Book: Dark Magic (Darkhaven Saga #2) by Danielle Rose Publisher: Waterhouse Press Release Date: March 10, 2020
(5 / 5)
There’s something about the scent of blood from the undead.
In the heat of battle, hybrid Ava López discovers she has new and fascinating powers, but she does not know how to control them. Though her former enemies have offered her refuge and helped her acclimate to the vampire lifestyle, even they don’t understand her enhanced magic.
With mounting threats from Ava’s former coven and reckless rogue vampires, Ava and her new friends have no choice but to request the wisdom of Holland Taylor to help her understand her powers. Holland is one of the most powerful witches Ava has ever met, and he is also Jeremiah’s ex, which introduces another wrinkle.
Tension between the vampires and Ava’s former coven is building, and when the witches offer a deal Ava would be remiss to reject, she is forced to choose between the life she once considered safe and the life she never wanted.
After living a few weeks with her new vampire coven, she still feels compelled to run back to her old witch’s coven, the one that kicked her out after she turned. It’s difficult leaving a family that is the only one you’ve ever known for a new one. It’s difficult understanding that your family does not want you anymore. You have to stay away.
That is the problem Ava is having in book #2 of the Darkhaven Saga. While she grows to learn how to be a vampire and get her newfound powers under control, she still has that hope that she can return to her mother and her coven once she masters being a vampire that will not harm anyone.
She does not understand that she is forsaken. She can never go back to her family. This is a difficult lesson for her to learn at this time. But she doesn’t stop running back home every time the rogue vampires attack the witches. She is trying to show that they can work together, vampires and witches. There is no need for this feud. There is no need to be enemies. She is trying to be the difference by showing them that both sides can ban together…even if that means leaving her new vampire’s coven to prove it.
This story is getting more and more interesting. The book leaves you with a cliffhanger at the end to prepare you for book #3. I hope that in the end of this saga, Ava will be able to accomplish everything her heart leads her to.
This series is written in penny dreadful style. This is book 2 in a 5 part series. I so can’t wait to see how this story turns out.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of “Dark Haven” from the publisher in exchange for a review.]
You can pick up a copy of Dark Magic at any of these preferred PW booksellers.
Book: “The Wish and the Peacock” by Wendy S. Swore Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing Release Date: February 4, 2020
(5 / 5)
Paige’s favorite family tradition on the farm is the annual bonfire where everyone tosses in a stone and makes a wish. This time, Paige’s specific wish is one she’s not sure can come true: Don’t let Mom and Grandpa sell the farm.
When Paige’s younger brother finds a wounded peacock in the barn, Paige is sure it’s a sign that if she can keep the bird safe, she’ll keep the farm safe too. Peacocks, after all, are known to be fierce protectors of territory and family.
With determination and hard work, Paige tries to prove she can save the farm on her own, but when a real estate agent stakes a “For Sale” sign at the end of the driveway and threatens everything Paige loves, she calls on her younger brother and her best friends, Mateo and Kimana, to help battle this new menace. They may not have street smarts, but they have plenty of farm smarts, and some city lady who’s scared of spiders should be easy enough to drive away.
But even as the peacock gets healthier, the strain of holding all the pieces of Paige’s world together gets harder. Faced with a choice between home and family, she risks everything to make her wish come true, including the one thing that scares her the most: letting the farm go.
I grew up on a farm. I was a city girl, doomed to a childhood on a farm and I hated every single second of it. When I turned 18, I could not wait to get as far away as possible from that place.
Reading this book, I can tell you I was nothing like Paige. She is a 12-year old girl completely running a farm mostly by herself. That’s all she cares about is running the farm. If people help her, good. If they don’t, she’s okay with it, because she’s still going to do it. But try to stop her from doing her work and that person has got another thing coming. This is her life and she’s passionate about her farm.
A lot of Paige’s passion in running the farm has a lot to do with a promise she made to her father before he died. It was the last thing she said to him. She would take care of the farm. A year after his death, her family is facing foreclosure on the property.
While a real estate agent and a strange journalist poke around the farm, Paige and her brother Scotty (along with her two friends) try to sabotage the sale. Business men want the acreage. They don’t care about the farm. But Paige and her family want the farm to go to farmers, because once the industry comes in, the world will never get that farmland back.
While all of this is going on, Scotty discovers a peacock hiding out in their barn. The bird is injured, but it trusts these two kids to take care of it. When the journalist starts asking them if they’ve seen this peacock, they lie, because they have no idea what this man wants with the exotic bird. It’s obvious the bird ran away from something. Maybe it ran because it was running from a bad situation. They don’t know, but they will do anything to protect that bird.
This story will make anyone (including this city girl) appreciate the farm life and what Paige is doing to keep her family’s farm running. She really makes all of this look easy. From fixing motorcycles and riding tractors, laying down pipes to birthing a cow, this girl does it all. She’ll make you appreciate this life she’s so passionate about.
It is an excellent read. My heart just warmed to their situation. It almost made me want to buy a farm…and then I thought…nah, I’m not Paige. But I do appreciate what she taught me in this book.
I read Wendy S. Swore’s A Monster Like Me, and I really enjoyed that book. But this one, I think I love more. Definitely a great read for those who love YA.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.]
You can get your copy of “The Wish and the Peacock” by clicking on any of these PW approved retailers below.
Book: “Fierce Fairytales: Poems & Stories to Stir Your Soul” by Nikita Gill Publisher: Hachette Book Group Release Date: September 11, 2018
(5 / 5)
Poet, writer, and Instagram sensation Nikita Gill returns with a collection of fairytales poetically retold for a new generation of women.
Traditional fairytales are rife with cliches and gender stereotypes: beautiful, silent princesses; ugly, jealous, and bitter villainesses; girls who need rescuing; and men who take all the glory.
But in this rousing new prose and poetry collection, Nikita Gill gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover. Through her gorgeous reimagining of fairytale classics and spellbinding original tales, she dismantles the old-fashioned tropes that have been ingrained in our minds. In this book, gone are the docile women and male saviors. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains. You will meet fearless princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle, and an independent Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.
Complete with beautifully hand-drawn illustrations by Gill herself, Fierce Fairytales is an empowering collection of poems and stories for a new generation.
Review of “Fierce Fairytales” or Simply, Why Every Woman Needs to Own This Book
I could easily just copy and paste my review, but I am not going to today, because I can’t stop thinking about this book. Since I finished this book, I’ve told at least three of my girlfriends that they must buy, not borrow, this book. Hell, I’ll even buy them a copy.
In this book, Nikita Gill transforms fairy tales, or simply, every Disney princess cartoon, into something we can truly understand. Like: why was Captain Hook so obsessed with Peter? Why did Gaston turn villainous at the end? Why did Jack sell the cow for three magic beans?
She explains why villains become villains. For the evil witches and queens, she doesn’t let you hate them. She makes sure you understand who they are and how they took strength from the pain they endured, so that they could survive.
But one of the most important aspects of her poems is how she helps explain to you the pain you hold inside yourself. She cracks open your soul and explains why this and that hurt you. And then she shows you that the reason why you are the way you are today is because of this or that. She’s spot on every single time. At least, she was for me.
For example, I recently called it quits with my work husband. It just became too much for me, all the cruelty and passive aggressiveness. When he accused me of betrayal, I felt like the words he spun did not make sense, but then I realized we weren’t talking about some stupid email.
You see, this guy, he’s a hero. He’s someone everyone looks up to and respects. He’s the guy every single person in his field strives to be. He is perfect in every sense of the word. My boss always described him as being someone that walks between the raindrops. Then, all of a sudden, he turned into a villain.
Here’s what helped me understand what happened better:
How a Hero Becomes a Villain
Trauma when left untreated has the capacity to make a villain out of you.
No one understands how little boys who save villages, who become war heroes, who have fathers that just expect them to be brave no matter the cost to the insides of their mind, become villains without even trying to.
How then hearing the word ‘no’ becomes a trigger, how love rejected becomes cautiously pieced self-worth dissolved, how the thought of losing love and it being given to someone else makes this entire facade you have carefully constructed fall.
How you weren’t always an arrogant, self-involved, obsessive bad guy, how that is just the way you project yourself to keep the vulnerable little boy hidden; this is what is expected of you, the strongest man in the whole village.
How obsession is a symptom of a dark thing left untreated, and how truthfully under your brash surface you have kept a beast inside you secretly hidden, and what seeing the girl you love hand over her love to someone who looks just like the demon you fight every night does.
This is how a hero like Gaston becomes the devil in the story which could have been about his only chance at finding love.
Take this as your reminder: Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear darkness, some wear wounds.
[“Fierce Fairytales,” Nikita Gill; pp. 51-52]
Of course, it made me think back to Valentine’s Day last year. The way he apologized to me and then my response was not one he was expecting. I pushed him towards her and told him to make it the most fucking romantic weekend for her. I watched him flinch, as if his heart broke right there in front of me. What did he expect? I would beg him not to go? Ask him to make it up to me?
I had always suspected he felt more for me than he should have. I feel bad every time I look at him. He wanted me to love him back. I never wanted to break his heart. Instead, he watched me become heartbroken over someone else. He attempted to put me back together again, thinking he would be my knight in shining armor. But then it all fell apart. He wasn’t my “The One.”
He never could be. Why? Because for him, I’m not worth fighting for, but she is. She is worth fighting for until the day he dies. She is worth it. As his friend, I want him to be happy. That’s why she deserved the most fucking romantic weekend ever. She deserves that from him, because she has always loved him freely. He’s just forgotten to see that her love is there.
In the end, I got a Gaston that I knew would try to destroy me the second I tried to break away from him. I saw the beast inside of him come out. That is just something I will never be able to unsee. I mean, how does this perfect hero all of a sudden turn into a villain? Well, read the poem above.
You see, Gill’s words in her book hit me to my very core. That’s why I can’t stop thinking about the things she said in this 155 page book. You know that her work is good when you are constantly churning her words inside your soul, because she touched you in a way that helps you to understand your pain. But it helps you know that you can find strength in understanding that pain.
She has a little something for everyone. From abusive homes to alcoholic parents to getting your heart broken over and over again, she knows. She understands that pain so much, but she knows how to explain our humanity in ways no one else is able to. In the end, she leaves you feeling like everything is going to be alright now.
Ladies, this book is perfect for whatever ails your soul or your heart. She has a prescription for each and every one of us.
You can get your copy of “Fierce Fairytales” at any of these PW approved retailers.
Book: “Dark Secret” by Danielle Rose Publisher: Waterhouse Press Release Date: February 18, 2020
(4.5 / 5)
There’s no wrath like that of a witch scorned.
Seventeen-year-old spirit witch Ava López is the self-appointed guardian of the witches and humans of Darkhaven, an idyllic village nestled between the forest and the sea. Her watch: vicious and bloodthirsty vampires.
Ava is a novice in the eyes of her coven. If she expects to protect them and the secrecy of their powers, she must gain better control of her own. When a full moon ritual goes awry, control may be lost forever, and Ava is exiled from her coven. Forced to seek refuge among the beings she had always sworn herself to hunt, she vows revenge on those who have upended her life.
But the more time Ava spends away from her coven, the more she discovers a startling truth: the witches haven’t been honest with her. Ava’s quest to strip the truth from everything she’s ever known begins with the toughest realization of all—coming to terms with who she has become.
