March: When I Read all the Books


Hello.

I had such an incredible reading month, you guys. I was on fire! I read 22 books and most of them were pretty fantastic! I’ve been working my way through the books I have in my bedroom so I can free up some space on my shelves. I’m happy to say I’ve been pretty successful so far. On top of that, most of the books I’ve read this month has been 4 and 5-star reads, so bonus! I did DNF one book this month, sadly but I think, overall, it’s been a great streak.

READ THIS MONTH

  1. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – 5 Stars
  2. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – 5 Stars
  3. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta – 5 Stars
  4. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – 5 Stars
  5. Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran – 4 Stars
  6. When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin – 5 Stars
  7. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen – 5 Stars
  8. Written in Red by Anne Bishop – 5 Stars (Reread)
  9. Scythe by Neal Shusterman – 5 Stars
  10. The Cursed Queen by Sarah Fine – DNF
  11. At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson – 4 Stars
  12. This is Water by David Foster Wallace – 5 Stars
  13. Blood Vow by JR Ward – 4 Stars
  14. By Your Side by Kasie West – 2 Stars
  15. Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley – 5 Stars
  16. Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop – 4 Stars
  17. The Girl Before by JP Delaney – 5 Stars
  18. Ronit & Jamil by Pamela Laskin – 3 Stars
  19. I See You by Clare Macintosh – 4 Stars
  20. Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse – 3 Stars
  21. Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood – 4 Stars
  22. Act Like It by Lucy Parker – 4 Stars

FAVOURITE READS:

Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin

DISAPPOINTING

By Your Side by Kasie West was a huge letdown.  Admittedly, I think this is where I part ways with her books. I don’t think I have the stomach for it anymore. This one, in particular, was a cheese smorgasbord at your favorite buffet restaurant.

SURPRISE, MOTHERCHUCKER.

Magical realism isn’t my cup of tea, so I was wholly surprised by how much I loved First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. Also, I read quite a few fantasy reads this month. That, in itself, is a surprise. Even more so when I quite enjoyed them! There’s hope for me yet. 😀

READ THIS, YO.

This is Water by David Foster Wallace.

I hope y’all had a blessed, wonderful month!

The Birth of The Mistresses of Versailles by Sally Christie

Where do authors find their inspiration? Hemmingway said to “write drunk, edit sober”. But it often makes me wonder about how much truth are in those words. I don’t know about you but I, for one, couldn’t even write my name to save my life if I had a few glasses of wine in me. Heck, I can’t even finish one glass without face planting, to tell you the truth. So I’m in awe of anyone who can write an entire novel – sober or not. 
I’m especially amazed when an author is able to write entire series based on historical figures. Imagine the research! Imagine the painstaking work they have to do to make sure that their work is close to accurate. Louis XV is one of those prominent historical figures whose taste in women rivals that of any womanizing men of power in history. 
Today, Sally Christie, author of The Mistresses of Versailles shares with us her inspiration for her novels. 

• Behind the Book by Sally Christie •

I’ve always been a writer in the sense that I have been writing since I was very young. I experience the world through stories and always had the urge to capture life around me in words. But it was just a hobby and I never actually finished any of my stories. After a change in circumstances a few years ago, I decided to take a year, write full-time, finish a book, and see if I could get it published.

I had a number of projects lined up (some fiction; some non-fiction; all historical) and was just about ready to go when I stumbled onto the story of the Mailly Nesle sisters and Louis XV while surfing Wikipedia one night. I was instantly hooked and amazed that I had never heard of them. The obscurity of their story (at least in the English-speaking world) was part of the appeal – I love the idea that I would be the first one to bring it to light.

I dropped all my other projects to write the book that eventually became The Sisters of Versailles. While I was writing it, I wasn’t thinking of a potential series. I knew about Louis XV’s subsequent mistresses, the much more famous Madame de Pompadour and the Comtesse du Barry, and just assumed they had been the subject of a lot of historical fiction.

