Month in Review: February 2020

Hello friends!  This wasn’t a great month for me blog wise- I had trouble not only getting my posts written on Sundays for the week, but keeping up with all of you.  Work has been relatively hectic and by the time I get home and get the kiddo ready for bed, I’m exhausted.  I’m aiming for a better March.  Reading wise- I did pretty okay considering it’s a short month and I wasn’t even reading on my lunch breaks.

Novels/Novellas Read: 10

Short Stories: 0

Pages Read: 3,076

Average Rating: 3.2

Female Authors: 5

Favorite Reads:

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier (RTC)

Other Reads Completed:

The Chill by Scott Carson

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Grit by Angela Duckworth

The Resisters by Gish Jen

The Bear by Andrew Krivak

The Wolf of Oren-yaro by K.S. Villoso

Surrender by Ray Loriga

I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll review the backlist titles.  Grit was technically a DNF.  I read about 200 pages for work and just couldn’t stomach part three I was so tired of it by then.  My review for Surrender should be up later this week.

ARCs Received:

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – I haven’t even read the blurb because the title seems pretty self explanatory.  Now that I’ve read Horrorstor and understand the author’s style, I’m very much looking forward to it!

Devolution by Max Brooks – A mockumentary style telling of a Sasquatch attack.  Which ya’ll already know I’m super excited for.

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey – I’m also thrilled to have received this! It has a very strong man vs. nature vibe which I’ve been enjoying a lot lately.

I also received Little Secrets, pictured above, but ended up reading it sooner than expected.  It’s about a woman whose son was abducted, her marriage in the aftermath, and the mystery surrounding her son long after the trail has gone cold.

PopSugar Challenge 2020 Prompts Completed: 

A book with a made up language: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins (greed, envy): Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

A fiction or non-fiction book about a world leader: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (I’m not really sure I interpreted this prompt correctly, but I don’t foresee myself reading a fiction or non-fiction book about an actual world leader any time soon.)

A book by or about a journalist: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

A book with a main character in their 20s: The Chill by Scott Carson

Other Posts for February:

Favorite SciFi Sub-genres

Book Review: The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Coming Up:

I’m hopeful this month will be better for me in terms of enjoying what I’m reading.  There weren’t many titles I walked away from in February feeling excited about.  I recently started A Time of Dread and it’s exactly what I’d been hoping for when I started reading Abercrombie a few months ago. Dark and bloody.

How was your February?

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Book Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Rating:  ★★★★

The Better Liar is about a woman, Leslie, who inherits a large sum of money from her father. In order to collect her half of the insurance, she must appear before the lawyer with her sister Robin. It takes Leslie three months to track Robin down, and by the time she arrives at her sisters apartment, her sister has OD’d and died. On her way back to Albuquerque, Leslie chances across a woman (Mary) who looks a lot like her sister, and hatches a plan to collect her inheritance anyway, using Mary as a double.

We read this story from three points of view, Leslie, Mary, and Robin’s ghost. All three women are liars. The reader is never sure at any given moment which of them to trust. The lies here aren’t necessarily outrageous, jaw-dropping lies. Calling them lies might even be a stretch- some of them are more like secrets or half truths. While they never made me stop to question what the heck was going on, the whole novel manages to be suspenseful. A lot of it was because I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the big reveal.

When we finally get to that point, it was a pretty awesome moment. Some readers may guess it, but I sure didn’t. This is a low-key sort of suspense. I was never bored and I read the book in just three sittings, always compelled to keep turning the pages, but I think it was more about the characters than the plot, which is not usually what I expect in a suspense novel. At its heart- this is a novel about both sisterhood and motherhood, and I think Jones did well with portayals of both.

The writing and structure were wonderful. The chapters were quick and the overall length was just what it needed to be.  I only gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I think there is a lot of suspension of disbelief needed for the plot to work. I can’t say why that’s needed without spoiling a lot of important plot points, so I’ll just leave it at that. I can see it being a sticking point for some readers.

Anyway- I really enjoyed this debut effort by Tanen Jones and I’ll look forward to more of her work in the future.  The Better Liar releases on January 14, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.  Thank you to the publisher who sent an ARC in exchange for review.

Book Review: I Will Make You Pay by Teresa Driscoll

I will make you pay by teresa driscoll

Rating:  ★★★

I Will Make You Pay is a thriller about a journalist named Alice that starts receiving threatening calls and gifts on Wednesdays. I’ve been trying to branch out my reading a little more because I’ve been feeling a little burned out on SFF these days, but this book made me remember why I don’t read thrillers often.

