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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Stefanie's Thoughts: Flower Moon by Gina Linko

Tempest and Tally Jo Trimble are mirror twins—so alike they were almost born the same person—and they've been inseparable since birth. But it's the summer they turn thirteen, and it seems like everyone can tell something is changing between them.
Pa Charlie, whose traveling carnival is the best part of every summer, is watching them closer than ever. Digger, who sneaks poor kids onto the carnival rides for free and smiles faster than anyone, seems to be fixing for a fight. Even Mama is acting different, refusing to travel with the carnival this year even though her own twin, who she hasn't seen since childhood, will be there.

And Tally and Tempest are the most different of all. There's a strangeness between them, a thickness to the air, an unseen push and pull, and it's getting stronger. It starts as a feeling, but soon it's sputtering and sparking, hurling them backwards, threatening to explode.

When Tally learns that she and Tempest may not be the first twins in their family to be separated by whatever this force is, she realizes she'll have to find a way to stop it—or she might lose not only her sister, but everyone she loves.

**ARC provided by Thomas Allen & Son for my honest review**

Hi everyone,

Today I'll be reviewing Flower Moon; this book was one of a kind and was a style of book I haven't read in a long time. 

Magical realism is a genre I personally love to watch movies and TV wise, and while I tend to read very little of the genre, I'm wondering if that's in part to the genre not really being that popular with authors and what they chose to write.

Flower Moon introduces us to Tally and Tempest, two sisters - twins, who are inseparable. I will say right off from the first page, I LOVED how close the sisters were. I'm practically the same with my own sister and it's always nice reading a story that involves close sibling bonds (I feel like a lot of sibling relationships in YA/ middle grade tend to involve sibling rivalry, so it was a nice change), that show siblings in a positive light. Tally is the protector of the two, making sure Tempest is taken care of, as she is the more shy out of the two (which is basically my sister and I, with the exception that I was the more shy out of us two).

The story is told from Tally's perspective and I think this brought an interesting spin on the story: as Tally is the more adventurous one out of the sisters, we see the world through her eyes. I think if the story had been from Tempest's perspective things would have been much different. Tally was abrasive, more in-your-face, and I think the plot reflected that. It's almost as if it mirrored growing up. The story would have been more calm and passive from Tempest's point of view.

It was nice to see the two sisters work together when they begin to discover the mystery behind themselves and their connection (even if I found Tally a bit over the top at times). The writing was so fluid and the dialogue between the sisters was wonderful.

Who doesn't love a carnival?! This was basically the best setting of a book, at a magical carnival, full of fun and never-ending possibilities. This also sets up the perfect setting for a coming-of-age book; as growing up really is a never-ending adventure. I really had a full carnival playing in my head as I read this and the descriptions of the carnival were so well written I was definitely transported there.

One downside to the book is to me I felt the setting took place in the past; the dialogue and setting felt more like from the 1940s, however, there were times when it all felt like present day and it wouldn't match up for me, so it became a bit confusing. Maybe it's because I'm imagining all the traditional carnivals from say The Notebook, and I could imagine all the characters dressed in clothing from that period. Pa Charlie's name had me feeling a bit of a Little House on the Prairie vibe.

My other downside was the first half of the book felt a bit slow. I understand the idea behind mirror twins was being set up and we were introduced to this non-traditional magical world, but at times I felt as if I could skip whole chapters and not have missed any of the plot. I hate when promising books have what I call "filler" chapters.

I haven't read a book by Gina Linko before, but I'll be giving her future books a look. Flower Moon was so different from what I've normally read that that on it's own gives it a solid 3.5 stars. I recommend this one to anyone looking for a book out of their comfort zone; I can guarantee you haven't read something like this before!

Until my next review,


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Thoughts: Keep Her Safe by KA Tucker

Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that's been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family's life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.

Gracie Richards wasn't born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it's all she knows anymore. At least here people don't care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive...until a man who clearly doesn't belong shows up on her doorstep.

Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department's dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.

**Review copy received from Simon and Schuster Canada for my honest opinion**

Happy Book Birthday to KA Tucker and Keep Her Safe.

I have read quite a number of KA Tucker novels through the years- more than I thought actually. She was one of the first "New Adult" authors I really got into. What really drew me to her was the fact that she was Canadian. I don't often read many Canadian authors (none that I really liked) so I was excited to explore Tucker's work and to discover that for the most part, I enjoyed it. 

In saying all of that, Keep Her Safe is the first of Tucker's adult novels that I have read, all the rest have been New Adult. I know she has a more dark thriller-ish one out -He Will Be My Ruin- but I have yet to read that one. But I will, I want to. Either way, I was excited to dive into this story.

Keep Her Safe tell the story of Noah and Gracie, as they try and discover a the truth of what happened fourteen years ago, which severely changed their lives. What really happened to Gracie's father? How was Noah's mother involved? Is the police department actually hiding something? Alternating in past and present narrative Keep Her Safe really digs into the consequences of keeping secrets and what happens when the truth starts seeping out.

This review is going to be a little hard for me to get into. I enjoyed this book, but at the same time I didn't find it the most thrilling book ever. The first bit of the book took me ages to read. I would say the first chunk of this story is just setting the stage. It's giving you context- which is so very necessary. But I wonder if there was a different way to do this. I think as Tucker continues to write in this genre, she'll hone her skill and get better. She's really a fabulous writer, but the introduction part of the overall story took a bit too long, and it takes forever for Gracie and Noah to finally come together.  But once they do....

The second bit of the story is much better, I flew through that. I was completely engaged and I wanted to know what the heck was going on. As I was reading I tried to figure things out and I couldn't (not everything at least), this isn't the kind of book where you figure everything out in the very beginning, not at all. Aside from the long winded beginning, the pacing was good, I didn't really feel like things lagged, however there were a few situations that maybe I thought didn't really add to the story as a whole. But they were teeny tiny. I enjoyed the characters, Gracie was feisty cautious at the beginning, Noah was lovely, kind of too perfect, but meh. Together they made a pretty great duo.

Overall, Keep Her Safe is a solid 3-3.5 star read for me. I would recommend it to anyone new to thrillers and mystery novels and wanting to dip their toes in. It's a quick read that doesn't involve a lot of brain power. The writing is great, this is something I never question with KA Tucker, her writing is spot on. So if you are a looking for a mystery that isn't too intense but still mysterious I would suggest you give this one a try.

~Happy Reading Everyone

Friday, January 19, 2018

Stefanie's 2018 Reading Goals

Hi everyone,

Now that it's occurred to me we're in the second week of January I feel like I'm finally back into the swing of things, at work, for reading and generally in life. I've starting watching Sex and the City, became obsessed with two new shows: Married at First Site (which my sister jokes that I should be on), and Undercover High.

Now that I have my TV straight I figured it was now time for my reading challenge update, and other reading goals I have this year.

For the 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge I have challenged myself to 300 books. According to their tracking system I'm already two books behind, but I laughed at that because just wait for the summer when all I do is read.

I'm focusing right now on adult fiction and non-fiction (I can't wait to read Andi Dorfman's Single State of Mind and Jen Glatz's Bridesmaid For Hire), but I will get back into young adult. I find that I go through genre blitzing (I'm just going to call it that), where all I want to read is one specific genre for a couple weeks, then grow tired if it and switch it up.

A couple of my new favorite authors have books coming out this year, ranging from Georgia Clark's new book The Bucket List, to the second book in Crystal Cestari's series, to Meg Cabot never disappointing in the Princess Diaries spin-off series.



For me the best part is going and finding the 2018 Goodreads list for new YA of the year, going through all nine pages or however long it is and adding all these new books to my tbr list (which was at 390 and is now at 430 or so). Even when I think I can tackle it, it always goes up. I read one reviewer that said there's no way she'd be able to ever tackle her tbr shelf, and I'm honestly with her. If only good books would stop being published, but I mean there's no way that would EVER happen!