What a great start to this new YA series from Danielle Rose!
Ava is a witch set on protecting her coven from the things that threaten them…mainly, vampires.
While out patrolling, she picks a fight with the wrong group of vampires. She makes the mistake in letting the leader get away. He comes back with a vengeance and attacks her coven, leaving her on the brink of death.
That’s when another group of vampires shows up to aide the witches. One vampire gives Ava his blood after she’s been bitten…dooming her to a vampire’s life. She is tossed out of her home and forced to reside with this group of vampires who tries to protect humans (and witches) from rogue vampires.
Fortunately for Ava, if she has to be a vampire, she can still continue to protect her family and her coven from the bad vampires that seek to hurt them.
This series is broken up into 5 books, which is essentially 5 different parts. The first part is Ava’s beginning and her first fight as a vampire where she realizes she needs to train to control her newfound powers. Book two comes out in March, followed by book three in April. Books four and five will be released in the fall. The way Danielle has broken this book up reminds me of the way penny dreadfuls were released. You get just a little bit of the story each week. You have to keep reading each week in order to find out what happens next in the story. That is how the Darkhaven Saga is written.
I can’t wait to read what happens next…
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and author.]
You can purchase “Dark Secret” at any of PW’s preferred booksellers below.
Book: “The Sea of Lost Girls” by Carol Goodman Publisher: William Morrow/HarperCollins Release Date: March 3, 2020
Rating: (4 / 5)
In the tradition of Daphne du Maurier, Shari Lapena, and Michelle Richmond comes a new thriller from the bestselling author of The Lake of Dead Languages—a twisty, harrowing story set at a prestigious prep school in which one woman’s carefully hidden past might destroy her future.
Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.
And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before.
As the investigation into Lila’s death escalates, Tess finds her family attacked on all sides. What first seemed like a tragic accidental death is turning into something far more sinister, and not only is Tess’s son a suspect but her husband is a person of interest too. But Lila’s death isn’t the first blemish on Haywood’s record, and the more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.
It reminded me of “The Woman in Cabin 10” because you don’t know what’s going on. In Ruth Ware’s book, the lead character is either drunk or drugged. She doesn’t know what’s what and she’s trying to see through her drunken lens. In “The Sea of Lost Girls,” the reader is the one trying to see through the haze, because Tess (our protagonist) lies all of the time. Her story is constantly changing. You don’t know what the truth is until the very end and that’s because someone else is trying to tell you what really happened.
Each time the story is told, it changes just a little bit. You think you’ve heard the story already, but then it changes. You have to pay very close attention.
“My Dark Vanessa” deals with an inappropriate student/teacher relationship. In “The Sea of Lost Girls,” Tess runs off with her teacher after she finishes her schooling, because she is pregnant with his child. Then later, after she goes back to school (at 23), she ends up marrying her teacher. The first relationship was the really bad and abusive one. She ends up living on a remote island in a cabin with this teacher (Luther) and their son (Rudy). Luther is abusive to both of them. She doesn’t decide to flee until after she discovers that he is a serial pedophile, dismissed from 4 schools for inappropriate relationships with students. The girls were all much younger than Tess.
During their flight off of the island, Luther receives a head blow with a rowing oar. But who did it? Who killed him? That story changes as it goes.
There’s the story of Tess and her relationships, but there’s also another story involving the lost girls who went missing from this school/wayward home in Maine. In the 1960s, 3 girls disappear. One girl notes that these three disappearances are all linked to one person. Next, they find her dead body out by the Maiden Stone.
Fast forward to present day. Lila, Rudy’s girlfriend, is also discovered dead by the legendary Maiden Stone. Her death comes just hours after Rudy and Lila get into a fight. Lila’s death also occurs right around the time she discovers the identity of the Lost Girls’ murderer. Is her killer the same murderer? Is it Rudy? Or maybe it was Luther, back from the dead? Or maybe it was Tess’s husband who was helping Lila with her paper? Did one of them have an inappropriate relationship with Lila?
There are so many possible motives, so many lies spinning, you will not be able to tell who is telling the truth until the very end.
A very enjoyable read.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of an eARC from the publisher.]
You can purchase “The Sea of Lost Girls” at any of PW’s preferred booksellers below.
When I first started this site, I called it Diary of a Perfectionist Wannabe. It was borne out of the desire to be perfect, to have a sense of perfectionism. This is a trait many Asian Americans understand. We strive to be the best, so we try to perfect ourselves in order to be accepted.
When I read “Searching for Sylvie Lee” by Jean Kwok, I understood why I always had this desire to strive for perfection. It is because I am trying to be accepted by a family and a society that has rejected me because I am not 100% white.
Yes, I said family. My brother and I are a bit of the outliers in our family. My mother is Thai and she married an American in order to escape the slavery she was subjected to in her home country. She wanted to give her future children the opportunity to grow up and live in a world where their family would never sell them in order to put food on their table.
She gave us freedom, but also gave us hell. We were the ones who were not accepted, because we were the minority in our white schools. Our racist Christian family pretended like they loved us, but we knew they didn’t. They tolerated us, because they had no choice. It was the Christian thing to do…pretend to love these kids because they’re blood, but they’re not white.
Love was not something we received from them. We had to search outside of our home for love. I spent most of my life trying to prove to them that I existed. I just wanted to be accepted. The thing is, the world accepted me, but my family never did.
I remember when I invited my wealthy aunt and uncle to an Indy 500 party. Senators and everybody that was anybody in the political world was there. Senator after Senator told my aunt and uncle what a wonderful person I was and how they thought the world of me.
The look on their faces was not one of being proud, it was of shock that these Senators even knew I existed. It was so much easier for them to believe that the life I lived was a complete lie. It did not fit their mold of what they believed I was…someone who would never amount to anything. To them I was not anyone of importance, no matter how many Senators spoke so highly of me and knew my name.
These are things I carry with me even to this day. Like Sylvie Lee, you get to that point where you just want to give up and not care anymore. If they don’t see you now, they will never see you for who you really are. They will never accept me as someone they could love, all because my mother is not white.
It doesn’t matter that I grew up in a white household and the only thing that connects me to the Thai culture is just the food (something I can’t even make). My mother made sure to assimilate us into the American culture, because she was running from her past and wanted nothing to do with it.
I understand that completely. I understand running from the things that have hurt you and caused you pain, looking to start over again. I’m watching it happen to my friend right now. I see her pain and humiliation. I’m watching her preparing to run. I see her not giving a shit about her life right now, because truth be told, no matter how many times she tries not to talk about it, I know what it’s like to be in her shoes. It took me eight years to get over the last guy that made me run.
That’s the thing about pain. When people wound you deeply, you lose all sense of yourself. You walk through life like a ghost, just trying to survive the monotony and move on to the next day. We’ve all been there.
I don’t even like to admit how hurt I was when my boss left. I never thought it would effect me the way that it did. For the last two years, I’ve stopped living my life. I just settled into the flow of existing. Hell, my Instagram feed just screams that I am part of the floodwaters. I’m not me.
That’s what’s been missing these past couple of years…me. There was a time I lived in the VIP world. Yet, these past couple of years, I’ve not done anything. I didn’t go to the opera or the ballet. I barely saw friends. Hell, I barely go out to the movies. All of those celebrity filled events, film festivals, rubbing elbows with directors, actors and fashion designers…I stepped away from.
They’re so busy creating and living, while I’ve fallen into that world that they despise…the mediocrity of life…all because someone hurt me.
So I’m writing all of this, because my universe keeps saying live for today. That mantra is on repeat every single day.
Someone I know recently retired. Then they found out they had stage 4 colon cancer. That’s also known as the death cancer. The lesson here is don’t wait for tomorrow to live life. Do it now, because you are not promised tomorrow.
I tell myself this every single day…since last June. Yet, I did not let it truly sink in that I am not living. I’m just doing the bare minimum to withdraw from life and go on autopilot. But the truth is that it is okay to let yourself grieve and to go numb for a little while. Just don’t stay there so long that you forget who you are and what you are meant to become.
I have been trying very hard to write daily. Sometimes I write one page in one month. That is just how withdrawn I’ve been. I started to see the people that inspire me withdraw from me, because in the grand scheme of the way things are done, you can’t keep sucking the life out of them. They’ve got to shine, and they can’t have you around dulling up their sparkle. They need other gems to sparkle alongside them.
Which leads me to why I am writing this today. I have been out of it for two years now. For some strange reason, I feel like I’ve woken up from a dream where nothing gets done. I looked at my final receipts for the clothes I bought last year and it amounted to $1500. That is so not me. That means, I just did not care. I had emptied out my closets, wanting only easy pieces to wear. These were items that took absolutely no thought whatsoever to pull out to wear.
I realized recently that something was amiss. This just isn’t me. That wake-up call within me finally happened. Now, I’m ready to get back to my life and living it.
This means I want to share my world with the people that come here to read or go to my social media to view. It means not just putting a book up in front of me for you to see, but letting you see more into my life and what I am doing, as well as the things I am trying to accomplish.
The fact that this is my second post this month is a huge step in the right direction.
So with that step, let me tell you what I plan to do from here on out. In my previous post, I shared I wanted to read a book a day. Oh, believe me, that is still a goal. But I am going to take a little step back in the reviewing process, so that I can spend more time writing.
I plan on going back to the film festivals, going to the ballet, operas and Broadway. I plan on hanging out with rock stars, like I used to do. I have every intention of dining out more and trying all of these incredible places that Manhattan has to offer. I plan on building up my wardrobe again. I also plan on buying my first house in the upcoming months, because I need to move in that direction.
Oh yeah, a developer purchased my apartment building. I was told they are giving me a year and a half before they begin the eviction process. I believe that is the amount of time they think they will need to be able to purchase up the remainder of the properties on my block, so they can tear it all down and build something more modern.
I’m kind of tired of people doing that to me and my home, so I am just going to go and buy a place. I spoke to a mortgage lender and we walked through the process. I have more than enough money for a down payment on a house, so it is just a matter of finding the right property.
So right now, my apartment is basically halfway packed up. It’s basically boxes everywhere.
Matthew has had severe allergies over the past few months. First, I came home to the Maine Coon from Pet Semetary and had to run to the vet’s office because his mouth was bleeding again. This time, it wouldn’t stop. We got him on meds fast enough. But come the next month, he needed stronger meds, because he scratched up his face so badly, that it took a couple of months for it to heal. The vet says that like humans, as we get older our allergies get worse. It’s the same for cats. So I’m looking forward to more bleeding and itchiness for the little guy.
Other than that drama, I’ve been thinking lately about the life I want to live. Living is the important part, because that’s the part that’s been missing from my life these past two years. I was stuck in a moment I could not get out of…and once I realized I was stuck in a moment, I decided it was time to get out of it and start living again.
Now, I know there are people that go out there, travel the ends of the earth, completely stuck in a moment inside of themselves, trying to escape it. But the truth is we cannot escape ourselves. We will carry that pain, sorrow, humiliation, and grief with us no matter where we go. A new destination does not mean we will be free of our tormentors. Because we still carry what they did to us no matter where we go to try and heal. Moving forward begins inside of us.
Change begins when we decide we need to change ourselves. What happened to us does not define us. Who we choose to become as a result of everything that has ever happened to us, that’s up to us. We hold that power to become better than we were yesterday.
Me? I’m just tired of waiting for my future to happen, when I know I am the one in charge of creating my own destiny. The universe just falls in line based on the energy I put out there. Change begins within me.
I may strive to be perfect and to create a more perfect system in my life, but I know I am always going to want to be a perfectionist, and never a true perfectionist.
For the family who never saw that perfect child who is a far greater success than anyone else in the family, I may not exist to you, but I exist to others. They see me and they love me for who I am and all my imperfections. They’ve taught me that you were wrong. This is not normal. I deserve better, because I am a way better person than you are. Just too bad you didn’t want to know me at all. Then again, I’m better off not wanting to know you anymore.
Are you someone who wants to read more books? Whether it’s just one book a month or 200 books a year, I am going to share today how I work towards my reading goals.
Now, I don’t want you to think that by tomorrow, you’ll be able to read 100 books this year. Like anything, you have to train yourself to do this. It’s like weight loss. You can’t lose 100 pounds by next week. Over time, if you keep on chipping away at that goal, you’ll reach your goal.
How I Went from a Book a Month to Over 100 Books a Year
I always wanted to read more books, but I thought I was a slow reader. In high school, my friend would get through an entire Danielle Steele novel in a day. That feat would take me a month!
I read a lot growing up. I was never without a book. The shorter books could take a week or two. Longer books I just stayed away from. By college, I was lucky if I was able to even read 3 pages of my assignment before the next class. So trust me, reading more was a struggle, even though I was always reading.
I was in my 30s when I started to create goals. I decided I wanted to read one book a week. That equates to 52 books a year, a feat that would end up taking me two years to accomplish.
The year I finally reached my goal, my secret was reading more YA books. I found that I could breeze through a 400 page book, because I was completely engrossed in the story. But I did not want to read only kids books, so I made sure to add in one classic a month. I chose short ones and one long one that I could read a little bit at a time before bed. It might take 6 months to complete, but I was reading that big book.
When I finally hit the 52 books mark two years in a row, I decided to push my goal to 100 books. This one took three years to reach. Last year, I did not just hit the 100 books mark for the very first time, but I also surpassed it by reading 114 books.
So this year, I decided to push my goal to 150 books. In January, I completed 16 books. I am on track to completing over 150 books this year.
Diversify Your Reading Materials
January 2020 was a bit of a record for me. Sixteen books are six books more than what I usually read each month. The trick this month wasn’t in YA books. It was actually in the method I consumed the book.
I vowed this year to always be reading somehow, so I added audiobooks and pushed myself to read books on my phone and tablet. When I walk, I listen to a book. When I sit down on the train or the bus, I read a paper book. While I am waiting in line, I read a book on my phone. During the work day, I listen to an audiobook or have a book up on one of my screens and read a little here and there. Before bed, I spend an hour reading a paper book (no devices).
During the weekends, I try to binge read, but that doesn’t always work out, so while I’m doing chores, I have Alexa read a book to me. Yes, she can read books from your Amazon library.
Now, you’re probably thinking – I only read on my Kindle or I only read paper. If you want to read more, you should diversify. It is weird to try something new, but after you diversify more, it becomes easier to switch between the three ways to read.
Another way to diversify reading is to not discriminate other genres. I generally read almost everything. My friend’s daughter taught me a little something about reading. She only wants to read comics, because she’s not ready to give up the pictures in books. I thought about it and realized that we should never discriminate against the type of reading material. If it takes comics to get a child to read, then we should encourage them to read more comic books.
I started reading graphic novels because of that little girl. It’s not something that takes 10 minutes to read. Try a few hours. There are a few series I’ve fallen for, because it’s not just the story. The artwork is phenomenal.
Monstress is one of the most amazing series I’ve ever encountered. When you look closely at the intricate artwork, it looks like it took days to complete.
And guess what? Reading graphic novels counts towards your reading goal. So do children’s books.
Because I never want to fall too much into one category, I also make sure to include one classic novel and a book challenge each month. This year, my challenge is to read all of Toni Morrison’s novels. I have to say that reading her books has taught me so much.
The important thing when it comes to reading is to always make sure you are challenging yourself with better reads. Explore other genres and never discriminate against the different types of literature out there. Try them all.
A little something I learned from Marc Berger, Director of the Securities Exchange Commission, New York Regional Office: challenge yourself by setting goals.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice that every Wednesday, I release a new list of seven books I’m working through. Did I finish all of the books the previous week? NO. But each week, I push harder to finish the current week’s seven, PLUS go back to the previous weeks to finish up what I was reading.
This is last week’s seven. I made it through four out of the seven books. It took a few weeks to push myself to complete four out of seven scheduled books.
You have to create challenges for yourself that may seem absolutely insane, but you know it would be awesome if you could finally be able to complete that task. You keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself until you’ve surpassed that goal and the goal feels easy to accomplish every single time you repeat it.
The only way you can become better is by creating challenges for yourself and plug away at it until you’ve accomplished your goal. In a way, you are creating a system to perfect a certain outcome every single time.
The way Marc taught me was that you put the problem in the corner of a box. At the exact opposite corner from the box, you put your desired result. You put the tools into the box and you figure out ways to get from point A (the problem) to point B (the outcome you want).
For me, that means looking at the seven books I want to complete (Point A). The tools I use break down each book. I create visuals to monitor my progress. I list all of my books for the week followed by the author, publisher and page number. For ebooks and audiobooks, I create 10 boxes. For every 10% I complete, I fill in a box with a colored pen. For paper books, I create boxes for every 25 pages in the book. So a 300 page book will have 12 boxes. Every 25 pages I read in that book, I color in.
I do this so I can visually track my progress that week. I have a weekly chart, as well as a monthly chart.
I also share my progress on Goodreads, because sometimes it is good to inspire others and to be inspired by others doing far better than you.
How to decide how much to read per day? I try to create a mix of audio, ebook and paper books. This makes it easier to accomplish the goal. I find that if I want to complete all books in time, I have to read at least 15% from each ebook/audiobook every single day. For the paper books, I have to divide the book up by seven to know how much I need to read each day in order to meet my goal.
That’s a lot of pages, right? I started off reading 25 pages a day. That was my goal way back when I started my 52 books a year. Then I bumped it up to 50 pages per day. Now, I read between 200-300 pages a day and climbing. It took years to reach this. Just remember that it’s all about taking one step at a time and challenging yourself to read more. Once you’ve mastered your challenge, you create a bigger challenge, and then a bigger one.
If you can’t tell, my goal is to actually read a book a day. That’s 365 books a year. I don’t think I can surpass 365 book a year, but who knows? Maybe I’ll join the 400 book club some day.
Ways I Trick My Numbers
So you may have noticed a couple of tricks up my sleeves are children’s books and graphic novels. I usually aim to read no less than 3 books a week. Last year, I learned that the way to do this (which I actually don’t do now) was to have one short book a week.
Poetry books are a good way to get in an extra book. Books with 200 pages or less are another way to add to your numbers. YA books are definitely the way to go, too.
There are some classic novels that are less than 160 pages that you’ve heard of. H. G. Wells’s “The Time Machine” and “The Invisible Man” are short and sweet. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the story of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” are all super short reads.
I highly encourage all of you who are trying to read more to add short books to your weekly list, because we all need to feel a sense of accomplishment that comes when we finish reading a book. I know I feel like I’m the master of the friggin universe when I finish a classic novel (no matter how many pages it was). Don’t you want to feel good about accomplishing your goals? This is how you do it.
Also, I might have to explain why I don’t do this little trick anymore…the seven. That’s why. I have seven books to get through. That does not even include the other books I’m reading on top of those seven books.
I highly recommend learning how to speed read. There are apps that you can use to try to challenge yourself to read faster. There are even books that teach the different methods.
I’ve done both the apps and the books. Both have helped me learn how to read faster. I apply their tricks to push myself to read faster. After you put this into practice every time you read, it helps you to read even faster.
I also recommend reading Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited. He teaches you how to retain a lot of what you are reading. It really helps when you are speed reading.
In order to reach my goal and to keep myself going, I started a reward system. For each book I read, I paid myself. For the books I really wanted to challenge myself to read (like classics), I paid myself more. I saved all of that money up to buy what I wanted at year end.
Usually, it was a shopping spree which entailed some major designer handbag. This year, my goal is to buy an Hermes Birkin bag.
I recommend rewarding yourself according to what you can afford to pay yourself. It could be $1 or $5 per book. If you want to read more classics, give yourself $25 or $50.
You can also add in rules if you are trying to save money or have other goals you want to meet, like getting through your own library or backlist without buying more books. For instance, I pay myself $50 per Toni Morrison book. In previous years, if I bought the book that year and I was trying not to buy books, I subtracted how much I paid from the reward money I’d already saved up. I treated it as if I was dipping into the fund to buy what I wanted…a book. It is really meant to be a deterrent from buying more books.
The goal though is to save up the money for the entire year based on how many books you challenged yourself to read that year.
My rewards this year are: $10 per book; $25 per ARC or backlist; $50 per Toni Morrison book; $100 per classic. As you can see, if I want to save more money, I’ll read more classics.
The higher amounts are more aligned with the goals I’ve set to encourage myself to read more of a certain type of book. I am not subtracting the cost of new books this year, because my goal this year is to buy more books. I receive so many ARCs, so it is only fair to go out and buy books to help the book industry.
I recommend revisiting this reward system every year to make sure it aligns with whatever your reading and financial goals are for the year. If you want to save for a vacation, a new purse or a new kitchen, this is a good way to align your goals together. It worked very well for me, because it encouraged me to read more and more so I could earn more than enough reward money for my desired purchases.
It is because of this system I was able to amass a closet full of couture handbags.
The number one thing in this process is to not punish yourself. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It took me a few years to reach each goal I created for myself. Never punish yourself if you don’t reach your goal at year end. Just look back at what you accomplished for that year. You may even find that you read more books than you did the previous year and that is definitely worth celebrating.
At the end of the year, you still get to use that money however you want, even if you didn’t reach your ultimate reading goal that year. This is your reward for trying really hard to accomplish something big.
At year end, re-evaluate what worked that year for you, what didn’t work, and what you should try in the next year to accomplish your goal.
The thing about that box Marc used to have me create is that I had to sit there and really go through the entire process to figure out how to make it work seamlessly every single time to reach the desired goal. I mean, he was really making me use my brain. I really had to strategize how I was going to reach the outcome I wanted. I didn’t just do this on my own. I asked others how I could perfect this process. They helped me fine tune things to where I am able to reach the desired outcome perfectly every single time.
I am still working on my current challenge of seven books a week. I apply different methods each week to see what is working and what is not working. I am constantly re-evaluating my approach to that box every single week. How do I get to that seven?
I’ve shared how I got to 52 and then 100. The ultimate goal for me right now is a book a day. The question for me is how am I going to get to point B in this challenge?
One last takeaway before I close, the reason why I share this method of creating challenges for yourself is because of this…Marc made me fall in love with my job after he taught me about challenging myself to be better than I was before. It was the challenge part that made me excited to come to work every single day. It made work fun for me.
By applying this process to reading, it makes it more fun for me and not so much of a job or a chore to get as many books reviewed as possible. I think a lot of people would think that this is just too much work for them just to read. But there are a lot of people out there that want to challenge themselves to read more. This is for them.
If at any time in this process reading books stops being fun, you’re doing it wrong. Take a step back and re-evaluate that box of yours. What made you stop having fun? That becomes a question you’ll have to answer to fix the process of getting from point A to point B.
I find that the only way we will ever better ourselves is if we are constantly challenged to be better than we were yesterday.
Book: “The Last Passenger” by Charles Finch Publisher: Minotaur Books Publication Date: February 18, 2020
(5 / 5)
From bestselling author Charles Finch comes the third and final in a prequel trilogy to his lauded Charles Lenox series.
London, 1855: A young and eager Charles Lenox faces his toughest case yet: a murder without a single clue. Slumped in a first-class car at Paddington Station is the body of a young, handsome gentleman. He has no luggage, empty pockets, and no sign of violence upon his person – yet Lenox knows instantly that it’s not a natural death.
Pursuing the investigation against the wishes of Scotland Yard, the detective encounters every obstacle London in 1855 has to offer, from obstinate royalty to class prejudice to the intense grief of his closest friend. Written in Charles Finch’s unmistakably warm, witty, and winning voice, The Last Passenger is a cunning and deeply satisfying conclusion to the journey begun in The Woman in the Water and The Vanishing Man.
This book is exceptional. It was much better than I anticipated it to be. Charlie Lenox is a cross between Agatha Christie’s Monsieur Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.
You do not need to read any prior Lenox Mysteries to dive into this story. I think that’s the fear for many people when they pick up a book and realize it’s a series. With the Lenox Mysteries, you do not have to worry about not having read the earlier books. Finch may mention something that happened in an earlier story to explain a character, but he does not make it into a big thing like “YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS, because it was in my previous book.” You can expect to go into this like any other Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes book.
One of my favorite things about Finch’s writing is that he interjects little historical facts throughout the story. From backgrounds on how words were re-shaped into our current English language, to little historical tidbits about the most random things. You’re actually learning something as you read. They are the most random facts, but absolutely cool to learn.
This story begins with the death of a passenger on the 449 train at Paddington Station. The passenger is discovered stabbed to death with all of the tags inside of his clothing removed. Charles Lenox is asked by someone from Scotland Yard to take a look.
Lenox’s adventure takes him into the world of slavery and abolition between the US, Jamaica and England.
Points I had to investigate further: Franklin Pierce. So I thought I knew all of my US Presidents. I had to keep asking myself if Franklin Pierce was some made up president. So…he would be one of the lesser known presidents that preceded Abraham Lincoln during a time when the US was on the verge of Civil War. He was president between 1853-1857, which is the time frame of this book (i.e. years before Sherlock Holmes). [See, I told you there’s a lot of historical tidbits you will learn.] He did not believe in abolition, so these were the years that kept America out of the crosshairs of going to war over slavery.
All in all, this was a really good mystery. It’s perfect for the Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans. Just when you think the murder is solved, it ends up being a much bigger plot than originally assumed…that’s when the story becomes really interesting. This is definitely one of the better period mysteries I’ve read in some time. Definitely worth picking up the Charles Lenox Mysteries.
Just so you understand how much I enjoyed this book and the author’s work, I ordered the other books from the Lenox Mysteries right after I read this one.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.]
You can pick up your copy of “The Last Passenger” at any of these PW approved retailers.
Book: “How Quickly She Disappears” by Raymond Fleischmann Publisher: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC Release Date: January 14, 2020
Rating: (2 / 5)
“How Quickly She Disappears” is “The Dry” meets “Silence of the Lambs” in this intoxicating tale of literary suspense set in the relentless Alaskan landscape about madness and obsession, loneliness and grief, and the ferocious bonds of family …
It’s 1941 in small-town Alaska and Elisabeth Pfautz is alone. She’s living far from home, struggling through an unhappy marriage, and she spends her days tutoring her precocious young daughter. Elisabeth’s twin sister disappeared without a trace twenty years earlier, and Elisabeth’s life has never recovered. Cryptic visions of her sister haunt her dreams, and Elisabeth’s crushing loneliness grows more intense by the day. But through it all, she clings to one belief: That her sister is still alive, and that they’ll be reunited one day.
And that day may be coming soon. Elisabeth’s world is upended when Alfred Seidel — an enigmatic German bush pilot — arrives in town and murders a local man in cold blood. Sitting in his cell in the wake of his crime, Alfred refuses to speak to anyone except for Elisabeth. He has something to tell her: He knows exactly what happened to her long-missing sister, but he’ll reveal this truth only if Elisabeth fulfills three requests.
Increasingly isolated from her neighbors and imprisoned by the bitter cold and her own obsession, Elisabeth lets herself slip deeper into Alfred’s web. A tenuous friendship forms between them, even as Elisabeth struggles to understand Alfred’s game and what he’s after.
But if it means she’ll get answers, she’s willing to play by his rules. She’s ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to be reunited with her sister, even if it means putting herself — and her family — in mortal danger.
[Synopsis from Goodreads]
I cannot give “How Quickly She Disappears” 3 stars, because I simply did not like it. Two stars means the book was OK. I will give it that much.
This book is from Berkley, which is an imprint under Penguin Random House. The name of the publisher alone means that we should have a certain level of expectation for this title. I expected the book to be of the highest caliber, because it should be considered a bestseller if coming from Berkley. This book though is a complete disappointment.
I did not like any of the characters. I can see where the marketing folks were going with this book being like “Silence of the Lambs” in the way Hannibal Lecter toys with people. But the difference here is that Hannibal is highly intelligent and does not become obsessed with people. Instead, he just plays with people for his own amusement before he devours them. He plays with his food.
Here, Alfred is just a friggin weirdo stalker. He tries to have the upper hand by appearing intelligent (like Hannibal), but he just came across as a complete asshole withholding information, because he has some weird obsession with Elisabeth. He plays these games, because he is trying to get her to stay in contact with him, the way a lovelorn person acts towards the person they desire.
It is similar to Hannibal’s interest in Detective Starling, but there is a reason why he strings her along. Once again, it is more for his amusement in his game of chess.
At the end of the book, we discover Alfred’s been stalking the same person since she was 11 years old. He was an adult. Pedophile? Yes. Stalker? Yes. He becomes a murderer when someone tries to protect her from him. Twenty years he stalks this girl.
At the end, when this is revealed, I almost put the book down and thought I totally wasted my time with this entire book. A stalker? Add in the pedophilia, incest between sisters, and the implied hate towards women that I kept sensing from the author (not the story)…I really could not believe this book is being published in this day of Me Too.
That implied hate towards women can be seen from the beginning and throughout. It’s not just how John speaks to his wife, Elisabeth. You get a sense of hate towards the main character, Elisabeth. Her twin sister that goes missing when they’re 11 is a little nymph. A Lolita. She’s almost treated as if she’s a goddess throughout the book. Perfection. She can do no wrong.
Because Elisabeth (the good girl) isn’t, I started to note the dislike towards her. It’s similar to the reason why 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, CA in 2014. He killed six people, injuring 14 others because “he wanted to punish women for rejecting him, and punish sexually active men because he envied them.” The author made me think he had a similar unhealthy relationship with women and it was all coming out in this book.
Of note, this is Fleischmann’s debut.
I noted the complete coldness and disconnect in how Elisabeth was portrayed. One moment she is the doting mother and wife, the next she’s a cold heartless bitch all because some guy shows up and mentions her sister and that he knows where she is. Why the sudden change after one night? I started to question why she became obsessed with Alfred. Is it really because she is trying to find her sister or is there something wrong with her? Then I realized…what woman does this? Is this a complete disconnect with who women are?
It’s like Elisabeth represents a woman that rejected the author and he’s poured his anger and hate towards her into this book. He loves her, but then he hates her, because she is not with him. In a nutshell, it is a bit like Alfred’s unhealthy obsession with Elisabeth. I can definitely make that connection.
Our lead character is Elisabeth, but the whole story feels like Alfred is telling this story. I get that sense just because of the way she is portrayed throughout the book. But that’s not what the author is trying to do, it just comes across as that in the blatant hate towards her.
Then how does her daughter turn from sweet, loving child to all of a sudden a rebellious child in three months time?
I could not understand Elisabeth’s unhealthy desire to keep going towards Alfred. It made ZERO sense. Asking to see her daughter should have been the end game. But no. She brings her daughter to a murderer in a prison and then he manages to kidnap her, just like what happened to her twin sister when she was that age. This goes back to the whole BLAME THE WOMAN FOR BEING STUPID. SHE DESERVED THIS.
A mother would not allow a murderer near her daughter. NOT EVER. That’s what made this so unrealistic.
I did appreciate the Alaskan imagery, and I did feel the coldness of the setting, the darkness of the winter and the never ending light of the summers. Fleischmann does an excellent job of allowing you to feel that you are right there in the room with the characters. Where the imagery goes all wrong is how Tanacross all of a sudden has a highway and is a brand new CITY after they’ve been gone for three months. Just three months. She could not recognize Tanacross after being gone only three months.
I had to flip back, because I knew it said they’d been away only three months. The sections were correct in the timing. So how in 1942 does a small native town all of a sudden change into a bustling city and have a highway, when three months earlier you couldn’t get there except by plane? THREE MONTHS in 1942. Even if it progressed to six months, how is this possible? We can’t even do that in the 21st century.
I really had high hopes for “How Quickly She Disappears.” I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for the last six months. Now, I think my time would have been better utilized reading something better…one where I did not feel the tone of a man’s hate towards women.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of the ARC from the publisher.]
You can purchase “How Quickly She Disappears” at any of PW’s preferred booksellers below.
“Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me” is by far my favorite Julie Wright book yet. I really loved this book, mainly because I relate a lot to the story. There’s that writer who dreams of being published, but then in order to truly be that bestselling author, you have to be a certain online persona. Welcome to the world of books, PR, marketing and social media. Oh, and try to have a personal life somewhere in there.
For writers, there are a lot of good pick me ups throughout this book that helps you focus on your craft, like being true to yourself.
To create. To be who I am with no apologies given. Write something for you. Whatever you choose – if it’s what you want – then it won’t be wrong.
What Lettie goes through after she hires a PR firm to change her online image is basically what every person on Instagram that’s trying to sell something, promote something, or become an influencer with a shipload of followers goes through every single day. This is the world of fakestagram and the lie sells.
Here is the Goodreads.com synopsis:
When aspiring author Charlotte Kingsley finally gets published, she thinks all her dreams have come true. But the trouble begins when her publicity firm reinvents her quirky online presence into a perfectly curated dream life. Gone are the days of sweatpant posts and ice cream binges with her best friend, Anders, replaced instead with beautiful clothes, orchestrated selfies, and no boyfriend. Only, that carefully curated fairy tale life is ruining her self-esteem and making her feel like a fraud.
When a bestselling author takes Charlotte under her wing—almost like a fairy godmother—she helps Charlotte see the beautiful person she already is and the worth of being authentic. But is it too late to save her relationship with Anders? The clock is quickly ticking towards midnight, and Charlotte must decide between her fairy tale life and the man she loves, before he’s gone forever.
– Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me
When her new life as an author conflicts with her personal life, this is where things take a bad turn. I did not like what Anders did. I was just as mad as Lettie was. My stomach literally dropped in disappointment. I kept thinking, “How could he?” What made me even more mad was his inability to understand how this whole thing harms her and her career. It’s like he didn’t even care. This reminds me of a quote that I saw on Instagram recently, “Even the people you think “nah they’d never do me like that” will do you like that.”
What she ends up doing in the end is not what I would have done. I would have been like…I am done. Finito. No going back. I don’t think there would have been a single friend that would tell me to rethink this. So maybe what she decides to do in the end is the fairy tale. BUT even though I did not like her decision, I did like the way the book ended.
I highly recommend this book for writers, book reviewers, and bookstagrammers. I will warn you that if you are like me, you will fairy godmother up some ice cream for your freezer and phone in some Thai curry for dinner. All of this talk about ice cream and Thai food made me stock the freezer and order Thai curry.
Crazy thing is…I am still craving Thai curry. I’ve had it every day this week.
“Glass Slippers, Ever After, and Me” is a Cinderella retelling. The author dives into the question of what happens at midnight when the magic disappears.
This story explores the concept of Cinderella, the peasant servant girl and the fairy tale princess. Even though there may be two sides to the girl, she is still both of those girls.
The fairy godmother appears as the “stereotypical magical makeover character” and the grown-up version of the “wise mentor.” The quote about fairy godmothering ice cream into your freezer is now a quote my friends and I are using, because there is so much truth to it. As women, we must ALWAYS have ice cream in our freezer and a bottle of wine nearby. From now on, that is my house rule.
Proper Romance is clean, so there are no content warnings for this book. For those who are looking for clean romance books, Proper Romance from Shadow Mountain Publishing provides an array of titles that are befitting religious households and grandma (or people like me who prefer clean romance). I’ve loved every single title I’ve read from Proper Romance. They were the ones who finally got me to like romance stories.
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post contains affiliate links.]
You can order your copy at any of PW’s preferred retailers:
BOOK REVIEW: Serpent & Dove is an incredible new series debut from author Shelby Mahurin. This YA tale about witches and the church will leave you wanting to get your hands on the next book.
The author begins this story in 17th century France detailing how society views witches and how witches view society. Their views are completely black and white with no room for gray areas.
She introduces us to our heroine, a young woman named Lou(ise). She and her friend Coco are witches from rival clans surviving together as thieves in Cesarine. Even though the church and witches see the world in black and white, Lou and Coco are the gray areas.
Yet, they are not the only ones who live in the gray areas of this black and white world. Those like them are afraid to do anything, or just don’t know what to do to change the good versus evil mentality.
For the church and the witches, each side has their own version of who the good guy is, and it is always themselves. Evil is always the enemy, the person that does not believe or live the way they do. And that, right there, is what Shelby Mahurin tries to dispel as she works her way through this novel. There are people on both sides that don’t believe what their society believes. There has to be another way to create peace between the two sides.
The author also explores the many different facets of love throughout this book. The characters all seem to struggle with loss, abandonment, and neglect, especially when it concerns their parents. Some children are thrown away. Others are hated by their parents. Some parents search for their lost child and when found, they struggle to make amends (or even reveal the truth). Some children come to terms with the fact they have a lot of illegitimate brothers and sisters out there.
Mahurin did an excellent job exploring the many facets of love through the characters. In a way, one must wonder if perhaps she is working out the issues going on in her own life. There is that sense of abandonment repeated throughout with the main characters. There are strained relationships with mothers (or mother figures). But more importantly, our main characters learn to love each other for who they are, even if it is everything they are taught to hate.
“Beyond forcing me to examine my own perceptions, these characters also helped me rediscover the spark I’d lost-that essence of self we so often sacrifice to others. They took me on a journey of self-discovery while they ate sticky buns and battled witches, and for this reason alone, they’ll always hold a special place in my heart.” – Shelby Mahurin
In the battle between good and evil, in the end, it is love that matters. Love is the only thing that should matter. The question is how can they bridge that gap when they’ve spent centuries learning to hate each other?
Book Review: Serpent & Dove
This is one of those stories where I could not put the book down. I love really good witchy stories and this one definitely delivered. This book is a long read, but definitely worth it. It is not slow moving at any point, because of all the adventure, romance, and conflict.
I love the main character Lou(ise). Her banter and humor at the most awkward moments cracked me up. I was on the train reading a graphic love scene when she said something so inappropriate I actually laughed out loud. All I could think was, “God, I love her.”
This is by no means a scary tale. The book is more a great adventure than it is a romance.
This is the first book in a new series that strives to learn how a divided world can live together in harmony. In a black and white world, only what we believe in is right and everyone else is wrong. In a world filled with color, we live in peace with each other. We understand there are differences in beliefs, but that is not worth punishing those who do not believe the way you do.
In our current political climate, this book is a bit like George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World in that our world needs a new satire to explain the world we live in…and somehow find a way out of it. The other two satires were warnings of things to come. Serpent & Dove is about taking this world we live in and finding a way to fix it.
You can pick up Serpent & Dove at any of these preferred PW retailers:
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.]
ARCs. We need to talk about ARCs. Advance Reader Copies. For all of the Bookstagrammers and Book Bloggers out there, please pay attention.
There are do’s and don’ts in reviewing books. Every single book reviewer that is serious about reviewing books needs to understand these rules. Why? Because there are a few of you out there that give us a bad name, because you are doing a lot of “don’ts.”
ARCs Are NOT FOR SALE
Every budding book reviewer covets the moment they can get their first printed ARC or eARC (ebook version). I mean, who doesn’t want to be part of the cool kids club? You know, the book reviewers that get their copies months in advance before the publication date.
Even more exciting is the moment you can get the most coveted title of the year before anyone else gets their hands on it. But the question on many of your newbie minds is HOW DO I GET A COPY?
First of all, ARCs are not for sale, so don’t go on Ebay to buy them. Sure, there are people that sell ARCs on there. The only LEGAL copies are the ones for sale AFTER the publication date. The ILLEGAL copies are the ones for sale BEFORE the publication date.
Illegal??? Yes, they are illegal. That means that the person selling the book can be sued by the publisher. That person can also receive a lifetime ban from any means where they can acquire ARCs (NetGalley, Edelweiss, Book Expos, Book Cons, from the publisher directly, etc.).
If you don’t think the Big 5 publishers don’t pass that list around, think again.
Now, for you little bookstagrammers or book bloggers purchasing the book prior to the publication date, when you post up photos, etc., acting like you received an ARC from the publisher, you are a fraud. Note in this photo of “The Starless Sea” the book says “Not For Sale” down in the lower right hand corner. So why did you buy the ARC?
I can understand being impatient and wanting to get your hands on a copy of the book because you can’t wait to read it. I get that. But don’t post up a photo pretending you received a copy from the publisher when you bought it. You bought illegal goods. That’s like buying drugs and then posting on your blog or social media that you bought illegal goods. Just DUMB.
You’re Giving the Book Reviewing Community a Bad Name
A lot of people that review books have been doing this for some time. They did not take shortcuts. They read the books, shared what they loved about it, and gained a following. Being a book reviewer is a business. We did not have anything given to us on a silver platter.
We do not share our publishing/marketing contacts. Anyone who does is seriously violating trust with their contacts and should be banned. That also leaves a sour feeling with the publishers/marketers when they find out their contact information is being disseminated for purposes of getting free books.
Sure, we can point you in the direction of the publisher’s “Contact Us” page on their website. But that is as far as we can go. You must establish the relationship on your own.
Don’t steal other people’s reviews or photos. Stealing violates policies across all social media platforms and your account can be taken down. Don’t think book reviewers do not alert the book community about bad behavior.
When you do any of this bad stuff, it gives the book community a bad rap. There are no shortcuts to being a book reviewer. You put in the work. You can’t cheat this.
How to Be a Book Reviewer
You must have a passion and love for books.
You must read the book and then share your thoughts whether you liked the book or not. Post your review on Instagram, your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
Work on your followers. For Instagram, you need to follow other book lovers. You need to engage with them and talk to them on Instagram. BECOME FRIENDS (most important thing). Talk books. This is about sharing the love of books.
Do not follow/unfollow. Build relationships. Bookstagram is not a fake community. There are real people who love books and want to share their love of books with others. Stay around, learn to become friends. If you are in this only for the followers, just stop. Find something else to do.
Join engagement groups. Engagement groups have rules. You must follow everyone in the group. You must like everyone’s posts. Try to leave comments. These groups are designed to help you get your likes and comments. But more importantly, if you find the right group, you become friends and share your lives with each other. You talk to each other, warn of bad seeds and help each other understand how to Bookstagram better.
Join a book community like Booksharks. They offer opportunities to get ARCs, but you have to prove your worth. Booksharks is also a great tool to meet other book reviewers, follow each other on social media (there is a strict NO FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW rule), share your posts with each other, and learn how to become better at being a book reviewer. There’s a lot of business talk. Great for people learning the trade.
When you build up a following on your social media platforms, as well as numbers on your blog (if you blog), you need to present your numbers when you approach publishers to request an ARC. There are some publishers who will approach you based on your social media accounts and the reviews you leave on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Some publishers will request to work with you as an influencer. But once again, you have to put in the work to prove yourself. There’s no faking this.
For eARCs, join Netgalley. Start by selecting books in the DOWNLOAD NOW section. Post up a bunch of reviews based on the books you downloaded from Netgalley. Try to only check out 1 book at a time. They keep track and want to make sure that you have an 80% review rate to ARCs downloaded. Trust me when I say I’m speaking from experience. I went download crazy and have a review rate of 13%. After you’ve posted a bunch of reviews, you can try your hand at requesting titles from publishers. Don’t be dismayed if you’re rejected. Just keep reviewing. Prove your worth.
Join publisher’s Facebook Book Clubs. So I could tell you which club belongs to which publisher, but I think they keep this a secret for a reason. But I will say that I do post often and start conversations about books and the book industry on Penguin Random House and HarperCollins’s book clubs. I think it’s because of how much I talk in their book clubs that I get approved for many ARCs. They like to see engagement. Also, it’s a good way to show you can be an influencer when it comes to books. Mind you, the book clubs are for book lovers. Not everyone on there is a book reviewer. The community there is just looking for a safe haven away from the politics and BS on Facebook to talk about the love of books. These groups are also a great way to understand the different types of readers out there. They’ll help you write better reviews and blog posts.
Get on the publisher’s email lists. I think I’m on every single one from the Big 5 (and there are a bunch). This will give you a great idea on what books you should be talking about. Every now and again, I see a book I’ve read that no one else is talking about show up in their emails, just because I wrote something about it on their Facebook Book Club.
When talking about books, as a book reviewer, keep an eye on who published the book you are reviewing. I usually talk about Penguin’s books on their book club page and only their page. I talk about HarperCollins/William Morrow’s book on their book club page only. When I post on Twitter and Instagram, I make sure to tag the publisher in the post. Sometimes publishers will re-post or post your story in their stories.
Study the publishing community. Do your research. There are the Big 5, but don’t leave out the independent publishers. There are also a lot of self-published authors. I try to read a little bit of everything, because everyone needs a chance. But study each one. Learn about their different divisions. Keep up with what each publisher anticipates will be the next best book and get your hands on that book.
Watch what the big book influencers do and learn from them. Do as they do, but better. What I mean by big book influencers is Popsugar, Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, Oprah, even Barack Obama. Just mentioning a book or making it part of their book club sends everyone into a FOMO frenzy. Read what they read and push the hell out of those books, especially if you loved them. If you didn’t…no need to mention it. Only share what you love.
Remember how I said this is a business? You need to treat book reviewing as a business. It’s not just about reading books and sharing it. That’s the fun part. Growing your numbers, working on your relationships, writing up the reviews, working with publishers and booksellers, etc. takes a lot of work. In the end, you are pushing a sale. And guess what? Some of us are working on a commission. ARCs are designed to help book reviewers decide which books to actively promote. It’s not just about getting a free book. This is ultimately about the marketing and sale of the product. Never forget that.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. Or if you have something to add that I missed, please share. This is supposed to be an informative post for the new people (and those still struggling to get on their feet in the book review community). If you have a book blog, Bookstagram, etc., please share it.
Six Sisters’ Stuff has done it again. They’ve released a new cookbook that requires six ingredients or less.
Many of the recipes are super easy and very delicious. I always say that you can’t go wrong with a Six Sisters’ Stuff recipe. I’m still making their In-N-Out Burger from their Copycat Cooking cookbook. I make a turkey burger version and I swear to you it is the best burger I’ve ever had in my life! It’s all in the animal sauce.
As for “Six Ingredients,” one of the recipes I made was the Green Beans With Candied Pecans. Making candied pecans was a whole new experience for me. I didn’t think it would work and then all of a sudden, it almost burned! EEK!
Thank goodness I caught it in time. Luckily, I ended up making too many candied pecans, so I put a bunch to the side to add to my salads. I highly recommend making candied pecans, because it can really bring your salad game up a notch.
While I could rattle on about stuff you really don’t care about, let’s get to the recipe. I selected their Easy Lemon Garlic Shrimp recipe to share with all of you. I made this and had meals for days! It’s light and very tasty.
You can purchase “Six Ingredients” from any of PW’s favorite booksellers:
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.]
“The Whisper Man” is finally out! After going nuts trying to find my own pre-release copy, Book of the Month made it available as one of their August picks. So I ordered it immediately. I received it two days later and read that baby cover to cover.
I felt like I was about to have a heart attack. That’s how scared and creeped out I was over this tale.
Now, some may say this is overhyped, but for me, I was genuinely scared. This book is like “The Sixth Sense” meets something sinister and creepy that is not revealed until the very end.
When the little ghost girl shakes the father awake and he wakes up and sees her, I almost screamed. Then when he hears whispering, he goes to check it out. He finds his son sitting against the front door whispering to someone on the other side of the door.
Then the fingers reach through the mail slot to touch the boy…
The Whisper Man: A Novel Alex North POIGNANT AND TERRIFYING—Entertainment Weekly WORKS BEAUTIFULLY… If you like being terrified, The Whisper Man has your name on it.—The New York Times, Editor’s Pick SUPERB—Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review BRILLIANT… will satisfy readers of Thomas Harris and Stephen King.—Booklist, Starred Review
In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed The Whisper Man, for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…
I was genuinely scared. I really was.
By the time I got to the end, I kept trying to wrap around in my head what the original Whisper Man was saying. He said, “You just don’t listen.” He was delivering the biggest clue without even giving away the killer. I mean, I am kind of mind blown by what the original Whisper Man said about the copycat. He knew.
I’m not going to lie. I knew who the Whisper Man copycat was the exact moment he was introduced. But who he was in the grander scheme, I did not see coming (as in why he was the Whisper Man).
This story is not just about a very bad man preying on children. This story is also about a father and son trying to connect after a great loss. Both are grieving. Both need each other, but they have no idea how to bridge the gap.
What comes across as Jake talking to an imaginary friend is really a ghost. She is trying to aid him, because she knows something horrible is about to happen to him. The part that made her so real is when she tried to warn Tom that Jake was in danger. Even stranger is that she’s been warning Jake since the beginning about the Whisper Man. Only Jake understands. It’s convincing his father that something is amiss that is the real struggle.
I was 60-75% of the way into the book before I understood what the ghost’s special interest was in Jake. She plays a very important part in this story, because she is trying to save Jake’s life.
When Jake started talking to the boy under the floor, I did not know if he was talking to a ghost. I am still not certain if some asshole adult told him about the dead body. Whatever it was, I still get goosebumps thinking about that revelation.
This story is very much about fixing the wounds of the past and finding the truth to mysteries left unsolved. There are three stories about the relationship between fathers and sons in this book. How they attempt to bridge the gap is very different. The deeper the pain, the more difficult it is to fix things, especially if many years have passed.
This book will scare you. It will creep you out. You will be sitting at the edge of your seat. Your heart will be jumping out of your chest. Just try not to scream.
If you are looking for a good scary book, this is it. I was so scared by this book, I added it to my curated library. It is difficult to find a really good scary book. This is a book I may end up revisiting again, even though I rarely if ever re-read the same book.
You can get your copy at any of these preferred Perfectionist Wannabe booksellers:
I’ve been a loyal subscriber of Book of the Month for over a year now. I have to say that every single book has been a great read. No disappointments whatsoever!
After reading so many mediocre and bad books over the last few years, it is nice to find a reliable service that suggests five titles every single month and does not disappoint. So now that there is a YA version of this subscription box, I am even more excited to share this with everyone!
How it Works
For $14.99/month, you will receive one credit for one book each month. At the start of every month, Book of the Month YA will post up their five picks for the month. You get to pick from the list. Usually, these titles are not even released yet.
If you want more than one title, it’s an additional $9.99. If you don’t like any of the titles, you can save your credit for another month.
Now, for the bibliophile with serious FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to books, this is a great way to get the title before it’s release for a much cheaper price than you would pay at any bookseller.
There is even a bonus! After one year, they give you an extra book credit, plus perks for BFFs.
YA Lovers can get an extra $5 off of their first box. Just check on their site for the current coupon code.
As for my first box, I chose “House of Salt and Sorrows” and “The Downstairs Girl.” I can’t wait to dive into these two stories.
How to Get Free Books & Get Paid
For all of you Bookstagrammers and Book Bloggers out there…become a Book of the Month YA Affiliate and you can get your box free PLUS earn commission on each referral. Click on this link to become an affiliate.
You can earn cash for each new enrollment and partner referral. And yes, you do get a free book to help promote the box. You can promote it wherever you talk about books.
For those who don’t Bookstagram or promote books, you can still get free books by encouraging your friends and family to join Book of the Month YA. Just send them your unique referral code after you sign up. Each new referral equals one free book for you.
Oh, boy! Do I have a treat for you today. In celebration of “The Lady in the Coppergate Tower” release, I am giving away an ARC (advance reader copy) of this book on Instagram.
The contest ends at the end of the day on Sunday, August 4, 2019. You need to do three things in order to enter: 1) Like the post. 2) You must be following me in order to enter (no follow/unfollow). 3. Tag someone in the comments. Good luck to everyone. This is the POST TO ENTER.
Now, why should you want a copy of this book? Keep reading.
I am relatively new to the steampunk world. It was a little difficult for me to understand that universe in the beginning. I felt like I needed to read a steampunk guide in order to understand. But after the submersible (submarine) was introduced, I finally got the hang of things.
So let’s back the story up a little bit and let me tell you about “The Lady in the Coppergate Tower.”
This story takes place in Victorian London and Romania. In this world, they have automatons (think Bicentennial Man) and ray guns. They refer to electricity as Tesla (as in Nikola Tesla), especially the specific type of light bulbs used. Carriages are drawn by mechanical creatures, not live animals.
That is the gist of the steampunk universe. Now, on to the story…
This story is a mixture of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Dracula,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “Tangled,” and “Into the Woods.” Crazy, right?
Hazel is a young woman employed by Dr. Sam MacInnes. She has an extraordinary ability to heal people. She is an academic and loves to spend her time at lectures and reading books. She is on the fringes of society, while her employer is smack dab in the middle of society. The two differences in their social status keeps them from courting, even though they are attracted to each other.
At an event one evening, a mysterious count arrives. He cannot take his eyes off of Hazel and asks her to dance. Sam feels like he needs to protect her, since she has no family members (besides her adoptive mother) to watch out for her.
What Hazel soon discovers is that she is the niece of this mysterious count and that she has a twin sister. The count came to London to persuade Hazel to come to Romania to help her sister. Her healing powers could help her twin’s madness.
She agrees to go to help her sister, because she has seen her twin’s deterioration in her dreams. Sam decides to invite himself along on this journey, because someone needs to look out for her (and because he does not trust Count Petrescu).
Their mode of transportation from London to Romania is a submersible (a submarine similar to Captain Nemo’s submarine). This, of course, makes Sam sick to his stomach, because he has claustrophobia. But he bears it because he needs to be there for Hazel.
On the trip over to Romania, strange things happen on board. All the while, Hazel and Sam are trying to uncover the mystery behind the count. They suspect he is a vampire.
Petrescu’s intentions are nefarious, something that is suspected throughout the book. What he wants with Hazel is maddening, but that is something you won’t discover until the end. She follows him to Romania, because first and foremost, she needs to save her sister.
I loved “The Lady in the Coppergate Tower.” The Vlad the Impaler reference really lifted this to five stars for me. Once Count Petrescu was introduced, I was hooked. I didn’t know what he wanted with Hazel. I kept trying to guess, but I had no clue what he wanted her for. When that is revealed, the word “maddening” is the correct word to explain it.
Being new to the steampunk universe, I have to say that Nancy Campbell Allen did a marvelous job intertwining all of the different types of stories together. From Jules Verne to gothic to the Disney version of Rapunzel, she did a great job of bringing these elements together to create a rather scary love story.
For those who are not big on romance, just FYI, the romance takes a back page to the nefariousness of Petrescu. But like any good movie, you have to throw a little bit of a love story in there, even if it is not the main part of the story.
I think I’m still a little giddy that Vlad the Impaler is a part of this book. I have to admit, I just loved that part. I can handle vampires. Zombies, not so much.
I recommend reading this adventure. It is PG, so not too dark and not too mushy with the love stuff. It is a little scary, but very thrilling and shrouded in mystery.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]
You can get your copy of “The Lady in the Coppergate Tower” by clicking on any of these PW approved booksellers below.
This month, I am reading up a storm. Ironically, I noticed a theme. A lot of the books I am reading are by women of Asian descent. Today, I am going to discuss two such female writers who wrote “Searching for Sylvie Lee” and “The Night Tiger,” two very different books set on opposite sides of the world.
You’ve probably heard of this book. It was Jenna Bush Hager’s book club choice for June 2019. It was also the book club pick for The Book Club Girl.
The great thing about Jean Kwok’s book being featured in different book clubs is that it gives the readers a chance to connect and interact with her.
Personally, I love this book. This mystery takes place between New York (Queens) and The Netherlands, two places the author has called home.
Destination: New York City and The Netherlands
A poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women—two sisters and their mother—in one Chinese immigrant family and explores what happens when the eldest daughter disappears, and a series of family secrets emerge, from the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation
It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.
Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.
But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.
A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone—especially those we love.
So. Ummm. Wow. The ending is intense! I had such a mixture of emotions. I was screaming, going, “WHAT?!” Yet, I was also sad. But I don’t know if I was sad for what happened, or if I was sad because I saw myself as Sylvie Lee.
There are a lot of things that Asian Americans, or frankly any Asian immigrant, go through that is hard to explain to a culture that will never know what it is like to not be white. I think that is one of the most important statements made in this story.
Add to that discrimination, what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world. The struggle to be accepted as an equal and not a piece of meat…I mean, can anybody win if they are not male and white?
Jean Kwok does an excellent job explaining why some Asian Americans work so hard to be perfect. We are trying to be accepted in a culture that will not accept us. From the good grades to the perfect schools to the perfect jobs and husbands…it is all about trying to be accepted and loved in a world that rejects us. In so many ways, Sylvie Lee is me. And maybe that is the part that made me sad. I could see her in me and it made me feel that maybe I, too, want to be free. [Jean Kwok, you are killing me here!]
My site is called Perfectionist Wannabe. I think Sylvie Lee explained to me exactly what I could not explain to myself, maybe even why I settled on this site’s title.
The story is deep. Way too deep.
Mind you, everyone takes different things from stories. For me, it was the profound messages I could relate to. Someone who does not know what it is like to be an Asian woman will not take the same message from this story. Yet, that is kind of the point Jean Kwok is making.
An excellent read. This is a must for everyone.
[Side Note: Couscous. I love that Jean included her cat in the story. I think I’m going to have to write Matthew Lucifer into my book.]
I chose this book as my Book of the Month a few months ago. Like Pachinko, I kept thinking…I will get to this eventually. I finally forced myself to pick it up and then I thought, “I should not have waited so long to read this.”
A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.
When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.
Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.
As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tigerexplores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.
Loved this story from start to finish.
I learned a lot about the mysticism of Malaya. I love stories like this because you learn a lot about superstitions and the culture of the people. This really appealed to the anthropologist/archaeologist in me.
My favorite character is definitely Ren. Here’s this 10 year old orphan boy who is so smart and more in tune to his intuition and the universe than anyone else in the book. He is the one who has suffered the most loss, but doesn’t let it weigh him down. Here he is saving people’s lives, and has the biggest heart of all of them. He cares about everyone more than they care about themselves.
I wish we were all like Ren.
In “The Night Tiger,” I had just finished the part where she references “The Ghost Bride.” I was not even aware of the author’s other titles until someone posted a picture of her book “The Ghost Bride.” Absolutely love when there’s a hint to a previous title. That book is queued up to be my next read.
The story is very enjoyable. I definitely recommend it.
This month was definitely a great month for literature by women of Asian descent. After I read these two books, I ended up reading a graphic novel series written by two Asian women. Then I took a look at my recent purchases over the last few months. The majority of the books I purchased are written by Asian women. I kept thinking it is about time there were more female Asian writers on the market.
When I was first discovering my Asian roots (something my mother never discussed), I was in college. In the mid-90’s, I only had Amy Tan. “The Joy Luck Club” was the first Asian American film I ever saw. It became my window into a world that made me feel like I was not alone. I absorbed every single Amy Tan book I could get my hands on.
Since then, books written by Asian women became sparse. The only other author I knew of was Adeline Yen Mah. Now, we see more and more Asian women writing incredible stories.
I think over the last few years, I am drawn more towards choosing books by Asian women. I don’t do this purposely. The titles and the stories are what draw me in. When I check my shelves later, I see a theme. I am drawn to Asian women telling their stories; and they are incredible stories.
The stories that really stay with me are the ones written by Asian women. From Kim Thuy who wrote “Ru” and “Man” to Lisa See and Min Jin Lee, the stories are incredible. Maybe it’s that Sylvie Lee in all of us that inspires them to work hard to be perfect in what they are creating that explains why I have not read a bad book from an Asian woman. Everything has been 5 stars across the board.
Maybe that Sylvie Lee in us all is the reason why women of Asian descent write better books. And that is probably the reason why I freak out all of the time as I write my book…that need to be perfect in order to be loved and accepted by a culture that will never understand what it is like to be us.
Part of me does not know if that desire is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it is a bad thing, but at the same time, these women are making something extraordinary. It is not mediocre. It is exceptional. If we did not strive for that level of perfectionism, we would be like everybody else.
In an odd way, maybe we are just trying to prove we are better than that culture that does not accept us. These women are definitely proving that we are.
[Side Note: Shout out to all the book lovers who have fur babies. There seems to be a direct correlation between book lovers and animal lovers.]
Since I announced I will no longer be sending book sales to Amazon, [Amazon is Selling Counterfeit Books] I reached out to other retailers to see if we could form a partnership. Barnes & Noble is one of my new partners.
Each week, I will be showcasing each new partnership. After all of the new partnerships are introduced, I will be pooling all of the Book Deals I can find from each of the different retailers to share with you each week.
I am also working on a master list of online booksellers for people to use. This will include those retailers that ship internationally (for those of you who are outside of the US).
This week, I am highlighting Barnes & Noble and their sales for July.
But here is the deal I like going on this weekend: Select Books are only $2 with purchase of $35 or more. Here are a few of the offerings (price does not always reflect complete discount):
So for those still on the fence with whether to buy at Amazon versus another retailer, I highly recommend taking advantage of the sales you will find on other sites. Those sales with other booksellers are sometimes better than Amazon. Every now and again, you can even get free books. Amazon usually only does free ebooks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a buy 2 get, the third book free at Amazon. Have you?
I recommend doing what I do. Create a list of books you want to purchase. When I peruse sales, I look to see if that book has made their clearance or sale section. When the sale is too good to be true, that’s when I know it’s time to buy it.
I usually find the month following the Book Expo to be the time when I read more books than I normally would read. June was no exception.
I decided to do something a little different. You can thank a 10 year old girl for this. I usually pick up some books for my friend’s twin daughters every summer before they go away to their dad’s house. One daughter devours books. The other one is a comic book reader.
While her mother prefers that she read books, her daughter responded that she was not ready to give up picture books yet. This made me think…if comics and graphic novels are what it takes to get her to read, far be it for me to judge her. I should be encouraging her to read by any means she enjoys.
Which means that I am now reviewing comics and graphic novels. To my surprise, my male readers actually cheered when they heard this.
So far, I’ve picked up some great graphic novels and comics and I can’t wait to share this with you.
This was a really good book. I enjoyed the story, but after page 280, the political stuff got to be too much. It’s a great book to understand the history of Cuba, what led up to the revolution, and the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. It also shares what life has been like since Fidel Castro came to power.
We follow the story of Marisol (present day) and her grandmother Elisa (late 1950s). Elisa has passed away and Marisol has returned to Cuba to spread her grandmother’s ashes. As a reporter, she is looking to write a piece on tourism, while trying to find the right spot to release Elisa’s ashes. What she was not in store for was a box of letters her grandmother wanted her to have.
The letters tell a much bigger story, as well as Elisa’s biggest secret. Marisol realizes she must find the answers in order to determine where the best place would be to lay her grandmother to rest. While she searches for answers, the regime follows her around. She could be seen as a spy if she doesn’t watch her step, because the questions she is asking will lead to trouble.
GOOD NEWS: As of this post’s publication date, you can get the eBook from Barnes & Noble for $1.99.
(5 / 5) Daisies and Devotion. If you love Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, you will enjoy the latest novel from Josi S. Kilpack. “Daisies and Devotion” is the second book in the Mayfield Family Series.
It may be a little slow getting into, but once that dance happens, you will have a hard time putting the book down. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I really enjoy Josi S. Kilpack’s books. They are G-rated. Believe me when I say that sometimes the best love stories are the ones without all the sex and heavy petting. When it comes to real love, you have to talk about matters of the heart, not the lust. Josi’s focus is telling the stories that go on from the heart.
We read about the fear that goes on inside of their minds and the self-doubt. There are the lies we tell ourselves that we are not good enough, pretty enough, or desirable. There are even the stories we tell ourselves that someone doesn’t like us, we are not their type. Or that we may have misunderstood what was happening, so we break our own hearts and move forward in life…and when they try to tell us we were right, we refuse to believe them.
Kilpack does an excellent job of delving into the issues of love and learning how to love. She examines it, dissects it, learns from it and issues out the truths, no matter how difficult it is to accept. Seriously, where were these books 20 years ago? I could have used them then!
This book begins in Korea, before there was a north or a south, and then ends in Japan. We begin in 1910 and end in 1989, following the lineage of one family as they move from poverty to riches.
There are two quotes that sum up Pachinko:
“A woman’s lot is to suffer.”
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
As we follow Sunja’s life, a miracle that she was to be born, we see how the evil of the world tries to take advantage of such an innocent creature and shape her to make decisions that would lead her from Korea to Japan. She suffers greatly over and over again, but isn’t that life? Her children are her saving grace, but even the sins of her past can destroy her happiness.
This book is beautifully written, detailed and well done. Each character is developed so well that we watch them grow from infancy to old age.
It is shocking to me the prejudices that Koreans had to endure. It is rather sad that they are looked down upon by the Japanese, even if they were born there, as well as their fathers. They are still not granted citizenship and can be deported at any time. It was really heartbreaking to read this and how evil Japanese people are to the Koreans. It really makes you look at what happens in America and see that it happens everywhere. There is always one race that thinks they are better than another.
There are content warnings for this book. The following elements are present that may present triggers for those sensitive to these subject matters: abuse, death/dying, strong language, miscarriage, abortion, sexual situations, self-harm, violence and suicide.
Overall, this book is a must read.
(5 / 5) Salvage the Bones. Jesmyn Ward is an incredible writer, probably one of the best living American writers today. “Salvage the Bones” is just another example of her extraordinary talent.
This book really helps you understand the conditions of living in the Bayou of New Orleans. Here, we enter into one household just days before Hurricane Katrina hits. One thing I cannot stop thinking about is the phone call everyone receives from the State right before any major hurricane. Evacuate or you risk your own life. No one is coming to save you.
But how do people living in extreme poverty evacuate? Where do they go? How do they get to a safe place? For the State to give out that warning, it’s a bit classist if you truly think about it. That warning is for people who can afford to leave. For everyone else, they have to wait out the storm.
For those who remember, when the levees broke, it flooded much of the impoverished areas. It literally wiped out many neighborhoods.
One of the things Ward discusses that I remember hearing about when Tarboro, North Carolina (another black impoverished town) was flooded in 1999, were the dead bodies from the cemetery floating by. Her depiction and detail is the same as it was there. The similarities between the flooding of both areas are haunting. There was no warning for either place.
I can’t stress how well written this book is. Jesmyn reminds me so much of a Mark Twain or a Charles Dickens with the way she describes the life of humans along with their use of language. She is an incredible writer. You walk away from her books feeling so much more complete because you now understand something far greater than you ever did before.
(4 / 5) The Strange Case of Finley Jayne. For those looking for a quick read, this little novella is only 84 pages. It is the prequel to The Steampunk Chronicles.
What I loved about this book is that Finley Jayne is a bit of a kickass, no nonsense woman. She is a great daughter and friend. She protects the innocent and is smart enough to trust her instincts when things seem awry. She investigates questionable people even before she’s asked to do it. She is the one saving the day, even before she knows it.
Some superheroes are heroes because it is the right thing to do. Finley Jayne is a hero because it is who she is. She is not trying to be a hero. She just is.
Great story. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
(5 / 5) The Starless Sea. I wish I could give this book a gazillion stars. It is literally a masterpiece. It has been eight years since Erin Morgenstern released her debut The Night Circus. I was talking to someone from Doubleday Books when a couple of women walked up asking for a copy. I had apparently picked up the last one. The look on their faces as they looked at my book. I could feel something crazy in the air, so I turned to the publicist and said, “I think I am going to hide this away before a mob scene breaks out.” She responded, “I think that would be wise.”
In other words, this book was THE MOST COVETED BOOK at the Book Expo.
This book is not set to be released until November 5, 2019, so make sure you pre-order it now. Before you do that though, I recommend that you read my review first. This book is only for certain types of individuals. It was not created for everyone. I only tell you to read the review first, because I don’t want anyone leaving bad reviews for something they did not understand completely. You can read the entire review (no spoilers) HERE.
(2 / 5) Moonlight Travellers. I have been trying to remember where I picked this book up from. I guess it was when I was wandering around W.W. Norton, looking at their shelves. I probably thought…oh, this will be a light and easy read. Well, I was correct about that.
I did not rate this highly, because I had a problem with Will Self’s narrative. I don’t think the narrative matched the artwork appropriately. It read like this was a letter to someone…a specific someone. It was too personal and not something that should have been shared with everyone else. Those words belonged to one person…the intended.
While those words were beautiful, I felt like I had read something that did not belong to me. The artwork is interesting and entertaining as you go through each one, you’ll notice that the artwork alone is telling its own story.
(2 / 5) Raw Thoughts. Well, I actually gave this poetry book a higher rating on Goodreads. 3 stars. But I am going to change that.
I created the posting for this, because the system had not been updated. I went to double check my rating and saw it was 3 stars, but strangely enough, it says 4 stars at the top. I think…who in the world rated it higher than 3 stars?
The author did. He gave it 5 stars. Ummm…note to all authors out there…don’t do that. I understand you want your book to sell, but don’t do that. I am not even going to link this book for people to buy it.
I am going to explain why I originally gave this book 3 stars…I wanted to be fair. I did not like it, because the first 3/4 of the book is depressing and suicidal. The photos are mediocre. The best of the bunch is definitely the cover photo. There were two poems that I did like at the end.
I know that John Casey’s aim was to help people who are in complete sorrow/depression relate to the poems. The ending was supposed to be a light out of that pit, but I don’t think there was enough light to do that. The 3 stars was for the effort in trying to do something good, but failing to do so.
It’s the old Frankenstein meets new Frankenstein. The new Frankenstein is created by an angry black mother. Akai was shot down by the police on his way home from his little league game. Someone called in a report that an 18-20 year old black male was walking around with a rifle. He was 12 years old, wearing a baseball uniform, carrying a baseball bat.
Out of her anger at being seen as monsters because of their skin color, Dr. Baker decides to bring her son back to life using nanobots along with Victor Frankenstein’s notes. All the while, Frankenstein himself, the original creature, is hunting her down and destroying all humans in his path.
LaValle decided to bring Frankenstein and a major societal issue in America together to create “Destroyer.”
(5 / 5) Teen Titans: Raven. I really enjoyed reading Raven’s back story. Unlike the TV show/movie, this graphic novel is not funny. It’s rather serious and sad as we begin to see who Raven really is and where she came from.
After being involved in a car accident that kills her adoptive mother, Raven is sent to New Orleans to live with her adoptive mother’s sister and niece. The only issue is that Raven has amnesia. She has no idea who she is or what her past is.
With the help of her aunt and cousin, their voodoo protects her as she starts to remember who she is.
What I love about this the most is that a woman wrote this. We need more women’s voices in comics.
(4 / 5) The Magicians: Alice’s Story. I am a big fan of the television series on SyFy. This graphic novel is sort of the condensed version of Alice’s story. The characters do not look like the TV characters. While the show has diverse people playing the roles, the comic does not. It is whitewashed.
Beyond that aspect, I decided to give this title 4 stars because it helped me understand Alice a little better and what ended up happening to her. It is sad to a point, but in a way, freeing to understand what happened to her, as well as the relationship she had with Quentin.
I always believed that Quentin thought he loved Alice. Never thought for once that he actually did. I still think that, even after reading this graphic novel. Perhaps talking about love between Magicians is not realistic, because of the cold harshness of the subject matter of magic. It’s kind of something they want, but never really do attain.
This graphic novel is for mature audiences only.
[Content Warning. These elements are present: death, strong language, sexual situations, nudity and violence.]
Children & YA
(4 / 5) A Place to Land. This was an interesting tale of why King decided to do the “I Have a Dream” speech that day on the Mall. Apparently, it wasn’t the speech he prepared for that day.
The advance copy I received did not have the speech in it. I am unsure if the finished copy will have the speech in it.
Either way, I definitely learned something from this children’s book.
The artwork is well done. It’s a short read, but a very interesting take on that day. It gives this little piece of history a more in depth look behind that day.
(4 / 5) Doc and the Detective in Graveyard Treasure. What a great mystery for kids. I think what I liked most about this is that you learn a little bit about the Choctaw Nation and the Trail of Tears. While you are getting a little bit of a history lesson about this Native American group, you’re also learning about caring for those with Alzheimer’s and learning to respect seniors, all the while, drawn into a mystery.
When seniors start complaining that their things are going missing, people assume they are just forgetful or they don’t know what they’re talking about. They are not taken seriously, until one day, Timmy and his neighbor, Dr. Moore, see a flower pot for sale that looks exactly like the one his daughter gave to him that went missing. When they see who is selling it, they realize a much bigger situation is going on.
With the help of the local police, Timmy with his family and his friends, help uncover a ring of thieves that are taking advantage of the elderly. But the lessons here go far beyond just the adventure.
A great read for children 8-12 years of age.
[Disclosure: I received a free copy of A Place to Land, Victor LaValle’s Destroyer, Teen Titans: Raven, Daisies and Devotion, The Magicians: Alice’s Story, Pachinko, Doc and the Detective, The Starless Sea, Moonlight Travellers, and Raw Thoughts from publishers in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.]
Erin Morgenstern’s second novel “The Starless Sea” is due to be released on November 5, 2019. Her debut, “The Night Circus,” came out in 2011 to much critical acclaim. It’s taken her eight years to deliver her follow-up, and after reading “The Starless Sea,” I have to say that it was well worth the wait.
I loved “The Night Circus.” I actually read this years ago, before my surgery in 2013. I ended up reading “The Night Circus” over again while I was reading “The Starless Sea.” I needed to see that the opinion I formulated about the book on page 70 was the correct one, that I was in actuality reading a masterpiece.
Remember, I loved “The Night Circus.” I do not say this lightly, but her debut is amateur compared to “The Starless Sea.” I am going to explain why…
I am not going to give you a synopsis of this book. You can get that anywhere. I will say though that the synopsis provided online does not do the book justice. It actually doesn’t really tell you anything of importance. It just makes “The Starless Sea” look like a normal book. Not a great way to sell it.
What I am going to share with you is what I really thought of this book.
I did not truly grasp what was going on until the end (I am talking about that something magical moment happening). There were 43 pages left in the book. I tried to delay the inevitable that the book was coming to an end. By now, I had become a part of the story. I was so absorbed in the book, I was the story. But in a strange “Neverending Story” kind of way, it was like she knew I was there. She knew what the reader was thinking and feeling.
The reader is at the point where they are so much a part of the story that they do not want it to end. But it is at this juncture that she explains that all stories must come to an end. So she tries to coax us out of our little hole, as we cling to the book as if it is our very own existence, by explaining in length why stories must end.
That fear you have when you are almost at the end, because the book is brilliant so far, is that she is going to let you down and mess up the end. I mean, you really think she can’t pull it off. So she does what you hope she is not going to do. She let’s you down.
But she did that to you on purpose. It was as if she sensed your doubt. In the last two pages, she laughs, as if she is Fate. She laughs at the reader who thinks she is not going to pull it off to give us our happy ending.
With a mixture of storytelling, poetry, and fairy tales, she weaves her stories together. Each tale has a meaning. Each tale is important. When she brings them all together in a crashing crescendo, you feel like all of the stories are going to drive you insane. It’s becoming too much.
She inserts a person who has gone insane because of all of the stories. At the exact moment those stories are beating in your head, she introduces the crazy person and then leads them out of the crazy.
I mean…HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Seriously, WHAT THE F*CK JUST HAPPENED?
If you do not believe in magic, perhaps you will after reading “The Starless Sea.” That is the only way I can explain what happened at each juncture.
I’ve read a few of the reviews from others who were lucky to get an advance copy and I feel like I should say that they read the book wrong.
“The Starless Sea” is not the kind of book that you can skim through or read quickly. You need to take your time and absorb the story. That is the only way you will be able to understand how this is a masterpiece. If you go through the book too quickly, you will miss out on the clues and the greater meaning of what you are reading.
This is also not a book for people who do not believe in Fate. If you do not believe in fate or synchronicity or that weird thing that happens in life that cannot be explained that can only be described as God winking back at you, then this book is not for you. You have to believe in fate, synchronicity and God winks in order to understand this book.
You have to believe in the impossible, that it can, in fact, be real.
I knew by page 70 that I was curating this book into my collection. I still had another 426 pages to go, but I knew on page 70 that I had something special in my hands. Page 70 is where fate and time’s story are whispered and it is here where you can see Morgenstern’s mastery of storytelling, especially when it comes to telling fairy tales and myths.
It’s been two weeks since I put this book down and I feel as if I am going through withdrawal. The last time a book made me feel this way was Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s “The Shadow of the Wind.”
I absorbed “The Starless Sea.” I made this story a part of my being, because it deserves no less in order to truly understand it. Believe it or not, the message she is sharing is something so much grander than you can imagine. I felt like I was nodding my head in agreement thinking…SHE GETS IT! She understands the mysteries of this universe and she’s doing an incredible job of explaining this to the reader.
BUT only people who understand the answers to our universe can see what she’s done. A spiritual person can understand this book and its meaning. If you understand and appreciate Paulo Coelho’s message, then you’ll understand “The Starless Sea.”
Paulo Coelho, fate, spirituality, magic, and synchronicity are not everyone’s cup of tea, because it goes against their beliefs and understanding of the world. If you are one of those people, do not waste your time with this book, because you’ll leave bad reviews. But for those who believe in something greater because they witness it every single day, this book is definitely for you.
“The Starless Sea” is very different from her debut. Her debut feels like every other great read out there. “The Starless Sea” is her PhD. I can understand why it took eight years for this book to show up. It is as if Morgenstern has mastered the art of writing over the years and has put her masterpiece forward.
I just don’t know how she can put out another book any better than this. I mean…how do you come out with something better than a masterpiece? Is that even possible?
You can pre-order this book now by clicking on any of the following Perfectionist Wannabe preferred retailers below:
[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.]