Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

January Wrap-up!

 I had a great reading month and finished 12 books this month!  It has been a long time since I have read that much in a month.  Hopefully this will develop into a good habit!




Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

 

Title: The Great Alone

Author: Kristin Hannah

Genre: Historical Fiction

About the book: Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown. 

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature. (From Goodreads)

My Thoughts: I really liked this book.  I will admit that it is my first Kristin Hannah book, though she has been on my radar for years. I listened to this book on audio and as it was going to "disappear" at midnight from Libby (someone else has it on hold) I sped up the narration so I could finish it!  This isn't something that I would normally do, but I had to see how it ended!   I believe that I will most likely re-read this in the future so I can really enjoy the story and the setting more fully.  I liked all the characters in the book, both the good and the bad, and enjoyed all the strong women that survived up in Alaska. The way the community came together as a family to support newcomers is something you don't always see, especially today.  I can't wait to read another book by Kristin Hannah in the future!

Book Review: The Highway by C.J. Box

 

Title: The Highway (The Highway Quartet #2)

Author: C.J. Box

Genre: Mystery/Crime

About the book: When two sisters set out across a remote stretch of Montana road to visit their friend, little do they know it will be the last time anyone might ever hear from them again. The girls—and their car—simply vanish. Former police investigator Cody Hoyt has just lost his job and has fallen off the wagon after a long stretch of sobriety. Convinced by his son and his former rookie partner, Cassie Dewell, he begins the drive south to the girls' last known location. As Cody makes his way to the lonely stretch of Montana highway where they went missing, Cassie discovers that Gracie and Danielle Sullivan aren't the first girls who have disappeared in this area. This majestic landscape is the hunting ground for a killer whose viciousness is outmatched only by his intelligence. And he might not be working alone. Time is running out for Gracie and Danielle… Can Cassie overcome her doubts and lack of experience and use her innate skill? Can Cody Hoyt battle his own demons and find this killer before another victim vanishes on the highway? (From Goodreads)

My thoughts:  We are currently watching The Big Sky on ABC which is based on this book - and may I say loosely based on this book.  At this point, I am not sure which one I liked better.  The book covered just a couple of days and we are in Season 2 of the series.  The story has a female protagonist, Cassie, who is a Deputy in Helena.  In the beginning of the story she is just learning the job and has been taken advantage of by the Sheriff to do some of his dirty work.  She finds her strength throughout the story and learns to trust her gut.  I hope to see more of her in the next book in the series.  There are some slimy characters in the book and I think we may see more of them as well.  I did enjoy the story and it moved at a good pace that kept me reading past my bedtime a few nights.  

Book Review: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

 

Title: The Magnificent Ambersons

Author: Booth Tarkington

Genre: Classic, Historical Fiction

About the book: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1918, The Magnificent Ambersons chronicles the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty. The protagonist of Booth Tarkington's great historical drama is George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson of the founder of the family's magnificence. Eclipsed by a new breed of developers, financiers, and manufacturers, this pampered scion begins his gradual descent from the midwestern aristocracy to the working class. (From Goodreads)

My thoughts: This book was hard for me to get into at first.  It is always hard with the classics as they are written at a different time and you have to be able to immerse yourself in the writing.  After a while though I had a black and white film running in my head to accompany the dialogue.  This makes me wonder whether I had seen the movie adaption at some point and don't remember it.  I digress - I did like the book and think the lessons are relevant with each generation since it was written until now - which is sort of stated towards the end of the book - how each generation is replaced and the old is forgotten by the new.  I did check the movie out from the library and hope to watch it sometime this week.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

2021 Backpacking Bookworm Reading Challenge (#bbReadingChallenge2021)

 


And yet another book challenge that I read a book for - and yet forgot to post the challenge!   This one is hosted by the Backpacking Bookworm.  As you can see from above - there are different categories for each month.  While the backpacking bookworm looks like they are going to read a whole bunch of books each month based on the category - I am just going to try to do one.