I attempted last year to start listening to audio books and read books on my Kindle, but I just can't get past how much I love reading an actual physical book. I will rely on the library for all the audio books I use, especially when it comes to the library getting only the audio (and if it's not one I'm a hundred percent sure I'd read again).

I don't know if I can list anymore books I want to read this year, because every time I list these, I typically never actually read them or enjoy them. I think I almost curse it. The ones I have listed above, I either already have from the library in my possession or I know they won't disappoint (because Meg Cabot has only ever failed me once with her book Insatiable and I own all her books), but I guess every now and then the authors you love can let you down.

I hope 2018 will be a good year for reading and books and I hope you all have a great year as well.

See you next week for my first review of the year.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

2017 Recap & 2018 Bookish Resolutions

Happy New Year!!

I can hardly believe it's 2018. I know I say that every years, but goodness, time is going by SO quickly! I had a pretty good 2017 -  reading wise - and I am excited to see what 2018 has for me.
Today I bring you my 2018 Bookish Goals. However, first, I would like to do a quick over view of my 2017 goals and how I did.  If you want the full scope of my 2017 goals, check them out here.

2017 at a glance

First off, I wanted to read 100 books, which I accomplished, I believe I read a grand total of 102 books in 2017. I wanted to read more physical books, in 2016 I was SUPER dependent on audio books and I got super lazy with actual reading. I did a bit better in 2017, however of the 102 books I read, I listened to 55 audio books and I physically read 48. I also wanted to listen to more of the audio books I had back stocked in my audible library - my goal was to get my back stock down to five - that did not happen. In actuality, I ended up obtaining more and more audio books, right now I have ten that I have yet to listen to, and a couple that I probably won't. I am not going to beat myself up about it this year. I wanted to read one 2017 new release per month, this is where things get a little tricky, I am not sure I listened to a new release a month exactly, but the total 2017 releases I read in 2017 was 41. Which is pretty solid. And finally, I wanted to read seven particular books that had been sitting on my shelf for some time, those books where, Jane Eyre, The Thief, Percy Jackson books 3-5, Lolita and A Wrinkle in Time. I am happy to tell you I accomplished this goal and read all seven of these books in 2017. I am pretty pumped about this actually.

So, 2017 was pretty good, there are still some things I need to work on, but we'll get there.


2018 Reading Challenge 

Last year I completed 102 books. This is a good amount. I am completely happy with it. However, for 2018 I am aiming for 110. I felt like I had a a lot of dead time in 2017 where  I wasn't reading, I would like to change that, and I think upping my goal will help. If I don't make that goal, I am fine with that. But I would like to try.

**Within this goal, I would like for 60 of those books to have been physical books.

Read One Non-Fiction a Month 

I don't usually read non fiction. I don't tend to like it, however, there are a number of books out there that I would like to give a go. Trevor Noah's memoir, maybe a self-help book (a la Brene Brown). I feel like one a month is completely doable.

Read One Adult Novel a Month

As many of you know, I read a ton of young adult, and I always will. However, this year, I would like expand my horizons and read more adult fiction, specifically adult literary fiction. I believe I am probably missing out on some really great reads. I need to push out of my comfort zone a little.

Read Two 2018 Releases a Month 

I would like to have a better hand on what's  new this year and I would like to be able to talk about what's new. This is the goal I am going to be paying the MOST attention to I think. Make sure I am reading at least TWO 2018 releases.

Read the Following Books 

I really like lists (can you tell), and I really like scratching things off my list (is there anything more satisfying). SO I have another list of seven books I would like to get read this year.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Queen's Thief Series Books 2-5 by Megan Whalen Turner
The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas

I am confident I can get these books done within the next twelve months. 

