Must Read Mondays: August 28th

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.


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Garden Spells; links to goodreads

When I read it: July 2014

Genres: magical realism; fantasy; romance

Recommended for: If you liked the movie (or book), Practical Magic, or if you generally enjoy magical realism, check this out.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

 

 


What it’s about:

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.


I adored this book, and I think it was my first Sarah Addison Allen read. I actually put off reading any of her books for a while because they were compared to Practical Magic, which I liked, but didn’t love (I thought the movie was better, I’m sorry). In my opinion, Sarah Addison Allen’s books are way better and I recommend them anytime I come across someone else who enjoys magical realism.

It’s been a few years, so the specifics of this book are kind of faded in my memory, but I still think about the Waverly family all the time, and I’ll probably re-read this at some point.

 


If you’ve read this one, what did you think of it? And if you’ve read some of her other books, what’s your favorite?

 

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Must Read Mondays: May 15th

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.

 

Married With Zombies 7716140(book 1 in the Living With the Dead series) by Jesse Petersen

When I read it: June 2011

Genres: sci-fi? horror? paranormal and/or fantasy? (What are zombie stories classified as, anyway?); romance

Recommended for: If you like things like the movies Zombieland, Dead Snow, Fido, Shaun of the Dead, etc. (think zombies, but with humor), and you don’t mind some romance mixed in, give this series a try.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they’re on the verge of divorce and going to couples’ counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things – the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client’s throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn’t mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don’t eat their brains, they might just kill each other.


This might have been my first zombie book (if not, it was one of the first), and I loved it.

It’s fairly short (about 250 pages), and I devoured it in about a day, which was impressive back then when I had a much smaller child demanding my attention most of every day. This series definitely helped me become a zombie lover. (I wasn’t afraid of them at any point, I just never watched many movies with zombies or read many books, which was weird considering what a horror movie buff I was/am.)

I still haven’t actually finished this series, but I read the first three and thought they were a ton of fun. Warning, though, there is a lot of strong language if I remember correctly, and maybe some sexy times.

It’s been forever since I read this (my copy disappeared with a friend), but I’m hoping to get a new copy so I can re-read them at some point. They’re just hilarious, light, fun reads, and if I were a beach-goer, something like this would be my beach read.


Have you read this one? If you, too, love zombies, let me know some of your recommendations for books and movies, please!

 

ARC Review: The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell

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Genres: historical fiction; romance; mystery; magical realism(?)

Why I read it: The cover caught my eye on Net Galley, and the description sounded really interesting.

Who I’d recommend it to: Historical fiction fans (around WWII era), people who enjoyed The Lovely Bones, maybe fans of The Princess Bride, and probably romance lovers who like romances that aren’t just romances.

Publication date: April 4th, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 304 ebook | 320 hardcover

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

Neave and Lilly Terhune couldn’t be more different. Lilly is a beauty who runs through men like water. Neave, having been told at an early age by their mother that she will not be able to get by on her looks, always has her head in a book. Her favorite is The Pirate Lover, a romance novel about a young woman who refuses marriage to the highest bidder and instead escapes to the high seas where she meets the love of her life.

During WWII, when the men are gone, both sisters start working. But when the servicemen return and take back their jobs, Neave and Lilly are left with few options besides marriage. But they have other ideas. They start to build a makeup business (think Avon in its early days) and soon have a hit on their hands. But just as their business is truly taking off, Lilly disappears and Neave must figure out what happened. Luckily, she has Lilly’s assistance helping from above, even if she doesn’t know it quite yet.

Alternating between the sisters’ story and that of Neave’s beloved Pirate Lover book, Sharon Pywell shows how all romantic relationships have dark undercurrents, how even the most cerebral amongst us can enjoy a swashbuckling, page-turning romance, and how sometimes the guiltiest of pleasures might contain essential kernels of truth.


