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books and reading

The Book of Lost Things

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For the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge, I need to read a book with a book on the cover. Surprisingly, this was a difficult challenge. I scoured my shelves and ended up with the silhouette of a book and called it a day. This one had been recommended to me ages ago, but I never got around to it. So, I was excited to give this one a chance, even though I really knew nothing about it.

The story is set in the 1930s, and after David’s mother dies, his father remarries and has a baby boy with the new woman. David feels like he has pushed to the side and is really struggling with this new family. His only escape is within a book, and, thankfully, his new home is full of them. David begins fainting every now and then, and while he’s out, the books whisper to him. Slowly, David gets drawn into the books, and eventually, he hears his mother’s voice calling to him. David goes into the garden and somehow slips into another world.

This new world is lorded over by a king, and David believes this king can help him get home. Along the way, David meets plenty of people who want to help him, but many who don’t, namely the Crooked Man who tries to get David to tell him the name of his little brother. Clearly, the Crooked Man is evil, but David tries his hardest to escape him. While traveling to the king, David stumbles upon various tales like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and “The Most Dangerous Game.” I was shocked at how violent this book was. It’s not that I was offended by it, but I thought this book was for kids, so the violence took me aback.

As much as I rooted for David, I really didn’t get sucked into the story. Most days, I just read just to get to the end of the book. That said, it’s probably just a personal preference. This is a really creative book, and David’s a great character, but it just didn’t capture me.

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books and reading

The Maid’s Secret

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I’m so glad I discovered Emily Organ and the Penny Green series. These books are just much fun to read. I started with Limelight and recently finished The Rookery. The stories follow a female news reporter in the late 1800s in London. Penny isn’t well-received by most because she is unmarried, has no desire to be married, and has a job. Penny is a great character though. She makes no apologies for her position and is very good at her job.

Penny has some overarching plots that have, so far, extended through the first three books. Namely, her quest to find her father’s whereabouts. He’s an explorer, but no one has seen him in several years. Penny and her sister, Eliza, fear him dead. Penny also has a working relationship with a member of the Scotland Yard, James Blakely. It’s obvious they have feelings for each other, but he’s engaged and she has no desire to be married. But their relationship is fun to watch.

This story finds Penny undercover as a maid for the newspaper (and James is aware of the situation) trying to find out the secrets of a family that has a reputation for being cruel to its factory workers. While there, one of the members of the family meets an untimely end and it’s up to Penny and James to figure out if that person was murdered, and if so, by whom.

I just fly through these books. As much as I enjoy modern-day mysteries with DNA and fingerprint analysis, a good old-fashioned whodunit and also a lot of fun. I have all intentions of finishing these books and highly recommend them. They are on Kindle Unlimited, for those who have it. Absolutely delightful books.

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books and reading

Still Life With Woodpecker

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A friend of mine read this in school as an example of satire, a genre I enjoy, but I had never heard of this book. But, she recommends pretty great stuff, so I added it to my list and didn’t think much more about it. I stumbled across a cheap copy somewhere and bought it, simply for the delicious old book smell, but also in case I decided to read it. The 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge requires a book with a great first line. So, while searching the internet for great first lines, this book is recommended for the following: “If this typewriter can’t do it, then fuck it, it can’t be done.” Consider me sold.

This bizarre love story follows Princess Leigh-Cheri and her would-be love interest, The Woodpecker, AKA Bernard. She is an environmentally conscious teen, he’s an older dynamite enthusiast. Match made in Heaven, right? They meet in Hawaii, and their love blossoms, as do their explicitly described sexual escapades, so what could go wrong? Unfortunately, Bernard gets caught up with “the law” and ends up in prison. Leigh-Cheri knows what she must do while she waits for his release. She must also imprison herself with nothing more than Bernard has. A simple cot, a chamber pot, and a pack of Camels. Ain’t love grand?

Leigh-Cheri is young and really doesn’t know much about love. Bernard is more of a rapscallion than Leigh-Cheri admits, so this separation doesn’t go as well as expected, but I’ll leave you to find out why. To put it straight, this book is hilarious. There are so many delightful phrases I flat out snorted at in laughter. It did take a bit to get into, but once they get to Hawaii, the pace picks up quite a bit. I’m going to be honest and say that this book is flat-out bizarre, but I really enjoyed it.

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books and reading

Big Sky

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In my effort to get caught up on series I started but never finished, the Jackson Brodie series was at the top of my list. I read and loved Case Histories a few years ago. But after the third book, I got distracted and didn’t pursue the series. Big Sky came out a few months ago, and I knew I  needed to finish and see what Brodie was up to.

Jackson is a former police officer turned private investigator. He’s pretty grumpy, but he has a good heart and wants to do right by people. His love life is a mess, a couple ex-wives, a couple strained relationships with his children, a dog he loves, but he can’t settle. He wanders and can’t decide where to go.

This book finds him temporarily settled, trying to connect with his son, but at odds with his daughter. What I love about these books is that Jackson really just stumbles upon people in need. He doesn’t have an office and doesn’t take “clients.” He just helps when he sees people who need it. The plot of this one involves trafficking women, kidnapping, and a murder.  Brodie, although a curmudgeon, is a likable guy, and I have enjoyed all his reluctant adventures.

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Glass Sword

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I  wasn’t a fan of Red Queen. I ‘m just going to put that right out there. The gaping plot hole presented just turned me off the series. Yet, here I am. I had been assured that the series gets better. So, in my effort to wrap up some series I’ve started, I went ahead and gave it a shot. And while there isn’t a terrible plot hole, it’s not the greatest book, either. But definitely better than the first.

We see Mare and Cal again, trying to round up other Newbloods, who are reds with silver abilities, and they concoct a plan to use these Newbloods to overthrow as many Silvers as they can. You guessed it…things go awry. Some great characters are introduced, some great ones die, and the book ends on a total cliffhanger.

I’m less angry now that time has passed and this second book is a bit better. So, stay tuned for my next review to see how the series continues.

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The Girl Who Lived Twice

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I’ve been a big fan of the Millennium series from early on. I read the first two in the original series, but the newest trilogy by David Lagercrantz isn’t quite the same. If you are judging them separate from the first, they definitely hold up on their own as interesting murder mysteries. This book meets the “book about or by a journalist” category in the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

This newest installment finds Lisbeth in hiding, yet again, plugging away at some version of revenge. Mikael Blomkvist is investigating a mysterious death, even though he really has other stories he should be writing. We meet a few new characters including a journalist “lady friend” of Mikael’s and as he digs deeper into the death, he unlocks a lot more information than he really intended to. I really don’t know much about Russian or Swedish espionage, so a lot of it I just read without understanding the magnitude of the betrayals, but the point gets across anyway.

These books are worth reading, even if they aren’t the original. I have enjoyed them quite a bit, and I like to see how Lisbeth has evolved. It might not be a huge evolution (spoiler alert, she’s still sullen in this one), but she has let a few people into her life, which is a big step. I’m not sure if there will be other books in the series, but I will stick with them, if Lagercrantz writers more.

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2019 Wrap-Up

My goal is always to read more pages than the year before, rather than more books. I  almost made it this year, by Goodreads standards. In 2018, I read 110 books for 36914 pages, and in 2019 I read 132 books for 36038 pages. A good chunk of the books I read were ones I edited, which are kids’ books and pretty short. If I count all the books I edited that aren’t on Goodreads, I definitely surpassed the page number goal.

Here are some reviews for the highlights of my reading year.

Best book I read this year: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd. It’s dystopian, but in a way I had never read before. And it gutted me. I read it in January, and it’s stayed with me all year. I think about it a lot.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. Wow. As a parent, this one is horrifying. About a little girl who is a sociopath and has a desire to harm her mother. But it’s so good.

I really enjoyed The Fourth Monkey series. It’s a “police catching a serial killer” series, and the dialogue is cheesy, but it kept me guessing.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. An excellent ghost story.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Same author as The Goldfinch. I just love everything she writes.

The Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder is another great police detective series, but it’s very graphic. Birdman is the first.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay. Another one that left me guessing. I’ve read a few of Tremblay’s books, and he’s really good.

The Girls by Emma Cline. This one was wacky. It’s a fictional story of the Charles Manson group and subsequent murders.