The thing is, I think in order for a thriller to work you have to care about or connect with the character to some degree (to create suspense). Thrillers tend to focus heavily on secrets and twisty turny plots, so it’s not often I find characters in a thriller that I either love or don’t feel like card board cut outs. I also have grown very tired of damsels in distress, and we are reminded at every turn that Alice is a damsel in distress, between Matt, the PI who basically acts as her body guard, and Tom, the boyfriend, and Jack, the coworker, I never at any point in time felt like Alice was capable of sticking up for or defending herself. It was kind of frustrating.

In Gone Girl, Amazing Amy is incredibly despicable, and I wouldn’t say I cared about her, but that woman is absolutely not a damsel in distress. Those are the kind of women I want to read about. No matter how awful they might be. Any sign at all that Alice was actually trying to protect herself might have helped but she just refused.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m being harsh or insensitive- I can absolutely see how a person who was being stalked would feel and is absolutely powerless in that situation, but I just would have liked to have seen something that said she was thinking of her own safety, either giving in and letting the PI act as her bodyguard, or actually purchasing that pepper spray she browsed online, or signing up for a self defense class. But she doesn’t do anything at all.

Anyway. I was worried the whole time that I knew very early on who the stalker was and I didn’t- so it had that going for it. There were also a few surprising plot twists along the way. (Content Warning: pedophilia abounds in this plot. It’s not graphic, but it is disturbing and I could have lived without it.)

Anyway- I skimmed a lot of parts towards the end that I just didn’t care about, Alice’s musings about her childhood, Matt’s musings about past cases. I’m still not sure why we were shown the whole Ian subplot. It was great that Matt was such a nice guy, but really it had NOTHING to do with the actual plot.

Finally, the line “I will use cheese wire on you” was introduced early on and repeated frequently. It made me laugh… which is not what it was supposed to do, but I just kept thinking to myself, and how the hell is that going to work? Cheese wire? It’s inventive I guess but I really don’t think that it’s all that threatening. And something about it is not very eloquently said? I don’t know.

Anyway- not a bad read but not a great read either. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for sending an eARC for review.

I Will Make You Pay can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week’s topic is books on my Fall 2019 TBR!  Although fall is not my favorite season, it does have a certain charm, pumpkins, farmer’s markets, arts festivals, and halloween!  So my plan, of course, is to cram as many scary, spooky and dark reads into fall as I can.

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza

People of the Lake by Nick Scorza – A girl named Clara receives a note written in a secret language she once shared with her dead twin sister Zoe, regarding the suspicious death of a local boy in a very strange and suspicious town.  I’ve never heard of this author before- but I have high hopes for the book, which should make a great October read!

I will make you pay by teresa driscoll

I Will Make You Pay by Teresa Driscoll – This was a NetGalley Read Now (not sure if it still is) that I picked up on impulse.  The title is pretty self explanatory.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a fast paced thrill ride with lots of twists and turns.

Sword of Kings by Bernard Corwnell

Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell – With the release of this looming on the horizon, I finally sucked up my fear of reading the last book.  I’m excited to read them back-to-back, but also scared, because we seem to be getting closer to the end of Uhtred’s life and I don’t think my heart could take it.

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Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo – I don’t often read YA anymore, but the description reminds me of a magical Six of Crows.  I’m trying not to be too hyped about it.

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski – This is my designated Halloween read.  Honestly I have no business adding backlist titles to my TBR right now, I am already behind and have way too much to catch up with, but I need at least one solid horror novel on the list.

 

The First Law Trilogy and A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie – I’m not being delusional about my ability to cram all three First Law books in before my planned buddy read of A Little Hatred on October 22.  Nope.  That’s not me.  This is all a totally reasonable plan.

The Menace From Farside by Ian McDonald

The Menace from Farside by Ian McDonald – Another planned buddy read for when it releases on November 12.  This is a novella and it’s one of my favorite series and I’m pretty much dying to get my hands on it.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia.jpg

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia – Tuesday Mooney embarks on an epic treasure hunt left behind by an eccentric billionaire!  I’m not really sure where the ghosts come in to play, but with a title like Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, how could I turn it down?!

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – I requested this way back in summer when I thought I had plenty of time to read it.  I’m actually hoping to cram it in before the end of September, but who knows.  I’m excited to be getting more Historical Fiction on the list, since it was really kind of my first love in the reading world and the amount of it I’ve read this year is abysmal.

