Sunday, April 18, 2021

Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry
By Jane Harper
My Rating 4 Stars

Jane Harper has been on my Authors I Want To Try list for a while now and I am glad I picked this up. I am still learning what I enjoy as a reader in adult mysteries--this one happens to be set in Australia and centers on a flashback mystery interwoven with a detective sorting out what happened to his childhood best friend--was he and his family murdered or did he do the unthinkable like everyone believes he did? 

What I particularly loved about this is the setting--I could feel the heat permeating off the pages. The hometown/Australia is in a particularly rough period of drought and that is at the backbone of whether Luke, a farmer that relies on the weather to keep his farm afloat, finally decided it was too much. While it seems cruel to say, I loved the dilemma that Harper set Aaron up to face: face the demons of the past while sorting out the death of his childhood best friend.  Begged by Luke's mother, federal investigator Aaron Faulk is thrust back into a hometown that he left long ago due to shaky circumstances from when he and Luke were teenagers. While Aaron sorts out Luke and his family's deaths he is also seeking out the answers to that long ago mysterious death of his girlfriend. Lastly, I appreciated the pacing--there were times it lagged and I wished it moved a bit faster (hence the four-star rating)--but for me, this is an engaging read set in an environment that came alive through the author's words. That ending too! I want to know what happens afterward--always a good sign in my eyes. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Mini Reviews: Lakewood by Megan Giddings and Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

By Megan Giddings
My Rating: 4 Stars

Overall this was a pleasant surprise for a debut thriller I found on the NPR best books for book group's list. I am happy I selected for my IRL book group to read this month. I liked the engaging writing style--she has a way of giving details without being bogged down in it so much that I get bored or frustrated. Given this is a thriller I wanted some things to be left up to my imagination. I liked Lena, our main character as I could relate to her needing to do what was best for her family, though I cringed when she gave up so much control over the company (deliberately being vague so I do not spoil it for you). There were a few moments when I felt there things that could have been cleaned up or threads left undone, but I do not know if that was deliberate on the author's part or unforeseen plot holes. Overall this is a relatively quick read, so I recommend it if you are looking for a psychological thriller with body/medical thriller components as well.

Beyond the Point
By Claire Gibson
My Rating: 4 Stars

This is first and foremost about female friendship--which if you are looking for, this is a great title to pick up. Dani, Hannah, and Avery all meet at West Point, as members of the college basketball team and freshman trying to navigate a male-dominated world. They are also there when September 11, 2001, happens--the day that alters the pathway of the United States forever. This book rotates between each girl's point-of-view, of their time at West Point as well as after they graduate to their careers. Each takes a different pathway but when a tragedy strikes, their friendship holds strong and it brings them back together. 

At points this book dipped into a slower pace for me, wanting me to put it down, but ultimately I wanted to know what happens with each character's turning point. There are elements of hazing and harassment so please be aware of this will cause you distress, however at the core of this story is the strength and resiliency of female friendship and power. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

The Project
By Courtney Summers
My Rating: 4 Stars

I adore Courtney Summers, but I am a biased audience because I was the chair of the Odyssey Committee that selected Sadie as our winner for the best audiobook production for that year. I am impartial to her writing in other words, however, it also means I can be seriously let down.

This story premise of a religious cult fascinated me from the time I read the synopsis a while back because I knew she could do a lot with it in a way that only she could. I like this story-- with the story jumping back and forth between Bea, the older sister making the decision to join The Project, and Lo, in present-day trying to reconnect and see her sister. Lo is now 19 and has not seen her sister since she was in a nearly fatal car accident. I like both sisters equally--Summers balances the empathy card so I actually did not ever end up disliking the decision Bea made to leave her sister to join The Project--some may disagree with me on this.

This is very introspective and not as much action-based. This is a lot of Lo in her head, sorting feelings and trying to make sense of everything she is learning about herself, The Project, and Bea's history. This story is painful--as Courtney Summer's books usually are--it is the story of seeking out acceptance and redemption and the ways we go about doing that. While some may put up breaks with giving this to young adults, I would say it walks that line of being appropriate for the upper end because acceptance is a universal theme that all students experience at some point in their lives--whether adults are ready to admit it or not.

I listened to this audiobook and I would say this is such a different book than Sadie, do not go into it expecting a similar audiobook production like it. The narrators do a great job of bringing the two girls to fruition and convey the appropriate emotion as needed. While it is not my favorite audiobook of the year, it is still a good one.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

January Wrap Up--It's A Bit Late I Know

I know, I know I am already at the halfway mark and I am just now posting my monthly wrap up but this month is getting away from me. I have just been scrambling because I started my graduate school class in January and it is keeping me extremely busy needless to say. I am glad I was able to read so many books in January!

Books I Read in January:

I am pleased with my reading in January, as I ended up reading 15 books for a total of 5,240 pages!

