January’s BookCase.Club Kid’s Box

Last month I introduced the latest addition to BookCase.Club, which was the new kid’s boxes. This is a late unboxing, but January’s box was so loved that my nieces and nephew had to take it home the day they opened it. It filled them with such joy and wonder to discover what books were in the box, and trying to read through each one on their own as all three talked about the cover, and what they thought the stories were about. I was able to get one photo after it opened, which is up on my Instagram.

BBC is a monthly subscription service that delivers books to your doorstep that are handpicked by their curators with your reading preferences in mind, based on the theme you choose when signing up.

The Kid’s box allows children of all ages to experience the magic of reading by receiving a monthly shipment of books suited for their age range. When you subscribed, you will pick a theme, and there are selections for every age group, offering kid cases from newborn up till pre-teen. Each case contains 3, handpicked, gender specific books. The Pre-Teen contains 2 handpicked books. Note: You will see at the top of the homepage, there is a link to BookCase Kids–not to be confused with Read to Me, offered as one of the original 8 cases.

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The cost for this subscription box costs $9.99 a month, which is an affordable price that allows not only your child, but you, to receive a BBC box. There are multiple plans when it comes to payments, ranging from $9.99 a month to 12 months for $100.

Below are the books that were in the January BookCase.Club Kid’s box for 7-8 years old. Summaries and cover photo are sourced to Goodreads, and retail prices are from Book Depository’s website.

 

Despicable Me: My Dad the Super Villain by Lucy Rosen ($3.99)

This exciting early reader, based on the animated film, Despicable Me, from Universal Studios, follows aspiring “world’s greatest villain” Gru on his quest for universal domination…until his plan hits an unexpected snag. Lively illustrations and simple, engaging text provide a terrific learning experience in this story about the power of family.

Murilla Gorilla, Jungle Detective by Jennifer Lloyd, Jacqui Lee ($9.97)

Murilla Gorilla, the jungle detective, is woken up by a new case: Ms. Chimpanzee’s muffins were stolen. But who did it? It’s up to Murilla to find out… as long as she can find her badge first! Murilla may seem like a hopeless detective—disorganized, messy and always thinking about her next snack—but out of her mess come some pretty good ideas, and some pretty funny moments too.

Labracadabra by Jessie Nelson, Karen Leigh Hopkins ($15.16)

Zach isn’t impressed with his new dog, Larry, at first. He’d hoped for a chocolate lab or a spaniel, not this funny looking mish-mash of a dog with a great long tail. And who names a dog “Larry,” anyway? But Zach discovers that when Larry twirls that ridiculously long tail – Labracadabra! – amazing things happen. It’s not very long before Zach knows that he and Larry will be Best Friends Forever!

When it comes to BBC, there are genres from everyone. If you want to subscribe to more than one theme, just select the genre you want, pick a payment plan, and it will be included in your cart at checkout–it’s that easy! If you want to switch an age group or genre, you can do so when you access your account, which makes it simple and convenient to receive the age appropriate book box as your child grows.

BookCase.Club is one of my favorite book subscriptions out there on the market today because it allows me to receive a quality curated box each month for a reasonable price that is well worth the value, while introducing my nieces and nephew into the world of reading.

Use the code Ramble15, to save 15% off of ANY BookCase.Club subscription!

JOIN BOOKCASE.CLUB!

*Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to BookCase.Club for giving me the opportunity to review the kid’s box!

Book Review: The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner

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★ ★ ★ ★

This was phenomenal! I would have finished reading this in one day, but had a lot going on–still, I carried it with me everywhere to squeeze in a few more chapters whenever I had a free minute. Any chance I had, I let people know about this book because I was enjoying it so much. Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. When she begins to experience dreams and flashbacks to the last few years of her life, she learns that her life isn’t what her husband, Jacob, has made it out to be. It turns into a terrifying nightmare with a rocky marriage, broken promises, and secrets that are unraveled as she starts to remember and question her surroundings. Set on a fictional island located near the San Juan Islands in Washington, isolated from the mainland and the life she remembers, Kyra can sense that deep down, it isn’t what it seems.

