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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Classics Fantasy Fiction Humor

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was so weird and I loved it. I listened via audiobook, narrated by Ralph Cosham, who was great. At just about 2 hours long, I’d recommend this to anyone open to a strange, clever read because it’s exactly as described.

The story
Originally published in 1915, this book is an entertaining and insightful look into literally what the blurb describes. A traveling salesman who turns into a bug.

The writing
Tells of what was and what is now seamlessly, from mundane tasks to complex predicaments, not droning on as a comparative analysis, but integrating him from a bug’s perspective and him from human notion at the same time.

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction

The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

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A divorced woman returns to her childhood home where she confronts the memory of her parents’ confounding yet deep bond.

The accidental near-drowning of a child exposes the fragility of the trust between children and parents.

A young man, remembering a terrifying childhood incident, wrestles with the responsibility he has always felt for his younger brother.

In these and other stories Alice Munro proves once again a sensitive and compassionate chronicler of our times. Drawing us into the most intimate corners of ordinary lives, she reveals much about ourselves, our choices, and our experiences of love.

Hippo Group, Malawi, Africa | Erica Robbin

Why am I so beautiful?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the writing in this one. It just flowed easily, hitting the highlights of human emotion, connection in a beautiful way. It’s a collection of short stories.

I’d recommend it to anyone, especially those who are simply wanting to try out short stories, a book that’s a very accessible in introduction, and as one you can simply pick up and read a bit during an in-between time, keeping it on your nightstand for a short nightly book with substance read, before bed, wind down, type of book if that makes sense.

I read this one for SunBeamsJess Book Club.

The stories.
Straightaway it was so immersive, happenstance and bigger life preponderances. Ones that are almost obscure.

Takes you through the waxes and wanes of someone’s lived experiences, good and bad, as if they were yours to experience first hand, though you didn’t see it coming because it’s the subtleness that’s powerful.

When you ask yourself, “Did I just have those thoughts as the character had them?” Or “I could totally see how that could happen in those circumstances and how it affected them.” It’s a step beyond believability, but experiences you take on as your own or as someone you know well in your personal life.

It takes a unifying theme into different directions, different perspectives, making for lovely short stories of sorted emotions.

It carries on with strong direction, not needing any explanations or reckoning but the stories exist on their own. And as short as the short stories were, they were really fulfilling and complete.

Such a good writing.
That is what makes a good book become great to me. Certainly there is a time and place for books that are forth right and telling (evidence and emotion and your proposed/expected reaction right in front of you type of scenario), which I enjoy from time to time too, but when the writing is deep and descriptive, yet also rather simple and concise at the same time, it’s this well-seasoned writing style that just makes me indulge in the stories and invest in the characters.

I’m not a fan of writing that pairs every single noun with an adjective or appears to pull incredibly convoluted/out of character words from a thesaurus just for word variation. This is rather writing that doesn’t waste words nor fluff them up for bulk. Rather it hits the ground running and maintains sustenance with every sentence and paragraph. Nothing is without place and purpose.

I liked certain ones better than others. Some I wasn’t as fond of. But it won’t stop me from making this book a favorite of mine, even if it was the first short story as representative of one of my favorites alone.

My favorites were:
The Progress of Love
Lichen
Monsieur les Deux Chapeaux
Miles City, Montana
Eskimo

Overall, it was a moving and settling, valuable reading experience and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

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Hippo in the Water, Malawi, Africa | Erica Robbin
Hippo in the Water, Malawi, Africa | Erica Robbin
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Categories
Book Reviews Books Childrens Classics Fantasy Featured Fiction

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1) by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

See it on Goodreads

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t believe it! I finally read Harry Potter! The first one anyway.

Goodness. I started it over 20 years ago. I was in high school at the time and I was so happy to see something of interest on the NYT Best Seller list at my library that wasn’t political, wasn’t about war, or police procedural.

I never finished it though. My parents made me return it for being too dark (yet Stephen King was ok, go figure) and I wasn’t really sure I felt drawn into it by the first couple pages anyway.

