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Weekly Top Posts: 2020-01-19
2020-01-19 05:00 UTC

  5. Engaging and Timely

Engaging and Timely
2020-01-13 06:00 UTC by Michelle

IINameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

I was not intending this to be my first finished book of the year, but a funny thing happened while I was reading it.  I ended up becoming so immersed in the story that I could not stop reading it, and before I knew it, I was done. Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin is a fascinating story that one could argue pertains to the current leadership and today’s political climate as much as it does about the imaginary world of haves and have-nots in which it is set. It definitely sheds light on the unnamed and unacknowledged class system that currently exists in the United States as well as all over the Western world. In particular, it explores the twin question of “What is power?” and “What does it mean to rule versus lead?” — two very prescient questions for today’s climate.

Fast-paced with a good blend of action and exposition, Ms. McLaughlin does a decent job of answering all questions without forcing readers to suspend disbelief. The magical elements exist but never overshadow the story. The characters are a bit one-dimensional, however. Their growth consists of becoming more aware of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and values. The story thrives in spite of this, or maybe even because of it since so much of the story revolves around who should make decisions on behalf of others.

As a debut novel, Nameless Queen is a strong showing but not without room for improvement. Again, it kept me reading until the wee hours of the morning and made me forsake the one book I wanted to finish above everything else. I enjoyed the polite but pointed messages within the story and appreciate the reminder that with privilege comes the duty to protect and care for the less fortunate. Given what is occurring all over Australia and the continuing immigration sagas around the world, it is a message worth repeating.

The post Engaging and Timely appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2020-01-12
2020-01-12 05:00 UTC

  5. Who Would You Cast?

Who Would You Cast?
2020-01-07 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Holly’s English class is finishing up their discussion of To Kill A Mockingbird this week by watching the classic movie with Gregory Peck. Holly and I have held many a discussion about the book and now the movie because I was curious about her thoughts. While everyone I know will declare it one of the better book-to-movie adaptations, apparently Holly’s teacher is not a fan anymore after watching it year after year. One could argue that she should probably select a different novel to teach then, which is true. However, having just finished it, Holly thinks it is still a relevant piece of fiction and would not want to see it removed from the curriculum. What she would like to see is a remake of the movie, one which focuses more on the racism and prejudice within the story. We then got to pondering just who would play the role of Atticus Finch if someone were to remake the movie. I honestly could not think of any actor who has Peck’s gravitas and wholesomeness. Holly’s fear is that the casting directors would select a big name, thereby influencing how you view the character because you are already familiar with the actor.

So I throw this out to you guys. Who would you cast for a remake of To Kill A Mockingbird? Someone famous or someone relatively unknown? Give me your dream cast because I am drawing some serious blanks here!

The post Who Would You Cast? appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2020-01-05
2020-01-05 05:00 UTC

  5. Books Read in October

Fabulous Friday – 3 January 2020
2020-01-03 06:00 UTC by Michelle

Fabulous Friday Button

We should always find ways to celebrate the little things in life. What better day to celebrate these little things other than the best day of the week? So, here are the things that make this a Fabulous Friday for me this week ending 3 January 2020.


  • BLOGGING AGAIN – I did not how much I missed it until I could breathe and realized something was missing from my life. I will never obtain hundreds of followers, nor will I ever be a true influencer in the book world. But this is one of the few places I can express my opinions and not worry about repercussions because it is MY space. I lost my voice in 2019. I don’t like that feeling and am so glad to be back.

  • SHORT WORK WEEK – Ya’ll. Going back to work after almost two weeks off is ROUGH. That alarm going off yesterday morning sucked. I am so glad I only have two days of this before the weekend. It is just enough to remind my body what it is like but not enough to have me dragging every day.


What makes this a Fabulous Friday for you?

The post Fabulous Friday – 3 January 2020 appeared first on That's What She Read.

New Year. New Start.
2020-01-02 06:00 UTC by Michelle

2019 was not an easy year. Connor continues to struggle with his mental health. Cletus attacked my husband and brother-in-law and had to be put down. Dance drama continued to rule the day. However, it was my job that really ruined the year. It became so bad that every day was a struggle. The funny thing is I never realized that it was so difficult until I finally took some time off of work at the end of the year.