January - Character with a disability - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

February - Set in Afghanistan - The Pearl That Broke It's Shell by Nadia Hashimi

March - Celebrates Diversity

April - Teaches you Something New

May - Personified Animal

June - Epistolary or diary format

July - Indigenous Author/characters

August - Children's classic

September - Historical fiction based on true events

October - Nordic Noir

November - Learn about a new culture

December - Character on a journey

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

 

Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Genre: Historical Fiction

This was a poignant story that was beautifully written, set in and around WWII.  When I first started reading it I was just flying through the pages.  Somehow I knew that this little German boy, Werner, and this blind French girl, Marie-Laure were going to cross paths, but I didn't know how or when. 

The reading went really fast in the beginning, and then it started to get loonnng - maybe because I wanted to see how it was all going to work out.  

The story was told back and forth from the perspective of each character and also jumped back and forth in time - alternating from when they were children, the beginning of the war, and the end of the war.  It depicts how the choices that we make, and how we should be true to what we believe, can alter our own future, as well as that of others.  And that it is never too late to do the right thing.  While the ending was realistic, it was not how I wanted it to end, but satisfying none the less. 

Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

 

Title: Mayhem

Author: Estelle Laure

Genre: YA, Magical Realism

This book is set in Santa Maria, California, a beach town, in 1987.  This is the year I was married (the first time) and actually lived in San Diego, so I could picture a beach town in the 80's very easily.  It reminded me of the warm nights spent at the beach and the sense of safety that was around back in the 80's.  

In the town of Santa Maria, however, this sense of safety is a ruse.  There is someone stealing girls off the beach at night, yet the police don't seem too concerned about it.  This is the spot that Mayhem Brayburn and her mother Roxy run to when the abuse from her stepfather finally deflects from Roxy onto Mayhem.  It is Roxy's hometown and the first place where Mayhem feels like she might belong.  

See - Mayhem (what a cool - yet psycho name!) comes from a line of women who have a history of magic tied to a secret cave off the beach.  Water from the cave gives the Brayburn's a unique ability to be able to see through people's facade to what they are really like - either good or evil.  If you are not a Brayburn and you drink the water, you will receive this ability - but it will destroy you in the long run. It isn't long before Mayhem is introduced to this water and begins to learn the history of her family through diaries and letters from her great grandmother, grandmother, aunt and Roxy. 

This was a quick read for me as I was immediately drawn into the story.  I enjoyed the back and forth between the letters from the past and what was happening to Mayhem in the present.  I could see this possible becoming a series, though it did have a satisfactory ending as is.

Thank you to Net Galley for the prepub. 


Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Title: The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Genre: Classic, Historical Fiction


I can finally say that I have read The Great Gatsby.  As it seems like everyone I know had to read this in school, not sure why I hadn't.  Not sure what I can say about it that hasn't already been said, argued, theorized, etc.  I found it to be tragic and sad.  To me, it was the story of innocence (Nick) who quickly began to see how jaded the world really was.  That happiness was only on the surface and once you got under the parties and the lights, real life was not all that pretty, or fair, and choices were sometimes made for you. 

I ended up getting the movie after I read the book and can say that had I not read the book I probably wouldn't have sat through the entire movie.  

It wasn't one of my favorite classics, but I am glad that I have now read it (finally!). 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Book Review: Fade into the Bright

 

Title: Fade into the Bright

Authors: Jessica Koosed Etting, Alyssa Embree Schwartz

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction


Abby and her older sister Brooke have been raised by their mother since Abby was five.  One day their dad was there, and the next he was gone - with no explanation as to where or why.  So when the sisters receive a letter from their dad before Christmas Abby's senior year in high school, it is both a surprise and a shock.

In the letter, he tells his daughters that he has been diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, for which there is no cure, and that they have a 50% chance of having the gene.  This is Abby's story as she finds out her test result and deals with what her future might look like.  

While this wasn't a "feel good" story, it was one that made you think about the choices that you make, why you make them, and how your future might look because of them.  Abby escapes to Catalina Island to the home of an aunt she hasn't seen since her dad left them.  She stumbles into a job at a beach and becomes friends with her coworkers.  Her aunt has told her she would give her space to deal with things, but Abby tends to just ignore everything and not make any decisions at all until it is almost too late. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

2021 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge

 



Ugh, another challenge that I had in my challenge log that I didn't do a blog post on - presenting the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge.

This challenge has a list of reading prompts that bring diversity and push me out of my comfort zone.  You can get a printable list and also join their Facebook and Goodreads pages.


2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Advanced

  • The longest book (by pages) on your TBR list
  • The shortest book (by pages) on your TBR list
  • The book on your TBR list with the prettiest cover
  • The book on your TBR list with the ugliest cover
  • The book that's been on your TBR list for the longest amount of time
  • A book from your TBR list you meant to read last year but didn't
  • A book from your TBR list you associate with a favorite person, place, or thing
  • A book from your TBR list chosen at random
  • A DNF book from your TBR list
  • A free book from your TBR list (gifted, borrowed, library)

Book Review: It's the End of the World as I Know It by Matthew Landis


 Title: It's the End of the World as I Know It

Author: Matthew Landis

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Derrick, or Dee, as his friends and family call him, has just started 8th grade and is sure the Apocalypse will happen before the end of the month.  So sure that he has built and stocked his own shelter. This obsession with the end of the world has come about after his mom dies on active duty.  It consumes most of his thoughts during the day and affects his relationships with his friends.  

His neighbor, Misty, is recovering from a kidney transplant and is looking at life as a new adventure every day.  Together they take on the last steps to complete the shelter before the date that Dee is sure the world is ending.  

Even though this book is dealing with a heavy subject, the author seasons it with a dose of humor.  It also is the story of friends sticking together when they know one of them is going through a bad period and not giving up on him.

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


 Title: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

For some reason, the more I like a book, the harder it is for me to write a review for it.  I am not sure whether it is because I am afraid I will say too much and give something away - or if I feel I won't be able to give it justice.  This is one of those books. 

I know that we just started 2021, but I think this will go on the best books I read in 2021 list.  

The setting of this book is a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.  There are four houses on the island - the grandparents, and one for each of their daughters' families.  The families all come every summer and bring with them all the familial drama.  

The three oldest grandchildren and a family friend comprise the "liars".  I didn't get a clear picture as to why they were called that by the adults, but it kind of plays into the storyline.  The story really centers around the oldest granddaughter, Cady, and an event that happened on the island the summer she was 15, which has left her with amnesia.  We learn about that summer through her relationships with the other liars on the island a couple of years later.  

For me this book was heart-breaking and I wish that I could have the experience of going back and reading it again for the first time.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

2021 Reading Challenges from The Book Girls' Guide

 I know, I have signed up for enough challenges, but I found two more on Facebook that I thought looked interesting.  They are the Decades Challenge and Book Voyage: Read Around the World.  These challenges come with suggested reads for each prompt, which I like as it gets me out of my comfort zone and I discover more that I enjoy.


Each month, you’ll read a book SET in a different decade, in chronological order. The book doesn’t have to be written during the decade, just take place during it.    You can find a list for each of the decades here.  

January - 1910's - The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

February - 1920's - The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

                                 

March - 1930's

April - 1940's

May - 1950's

June - 1960's

July - 1970's

August - 1980's

September - 1990's

October - 2000's

November - 2010's

December - Books spanning multiple decades





The second challenge is Book Voyage: Read Around the World. The reading schedule for the year is below - along with a link for book suggestions for the first month.  When you sign up they will send you a link for a fun map that will help you track your books. 

January: Arctic & Antarctic - The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
February: Europe – West  (England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy) - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
March: Europe – East
April: Asia – North
May: Asia – South
June: Books Set on an Island
July: Australia & New Zealand
August: Middle East
September: Africa
October: South America
November: North America
December: Books Spanning Multiple Continents

Sunday, January 10, 2021

2021 Literary Feast Reading Challenge

 Ok, so I found one more reading challenge on Facebook - so why not, right?  It is called the Literary Feast Reading Challenge and the prompts are as follows:

Thought it might be fun to have some of my own reads mixed in with some group reads.