Sadly not every book is pictured here as I had to return some to the Library (the same will happen for my February picture too) and with multiple books being on my Kindle or audiobooks, I do not have the physical copies of those either. I did not elect to put in a placeholder book in this photo--perhaps in February.  I know I will not hit that page mark in February unless the second half of the month goes differently than the first, but with the extra reading I am doing with my graduate school class, I am trying to be realistic with working fulltime too. We need to be kind to ourselves and know it is okay to take a step back as needed!

 I read:
  • Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
  • See Me by Wendy Higgins
  • Verity by Colleen Hoover
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
  • A Long Petal to the Sea by Isabel Allende
  • All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat
  • First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy
  • How We Got to the Moon by John Rocco
  • Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Every Last Breathe by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • Plasticus Maritimus by Ana Pego
  • There's Someone in My House by Stephanie Perkins
  • Brain Rules by John Medina
My favorite of the bunch above would either be All Thirteen or Strange the Dreamer. All Thirteen is the middle grade nonfiction book about the Thai boys soccer team that got trapped underground in the cave system and the rescue operation that got out All Thirteen of them alive. The story captivated the world. It is a stunning, high interest nonfiction book that recently received a lot of love at the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards day this past month. Strange the Dreamer I feel like everyone is familiar with this book--for more on my thoughts about it, I linked my review of it below. 

Readathons in January:

I actively participated in Bout of Books 30 in January. For those of you who followed along, you may not have seen me updating because I was updating my blog post I put in December: Bout of Books 30: Kicking Of 2021--Are You Participating? During this week I finished four books--I am very happy with this progress as this sadly this was the week when our country took a turn that I believe I thought was possible, but it did. I sit here writing this update while our representatives are working on sorting it out...though I cannot say I have confidence that they will sit party aside for the good of the country. Did you participate in Bout of Books 30? If so, please leave me your link below so I can see how you did or share the details below.

I also participated in a fun Murder Mystery TBR game in a Facebook group I am in--it was such a fun way of deciding what I want to read. This was a monthly readathon, so a couple of the books overlapped with Bout of Books, but I read seven books specifically for this readathon! Luckily I managed to guess the killer too! Score!

Posts from January:

In case you missed it, I kicked off my Project Unhaul in January. I am working on thinning down my physical TBR collection. I have not actually started tackling the books I have read and still have--that will happen at some point--this is soley aimed at making me focus on those books that I have had that have sat languishing on my bookcases.
If you are so inclined, those of you keeping track might spot a book or two in the picture above on the lists posted from the lists in my Project Unhaul, or at least the attempts to reduce my physical TBR count. 

Reviews Posted:
  • Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein (link)
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (link)
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (link)

Additional Posts that Might Be of Interest:
In Other News: CYBILS

CYBILS has also been underway since the fall. As Category Chair I managed Round 1 panelists and then I am a Judge as well in Round 2 so I cannot discuss the books in so far as what I think about them individually. Some I have already posted thoughts on prior to them being revealed as shortlist. Head over to the CYBILS website on February 14th to see this cycle's winners and join us on Twitter beginning at 12:00 p.m. EST for our Twitter parade!

Check back in February to see if I succeed in making my Winter 30 in 3 Months Challenge I am participating in with Rachael over on Instagram. We have until the end of February to read 30 books. January's 15 books was a huge help in it! I hope you all are having a great start to 2021. In the meantime, please let me know what books you read in January and or what your favorite book was in January!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: Happy Singles Day by Anne Marie Walker

Happy Singles Day

By Anne Marie Walker
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

This is the the story of two people who have to learn to love again, but for different reasons. Paige spontaneously decides to take a vacation to the ocean in North Carolina after seeing an ad online--something she would never normally do as a professional organizer. After catching her former boss and fiancé cheating, she has not looked back former her successfully business. The pictures look great, what could go wrong?

Enter Lucas and his meddling sister reactivating the ad for his bed and breakfast on the coast of North Carolina--the one he ran with deceased wife--and the one he has let the upkeep get away little less than picture perfect and public ready. When Paige shows up, it is not a match made in heaven needless to say. However, when a storm and puppies have other plans for them these two seemingly opposites will have to prove whether the saying opposites attract is really a thing or not.

This is a closed door romance that is a cute, fast read--and that really is it. It is not earth shattering--I was not expecting it to be though honestly. I like Paige and I like Lucas. They both have their own issues that they need to work through and they do their best to do it without taking it out on the other person. Lucas has a delightful four year old daughter too--she is adorable.  As with many romances, the resolution is arrived at rather quickly in my opinion, but I was not looking for anything that needed to be a in-depth exploration of overcoming the mental blocks both characters had to be able to love again. Though with this particular one, I do appreciate there was more time spent in the final location then I expected--it was not the couple is back together and The End as some romances do so that was a nice change. 

Overall, I recommend this read if you are looking for closed door romance that is predictable in nature and is a quick read. A note about my rating: you may think it is low because I generally do not have anything negative to say about this book, but it is pretty standard rating for romance/chick lit (I dislike that term) book because it needs to offer a bit more to earn that four star ultimately.