When my agent asked about other books ideas around The Sisters of Versailles (sometimes it’s easier to sell a series, so a publishing house isn’t investing in an author with just one book) I looked at these other mistresses, and was amazed and excited to learn they had not been written about in English. They could be “mine”!

And so The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy was born: after Sisters, The Rivals of Versailles tells the story of Pompadour and the many minor mistresses that rivaled her for the king’s affection. Finally, The Enemies of Versailles tells the story of the lovely Comtesse du Barry and her enmity with Madame Adelaide, the king’s daughter, and follows them all the way up to the French Revolution, that ended so badly for so many of my characters.

With the publication of the third book and the end of the trilogy, I feel great gratitude that I was the one to tell the sad, funny, improbable and tragic stories of these influential women who helped to shape the 18th century.

________________

Thank you so much, Sally. I’m looking forward to binge-reading this series. 🙂

[712]: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

A futuristic nightmare that challenges a reader’s view on immortality.


Scythe
by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman’s brand new series depicts a future where immortality is now a reality. There’s no cancer, no communicable diseases or otherwise.  The body is healed using nano technology. You can die, sure. You can even kill yourself many times over. But in this world, humans have the ability to bring you back to life. Not in a zombie form, and no life-altering side effects of any kind. You’ll be resuscitated to exactly how you were before you died. The downside to this world is overpopulation. Since people can reinvent themselves in all sense of the word, many can live for hundreds of years.

This is where Scythes come in. They are in charge of culling the population (permanently, that is). They are harbingers of death, harvesters of the living. Some decide how you die and some compassionate ones let you pick your own poison, so to speak. They are feared and revered in equal measure. How they decide who to die is a gray area, however.  To some, the selection is based purely upon the wiles of the administering Scythe.

Scythe Faraday has his own method; in a way that’s almost scientific and based on statistics.   He might be detached from the task but he took the time to render compassionate death.

Becoming one is, of course, not that easy. The first rule of being a candidate is that you must not want to be Scythe. When the thought of being one repulses you. Unfortunate for Citra and Rowan, really. Because they both share the same revulsion. Under Faraday’s tutelage, they’ll learn to develop killing with empathy and compassion (if such a thing exists). They’ll also learn how to distance themselves from the task that each and every culling doesn’t make them want to turn the blade unto themselves.

Predictably, this kind of power elicits a voracious hunger for more. And in this installment, you’ll meet a group who enjoys mass killing/killing a little too much. The bloodier, the better.  So not all Scythes are like Faraday. Citra and Rowan will also find out exactly how competitive apprentices are during their first conclave attendance. The differing ideologies and politics create the kind of dangerous division that can only mean even more disastrous and bloody deaths for humankind.

As a Shusterman newbie, it’s easy to see why his Unwind series has such a cult following.  Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the world he conceptualized here because I felt it was the barest minimum as far as world-building goes.  But the ingenious plotting won me over. His characters are memorable; strong-willed and full of conviction.  They are thrust into the world where people’s lives rest unto their hands – quite literally. And whether they like it or not, they had to heed the call. However, I had a problem with how easily they performed the tasks considering how extreme their aversion was for killing people.

Scythe explores the subject of humanity in a way that asks if we’re still humans if we’re unable to die. Suicide had become an extreme sport of sorts for the adventurous bearing no repercussions whatsoever. This is a brutal, dark world where people are held hostage by their fears, waiting for the swing of the scythe to strike. It’s quiet, with bursts of action and gallows humor in its midst. A great intro to what promises to be an addictive series.

[711]: Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

A lovely, funny story about a woman’s courage to go out into the world where human contact could mean her own death sentence.


Close Enough to Touch
by Colleen Oakley

Jubilee Jenkins hasn’t left her house in 9 years. After a kiss from the popular boy in high school nearly killed her, she decided it’s not worth venturing out to the world. She’s been living alone since her mother left her when she turned 18. Through her mother’s monthly stipend and her resourcefulness, she’s managed to hold off the universe from encroaching on her life.