The Twilight Wife sets the atmosphere for a engrossing thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. I flew right through this story, and had to take a few days to let my thoughts process because I could not stop thinking about it even after I put it down. A.J. Banner wrote a page-turner, that at times left me feeling claustrophobic because I felt I was in Kyra’s head throughout the story, as she discovers the horrifying truth, and how unnerving that was for her as a character. Imagine not knowing things are not right, but people will not be honest, and you just can’t remember despite living through it–it is frustrating and makes you feel despair. Banner’s story-telling is rich with world-building that brings the Pacific Northwest out of the pages, characters that are complex and at times surprising, but realistic and relatable.

Often times I tried to figure out what was going to happen as I read along, and by the end, I was stunned–and completely wrong! Banner adds twists and turners at every point you think you are about to figure out what is going on. You may think you know, but you have no idea, and that is refreshing for a thriller like this. The Twilight Wife is an engaging story, that will have you feeling the desperation and anxiety that Kyra feels while she is pieces the clues of her past life together.

Synopsis 

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 27th 2016 by Touchstone

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik

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★ ★ ★

Happy New Year! It has been a few weeks since my last post, both due to the holidays, and being in a reading slump, but I am back with another review.

I went into reading this one with no expectations, but being intrigued by the synopsis and relating to the mental illness aspect. I finally got around to finishing Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik, and it was a fascinating story. It was a slow burn for me. It started off strong, but dwindled midway through. It did take me a little longer to get through this because Maksik’s writing style and narrative, and at times it wasn’t the smoothest story-telling–other times, I just lost patience. It was a complex and demanding read, but it was also intense and engaging. When it comes to the mental illness aspect of this novel, it was written carefully and thought-provoking. There was so much more to this novel that was touched on, and done well, that being living with mental illness, the consequences to actions, violence, coping, and family. It certainly is not for everyone, and it is a challenging read, but it is a powerful one.

Synopsis

Joseph March, a twenty-one-year-old working class kid from Seattle, is on top of the world. He has just graduated college and his future beckons, unencumbered, limitless, magnificent. Joe’s life implodes when he starts to suffer the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and, not long after, his mother kills a man she’s never met with a hammer.

Joe moves to White Pine, Washington, where his mother is serving time and his father has set up house. He is followed by Tess Wolff, a fiercely independent woman with whom he has fallen in love. The lives of Joe, Tess, and Joe’s father fall into the slow rhythm of daily prison visits followed by beer and pizza at a local bar. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie March, Joe’s mother, is gradually becoming a local heroine as many see her crime as a furious, exasperated act of righteous rebellion. Tess, too, has fallen under her spell. Spurred on by Anne-Marie’s example, Tess enlists Joe in a secret, violent plan that will forever change their lives.

Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Europa Editions

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

BookCase.Club for Kids

It is time for another unboxing, and who doesn’t like book mail? This one is perfect for introducing books to the little ones, and letting them explore their imaginations so stick around to learn more.

If you have no heard, BookCase.Club is a monthly subscription service that delivers books to your doorstep that are handpicked by their curators with your reading preferences in mind, based on the theme you choose. This month I have the pleasure of introducing and reviewing the latest addition to the service–BookCase.Club Kids!*

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Now children of all ages can experience the magic of reading, and receive a monthly shipment of books. You will see at the top of the homepage, there is a link to BookCase Kids–not to be confused with Read to Me, offered as one of the original 8 cases. To begin, you will pick a theme, and there are selections for every age group, offering kid cases from newborn up till pre-teen. The themes are Newborn-2, 2-4, 5-6, 7-8, and Pre-Teen. Each case contains 3, handpicked, gender specific books. The Pre-Teen contains 2 handpicked books.

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There are multiple payment plans, so whether you want month-to-month that costs $9.99, or a prepaid plan such as 3 Months for $28, 6 Months for $54, or 12 Months for $100, they gives you options. This is an affordable literary subscription service for the young readers in your life, and it is a great way to introduce your children to the written word while receiving fun packages in the mail monthly. All cases are shipped on the 1st of the month, and be sure to share the experience on social media with #BCCUnBoxing.

Below are the books that were in the December BookCase.Club Kid’s box for 7-8 years old. Summaries are sourced from Goodreads, and retail prices listed are from the title’s back cover.

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Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler, Mark Siegel ($16.99)

In this rip-roaring picture book, readers are invited to the party of the year, as all monsters large and small throw the most outrageous, most bodacious bash of them all–the Madcap Monster Ball.

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The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings ($16.99)

The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile….

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

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Wanderville by Wendy McClure ($16.99)

Jack, Frances, and Frances’s younger brother Harold have been ripped from the world they knew in New York and sent to Kansas on an orphan train at the turn of the century. As the train chugs closer and closer to its destination, the children begin to hear terrible rumors about the lives that await them. And so they decide to change their fate the only way they know how. . . .

They jump off the train.

There, in the middle of the woods, they meet a boy who will transform their lives forever. His name is Alexander, and he tells them they’ve come to a place nobody knows about—especially not adults—and “where all children in need of freedom are accepted.” It’s a place called Wanderville, Alexander says, and now Jack, Frances, and Harold are its very first citizens.

8 Other Genres on BookCase.Club

There are themes for everyone in the family! Below are the other cases available through BookCase.Club. You can subscribe to more than one theme; just select the genre you want, pick a payment plan, and it’ll be added to your cart for checkout– perfect if you have more than one reader in your home!

  1. Read to Me – 4 Children’s Picture books
  2. Blind Date – 2 Paranormal Romance novels
  3. Strange Worlds – 2 Sci-Fit/Fantasy novels
  4. Thrill Seeker – 2 Mystery/Thriller novels
  5. Booking for Love – 2 Romance novels
  6. Teenage Dreams – 2 Young Adult novels
  7. Quarterly Military History – 2 Military History novels delivered every three months
  8. Quarterly Cookbooks – 2 Cookbooks delivered every three months

The total retail value for all 3 books in this month’s box was just over $50! That is an incredible deal for just $9.99/month plus shipping. If you’re looking for a quality and well curated book subscription without the little trinkets, and gives you quite the deal and value for the cost, BookCase.Club is a great choice.

It is easy to switch age group/genre themes in your account, so it is a subscription that can grow with your child throughout the years when it comes to age appropriate books. A monthly book box that arrives on your doorstep will be a fun, new reading experience for both you and your child. It’s a great way to build their little library, and instill the love of reading from early on.

Join BookCase.Club!

*Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to BookCase.Club for giving me the opportunity to review the kid’s box!

Book Review: Before the Feast by Saša Stanišić

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★ ★ ★ ★

Saša Stanišić’s Before the Feast was a strange and whimsical story. It was one that had to be read in small portions, so it took me quite a while to get through despite thinking it would be a quick read. At times it was a challenging book because it required my full attention, but it was memorizing and beautifully written. Without giving too much detail away, it is about a long night in Fürstenfelde, a small East German village, on the eve of the feast–the feast that is not exactly defined. We learn about the history of Fürstenfelde, the mysteries and magic, we also follow the inhabitants of the village with their distinctive personalities and different circumstances. Told through short chapters and the town as the narrator, I enjoyed this story, although at times it was chaotic, and didn’t have a straightforward plot–if you go in expecting that, this may not be book for you. If you want to not just read, but experience a story that brings you into that world through captivating prose about old stories, myths, folklore, and fairy-tales, this would be a fine choice. This vibrant, odd, yet charming village full of its people both living and dead, of all backgrounds, that end up coming together.

Often I found myself putting the book down because I needed to pull myself from the story and read something a little more solid in terms of a plot. In a way it felt like I was in this dream land, though not completely in slumber–you know that middle, where you can’t seem to fully wake from the trance? I still feel like that when trying to form my thoughts around the story. I feel like while there is a vagueness to it, and a reader can easily be confused with where it is going, there is a lot up to the reader on interpretation and whether or not they think there is meaning or a point behind it. Take the time to appreciate how well crafted this story is, and don’t rush through it–travel through Fürstenfelde with a curious and open mind. Before the Feast was an unusual and riveting novel that I hope to come back to one day to relive.

Synopsis

Someone has opened the doors to the Village Archive, but what drives the sleepless out of their houses is not that which was stolen, but that which has escaped. Old stories, myths, and fairy tales are wandering about the streets with the people. They
come together in a novel about a long night, a mosaic of village life, in which the long-established and newcomers, the dead and the living, craftsmen, pensioners, and noble robbers in football shirts bump into each other. They all want to bring something to a close, in this night before the feast.

Paperback, 353 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Tin House Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

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★ ★ ★ ★

In The One Hundred Nights of Hero, after a brief introduction into the prehistoric mythical world with three moons, we are transported to the empire of Migdal Bavel, where two friends make a bet: Manfred has one hundred nights to seduce Jerome’s wife, Cherry, while Jerome is out to sea–and if he wins, Jerome must forfeit the castle and his wife. Unknown to both men, Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women have a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred with mesmerizing tales for 100 nights, keeping him at bay until Jerome returns.

I am still trying to untangle my thoughts from this graphic novel, but without a doubt, this is a wonderful read, and beautifully illustrated. I read this in one sitting a few nights ago, and as soon as I closed the book, I went on ramble about each story, the characters, and meanings behind it all because it left me feeling so much. It is about brave women, independence, love, sisterhood, and exquisite storytelling. It contains stories within stories that come together in the end, and fill you with empowerment and inspiration. The artwork is stunning with muted tones, splashes of color, and Greenberg’s unique style, and makes for brilliantly telling of ancient tales. Hero tells simple stories while weaving traditions, folklore, and myths throughout each one. While getting lost within the pages, you’ll encounter faraway lands, empires, supernatural beings, explorers–and always, strong-willed, determined women who take no bullshit from men and will overcome anything. It is a tapestry of folk tale and myth retellings with modern twists, and although somber at times, there is also humor, insight, and wit.

Synopsis 

In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle–and Cherry.

But what Jerome doesn’t know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: December 6th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Favorite Reads of 2016

It is that time again. The year is quickly coming to a close, and with that, it is time to wrap up my year in reading with the favorite books that I read in 2016. Next year is another chance to knock out another reading goal, along with plenty of new releases that I can’t wait to read! In no particular order, below are my favorite books of 2016.

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

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The Gentleman is Forrest Leo’s debut novel, and it was one of the best of 2016. It is about a husband who conjures the Devil, and accidentally sells his wife, which results in planning a rescue mission to Hell. A variety of personas come along for the quest, and a whole lot of over-the-top encounters happen along the way that will have you laughing out loud.

This novel was so well crafted and the humor flowed so effortlessly in the story-line. If you’re looking for a fun and quick read that doesn’t require as much commitment, this is definitely the pick.

Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

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Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island after fleeing the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father, and ravaging the island’s environment. It’s set in post-disaster Washington state as Lucie returns to the island that is slowly rebuilding to reconnect with her childhood friend, Kate, who lives within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony that is located on part of the island—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” As an environmental journalist, Lucie’s experience tells her that there is more to the Colony than their charismatic leader is letting her know, and Lucie sets out on uncovering the secrets even if it endangers more than their mission.

I adored this novel. It is beautifully written, captivating, and Smith has a way of bringing you into the story where you feel like you are Lucie. Marrow Island was a slow, but satisfying burn. If you’re looking for an eerie setting with vivid world-building, and lyrical prose that leaves you feeling unsettled, this is it.

Each Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Littell

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Shelk is quiet, peaceful Pennsylvania town in the Appalachian Mountains, where life of a small town is knowing everyone, circulating gossip and settled-into routines.That is until a group of teenage runaways settle in the hills and begin to invade homes and lives–quickly a line is drawn between those residents seeking to insulate themselves from the outside world and those reaching out for more. Caught in the middle due to newfound loyalty is the lonesome local bar owner, Zaccariah Ramsy–when tensions rise between the townspeople and the newcomers, he must choose a side.

Each Vagabond by Name is a story that brings you into their world, and when you finish, you feel like a piece of you is left behind within the pages. It Littell’s debut novel, about isolation, loneliness, but also survival and coping. It is slow-paced, but beautifully written with emotion, grit, and and complexity. It was a well deserving 5 stars, and one of my favorites of the year.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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After being knocked unconscious by a masked abductor, Jason wakes up to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounding by strangers in hazmat suits. In this world he awakes in, Jason’s life is not his own. His wife is not his wife, and his son was never born. He is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who achieved something remarkable and once thought unimaginable. Is there a way to make it back to the world he knows, the family he loves? He must battle a seemingly impossible and unpredictable foe to get back to the life he knows.

This book was overwhelming, thought-provoking, and made me feel so small the further I read. It is a complex novel with the concept of parallel universes, physics, and mind-boggling twists, but easy to follow along and understand for all readers. This was one of those books you think you have figured out, but in reality, you have no idea. Crouch has a brilliant way of writing, and this was a story where I felt Jason’s pain and emotions, that edge of defeat that he keeps inching towards but never giving up. I’m torn between wanting a sequel, and letting Jason’s story come to an end wherever it is that he ends up–you have to read to find out!

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

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Yelena is about to be executed for murder, until she is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She will eat the best meals and have a room in the palace, but she will be the food taster–at risk of assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. To prevent her from attempting to escape, the Chief of Security deliberately feeds Yelena Butterfly’s Dust, which requires a daily antidote to delay an agonizing death from the poison. While she tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep happening everywhere she turns. She develops magical powers that she can’t control, rebels plot to seize Ixia, and her life is threatened once again.

I read novels 1-3 in the Study series, and Poison Study was my favorite. It was a solid introduction into the story and characters, with exceptional world-building and character development from beginning to end. There were quite a few unexpected discoveries throughout, which left me on the edge of my seat. There wasn’t an aspect that I didn’t enjoy, and I recommend it to anyone that wants an action-packed story with fantasy and magic.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

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The Gigantic Beard that was Evil is a graphic novel with Dahl and Burton-esque, about the island of Here, where everything from the lawns to citizens are tidy, neat, and in order until a single hair sends the island into an uproar. Dave, who is bald, but for a single hair, begins to grow a massive, unstoppable beard.

This was such a whimsical, darkly funny story with social and political themes and issues. It is beautifully illustrated and the narrative is similar to fairy-tales, so it brings forth a quirky fun read, but with an underlying message that is so important, and thought-provoking. It is a graphic novel that will always have a place on my shelf.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire is a memoir that tells the experience twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan went through when she started to experience symptoms that went from flu-like to memory loss and constant paranoia. It is a gripping yet terrifying read that was at times uncomfortable to read because it is a very real situation that took place, but it was also educational. While there is medical and psych discussion throughout, it is well-written in a way that those not in the fields can understand, and we aren’t left skimming through or stumped over explanations. It is a non-fiction that I would highly recommend.

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

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Everything You Want Me to Be is about high school senior Hattie Hoffman, who is the good student, the good daughter, and good citizen–or so it seems. When she is found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy shakes the small town community. As the local sheriff begins to try to solve her murder, he begins to find that Hattie’s acting runs far beyond the stage, and she isn’t the person she portrays herself to be. It is told in three different point of views- Del, the local sheriff who is a family friend, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is falling apart.

Now while this book was only a 4 star read for me, it was one that even months later, I am still thinking about. It was a complex and layered story with twists that you would not expect. I kept trying to figure out who killed Hattie, and when revealed, it was not at all what I expected. The expected publication for Everything You Want Me to Be is January 3rd 2017 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

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Set on an island near Seattle, Lana is trying to come to terms with the brutal murder of her step-brother, Ben, who was killed by an unknown man with a red painted face. The only witness to the crime is found dead, and Lana is the one who pulls the body out of the water. Lana and her group of friends are the likely suspects to the police, knowing that Maggie is Ben’s ex-girlfriend, and hated by Lana. The further they dig for the truth and to prove their innocence, more people are killed. Lana starts piecing together the stories Ben used to tell her as a child to the way the people (who have wronged her in some way) are being killed.

Is Lana committing the crimes and blacking out? Is she being framed for the murders? Is Ben’s ghost seeking revenge?

The Telling was one of those books that pulled me in at the very beginning, even though I seen the ending coming. I am not particularly fond of YA mystery, but this novel was exceptional with rich world-building, and realistic characters who developed naturally throughout the story. If you are expecting a horror novel, this is not it – it is a YA mystery that dips into thriller closer to the ending. It is twisted, dark, and one that you will not be able to put down.

The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley

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Two years ago a new sexually transmitted disease, called The Beauty, started turning patients into perfect specimens. Everyone who contracted the STD ended up looking physically beautiful, and now almost the entire planet is willingly living with the disease. Suddenly people start internally combusting as a long-term effect of The Beauty, and government officials are trying to keep it unknown to the public. This is an original, action-packed story line that I thoroughly enjoyed, and now want to tell everyone to read it because it was unique, thought-provoking, and intriguing.

This comic is beautifully done with artwork that is moody and consistent. This is definitely a comic series aimed towards an older audience because of the subject matter, and there is some gore along with full frontal nudity. I am really interested in more backstory on the main characters, especially Mr. Calaveras who is a skull wearing crazed hitman. It is a great opening to a comic series with a lot of potential, which is why I am looking forward to reading the series.

Honorable Mentions

  • I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, Jean-François Beaulieu, Nate Piekos
  • Harrow County Volume 1-2 by Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook
  • Giant Days, Vol. 1-3 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar
  • The Amulet series 1-6 by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Dept. H #1 by Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
  • There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
    by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Keith Gessen, Anna Summers
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
  • The Trees by Ali Shaw

 

 

Book Review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

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★ ★ ★ ★

Before we get to my thoughts on The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, I wanted to let everyone know about a great website that I recently discovered because I am partnering with them for this review. SocialCookCo is a website that helps you find, locate, and compare book prices so you can find the cheapest deal by comparing your chosen books with over 50 book shops around the world to make sure you get the best bargain. There are different formats available, such as paperback, audio, eBook, out-of-print, and even textbooks along with second-hand copies. SocialBookCo is a comparison engine and not a bookstore, so when you find the best price for your purchase, they will direct you straight to the retailer where you carry out the transaction. They give shoppers all the options when it comes to book buying, and want you to save your money, which I think is cool for those of us who frequently purchase books through online retailers because who doesn’t like saving some money that will most likely go towards another book? I sure do!

Ken Liu is a phenomenal author of speculative fiction, as well as a translator, lawyer, and programmer. He has won numerous awards for his novels, such as the Nebula, Hugo, and World’s fantasy awards. The Paper Menagerie, his debut collection, contains 15 fantasy, magical realism, and science-fiction short stories and novellas–some of which have been previously published. If I had to summarize this collection in three words, it would be profound, thought-provoking, and distinctive. Very rarely do I come to the end of a book, unable to form my thoughts on the experience because I am still in a literary daze.

The Paper Menagerie is an exceptional short story collection, but at times it was a challenging read. Through different genres and exploring different themes such as love, history, suffering, and diversity, to the complexity and connections with the characters, and Liu’s brilliant, imaginative, and unique story-telling. When it comes to short-story collections, it is common to find a mix of feelings and thoughts when it comes to the individual stories, but with this collection, whether I enjoyed the story or not, I appreciated and was engrossed in the writing. The stories strike a reader’s core when it comes to experiencing so many emotions throughout every story.

This is the first of Liu’s work that I have read, and I think it was the perfect introduction into his writing. When it comes to the stories, you really need to clear your head, focus, and dive into the worlds and character stories he builds–afterwards, take the time to reflect on each one before beginning the next. There is no doubt that Ken Liu is a remarkably talented author, and writes effortlessly and poignant no matter the genre or subject. My ultimate favorites were Good Hunting, The Regular, The Paper Menagerie, and The Waves. The Paper Menagerie is a beautifully crafted collection that was equally heartbreaking, captivating, and engaging. I am not one to often pick up or recommend short-story collections, but I highly encourage anyone who appreciates rich, authentic prose, to read this.

Synopsis 

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie. This mesmerizing collection features all of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Paperback, 450 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Saga Press

Goodreads
Purchase on SocialBookCo

Book Review: The Conjoined: A Novel by Jen Sookfong Lee

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★ ★ ★ ★

While sorting through her mother’s belongings, Jessica Campbell and her father find a horrifying discovery — beneath resealable plastic bags with frostbitten meat, in the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers are the bodies of two dead girls. The two girls are a pair of foster children, Casey and Jamie Cheng, that lived with the family in 1988 — two of the countless foster children her mother had taken in over the years. Six weeks after the sisters went missing, give their difficult history, everyone assumed they had run away. As Jessica learns more about the girls, and Donna, whom she thought of as the perfect mother, she uncovers dark stories and complicated truths about the life she thought she knew and mother she admired.

While The Conjoined is marketed as a mystery-thriller, it is more of a family drama. It is thought-provoking, well-written, and captivating until the very end. Through complex and realistic characters, and a writing style that flows effortlessly, Sookfong crafted a novel that makes you forget that you’re reading a book. Alternating between the past and the present, The Conjoined, is a not exactly a murder-mystery — the murder of the girls is not the main focus, but rather the exploration into the social work system that is often unfair and ineffectual. It is also about character psychology, trauma, family, self-discovery, and the struggles that immigrants and their children face.

This was a dark novel the further along, as the several layers were lifted. Sookfong’s prose brings depth and understanding into the story and characters, it hits nerves and brings forth real emotions that you physically experience. I devoured this in a few sittings, because of the compelling story and rich prose. There was so much that as a reader who was invested into the story and characters, I wanted to know, or at least have confirmed rather than wonder if  what I suspected was true. There is no resolution when it comes to the girls murder, or whether Donna committed the crime. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed Sookfong’s profound writing that crafted a riveting and disturbing story. If you’re looking for a dark thriller whodunit story, this is not it, but if you are willing to go in expecting the unexpected, and want a family drama that is much more, The Conjoined is your next pick.

Synopsis 

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by ECW Press

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book of the Month

This month I received a package from Book of the Month, which is a subscription service that brings you 1 new release hardcover book of your choice each month, with the option to add two additional books from past or current month selections for $9.99 per title. This is a subscription that I have been eyeing for a while as someone who orders books online frequently and loves receiving books in the mail because I have heard nothing but fantastic things about the company. I recently because an affiliate for BOTM, so I wanted to let everyone know about the subscription service, and below are some special offers for my followers who would like to join.

Each month the panel of judges select a limited number of books to offer to members of BOTM, which are announced on the first of every month. You have six days to decide which book (or books) you would like to receive. All books are shipped at the same time so members can read and participate in the discussion forum on the website. If you forget to log into your account during the selection period to choose a title, no worries! They will skip the month on your behalf, and will automatically extend your membership by 1-month.

When you join for the first time, BOTM offer 3 standard enrollment offers:

  • 1-month for $5.00, then $14.99 per month
  • 3-months for $9.99 per month, then $14.99 per month
  • 12-months for $11.99 per month

If you were previously a member, and are looking to rejoin BOTM, they offer 3 re-enrollment plans.

  • 3-months for $14.99 per month
  • 6-months for $13.99 per month
  • 12-months for $11.99 per month

All membership plans automatically renew, but you can cancel anytime.

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This month I chose The Trespasser by Tana French. It is the sixth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad, which is a well known mystery-thriller crime series. I have yet to read the series, but I wanted to pick this one because I have nothing but great things about Tana French’s writing. The book can be read as a stand alone, although many recommend reading in order because it makes the experience richer since it adds to the development of previous characters.

Each book arrives individually wrapped in plastic with a cardboard backing to prevent damage during shipment, along with their logo on a magnet, and a bookmark with a little note from the judge who selected the title.

You can tell a lot of thought and care goes into each month when it comes to selecting titles and packaging, which is nice as a reader and subscriber because it shows they want to deliver the absolute best to every member. BOTM is a quality subscription service that is reasonably priced, and I personally think it is one of the best when it comes to those who want to receive a book and not all the little novelties that come in other subscriptions. Every month you receive a hardback of your choice that is a new release, which is worth the price right there for me.

If you subscribe to a 3-month subscription, it will only be $9.99 a month! Plus you will receive a cute BOTM tote bag. Join here: https://www.mybotm.com/ipa465sleib2o6r

If you’d like to try out one month of Book of the Month, you can do so here and pay only $5!

*I am an affiliate so will receive a small commission with the above links.