Saturday, August 29, 2020

After Sundown...

"And so it began, not with thunderous noise, or drama, or a cataclysmic collapse, but with silence."

Ex-military, Ben Jernigan likes living alone atop Cove Mountain. With a security system, solar panels, and a large supply of food, he doesn't need anyone, and he's prepared for just about anything. Including a catastrophic solar storm that knocks out the power not just across the United States, but across the world. What he's not prepared for is his feelings for Sela Gordon, the shy convenience store owner he can't help warning about the impending CME. As Sela struggles to get her aunt, niece, and their neighbors to pull together to survive this unexpected natural disaster, Ben can't help but get involved. Because for him, Sela is worth the fight.

I've always been drawn to books about ordinary people who are forced to survive extraordinary events--seeing how prepared they are, how they react, what choices they make. It always makes me stop and think what I would do in a similar situation. (It also always makes me want to run to the grocery store and stock up on the essentials, like chocolate.)

After Sundown by Linda Howard and Linda Jones is the story of what happens in a small Tennessee community after several large solar flares knock out the power, not just for a day, but for over a year. Sela gets thrown into a position of leadership she really doesn't want, and Ben reluctantly gets drawn down from his mountain retreat to help her and the others out. I liked them both. Their quiet yet intense romance threads its way through all the survival action and suspense. It's not a combination that will work for everyone, but I thought it was entertaining and fun. Overall, I really liked this one.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Random thoughts...

Poignant moment on the first day of school:  When a 5th grade teacher was directing his students to their assigned seats in the cafeteria and realized as they started eating lunch that it was the first time he'd seen any of their faces. (Masks are required in all public schools here in Utah.)

Funny moment on the second day of school:  When a cute 5th grader tried to take a bite of her sandwich only to realize she was still wearing her mask. It made all the kids around her laugh.

Scary moment of the week:  Waiting to hear whether a close co-worker's COVID test was positive or negative. (Happily, it was negative!)

Happy moment of the week:  Discovering Julian Fellowes' adaptation of Anthony Trollope's book, Dr. Thorne. I still haven't read any of Trollope's novels, but I'm loving this mini series: the characters, the costumes, the's delightful.

Enjoy your Thursday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

In Honor of Mother Teresa's 110th Birthday...

And because a post is never complete without at least one book in it...

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Haiku Reviews....

The Darkest Thread by Jen Blood

Jamie, her son, and their dogs
search for two missing sisters
in haunted Vermont woods.

Mystery .... 325 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(I'm hoping her next one is even better.)

Girls Save the World in This One by Ash Parsons

Three friends must fight
to survive when real zombies
invade ZombieCom!

YA Action/Adventure .... 425 pages .... 3.5/5 stars.
(Fun, but a little angsty at the start.)

Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

Was her father right?
Do aliens exist? Liv's
about to find out.

YA Science Fiction .... 291 pages .... 2.5/5 stars.
(Took a weird turn halfway through and the ending was really sad.)

The Vampire's Fake Fiancee by Kristen Painter

Sebastian and Tessa
are only pretending to be in love...
until they're not.

Supernatural Romance .... 347 pages .... 4.5/5 stars.
(Another cute one that totally made me smile.)

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Rereading Jane Austen in August...

I don't care what anyone else says, I like Fanny Price! She may not be as outspoken, confident or lively as Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Woodhouse are, but then she doesn't enjoy the same privilege of position that they do either. She's the poor relation who's treated more like a servant than a member of the family. In a lot of ways, Fanny Price is Jane Austen's version of Cinderella. She's quiet, long-suffering, generous, and kind, but most of all, she has a good heart. (Plus, she loves books--having "been a collector from the first hour of her commanding a shilling.") And that's why I like her. She's good. (A quality highly under-rated these days.)

What I noticed most as I read Mansfield Park this time around is that the book is really a study in contrasts between Mary Crawford and Fanny Price. They are such opposites. Mary is outgoing and makes conversation easily; Fanny is quiet and shy. Mary needs to be constantly active and amused; Fanny finds contentment in solitude--enjoying her books and her own thoughts. Mary is careless and never chastises her brother, Henry, for his outrageous flirtations; Fanny sees and silently condemns his dishonorable behavior. When Mary has the chance to marry for love, she refuses because Edmund's position in society isn't prominent or important enough for her. Fanny, on the other hand, has the chance to marry a man of wealth and position, but refuses because he's not a man she can love.