And I don’t think my opinion about the first tastes of my reading experience has changed much actually after picking it up again. It definitely reads more middle-grade to me, which was hard to warm up to. The sentence structure was not very fluid, in fact quite rigid. I stumbled over it much of the time especially at the beginning.

Content-wise though it was definitely super quick with sharp descriptions and inferences, which I adored, especially after the strengths of adventure plot and tension started to really drive the story and connections into the world and each character were being made. Feelings were rarely conveyed though but it was the witty observations that made up for this lack of sensing and feeling.

I’m not sure how invested I am in the series at this point, but I’m part of the “I read Harry Potter” world now, ask me anything. I don’t know which Hogwarts House I belong to though, the kids say I’m probably Hufflepuff, so we’ll go with that.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)
Categories
Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Mystery

Christmas Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen #26) by Joanne Fluke

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Featuring over a dozen cookie and dessert recipes from The Cookie Jar—Hannah Swensen’s famous bakery, this festive new Christmas mystery from the Queen of Culinary Cozies is just the holiday treat you need this season!

Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this one more than I did. Loved the cover, definitely drew me in! Very adorable, the beautiful contrasting icy blue and red color scheme, cute graphic, that extra reflective pearl which looked so pretty in person!

However something about it overall just didn’t work for me. The writing style seemed so incredibly different compared to other books I’ve read by the author.

My favorite part of this book was the recipes. The recipe font, placement, instructions, hints, and preferences were easy to read and very accessible. I’m not as keen on powdered sugared icing and boxed cake recipe variations though. I prefer traditional buttercream and cake from scratch myself. I’d pick my own grain and ground it into flour by hand if I could. Not completely ragging on the recipes, they certainly have their place in life (I will say readers and bakers who love simple recipes with ingredients they may already have on hand will absolutely love them), but for myself, I became so much happier to see there were others to choose from that were a little more what I would consider to be closer to homemade. And when I get some pickles, I will be looking forward to trying out the Rainbow Pickles recipes. So weird, made with unsweetened Jello, I really want to try it. That and the eggnog.

What I wasn’t keen on was that this book so incredibly slow! Read like a middle grade chapter book with loads of overly detailed plot filler. The plot, character development, barely trudged along. Oh my. It took a lot of effort to get through the first 30 pages. Then I skim read through the rest, stopping mostly at the recipes.

Every littlest action by the characters took was documented. Dialogue was flat and overly detailed. A lot of telling without much interesting nuance or subtle expression of intent or deeper connection and purpose. There was not a lot of thinking involved on my behalf. The characters didn’t show their personality, they hardly went anywhere physically, mentally, or emotionally. They were just there, doing day to day things in the most detailed way.

Nothing really mysterious either unfortunately. I was expectantly waiting for the stranger in the cafe to die off or someone to fall off the ladder with a cupcake in hand.

A bit disappointing, a big deviation from what I’ve known in the past books. I’ll have to check out the others.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

Centennial by James A. Michener

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Written to commemorate the Bicentennial in 1976, James A. Michener’s magnificent saga of the West is an enthralling celebration of the frontier.

Brimming with the glory of America’s past, the story of Colorado—the Centennial State—is manifested through its people: Lame Beaver, the Arapaho chieftain and warrior, and his Comanche and Pawnee enemies; Levi Zendt, fleeing with his child bride from the Amish country; the cowboy, Jim Lloyd, who falls in love with a wealthy and cultured Englishwoman, Charlotte Seccombe.

Centennial by James A. Michener

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love these books.

I listened to this one via audiobook narrated by Larry McKeever, who was just the perfect narrator for this series once again. Easy to listen to and I liked his pronunciation of Arkansas.

In today’s world, it is so hard to imagine travel of the time. It took all day just to go 15 miles. The whole family in tow and none of the luxuries of radio, audiobooks, podcasts, A/C or heating, readily available maps, petrol stations, ice chests, or favorite road trip snacks like Black Forest Gummy Bears, Cheetos, or a grande, hot, white chocolate mocha with 2.5 pumps of white chocolate, 1/2 pump of peppermint, with whipped cream- my go-to travel drink from Starbucks.

I started this one over summer, traveling through the mountains of Colorado, it was neat to hear to the commentary of the terrain while visually seeing granite rock layered like a tilted stack of pancakes with edges toward the sky. The erosion, hoodoos, those top heavy rock formations that look like they could topple at any time. Hearing about how it took years of volcanic ash to just drift its way over, the violent collision of tectonic plates, forming areas where mastodons and bison would eventually wander around, once a place where ocean deposited sediment as it peacefully filled the basin of land from melting glacier.

Originally published in 1974, it marries nonfiction accounts of the formation of the Midwest, geographically, population settlement, industry, and relationships with sweet, interesting, sometimes brutal tales of fictional characters so seamlessly integrated into what daily life may have been like in a fascinating, yet incredibly comprehensive historical novel.

50 hours and 5 minutes actually.

Michener was just so clever. I loved the themes, the pacing, the wealth of information.

I loved Rufus the bull story, the beavers, the real origin of horses, and Nacho.

MY FAVORITE LINES

“He tested his scales as carefully as Saint Peter is supposed to test his while weighing souls.”

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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Fiction

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

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In Mexico City, a young mother is writing a novel of her days as a translator living in New York. In Harlem, a translator is desperate to publish the works of Gilberto Owen, an obscure Mexican poet.

And in Philadelphia, Gilberto Owen recalls his friendship with Lorca, and the young woman he saw in the windows of passing trains.

Valeria Luiselli’s debut signals the arrival of a major international writer and an unexpected and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


Mundane musings. I did not really enjoy this one unfortunately. I DNF’d it in the 20s, later picked it up again, DNF’d it for the final time 2/3rds the way through.

I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

When I saw the list of literary references included in our book club package, I was so excited to start it.

However I couldn’t find the rhythm of the book. It was a compilation of random excerpts that didn’t take deep dives as stand-alones and didn’t make much sense to me strung together either. They weren’t so interconnected for me and I had a hard time following.

I expected it to be emotional, philosophical, entertaining, some sort of pursuit. Something along those lines, like an infusion of some underpinnings to bring completeness to the entire narrative, building up to something interesting, but instead it was quite flat. Really boring actually. Each entry lacked context and I hoped that together it would be a bit more coherent in a creative way, but sadly, it didn’t make much sense.

It was outside of a logical and creative realm that I could understand. A lot of it left my brain after reading. No themes lingered in my thoughts afterward which I was hoping for, something to give me some sort of foresight into the list of artists or commonality, nothing, just confusion in my head.

I just didn’t think or feel with this one.

Maybe I should have tried reading it in the original language of Spanish?

I’d like to try reading something of a different sort by this author though, perhaps something with some type of promised focus that might be more appealing to my style and taste in books.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

It’s been a year since Lottie’s fiancé walked out, leaving her heartbroken. But things start to look up when she lands her dream job at a beautiful Lake District estate, with a handsome groundskeeper for a neighbour.
 
So when Lottie is asked to organise a last minute Christmas wedding at Firholme, she can’t wait to get started. Until she meets the couple, and discovers that Connor, the man who broke her heart, is the groom-to-be.
 
As snow falls on the hills, can Lottie put aside her past to organise the perfect winter wedding? And will there be any festive magic left to bring Lottie the perfect Christmas she deserves?
 
Curl up with this gorgeous story about love and second chances, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson.

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A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Avon Books UK for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

I love Phillipa Ashley’s stories and writing style. The plot, the twists were well thought out. I liked the feeling that something was lulling, something in the background, a secret still to be revealed, all while instant gratification reveals were woven throughout the plot.

I think anyone looking for Christmas story to read as the days lead up to the holiday will enjoy this book. Romance, tension, cutesy bits, family bond, fun, this book had it all. It followed a timeline like an advent calendar which I quite enjoyed. Built on relational aspects, it was an endearing look into love and loss, life tragedy with hope and cheer, a feel-good story that was not the typical predictable plot one would expect, and a real Christmas mood setter for me because the scene descriptions were so well-fitted to capturing Christmas spirit and described in a lovely way without being over-the-top..

Had all the elements I love in a book. A lovely Christmas setting, enthusiastic characters with life choices and places they wanted to go, descriptions that weren’t over-embellished, and a deeper life roadblock that was realistic and heart-felt.

Though, toward the end, the characters annoyed me. Some disconnects for me, like the mother-in-law reaction of only hoping they were meant for each other. I admit I wasn’t really hopeful for the happy couple either, not the other couple either I suppose. I wanted to root for them at the beginning, but I just wasn’t feeling it toward the end. The elements of the story were there but I guess there was more focus on the details of the event than working through the feelings that I wanted more of.

Some of the overall situations in the relationships were a bit weird to me. Like certain dilemmas made for detours I was less interested in. It was the feelings that were a bit displaced and lesser developed. I guess all-in-all it was hard for me to grasp the coming to terms of their feelings because a high emotion sequence needed a higher emotional response that I just didn’t see in the end. Time or pacing may have been a big factor, maybe from that aspect it could have lingered more in increased length of time to provide resolutions that would have been a bit more realistic. Started out strong though, but I wanted to see it carried out just as strong.

It was just their circumstances and being stuck inside each other’s feelings rather than finding their own. The characters, and I mean actually majority of the characters, didn’t seem to understand how their hurt was being projected. They all reminded me of that Simpsons episode where the family zaps each other as a form of aversion therapy… unsuccessfully: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFCgz….

“Hey I thought we were making real progress…” Marge Simpson

Marge’s response “Hey I thought we were making real progress…”

A bit patched up, a bit packaged up in a very presentable way; however, all while being a bit oblivious to their own being.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the Christmas magic and the way the cutesy parts were displayed, the dog, the pizza party, the gorgeously decorated venue, all for a very lovely time I spent reading and escaping the year’s exhausting moments.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet (Agatha Raisin #2) by M.C. Beaton

Former London PR agent, Agatha Raisin still hasn’t adjusted to village life, where the only prospect for a hot evening out is a meeting of the Ladies Society.

And since her overtures toward James Lacey, the retired military man next door, have failed, Agatha jumps at the chance to visit the new vet, who is single and good-looking. Although Agatha’s cat hasn’t a thing wrong with him, Hodge endures having a thermometer shoved up his bum in the name of romance.

Unfortunately his sacrifice is all for naught when the vet is soon found dead next to a high-strung horse. The police call the vet’s demise a freak accident, but Agatha convinces the hard-to-get James Lacey, who is also bored in the Cotswolds, that playing amateur detective might be fun.

Unfortunately, just as curiosity killed the cat, Agatha’s inept snooping is soon a motivation for murder.

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

She’s ornery, dismissive, curious. I’m reading them all out of order depending on what is available from my library and loving every bit.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Diana Bishop, who was great, though I do love the extra edge of snarkiness that Penelope Keith brings out in the character to match.

I keep coming back to this series because they are such great in-between, hearty, make me laugh books with lightened life lessons of daily life to also satisfy those aspects when choosing a book worthwhile.

I did think it got a bit complicated in the manner of which a character was taken out, became quite over-layered in attempt to maintain the mystery, but all in all I enjoyed it and will keep on in the series.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Mystery

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (Agatha Raisin #4) by M.C. Beaton

After six months in London, Agatha Raisin returns to her beloved Cotswold village-and her dashing neighbor, James Lacey. Well, sort of. James might not be so interested in Agatha. But soon enough, Agatha becomes consumed by her other passion: crime solving.

A woman has been found dead in a lonely field nearby. Her name is Jessica Tartinck, a hiker who infuriated wealthy landowners by insisting on her hiking club’s right to trek across their properties.

Now it’s up to Agatha, with James’ help, to launch an investigation. Together, they will follow no shortage of leads-many of Jessica’s fellow Dembley walkers seem all too willing and able to commit murder. But the trail of a killer is as easy to lose as your heart-and your life. So Agatha and James had better watch their every step.

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m really loving this series more and more.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Penelope Keith, who was amazing. She brought to life the saucy, almost snarky, yet fun and lively aspect to Agatha’s personality.

And in this book I learned a lot more of Agatha’s personality. I loved the introspection, the bluntness. These books are becoming my go-to in-betweens to lighten up my reading experience and make me laugh. This was just hilarious.

The writing style itself matches the scene and characters. The writing is clear, direct, and it makes for an easy jump back into the story if your mind just so happens to wander away.

I loved the variation in the expression of emotion.

I felt this one to be more of the resolution I’ve wanted from the series. Though it was a jump around in series for me, perhaps realizing it probably spoiled the progression in the main character relationships, I don’t mind because I go along based on what is available at my library and I’m caring enough about the characters to go wherever they want to take me and this one was just fun.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fiction Historical Fiction

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie.

It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.

Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was interesting in concept and story.

I listened via audiobook, narrated by Sneha Mathan, who spoke soft and smooth, fitting for the story and it was very relaxing to listen to.

I appreciated the observations and personal aspects. I thought I was going to like it more thank I did. There was an abundance of observations and because of the writing style, being more long-winded and overly descriptive for me, it didn’t really move along like I would typically prefer. It was poetic which was beautiful, but too many adjectives for my taste made it difficult for me to develop my own immersion into the story.

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Book Reviews Books Fantasy Fiction

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

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The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grab a coffee, grab a snack, this is going to be a long one…

Organized by the story, descriptions, and characters.

And some photo/video footage of a garden experience that I was reminded of while reading the book.

The story.

Addressed deeper perspective and problems associated with combat/war, specific ones at that, in a thoughtful way as an overarching theme built within a fantasy genre, namely a school of magic, which interestingly enough was likely not completely separate from certain cultural aspects that were being portrayed. I loved that this story was unique to me in this sense and wasn’t just an academic info dump, nor too fantastical to ignore historical realities.

The beginning of the story set the geographical and political scene clearly which was great since there were so many places, tribes, characters, and character roles to keep track of. Unfortunately there were many more to come and they became less integrated into the climax and ending. Perhaps they will all come back later in the series.

It’s a serious book with serious subtopics of historical significance. Initially I wasn’t sure about using such dark events in this one. It crossed the line of to inform vs entertain by merging nonfiction with high-fantasy realm, yet made a point of either coping/escapism as a result, depiction of other social/cultural traditions, or perhaps to bring a younger reader into such subject matter through genre appeal, of which I had to really think about. In context. I didn’t know enough of the history coming into it to probably fully appreciate it nor am I into fantasy enough to fully embrace these types of tropes.

Sometimes it was more difficult to take such seriousness with the parts of juvenile insults, occasional comedic tone, and the jarring overuse of more modern-day swearing, but maybe I am just not the main target demographic for this book.

The second half focused more on real time war details, employing previously learned war training tactics, which were interesting from a martial arts perspective and I appreciated the action. The exuberant amount of power struggles with “just in time rescuing” droned on a bit and became too repetitive for my taste.

I really liked the side stories that took time to explain the backstory, the puppet show, the parade. Very well done, I like to see clever, yet subtle integrations like this.

There was a lot to unpack in the this book. Drug users, drug dealers, supply and demand with war trauma and tactics over the use of it, military school and martial arts, sterilization procedures, losing yourself in war, role confusion, love, loyalty to the party, loyalty to the system, loyalty to roots, culture, yourself. Being called to action at a moment’s notice, feeling ill-prepared, violence, savagery, greed, all of it, changing you as a person. However it was hard to see that change in the characters. It was something I expected. I wanted to see growth, regression, change, anything.

Descriptions.

I liked the author’s uncomplicated descriptions. And I liked how she transitioned the turning of events, especially those involving combat. She had a knack for scene changes and carrying action scenes forward.

The characters.

Navigating through a world of fragmented social discord, postwar oppression, and everywhere rumors and indoctrination. I would have liked the characters to have been a little more connected with their own emotions and displayed in various ways, adding value to their actions, their rationales, and ultimately show enough self-awareness to understand others. To empathize, see beyond, the big picture, the future, the outcome as well as the nuances and details to give them purpose, something worth fighting for whether it was an internal or external motivator. Even if it was a mechanical force. Anything to shape their journey and pave the way for a more dynamic ending or to add dimension to their existence in a more personal way.

I had major issues with the characters, particularly the main one. I would have liked to have seen more character consistency. Her inconsistent characterization disrupted to the flow.

I liked how the author set the tone for the main character. Depicting attributes such as strength, stubbornness, yet also not without feeling, her plunging into despair, feeling alone, like a foreigner. Building her up as a survivor with capacity yet unknown to the character and as a reader.

However, I had a hard time understanding her. She was inconsistent, wavering, wishy-washy. She was unearthed yet defaulted to unmotivated and lacking charisma. I never found what made the main protagonist happy. Never found what made her tick. It was frustrating. Characters living (or dying) through this type of subject matter are really important for me. This character, however, ruined it for me.

There were questions of source and determination, whether training versus heritage, but nothing innate about her in either case was convincing.

She had a lot of character flaws, sure, ones that make her unlikeable to readers of her story and less favorable among her instructors and peers in the story. She was stubborn, struggling her way through life, navigating at will. Her personality, an off-putting, know-it-all novice that stemmed from humble, yet forgotten roots, not very self-aware.

It just didn’t make sense how she studied and trained so much but misunderstood the very foundation, origin, and fundamentals, leading the narration to be more of a telling as Rin went along than solidarity in showing of character. Overall it was a bit of a disconnect, making it difficult for me to get into her head. She was supposed to be gifted but wasn’t consistently depicted as either book or street smart so I wasn’t sure who she was supposed to be or who she was supposed to become in the process. Then the end came and I felt like I knew nothing about her as a person.

She embraced certain concepts but then had total disregard for others, trained by an absolute scholar yet had little respect for the art. She vacillated between working hard and having natural abilities, but by the end I wasn’t sure which given or earned characteristics she held or whether it was a brain, heart, or courage she was supposed to be seeking out. As the book went on, her character identity became increasingly difficult to pinpoint.

A risk-taking, insecure female protagonist, who sought out a path in life that she later found out was perhaps built on belonging, the accolades, general curiosity, determination, impulsiveness, and a hunger for technique still without the actual discipline, which to me, not completely knowing undermined everything that built her up to be.

She was impatient, overly complex, difficult, manipulative, and had this antagonistic personality you just want to hate, yet have hope for when you realize you still have half a book to read. So you keep reading. But time and time again, she was dismissive of people who’ve helped her, naive and green, yet headstrong without clear direction or purpose. She became an unloveable underdog with unreliability in both narration and deepest depiction of character. She was all confusion and incredibly contradictory.

And ugh, a phrase so overused in writing “Rin let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding.”

And then we have Nezha, who was just snide, expectant of better luxuries, then slated as having snobby pretentiousness smoothed out by the war just a few paragraphs later, only to flip-flop as well, picking up pretentiousness again, and again it was confusing to not know if there would be any turning point or self-recognition, life decision, some introspection or event that would be a guide to character enrichment and ultimately frame the plot, making it not only a great story, but a solid, resourceful, and believable one.

And then there’s Atlan. I’ll stop my thoughts on other characters here though.

All in all I was ready for this book to be over. Yet in its uniqueness I also appreciated it for what it was.

My biggest issue was with the main character who was the deal-breaker. Heartless and less justifiably so, especially for a plot that was built upon actual crimes against humanity. Perhaps it was just not the style I wanted to feed my mind with, with such wavering characters. I do recognize that I’m more of a nonfiction reader when it comes to stories like this. Maybe first person narration would have helped me embody more of what she embodied in seeking clear insight into her value as the main character. I don’t know.

I haven’t decided if or when I will be reading the next in series, but I’ll be curious to pick up more from this author outside of this particular story because the other writing aspects are ones I would like to look forward to.

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Glad to see you’ve made it this far!

