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Novel Nuggets – All About Audiobooks (Part I)
2022-05-17 23:27 UTC by Michelle

One of the ways I discovered that I might not be handling the stress of the past few months is that no matter how often I tried, I could never summon the energy or desire to sit down and write reviews. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, knowing I would eventually write them. Then a week became a month. A month became five months. One overdue review became five. Five outstanding reviews became more than fifty. I finally realized I had an issue. After a fantastic discussion with my therapist, here I am, attempting to tackle my review list one review at a time. It feels good to be here. It feels good to write again. So, let the reviews commence. First up – the many, many audiobooks I finished since January 2022.

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

To me, Cosmos by Carl Sagan is more like an introduction to astrophysics for the layperson. I say that with the caveat that it still requires close attention while listening because the subject matter is so complex that one can easily get lost in its scope. While some of the examples and possibilities mentioned within the book are out-of-date, I feel Cosmos will still resound with today’s listener because it serves as an ever-important reminder of the miracle of life on Earth.

If you know anything about Stephen Fry, you know what to expect when listening to Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets. It is a very clever and entertaining look at many of the myths regarding Victorian society. With his droll British humor, Mr. Fry covers everything from sex and pornography to murder and the adoption of modern detective skills. He manages to educate while making fun of modern-day assumptions regarding this historical period. Never lewd, lascivious, or graphic, he presents each topic with discretion and grace and with tongue firmly in cheek. If only all history could be so enjoyable.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis was, hands down, my favorite book read during February. It is an unbelievably powerful story regarding the long-term ramifications of a young woman’s murder. At the same time, the three main characters serve as a backdrop for a brutal and unflinching look at rape culture and its impact on teens and the social hierarchy of high schools across the country. First published in 2016, it is a story that is as relevant today as it was during the #metoo movement.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi did not impress me as much as I expected. Some of my disappointment may stem from the fact that I wanted to adore this memoir. I had heard great things about it and sought something that might help me confront my mortality. While Paul’s story is undoubtedly very moving, I finished his story wishing that all doctors cared about their patients as much as he appeared to have. I don’t think When Breath Becomes Air is thoughts about mortality as it is lessons learned about treating others with kindness and empathy. Again, all I could think was that my experiences with the medical community prove that empathy is a rare trait more often than not. Perhaps Paul’s story would affect me more had I experienced better, more conscientious medical care in my own life over the years. Either way, it wasn’t the learning experience I wanted.

How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

I will lump all six books of the Mystic Bayou series into one review because they follow the same charming formula that Molly Harper tends to use. The similarities between the stories don’t harm them, as long as you go into each knowing exactly what you will get. There will be a meet-cute, followed by lots of sexual tension, a mystery solved together with the requisite found family, and happily ever after for our star couple. Throw in a dragon, a were-bear, selkies, a dryad, a witch, and a gnome, and you have quite the community. I enjoyed every minute of listening to the series.

The post Novel Nuggets – All About Audiobooks (Part I) appeared first on That's What She Read.

Sunday Reflections – 15 May 2022
2022-05-15 15:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading:  Forging Silver into Stars by Brigid Kemmerer

Listening:  The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi

Watching:  Jim and I started watching Squid Game this week. It is not a show I want to binge-watch, and I have to force myself to watch an episode. Despite that, we enjoy it even if all I can think while watching it is that the show feels like a sociologist’s case study.

Cooking:  My brother-in-law is here for more home improvement projects, and his payment from me is always food. I made a jalapeno popper chicken salad and a cowboy pasta salad for lunches. Dinner tonight was grilled brats, a Polish cucumber salad, and grilled loaded potatoes. I also made an angel food cake and a no-bake lemon cheesecake for this weekend. This past week, I made bread pudding, shwarma chicken with current rice, spicy tomato pinwheels, and Jim grilled burgers twice. Now that we have a grill again, it’s been a treat to let Jim handle some of the meals.

Enjoying:  I believe our weather finally turned, which means no more below-freezing temperatures until autumn. While I’m not too fond of the three or four days in which the temperatures decided to jump right to summer levels, I will admit that the sunny days that have been in the sixties and seventies have been more than a little pleasurable.

Planning:  What am I not planning at this point? We have three weeks until Holly’s graduation and graduation party. Three weeks after that is her final dance competition ever. And, because karma does not want my life to get remotely dull, we have to plan for Holly to attend college this fall at the University of Dundee, which is in Scotland. Surprise!

Feeling:  Honestly, I don’t know what I feel right now. I thought I was handling these very stressful few months pretty well until my therapist pointed out that I might be fooling myself a bit. I haven’t been able to sit down and write anything, let alone that massive amount of reviews, nor have I been able to sit and work on my cross-stitch project, which is for Holly and one I intended to finish before she graduates.

And yet, I am so proud of Holly that I could write it in the sky, and it still wouldn’t be enough of a gesture to express that pride. She is ending her high school career with her best year ever. She has truly come into her own in what she wants, what she expects, and what she does about it. Watching her struggle to decide on college has been extremely tough but still impressive as she wrestled with costs, dreams, programs, logic, and heart.

Ultimately, she changed her mind about going to Washington not just because she didn’t want to take a gap year but also because she wanted us to stay in Wisconsin so that she could come home and visit all of her friends during breaks. What prompted her to look more closely at Dundee was the leaked SCOTUS opinion regarding Roe. The day after the leak, she texted me to say that it felt like the unraveling of society. Her subsequent text was to say she never declined Dundee’s offer. Three days later, she talked to an advisor at the school, and three days after that felt that the opportunity to get a degree abroad was too good to ignore. She did all this without any prompting from us, as we thought we were getting the house ready to put up for sale. Her maturity levels astonish me.

Upcoming:  Holly is in Washington, D. C. this week as part of her AP U.S. Government class, so Jim and I have the house to ourselves. Jim and his brother will finish up the pergola, adding lights and building stairs from the patio before leaving on Tuesday. Then, Jim needs to get started on some lawn games Holly wants for her party or my Little Free Library that he promised to build. I hope to get started on the decorations and finish planning the menu for that day. It doesn’t feel real that it is three weeks away, but I cannot ignore the calendar.

The post Sunday Reflections – 15 May 2022 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2022-05-15
2022-05-15 04:00 UTC

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Weekly Top Posts: 2022-04-24
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Weekly Top Posts: 2022-04-10
2022-04-10 04:00 UTC

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Sunday Reflections – 03 April 2022
2022-04-03 15:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading:  Book of Night by Holly Black

Listening:  A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and lots of Foo Fighters music (RIP Taylor Hawkins)

Watching:  Basketball, Ted Lasso, Parks and Recreation

Cooking:  Jim and I have been enjoying our subscription to Blue Apron. Jim’s coworker is the one who got us into Blue Apron. As the company’s CFO, she understands a bargain, and if she felt this subscription was a good deal, then who am I to argue? We love it. I love that they include everything in their meal kits. Their recipes are easy to follow, and they are a lot healthier than some of the other meal subscription kits from what little research I’ve done. I easily adapted them for when I was seriously reducing my carb intake, and they were still delicious. The meals themselves are the perfect serving size, leaving us neither too full nor too hungry. As we move closer to being full empty nesters, this seems to be an excellent option for us right now.

Enjoying:  This weekend has been quiet, and I’ve loved every minute. I finally got a chance to get caught up on laundry and paperwork and pretty much everything else that slipped through the cracks lately. Plus, we had the most amazing snowfalls this week and weekend. Both of them were gorgeous, made even better by the fact that they occurred in spring. The sizes of the flakes were spectacular. I haven’t seen such fluffy flakes in forever.

Planning:  At this moment, Holly is stuffing her graduation announcements. I am also finally downloading her senior photos and ordering her party invites later today. We are t-minus two months to the big day, and time is short.

Feeling:  Since Holly cannot decide where she wants to go to school this fall, frustration is the dominant feeling right now. I was hoping to be able to announce her school of choice on her party invites, but that’s not going to happen. I know she has dance team tryouts for one school at the end of April. I guess we wait until then for her decision.

Upcoming:  We have a reasonably quiet week followed by a rather insane weekend. Holly has a dance competition this weekend. She is also attending the prom of one of the local high schools on Saturday. So there will be a lot of back and forth with multiple hairstyles and makeup changes, long days and late nights, and mornings that will come way too soon. I’m looking forward to it!

The post Sunday Reflections – 03 April 2022 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2022-04-03
2022-04-03 04:00 UTC

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Weekly Top Posts: 2022-03-27
2022-03-27 04:00 UTC

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Sunday Reflections – 20 March 2022
2022-03-20 15:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading: The Fervor by Alma Katsu

Listening: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach…and dance music

Watching: I’m trying to watch March Madness as much as possible while at Holly’s second dance competition of the year. Thank goodness for AirPods.

Cooking: Last week, I cooked up a storm as Jim’s godson was here for a visit. Spaghetti and meatballs, enchiladas, a one-pot chicken and rice dish, shepherd’s pie, Italian beef sandwiches, sausage tortellini soup, a citrus cake, two pies, and a chocolate cake. This week, I don’t plan to cook much at all.

Enjoying: It might not be a popular opinion, but I love the ever-changing weather that makes up this time of year. The inconsistency makes each day a big surprise. I have also been enjoying the basketball games this weekend. So many upsets, and I always love to see how well I predict those upsets with my bracket. Plus, I think many of the games have b en fabulous. You can’t ask for anything better for a tournament to determine the best of the best.

Planning: Next week, I plan to take it easy. I always need a day or two to recover from dance weekends, and last week was stressful insofar as I don’t know Jim’s godson very well, and I felt like I was always “on” while trying to get to know him and make sure he was comfortable during his visit. It has been several years since I have had a fourteen-year-old boy in the house. I know they eat as if it is their last meal, but I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for that.

Feeling: I know I am not the only one, but these days, my primary emotion is a general feeling of being overwhelmed. I grew up through the Cold War and watched the Challenger explosion live and the aftermath before we thought there might have been foul play involved. I watched Wolf Blitzer as we entered the first Iraq. My husband was in the Army for Kosovo, on September 11th, for the second Iraq war, and the beginning of Afghanistan. Yet, I have never been as worried about any of that as I am about what is occurring in Ukraine. There is something about the unpredictable insanity driving Putin, his massive ego, and his sense of entitlement that makes me feel that we are on the precipice of World War III. I do not doubt that Putin would not hesitate to press that nuclear button. These last two years have been trying, but I fear we haven’t seen anything yet.

Upcoming: Holly has a bit of a break with dance spring break next week, and school spring break the week after that. This means that I get a break with a chance to relax. I have a grad party to plan, invites to design, grad announcements to address, and the general increase in household chores that comes with warmer temperatures. Yeah, relaxing is definitely in order.

How are you doing? What have you been doing to maintain your mental health with the headlines that keep getting worse? Have you made anything particularly tasty? Read anything that you could ‘t put down? Watch anything that you couldn’t stop watching?

 

The post Sunday Reflections – 20 March 2022 appeared first on That's What She Read.

Weekly Top Posts: 2022-03-20
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2022-03-06 05:00 UTC

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2022-02-13 05:00 UTC

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  4. A fascinating alternative to Hell
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Sunday Reflections – 6 February 2022
2022-02-06 16:00 UTC by Michelle

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Reading: The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake

Listening: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Watching: The Olympics because, of course, I am since there is no football this weekend. Instead, I’ve seen luge, snowboarding, curling, speed skating, figure skating, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, biathlon, and hockey. It’s been fun.

Cooking: It is still abnormally cold here, so we still need warming comfort foods. I plan to make shepherd’s pie, smothered chicken, and Mexican pork bowls. I need to figure out a few more meals since my brother-in-law is in town, and I don’t want to eat out all that much.

Enjoying: Working out. I started working with a personal trainer in November, and I am now to the point where I love every minute of it. She makes every workout a challenge but still doable, and my energy levels are higher than they have been in ages. I love knowing I am getting stronger and more flexible with every visit.

Planning: I am again behind in reviews, so I plan to sit down and start writing them this week. I’ve been playing with new budgeting software as we have some rather expensive plans for this year I want to know we can cover. And, I am playing around with using my book planner as my regular planner for this month. I need to take the time to work with it, so that too is on the list for this week!

Feeling: Better. After despairing about the state of the world, I decided to play the part of an ostrich for a bit and work on finding things that make me happy rather than make my stomach turn. Having my brother-in-law here is a bit of a challenge as he makes fun of me for some of my “idiosyncrasies,” i.e., my OCD behaviors, and tends to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. While he doesn’t mean anything by the mocking, I’ll need a bit of patience to get through the week, but I start it in a decent frame of mind.

Upcoming: The reason my brother-in-law is here is that he is helping Jim finish up the last few remaining projects that he could not finish before he started work. He thought he would be able to work on them during the evenings and weekends, but that was before he decided he liked working 10+ hours a week and on the weekends. These projects, once complete, mean unpacking the last of the boxes we still have lingering, as well as moving some things around after they finish my desk. I’m excited!

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A fascinating alternative to Hell
2022-01-28 16:00 UTC by Michelle

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles is yet another book that took me entirely by surprise. I found the idea of bounty hunters for Lowlands rather fascinating. Plus, I fell in love with X and Zoe’s little brother. Actually, I fell in love with all of the characters.

The Edge of Everything is not perfect. I am not a fan of the insta-love trope in general, and Mr. Giles did nothing to sell me on the connection between Zoe and X. To make matters worse, the world-building is weak. We end the novel with as many questions about the Lowlands as we started, knowing very little about the power structure or even if the Lowlands is a stand-in for Hell.

For all its faults, I still find The Edge of Everything charming. Mr. Giles might struggle with world-building, but he does know how to establish dialogue. Even better, he understands teenagers. At no point in time did I question Zoe’s voice or her interactions with her friends. To me, they sounded like my daughter and her friends.

Also, although we understand very little about the Lowlands, I want to know more. Those scenes in the Lowlands are interesting because they offer us a chance to learn more. If I were to read the sequel, it would be because I feel the sequel will show us even more information and answers about the Lowlands.

The Edge of Everything may have its issues, but I found them a non-issue. I could even forget the insta-love trope because I enjoyed the rest of their interactions so much. Two weeks after finishing the story, I find myself still thinking about the story and the unanswered questions I have, to the point where that sequel is looking more appealing every day.

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A magic surprise
2022-01-27 16:00 UTC by Michelle

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister is a novel I did not expect to like as much as I did. It seems people have mixed feelings about it, which always makes me nervous. Also, after getting burnt out on historical fiction, I was cautious about dipping my toe back into the genre.

Plus, the comparison of The Magician’s Lie to Water for Elephants does Ms. Macallister’s novel a disservice. For people like me, who don’t like anything having to do with circuses, such a comparison might make people avoid The Magician’s Lie. It is one of the reasons why it took me so long to start reading it because, as much as I liked Sara Gruen’s novel, I still hate circuses.

To me, the two novels have more differences than similarities. I feel more empathy for Arden. Not only is her story more interesting, but I also think her primary relationship is more intense and honest. The other relationship in her life is not a relationship at all. You hardly remember who a specific person is because of how little involvement he has in her life. Even better, I love how she spills some of the tricks of the trade when it comes to illusions. The behind-the-scenes glimpse into an industry known for its secrets thrilled me more than it should have, considering the story occurs around the turn of the century.

As he questions the integrity of her tale, the scenes with Virgil are fraught with tension and anxiety. Yet, Arden’s innocence is anything but certain, and you understand his nervousness as a sign of his uncertainty. In these scenes, your sympathies lie with Virgil only as you can only feel for a man who feels so second-rate and down on himself.

If anything, Virgil is a testament to Ms. Macallister’s writing ability. Even though his scenes are short and relatively uninformative, we care about him more than the main character. I want to protect Virgil against anything and everything that might befall him. Even though he is nothing but the medium which allows Arden to tell her story, I want to make sure he gets his happily ever after. It’s a remarkable feat to establish a connection with a mere foil.

The Magician’s Lie is the third of Ms. Macallister’s novels I have read, and I think it is my favorite. She includes such fascinating historical tidbits to enhance the story. Moreover, her subject matter is equally interesting. For me, though, what sets The Magician’s Lie apart from her other novels is how she chooses to tell her story. The back and forth between past and present, as well as the back and forth between Arden and Virgil, not only enhance the story’s overall tension, you find yourself invested in the story more than you would be without it.

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Claire Legrand shows once again how much patriarchy sucks
2022-01-26 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Extasia by Claire Legrand

Since 2016, many stories have celebrated feminine ferocity and decrying patriarchal societies. In that regard, Extasia by Claire Legrand is no different. What sets Ms. Legrand’s version apart is that it feels much rawer and angrier than those books that came before hers, and I am here for it.

Ms. Legrand never fails to impress me with her writing. Her words are so evocative, and her novels are almost always atmospheric. She knows how to blend fantasy, realism, and horror to create something unique. In Extasia, she creates something that is much a horror story as a warning about the rising conservatism plaguing our country these days.

Extasia is a difficult story to read. What Amity and her sisters face and the ideology behind Haven are, quite frankly, disgusting. Plus, there is so much anger coursing through the story, coming from all sides. All of this makes Extasia less an escapist read and more one that serves as a cautionary tale or wake-up call for those paying attention to what is happening in the world right now.

After reading several of Ms. Legrand’s novels now, it feels as if writing is a form of therapy for her. Her stories are always dark and full of complex topics. It is as if she pours out her fears and worries onto paper as a coping mechanism. However, her novels almost always have an element of hope to lighten the darkness. This hope serves as a balm against all of the bad. Thus, if Extasia is a warning against the shift to extreme conservatism, it is also a reminder that the light always returns no matter how dark the night is.

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It is going to be a long wait for the sequel
2022-01-25 16:00 UTC by Michelle

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

There are not many downsides to being a book blogger. One of the few of them is that moment you read a review copy that is so good that you immediately want the sequel. Except, because you read a review copy before the publication date, you realize you have to wait longer than most readers for that sequel. This rare occurrence sums up my feelings about Tahereh Mafi’s newest book, This Woven Kingdom. I want the sequel, and I want it now.

The heart of This Woven Kingdom is Alizeh. She ends up being such a tough character that you want to follow her forever. Yet, her backstory is so heartbreaking that her poise and self-confidence are as admirable as surprising. At the same time, while authors tend to gloss over the lasting effects of trauma on their characters, I feel Ms. Mafi instills Alizeh with the correct balance of trauma and determination to form her character. It is a balance that makes her such a fascinating character to know.

The other reason I fell in love with This Woven Kingdom is because of Ms. Mafi’s writing. Her sentences are fluid to the point of being lyrical. Yet, she is not verbose. Instead, I feel that she carefully chooses each word to maximize its impact on whatever she conveys, whether world-building or establishing the setting. The result is a story that flows so smoothly that you arrive at the end well before you are ready and a world that is brilliant in its clarity.

I so thoroughly enjoyed This Woven Kingdom that I felt disappointed when I finished it. I loved watching Alizeh grow feisty. Given all that we discover towards the end of the novel, I am particularly anxious to find out what happens next for Alizeh and Kamran. Unfortunately, now I can do nothing but wait and stalk HarperTeen and Ms. Mafi on social media to find out just how long that wait will be.

The post It is going to be a long wait for the sequel appeared first on That's What She Read.

Is it hot in here?
2022-01-24 16:00 UTC by Michelle

Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

Kingdom of the Cursed, the second book in The Kingdom of the Wicked series by Kerri Maniscalco, is my first five-star read of the new year. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series for a variety of reasons, so I had no doubts that I would also enjoy the sequel. Still, I was not expecting to love it as much as I did, and I am perfectly okay with that.

There is a lot to like about both books. For one thing, the mystery Emilia tries to solve is intriguing as we still do not know much about motive or perpetrator. Then, Emilia herself is so fierce. Not only is she more than capable of handling anything that comes her way, but she also does not swallow her feelings as so many heroines tend to do. Instead, she feels every emotion with every fiber of her being. This emotional intensity enhances your understanding of her character and drives much of the plot.

Lastly, there is Emilia and Wrath. Holy. Hell. Seriously, if there were a devil who looked and acted like Wrath, I would be the first to sign away my soul. Their interactions are so steamy and yet perfect; I couldn’t get enough. I especially love the fact that Ms. Maniscalco lets us see that there are so many layers to Wrath’s character, layers we have yet to peel away to allow us to understand his motivations. Every piece of information we learn about him does nothing but illustrate how little we know, and it is thrilling that we still have so much more to learn.

Between anticipating further Emilia and Wrath interactions, new information, and a mystery yet to solve, the final book in the series is now at the top of my list of anticipated books for 2022. It is fitting that Kingdom of the Cursed will probably be my favorite book for January. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Ms. Maniscalco makes sinning look so damn delicious and delightful.

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