HAPPY THANKSGIVING ON THIS THROWBACK THURSDAY

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My regular Throwback Thursday will return next week but today I’d like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating in the US. There are many things I’m thankful for but in the book world I’d like to really say thanks today to all the authors out there who’ve taken so much time, effort and creativity to create stories and worlds that I get to visit. I’ve traveled, literarily speaking, to so many wonderful places this year and laughed and cried over so many amazing characters who I’ll never forget and it’s all thanks to authors.  Life gets crazy sometimes and books are a refuge for so many of us and I’m so thankful for them.

Since this IS a book blog, with Thanksgiving thoughts and Throwback Thursday in mind I’d like to toss out 2 books that I’m thankful for that I read during trying times in my life and that I STILL think about today, years later…..

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I have no words for how much I loved this book yet also found it to be the saddest story I’ve ever read. For the 5 days it took me to read it, I was consumed with these characters and their stories took me out of my own life which at the time was very stressful…parents of teenagers you know there are those times that try you in every way!   This story still haunts me and this is easily one of my top 5 books EVER!

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I am seriously considering re-reading this book soon to see if it still holds up all these years later. I read this book about 7 years ago while on vacation in Mexico. Oh, not just any vacation mind you but one in which I was so sick with the Swine flu that I couldn’t leave the hotel bed to fly home. It was awful and I don’t think I’ve ever been that sick in my life but…while in bed coughing, coughing and more coughing I read this book and for a short time I forgot about being sick in another country. I loved the wittiness of the writing and the characters of Dex and Emma and to this day I still think about how the author shocked me in such an unexpected way that I loved him/hated him for quite awhile after I finished reading.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

 

 

 

A 2018 REVIEW: FORCE OF NATURE By Jane Harper

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Publication Date: Feb 6th, 2018 by Flatiron Books

Short Summary: Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Did she purposely disappearance or was it murder? Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

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You may remember that this book was recently one I featured as one of my most anticipated sequels of 2018. I’m starting to dip into some of my 2018 reads and this was just calling to me. I loved The Dry and couldn’t wait to catch up with Aaron Falk. I did, however, read a couple reviews that weren’t all that favorable so I was anxious to see if I agreed with them or not…

The story basically centers around two groups (a men’s and a women’s) employed by the same company who’re sent on a professional team building retreat. The retreat consists of 3 days and nights of hiking and camping in a fairly remote wooded range in Australia. We find out right away that only 4 of the women return and when they do they are hours late and look much worse for the wear. So, the immediate question is…what’s happened to Alice?  Regarding the plot, the narrative structure, and the characters involved there honestly wasn’t that much that worked for me and it’s disappointing because I expected to love this.

What worked…

  • The descriptive details for the setting. Jane Harper can write wonderful setting details. While I didn’t find this to be as atmospheric as The Dry, I did feel like I was there in the woods with the cold and rain and darkness
  • The short chapters created a very fast reading pace and I was able to read this in one sitting
  • Aaron Falk. There’s something about this character that I really like. He’s somewhat of an enigma but just seems like a really good guy. I just wish the author would’ve done more with him in this story. To me, it seemed like he was an after thought and his character didn’t seem to evolve too much in this book.

What didn’t work….

  • The entire plot premise that a professional team building company would send inexperienced hikers out with no phones, no walkie talkies, no flares, no emergency provisions whatsoever and then never check to ensure they reached each campsite just made no sense to me and tarnished my ability to believe the story.
  • The characters. I felt the group of women were not only unlikeable but also thinly drawn. There were times I couldn’t remember who was who, they didn’t seem to be all that individualistic. And I found hard to care about any of them
  • The structure of the narrative. The story is told in present time from Aaron’s perspective as they are investigating and alternates with flashbacks of each day of the women’s journey. This seemed odd to me because we already know what happens so it often seemed unnecessary to retell some parts. For me, opening the book with the ending took away quite a bit of suspense.
  • The mystery. I found it to be pretty underwhelming and the red herrings were too obvious in my opinion.

Unfortunately, there was more that didn’t work for me than did in this story and I’m bummed about that because I think Jane Harper is a very talented writer. Maybe it was a case of rushing the second book as others have speculated, I’m not sure. I did enjoy seeing a little spark with Aaron at the end and I will definitely still give the next book in the series a try because I want to see what she does with Aaron’s character moving forward. If you haven’t read The Dry, I do highly recommend that one!

Many thanks to Flatiron Books for my copy

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

My Pick This Week is….

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Published Jan 2014 by Touchstone

College senior Lana Granger has told so many lies about her past that the truth seems like a distant, cloudy nightmare. But she meets her match when she begins babysitting for a volatile, manipulative eleven-year-old boy. Soon after Lana takes the job, her close friend Beck mysteriously disappears. Lana instantly begins fabricating stories-to friends, to police, to herself. Why doesn’t her account jibe with those of eye-witnesses? Lana will do anything to bury the truth about that night…and about her life. But someone else knows her secrets. And he/she’s dying to tell.

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This was my first Lisa Unger book and for the most part I enjoyed it. There was a definite creepiness about the story and a feeling of ‘something’s just not quite right’ with all of the characters. The setting, a small New England university town, in the late fall/winter was perfect for this time of year and helped increase the sense of dread. While I felt sorry for Lana due to her traumatic upbringing, I never really liked her and I was suspicious of her the entire book. Was she an innocent participant in the crimes of the past and present or was there more to her than meets the eye? Of course, you’ll have to read to find out but between Lana and the psycho boy she babysits for I found this to be a page turner….right up until about the last 1/3 and then it started to drift for me and I found myself really irritated with the characters. I powered on though because I was so curious to see if I had worked out the who, what, and why and it turns out I did! If you’re in the mood for a mystery with an eerie setting you might want to give this a try

HAPPY READING!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Annie at The Misstery

Diana at A Haven for Booklovers

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

Laurie at Cozy Nook Books

 

MINI REVIEWS: A SPELLBINDING FICTION & A FASCINATING NONFICTION

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During my recent blogging break I decided that when I returned I’d incorporate more mini reviews into the blog in an effort to ward off further review writing burnout. As all book bloggers know, it’s a lot of work to write reviews for everything we read and sometimes it’s just as easy and convenient to write (and read) mini reviews. So, I’ll be trying out some new ideas here and there in terms of my review writing formats….

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Published June 2017 By Atria Books

Short Summary: Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

 

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I’m the first to admit that sometimes, ok many times, I’ve let books pass me by because of assumptions I make about them or as in the case of Evelyn, I read about 10 pages of it earlier this summer and thought nope, I’m not in the mood for a woman’s story about her 7 husbands. What a HUGE mistake that was and I’m so glad I came around to giving this another try. Being a mood reader is so bizarre sometimes and it took a complete reading slump and Sarah’s Alcohol and Advil post last week to bring this one back into my orbit.

Here’s what I found to be important about this book…I went into it not reading any recent reviews so the entire storyline was a surprise to me and there were SO many unexpected twists along the way. Legendary movie star Evelyn tells her story to young and inexperienced Monique and while you’ll wonder what she’s got up her sleeve for choosing Monique of all people, that will take a backseat as you’re swept into the 1950s glitz, glamour, and excitement of Old Hollywood. As we get to know Evelyn though, we come to find that her life wasn’t all glamour, there was plenty of heartache, drama, betrayals, and secrets to last a lifetime. And that’s what kept me completely captivated and made this a book I spent my entire Saturday reading. I was unprepared for the respect I felt for Evelyn despite not agreeing with so much of what she did; I really did like her…in the end I think she was her own worst enemy most of the time. I can’t forget to mention the supporting characters…sheer perfection! Get your tissues ready for this addictive, gorgeously written novel that’s earned a place on my 5 star bookshelf.

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Published March 2017 by Knopf; narrated by Mark Bramhall

Short Summary: In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later

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Believe me when I say this was the perfect audiobook for not only long dog walks but also cleaning the house, running errands etc. I listened to it nonstop. I was immediately drawn into the story which really starts at the end in terms of when Chris Knight, not of his own volition, ended his 27 years of solitude in the Maine forest. As a lover of psychology, I really wanted to know what made someone choose to leave society behind and basically spend 27 years camping. How did he survive? What did he do for all those years? The awesome thing about listening to this was that Mark Bramhall made Chris Knight come alive, so during the many long interviews it felt like we were hearing from Chris himself and I was beyond intrigued.

I still think about this story for many reasons but mainly for the ways it made me think about it from so many different sides. Chris Knight was a complicated individual and in no uncertain terms broke the law…over and over and over again. I loved hearing from the citizens whose lives he affected, some were forever (negatively) changed and some who brushed him off and even tried to help him. As I said, fascinating! If you’re looking for an engaging story for nonfiction November, I highly recommend this audiobook.

HAPPY READING!

 

IT’S MONDAY WHAT ARE YOU READING?

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Hi everyone! It’s been too long I know but I have to say I very much needed this blogging break. I’ve spent time reading whatever I’ve wanted these past few weeks and I’m officially OUT of my dreaded reading slump!! I suspect all the ARCS I tried to read but couldn’t get into in early Oct. led to my slump which has led me to rethink the books I’ll be requesting and accepting for review in the future. As all booklovers know, there’s nothing worse than not having a great read to look forward to at the end of the day…or the beginning or middle for that matter:)  I decided to scour my backlist on my kindle as well as the library and I found some AMAZING reads over the last few weeks. In fact, I have several 5 star reads of books that have been sitting on my tbr for far too long! That makes me SO happy. Where the Advanced Copies have fallen short, my backlist has come through for me. I continue to kick myself for not having read them sooner. Read on to find out what I’ve been reading and listening to!

 MY RECENT 5 STAR READS…. 

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Inside the O’Briens was the book that jolted me out of my reading slump. I read this in a day and I just loved everything about the story and Lisa Genova’s writing. I liked this even better than Still Alice. I’ll be honest though, I was initially mad at the author over the ending but the more I thought about it and talked with friends who’d read it, I can see why she did what she did. Will review soon

The Life We Bury was one I’d picked up long ago, read a few pages and put it down never to pick up again. Until a couple weeks ago. I usually love books that have been Edgar nominated or won so I decided to give this another try and I was immediately pulled into the story. There’s family drama, intrigue, an engaging mystery and characters I really connected with. Loved it! Look for this on a TBT soon.

The Nightingale What can I say about this beautiful, unputdownable novel that hasn’t already been said? This had been sitting on my kindle since it came out and for some reason I kept telling myself it probably wasn’t as good as others were saying, I wasn’t in the mood for historical fiction etc. I resisted it. I’m so happy I took a leap and gave it a try because I was captivated by this story. I stayed up until 2:00am to finish it and oh the tiredness and tears were so worth it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is another I’ve passed by since it’s publication in early summer and one I LOVED so much. There’s nothing I didn’t like about this book but what I especially loved was that it wasn’t the story I assumed it would be. And it made me cry which I didn’t expect. Will review soon!

RECENTLY LISTENED TO….

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The Stranger in the Woods was a quirky, super interesting story about Chris Knight, a man who spent 27 years living in the woods of Maine. This was a perfect audiobook. The narrator was fantastic and I couldn’t wait to walk or drive and find out more about how he possibly lived for so long without companionship, comforts of home etc.

The Wisdom of Sundays was a rare book that I actually preordered in print and then bought on audible to listen to as well. I love listening to Oprah’s Super Soul podcast and I couldn’t wait for this book. The audiobook is actually very different than the print which made me happy I have both. Oprah narrates and picks 1 Super Soul person to share the topic she discusses. It’s the perfect book to listen to for inspiration, grounding, and enlightenment. I learned a lot, highly recommended!

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO….

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Dirty John is an Apple podcast I just started listening to yesterday. This is true crime and it starts with a bang…or rather a murder! This seems to be one of those true stories that’s so unbelievable I keep forgetting it’s true. I can’t wait to keep listening!

UPCOMING READING POSSIBILITIES….

I really have no idea but I might dive into a 2018 read or continue with my backlist, so possibly…

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Have a Wonderful Reading Week!