But the death of her mother would leave her penniless as her stepfather decided to cut off her allowance. Leaving her no choice but to find employment, Jubilee would have to leave the house and risk her life every day.  Her unusual allergies to skin contact confined her to her house with no interaction with another human being. She’s lived a lonely life; barely speaking to another soul. She finished high school at home and took free Harvard courses online. Everything she needed got delivered to her house. She even managed to work the system in her favor. But she will have to leave her fortress for the first time in her life.

What a lovely read, you guys. I felt Jubilee’s fear every time she’s confronted by another human, and because she didn’t have much experience with human interaction, she was an adorable bundle of awkwardness. In a matter of days, her lonely existence was suddenly full of people who would care and understand her plight in the most unexpected ways. I especially love the way the father and son would make her even entertain the possibility of a romantic relationship. It’s so impossible, though. When a single touch could put her in anaphylactic shock.

Eric Keegan’s life is a mess. He has an adopted son whom he can’t seem to find a kinship and a daughter from a failed marriage who’s not speaking to him. He can’t figure out how to right the ship. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Eric; a father who’s only doing what he can to save his relationship with his teen daughter, whom, by the by way, was well on her way to being a juvenile delinquent. She’s so angry and rebellious. He sends her numerous unanswered text messages and keeps fervent hope for forgiveness. He saw the path to reconciliation by way of a book report journal. In there was a collection of opinions on books that she’s read. This book would bridge their relationship somehow, and inadvertently connect him to Jubilee.

Close Enough to Touch is a lovely story about finding the courage to confront your fears. It doesn’t matter what the motivation is – may it be out of desperation or survival, the fear is still real. Jubilee is a woman who was lonely and in need of human interaction. But the same interaction could mean her death. At the end of the day, she needed to find it in her to want it enough to do something about her malady.

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 201


The Rising by Bairbre Tóibín | Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton | The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie | The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christine


Hello.

How was your weekend? I can’t believe how fast time is passing by. We’re days away from April! Where did the time go? It’s Spring break this week so the kids have the week off – lucky buggers! I wish I can take the time off as well but alas, work and such. Speaking of work, there’s a great possibility that they’ll keep me on so I’m crossing my fingers. My contract ends mid-April, so this is good news! I don’t really want to go out there and look for a job again. Just thinking about interviews gives me the heebies. Wish me luck. 🙂

T H I S   W E E K’ S   H U B R I S

Aside from Traitor to the Throne which I ordered from Book Depository, the rest of my haul from last week were from publishers (much love to HBG Canada for The Rising and Simon & Schuster Canada for the Versailles books). The Enemies of Versailles will be stopping by on the blog on Thursday. There will be a giveaway and a post from Sally so I hope you’ll stop by next week.

T I M E L E S S    T O U R

Speaking of which, Simon & Schuster Canada approached me a couple of weeks ago regarding their historical fictions that are set to come out in the next couple of months. I decided to participate in each of the stops that will start on the 27th. I hope you’ll stop by and join us!

R E A D   T H I S   W E E K

When Friendship Followed Me Home was so good. I cried. Lucky Boy was also good. I also cried. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was fantastic. I get it now. I get the reluctant fascination. Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil was fucking awesome. I read it twice. Back to back.  And I think I’m going to read it again because it’s Melina Marchetta and that woman owns my soul.

Have a great week, everyone!

[710]: The Girl Before by JP Delaney


A modern suspense that echoes the gothic secrets of Jane Eyre.


The Girl Before
by J.P. Delaney

Last year, I’ve developed an affinity for the minimalism movement. I’m not a pack-rat by any means, but it was still hard to get rid of stuff. I am infinitely in awe of the people who practice this lifestyle. Not only do they live the uncluttered life in physical terms, but their way of thinking is streamlined as well. They’re focused, determined and disciplined.

