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text 2020-05-01 21:26
I Read 13 Books In April!!!

 

 

 

Unbelievably, I read 13 books in April. That averages out to 110 pages a day. I haven't read that much in one month in years. I specifically chose books under 300 pages that didn't require much brain power/focus and that didn't have heavy content. I truly believe that helped me. I also started a book notebook. It aided to my enjoyment of the read and my memory. I used colored markers, sticky notes and highlighters and kept it fresh and fun. Every morning I looked forward to spreading all my items out on the table and making a cup of joe or tea before starting my next read. I only read one book per day. Even if I had the time to read more, I didn't. I did not want to over extend or tire my brain.

 

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My only 5 star standout read for the month was Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo. I loved this book so much I sent a copy to my bestie. I highly recommend this book to everyone. To be only 176 pages it is packed with so much valuable information.

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I read 8 four star books. These books had to wow me or have something extra. Books that I rate 4 stars can't be books that I felt I've read before, meaning recycled plots and characters.

 

4 Stars

 

The Red Hot Earl by Darcey Burke

Luster: A novel by Raven Leilani

The Girl with The Loading Voice by Abi Daré

One House  Over (The Neighbors #1) by Mary Monroe

A Family Affair by Reshonda Tate Billingsley

It's Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan

Secret Heir Seduction (Texas Cattlemen's Club: Inheritance #4) by Reese Ryan

Ethic by Ashley Antoinette

 

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I read three 3 star books. I rate books 3 stars that weren't bad, but weren't great either. They were all good reads. When reading romance books, I need great romance with a solid plot. I can tell if a 200 page romance was just thrown together. I feel many are recycled content with different character names.

 

 

3 Stars

 

Seduced by A Steele (Forged of Steele #12) by Brenda Jackson

Duty or Desire (The Westmoreland Legacy #5) by Brenda Jackson

His to Claim (The Westmoreland Legacy #4) by Brenda Jackson

 

 

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My only 2 star read was Red Carpet Redemption (The Stewart Heirs #3) by Yarah St. John. This book didn't capture my attention at all. I wasn't invested in any of the characters. Most Harlequin readers devour these books at record speeds and have read many. To stand out there needs to be great characters, plot and romance in a concise manner with the books being a little over 200 pages. Many of these authors crank out 3 books or more per year and if they're done quickly it shows. There's no room for fluff in a 200 page book.

 

How was your reading in April? I know these are difficult/stressful times. It's great to know we have somewhere to come to to share what we love to do.

 

 

 

 

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photo 2020-04-15 23:56
Current Reads

I'm attempting to read these four books by Friday evening. Some of these books I've put off for far too long. I'm giving myself lofty goals because my brain has been cooperating lately.

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review 2019-04-14 20:08
Dramacon: Ultimate Edition by Svetlana Chmakova
Dramacon Ultimate Edition - Svetlana Chmakova

This omnibus contains the entire 3-volume series.

Christie is an amateur manga author with vague dreams of making it big one day. In the meantime, she just wants to have fun at Yatta Con, her first big manga/anime convention. Unfortunately, her boyfriend and artist (they're co-creating original English-language/OEL manga) is being a jerk, practically drooling over every pretty cosplayer who comes to their table. Matt, the good-looking cosplayer manning the table next to them, annoys her with his snarky comments, but she finds herself turning to him more and more as things deteriorate between her and her boyfriend. Matt's attitude may be a bit abrasive, but he and Christie just sort of click in a way that Christie and her boyfriend don't.

Each of the next two volumes take place a year apart, at the next Yatta Cons, following the ups and downs of Christie and Matt's relationship, Christie's con-going experience, and Christie and her friends' prospective manga careers.

This was a reread, but my last time reading this series was so long ago that I'd forgotten a lot of specifics. I vaguely remembered thinking that the romance didn't quite work for me. My feelings about it haven't changed - Christie and Matt are cute together and all, but it bugged me that, by the end of the series, they'd spent a grand total of maybe 8-9 days in the same physical space. If they'd spent the time between Yatta Cons talking over the phone or online, it wouldn't have been quite as big of a deal, but they hadn't even done much of that. Christie tried calling Matt once between volume 1 and volume 2 but chickened out when someone else answered. Matt and Christie talked a little just prior to volume 3's Yatta Con, and Matt read Christie's blog (which mortified Christie when he finally commented for the first time), but there were still a lot of things they didn't know about each other and hadn't talked about when they met up again at the convention.