Anywho, those are my goals for 2018. Keep a look out for my monthly wrap ups for updates, also I am using my bullet journal to help me keep everything organized, I may do a post on how that's working within the next few months. Do any of you have any goals you are working on this coming year? I'd like to hear about them.

Happy New Year, Friends and good luck this year.

~Happy Reading

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sara's Top Five Best/Most Surprising Reads of 2017

Hi Friends,

Welcome back!! A few days ago I posted my Worst/Most Disappointing Reads of 2017. I had kind of a good time coming up with that list and sharing it with you all. But I had even more fun looking over and all the books I read  this year and trying to come up with my favourites. Much like that last lists, I have five books that took me by surprise, and five books that I loved to share with you.

Most Surprising

When I say most surprising, I mean books that I wasn't expecting to like AS much as  I did. The majority of these are four or five star reads for me and I was not anticipating that. So I was very pleasantly surprised.

1) More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera - I was not expecting to like this book. I honestly thought it wasn't for me. There was even a second when I thought the story was going a particular way that really bugged me, but I was wrong. By the end I loved this book, it really gave me something to think about and I thought it was SO interesting, and the end ruined me. I adored our main character, Aaron. I loved his voice and  I really appreciated his story.


2) The Unseen World by Liz Moore - This book blew me away. I decided to read it on a whim and within the first 30 pages I was bawling and there were so many times I just wanted to curl up and bawl. I was completely invested in the story and the characters.

3) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - Well, this one. This book has been sitting on my shelf for maybe seven years. I am pretty sure I got it before I started blogging- or maybe a little after. It's kind of a messed up story and I feel a little dirty when admitting that I kind of loved it. It's a Russian classic about a middle aged man and his love for a twelve year old girl. It's gross, but the writing in incredible. The way the story is told is amazing. I sound odd, but if you've read this book, I would love to talk to you about it.

4) One Plus One by Jojo Moyes - This is only the second book by Moyes that I have read. The First one being, Me Before You. I kind of expected another really sad, break your heart story. But that's not at all what I got. I got a feel good, fun family story, with a bit of romance thrown it. I absolutely loved it.

5) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli - This was another one that snuck up on me. I didn't think I was going to be as charmed by this story as I was. I adored Simon and I loved his family. Initially, I thought this book was going to be SO hokey- but I gave it a solid try, and it was well worth it.

The Best

1) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Yes, I read this Canadian Classic for the very first time in 2017. I fell in love the moment I first met Anne Shirley- she was the sweetest little thing. I listen to this one on audio and Rachel McAdams did the narration and she did such an amazing job at it.

2) A List of Cages by Robin Roe - I have made it no secret that this book blew me away. It was one of the first books I read in 2017 and I still think of it this year. I talked about it a whole lot in my Chapters interview- I am pretty sure my adoration of this book got me my job. It's a book about kindness and friendship and loyalty. It's such an incredible book, please read it. Read more of my thoughts here.

3)  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Oh man, this book. I loved this book (obviously). I loved the family dynamics. It's not an overly complicated story, but if you are a lover of books this is a must read.

4) Turtles All the Way Down by John Green - I had absolutely no intention of reading this book. I wasn't sure I was going to like it- John Green's writing and his books are hit and miss with me. This was a huge hit. I even reviewed it, I had to, I needed to share my thoughts. I very much appreciated what was said regarding mental illness, specifically OCD and how disruptive it can be for one's life. It was just good.

5) Far From the Tree by Robin Benway - I finished this book on Christmas Eve, and it ended up being the last things I read. This book is SO worth all the hype it's been getting. It discusses things like what makes a family, it also talks about friendship and fear and love. It's SO good. Beautifully written. This one will stay with me for a long time.

So, there you have it. My most surprising/best reads of 2017. I read a lot of great books last year and I am very much looking forward to 2018 and seeing what it's going to bring me.  I'll have a recap of my 2017 year and my 2018 goals for you in a few days.

~Happy Reading Everyone

"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl