Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 2019 Recap

Wow! There's actually a recap this month because . . . there's some stuff to recap, lol!

Last week I got to see the touring production of Les Misérables at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando. I first saw the show about 20 years ago on Broadway when I was living in New York. I'm a bit of a Les Miz nerd, lol; I've watched the anniversary concerts and the movie adaptation of the musical with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway more than a few times. ;) When I found out that the current tour was making a stop in Orlando, I jumped at the opportunity to see the show again.

I admit that I got chills when the orchestra began playing the opening notes! This was a wonderful production; everything from the performances to the sets was amazing! If you're a Les Miz fan and have the chance to catch this tour, don't miss it!

On the bookish side, I read 2 books this month, and both were 4 star reads. I'm trying to keep that momentum going and am currently reading Neal Shusterman's Scythe, which has been very, very good so far.

Yesterday the temperature here in Florida was 90 and felt like 97. Um, hello? Tomorrow's November? We're hoping to finally experience some sweater weather when we head to Charleston next week for YALLFest.

How was your October?

Reviews Posted:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Spookiest Books I've Read

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

It's a Halloween Freebie this week, so I've made a list of the spookiest books I've read. My list is actually a little short because I'm such a wimp when it comes to reading horror or anything close to it, lol.

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

It's a really good thing that the protagonist, Cas, is hilariously snarky because this is one scary book, and I probably would've been too much of a chicken to read it otherwise.

2. The Diviners by Libba Bray

I do most of my reading at night, and when I read this, I couldn't go to sleep right away because I was afraid of having nightmares from it, lol.

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The scene where Harry and Dumbledore fight the Inferi creeps me out more than anything else in the series, including any scene with Voldemort.

4. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

This falls under mystery, but the sense of foreboding that pervades the book is as chill-inducing as a horror story.

5. Sabriel by Garth Nix

The title character is a necromancer, and although she's a heroine, this book is still filled with plenty of scary moments.

6. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

This novel about a changeling features some very creepy supernatural beings.

7. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Another Maureen Johnson title, this one about a Jack the Ripper copycat terrorizing modern day London. The paranormal element gives the book an eerie twist.

What are some of the scariest books you've read?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #1)
By Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster BFYR
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: Lara Jean’s life is about to change in some big ways—the start of a new school year and the departure of her beloved older sister for college abroad in Scotland. Nothing can prepare Lara Jean, however, for the horror of seeing the secret letters she’s written to every boy she’s loved somehow mailed out to the recipients. In an equally bizarre twist, Lara Jean finds herself pretending to be the girlfriend of one of the addressees, Peter Kavinsky. At first she thinks she’s long over him, but as their supposedly fake relationship continues, Lara Jean realizes that she just might want it to be real.

Review: Once again, I’m way behind the curve in reading a massively popular book, in this case Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. This book had been on my radar even before the release of the equally popular Netflix adaptation, in part thanks to the gorgeous cover. I don’t read much contemporary and so didn’t make this much of a priority read until Twitter exploded with all the love for the film. And then it still took me a while to finally read the book.

Seeing all of that love for the movie on social media made me feel like I already knew Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky before reading a single page. It took reading maybe five pages to fall in love with MC Lara Jean’s narrative voice. It was instantly engaging, and I also loved the immediate sense of closeness between her and her sisters. When the novel opens, eldest sister Margot is preparing to head off to college in Scotland, leaving Lara Jean to step up to being a mother figure for their younger sister, Kitty. Margot took on the role of looking after her sisters and their father a few years before after the death of their mother. Taking on more family responsibilities, having her sister in another country, and starting a new school year end up being the least of Lara Jean’s worries, though, when something unthinkable happens. The letters she’s written to every boy she’s loved and keeps hidden in a hatbox her mother gave her somehow get mailed to each boy.

Enter Peter Kavinsky, a past love of Lara Jean’s and therefore the recipient of one of her letters. In order to do damage control with another letter recipient, Lara Jean enters into a pact with Peter to fake being a couple, an arrangement that benefits Peter, too. At first Lara Jean finds him to be true to his reputation around school—arrogant, egotistical, and the kind of guy who eats the last slice of pizza. Peter is also pretty unfiltered and unapologetic about it, which may not appeal to everyone, but which I often found hilarious.

Part of Lara Jean’s growth in the novel is discovering that there’s more to Peter K.’s handsome face and too-cool-to-care attitude. He does, in fact, care about a lot of things. I thought that Lara Jean’s character development was well done. She can be petty and even mean at times and makes some less than wise decisions, but she has the self-awareness to call herself out.

I was very much enjoying this book until the end. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with how things were left. I’m not into Hallmark Channel Christmas movie-perfect endings, but I felt this one could have some more closure, even if it is the first book in a series. On the upside, now I absolutely have to read the sequel to see if my questions are answered.

All in All: I typically don’t go for contemporary YA romance, but this was a sweet, winning read. Perfect if you love breezy novels like Stephanie Perkins’s Anna and the French Kiss.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1)
By Maureen Johnson
Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

To Sum It Up: True crime buff Stevie Bell has been admitted to Ellingham Academy, an ultra-exclusive school with a tragic history. Its namesake and founder, Albert Ellingham, was a wealthy industrialist whose wife and daughter were kidnapped. Although someone was arrested and convicted of the crime, Steve doubts his guilt. So she’s at Ellingham to solve the case and finally discover the real identity of Truly Devious, the author of a threatening letter that Albert Ellingham received shortly before his family was taken. Soon, however, Stevie finds herself with two possible cases to investigate when another death occurs at Ellingham Academy and the clues increasingly point towards murder.

Review: Having very much enjoyed Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London books, I was eager to check out Truly Devious, the first novel in a new series. I’m not a huge mystery reader, but after finishing this expertly plotted book, I have a new appreciation for the genre.

Truly Devious follows Stephanie “Stevie” Bell, a true crime fan who is about to begin her first year at the super exclusive Ellingham Academy, a private school that was once the scene of an infamous crime: the kidnapping of the wife and daughter of the school’s wealthy founder, Albert Ellingham. While an arrest was made and the case seemingly closed, Stevie is among those who do not believe that the authorities found the actual Truly Devious, the author of a threatening letter that Ellingham received days before the abduction of his family. Stevie arrives at the school ready to solve the case and uncover the real identity of Truly Devious.

The book shifts between the present, where Stevie’s story takes place, and the past, where we witness firsthand, sometimes in agonizing detail, Albert Ellingham’s life unravel from the moment he receives the terrifying phone call that his wife and daughter have been taken. Johnson intertwines the two timelines brilliantly. Both Stevie’s sleuthing, which is the real thing and not amateurish at all, and the backstory behind her whole reason for applying to Ellingham Academy in the first place are equally compelling. If the entire book had been set during Albert Ellingham’s time, I still would have read it.

As much as Stevie is driven to solve the Ellingham case, she also finds herself dealing with adjusting to a new school that her parents don’t exactly approve of as well as managing her anxiety. The latter was something that I could absolutely relate to, and I thought it was portrayed very realistically.

Another layer is added to the plot when death strikes Ellingham Academy again, and Stevie starts to suspect that it wasn’t accidental. As she tries to piece together the full picture of the victim’s life, both Stevie and the reader learn that not everything is at it appears with her classmates. I love how the tension and suspense build around both cases. Who’s responsible for this latest death? Could one of Stevie’s own classmates be the culprit? Who was really behind the kidnapping of Iris and Alice Ellingham back in the 1930s? Could the two crimes possibly be related?

The answers to these questions are not fully resolved by the end of Truly Devious. I wasn’t disappointed by this, however. Quite the opposite—I liked that there were no easy solutions wrapped up in a bow here. One minor thing that I wasn’t so keen on was the romance. It felt rushed, and I wasn’t as invested in it as I was in seeing all of Ellingham Academy’s dark secrets revealed. I’m definitely hooked on this series now and can’t wait to dive into the sequel, even if it only deepens the mysteries surrounding this seemingly unfortunate school.

All in All: An absorbing mystery/thriller with just the right amount of suspense. You can really feel the ominous shadow of Truly Devious that hangs over Ellingham Academy. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Book Loot (37)

Hello, friends! So I've been amassing books again, lol. Some of these, like The Rise of Kyoshi and Reticence, were pre-orders that I had been eagerly waiting for, and I also had a Barnes and Noble gift card that I finally put to good use.

I had to show off the absolutely stunning cover for The Ten Thousand Doors of January. It's even prettier in person!

What books have you added to your shelves lately? Have you read any of these?


Loki: Where Mischief Lies by Mackenzi Lee
The Rise of Kyoshi by F.C. Yee
Reticence by Gail Carriger
Cruel to Be Kind: The Life and Music of Nick Lowe by Will Birch
The Institute by Stephen King
A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia