August Wrap Up

I had such an incredible reading month, y’all. I read a total of 34 books which has never happened before in all my years of blogging. When I set my reading goal at the beginning of the year, I set it to a very conservative 120 books. But at the end July, I realize that I’m only 200 some odd books away from 2000. So I decided to increase my goal. I’m happy to announce that at this rate, I might be able to pull it off. In fact, according to Goodreads, I’m 6 books ahead of my goal.

I certainly had my share of good and bad reads but August didn’t seem too bad at all. Although, I had one – one star read (Bad Influence by Stephanie London), the books I read were predominantly 4-star reads. But if I have to pick my favourite reads for the month, they would be:

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa | The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman | Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk

Here’s the complete list of the books I read in August:

  • The Test by Sylvain Neuvel | Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
  • Consumed by JR Ward | A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff | New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan
  • The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez | It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
  • Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan | City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
  • The Beauty that Remains by Ashley Woodfolk | Literally by Lucy Keating
  • I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You by David Chariandy
  • She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper | Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abby Waxman | Outfox by Sandra Brown
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
  • Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk | Bad Influence by S. London
  • Bad Reputation by Stephanie London | Arctic Heat by Annabeth Albert
  • The Day He Came Back by Penelope Ward | City of Girls by E Gilbert
  • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane | The Stationery Shop by K Marjan
  • Kids of Appetite by David Arnold | Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
  • How to Knit A Love Song & How to Knit a Heart Back by R Herron
  • On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Voung
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
  • A Boy at the Edge of the World by David Kingston Yeh
  • The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

So that’s how my August went. I created a calendar of events for September so I’m hoping I will be able to keep up this momentum. Let me know how your August went. I really can’t say enough about the magic of audiobooks. It’s giving me life, y’all.

Happy reading!

xoxo

Continue Reading

[764]: Raze by Roan Parrish

I can always count on Roan Parrish to deliver stories with a lot of heat and plenty of heart. Raze, the third installment to her Riven series, is yet another testament to this fact.

Here, we get the story of Huey, the AA sponsor extraordinaire who owns and runs a bar of all places. Not only is he a former addict himself, but he managed to become an anchor for a few who continues to fight their demons day in and day out. Though at some days, he too, has his demons to fight. But through a rigorous routine and living a life free from emotional entanglements, Huey has managed the life of sobriety for the last ten years. Albeit, a lonely one at that.

Along come Felix; a guy who is about to shatter Huey’s carefully created world. Huey was not ready for Felix’ sunny disposition, but he couldn’t help but be drawn in regardless. These two souls didn’t know it at first, but they — in their own ways, needed each other’s help to break free from the doldrums of their existence.

I love how different they are. Huey’s quiet but imposing personality matches well with Felix’ happy-go-lucky friendliness. However, they have being nurturers in common. Felix has been the caretaker of his family – his mom and his sister. While Huey has taken care of anyone who needed the support during their weakest moments. Unfortunately, the years of being everyone’s pillar and support, and his predisposition to help others becomes yet another weakness he had to overcome.

Felix had so much insecurities that held him back. He just didn’t think he has a lot to offer to anyone. Once he was freed from his family responsibilities he was able to step back and reassess what he wants to do with his life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy. The usual insecurities plagued him.

I’ve been enjoying this series a whole lot. I’m not always aware when they come out, but when I see it, it’s an instant download. I guess you can say that Roan Parrish is my go-to author for M/M romance.

Continue Reading

Whine About It Wednesdays

I thought I’d start something different this week. It’s called Whine About It Wednesdays. I’m giving myself this specific day of the week when I’m permitted to whine about anything in my personal life. It could be about work, about my husband, a book I’m reading or…heck, the grass, air, ground, the sky. Whatever. I think a glass of wine would be a perfect pairing while writing this post but since I don’t drink alcohol, a mug of coffee is my weapon of choice. But hey, don’t let me stop you. You do you. If you do decide to write one of these posts, let me know what you’re drinking, will ya?

This Week’s Grievances:

This aloe vera plant that’s on the verge of dying. I’m told I’m over watering it, but heck. I haven’t watered this plant for months. And yet, the soil is still wet and I’ve also taken it outside for a little Vitamin D and yet, it sits there limply like an overcooked pasta. Le sigh. Can you offer me any suggestion as to how I can revive this sad plant?

Now, you all know I love this author and her books. I own a small library containing most of her work (she’s written 68 books). She writes the best romantic suspense so I never miss a new release and try to dive in right away. But. But. When I get to like the last quarter of the novel, I freaking chicken out. My heart can’t handle the homestretch, when the FBI agent or the Sheriff or the lead investigator is coming close to apprehending the perp. I find excuses to postpone reading. Sometimes — brace yourself — I even skim to the end. Gasps! Then and only then do I figure out whether or not I should keep reading. Who does that?! What about you? Do you become a basket case when you’re nearing the end of a mystery/suspense/thriller read?