Having had that break to rest and recover and take stock of my life and recognizing that when your children comment on how bad – exhausted, stressed – you look, something needs to give. I now realize that things have to change. I don’t like who I was in 2019. I was exhausted and angry all the time; I wasn’t taking pleasure in anything. I wasn’t sleeping; I was overeating. I let my work stress feed into every facet of my life, and that is not who I am nor is it who I want to be in 2020.

I don’t make resolutions, and I am a miserable failure at adopting one word as a yearly mantra in years past. However, as we start this new year and the new decade, all I want for 2020 are change and peace. I want peace in my job. I want peace in my personal life. I want to write again. I want to read with pleasure again. I want to enjoy my cross-stitching and not view it as something I need to do to maintain my sanity. I want to feel good enough to get things done around the house or go for walks. I no longer want to survive. I want to thrive in peace and harmony.

This is not going to occur all at once. However, I took steps during my work break to start the process. I want to get back to journaling in earnest. I want to start meditating again. If I can get my mind in the right headspace, the body will follow. Small steps with potentially big repercussions.

Most importantly, I no longer want my job to rule my life. I believe that no matter what level in an organization you are at, you can work hard at work and leave it behind you when you walk out the door. There is no job that requires you to put in long hours at home on top of ten plus hour days in the office. Somehow, I forgot this basic tenet this year. I found myself answering emails at all hours of the night and on weekends. As a result, I was constantly on edge, as one simple email would be enough to ruin a Saturday or an evening. I’m done with this. No job is worth it.

So, the biggest step I am taking is to silence any work email notifications on my phone. No more interruptions. No more ruined nights. I also refuse to bring my laptop into my house. If I have to bring it home because I am working at another office the next day, it will stay in my briefcase in my car. Work will no longer interfere with my personal life because, in my world, my personal life is my number one priority. I forgot this in 2019. I will not forget it in 2020.

So, 2020 is going to be a year of peace and change. I am the only one who can make this happen, but I refuse to feel as awful as I did two short weeks ago. It took me ten days to recover to the point where I can take an interest in life again. I will not go back to that. Change is scary and not easy. I hope to see you around to cheer me on and help me along the way.

Happy 2020, everyone!

The post New Year. New Start. appeared first on That's What She Read.

Happy 2020!
2020-01-01 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Happy New Year 2020

May you fill all your days with happiness and love. May all your dreams come true.

The post Happy 2020! appeared first on That's What She Read.

Books Read in December
2019-12-31 16:00 UTC by Michelle

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

This story is slow to start with an almost voyeuristic depiction of Thursday’s life. There are clues all over the place but, as is so often the case, those clues only make sense in hindsight. The ending justifies the feelings of unease that you feel while watching Thursday’s growing obsession. This is not a happy novel by any means, and one could make the argument that it serves to portray mental illness in a negative light. In fact, the ending ruined the story for me, which I was enjoying until then.

The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson

While I tend to avoid overtly religious novels, I specifically chose this one because I do enjoy the torture that is Scandanavian novels and I was curious about what the mystery of the nun’s past could be. I was not disappointed, and the story only confirmed my antipathy towards the Catholic Church. As dark as this one is, I would highly recommend it to others and can see it spurring some fascinating discussions.

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

I am not a fan of essay collections, but I always make an exception for Lindy West. It is as if she is inside my mind, knowing exactly how I am struggling in this era of Nazism and rampant racism. She gets the struggle and confirms that it is okay to feel such strong emotions. She also inspires, giving you the fuel to keep fighting the good fight. In this collection, she specifically uses the term witch hunt as a rallying cry, and I am here for it.

How We Became Wicked by Alexander Yates

I wasn’t certain what to expect with this one, but it definitely wasn’t what I got. This story of monster mosquitoes is part horror story, part climate change cautionary tale, part coming of age story. I never became immersed in the story but rather found myself reading it from a distance. It is entertaining with an intriguing twist but one I will forget within a few months.

Kingsbane by Claire Legrand

Another satisfying sequel that takes the story in some very surprising directions. Ms. Legrand does not sacrifice character development while continuing to build her two worlds and provide more context for the upcoming final clash. In fact, she does a great job of doing both without causing any lag in the story. I am particularly excited about the major twist and cannot wait to see how it all ends.