In this book, you’ll meet a person whose practice of minimalism goes to extreme – borderline insanity, to tell you the truth. Initially, I was like, yes, a man who speaks my language! But that slowly dissolved into horrified reaction as the novel progressed. His ability to distance himself from thoughts and feelings with which he felt bore no significance made him cold and calculated. He’s a controlling man who hates a deviation from schedules and plans. Everything in his life has a place and a meaning. You’re discarded if he considers you an excess. And yet, for all the clean lines and openness of the house he built, there was no place in which he could keep his secrets.

Edward Monkford is a genius; a much-sought-after architect notoriously known for combining minimalist and technologically smart construction. One of those builds is the house on One Folgate Street. The house has been empty since the death of his wife and son and has become a revolving door for renters, whom in one way or the other, found the house’s oddities just too strange for their liking. The story unfolds in alternating chapters between Emma and Jane. Emma, the former tenant, and Jane, the present. The first sign of trouble was their uncanny physical resemblance. Weirder even, that they looked like Edward’s dead wife.

Edward has an irresistible magnetism; he’s attractive, filthy rich, and mysterious. As you get to know him further, you’ll find that Edward shares the same need to control his women with one popular control freak, Mr. Christian Grey. They got the same “I don’t do regular relationships” speech; they were given pages-long rules and regulations. Then pearl chokers to complete the look. Both women knew what they were getting into when they entered the relationship but with one glaring difference: one pushes her boundaries, and the other pushes his. Arguably, Christian Grey was redeemed by love – as cheesy as that may sound. Edward, on the other hand, wasn’t dictated by any romantic notions and was as realistic a character as one can be. There was not a cuddly bone in his body even if some of his actions proved otherwise.

But if you think the novel is cut and dry, you’ll be wrong. The mysteries that unravel is nothing short of surprising. It’s easy to consider Monkford as the guilty party here much like we immediately wrote off Rochester in Jane Eyre. This book is just as mysterious as the owner of One Folgate Street and the crumbs we were given were the perfect follies for the amateur sleuths trying to solve all its mysteries. Overall, this is one of the best mysteries I’ve read this year. It’s morbidly sexy, frustrating at times, but holy hell, I could not put this down.

 

[709]: I See You by Clare Mackintosh

A scopophobia inducing thriller that will take you on a journey full of twists and turns by way of the London underground.


I See You
by Clare Mackintosh

 I don’t have much experience in public transportation. I know for a fact that bussing in my city is an adventure in itself. I’ve heard some horror stories.  After reading this book, I’m kinda glad that I don’t have any to share. I’ve only used a train system twice: whenever we’re in San Diego and when I went to New York. I wasn’t courageous enough to take them at night, though.

The New York subway system is a whole other beast altogether. There, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it always feels like either the walls are going to cave in on you, or a rat is going to drag you to its nest. But that’s nothing compared to the menace hiding in the dark corners of the London underground, apparently. The feeling that you’re being watched is worst than you could ever imagine. This book, in comparison, will make you forget the normalcy of taking the public transport. It will have you looking over your shoulder, unsettled and a little anxious. But you’ll never know who’s hunting you until it’s all too late.

I See You started ordinarily enough. Zoe Walker was looking forward to spending a quiet night after a hard day’s work. Somewhere in her house was a bottle of wine with her name on it. So when her train stalled during her commute, she hardly paid any attention. She picked up a paper in an attempt to pass the time while they sort out what was happening on the tracks. As she was browsing through, an advert of a woman looking for romance caught her attention. Upon closer inspection, she realizes that she’s staring at her own face. Coincidence, right? Her family thought so, too. But things went from odd fortuity to scary reality in an instant when the women on the ads started dying.

Clare Mackintosh builds a layered story in a slow crescendo which makes the race to the end even that much more exciting. The readers stumble through the mystery blindly – effectively. She made a case for each red herrings, giving the readers the confidence with the suspects they had in mind. May it be Zoe’s boyfriend/partner, her ex-husband who was very much still in love with her, and the boss whom may or may not still be carrying a torch for her.

This smart thriller erases any doubts (if there were ever any) of the one-hit-wonder assumptions left on the trail of her debut novel, I Let You Go. It is easy to see that she’s found her niche so easily in the age of Gone Girl/The Girl on the Train wannabes. I haven’t read I Let You Go, but if I See You is any indication of the kind novels we can expect from this author, I say she’ll be a household name in this genre in no time.

Top Ten Tuesday [18]: Flash Reads

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is about the books that I’ve read in a flash. These are books that are incredibly short but not necessarily serials.

We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

52 pages. Read in March 2015

 Feminism explained in a clear, concise manner. If you’ve ever struggled to explain what it is,  Adichie’s TEDx speech is a must-read. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has their own definition. But this tiny little book is the bible I adhere to.

 

 

Morphine
by Mikhail Bulgakov

64 pages. Read in December 2013

It literally took me half an hour to read this book. It’s about a doctor’s tragic love affair with depression and morphine. This is Bulgakov in his rawest, I thought. I remember reading it at a time when I was desperately clawing my way out of the deepest pits of a reading slump. It did the trick!

 

 

Ronit & Jamil
by Pamela L. Laskin

Audio, 1 hr and 29 min. Read in March 2017

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book so when it came out, I got it right away. I’m not gonna lie, I thought there was a mistake when I saw the length. I didn’t realize this book was written in verse, which is no big, except it felt incomplete and it didn’t really live up to my expectations.

 

 

You Will Not Have My Hate
by Antoine Leiris

99 pages. Read in February 2017

I don’t think anyone would soon forget the horrors of the terrorist attacks in Bataclan, Paris. When men opened fire at a concert, killing 90 people in the theater alone. One of them was Antoine’s wife. She left a husband and their son barely two years old. Three days later, he wrote this letter to her murderers. This book is sad and hopeful in equal measure.

 

 

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
by David Foster Wallace

138 pages. Read in March 2017

There’s never been a book more powerful than this one. David Foster Wallace’s one and only commencement speech is an eye-opener about life, compassion and how we’re programmed to think.

 

 

The Housekeeper and the Professor
by Yōko Ogawa

180 pages, Read in March 2014

If you’ve ever found Mathematics romantic, this book is written with you in mind. Admittedly, I picked up this book because of the underlying allusion to a romance in the title. Boy, was I disappointed! Still, this book was amazing. It made me appreciate Math in a whole another spectrum.

 

 

Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump
by Aaron James

144 pages. Read in June 2016

Fuck this guy. Seriously. Fuck him. <– Real thoughts about this book and its subject. I think I’ve already made my position known about President Shit for Brains. Anyway, Aaron James philosophies on how America got here.

 

 

The Strange Library
by Haruki Murakami

96 pages. Read in 2015

Wildly imaginative. Totally crazy and absolutely out of my range as far as fiction goes. Sadly, this was my baptism of fire in the world of Murakami. And we didn’t get on well. He pulls his readers in fantastic realms that only his brilliant mind could conceive. Unfortunately, I missed the bus on this one. Still, a nice intro, if I may so myself.

 

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

178 pages. Read in 2013

Speaking of brilliantly weird books, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is another one that went over my head. A book so odd that to this day, I couldn’t describe exactly what it was about. One thing I’ve deduced from reviews of his work is that they have the overwhelming characteristics of a fairy tale anointed by the Grimm Brothers themselves.

 

 

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nahesi Coates

154 pages. Read in 2016

I read this in December when it seems like I was angry every fucking day. Oddly enough, I felt a sense of unburdening after finishing this book for the second time literally hours after I read it the first time. I took stock of where I am and how it bad it could still be. And I hate that my perspective in life was suddenly a little better at the expense of another’s.

On the Night Table [46]: What I’m Reading


This week’s reading pile.

