Monday, February 29, 2016

REVIEW: The Passenger

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Completed 2/28/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #23: A book that's published in 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5

I'm a fan of the Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz, which is a humorous mystery series about an eccentric family of private investigators.  When I heard she had a new standalone release, I knew I wanted to check out this book, which is a psychological thriller about a woman on the run after her husband dies.

Even though it is much darker in tone (bleak even, in places), I still really enjoy Lisa Lutz's writing in The Passenger. The first person narration really flows, and I like the way the emails are interspersed in the story. 

I don't want to mention too much relative to plot, since I feel like this is a book that is better enjoyed without knowing a lot going into it. Basically, the book deals with identity, what you would do to survive, and whether criminals are born or made. You will probably feel better about your own life after reading this book.

I did see some of the twists coming, although not very far in advance. I feel like the author did a good job at unraveling the secrets of the story, though the ending was perhaps slightly rushed. 

I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Finds

Welcome to this week's Friday Finds, where I'm sharing the books I added to my Goodreads TBR over the past week.  (A Daily Rhythm was hosting this feature, but I'm not sure if she's continuing it.)

When I saw this book, I knew this would be a must-read for me as an unmarried woman in my 30s.  Apparently there are lots of us!  Yay for independent women!  (will be released 3/1/16)

Mysteries are my first love, from my Nancy Drews back in elementary school, Agatha Christies in high school, to Stephanie Plum in my 20s.  I will always have a soft spot in my heart for cozy mysteries; they are like comfort food for me.  A cozy mystery set in a Scottish rare bookshop?  I'm in!  (will be released 3/29/16)

First in a duology, this historical fiction follows a Chinese emperor's concubine.  (will be released 3/1/16)

Aside from the hideous cover, this book looks great!  This is a YA western about a girl looking to avenge her father's murder.  I love that this is a standalone and not a fantasy for a change!

Saturday, February 20, 2016


#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
Completed 2/19/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challege #24: A book with a protagonist that has your occupation (I'm a manager, so I'm interpreting this loosely!)
Rating: 4 out of 5

So, from a critical standpoint, there are a few issues that I could (and will) pick apart about this book, but from an enjoyability standpoint, this book rocks.

Sophia is the founder and CEO of the Nasty Gal retailer, which she built from scratch on her own with no experience. This book is a mix of her personal experiences and advice. The greatest asset to the book is her "voice," which is quirky, street-smart, hilarious, and yet relatable.

What kept me from giving this book 5 stars? First, I don't think she defined the book's audience well enough. Obviously with a hashtag in the title, I knew the book would be aimed young, but I did expect it to be a book for adults/new adults. Some chapters I felt I was reading a book targeted to high school girls, some college, some young professionals. I think she could have picked an audience and stuck with it or made more of an effort to make it for a general audience overall. 

The other negative point would be that she offers up a bit too many platitudes and pushes her #GIRLBOSS title too much (does it have to appear on every page?) - such as: be true to yourself, work hard, find what you're good at, etc. There is nothing revolutionary here. What does work is her concrete story of how she did it and how she runs her business. While the platitudes are motivating to a certain extent and her writing style is genuinely engaging, I was getting a bit sick of it by the end of the book.

One last (slight) rant:
The section about investors/venture capitalists (fortunately brief) needed more explanation about who these people are, the differences if any between them, and why they are important...I'm a grown woman and I don't have any reason to understand those concepts in my daily life. My limited knowledge comes from "Shark Tank." If I were a high school or college student, I would probably have been even more lost. Luckily this was only one part of a chapter. 

Despite the criticism, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to young women. I think if I read it at a younger age, I would have enjoyed it more and perhaps given more thought to the direction I wanted my life to go.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Finds

Hosted by A Daily Rhythm, this weekly feature showcases any books you've added to your TBR recently.  (I list the items I added to my TBR on Goodreads, not books I've necessarily purchased.)

I had a busy week, so I only added 2 books to my TBR!

The Lie Tree is a YA mystery centered on a mysterious tree (obviously) which may hold the key to the murder of a girl's father.  With a 4.26 rating on Goodreads, this was a must-add for me.

I've seen Burial Rites pop up on a lot of Booktube channels, and the description sounds really intriguing.  I've never read a book set in Iceland, much less one based on a true story.  This is the tale of a woman accused of murder waiting for her execution.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

REVIEW: The Witches of Cambridge

The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag
Completed 2/15/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #8: A book set in Europe
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.   It was just released on 2/9/16. 

