 points| Starts w/ “B”: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
|10 points| Yellow cover: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
|15 points| An animal on the cover: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
|20 points| Published in 2017: The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver
|20 points| Compass/cardinal direction in title: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
|25 points| A most commonly banned book in America: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
|30 points| About mental illness: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
|30 points| Non-human main character: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
|35 points| A Disney movie /book/ based on a Disney movie: The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart

I will take 35 points to kick this off, thank you very much!

I loved spending my whole vacation reading by the beach 🙂 I’ll recap the other stuff we did on Thursday! Until then, tell me what YOU read this month!

Linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books!!

Life According to Steph

What I Read… vol. 6

Second Tuesday of the month? You know I’m linking up with Steph and Jana to discuss BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS 😀

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The grading curve…

…and last month’s reads:

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | ★★★/5
Summary: Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, this story opens on Shahrzad and her impending death sentence. As the Caliph’s 72 bride in as many nights, Shazi is determined to stop the monstrous ruler’s cruel cycle and exact her revenge for a former bride and fallen friend. But from the get-go things just aren’t that easy. | Why I Read It: It sounded interesting and it was the selected book for Carolann‘s book club. | What I Thought: To be totally honest, I’m torn. I didn’t dislike the book and I didn’t love it. It just didn’t really click with me. I loved Shazi’s strong, take-no-sh!t attitude. I also really enjoyed (almost) every character. The magical element fell a little flat for me. It was a relatively creative story, but it definitely had that YA/teen vibe. I don’t plan on reading the second in the series, only because I don’t really care…
You should read it because… you like teen adventure and romance. If you’re looking for a strong, feminine, well-rounded protagonist then I’d recommend this story! Definitely a YA story, though.

The Heir by Kiera Cass | ★★★/5
Summary: The princess of Illea has never known rebel attacks or castes, but she’s no stranger to civilian unrest. When her parents suggest a new-age selection competition the feisty Princess Eadlyn is appalled. | Why I Read It: I’ve come this far with the series. I figured I’d finish it out. | What I Thought: I’ve given all The Selection books 3 stars, but this one is more like 3.5. I loved that there was no love triangle. I also loved Eadlyn’s confidence. At the same time, that girl was a brat. I get that she’s royalty and comfortable, but it shocked me that her mother, who came from nothing, would allow her daughter to act like that. I suppose we’re all jaded or naive in some form, but dang.
The romance (or lack thereof) was enjoyable. I like the guys, especially Kile and Henry (and Erik). I appreciate that we’re seeing a change in Eadlyn (I think)… Hopefully book 5 ties everything up in a relatively neat bow. (After 5 books I feel like I, as the reader, deserve that. Ha.)
You should read it because… you’ve made it this far. And while Eadlyn is more bratty than America, the story line is way more enjoyable and entertaining.

The Crown by Keira Cass | ★★★/5
Summary: Eadlyn’s selection is coming to a close, as is her time as “princess.” With a potential husband and a queenship in her not so distant future, Eadlyn has some important decisions to make about her life and Illea. | Why I Read It: Just making my way through the series. | What I Thought: Well… I borrowed it from the library on Saturday morning and finished the final chapter that night. It’s not that it was outstanding (I mean, it’s still only getting three stars), but the pace was pretty quick and the story was interesting (albeit, a tad underdeveloped in my opinion…). That said, the last 100 pages felt incredibly rushed. Also, while I was looking for a neat & tidy ending to the series, this was all a little too perfect and unbelievable. I felt like the king and queen’s personalities shifted too much, the selection romance was random and underdeveloped, and the antagonist was dismissed too easily after all the drama settled. Eady was way less of a brat, though. She was much more enjoyable in this novel than in The Heir.
You should read it because… you’ve made it this far. And it’s a quick read.

I’m doing a private book challenge with friends, but Erin’s reading challenge doesn’t start until July 1st (see my list here) so I’m going to hold off on any challenge updates until the next SUYB!

Thanks for hosting, Steph & Jana!

Life According to Steph