January: a book with a cover that's your favorite color
February: a book based on a myth or fairytale
(Group reading challenge! Watch for upcoming posts as we choose the book and discuss it!)
March: biography, autobiography, or memoir
April: a book from a series
(but you don't have to choose the first book or read the entire series!)
May: a cross- or dual-genre book
(Group reading challenge! We'll be digging up those sci-fi comedies or steampunk westerns special for the month of May! In fact, if we pick the steampunk western it might end up being a duel-genre. 😉 )
June: a book by an indie or local author
(It'll be your chance to read local and support the self-publishing community!)
July: a book you never thought you'd read
August: a book you can read in a day
(Group reading challenge! Not that you have to read it in a day. But if you could... And with a short book, you could pick more than one this month!)
September: a banned book (September is Banned Book Month.)
October: a book with 300+ pages (bonus if it's 500+!)
(to make up for August's short book... 😉 )
November: a classic
(Group reading challenge. Which classic have you always wanted to read but haven't? Or is there a classic you've been longing to read again? Or a book you wish was a classic?)
December: a book written by a celebrity
Bonus! a book set in the ancient past

2021 Strong Women Reading Challenge

 


Somehow I missed blogging about this reading challenge.  I had added it to my spreadsheet, but never left a post about it.  This is the Strong Woman reading challenge.  It runs from January 1 to May 31 and you have to read 5 books to get a Bingo.  It is hosted by Books and Tea.

Created by @tecsielitybooks, @kuudennenkerroksenkirjat, @kirjaperhonen and @sakubooks


THE PROMPTS:

  1. Finnish female author
  2. feminist book - Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
  3. a book with a word that means woman in the title - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  4. a memoir
  5. a book about war with female protagonists
  6. comic or graphic novel targeted to girls
  7. crime novel written by a woman
  8. survivor - The Last 8 by Laura Pohl
  9. a female author who uses a pen name - Again Again by E. Lockhart
  10. LGBT book - You Have a Match by Emma Lord
  11. a woman who doesn’t end up with a man at the end - The Highway by C.J. Box
  12. book rec from a woman you’re close to
  13. author of colour - The Pearl that Broke It's Shell by Nadia Hashimi
  14. a book about a friendship between women
  15. book where a woman does well in a “man’s world” - Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon
  16. a book written by a trans woman
  17. a female author who won an award
  18. sci-fi/fantasy heroine - Mayhem by Estelle Laure
  19. generational story
  20. a woman who isn’t from the 2000s - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  21. a woman who is a mother - The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  22. book about witches
  23. a book that fails a reverse Bechdel test
  24. a female author who deserves more love - Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock
  25. a book for young girls - To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Book Review: The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

Title: The Last 8

Author: Laura Pohl

Genre: Science Fiction

This is a YA science fiction book about an alien invasion, where, you guessed, 8 teenagers are left alive to try to figure out why this happened and what to do next. 

It is told from the POV of Clover Martinez, a high school junior who dreams of MIT and NASA and flies planes with her Abuelo.  When everyone in her town is killed by the aliens, she sets off across the country with the companionship of a dog that she picks up along the way.  Thinking she is the last person alive, she is shocked when she hears a radio station broadcasting from Area 51 and sets off for Nevada.  Upon arrival, she discovers 7 other teenagers have been living there since the aliens arrived.  

I liked the beginning of the book, it really grabbed me and pulled me in, then I got kind of weighted down in the middle - seem to go on forever before a plan of action was decided upon.  With this one, I could either just be happy with the ending, or read on with the second book - The First 7.  

Friday, January 8, 2021

Book Review: City of a Thousand Dolls

 

Title: City of a Thousand Dolls

Author: Miriam Forster

Genre: Fantasy

My initial thoughts about this book were that I was not going to like it. While the cover was interesting, it didn't really appeal to me.  In addition, there was a list of characters in the front of the book - or Dramatis Personae.  I am always wary of these books that have lists of characters because I am afraid that I will not be invested in the book enough to keep them straight.  And then, when the names of the characters are not what I am used to (like Nisha and Akash tarVey) I think I will have an even harder time.

Fortunately, that did not happen with this book.  I very quickly became invested and loved the relationship that Nisha had with the cats and how they spoke to one another (basically read each other's minds).  They explained to Nisha that they just didn't want to talk to anyone else, but you knew right away that there was a bigger story there.  Through suicides - or was it murders, love, betrayal, guilt, and friendship we learn about Nisha and the role that she plays in the City of Dolls.  A city that was created to take in the unwanted daughters of the Empire.  Unwanted because there was a 2-child ban on the population, and boys were valued more.  

This book was more than just a fantasy though, but also a murder mystery and it was not evident who or why was behind them.  Definitely kept me in the dark until almost the very end.  I really enjoyed it and am glad that I did not let the cover or list of characters put me off from reading it. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2021 Library Love Reading Challenge

 


The 2021 Library Love Challenge is hosted by Angel's Guilty Pleasures and Books of My Heart.   The challenge is to read books from your library.  Since the majority of my books come from there this was a no-brainer.


Levels are:

  • Dewey Decimal: Read 12 books
  • Thrifty Reader: Read 24 books
  • Overdrive Junkie: Read 36 books
  • Library Addict: Read 48 books
  • Library Card on Fire: Read 60+ books - I am choosing this level!

There will also be quarterly giveaways once you join.

JANUARY

1 - The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

2 - City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

3 - The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

4 - We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

5 - It's the End of the World as I Know It by Matthew Landis

6 - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

7 - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

8 - The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

9 - The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

10 - The Highway by C.J. Box

FEBRUARY

11. - The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden

12 - Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

13 - The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

14 - To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

15 - Wayward by Blake Crouch





2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

 


The 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge is hosted by The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader.


Reading Challenge details

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created at the host blog where you can add the links for the books you have read. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.


Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post at Intrepid Reader (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review) Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books - I am choosing this level
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

2021 Dystopia Reading Challenge

 


The 2021 Dystopia Reading Challenge is hosted by Brittani @ Game, Read, Teach.  The challenge is to read Dystopian books. Easy Peasy.

Levels are as follows - You will receive a badge based on the level.

Recruit - 1-5 books

Rebel - 6-10 books - I AM CHOOSING THIS LEVEL.

Revolutionist - 11-15

Leader - 16+


JANUARY

1 - The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

FEBRUARY

2 - Pines by Blake Crouch

3 - Wayward by Blake Crouch

4

5

6



UPDATE SCHEDULE:

GIVEAWAY SCHEDULE:
  • June - Mid-Challenge Giveaway
  • December - End of Challenge Giveaway
To be entered in the giveaways, you have to link up reviews. Every review you link up equals a giveaway entry. If you happen to get bingo, that counts as an extra entry, up to 5 extra entries if you fill the board! Just let me know when you get a bingo and the extra entry/s will be added!

REVIEW LINK-UPS:
  • January-June Link-Up
  • July-December Link-Up
The Dystopia Reading Challenge has bi-annual link-ups. The first link-up for reviews will be open from January 1-June 30. And the second link-up will be open from July 1-December 31. To be entered in the giveaways, you have to link up reviews. Every review you link up equals a giveaway entry. Review link-ups will be linked in the main menu under Dystopia Reading Challenge for easy finding. :)

LISTS TO GET YOU STARTED:

2021 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge

 


The 2021 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge is hosted by Carol at Carol's Notebook.  This is a new challenge for me this year.  

The challenge is to read any book that is from the mystery/suspense/thriller/crime genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of the main genres. They also must be at least 100 pages long. 

There will be a monthly link up and giveaways at the halfway point and at the end. 

Levels:

5-15 books – Amateur sleuth

16-25 books – Detective -This is my goal for the year.

26-35 books – Inspector

36 – 55 – Special agent 

56+ books – Sherlock Holmes

JANUARY

1 - The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

2 - The Highway by C.J. Box

FEBRUARY

3 - Pines by Blake Crouch

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16


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