Thursday, April 30, 2020

APRIL 2020: Wrap-Up


I had such high hopes for April, and it really did start off strong. Good head space, strong will to read, and then the the quarantine demons reared their ugly heads in MY head again and I was back to only feeling relieved after watching copious amounts of Youtube and scrolling Instagram *sigh.

I did read some GREAT ones despite that though. Two of them are books that will stick with me for a long time, and will probably recommend until the end of my days: The Southern Bookclub's Guide to Slaying Vampires (Grady Hendrix's BEST so far, in my opinion, and The Went Left by Monica Hesse.

With those included, my total for this month was (6):

  • The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman | April 5 | ★★★★ 
  • All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace | April 1-6 | ★★★
  • The Southern Bookclubs Guide for Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix | April 8-9 | ★★★★
  • Harry Potter's & the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling | April 3-11 | ★★★★
  • The Went Left by Monica Hesse | April 11-14 | ★★★★★ | REVIEW 
  • The Half Sister by Sandie Jones | April 27 | ★★ | REVIEW 

  • --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    The Nerd Daily (link here)
    • (#1) Author starting with an "A": All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace
    • (#16) Protagonist starting with "H": Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

    (link here)
    • 'A book about a book club': The Southern Bookclub's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
    • 'A book rec. by your fav blog, vlog, pc or online bc': They Went Left by Monica Hesse
    • ''A book by or about a journalist': The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

      Blog Tour (read review here)
      • They Went Left by Monica Hesse


      What did you all read in April?
      Let me know down below!

      Monday, April 27, 2020

      REVIEW: The Half Sister by Sandie Jones

      Title: The Half Sister
      Author: Sandie Jones
      Genre: Adult Fiction - Drama/Thriller
      Publisher: Minotaur Books
      Release Date: June 16th, 2020
      Acquired: Egalley approved via Netgalley
      Goodreads: ADD

      From the New York Times bestselling author of the Hello Sunshine Book Club pick The Other Woman, comes a compelling new domestic suspense novel about a family who is forever changed when a stranger arrives at their door.

      THE TRUTH: Sisters Kate and Lauren meet for Sunday lunch every week without fail, especially after the loss of their father.

      THE LIE: But a knock at the door is about to change everything. A young woman by the name of Jess holds a note with the results of a DNA test, claiming to be their half sister.

      THE UNTHINKABLE: As the fallout starts, it's clear that they are all hiding secrets, and perhaps this family isn't as perfect as it appears.

      This is my second book by this author, the initial being The First Mistake, and while I enjoyed the suspenseful moments and cliff-hanger chapter ends in that one, The Half Sister fell short in both in it's promoted genre (thriller), and in the execution of it's synopsis.

      More aptly described as a family drama, this narrative begins with an interrupted dinner to beat all others, as sisters Kate and Lauren and their mother Rose are visited by Jess, a woman claiming to be their half-sister and deceased father's third child. Dual perspectives are given to the sisters, as we follow a paranoid and disbelieving Kate, and an elated and sympathetic Lauren. Family secrets are brought to light, while long-held assumptions are put to rest. And inbetween it all, we follow a pair of woman who are struggling with the things that are all too (unfortunately) common: infertility and domestic abuse. The mystery behind Jess's appearance is just that, mysterious, and never quite ventures into the thrilling.

      I want to say that I might have appreciated The Half Sister more if it had a contemporary cover, and simply promised a saga of sorts; a hidden family past that those involved wanted to keep hidden, but alas, the genre wasn't the only issue. Jones can write a book, that is not a debatable fact. Many individual moments in this narrative were fraught with the right amount of tension; with dialogue fitting to it's cause. The entire book, as a whole, was compulsively readable, but broken down there were holes too big to ignore, and repetition that had me skimming instead of reading. 

      The biggest qualms came in the way the triggers were handled, and the slippery way the final twist was revealed. Lauren spent the entirety of the book in a domestic abuse situation, one in which was handled too loosely and distractedly in my opinion. There was a scene in which she has chance to explain to her mother exactly what's been happening, but never fully does. I found this to be a reoccurring theme in the book as well: characters hiding things for no logical reason. By the time the big reveal arrived, there were more questions than answers, and I closed the book feeling like I missed something that I was supposed to understand 5-6 chapters prior.

      With all of that said, I'll round out the trio of Jones' work by reading The Other Woman next, and will continue picking up whatever she puts out. This one just didn't work as well for me, sadly.

      Read if you like:

      A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

      Read if you like these authors:
      Kate White, Chevy Stevens, Alafair Burke 

      Key themes: 
      family, infertility, domestic abuse, relationships, secrets, lies, betrayal



      Sandie Jones has worked as a freelance journalist for over twenty years, and has written for publications including the Sunday Times, Woman’s Weekly and the Daily Mail. She lives in London with her husband and three children. The Other Woman is her debut novel and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club pick.

      Website - Twitter - Instagram

      A huge thank-you to Minotaur Books for approving a copy via Netgalley for review!

      Tuesday, April 14, 2020

      BLOG TOUR: They Went Left by Monica Hesse

      Title: They Went Left
      Author: Monica Hesse
      Genre: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
      Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
      Release Date: April 7, 2020
      Acquired: Sent by publisher via Netgalley
      Goodreads: ADD

      Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else--her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja--they went left.

      Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.

      But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her--or help her rebuild her world.

      It used to be that I sought out gut-wrenching narratives about WWII, fervently combed through shelves at bookstores or libraries for the trendy covers and titles that meant I'd find a specific type of loss within. It started with the horrors depicted in Night by Eli Wiesel, and continued with fictional 'imaginings' like Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and most recently, The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Every single one left me gutted, so much so that I needed a break, I needed to move on to happier occurrences. I decided that They Went Left would be my cautious return to the sub-genre; I would let it quietly guide me back into a space that had previously annihilated my heart. What a fool I was. To think that stories like this could be anything but loud, and all-consuming, and unimaginably important. They Went Left was all of those things, it was all of those things written in one of the most absolutely beautiful ways that I have EVER seen it written.

      It begins with a family torn apart. Zofia recalls the moment she loses her family to Nazi control in her small Polish town. Her parents, aunt and grandmother are sent to their deaths, and she's separated from her brother as they continue, alive, on to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. Now it's 1945, Zofia's camp has been liberated by the allies, and there's nothing else she wants more than to be reunited with her brother. Unlike hundreds of others searching for loved ones, Zofia refuses to stay put and write letters to various organizations and camps, and instead follows a blind lead to Germany. Propelled by faulty memories and a fierce love, her search leads to an unlikely place, and some unexpected truths.

      Every single word in this book held purpose. Every moment was one torn straight from the desperate and irreparably damaged hearts of real-life survivors, from the very souls of the those who found luck on their side but also permanent pain as it's consequence. Hesse's characters were, without a doubt, some of the most real and well-depicted characters I've ever read. Not just in a WWII narrative, but ever. She touched on the harsh realities of the camps, but They Went Left focused mainly on the few months following liberation, and what it meant to search for normalcy in the midst of a still-lingering chaos. Zofia's character never felt forced, or sensationalized. Her thoughts, her feelings, her actions, it was raw and honest to the point of feeling unbearable, to where I literally felt transported to her place of urgency, her desperation. Even the conclusion, with all of the possible ways for it to feel gimmicky, and contrived, was executed with a hand that sought only to shed light on very likely realities. It was done with grace and with care. 

      I don't think I'll stop thinking about this book for a very long time, and I'll be hard-pressed to find anything that comes close to it.

      Read if you like:

      Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
      The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
      The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

      Key themes: 
      WWII, the Holocaust, family, love, desperation, journey, healing 


      Monica Hesse is the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in the Blue Coat, American Fire, and The War Outside, as well as a columnist at The Washington Post writing about gender and its impact on society. She lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their dog.

      Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



      Wednesday, April 8, 2020

      April 2020: To Be Read


      I tried with all of my might (a whole 8 days obviously) to avoid creating a TBR for this month. I told myself that I would strictly mood read, or even stick to the one blog tour book I have to read this month as my only "for-sure" read. But alas, the call to go through familiar motions was a comfort too loud to ignore. 

      As always, keep an eye on my Instagram at the end of the month for the 'April Giveaway' announcement! (You will have your choice of any book, or books, worth up to $25 on Book Depository).

      Here are the 8 books (+ blog tour read) I have planned for April: 

      Here are my picks categorized by relevant reading challenges (read my 2020 goals here!):

      The Nerd Daily Reading Challenge (link here):
      • (#1) Author starting with "A": All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace
      • (#6) Recommended by us: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
      • (#9) Written by two authors: Aurora Rising by J. Kristoff and A. Kaufman
      • (#16) Protagonist starting with "H": Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone
      • (#24) An award-winning book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
      • (#51) Written by your favourite author: Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

      PopSugar Reading Challenge (link here):
      • "A book about with a pink cover": Ms. Marvel - No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
      • "A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club": The Went Left by Monica Hesse

      Beat the Backlist Challenge (link here):
      • Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
      • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

      Contemporary Book Club 
      Save My Sanity Book Club
      • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
      • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

      Blog Tour (Fantastic Flying Book Club):
      • They Went Left by Monica Hasse

      What are you all reading for April?
      Send me the links to your posts below!

      Tuesday, April 7, 2020

      March 2020: Wrap-Up

      -MARCH WRAP UP: (6) BOOKS-

      The fact that I even read anything at all this month is wonder, truly. My mind has been so anxiety-riddled with everything that's going on in the world that I can't seem to focus on anything for longer than 2.5 min. I'm sure it's been the same for a lot of you out there, but I truly hope you were able to find solace and comfort in some great books!

      I miraculously, and through sheer force to be honest, read (6) books this month:

    • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin | Mar 3-10 | ★★★ 
    • Coraline by Neil Gaiman | Mar 9-11 | ★★★★★
    • A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler | Mar 11-14 | ★★ | REVIEW
    • The Deep by Alma Katsu | Mar 13-15 | ★★★★ | REVIEW
    • The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell | Mar 14-18 | ★★★
    • The Tenant by Katrine Engberg | Feb 21-24 | ★★★★

    • --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      The Nerd Daily (link here)
      • (#39) A book gift to you: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
      • (#43) A standablone: A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
      • (#49) Set in a foreign country: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg
      • (#52) Based on or inspired by a true story: The Deep by Alma Katsu

      Popsugar (link here)
      • 'A book with a made-up language': The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
      • 'Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge' (2019 - 'A book about a family'): The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

      Blog Tour (read review here)
      • The Deep by Alma Katsu

      What did you all read in March?
      Let me know down below!