So, I didn't think the series' format worked well for its primary romance, but I at least felt other aspects of the series were much stronger. Chmakova's depictions of Yatta Con and Christie's experience of it, particularly her first time going, were great. Volume 2 was more dramatic, touching on folks who don't consider OEL manga to be "real" manga, racism, and fans who don't respect cosplayers' boundaries and hug or take pictures without asking - not inaccurate, but maybe a bit much in a single volume. There was also a nice ongoing storyline involving Christie's new artist, Bethany, who yearned for a career as a manga artist but whose mother wanted her to have a career that was more likely to produce a stable income.

Dramacon wasn't bad, but it didn't give its primary romance enough room to breathe and really feel like something that could last. As with Nightschool, one of her later series, it had a lot of promise but didn't quite hit the mark.

Extras:

This edition of the series contains a lot of previously unpublished material. I'm not sure which bits were new and which weren't, but I didn't recognize the multi-page comic featuring Matt and Christie's first real date (all in Matt's POV, which was kind of nice). There were also a few author's notes, comics featuring a little behind-the-scenes info, fan art, some four-panel comics, and an interview with Svetlana Chmakova with early concept art for the series. Even if you own the original three volumes, the extras in this omnibus are worth checking out if you're a big fan of the series. I only wish the fan art could have been in color.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-02-14 18:44
Black Wings by Megan Hart
Black Wings - Megan Hart

“My mad feelings just want to come out so much.”

Black Wings is a brooding tale about a mother being ravaged by her own internal feelings of guilt and the escalating terror posed by her young daughter and her new creepy raven friend. 

Briella is only ten when she begins to lose all of her childhood friends. She has a terrible “I’m smarter than everyone” attitude that doesn’t exactly sit well with, well, anyone. But she doesn’t particularly care what anyone thinks and she is quite content to do her own thing and hang out with her new raven buddy. But mom is concerned. When Briella earns a free ride to a school for the gifted her dad isn’t thrilled. He says it’s the place where they stick the weird kids. But Briella loves it. Her ego, oddness, obsessiveness and creep factor soon start to bloom out of control.

I’m just going to flat out say it. I despised this kid. She was rude, full of herself and, as I was reading, I kept thinking to myself how lucky I was that I birthed two sweet kids instead of two holy terrors. It probably could’ve gone either way, haha, but I know I would not be equipped to handle a little monster like Briella. I felt for Marion even when I wanted to give her a good shake for allowing her brat to disrespect her and everyone around her. This story is told from Marion’s point of view so we see everything from her eyes which leaves you wondering what, exactly, Briella is up to almost all the time. Marion is a little clueless and has a bad habit of ignoring all warning signs. She also talks herself out of her gut feelings out of a sense of guilt and maternal love. It’s a complicated thing, motherhood is, and this story does a great job of putting it all out there similar to the mother in Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. I think I may have enjoyed the character of Briella more had we seen things from her perspective but alas, as written, she was an arrogant, insufferable brat with some very dangerous thoughts.

The dread hides in the shadows for a long time before horrorish things begin to happen so you’ll have to hang in there with this one. I admit I struggled at times, but I was rewarded in the last quarter. If you have a black heart you’re going to LOVE this ending. Or maybe it’s just me.

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review 2018-11-13 20:16
A powerful and poignant drama recommended to book clubs
The Swooping Magpie - Liza Perrat

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and was provided with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is the fifth of Liza Perrat’s novels I read, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a fan. I have read her historical novels in The Bone Angel Series, and also The Silent Kookaburra, set, like this novel, in the 1970s. It seems that the author intends to write a new series of independent novels, set in Australia in the 1970s, reflecting the everyday lives and realities of women in the period, and this is the second one. All of the author’s novels have female protagonists and closely explore their subjectivities and how they adapt to their social circumstances in the different historical periods. They might be fictional but the pay close attention to details and are the result of careful research.

Here, the main character is Lindsay Townsend, who narrates the story in the first person, in three different time periods, the early 1970s, the early 1990s, and the final fragment, set in 2013. The first part, and the longest shows us, Lindsay, when she is about to become 16. She is (at least on the surface), a very confident girl, clever, pretty, with plenty of money, from a good family, although not all is at it seems. She seems to lead a charmed life, but her home life is rather sad, with a violent father more interested in keeping up appearances than in looking after his wife and daughter, and a mother hooked on pills and spending as much time as possible out of the house on her charity work. Despite all that, Lindsay is not a particularly sympathetic character, and I know that might be a problem for readers who are not that keen on first-person narratives, as placing you in the skin of a character you don’t like might make for an uncomfortable reading experience, even if it is for a very good reason. She is a typical teenager, overconfident, and a bit of a bully, showing no sympathy for anybody’s circumstances at the beginning of the book. She dismisses her peers, feeling superior to all of them, and, as usual at that age, she believes she knows better than anybody and is invincible. That lands her in a lot of trouble, as she falls for one of the teachers, with consequences that readers might guess but that, at the time, don’t cross her mind. At a time when society was far less tolerant of alternative families, and women’s liberation had not taken hold, Lindsay is faced with an impossible decision and is suddenly confronted with a reality miles away from her everyday life. Her intelligence (unfortunately not accompanied by common sense) and her stubbornness don’t provide her with any answers when confronted with a teenage pregnancy. Faced with hard work, and thrown in the middle of a group of girls from different walks of life and social classes, she discovers what she is really made off and learns a very bitter lesson.

Although Lindsay herself is not likeable, especially at the beginning of the story, when she goes to St. Mary’s we learn about the varied experiences of other girls in her same circumstances and it is impossible not to feel touched and care for them. We have girls from the rural outback, abused by relatives, others who are the children of immigrant families who have no means to look after their babies, and with Downey, the little aboriginal girl whose story is, perhaps, the most heart-wrenching because she is a child herself, we get a representation of the scale of the problem (and a pointed reminder of the aboriginal experience in Australia). This was not something that only happened to girls of a certain social class or ethnic origin. It happened to everybody.  Through the different timelines, we get to follow the historic and social changes that took place, how laws affected adopted children and their biological parents, and we also get a picture of the ongoing effect those events had on those women, the children, and their families. We have women who never want to learn what happened to their babies, others who try but cannot get any information, others who get reunited with their children many years later, some who suffer ongoing negative consequences from their experiences, whilst others manage to create new lives for themselves. But the wound of the loss is always present.

The author deals with the tragic topic skilfully. If at times some of the scenes seem to have come out of a horrific version of a fairy tale (there are characters who are like evil witches, and Lindsay and her friends confront tasks that would put Cinderella to shame), and the degree of corruption and conspiracy stretches the imagination, we only need to read the news and listen to personal accounts of women who have been in such situation to realise that, whatever the concessions to fiction, the writer has done her research and has managed to capture the thoughts and feelings of the many women affected by this issue.

The action is set in Australia, mostly in Wollongong, New South Wales, with some events taking place in Sidney and other areas of the country. I have always admired the author’s talent for recreating the locations of her stories and for making us experience them with all of our senses, submerging us in the smells, the sounds, the tastes (I don’t know some of the foods and labels included, but they do add to the feel of authenticity), the flora and fauna, the clothing, the music, and the language of the time. Although forced adoptions are a widespread problem and it has affected a number of other countries (we might not know its full scale yet), the realistic location (and the family connection and research the author refers to in the author’s note at the back of the book) makes it more immediate and real still.

The story is extremely well-written, with enough description, both of the place and of the period, to ground the action without making it drag, but although it manages to combine action and surprises with reflective passages, the strongest point of the novel is its exploration of the psychological effects of losing a child, especially in those circumstances. The author manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of the character and through her conversations; we also get some insight into the experiences of others. In the first part of the book we have a young girl, and we get to share her thought process, her hesitations, doubts, and we feel trapped with her by a situation she is not in control of, and even though we might not have much in common with her, we do empathise and get to see things from her point of view. We do suffer with her and her friends, and although we might not like everything she says or does, we appreciate her kindness and the way she gets to bond with the other girls at St. Mary’s. Lindsay lives through much heartache, and grows and changes as a result, but people reading this book need to be aware that there are disturbing scenes and the topic of adoptions and depression might hit close home for many.

This is another great novel and although it can be read simply as fiction, I would recommend it in particular to readers interested in adoptions, particularly forced adoptions, and the perspectives of the families involved. I think it would make for a great book club choice, as the subject is one that will interest many readers, and it will bring much discussion, and the author includes a detailed list of some of the resources she has used to research the topic, providing extra material for those interested. Personally, I felt more empathy for other characters than for Lindsay, but no matter how much or how little we like each individual who went through such experiences, this novel will give readers pause and make them reflect upon the horrors that have been enforced in the recent past in the name of morality and decency. A powerful and poignant novel, to add to the catalogue of an accomplished and talented writer.

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