I stopped doing these posts regularly because sometimes, I have a tough time keeping to the schedule. But since I’ve already started these books, I’m somewhat confident that I’ll be able to finish at least two from this pile.

Lucky Boy by Shanti Sekaran is about two women’s journey that converges on an unexpected path. Nothing about this book is easy, especially if you’re a mother. It’s about their heartbreaks and how they find the endogenous will to live after the experience. It’s also very timely because one of the characters is an undocumented immigrant who lived to tell the tale of her harrowing journey. I’ve had a few starts and stops already, to tell you the truth.

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin is a Middle-Grade novel about an orphan who saves a little puppy that will change his life.  It has the uncanny ability to make you feel complacent only to pull the rug under you when you least expect it. I’m loving this book but I might be heading to Heartbreak City.

The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie is the final book in the Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy. Admittedly, I’ve not read the first two books. I was told it wouldn’t matter and that I’d be able to follow along. I haven’t started it, to be honest. So we’ll see how it goes.

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wagelus is another Middle Grade about a sentient gorilla who will investigate a murder for which her chief is accused. It’s interesting so far but I’m out of my element. I’m not giving up just yet.

R  E  A  D    T  H  I  S    W  E  E  K

  

Blood Vow was good. But still much of the same fare. At The Edge of the Universe was weird. First Frost was awesome and I can’t wait to read the first book, Garden Spells. Scythe was also fantastic – I can’t believe I waited so long to read it!

L  I  F  E    L  A  T  E  L  Y

  • I haven’t seen Beauty & the Beast.
  • I recently saw Lauren Kate’s Fallen movie. It was surprisingly decent.
  • I re-read Written in Red.
  • I re-arranged my TBR bookshelves in my bedroom. Here’s what it looks like:

That was my week. How was yours?

[708]: The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon

The Bastard Billionaire
by Jessica Lemmon


I’ll be the first one to tell you that I can never say no to the billionaire trope. And I’m not even sorry. I’ve seen this series around but I never paid much attention to it until I heard it call my name when I was browsing on NG a couple of weeks ago.

So glad I requested it.

The Bastard Billionaire is book 3 of Jessica Lemmon’s Billionaire Bad Boys series. I haven’t read the first two but rest assured it’s on my agenda this month.

In this book, we’ll meet Eli Crane, a former Marine who retired from service after losing a leg from an assignment that also took the lives of a couple of his close friends. The loss of his appendage and the grief of losing his friends lent to the closed-off, surly, and lonely disposition this bad boy presents to his family and to the world in general. He refuses any help from anyone let alone from a personal assistant. That’s why he goes through them like he goes through his underwear. Well, Isabella Sawyer has had enough. She’s run out of PAs to send. Come hell or high water, she’ll make him accept his responsibilities in the family business. And she won’t be discouraged no matter how badly he treats her. It looks like Eli Crane finally meets his match!

 Easy-peasy read and exactly how I enjoy my romance. Little to zero drama but heady with humor, of camaraderie, and a meddling family. You have a stubborn heroine and an equally stubborn hero that butt-heads every chance they get. A chemistry that’s off the charts and a banter oozing with sexual tension – the perfect recipe, if I may so myself.

Eli can be cantankerous but he’s never mean (which I like). I enjoyed seeing Isabella forcing him out of his gloomy shell of guilt. He carries a couple of them since he blames himself for the death of his friends. He’s also very resistant to the idea of accepting his position in the family business so Isabella had her work cut out for her. Good thing she’s the perfect person for the job.

Eli Crane needed someone like Isabella: beautiful, smart, stubborn, and ambitious. She didn’t coddle him outside of her responsibilities as a PA. She’s had enough of men trying to run her life so she knew how to handle someone like Crane. She’s a force of nature who didn’t wilt under pressure. They’re a match made in heaven. Overall, I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in this series. And I’m so thankful to have been introduced to Jessica Lemmon’s books.