Fireborne by Rosaria Munda

The beginning of this story left me feeling rather dubious, as it appears so one-dimensional and predictable. Somewhere along the way, I found myself drawn into this post-revolutionary story that just happens to contain dragons. I love the characters and their inner conflicts to do the right thing for the greater good, their compromises along the way, and the strength of character they display. What started slowly ended impressively, and this is another series I am excited to see continue.

Stretched Too Thin by Jessica N. Turner

A fitting self-help novel to round out my hellish year. I can’t say I learned much, as it is very much geared towards working mothers of younger children, and I am not that. It did confirm some things about my work situation about which I was already taking action. I found most of what Ms. Turner has to say as nothing more than common sense, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone else. Being a working mother is difficult, and if this is a book that can help you, then I suggest you read it for the chance to assess your values and goals and find ways to make motherhood a bit easier.

The post Books Read in December appeared first on That's What She Read.

November’s Reading Selections
2019-12-30 16:00 UTC by Michelle

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Holy shit. Sexy. Mysterious. Forbidden. Seductive. Feminist. Give. Me. More.

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts

A satisfactory sequel with enough summary to make it easy to pick up the series months or even years reading the first one. I find that this book did a better job of explaining this world, the magic, and the battle facing the characters than the first book. There are nice character development and story progression without being too predictable. I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends.

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts

This series ends exactly as I expected. There are no real surprises or suspense, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t satisfying. I applaud Ms. Roberts on her willingness to try something new, and I think she did a good job with it.

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

What a creepy book! It did get a little too religious/preachy for my personal preferences. I don’t like it when stories like this become nothing more than a sermon about heaven and hell, but that is me. Still, I did enjoy it until they revealed the forces behind the disappearances, and it gave me strange dreams while reading it. That is what you hope to experience in any horror story.

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Kiersten White is an author whose books I will preorder and read because I know I will always enjoy it. I love her refreshing takes on old stories and especially the feminist slant she builds into those stories. Her take on Camelot and the tale of King Arthur is particularly satisfying as she approaches the story from Guinevere’s point of view – with a fun twist. The story has a satisfying ending but with plenty of mystery and unanswered questions to leave us wanting more. I’m excited to see what happens next with Guinevere’s story!

Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh

Another stand-alone young adult novel! Although this may be one story where I did want more because I love Astrid and how flawed she is. She is not that intelligent. She is not the most powerful character. But what she lacks in either she makes up for with grit and determination and sheer stubbornness. The idea of punishing a surrogate is horrifying, but the idea of losing all your memories with the chance to relearn about your life is fascinating. I found the whole thing well-written and exciting, giving you another way to look at the haves and the have-nots and the biases that are in every one of us.

NVK by Temple Drake

I was hoping for so much more than what I received. It hints at being a vampire novel, and I guess it is, but it is unlike any other vampire story I’ve read. I can’t say I enjoyed it, and it appears to be the beginning of a series. I’m not certain why.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

This is the second Shea Ernshaw book I’ve read that I have loved. I adore her ability to twist a story ever so slightly to allow us to see the entire situation in a completely different light. I remain impressed by the care with which she builds her world, providing backstory for the entire clan and allowing us to experience the wonder of the Winterwood. Atmospheric, intense, mysterious, and magical, I am quickly becoming a fan of Ms. Ernshaw.

The post November’s Reading Selections appeared first on That's What She Read.


Related Stories


Books Read in October
2019-12-29 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

It may start slowly, but hang on to your hats, folks. It is one wild ride. I absolutely loved the diversity and gender fluidity within the novel. The magic is intriguing with its message of harmony and partnership. While it is not as unputdownable as I wanted, I still enjoyed it. There is a ton of world-building and character introduction, and the character development is fairly weak, existing only to help characters resolve major conflict. I particularly enjoy the fact that it is a stand-alone story, especially as it has such a great resolution. I wouldn’t want anything added.

Crier's War by Nina Varela

This one is not nearly as exciting or interesting as I expected. There is simply too much emoting. That is all Crier does. I didn’t care for any of the characters; for all their emotional turmoil, they don’t inspire sympathy. I remain bothered by the lack of explanations about how the Automae work. I also question the obvious plot issues – unwavering belief in characters in spite of evidence to the contrary and the lack of substantive action by any character. Being the first in a series does not, in my opinion, excuse or explain the issues, and I am not certain whether I would bother to continue with the series as a result.

Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

Now, this is a sequel. I loved the ongoing character development, the unsolvable mystery, the action, the dialogue, and the chance to learn about other cultures and their myths. There is nothing about this sequel that is disappointing, and I am more than a little anxious for the next book.

Dev1at3 by Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff never disappoints. This geeky, tech-filled, post-apocalyptic world and amalgam of machine, artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, and superpowers hit all the right buttons. The dialogue is snappy and full of sass. The world-building is crystal clear, disturbingly so given its bleak view of the world. The story and action are rapid and fascinating, so much that you can only hang on for the ride. Focusing on Lemon gives us the chance to see this world from a different viewpoint, and seeing it from Cricket’s point of view is sheer genius. I cannot wait for more.

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

This is nothing but a continuation of my fascination with the world of Westeros. Again, I found that the television show remains very faithful to the original story. However, I like the added insight into Sansa’s thoughts that the novel gives us. I also enjoyed the slight differences between the major battle. While there were no major surprises, I still enjoyed the listening experience, even if the narrator remains mediocre.

Angel Mage by Garth Nix

While not by any means a young adult or middle-grade novel, the story reads like one with its basic sentence structure and relatively simple plot. We never really get insight into Liliath’s motivation or her obsession even though it is the driving force of the entire story. There is a distinct lack of insight into all of the characters in fact. The whole story is very superficial, more action than character development even though the characters are what make the story. The whole experience is very unsatisfying.

The post Books Read in October appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2019-12-29
2019-12-29 05:00 UTC

  5. June’s Mixed Bag

September Books
2019-12-28 16:00 UTC by Michelle

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

I raced through the television series and didn’t want the story to end, so I started the audiobooks. I am still astonished at how closely the show followed the original story. Even portions of the dialogue are exactly the same. The narrator is okay. His pronunciations of certain names is a bit jarring as it doesn’t follow the pronunciations used in the show, but I will forgive that since the audiobook was released first.

A Few Pecans Short of a Pie by Molly Harper

A fun novella about the McCready clan and their shenanigans with a surprising and fun timeline crossover with the last novel. Exactly what I expected and the perfect source of entertainment and fun.

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

This is a great story, diverse with mythology within it that is very different from anything else I have read. Sadly, while I enjoyed it, I could not devour it as one might expect. There is a repetitiveness to the syntax that grew tiresome, plus the characters remain fairly one-dimensional. There are one too many pages where nothing happens. While it has gods, spirits, magic, and demons with a fight that transcends generations, I kept falling asleep every few pages and felt no compulsion to keep reading.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

I liked this one more than I expected I would, especially after reading some unfavorable reviews before I started it. The whole thing is fun, cute, flippant but with a serious heart. It contains some great discussions about right versus wrong, evil for the greater good, and blinding loyalty to any cause. There are enough answers to make this a one-and-done story, so I was surprised to see that it is the first in a series. I am not certain how Ms. Mahurin is going to make it happen without the story becoming repetitive. Also, I do think we need more sexy times between the characters because they are done so well.

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

Alternately bone-achingly depressing and beautifully hopeful. I struggle with the flooding aspect of the story because there are no scientific models that show that the Midwest would ever flood. I never took to Myra’s character but really enjoyed Daniel and Pearl’s stories. I am not certain if we are meant to like Myra in all honesty as she is meant to represent the difficult choices we must make as parents, as humans, and as survivors.

There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool

I feel like most of this book is nothing more than world-building and setting up the rest of the series. There is so much repetitiveness while Pool builds that world, plus there is so much of it. The action does not really kick in until well past the halfway point. It is a creative world though, wherein those with magic or the Graces are not the villains. The whole bad versus good element of the story is spectacularly gray, as is the dynamic between the religious and the nonbelievers. I did like the story once it finally started and am intrigued by how each character’s role will unfold and change along with the prophecy. Still, it could use a little less predictability and a lot less repetition to make it truly great.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

What a lovely, lovely story. The writing is gorgeous. Each sentence is quote-worthy. The story is creative and inspiring as well, in my opinion. January is such a great heroine – fighting against gender expectations and racism to save herself. The doors as instruments of change and progress may not be a new concept to fiction, but I think Harrow does it well because she never eliminates the possibility of magic. I found the entire novel a true pleasure to read from start to finish.

The Divers' Game by Jesse Ball

Ball’s latest novel is a very odd story with no discernible plot. He leaves so many of the details of his futuristic world for readers to glean from contextual clues, which gets old rather quickly. I am still not certain what point he is trying to make here. There is the obvious aspect of a world divided into a very clear us versus them, haves versus have-nots, immigrants versus those who were citizens before an unspecified date, but that is too obvious for Ball. The whole thing is very chaotic and unsettled, with one-third of the story completely deviating from the rest of it. This is definitely not as fluid as his previous novel, which I enjoyed. I did not enjoy this one.

The post September Books appeared first on That's What She Read.

Books from August
2019-12-27 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Yes, I am still alive! It has been a rough fall season, so blogging fell completely by the wayside as I struggled just to survive from one day to the next. I still managed to read, which I think may have been the only thing that kept me sane. I do not have my usual level of review for each book, but I did manage to jot down some notes after finishing each one. The next few posts will be me sharing these notes along with the books I managed to finish. If anyone is still around and interested, enjoy!

The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan

The whole story is a bit of a trainwreck from start to finish and not the most cheerful of novels. There is so much occurring within the novel – a failed experiment, a doomed relationship, class uprisings, mental health issues, explorations of guilt, love, and ignorance – but the author does a poor job of blending all of the issues, so it feels very disjointed. The choice of coarse language used by the protagonist left me scratching my head because it does not fit his personality, which is fastidious and extreme in its gentlemanly presentation. This was one novel I was very glad to finish and not because it was good.

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch

What a great finale! Ms. Raasch does a fantastic job of blending magic with religious intolerance, prejudice, revenge, and power struggles. Plus, she keeps the story full of action. The ending is wonderful and a bright spot within the year with its message that cooperation and compromise can work in overcoming extreme divisions within a country.

The Passengers by John Marrs

Intense, action-packed with some really great references to one of Marrs’ previous novels. It truly is a chilling warning about AI. The character work, especially in shifting readers’ opinions based on each new snippet of information, is mesmerizing. The whole thing is one emotional roller coaster and would make for an excellent beach read.

Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff

Meh. A girl living in a zombie world knows nothing but how to survive. She leaves safety for answers, to which she only receives a few. She confirms some truths, discovers more lies. There is a bit too much flashbacking for my taste, as it is the only method by which we learn about this greater world. There is nothing new in this story with nothing very exciting happening. I never embraced Orpen’s character enough to care about her future. The writing is mediocre as well. Overall, nothing spectacular.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I wanted to love it but didn’t. I got tired of all of the spy games and multiple secrets. The behavior feels so extreme. Ms. Atkinson fails to convince the readers that people really were that suspicious of their neighbors during the war and that fear ruled the day. As such, the whole thing feels just a bit ridiculous.

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

I could not finish this one because I felt the whole thing was too predictable. This doesn’t mean it was a bad novel. Cathy is a kick-ass character, feisty and independent even when she knows such behavior could get her killed. I simply got tired of her bullish approach to everything because her behavior never changed. It is a perfectly decent piece of historical fiction that sheds some light on an unsung feminist hero.

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

Very Scandanavian in tone and mood – bleak, stark, matter-of-fact, almost scornful of anyone passing judgment on the characters and their way of life. It contains a surprisingly romantic ending where love rules over pragmatism. The writing style equals the tone of the story and serves that purpose well. The characters remain fairly enigmatic, which keeps you guessing anything about the ending. Not my favorite novel of the month, but not the worst either.

Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness

I consider this more a fun little interlude to the Bishop-Clairmont family saga than anything that furthers their story. We do not learn much more about them other than about Marcus’ past. We don’t seem anything of his present-day existence. Phoebe’s transformation transpires exactly as I expected it would. It is fun to see another Clairmont “child” and interesting to see Baldwin soften slightly. Still, I wanted more. There was no danger, no threat within the story. It was all too safe.

The post Books from August appeared first on That's What She Read.


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