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Sunday Reflections – 17 October 2021
2021-10-17 22:17 UTC by Michelle

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It is 66 degrees and sunny right now. We have windows open. The dogs are snoozing. The Packers beat the Bears…again. It’s a great Sunday!

All’s quiet on the Shannon front. Nothing totally unusual happened this week. Tallulah saw the vet for the first time in two years. Holly performed for her last football game. Holly and I cheered on the high school marching band at the state marching band competition yesterday. Jim didn’t travel for once. In fact, we were actually able to eat dinner with Holly once this week – a rare occurrence indeed. And we all continue to get caught up on overdue check-ups and ignored health issues. Fun times.

This week, Holly and I are going on a short, self-guided college tour. Jim is welcoming a new member to his staff.  I continue to hold down the fort, cooking, and cleaning, and doing my own thing. Jim and I are thoroughly enjoying this season’s GBBO, even if some of the accents are a little thicker and more annoying than normal. We both are cheering for Giuseppe and Jurgen because their stuff looks amazing. Jim and I also started Dopesick, which we find SO well-done and yet infuriating. Plus, you know, lots and lots of football because it is only the best sports season. 🙂

Since Holly is gone…again…Jim and I are looking at another quiet Sunday night as we prepare for the upcoming week. More football is on the agenda since Pittsburgh plays tonight. To me, it’s the best way to end the weekend. I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend and relaxing!

Tell me, what’s going on with you? Reading or watching anything good? Made any good recipes?

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Weekly Top Posts: 2021-10-17
2021-10-17 04:00 UTC

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Double Double Toil and Trouble
2021-10-15 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Cackle by Rachel Harrison is not my usual reading fare, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Ms. Harrison’s story of female empowerment has some spooky moments, but really it is more about breaking societal expectations. After all, what is a witch other than a strong, independent female who doesn’t follow the rules set by others?

Annie starts out as a rather pathetic high school teacher struggling to adjust to life as a newly single woman after her long-time boyfriend decides they are better as friends than dating. For all that, she is equally relatable because of the fact that she always thought her path meant husband, children, and all the rest. Meanwhile, Sophie is quirky and charming even if she is a bit ominous. Watching Annie bloom under her tutelage is satisfying and inspiring.

You would think that a book that uses spiders as personal helpers would be a bit too much for this arachnophobe to handle, but I have to admit that by the end, I even found those damn spiders endearing. Cackle is what I would call a cozy witch story. It might take place in the dead of winter in an old and drafty mansion crawling with secrets, but the whole thing is just too damn cute with a great message about needing no one but yourself.

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Fabulous Fractured Fairy Tale
2021-10-14 15:00 UTC by Michelle

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

First thing’s first. I adore Alix E. Harrow’s novels. I find her writing is spellbinding. In A Spindle Splintered, she tackles the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with her unique storytelling. This Sleeping Beauty’s curse is a lot less fantastic and a lot more mundane. Yet, with her feminist eye, Ms. Harrow creates a tale as old as time and yet refreshing in its newness. As it appears that her fractured fairy tales are going to be a series, I am really excited to see which fairy tale she tackles next!

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Novel Nuggets – Some Oldies But Goodies
2021-10-13 15:00 UTC by Michelle

Still getting caught up on reviews. These are all older books that I enjoyed and are fitting for the season.

Crooked Hearts by Lissa Evans

Crooked Hearts by Lissa Evans is an adorable story about found family that just happens to occur during the Blitz. Both funny and charming, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Vee, who is nothing but a walking disaster, which, I think, is part of her charm. While any story during which the Blitz, its damage, and the loss of life and property play a key part could be dark and upsetting, Ms. Evans finds a way to keep the entire story lighthearted. Perhaps it is the fact that Vee is unabashedly a scam artist, or that Noel is too smart for his own good and yet endearingly naive. Together, they make you smile.

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summers by Stephen King is another found family story in which the bad guy is not as bad as the really bad guys. Moral ambiguity abounds as Billy Summers, an assassin for hire, decides to hang up his hat after one last hit. Except someone tries to do it for him. What follows is an epic spy thriller/whodunit that is twisty and tragic and yet absolutely mesmerizing. Billy Summers is more in the vein of Mr. King’s newer novels than his older horror. Personally, I like his newer stuff more, and I particularly like the moral greyness of this latest. As with his other books, there really are no poor narrators for Stephen King’s books on audio. I feel Paul Sparks did an admirable job with his narration, as he was able to show Billy’s lack of remorse as well as his softer feelings.

Christine by Stephen King

Even those who are not Stephen King fans most likely know the story of Christine. The name is synonymous with a possessed evil car. Yet, like all of Stephen King’s books made into movies, the movie leaves out SO much. In this case, I believe the movie does the original story a disservice because it is so much more than a possessed car running rampant. There are nuances to it that help flesh out the story so that it makes sense. These details also add a layer of tragedy to everything, which also enhances the story.

Audio is most definitely the way to go if you want to read the book. Holter Graham is absolutely fabulous as narrator. The way he adapts his voice as Arnie changes is thoroughly chilling. While the story itself may not be all that scary, Mr. Graham’s narration ups the creep factor by ten.

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Jay Kristoff is King of the Vampire Tale
2021-10-12 15:00 UTC by Michelle

"Empire

I already knew that I was going to love Jay Kristoff’s take on vampires. After all, I adore anything Mr. Kristoff writes, and vampires have had my heart since I was eight years old. Still, Empire of the Vampire not just exceeded my already high expectations. It blew them out of the water. If you could call a book perfection, then Empire of the Vampire is indeed perfection.

Anyone who has ever read anything penned by Mr. Kristoff knows that no character is safe under his hands. He has made a name for himself for putting his characters and his readers through the deepest, darkest levels of hell. There is a reason he has a mug that says “Tears of My Readers” after all. In Empire of the Vampire, it feels like all of his previous novels were nothing but warmups to the levels of violence and torture he inflicts on Gabriel de Leon and his readers. I saw one reader joke about making a drinking game out of the number of times someone stabs Gabe, with Mr. Kristoff himself replying that it would result in alcohol poisoning. The amount of blood that all of the characters shed throughout the book is staggering, but there is a purpose to it all. The violence helps shape the world in which Gabe lives, detailing the dangers in ways that mere descriptions could never hope to achieve.

At 752 pages, Empire of the Vampire is not a fast read, but therein lies some of its magic. The world-building is spectacular simply because Mr. Kristoff takes the time to do so. Nothing he writes is without purpose though, so any exposition is necessary and totally worth it. Mr. Kristoff’s world is so complete it is essentially real.

For all the betrayal and violence, Empire of the Vampire is one of the saddest, most gut-wrenching books I have ever read. The tender moments in between all the violence are what truly capture the reader’s heart. There are moments that are breathtaking in the love they capture. Gabe describing Astrid’s smiles, their stolen moments. Gabe’s interactions with Dior. These are the moments of hope within this story of violence and death and are also the moments when we see Gabe’s true essence.

Long-time readers will know it takes a lot for me to cry while reading. Books often trigger many emotions within me, but such utter desolation that tears require is rarely one of those emotions. Yet, Empire of the Vampire made me sob for the last few chapters. I cried so hard that my husband came into the room to check on me. This is more proof of the perfection that is Empire of the Vampire.

The post Jay Kristoff is King of the Vampire Tale appeared first on That's What She Read.

Novel Nuggets – September 2021 Releases
2021-10-11 14:00 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part eight. Thankfully, the end is in sight. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

Into the Dying Light by Katy Rose Pool
I loved the first two books in the series, but Katy Rose Pool’s series finale, Into the Dying Light, left me feeling flat. The semblance of Hollywood ending struck the wrong chord with me. In general, the ending is too happy for a story during which the author had no problems killing off characters. While I am all for happily-ever-after endings, they have to fit the rest of the story. To me, this is one example where the ending does not fit.

Plus, I never could get behind the relationship of two of the main characters. To me, this relationship is nothing but desperation and hero-worship masked as love and affection. If the relationship were heteronormative, we would say how dangerous such a relationship is, so I struggle to accept it for a homosexual one.

Into the Dying Light strikes me as very anticlimactic given the overall story’s grandiosity. It is too neat and tidy for a story that was epic and messy and complex. One of the things I loved about the rest of the series is the fact that it was so complex and messy. It brings a level of realism to a story steeped in fantasy. The way Ms. Pool chose to end her series undoes all of that to give any character of importance a happy ending, and that seemingly ruined the story for me.

All These Bodies by Kendare Blake
While All These Bodies by Kendare Blake appears to be about vampires, the fact is that the story is so open-ended as to be about nothing more than a serial killer and his accomplices. In a break from her previous novels, Ms. Blake skates around any supernatural elements, neither confirming nor denying them. The truth, in this case, is up to the individual reader, and while I can appreciate it, I did not love it.

What I did love about All These Bodies is the idea that it is at heart a commentary on our legal system and how we profess innocence until proven guilty but rarely achieve that in the media. Even though the story occurs during the 1950s, the media is no different today, seeking scandal and assigning guilt before a case ever gets near a courtroom. In this instance, we see the damage such attention causes on those close to the case, regardless of what side the person is on. This aspect of the story, more than the whodunit, grabbed my sympathies and kept my interest.

While All These Bodies is different and has some great moments of terror and intrigue, I like my murder mysteries to have a few more concrete answers. I appreciate the fact that Ms. Blake lets the reader choose their own answers, and I particularly like that she includes a vampire as one of those answers. Yet, the ambiguity did not pique my interest. I like my vampires to be more in your face, and I want answers to my mysteries. There is a reason I avoided “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid, and All These Bodies simply reiterates my ongoing dislike of such stories.

Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune
Under the Whispering Door, the latest by T. J. Klune is going to go down as one of my favorite books of 2021. I simply love Mr. Klune’s storytelling and his characters. He makes you feel so much for characters you shouldn’t like. Plus, he handles very sensitive topics with care.

In fact, in Under the Whispering Door, Mr. Klune takes a topic that is my number one cause of panic attacks and makes it so beautiful and so peaceful that I felt my body physically relax while reading. Mortality (and what happens after) is a subject with which all humans struggle. Yet, Mr. Klune’s idea of mortality and the afterlife is nothing but a gift.

The icing on the delightful cake that is Under the Whispering Door is his characters. Wallace, Hugo, Mei, Nelson, and Apollo are everything you want them to be. Quirky, endearing, and yet flawed in a way that makes them real, they capture your heart. At the same time, their relationships with each other make you feel hope for humanity, as they are a fantastic reminder of what healthy relationships can be.

Under the Whispering Door brings so much to the table. Not only is it funny and adorable, but it also provides you with moments of peace and clarity about a topic no one really wants to discuss. This is one book that will make my permanent library, the highest compliment I can give any book.

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
I wasn’t certain what to expect with Stephanie Garber’s Once Upon a Broken Heart. I loved the Caraval series and was happy with how she ended that story. So I didn’t know if I wanted to read more about any of the characters. Still, what I got more than exceeded my expectations.

Steamy and twisty, Once Upon a Broken Heart is everything I loved about the Caraval world and more. This time, we get to learn more about everyone’s favorite heartbreaker, Jacks. His origin story is one of the more tragic within Caraval, so I was looking forward to learning more about him and see him interact with more than just the sisters.

In one of the only issues I have with the story, Once Upon a Broken Heart spends more focus on a new heroine than on Jacks. While Evangaline is a perfectly fine heroine, she is a little too nice. In fact, I received clear Cinderella vibes with her nasty stepmother, dead father, the questionable stepsister, and the many, many sacrifices Evangaline makes for her family. Personally, I would like to see Evangaline driven by more than a need for love, but I still enjoyed her story.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want more Jacks. If this is Jacks’ story, as Ms. Garber said on social media, then I want more of him. His scenes were so much fun. Mysterious, sexy, alluring – they were everything I hoped they would be. Because of that, I cannot wait to see how his story ends.

Steelstriker by Marie Lu
Steelstriker by Marie Lu is a great ending to a great duology. The entire series appeals to my not-so-inner goth girl, but the finale ups the ante in that regard. The first book was dark and full of danger, but this time around, we get a story full of trauma and PTSD which makes the story even darker. Plus, Ms. Lu takes the time to explore the idea of nature versus nurture, what motivates us, and how much our childhood influences our later actions.

In Steelstriker, Ms. Lu takes her characters to places I never expected, but I loved the unexpectedness of it all. While I can see it as a triggering story for some readers, personally, I thought it was fabulous and am eager to see what Ms. Lu writes next.

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Sunday Reflections – 10 October 2021
2021-10-10 18:29 UTC by Michelle

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Is anyone struggling to accept the fact that the end of 2021 is less than three months away? I’m not ready to start shopping for the holidays, but given the shipping delays and general shortages, it means I better shake off that particular malaise and start planning. How about you?

So, what’s all the news that’s fit to print?

Jim is busy. So very, very busy. When he’s not answering his never-ending email, he’s on a call. If he’s not on a call, he’s reviewing data. And that is when he is actually home. He’s been traveling on average two weeks out of every month. Thankfully, he loves his job, so it doesn’t feel like work to him.

Meanwhile, Holly is in the middle of her senior year, balancing poms, dance, work, college applications, student council, Spanish club, Mock Trial, and yearbook/newspaper. When I say she is never home, it is not hyperbole, but I’ve never seen her so happy. She admits to being tired, but she is enjoying every minute of it – watching her friends at their various activities, attending away games, and squeezing out every aspect of being a high school student she can. Her plans for next year are still nebulous. She has a list of eight or nine colleges and universities to which she wants to apply, and we still have at least two college visits we want to accomplish. The plan is to finish all this up before December so that we can enter the dance competition season without that hanging over her head. It is so exciting and yet so bittersweet – although I’m trying not to dwell on that.

As for me, I’m still putting in my four hours of work daily and am focusing on getting healthy. This past month has been all about much-delayed doctors’ visits. Not having insurance for six months and not being able to see a doctor before that means I have a lot of check-ups to attend, blood to draw, and health to improve. So far, I was able to up my SSRI dose since my OCD compulsions were getting worse and I was struggling with increased anxiety. I feel much better after three weeks, so now I can focus on my physical health. My most recent bloodwork was a bit of a wake-up call, so now I’m looking for a personal trainer and facing a lifetime of statins.

Ironically, just as I want to start getting more active, I also started physical therapy for chronic tendinosis in my elbow. I have had bouts of tendonitis off and on over the past year – too much time on my phone or holding my Kindle at an odd angle. Two months ago, I had a flare-up that got worse and worse no matter what I did. After not being able to do something as simple as clasp a bra or hold a pillow, I went to an orthopedic who showed me all the damage to my tendon through an ultrasound. The pain means no cross-stitch, limited typing, watching my posture while on my phone and reading, and minimizing baking or cooking. I’ve gotten very good at vacuuming with my opposite arm, but everything else remains an exercise in frustration and pain. Still, I have my daily stretches and bi-weekly PT, and I hope to see some sort of improvement soon.

Jim saw Connor for the first time in over a year two weeks ago, and they tried to hash out some of the issues that have been plaguing us for this past year. I don’t see Connor talking to me any time soon, as he still sees me as being too harsh on him with too high expectations. They left it that Connor was going to seek therapy to work on himself while going into no contact with us until he felt he was able to reach out to us without anxiety or anger. It is frustrating and very upsetting. When Jim told me, I had more than a few moments of sobbing and at least one day of wallowing. Still, as long as he seeks help outside of medication, I remain hopeful that he will come back to us one day. Now, I just hope that day is before Holly graduates. I don’t want him to miss that simply because he hasn’t worked through his issues with us.

That’s about it for now. I occupy myself reading, doing what little cleaning I can, what little cooking I can, and listening to audiobooks. The dogs and I are getting a lot of quality time together, as afternoon naps are common and always appreciated. As I start to feel more like myself, I do hope to start writing more often as well.

If anyone has any helpful hints for hiring a personal trainer, I would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, I hope you all are healthy and happy and keeping busy in these insane times!