What’s on your list of grievances this week?

Continue Reading

[763]: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I’m not much of a fantasy reader. Most of the books I’ve picked up in this genre are truly an intensive labour of love. But when I decide to read one, it’s usually because I’ve been persuaded through word of mouth. This couldn’t be truer with The Poppy War.  It’s been a popular choice for fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike as of late.  The main attraction for me is that it features a heroine who came from the poorest and most ridiculed part of the country to become one of the greatest warrior that ever lived. But the road to get there was far from a walk in the park.

Much has been said about the novel’s brutality, and yes.  They’re of the stomach-churning variety. The author didn’t skimp on the shock and awe factor. The first half of this book focuses on Rin’s training at the Academy in the hands of the masters. Because she was nothing but an orphan from a poor province, no one considered her worthy to earn her place in the prestigious Academy or even worthy of a second look. But she sure showed them.  Armed with determination and an ability to soak up knowledge, Rin quickly rose up to the challenge and gained infamy.

In the Academy, she meets the Lore master Jiang who would teach her how to hone her power, call on the gods, and harness her untapped potential. The training was grueling to say the least. It was a series of testing and skirmishes meant to determine those who were not only merely good at what they do, but the best of the best to carry on defending the territories against the Federation.

Of course, it’d be remiss of me if I don’t mention the battles. My eyes tend to glaze over when I’m in the throes of reading such scenes. But this is one of those rare occasions when I couldn’t look away.  They were descriptive, visceral and not at all gratuitously violent. After all, who doesn’t want to see the evil faction fall in the hands of the least likely heroine? This would not be a book about war without deaths, blood and gore so expect those in spades.

I am not the most reliable reviewer of fantasy novels because I have a very small quantity of books in my arsenal. As well, I don’t seek them out. But even I can admit this was pretty kickass and I’m excited and terrified for the installment in equal measure.

Continue Reading

Hoarders, Books Edition: Episode 220

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa | Books for Living by Will Schwalbe | Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon | Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane | The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones | The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci | Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis | About that Kiss by Jill Shalvis | The Mothers by Brit Bennett | Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk

Last week was probably the most active I’ve been on the blog this year. It really feels good to be back. Can you believe that I’m even motivated to film a video? I don’t know…whenever I watch booktubers, it blows my mind how much easier it looks. But then I’ll make an attempt and I get so flustered and anxious once the camera starts rolling. Lol.

I did try to film one last night for my Instagram story but since you’re only allowed a maximum of 15 secs, I kept getting cut off. So I abandoned it altogether. If any of you have any suggestions on how I can post a 7:46 minute-long story on Instagram, please let me know.

On to my bookhaul. Y’all, I went ham on book buying last week. I hate myself. I was doing so well, too. But that’s it for me. I will try to keep my purchases down to a minimum for the next little while. I got one book for review (unsolicited) from Candlewick Press. It’s called The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones — about this boy whose best friend disappeared. But when he decided to come looking for him, he encountered a group of men who escaped from prison. It’s a short book so I’m going to endeavour to write a review for it before its release date of September 10th.

Thank you, Sylvia Chan of Candlewick Press for this finished copy.

I read three books from the pile above last week:

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. This is a Japanese book translated by Phillip Gabriel, which tells the story of Nana the Cat and his owner Satoru. This was such a sad, beautiful piece of literature, y’all. I cried. For reals.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is a book about two families who are irrevocably entwined. I loved this one, too. The story focused on Peter and Kate and how they were forbidden to be together because of their respective families’ roles in the tragedy that happened when they were only fourteen years old.

Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk. This is a pulp fiction in its rawest form about a private detective who gets entangled with a case of hi tech espionage and mayhem. I also love that she’s a bookstore owner and a refuge for abused women by day.

OTHER BOOKS READ LAST WEEK:

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert | Kids of Appetite by David Arnold| The Day He Came Back by Penelope Douglas | Arctic Heat by Annabeth Albert | Bad Influence by Stephanie London | Bad Reputation by Stephanie London

That’s it for my update this week. I hope you’ll have a week full of awesome books and great weather!

Happy reading, y’all.

Continue Reading

[762]: The Mister by E.L. James

The Mister by E.L James | April 16th, 2019

Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Le sigh.

I’m glad I didn’t buy a copy, to be honest. I borrowed the audio from my library. I didn’t have any expectations when I added it on my TBR. But I certainly didn’t expect to be bored out of my wits. Full disclosure, I got up to chapter 19 before I quit. Yes, I gave it the benefit of the doubt before I realize the novel would not improve, nor would the story go faster than the molasses-in-winter pace it had going on.

I don’t think it’s a big secret that my guilty pleasure is reading about billionaires and the virgins they attract into their lairs. Based on Ms. James’ earlier successful novels, she knows a thing or two about this trope. I think that’s why I had a hard time saying no, to be perfectly honest. However, this was a snoozefest. And the characters lack, well, characterizations – personalities, if I may.

I think she really tried, though. In this book, we have a photographer, Earl, DJ, and model to replace Christian Grey. His name is Maxim Trevelyan. So instead of a billionaire extraordinaire, our hero is someone that she tried to add some depth. Unfortunately, no amount of versatility could save our poor Maxim. He, like, Christian Grey only thinks about the woman in his periphery. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at this point in my reading life, I just can’t be bothered. I need something more in my hero.

Let’s talk about our virgin. Oh man, she could’ve saved this travesty. She’s an Albanian who was a victim of human trafficking. But then her story got convoluted with the addition of an abusive fiancé. I wish she’d picked one character plotline and went with it. I mean, did she run away from the fiance? Or did she run away for a better life? It would’ve been interesting to see her plight as someone who got away from those who attempted to sell her. As it was, that point of her characterization was not fully explored.

As a reader, it’s frustrating when an author can’t find a way to remove themselves from the shadow of their previously successful novel. When Ms. James was a fanfiction writer, I was one of her legion of fans who thought she was the bees’ knees and looked forward to reading best selling novels she’d write. This is just her second endeavour, if you think about it. Here’s hoping she’ll get better at it. 🙂

Continue Reading

Books from the Backlog [5]: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Vox by Christina Dalcher

Published: August 21st, 2018 | Source: Simon & Schuster for review

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

I was so excited to receive this package from Simon & Schuster Canada. When I read the blurb, I was already pumped to read it. This book came at a perfect time when women are finding the voice to speak out against inequalities and injustices rooted in sexual abuse. But for some reason, I set it aside as the writing was not jiving well with me. I really want to read it, though. So today, I thought I’d feature it here to serve as a reminder.

So this is set in a world where women’s spoken words are counted. But that was just the beginning. It’s been heralded (and chided) as a The Handmaid’s Tale copycat. That alone makes this novel so interesting to read.

Books from the Backlog is a weekly feature from Carole’s Random Life in Books.
It’s a fun way to feature some of those neglected books sitting on your bookshelf unread. 

Continue Reading

Waiting on Wednesday [19]: August Releases

Once again, I’m a bit late as I used to do these posts at the beginning of the month. And since I was doing God knows what then, I wasn’t able to write it. So here, I thought I’d share with you some of the books that I’m looking forward to acquiring this month.

Things You Save in A Fire by Katherine Centre | The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang | Fence, Vol. 3 by C.S. Pacat | The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai | Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon

I’m especially looking forward to reading volume 3 of Fence. I feel like I’ve waited long enough for the volume! Things You Save in A Fire features a female firefighter – which I’m so curious to read about. The Right Swipe is purely because I’ve been seeing this everywhere on Twitter. I thought I’d check out what the big deal is. Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon is a coming of age story about a gay teen set in the backdrop of the Vietnam war. I’ve been dying to read this book since I saw it on Goodreads. An finally, The Dragon Republic. Now, y’all know I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but I absolutely love The Poppy War so I can’t wait to get this book in my grabby little hands!

The Day He Came Back by Penelope Ward | Happy-Go-Lucky by L.H. Cosway | Blood Truth by J.R. Ward | Outfox by Sandra Brown | Handle with Care by Helena Hunting

The Day He Came Back is a second chance romance, so of course, I’m down. Happy-Go-Lucky is a story about an extrovert trying to lure an introvert out. Outfox is a no-brainer. I mean, I already have a copy so, I can’t wait to dive in. And I just love, love, Ms. Hunting. I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll read whatever she puts out. Also, Canadian!

what about you? what are you most looking forward to reading this month?

Continue Reading

[761]: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Publication Date: April 13th, 2004

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil. 

If you’ve read any book by this author, you’d know that she has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re a witness more than a reader. She pulls you into the story so viscerally that it’s as if you’re dragged from where you’re sitting right into the pages of the book – as a bystander to whatever fucked up scene is happening. Like a dream or a nightmare that you’ve become a part of.

Admittedly, I have no idea what “Bacchanal” murder is. Later on, I find out that it’s when you’re in a euphoric/mindless state that you have no clue what you’re doing. Nor you’ll remember what it is you did whilst in the moment. So it goes that six, privileged bored people set out into the woods, high, drunk, starved and completely off their fucking minds with the intention of just being in a rapturous state. What happens after was the murder of a farmer whose land they trespassed. The state of his body when found, however, will make even the vilest of serial killers flinch. Right away you can tell that the group is hiding a secret – the knowing looks and the jittery nerves that come off from them was palpable.

This is not your typical murder/mystery novel in a way that you’ll be hunting for the killers. You know who the killers are from the get-go but how the murder happened was the most riveting aspect of the book. Not only that, one of the characters decided to play the blackmail card and put everyone on their toes by having the murder hang over their heads even though exposing them would mean he himself would be exposed.

Our narrator, Richard Pappin is the unfortunate sob who got inadvertently involved just because he was a part of the elite Greek class with whom only these six people were enrolled. He was mesmerized and maybe a bit starstruck, so much so that he knowingly involved himself in the covering of the crime. He was a lonely figure; an outlier from Texas whose family could live with or without his presence. In this group, he suddenly found a camaraderie that’s been missing in his life. This was what made committing the cover-up an easy pill to swallow for him. For the first time in his life, he belonged somewhere.

There is no deeper meaning to the book. Classism or elitism ran rampant; as well, drug use and alcohol. Other than that, it’s just a murder story and the lengths people will go through to cover the crime. Even so far as committing another one. In the end, I supposed they got their comeuppance, but not in the way that criminals should’ve met theirs. Life, guilt, and fate probably had more to do with their karma more than anything. I read Ms. Tartt’s Goldfinch two years ago and to this day, I’m still in awe of her writing and story-telling chops. I say The Secret History is much less complicated than Goldfinch. But still no way less than stellar.

Continue Reading

On the Night Table [53]

Hey, all. How was your weekend? I didn’t get much reading done as weekends are usually crazy busy in my house. My husband works at night during the week so he typically naps all weekend long which means I have to do most of the household chores if I ever want to keep a clean house and have some clean laundry for the entire family. Lol.

Anyway, the last time I did one of these was November of last year – certainly been a while. This week, I have a 2016 release from David Arnold and a recent one from Sandra Brown. While Ms. Brown is a staple on my shelves, David Arnold’s work are a new taste. Can I just say that this was such a pain to write? WordPress is such a bitch to use nowadays. *facepalm* And I think I missed one WordPress update so now, I can’t download the newest one because I’m missing a component. Seriously considering switching to another platform if it weren’t such a pain and a half. Sigh.

So here are the synopsis:

FBI agent Drex Easton is relentlessly driven by a single goal: to outmaneuver the conman once known as Weston Graham. Over the past thirty years, Weston has assumed many names and countless disguises, enabling him to lure eight wealthy women out of their fortunes before they disappeared without a trace, their families left without answers and the authorities without clues. The only common trait among the victims: a new man in their life who also vanished, leaving behind no evidence of his existence . . . except for one signature custom.

Drex is convinced that these women have been murdered, and that the man he knows as Weston Graham is the sociopath responsible. But each time Drex gets close to catching him, Weston trades one persona for another and disappears again. Now, for the first time in their long game of cat and mouse, Drex has a suspect in sight.

Attractive and charming, Jasper Ford is recently married to a successful businesswoman many years his junior, Talia Shafer. Drex insinuates himself into their lives, posing as a new neighbor and setting up surveillance on their house. The closer he gets to the couple, the more convinced he becomes that Jasper is the clever, merciless predator he’s sought–and that his own attraction to Talia threatens to compromise his purpose and integrity.

This is Drex’s one chance to outfox his cunning nemesis before he murders again and eludes justice forever. But first he must determine if the desirable Talia is a heartless accomplice . . . or the next victim.

Victor Benucci and Madeline Falco have a story to tell.
It begins with the death of Vic’s father.
It ends with the murder of Mad’s uncle.
The Hackensack Police Department would very much like to hear it.
But in order to tell their story, Vic and Mad must focus on all the chapters in between.

This is a story about:

1. A coded mission to scatter ashes across New Jersey.
2. The momentous nature of the Palisades in winter.
3. One dormant submarine.
4. Two songs about flowers.
5. Being cool in the traditional sense.
6. Sunsets & ice cream & orchards & graveyards.
7. Simultaneous extreme opposites.
8. A narrow escape from a war-torn country.
9. A story collector.
10. How to listen to someone who does not talk.
11. Falling in love with a painting.
12. Falling in love with a song.
13. Falling in love.

I really am sorry for the formatting of this post. I have to figure it all out somehow. I hope you’ll have a great week of reading and nice weather, y’all.

xoxo

Continue Reading