Review:

I almost skimmed on by this one (having seen the word “romance” in the title) while I was browsing Net Galley, but the cover hooked me. I saw the (possible) pirate ship, became curious, then I read the description and I knew I had to read it. I’m going to preface the rest of this by saying that I am not much of a romance reader. I can enjoy romance in books, and I like a few romances I’ve read, but it’s not a genre I read much of.

This story reminded me a lot of The Lovely Bones (well, what I remember of it, at least, because I read it about 13 years ago), which doesn’t bother me because I enjoyed that book as well, but maybe this won’t be for you if you hated everything about The Lovely Bones. The similarities are there, but this didn’t read like it was trying to imitate anything else. It was unique and strange, a little confusing at times, but ultimately quite enjoyable. I’m not always a fan of stories told from multiple points of view, but this is an example of it being done well.

I think this could have been a five star book for me, but I didn’t love any of the characters. I wanted to, but I didn’t connect much to any of them, and at times I just didn’t like any of them. I related to Neave in some ways, with her bookish and headstrong nature, but sometimes she didn’t seem quite real enough for me, like there was something missing. By the end, I felt like she was finally starting to stand on her own two feet more, but before that, it felt more like she was living in her sister’s shadow. She was independent, and capable of taking charge, but I think she lacked the confidence she needed until close to the end.

Lilly annoyed me, but eventually she grew on me a little. I still don’t love her, but I like her more. In some ways, I understood her more than Neave, even though I’m more like Neave. I’m not sure if that was because of how she was written, or if she reminds me of people I’m close to in real life, but I feel like she was a bit more fleshed out than Neave. Lilly’s perspective was strange, and there were some things that were not really explained. That would usually annoy me a lot, and feel lazy, but in this particular story, I think it worked. I would still like to know more about “Where she is now,” but I’m not too bothered by it.

Their other siblings and the rest of the minor characters had enough development to fit into the story, but I wish we’d gotten a bit more time with some of them. I really wanted to know more about Ruga, in particular.

While I know that the 1930s-1950s was a drastically different time in many ways, and people thought differently about a lot of things then, Neave and Lilly’s parents really annoyed me. There were a few things they said about certain things (that I won’t say because spoilers) that made me so angry, and I was glad to see my feelings reflected in Neave’s reactions and thoughts. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I felt like this book also functioned as social commentary on present issues concerning gender roles and expectations, and the way women are treated. This was set decades before I was even born, but from what I know based on TV, things I’ve read, and anecdotes from people who were around then, it seems reasonably accurate, and the fact that women today are experiencing the same issues they were dealing with 60 years ago is disturbing.

But, on the more positive side of things, the independence Neave and Lilly had was refreshing. It was nice reading about two driven women who built their business from the ground up and were successful, whether they were married or not, at a time when it was pretty much unthinkable for women to be so independent. The way they used it to help empower other women and help them was also great.

Woven throughout Neave and Lilly’s story is that of The Pirate Lover, a fictional romance novel Neave has read and re-read many times and loves. It’s full of typical romance tropes (the distressed heroine, the rakish and wealthy hero, the abominable villain, blossoming love, fighting evil, etc.), and it’s wonderful. It’s meant to be very trope-y, and because of that almost satiric storytelling, it’s delightful. (I wouldn’t mind reading it if it were a real book.) The events of The Pirate Lover are reflected in Lilly and Neave’s story in increasingly more unsettling ways throughout the book, and I think Sharon Pywell did an amazing job with entwining these two narratives.

I had a difficult time trying to nail down some genres to categorize this one as, because it’s a bit genre-defying. While it does use a lot of romance novel tropes, there’s also some drama, crime, mystery, magical realism, and probably others. It’s definitely not a book I’ll soon forget, and I’m so glad I managed to get an ARC. This isn’t really relevant, but I have to say that I actually squealed when I read the title of the final chapter. I thought that quote would make an appearance somewhere in the book, and I was so happy to see it!


I have to recommend this book, even if you–like me–are not a romance reader. It was such a unique story, and I think it could appeal to a lot of different people.

If you read it, I would love to know what you think!

T5W: Favorite Angsty Romances

top-5-wednesday

T5W is a weekly meme created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey, now hosted by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. You can check out the goodreads group to learn more.

 

March 22nd- Favorite Angsty Romances
–This topic has been much requested! Talk about your favorite ships that have a healthy side of angst. (definition: adj.: describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters.)

 

This might be the most difficult T5W topic I’ve done. I just…don’t love a lot of popular angsty romances (whether they’re romance books, or some other genre with an angsty romance in it), so I’ve been looking through my read books all month trying to find good picks that A) were angsty, and B) I actually liked. I’m still not 100% sure these all count, but here we go, in no particular order…


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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– Ok, this one I really liked. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and definitely one of my favorite classics, but the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester was just so…well, angsty. I love it though.

 

 

 

 

 

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Easy by Tammara Webber– I read this a few years ago and liked it, but I’m not sure how I would feel about it now. I do remember it was an emotional roller-coaster of a book, though, and stuck with me for a while after I read it. I reviewed it on my tumblr if you’re curious. (I think this was angsty…)

 

 

 

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Unteachable by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake– (AKA “The ship I loved to hate to ship”) So. Much. Angst. This was not an easy, fluffy, fun book, but I read it in about a day and a half because I couldn’t put it down.

 

 

 

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Clockwork Prince (actually, all of The Infernal Devices) by Cassandra Clare– (AKA “Which ship should I ship?”) I hated Clockwork Angel, but I liked the other two books in this trilogy, so I’m using Clockwork Prince. I don’t even know what else to say about it :/

 

 

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Six of Crows (and Crooked Kingdom) by Leigh Bardugo– Uuugh, my children. I’m not talking about who this is about so I don’t spoil anything, but if you’ve read both books, you know (and you probably know if you’ve only read the first).

 

 


Do you have any favorite angsty romances?

Book Review: A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Genres: new adult; fantasy; romance

Why I read it: I like re-tellings, Beauty & the Beast is a favorite of mine, and everyone raved about this series (and Maas in general) but I hadn’t read any of her books yet.

Who I’d recommend it to: Probably no one I like. (I’m sorry, ACOTAR/SJM fans. I really am.)

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

 


What it’s about:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Review (hopefully spoiler-free):

I think I added this to my TBR back when it was first announced. I didn’t know much about Sarah J. Maas’s books at the time, except that everyone seemed to love them. I never liked the cover, though. I know, I know I’m in the minority with that, but I think it’s ugly, sorry. But I can forgive a bad cover if the book is good. I think the cover goes with this book.

I want to preface this by saying I didn’t hate the book! It did have good moments, but not nearly enough of them. Will I read the next book? Maybe. I’m still deciding, but I did go ahead and check it out from the library, just in case.

Feyre is possibly the most annoying protagonist I’ve encountered. Maybe there have been others I’ve disliked more, but I’m having a difficult time remembering them. She’s whiny, self-abasing, and just plain stupid at times. She cared for her sisters and father and herself for years, she can hunt and apparently track pretty darn well, she’s (supposed to be?) a survivor, but she just kept making stupid decisions and putting herself in danger. I feel like she was supposed to be this strong, at least semi-intelligent, resilient, character, and she was the epitome of shallow, boring, damsel in distress characters instead. Her feelings about the fae kept shifting a lot, which I guess could be understandable, but it was so dramatic each time, moving from one extreme to another. I feel like her character development left a lot to be desired, and I just don’t care much about her. She could die and be replaced by another character in the next book, and I wouldn’t mind.

I have no clue how to feel about Tamlin, because I don’t think we got enough of him for me to really form an opinion. I’m pretty much indifferent. He was pretty much the cookie cutter, “mostly nice guy but sometimes cringe-worthy possessive” you find in some shifter PNR/UF stories, only he’s fae. We know he’s probably gorgeous, and he’s powerful, but that’s about it.

Lucien and Rhysand saved my character rating for this book, and I liked them enough to actually consider shelving this as 2.5/5 stars, instead of 1.5 or 2. Lucien, ugh. I wish he’d had more time in this book, because he was funny. I think he could be a fleshed out, complex character. Rhysand gave me Darkling feels (but I don’t like him nearly as much as I love my book husband, the Darkling), kind of. I hated him when he first showed up, but by the end of the book I was interested in him. If I read ACOMAF it will probably be just so I can find out more about these two.

Lucien and Rhysand had the most development, I think, of any of the side characters. The rest were really bland. Mostly, I didn’t care at all about any of them, but I would like to know more about Alis, and Feyre’s sister Nesta.

I wasn’t really on board with the relationship between Feyre and Tamlin. I don’t ship it, mostly because I found it boring. There’s some problematic stuff, too, but not as much as I was expecting. But the sex, oh, ugh. A friend of mine described it as being “cringe-worthy,” and I totally agree. Reading those was like reading a ton of romance novel sex scene cliches all thrown together on one page. I actually read a scene with my hand over my face, reading through my fingers, and had to keep looking away. On a scale of 1-10 for how hot they were, I’d give it a 2. (I might have said that I would find a pie eating contest hotter than the sex in this book…)

The world building was pretty dull and almost non-existent, which annoyed me. I was hoping for more. There are also a lot of things that were not explained at all in this book, that probably should have been. I feel like as the first novel in a series, it should have had more details about Prythian, the fae who live there, and the human world that knows about the fae. We got some brief descriptions of how things are divided up, but not much about the fae and what they can do, the different types of fae, etc. Most of what was learned came from someone telling Feyre things, and it got kind of boring for me.

At the beginning of this book, I had reasonably high hopes. But the writing style bugged me. It was almost like there was an attempt to make it poetic or flowery, or…sound antiquated, maybe. It missed the mark with that. Then there was the plot itself, which was a rollercoaster. For a while, it seemed like things were moving along well, then it lagged and got boring. Then things picked up for a bit, then dropped back to boring. I really think 50 pages (probably more) could have been shaved off this book without losing anything important. More time was spent on descriptions I really didn’t care much about (like clothing, decorations, etc., that were sometimes excessively described), and too little spent on more important things. Many things were repeated…and repeated…and repeated….and… You get the point. It was frustrating and made it really hard for me to remain immersed in the story. The Beauty & the Beast inspiration is clear, but I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been. That probably disappointed me more than anything else.

Finally, the last 30 pages or so happened and things were interesting. Those last few pages, plus Rhysand and Lucien, are the only reasons this wasn’t a 1-1.5 star book for me. I’m curious enough about the way things were left to think about reading the next book. I’ve also heard it’s better than this one, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

I know this is a super popular series, and if you want to read it, please don’t let my opinion stop you. I’m so glad so many people have enjoyed it, and I really wish I was one of them.

First Lines Fridays: March 3rd

first-lines-fridays

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

The Rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

 

I’m so late in posting this, aaah! I totally missed last week because I was busy, and then almost missed this week. I need to get better about scheduling these things.


“It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure.”


Interested? Keep reading to find out which book this is from.

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Delirium by Lauren Oliver

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What it’s about:

In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn’t about to make the same mistake.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the “Wilds” who lives under the government’s radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


I actually listened to the audiobook of this about two years ago because my library didn’t have a physical copy, but I liked it so much I started  buying the trilogy. I really didn’t expect to enjoy it very much, but it wasn’t really what I expected. I think the concept of love as a disease being the basis for a dystopian trilogy was unique, which was a nice change from the usual YA dystopians I read. I love those, too, but sometimes I need something different.

(Also, Sara Drew as the narrator was pretty great. I think she was the reason I started listening to more audiobooks, because the few I’d tried before this one had narration I didn’t like.)

 

Have you read Delirium? What did you think of it?