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Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 8
2021-09-13 15:00 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part eight. Thankfully, the end is in sight. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. After all, I always enjoy her writing and appreciate how finely layered her stories are. Plus, I particularly love the mix of Gothic and historical fiction she brings to each story.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a slow burn of a story, one in which the pace exponentially speeds up the further into the story you go. Told between different time periods and differing points of view, the mystery at the heart of the story comes into focus piece by piece. As is often the case in a Kate Morton novel, you will probably be able to predict one plot mystery, but the other will confound you until the very end. Ms. Morton seems to excel at keeping all her cards close to her chest so that you have no choice but to go along for the full ride if you want to see the full answer to the mystery.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is another strong novel by someone who seems to do nothing but write good, atmospheric historical fiction mysteries. Ms. Morton’s consistently strong characters, her attention to detail, her delicate balancing act between story-telling and story-showing, and the added Gothic touches always appeal to a wide audience, and this one is no different.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver is not at all what I expected when I finally delved into it. I did expect a murder mystery, but I did not plan for the social commentary aspect of the story. I actually like the story more because it included the latter. The fact that Ms. Oliver is not afraid to tackle difficult topics like bullying, abusive relationships, and mental health adds not only complexity but also a layer of gravitas on top of something that would simply be another teenage murder mystery.

In fact, you might argue that Broken Things is more social commentary than a murder mystery. As we dive into each girl’s life since the murder and discover how messed up they are five years after, the story becomes less a whodunit and more a closer look at the dangers of false accusations and unhealthy relationships with yourself and with others.

What ultimately dooms Broken Things is the rather neat ending that seemingly ignores or glosses over all the messy details that make up the heart of the story. The happy ending is nice because the girls are so damaged. At the same time, the ending is too clean and too neat. The characters have too many rough edges and cracks for them to heal so suddenly, yet there is no doubt that Ms. Oliver leaves each character well on the path to a glowing future. For such an edgy novel, it deserves an edgier, more realistic end.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten

With For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten, the cover gives off such a Red Riding Hood vibe, that I knew I had to read it. Thankfully, I was not disappointed in the slightest. Red is every bit as strong as you would expect, and the Wolf is, well, pretty damn intimidating and frustrating and tragic and good and complex and…

For the Wolf isn’t just Red’s story, however. We also get to meet her twin sister, who is the exact opposite of Red in almost every way. This means that her portions of the story, while important for building the main conflict of the series, are less…impressive…than Red’s. Neve is insipid and uninspiring, and you want to just roll your eyes and groan at the ease with which others manipulate her.

Thankfully, Neve’s scenes are small interludes from Red’s adventures. Red has such a passion for life and for duty that it is infectious. Plus, she can differentiate between the few versus the many, something Neve is wholly incapable of doing, which means she fights for what is right for all and not just for her. She is willing to sacrifice her own happiness if it means that her country will be better for it. Better yet, she does not back down from fear or intimidation. In other words, she is my kind of girl.

With a supporting cast of memorable characters, lots of action, and plenty of romance, For the Wolf exceeded my expectations in every way. So much so that I am now going to be stalking Ms. Whitten for information about the sequel because, as is always the case in series, the wait is going to be a long one!

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is one that caught my eye because of its elements of fantasy and that cover. Plus, I am making a concerted effort to read more by authors of color and from other cultures, so this ticked off a lot of boxes in books I like to read.

It’s not that Son of the Storm is a bad story. On the whole, I did enjoy a lot of it. In particular, the caste system that exists in Bassa, with its focus on darker skin tones being better, is fascinating because it is such an opposite thought process to the caste system that exists in the United States. Another part I enjoyed was the idea that the general populace of Bassa wanted an emperor as their leader versus the committee rule that exists at the opening of the novel. Again, this is a shocking idea to Americans, as we learn from an early age that democracy or a democratic republic is the only method of government worth having (right or wrong).

Unfortunately, the characters are not quite as compelling, and the story has a tendency to drag on and on. There is so much exposition, which is understandable. After all, Mr. Okungbowa is creating an unfamiliar world for an audience who most likely is not familiar with African cultures. There is a lot to explain. Yet, I’ve read much more complex and foreign stories with little to no exposition where the author essentially throws readers into the deep end and lets them figure out things like setting and culture as the story progresses. As frustrating as that can be, I much prefer to sink or swim than to have an author hold my hand the entire time.

While I enjoyed Son of the Storm, I don’t think I enjoyed it enough to want to continue the series. I loved the cultural aspect of the story. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for any of the characters in a way that makes me want to learn their fate.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson is an utterly fascinating look at race relations in the United States. The arguments Ms. Wilkerson has to make about racism not being a result of skin color but rather from a caste system are more than compelling. Her comparisons between the US and India and Nazi Germany are as chilling as they are interesting.

She presents her findings not just as a journalist but also as someone well experienced as one of the lower caste members. In fact, every one of her arguments comes with real-life stories proving her point, and she tells these stories in a way that makes you feel as if you are there, watching the scenes unfold before your eyes. As such, some of these stories are more than a little disturbing. There were several points within the book that I had to stop and let the book sit for a while if only to let my stomach and mind settle after the intimate look at mankind’s cruelty to each other. She also includes many anecdotes taken from her own life, which serve to drive home this idea that we live in a caste society, of which Blacks and indigenous peoples are America’s Untouchables.

I don’t normally talk with others about books I am reading, mostly because what I read would not interest most of the people I know. However, I could not stop talking about Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent with others. Its ideas are so profound and so interesting that I want others to read the book and learn as much as I did. Ms. Wilkerson opened my eyes to the idea that the turmoil our country is in is not an increase in racism but rather a power struggle among castes, wherein the upper caste is doing everything possible to maintain the status quo in spite of changing demographics that will eventually put the upper caste among the minority population. I cannot recommend Caste enough.

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Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 7
2021-09-11 02:50 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part seven. Only a few more of these to go. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens
As a huge Chevy Stevens fan, I can safely say that Dark Roads is one of her best novels to date. Its basis in the real-life murder mysteries within a section of highway in British Columbia gives the story an added layer of legitimacy. Dark, disturbing, and more visceral than her previous novels, Ms. Stevens keeps you guessing until the very end. The characters’ pain is all too real, as is their frustration regarding those who are abusing their power. In part an ode to those who lost their lives on that deadly highway and in part a timely #metoo story, I believe Dark Roads solidifies Ms. Stevens’ ability to write stellar thrillers.

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price
The Endless Skies by Shannon Price has a slow and predictable start that eventually improves to create a decent story. Ms. Price uses too many YA tropes for the story to be unique or refreshing. Plus, I find it very odd that this is the second book released in two months that has a floating island above a greater landmass that used to be part of that same landmass. I will say that I did find myself invested in Rowan’s plight even while the magic made me roll my eyes. Overall, I can’t say I’m too impressed.

Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Baine
Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Baine is one of those books that is so difficult to describe. On the surface, it is nothing more than a collection of short stories and poems that tell the tale of Black Americans since the first enslaved African was brought to our shores. However, there is nothing superficial about this collection. Some essays provide new-to-me information about certain points in history, but all provide history from a very different point of view than the one commonly taught in history classes. Haunting and yet utterly fascinating, the pain of the last four hundred years permeates every essay and poem. Yet, all of them include a fierce pride at everything they have collectively overcome as well as an unbreakable will that shows how Blacks continue to thrive no matter what white people do to them.

The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young
The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young is a fun addition to the world Ms. Young first brought to us in Fable and Namesake. I personally enjoyed the chance to see a different aspect of Fable’s larger world. Bryn is not as fierce as Fable, which is a bit disappointing. I’m pretty sure Fable could have given any of the Roths a run for their money in attitude and danger. Her insta-love with Ezra is a bit odd given its intensity and their willingness to risk their lives for each other after only two days. Still, it’s a fun story that brings us back into the dark and shady world of gems and trade and gives us greater insight into Bastian’s ruling families.

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer
Defy the Night is Brigid Kemmerer is definitely a highlight of the September releases. I truly loved this exploration of what a government owes its citizens when it comes to healthcare. While Ms. Kemmerer insists it is not a book about the pandemic, it definitely has relevancy as it talks about government-issued cures and the costs associated with it. I adored Emma’s compassion and commitment; when the world feels like it is collapsing, it does a person good to read about someone who isn’t willing to back down when things get tough. Emma’s and Corrick’s emotions are utterly real, making them highly sympathetic, blurring that line between fiction and reality. Plus, they make the cutest couple, earnest in their desires to help those less fortunate. I particularly love the fact that their relationship has its basis in a long friendship and not the insta-love that so many other YA novels contain. I cannot wait to get more of them!

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 7 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2021-09-05
2021-09-05 04:00 UTC

  1. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6
  2. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 5
  3. Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Spring 2021 Part 4
  4. A Mother’s Heartbreak
  5. Just how big is that damn tree?

Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6
2021-09-02 02:40 UTC by Michelle

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part six. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

The Betrayed by Kiera Cass
With The Betrayed, I had no idea where Kiera Cass was going to take this story of a princess in the making who leaves it all for love, only to have that love cruelly taken from her in what has to be one of the most shocking and brutal twists ever written. As Hollis adjusts to her new life in a foreign country, there are the typical gaffes. I found the sequel a bit squirmy at times, only because it seems that everyone falls in love with Hollis immediately upon meeting her. The adoration Hollis receives from Silas’ family is a bit much, as are some of the more predictable plot “twists”. Still, Ms. Cass did manage to surprise me again with the ending. I was not expecting Hollis to make certain choices given what we know of her character. I particularly like the character growth Hollis displays throughout the two novels. As such, I do believe I enjoyed this duology much more than I did The Selection trilogy!

Capture the Crown by Jennifer Estep
As a huge fan of the Crown of Shards trilogy, when I saw that Jennifer Estep started another trilogy set in the same world, I requested that review copy as quickly as I could. I regret nothing. Capture the Crown has everything I loved about the Crown of Shards trilogy. It’s sexy, clever, and violent. Best of all, it never follows the easy path. Ms. Estep is not afraid to do terrible things to her characters or put them in impossible situations, and I love the frisson of fear you get while reading it knowing that there is the potential for much violence. Gemma is not the spoiled princess she appears to be, but neither is she the greatest at spycraft. There are so many mysteries and hidden agendas at play throughout the story that the future stories should be just as stellar.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
The Final Girl Support Group is another strong novel by Grady Hendrix. While not quite as terrifying as some of his earlier novels, the premise is refreshingly different. After all, horror fans know who a final girl is, but we never find out what happens to final girls once the cops arrive on the scenes. So, Mr. Hendrix shows us what happens to them as they struggle to put the gory events behind them. As expected, some final girls have a better time adjusting to their lives post-horror events, while others find those events dictating their every waking moment. As is true in every Hendrix novel, the characters are deliciously messy and complex. You find your sympathies waxing and waning in each scene depending on the actions. Add in someone who seems to be stalking the remaining final girls, and you have something that is equal parts mystery, thriller, and horror story.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
I wanted to love The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig after he wrote one of my favorite novels from last year. Unfortunately, in my opinion, lightning did not strike twice, and the entire story fell flat. The jagged storytelling – different points of view and different timelines without any indication of who or what is telling the story – makes The Book of Accidents a difficult story to follow. The characters are mediocre at best. There is the inclusion of one particular minor character who becomes another baddie, which bogs down the story and doesn’t add anything to it other than another layer of complexity to a story that is already so complicated that it requires a chart to keep track of who, what, and when. Sadly, I was more confused than scared at any point in time. Hopefully, this is simply a one-off, and future books show the same brilliance I know Mr. Wendig is capable of producing.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott
Folks, I finished reading The Turnout by Megan Abbott at the end of July, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about it in some way. It is one of the most haunting novels I have read. On the one hand, I could say that it haunts me because of my familiarity with the dance world, and yet, the dance world she depicts is not really like the one I know. Anyone who is familiar with dance, especially ballet, knows that there is most definitely a dark side to the art form. The blood, sweat, and tears that go into dance are no joke. Yet, what Ms. Abbott depicts in almost lyrical fashion is almost disturbing in its intensity. And this is only the dance aspect of the novel. The Durant family is all sorts of messed up, which you sort of know at the start but don’t realize the extent of it until the end. By then, Ms. Abbott has you almost hypnotized with her writing style that is one step shy of being unintelligible. The overall effect is a story that is disturbing but ethereal, painful but somehow beautiful. When I finished the novel, I didn’t think I liked it at all. After a month of reflection, I realize that it is a masterpiece.

The post Novel Nuggets – Overdue Reviews – Summer 2021 Part 6 appeared first on That's What She Read.


 

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