The book follows a group of witches and their relationship struggles. Despite the magical element, the issues they face are quite "ordinary" issues in women's fiction: Heloise is a grieving widow trying to face life again, Amandine suspects her husband of cheating, Noa is very isolated from other people, Kat has unrequited love for her best friend, and Cosima desperately wants a baby despite the health risks for her.

The first half or so was VERY slow, though it did redeem itself in the second half. Some of the twists in the book I saw coming, others came as a surprise though everything made sense in the context of the book.

I think this book would have been far more enjoyable as a short story collection - the constant jumping around of storylines drove me crazy and prevented me from connecting with the characters because I felt the surface was only being scratched most of the time. The only one that I felt much emotional investment in was Heloise. Her sections were quite melancholy but beautifully written.

I would cautiously recommend this book if you like multiple narratives and relationship-driven fiction with a touch of magic.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Songs That I Wish Were Books

Thanks to The Broke and The Bookish for this awesome meme and the great topic this week!

There are lots of songs out there that I think would make fantastic books.  I'm surprised more screenwriters don't adapt songs.  Or maybe they do and I just haven't noticed.

10.  "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones

"Please allow me to introduce myself,
I'm a man of wealth and taste.
I've been around for a long, long year,
Stole many a man's soul to waste."

There isn't technically a story in this song, but the devil could be a charming character, and the plot possibilities with him as a narrator could be pretty much endless. (Anybody else watching the new TV show Lucifer?  My boyfriend and I are hooked!)

9.  "Skin (Sara Beth)" by Rascal Flatts

"Sara Beth is scared to death
To hear what the doctor will say.
She hasn't been well, since the day that she fell,
And the bruise, it just won't go away."

This song is a tear-jerker about a teenage girl suddenly diagnosed with cancer.  She loses her hair from the chemotherapy but fulfills her wish of attending the prom when her boyfriend arrives to take her (with his head shaved).

8.  "Disturbia" by Rihanna

"We're in the city of wonder,
Ain't gonna play nice.
Watch out, you just might go under.
Better think twice.
Your train of thought will be altered.
So if you must falter, be wise.
Your mind is in Disturbia."

Even though "Disturbia" isn't specifically a "story song," I love the creepy tone of the lyrics.  When I actually read them, I realized they were about a descent into madness.  Something about this song just reminds me of an urban dystopian thriller where demons lurk internally and externally.

7.  "Last Night" by Carrie Underwood

"It started off, 'Hey cutie, where are you from?'
Then it turned into, 'Oh no, what have I done?
And I don't even know my last name"

"Last Name" would be a great chick lit or new adult novel.  It tells the story of a drunken night in Vegas and an accidental wedding to a stranger.

6.  "Hotel California" by The Eagles

"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair,
Warm smell of colitas rising up through the air.
Up ahead in the distance, saw a shimmering light.
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.
Had to stop for the night.
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bells.
I was thinking to myself,
'This could be heaven or this could be hell.'"

I've always thought "Hotel California" would make a fantastic book.  A traveler stopping at a mysterious hotel with strange characters...some magical elements going on...I would definitely read it.

5.  "Exes and Ohs" by Elle King

"I had me a boy, turned him into a man,
Showed him all the things that he didn't understand.
Oh, and then I let him go.
Now, there's one in California who's been cursin' my name
'Cause I found me a better lover in the UK, hey hey,
Until I made my getaway."

This could be a great lighthearted story of a commitment-phobic woman juggling a trail of men.  I could also imagine it as a romantic comedy movie.

4.  "Miami 2017" by Billy Joel

"Seen the lights go out on Broadway.
I saw the Empire State laid low.
And life went on beyond the Palisades.
They all bought Cadillacs
And left there long ago.
They held a concert out in Brooklyn,
To watch the island bridges blow.
They turned our power down
And drove us underground.
But we went right on with the show."

Dystopian before dystopian became cool.  The song reflects on the annihilation of New York City.

3.  "Independence Day" by Martina McBride

"Well, she lit up the sky that Fourth of July.
By the time that the firemen come,
They just put out the flames,
And took down some name,
And sent me to the county home.
Now I ain't sayin' it's right or it's wrong,
But maybe it's the only way.
Talk about your revolution,
It's Independence Day."

The song's narrator is the daughter of a battered woman who takes revenge on her alcoholic abuser by presumably setting the house on fire.  I think a child's perspective (the girl is 8 at the time) would really make this a unique book.

2.  "Ghost" by Ella Henderson

"I keep going to the river to pray
'Cause I need something that can wash out the pain.
And at most
I'm sleeping all these demons away,
But your ghost, the ghost of you
It keeps me awake."