I had some flashbacks as I read a few passages and thought I’d share!
Ant in my garden

I’ve come into contact with several kinds of ants in my life, from the docile sugar ants to fire ants to the fuzzy red velvet ant, even the ferocious Dorylus, also known as driver ants, safari ants, or siafu.

The ones that marched into my garden, taking over without warning are coming up as Megaponera annals or pondering ants. They are similar to carpenter ants.

Ant wandering in my backyard

They are raiders, filing in by the 100s, feasting on termites, carrying larvae.

They are bold and aggressive, following me around as I pulled weeds.

And they bite. Really hard!

Once they take hold they DO NOT let go.

She thought of the warrior Bodhidharma, meditating for years while listening to the ants scream. She suspected that the ants wouldn’t be the only ones screaming when she was done.

Hissing of ants in my backyard

They poured through like a swarm of ants, like a cloud of hornets; unstoppable and infinite, overwhelming in number.

Mass migration of ants in my backyard

Have you read this one, what did you think?

Categories
ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Thriller

The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

Michael and Megan Fitzgerald are siblings who share a terrifying past.

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Both adopted, and now grown — Michael is a long-haul truck driver, Megan a college student majoring in psychology — they trust each other before anyone else. They’ve had to.

In Los Angeles, Detective Garrett Hobbs and FBI Agent Jessica Gimble have joined forces to work a murder that seems like a dead cinch. Their chief suspect is quickly identified and apprehended –but then there’s another killing just like the one they’ve been investigating. And another.

And not just in Los Angeles — the spree spreads across the country. The Fitzgerald family comes to the investigators’ attention, but Dobbs and Gimble are at a loss — if one of the four is involved, which Fitzgerald might it be?

From coastal California to upstate New York, Dobbs and Gimble race against time and across state lines to stop an ingenious and deeply deranged killer — one whose dark and twisted appetites put them outside the range of logic or experience.

The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Wow the suspense!

This was an interesting read for me because having read books from both authors, (90s Patterson and a few from the Michael Bennett series, Barker, from the latest She Has a Broken Thing Where Her Heart Should Be and Dracul), I had certain expectations and was not sure how a blend of creative elements and the diversity among the two would play out.



I was excited and I also had questions. Was this going to be a cross-over for new audiences or existing readership or appeal to both? Would it be fresh or familiar and would it even matter? Would I be experiencing reader confusion if there was a certain continuity I was looking for in the writing and storyline? Who contributed what as far as idea, vision, and implementation? Were there creative differences and how did those get worked out? I wanted to know. I don’t know why I wanted to know these things, I just did.

So I’ll just say when I was reading, there were certain recognizable traits I identified and the collaboration was executed fabulously.

The storyline. Ah, makes so much sense. Red herrings, yes, you got me. Ending, yup, well played. The police force with feasibility and critical knowledge, so well polished, and I just love it when I can read a book and not feel the need to nitpick these things apart.

The writing. So fast paced and decisive, as the storyline calls for and the immediacy was so incredibly satisfying. It was a captivating, dive-in of an opening. A few hard-driven parts were almost borderline overstimulating for me, but nonetheless, I happily devoured the book in one sitting.

The lines written without apology, a very natural, yet precise and enticing way of wording, compelling but not over worked or over thought. And there was this persuasiveness that was essential for such a detailed, psychological thrill which was just entrancing. I recognized certain stylistic features that just cut through my mind like, oooh that’s eerie, oooh that cliffhanger, so solid, I’ll keep reading.

I loved how dual scenarios and POVs converged at the surprise elements while still maintaining their distinction. There was this unique quality to the writing, especially for the crime fiction genre, where the voices were undoubtedly distinguishable in both thought and action. I feel like sometimes character traits and voices tend to take on the same persona and get muddy when police investigations take place, definitely not the case in this one.

I loved the characterizations of people, as well as general observations of personal characteristics/habits themselves. And the scenery, I mean Needles, CA., if you’ve ever driven through, you’d recognize that the description of the settings were spot on.

And of course I loved the literary references and the quotes from within the story itself. They generated their own deep significance that articulated the intricacies of the plot so well.

A solid read and I’m looking forward to seeing more collaborations like this.



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