The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson. I couldn’t believe how much I learned from this book. I know a lot about the case already, but this had info I had never heard.

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I really don’t care for fantasy, but these are excellent young adult books.

The Dublin Murder Squad books by Tana French. I read two of them this year. Each one is better than the last. In the Woods is the first, the Likeness is the second, Faithful Place is the third.

Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I read a lot of true crime, but this one stands out. The author is simultaneously doing research into a crime, yet learning things about herself. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Again, another I was expecting not to think was so great, but I was blown away. Crichton really was ahead of his time in describing DNA, technology, etc.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen. Unlike Columbine by the same author (EXCELLENT BOOK) this one doesn’t focus on the shooter or the day, but rather the students who started a movement for gun control. Gives me hope for the future.

I read some great own voices books this year: A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob, and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See were both great.

Best thriller I read was The Silent Patient. It wasn’t the greatest thriller ever, but it didn’t fall into the stupid thriller tropes like A Woman in the Window. Ugh that one was awful.

I started a lot of great series this year: the Harry Hole detective series, the Penny Green series about a Victorian reporter who also solves crimes, the Armand Gamache Canadian detective series, which is a good cozy mystery series.

 

 

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Clean Getaway

Thanks to Netgalley for letting me read and review this book! I read Dear Martin when it came out and really loved it. I was just heartbroken over the story, though. I tried to read Odd One Out, but there was so much teenage slang in it that my brain was working too hard to decipher. I’m not a teenager, nor am I around teenagers in any capacity, so their slang just is a struggle for me. That’s not a knock against the book in any way. I’m not the target audience and that’s fine. From what I’ve heard, Odd One Out is a great book and very supportive of LGBTQ teens, which I will always get behind. But when I saw Clean Getaway on Netgalley, I read the summary and knew I wanted to read this one. I love middle-grade YA for its excellent blend of serious themes with a little levity. And this one didn’t disappoint.

William “Scoob” Lamar is struggling in school. He’s super smart, but he is a bit too clever for his own good and gets into some trouble. While suspended, his grandma, who he calls G’ma, decides they need to take a road trip. She has sold her house and bought an RV, so the two of them head out. G’ma is white, and Scoob is black, so traveling through the south is difficult, even today.

As they travel, Scoob learns more and more about his grandmother, long-dead grandfather, his absent mother, and his strict father (his G’ma’s son). G’ma gives him the Green Book she and G’pa used as they traveled through the south back in the 60s. She introduces Scoob to various important landmarks in the Civil Rights Movement, as well.

But things take a turn when G’ma starts calling Scoob Jimmy,  his grandfather’s name. Scoob realizes that maybe things aren’t quite what they seem between him and G’ma. She seems okay most of the time, but she forgets things, refuses to let him talk to his dad, going so far as to throw away her phone, and as they continue to travel through the south, Scoob becomes more suspicious and nervous, but he is torn because G’ma is his favorite person.

This book is great for middle school-aged kids. It presents some critical history of the Civil Rights Movement in an understated way that is a bit easier to swallow than Dear Martin, which tackles some equally important race issues in our society, but in a more heartwrenching way. Clean Getaway is more approachable and opens the door to the subjects such as Medgar Evers, Dr. King, and the church bombing that killed four little girls. Scoob is a great young man, who is struggling in his world as a black boy living with expectations of a white society and a dad who is fully aware of said white society. I highly recommend this for middle school kids and their parents to help kick start a conversation about the past and how it shapes our world today.

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Series I’m Working On

I  have a terrible habit of starting a book series and then never going back to it. Because I do the book challenge each year, I will start a series by reading the first book because it fits into a prompt, but then I get distracted and don’t continue the series. Every few years, I make a point to wrap up any series that I’ve started, whether through the book challenge or not.

This year I’m finally finishing The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder review here) and The Dublin Murder Squad (In the Woods review here and The Likeness review here).  I have really enjoyed both of them, up to the point I’m at. Last year, I started a few more series, but I am making an effort to wrap up everything. Here is what I’m working on:

  • The Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. I have read the first three and am currently working on the fourth.
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Armand Gamache books by Louise Penny. I have read the first two. These are so much fun to read, given that they involve murder. The people of Three Pines are charming, and Gamache is a great investigator.
  • The Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo. I read The Bat this year.
  • The Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder. I’ve read the first two (Birdman review) and have really enjoyed them, but they are definitely some of the more graphic police detective books I’ve read.
  • The Penny Green books by Emily Organ. (Limelight review). I discovered her by accident, honestly. I needed a book with a fruit or vegetable in the title and searched my Kindle for various fruits and stumbled upon lime. I have gotten most of her books for free and have read the first two. They are a lot of fun. Penny is a reporter in 1800s England works closely with the police to solve murders. They are really well-written and clever.
  • The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. (Red Queen review). I’m really iffy about this one. There is a giant plot hole in Red Queen and it still irritates me. But I’ve been told that the rest of the books are better, so I’m giving them another chance.
  • The Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro. I listened to A Study in Charlotte a couple summers ago and really enjoyed it. It’s a bit of a modern Sherlock Holmes Dr. Watson series (involving their descendants) and is more complex than I was expecting.
  • The Broken Earth series by NK Jemisin. The Fifth Season review. I really liked this one even though fantasy isn’t my favorite genre.
  • The Inheritance series also by NK Jemisin. I didn’t like this one as much, but I’m going to stick with it.

Between finishing all these series and the PopSugar reading challenge, I’m going to be very busy this year trying to complete them all, but I look forward to it.

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books and reading

2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge

Here is my plan for the reading challenge. Can’t wait!

A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club Lovecraft Country Matt Ruff
A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it The Lucky Ones Mark Edwards
A book that has a book on the cover The Book of Lost Things John Connolly
A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name Little Voices Vanessa Lillie
A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics Leaving Atlanta Tayari Jones
Book published in the month you were born Joyland Stephen King
Book with a map The Regulators Stephen King
A book published in 2020 If It Bleeds Stephen King
A book my a trans or nonbinary author An Unkindness of Ghosts Rivers Solomon
A book with a great first line Still Life with Woodpecker Tom Robbins
A book about a book club Mayhem at the Orient Express Kylie Logan
A bildungsroman Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed Doctor Sleep Stephen King
A book with an upside-down image on the cover Topics About Which I Know Nothing Patrick Ness
An anothology Spoon River Anthology Edgar Lee Masters
A book that passes the Bechdel test The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
A book by or about a woman in STEM Cress Marissa Meyer
A book that won an award in 2019 The Testaments Margaret Atwood
A book on a subject you know nothing about Concussion Jeanne Marie Laskas
A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics Doomsday Book Connie Willis
A book with a pun in the title Ella Minnow Pea Mark Dunn
A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins Misery Stephen King
A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character Winter Marissa Meyer
A book with a bird on the cover Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James
A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader A Warning Anonymous
A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the title The Devil in Silver Victor LaValle
A book by a WOC Children of Virtue and Vengeance Tomi Adeyemi
A book with at least a 4-star rating on Goodreads The Talisman Stephen King
A book you meant to read in 2019 Broken Harbour Tana French
A book about or involving social media If We Had Known Elise Juska
A medical thriller The Farm Joanne Ramos
A book with a made-up language The Country of the Ice Cream Star Sandra Newman
A book set in a country beginning with “C” Dreams of Joy Lisa See
A book you picked because the title caught your attention Gnomon Nick Harkaway
A book with a three-word title The Perfect Nanny Leila Slimani
A book with a pink cover Bunny Mona Awad
A western Inland Tea Obreht
A book about or by a journalist The Girl Who Lived Twice David Langercrantz
Read a banned book during Banned Books Week Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
Your favorite prompt from a past PopSugar challenge- book set in a hotel The Shining Stephen King
A book written by an author in their 20s Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer
A book with more than 20 letters in its title The Deep Dark Descending Allen Eskens
A book with 20 in the title 20th Century Ghost Joe Hill
A book published in the 20th century Black House Stephen King
A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement Blindness Jose Saramago
A book from a series with more than 20 books The Black Echo Michael Connolly
A book set in Japan Shogun James Clavell
A book with a main character in their 20s The Mothers Brit Bennett
A book by an author who has written more than 20 books The Dark Half Stephen King