On the surface, "Ghost" seems like a light pop song, but if you actually study the lyrics, there's quite a bit of torment here.  I could envision quite a chilling ghost story of a woman haunted by a lover who died...perhaps some paranoia/questioning of sanity.

1.  "Fancy" by Reba McEntire

"I remember it all very well lookin' back
It was the summer I turned eighteen.
We lived in one room, rundown shack
On the outskirts of New Orleans.
We didn't have money for food or rent.
To say the least we were hard-pressed.
Then Mama spent every last penny we had
To buy me a dancin' dress."

This county song tells the story of a high-priced escort (named Fancy) looking back apologetically on her roots.  Her mother set her into prostitution to escape poverty.  Fancy would be a fascinating and complex character.

Honorable Mentions for Songs I Wish Were Books:
"Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac
"That Summer" by Garth Brooks
"Gunpowder and Lead" by Miranda Lambert

Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Finds

(Weekly meme hosted by A Daily Rhythm)

I haven't been adding nearly enough adult books to my TBR lately, so this past week, I made sure to investigate some interesting grown-up books!  I seemed to be in the mood for mystery/suspense/thrillers and historical fiction this week...  

First in the Krewe of Hunters series, this 2011 book from popular author Heather Graham is a paranormal romance/mystery set in New Orleans about the murder of a senator's wife.

First in another paranormal romance/mystery series by Heather Graham, Let the Dead Sleep is also set in New Orleans (I love this setting, in case you can't tell!).  It follows the owner of an antiques shop and a private investigator on the trail of a stolen artifact.

Pretty Baby is a 2015 psychological thriller by Mary Kubica about a woman who takes in a mysterious girl with a baby.  The unraveling of secrets ensues.  This author is best known for The Good Girl, a 2014 psychological thriller.

Just released on 1/26/16, The Evening Spider is a dual-narrative mystery/suspense book alternating between two young mothers living in the same creepy house.  The book was inspired by a true crime from the 1800s.

The Witch of Painted Sorrows is a gothic/paranormal historical fiction with one of the prettiest covers I've seen in awhile.  Set in the Paris underworld of the 1890s (a la Moulin Rouge), the protagonist is a woman on the run from her husband.

I snapped up a lovely hardcover of Parlor Games at Dollar Tree for, you guessed it, $1.  I had no prior knowledge of this book.  I'm a little nervous about the low Goodreads rating, but the description looks awesome!  It's a historical adventure about a female con artist leading a Pinkerton detective on a cat-and-mouse chase.  (This is the only one of my new "finds" that I actually purchased!)

Reasons to Stay Alive is a 2015 memoir by a man who contemplated suicide but chose to live and encourage others by telling his experiences instead. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

REVIEW: Scarlet

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Completed 2/9/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #1: A book based on a fairy tale
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

I was fully prepared to give this book a 3-3.25 rating until the last 40-50 or so pages when the action really picks up.

Overall, I did not enjoy the Scarlet/Wolf storyline nearly as much as Cinder, but I suppose it's a means to an end (i.e. advancing the overall plot of the series). I feel like Scarlet is a really flat character with virtually no personality other than her love for her grandmother and her insta-love for Wolf. That's pretty much it. I hope the last two books in the series keep her much more in the background.

Cinder's continuing story is interspersed with Scarlet's, and I did enjoy her chapters...her unexpected sarcastic bits of humor are great, and her interaction with new character Thorne is fantastic. Thank goodness for these scenes.

When the double narratives finally unite towards the end of the book, I started enjoying it much more, and it definitely motivated me to keep reading the series. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

January Book Haul

I went pretty crazy with book buying in January (a total of 30 books!).  I tend to go through phases where I buy no books at all and then phases where I stock up.  I had battled reading slumps on-and-off for the past couple years, so now I'm excited to be out of them.  I buy most of my books second hand, so the wallet damage really wasn't too bad.

Check out my haul video:


Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm to share the books that you've added to your TBR pile each week.

These are the books I discovered this TBR is growing faster than my reading can keep up!

Half Bad by Sally Green

Published in 2014, this book is first in a trilogy set in modern England dealing with good and evil witches.  This is YA with a male protagonist.  Reviews are mixed, but I like the concept.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

This is a non-fiction work published in 2015 about the author's struggles with anxiety and depression, presented in a humorous way.  You gotta love that cover.

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell

Just published on 2/2/16, this YA fantasy is based on the Peter Pan story and looks delightfully dark.  It follows Gwen (the Wendy character) who is kidnapped and taken to Neverland.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I'd heard of this book before in various Booktube videos, but this week I finally got around to adding it to my TBR.  It's a 2012 YA historical fiction release about a young woman during WWII.