So who's more likeable? For me, Fanny wins hands down. And I'm glad that, like Cinderella, she gets her happily ever after in the end. Because she deserves it. So, here's to Fanny! 

Happy Reading!

P.S. And while they've yet to make a really good movie version of this particular Austen novel, this 2007 Masterpiece one wasn't too bad. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

August's bookish art....

August Macke -- Elizabeth Reading

"Starting a book is like boarding a train to go on holiday."
--Antonio Iturbe

Friday, August 14, 2020

A little bookish escapism....

"There's a lot you don't know about Prince Charming...Some of you may not even realize that there's more than one Prince Charming. And that none of them are actually named Charming. No one is. Charming isn't a name; it's an adjective...(And) if there was anything that Liam, Duncan, Gustav, and Frederic all had in common, it was that none of them were very happy about being a Prince Charming. Their mutual hatred of that name was a big part of what brought them together. Not that teaming up was necessarily the best idea for these guys."

Whatever you do, don't dismiss this book simply because it's shelved in children's fiction. The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healey has a lot to offer to readers of all ages. First and foremost, it's funny. (Laugh out loud funny in some places.) I loved getting the princes' perspectives on Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, especially Prince Liam's. (He's the prince from the Sleeping Beauty story and by far the handsomest and most heroic of all the princes. Unfortunately for him, in this book Briar Rose is much more Briar than Rose--you would have called off the wedding, too.) These four princes are tired of getting short-changed in all the stories. After all, they're the heroes! Each one is uniquely flawed (and not always that heroic), but all of them made me laugh, especially Duncan, Snow White's talkative, eccentric and excitable prince. In fact, the only prince I didn't like quite as much as the others was hardheaded and impulsive Gustav, who charges into every situation without thinking, but even he had his humorous moments. Frederic is the quietest of all the princes and the least like a hero. (Most of the time he just wants to go home.) Their adventures are more like misadventures, and at times it's questionable whether or not they can save themselves let alone save a kingdom. Then there are the princesses. Ella is by far the best; she's adventurous and brave and the kind of girl who doesn't need a prince to rescue her...she'll rescue herself, thank you very much. I also liked Prince Liam's younger sister, Lila; she's daring and smart just like her brother. There are also trolls, dwarfs, a giant, a dragon, and an evil witch. Healy takes these classic fairy tale characters and makes them fresh, surprising, and fun. I loved everything about this book. (And so will you.)

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's theme:  Books I Loved, but Never Reviewed.

Sadly, I had a lot of books to choose from for this one because I'm a little lazy and I don't review every book I read.

Here are my top 10:

1. The Janes by Louisa Luna
(Just as good as the first book in this series; 
Alice Vega and Max Caplan are two new favorite characters!)

2. Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse:
(I also loved the second book in this fantasy trilogy and can't wait to read the third!)

3. The Werewolf Meets His Match by Kristen Painter
(This one totally made me laugh!)

4. Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs
(Mercy and Adam are back, and they don't disappoint!)

5. The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
(Thomas Cale is one of those unforgettable characters that I totally love.)

6. I Am Princess X by Cheri Priest
(A very fun YA book that I couldn't put down.)

7. The Humans by Matt Haig
(This amazing and funny book is what made me a Matt Haig fan!)

8. Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
(I love the poetical way this one is written.)

9. American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds by James Maguire
(Because I'm a bit of a word nerd...and I LOVE the National Spelling Bee!)

10. The Institute by Stephen King
(I've read 7 other books by King, but I think this one's my new favorite.)

I may not have reviewed any of these, but they're all awesome reads
 that I did really love and highly recommend.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

"When Strane and I met, I was fifteen and he was forty-two, a near perfect thirty years between us. That's how I described the difference back then--perfect. ... At Browick, he said, teacher-student romances were known to happen from time to time, but he'd never had one because, before me, he'd never had the desire. I was the first student who put the thought in his head. There was something about me that made it worth the risk. ... Lurking deep within me, he said, was a dark romanticism, the same kind he saw within himself. No one had ever understood that dark part of him until I came along."

"How cautious he was, first angling his knee against my thigh, such a small thing that could have been an accident, then his hand on my knee. ... It only accelerated after that, once he knew I was ok with it--and isn't that what consent is, always being asked what you want? Did I want him to kiss me? Did I want him to touch me? ... Slowly guided into the fire--why is everyone so scared to admit how good that can feel? To be groomed is to be loved and handled like a precious, delicate thing."