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Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton – The author was kind enough to send this to me in exchange for a review, which is long overdue.  However- with a cover like that and a tale of the Fae I feel like it will make another great fall read and I’m really looking forward to it!

That’s it!  I’m seriously excited for absolutely every one of these books, but also terribly overwhelmed looking at them all.  What about you?  What’s on your list?

Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Following the fantastic Sometimes I Lie, I was very excited to pick up The Couple Next Door.  I think I read them in the wrong order- because there was just no way The Couple Next Door was going to have as many twists and turns as Sometimes I Lie.

It was still pretty good though! Once again, I read it all within one 24 hour period.  I think the structure of thrillers works well for me.  A good thriller should move at a quick pace, and these two books in particular had short punchy chapters, which I love.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Rating:  ★★★

Blurb (from GoodReads): Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

The author wasted no time getting to the heart of the issue.  Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels on them at the last minute.  They decide to go to the dinner party anyway, being that it’s right next door, and bring the baby monitor so they can listen for their daughter. Sometime between 12:30 AM and 1:30 AM their daughter is snatched from her crib.  Detective Rasbach immediately suspects that the couple is involved, because that’s how most of these cases go.

That’s as much as I’ll say because I don’t want to spoil anything.  I think a lot of the suspense was lost on me, because somewhere along the line, I read a spoiler for the book.  I thought it was on the book jacket, but looking back I see that it wasn’t.  I’m thinking it must have been in a review and I didn’t realize at the time it was a spoiler.

Anyway- as the secrets start to unravel, there are plenty of them, but I don’t feel like any of them were particularly shocking.  I don’t want to say this story has been told before, but if you’ve ever watched Law & Order you probably won’t have much trouble guessing where it was going.  I had the crux of it pegged early on (and not because I read the spoiler, which wasn’t unrelated, but had nothing to do with the whodunnit).

I did feel that Detective Rasbach’s POV was a little unnecessary.  He doesn’t reveal much that couldn’t have been relayed via dialogue with the other characters, and in fact, most of the relevant aspects of his POV are.  He’s largely absent from the middle of the book, and only makes a brief appearance again at the end.

The writing was fine.  It was a little clunky and awkward in a couple places but not enough to detract from my enjoyment from the book.  I also feel that the title is misleading.  The couple next door plays a very small role in the book, and they didn’t feel entirely relevant.

All in all- not a bad read at all if thrillers are your thing, but I’m also not chomping at the bit to recommend it to anyone.

The Couple Next Door can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

 

 

Book Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

So the past few weeks I’ve had a craving to read something similar to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  I think Amy Dunne’s character, despicable as she is, is absolutely brilliant.  Maybe you read the book and found her intolerable, but there’s no doubt that anyone who did read it was left feeling some type of way about Amy.  To me, that’s the hallmark of a great character.

I stumbled across Sometimes I Lie at the B&N book sale.  I’d seen it around during release time, but didn’t know much about it.  I wasn’t sure Amber Reynolds was the Amy Dunne character I was hoping for, but I am so glad I took a chance on it.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Rating:  ★★★★

Here’s the hook:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Okay so there’s more to that blurb, but when I was looking at the cover at the store I read that much before I put it in my basket.  I love everything about the premise.  From the beginning, you already know you’re dealing with an unreliable narrator, but is she telling little white lies?  Or is she telling a whopper?

The book starts simply but sinister enough.  Amber is in a hospital bed.  She can hear the nurses talking, but she is unable to respond.  She’s trapped in her own body.  She was in a car accident, and she can’t remember what happened.  It’s Christmas, her husband is MIA, and no one has reported her missing.  

The setup of Amber being aware but unable to respond created a genius opportunity for the author to tease the reader with snippets of conversation from the people in the hospital room, nurses talking about her condition, her husband talking to her sister, people talking about Amber without realizing she can hear them…  but then someone will administer medicine, or Amber will fade out, and you never catch the rest of the conversation.  The opportunity was not wasted, although I guess one could argue that the timing of Amber drifting in and out of an aware state makes the suspense feel a little forced. (I didn’t personally feel that way- but I could see it feeling that way to others.)

There are three different timelines to follow, the present timeline in the hospital, the past timeline leading up to the accident, and the distant past from Amber’s childhood.  All along the way little suspenseful incidents keep happening, a stranger visits Amber’s room at night, Amber’s boss threatens to fire her, etc.  Amber does have a few deliciously wicked Amy Dunne moments (and I reveled in every single one of them), but once the twists start coming, it feels like every other chapter reveals another piece of the puzzle.

Each chapter takes you one step closer to the answer, while also feeling like it’s taking you one step farther away.  There is absolutely nothing about this book that you will see coming.  I wasn’t even able to guess.  The whole book was just one big, wtf is going on here? kind of moment.

I read this all in one night. I could literally not put it down.  The only thing keeping this from being a full five star read- is that the full picture does feel pretty far fetched.. but it’s so much fun it hardly matters.  If you like dark thrillers- definitely check out Sometimes I Lie!  I’ll be on the lookout for other work from this author in the future.

Sometimes I Lie can be found on GoodReads and Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Last ten books added to my TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Okay – so this post is going up super late tonight.  I didn’t have time to write it in advance this weekend, but I really wanted the chance to talk about something new because I feel like I do such a good job of beating everyone over the head with my favorite books.  These aren’t in order of favorites or anything- just the order they were added to my TBR.

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick – Alison comes across an old painting in an antique shop.  She’s told it’s of Anne Boleyn, but Alison knows it’s Mary Seymour.  The daughter of Katherine Parr and Henry VIII who went missing in 1557…it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.  As soon as I read the description I was pretty much sold. It seems like it’s a little bit fantasy, a little bit mystery, a little historical fiction.  I love genre benders like this, and I love anything tied to Henry VIII’s reign.  The dude was bat shit crazy and 450 years later- crazy kings bring me crazy joy.

God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga #1) by Eric Schumacher – This is a viking saga set during the making of England.  The fact that it’s vikings was enough to sell me- throw in a 4.17 rating on GoodReads and the current 99 cent price point, and I guess I’m pretty well sold.

Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin – This is one I’m actually less sure about then the others.  I added it because I saw a rave review somewhere and because it sounds pretty fascinating in terms of what it does with language, but the truth is it’s a 30+ year old book and that makes me hesitate.  The gist of it is: women are property again (a la Atwood) and when they are past child bearing age without children they must retire to the barren house.  Linguists are necessary to keep the interstellar economy afloat and Nazareth is the most talented linguist of all, but all she wants to do is retire to the barren house.  When she gets there, she discovers a revolution is brewing using an entirely new language the barren women have created.

Alien Virus Love Disaster by Abbey Mei Otis – This is one a collection of short fiction nominated for the Phillip K. Dick award this year.  I’ve been enjoying shorter fiction ever since this terrible reading slump hit and with a title like Alien Virus Love Disaster how could I say no?

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson – As embarrassing as this is to admit, I’ve never read a single book by Sanderson, and I know he’s one of giants of modern fantasy fiction. I picked this one mostly because I liked the cover and because it was YA so I figured it would be a little easier to digest.

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon – My first love is and always will be, horror.  Ghost stories, monster stories, supernatural anything- I love it.  This is a book about a couple who buys a house, and discovers it has a violent and tragic past.  As the wife sources materials for her new home, she becomes obsessed with the lives of the Breckenridge women who occupied the home before.  It’s due to release April 30th, 2019.

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan – This is a grim dark fantasy that I’ve seen getting rave reviews by book bloggers left and right.  From GoodReads: “When three thieves – an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man – are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy…”  A thieves guild and three thieves that are an orphan a ghoul and a cursed man?  I don’t even need to read the rest of the blurb.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – This is another book I’m not too sure about.  I added it on a whim after it was nominated for SciFi Fantasy’s Book Club monthly read.  “Historians” (read: time travelers) investigate major historical events in contemporary time from the Cretaceous period to World War I.  I’m not sure what the actual plot is but the hook seems interesting. (Please let there be dinosaurs.)

Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell – I really enjoyed last year’s The Silence of the Girls and Circe.  And while I didn’t love The Lost Queen, I do love the idea of giving women a voice in time periods and stories that are usually otherwise voiced by men.  Shadow on the Crown is centered on Emma of Normandy, wife of King Athelred of England in 1002.  Courtly drama, romance, viking invasions, and (hopefully) historically accurate (as possible) events could make for a truly fantastic story.

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The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung – This book was the winner of Mark Lawrence’s first self published fantasy blog off in 2015.  I’ve only read one of his books- but I’m crazy in love with Mark Lawrence as an author, (for many reasons besides his wicked writing skills) so I added it for just that reason.  I’m told it contains plenty of gruesome violence, but between the spunky title and the purple watercolor cover, I’m getting more of a YA vibe.  Either way- I’m excited to read this and check out some of the other winners of Mark’s blog off.

What about you?  What have you recently added?  Link to your TTT below so I can check it out- I’m always looking to add more!