"Into the phone, I mumble, 'I'm needy.' It's the closest I can get to saying what I feel, which isn't horniness, because it isn't really about sex. It's him looking at me, adoring me, telling me what I am and giving me what I need to get through the day-to-day drudgery of pretending I'm like everybody else."

"Sometimes it feels like that's all I'm doing every time I reach out--trying to haunt, to drag him back in time, asking him to tell me again what happened. Make me understand it once and for all. Because I'm still stuck here. I can't move on."

My thoughts:
This book takes place in two timelines: in the past when Vanessa first meets Strane and he begins a relationship with her, and in 2017 when she's an adult and new accusations against Strane come to light forcing Vanessa to reassess the truth about her relationship with him. And it's a pretty dark and disturbing history. The graphic bits were especially hard to read.

Strand does a masterful job of manipulating Vanessa for his own personal gratification, making her believe she made him fall in love with her, playing on her emotions to keep her from blaming him, or telling anyone the truth about them, even making her feel like she has to apologize to him any time she questions or confronts him. It's despicable. He's such a horrible person. Even when she's an adult he still has the power to twist and manipulate her.

And Vanessa is so messed up. Her persistence in denying she was abused and in defending Strane made me shake my head in disbelief. I didn't understand why she kept seeking him out over the years, why she continued the relationship long after she left Browick. I wanted her to stand up for herself, call him out on his abuse, make him pay for what he did to her. But she couldn't because then she'd have to label herself a victim and Strane a villain, and for her it wasn't that black and white. I also think she really needed for their story to be a "love story" and not a relationship of abuse and manipulation. She was just so caught up in him. It was sad. I felt so bad for her.

While this novel is well-written, intense and compelling, the subject matter made it a hard one for me to read. Toward the end of the book I reached a point where I didn't want to revisit the past anymore; it was just too depressing. And Strane's actions made me so angry. I would have preferred if the second half of the novel focused on Vanessa in 2017 and her struggle to come to terms with her past, instead of jumping back every other chapter to chronicle still more of her interactions with Strane. It got to be a bit much.

At least I didn't have to read this one alone; Melody read it with me which definitely made it more bearable. So be sure to check out her review and see what she thought about My Dark Vanessa.

Happy Reading?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's theme: Books with Colors in the Titles.

So, I went through my own shelves to see what books I own that have colors in the titles. Apparently, none with purple, yellow, orange or pink. But I did find these 10 colorful titles:

Black & White: 

The Bride Wore Black Leather
by Simon R. Green

The Woman in White 
by Wilkie Collins


My Name is Red
by Orhan Pamuk

The Red Notebook
by Antoine Laurain

The Girl In Red
by Christina Henry


The Blue Sword
by Robin McKinley

The Blue Castle
by L.M. Montgomery


Green Rider
by Kristen Britain

This Green Hell
by Greig Beck

Legend in Green Velvet
by Elizabeth Peters

What colorful titles reside on your bookshelves?

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang

My name is Cas Russell. I do retrieval. It means I get things back for people. That's my job. ... (I'm also) really good at math.

Math is Cas Russell's superpower. Angles and forces. Vector sums. Momentum. Objects in Motion. Velocities and response times. She can calculate them all in  mere seconds. And with that knowledge, she can scale buildings, defend herself against any and all attackers, take out the bad guys, even avoid bullets. Handy skills to have, especially since her latest retrieval job has just pitted her against a super secret, super scary organization named Pithaca. They want to control the world by controlling people's thoughts. Even Cas's. And she's not sure how to calculate that.

My thoughts:
This book is one crazy thrill ride! Intense. Compelling. And full of action and suspense. And Cas is a great kick-ass protagonist. I loved her math skills. Her best friend, Rio, is a sociopathic killer, but I couldn't help but like him, too. Then there's Arthur, the ex-cop turned private detective who's also working the case, and Checker, his wheelchair-bound hacker friend. Such great characters! I was hooked from the start. Is this book plausible? No. But is it super fun and entertaining? Absolutely! I can't wait to read the sequel.

Happy Reading!

Fun facts about S.L. Huang:
She got her math degree from MIT. Plus, she's a Hollywood stuntwoman and a firearms expert.

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