Tag Archives: reading

Whatcha Reading…? 9/20/2019 Book Update

If I cannot tackle a book in one evening, I will probably start another. Hence why I occasionally like putting together these “Whatcha Reading…?” posts. It helps me keep track of everything I’ve got going! Currently I’m reading 6 books: King Lear by William Shakespeare (technically a play but whatever), The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart, and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. 

I was inspired to pick up King Lear after finishing Hamlet. For some reason, I marked it to-read in high school along with As You Like It (and only those two. No other play made the cut on Goodreads!) I’m enjoying it so far but not as much as Hamlet

The Cost of Discipleship, meanwhile, is one of those books I feel like I am eternally reading. I’ve been at it for almost 2.5 years now. It isn’t bad, quite the opposite. I find it so profound that if I read more than a chapter a day I feel like I am missing something. So I read a chapter one day, forget about it the next, and read another chapter a month later when I stumble upon my copy again. And then forget about it the next day. Slow and steady, I guess. 

Wicked Fox is, in theory, a Korean drama lovers dream. It involves Korean mythology and modern day Seoul. But I won’t lie, I’m finding it super disappointing so far. The author does a lot of telling but not a lot of showing. Characters are profoundly psychological in ways that feel at odd with their age. And by golly, I’m over a 100 pages in and nothing is happening. I am not sure I will make it through all 424 pages. 

On the flip side, I’m finding Only Ever Her surprisingly enjoyable. I heard about it on a blog I follow and picked it up on a whim. It is supposed to be a thriller but so far I haven’t found anything that scary. Just good character build-up. The first person present narrative style does get a little annoying but I’m hooked. 

I’ve fallen hard for Mary Stewart’s novels so there was no way I wasn’t going to like My Brother Michael. I’m not very far into it but I can already tell I am going to love it. Be warned: her books are going to overwhelm my end of the year 5 star reads blog post. 

Out of all the books I’m currently listing, however, A Curse So Dark And Lonely has taken me the most by surprise. It presents yet another Beauty and the Beast retelling and I’ve read enough of those to last me a lifetime. But so far, this one is really, really good. It hits the right note of familiar fairytale while simultaneously presenting enough ‘new’ to keep the reader hooked. I hope it can keep it up.  

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Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James

Silence For the Dead

The Great War just ended but for many the horror still remains. 21-year-old Kitty Weekes is on the run. Determined to get out of London, she forges credentials and presents herself as a nurse at Portis House, a “madhouse” for soldiers suffering from PTSD. But Portis House hides its own secrets. The previous owners mysteriously disappeared. An unknown stalks the corridors at night. And the men all suffer from the same terror…someone coming for them at night. Someone now coming for Kitty, too.

4 out of 5 stars

Silence For the Dead attempts two things. Separately, they succeed. Together, they fall short of full success. But surprisingly, not as short as I initially expected.

First, the book presents historical fiction with a psychological twist. The plot takes place post-WW1 in a “madhouse” for soldiers suffering from PTSD. Kitty experienced abuse as a child and suffers her own form of PTSD. It all feels very realistic and well-crafted. While the heroine might demonstrate a little too much ‘open-mindedness’ for true historicity, the modern mindset towards mental health does not really permeate these pages and that helps a lot with the setting. These men—and the people around them—view themselves as cowards for giving into their nightmares. As historical fiction I found I really enjoyed the setting and the balance the author strikes. 

Second, this is a ghost story. Think And Then There Were None but with ghosts. The characters all live in isolation with no chance of escape, even the staff. Something is coming and they are helpless to stop it. The mystery of the abandoned house-turned-hospital remains an open ended question until the climax. Very intense, very eerie, and very enjoyably put together. I am as a general rule skeptical of ghosts and “mad” characters who act without rhyme or reason. They make such terribly convenient excuses for irrational actions. But the author doesn’t give into the convenience; she does a good job laying the groundwork and setting up the climax. It really pushed this book up a star in my mind.

Separately, then, two good plots. The problem comes when you combine them. It is hard to take the soldiers’ PTSD seriously when ghosts stalk around causing trouble. But on the flip side, it is hard to genuinely enjoy the ghost story when the author so carefully presents actual, psychological issues. The fantasy disrupts the realism and the realism disrupts the fantasy. I never felt the full “punch” of either story line because the other one kept dancing in my peripheral vision, distracting from the actual emotions before me.

But it works in the end. Not, perhaps, as well as it could. But well enough that I do recommend this one if either of those genres catches your interest. It was an engrossing, fun story. I’ll definitely find more by this author.

(PG-13 for a fade to black scene.)


A Typical Conversation With Amy

Bethany: “Don’t we need to leave soon?”

Me: “Yes, but I have a chapter and a half left! I must find out what happens! I suspect she won’t die but you never know.” 

Bethany: “M’kay.”

* a few minute later* 

Me: “BETHANY. I FINISHED. IT WAS WONDERFUL. Do you want a spoiler?”

Bethany: “Sure.”

Me: “She didn’t die!”

Bethany: * who doesn’t even know what book I’m reading * “I didn’t think she would.”

I have a most excellent roommate in my sister. 


Bookworm Decorating Problems: Part 3

For those just joining the ongoing saga: my sister moved into my apartment and has started decorating.

It is not that I do not like decorating. Hanging paintings and placing knickknacks just sit very low on my list of priorities. In a conciliatory move, however, Bethany’s latest decision has been to use my books as part of our living room decor. 

This is actually a double win. She hides what she considers an ugly space and maintains the pastel color scheme in the room. I get a fascinating statement piece on gender and literature and the use of “feminine” colors for books written by women. And we both get to display our favorite Funko Pop! Figures. (Bethany refused to let me add Batman.) 

The problem is, whatever my family might think to the contrary, I do not buy books just to look at them. So how am I supposed to continue my annual re-read of  every Georgette Heyer novel?


The Barnes and Noble Employee in the Ugly Polo

Yesterday, my friend Kathy and I made a most exciting discovery: the Barnes and Noble here in Madison has a large used book section! And better yet, most of the used books only cost $1. Understandably, we threw out all our other plans for the evening and started exploring. 

Enter the Barnes and Noble employee. I think he might have been in management because he wore a very ugly polo and just sort of floated around the store. On second thought, he might just have been the intern. Hard to tell. 

When I first saw him, I was walking around with a basket overflowing with books. He politely said, “How are you doing?” which surprised me because I do not usually think of great customer service when I think of Barnes and Noble. So I beamed, told him I was doing very well, and moved on. 

Over the course of the next few hours (it is a very big Barnes and Noble, okay?) I saw him several times. Mostly he would walk over to the table where Kathy and I started stacking books and look as if he would like to re-shelve them. I would hurry over and make eye-contact as if to say, ‘Still here! Don’t take my books!’

He would then give me a friendly smile and move on. At one point, he even paused to say, “I highly recommend Anna Karenina.”

Well, dang! A guy who loves Tolstoy? You better believe I grinned a little wider whenever he came around. And was he coming around a little more often…? 

Then we went to check out. (For the record, our piles shrank considerably between what we originally chose and what we walked out of there with. Okay, maybe not considerably. But at least by a book. Probably.) 

Ugly polo employee stood there at the check-out with a normally dressed store employee. Call me crazy but I swear I even heard him say as we approached, “And here they are.” 

My friend Kathy walked up first and he shooed her down to the other employee at the register. I thought he would do the same for me because ringing up purchases did not appear to be his job. But after a pause, he motioned me towards a register. 

I made polite small talk. Then came the inevitable question: “Do you have a Barnes and Noble membership?” 

I said no.

He smiled and said I should enroll because I would get $5 off my purchase. I asked how much it would cost me to become a member and after hearing $25, said no a little more firmly. I mean, I never shop at Barnes and Noble. It costs too much. And I don’t need an excuse to spend more money on books! These are the thoughts I clung to and it is a good thing too because the employee in the ugly polo decided to make it his personal mission that I get a membership. 

He started by listing off the immediate discounts on my purchase. I said no. Then the discounts store-wide. Then the discounts at the coffee shop. To all this I laughed and said no. He made unswerving eye contact. 

I paid with my debit and went to put in my pin. He leaned forward and, I kid you not, batted his eyelashes at me. Before I put the pin in, he said, I should reconsider. The store was running a deal and I would get a $10 giftcard if I signed up. I laughed some more and declined. 

Then I put in the wrong pin. This was a mistake. He continued on the offensive. Sometimes, Barnes and Noble members got 20% off. And it worked on already discounted items. Also, members got a two-day window to check out book deals (or something?) before the masses.  

I finally told him that I had one more year of law school and could not consider a membership until I finished and had money to buy books. He then started talking about all the law books his store had. And I would get a deal on all of them…!

Feeling slightly exasperated, I turned to Kathy and laughingly asked her to tell me to say no. 

But what was she doing? 

Signing up for a Barnes and Noble membership!

This set ugly polo guy off again. My friend was getting a membership, I should too!

Finally, leaning across the counter and getting in my personal bubble, he confided that he liked British TV shows and one time they were 50% off and with his membership he got another 20% off of that. 70% British TV shows. Amazing, huh?

I made some answer about “next time” and bolted. I am pretty sure it took me 15 extra minutes to check out because of his pushy salesmanship. But I did it. I walked out of there without a membership. 

Bu, gosh darn it, now I am afraid to go back and run into him again!


Bookworm Memesss

A series of memes that describe what it is like when I live alone:

Me, making lists of what I need when my loans kick in:

Image result for proper noun list 100

Me, on cleaning:

Image result for thank goodness my book finally arrived i almost started cleaning the house

Me, on organizing my room:

Image result for Book

Me, in general:


Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Two stars

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff recently made the rounds as one of the more popular YA novels. I was fortunate to get a copy early. It follows the formula of other successful novelsmultiple characters who takes turns narrating, underdogs, a dystopian future. Unfortunately, I never quite fell in love with it the way other reviewers did. 

The story begins in 2380. The Aurora Academy trains elite cadets and sends them on key missions around the galaxy. Tyler Jones, future squad leader, figures he will get the best team. After all, he is the best. Instead, he misses the draft while out on a rogue mission. He rescues a girl who was comatose for 200 years from an abandoned ship and returns to find his team consists of the “leftovers.” (And his sister. And an ace pilot. But other than them, the leftovers.) 

The plot itself didn’t thrill me but what really bored me the most was the characters. Introducing…

Aurora, AKA Sleeping Beauty. She’s rescued by a handsome prince, possesses epic powers, and spends most of the book freaking out because she’s now over 200 years old. Weak when conscious and strangely powerful when not, her character change occurs abruptly and felt at odds with the story. 

Tyler Jones, AKA Golden Boy. I did not even make that up. His nickname in the book is Golden Boy. He’s a squeaky clean hero with good grades and a good personality and good looks and good friends and good everything. He bored me to tears. He lacked any compelling character traits except, perhaps, possessing an awesome twin sister.

Scarlett Jones, AKA The Flirt. Scarlet is the diplomat of the team and outside of strong loyalty to her brother and flair for fashion, her main character trait is that she has a lot of ex-boyfriends. Oh, and she’s attractive. That’s about it. 

Kal, AKA Drax the Destroyer. Nothing goes over his head! His reflexes are too fast, he would catch it. Also a main love interest which came across really weird. 

Cat, AKA The Friendzone. Her entire personality revolves around the fact that Tyler doesn’t love her. Oh, and she likes flying and tattoos. 

Fin, AKA Never Shuts Up. He’s supposed to be really sarcastic but mostly comes across vulgar. However, to give credit, he probably holds the most depth as far as motivation goes so I get why people like him the most. I personally got annoyed with him.

Zil, AKA ??? She’s a sociopath who I hope plays a bigger role in upcoming books because honestly her character was otherwise useless. 

Besides characters that lack depth, the plot tries too hard to make the reader ship everyone with everyone else (and I do mean everyone with everyone) and it does not work. You need chemistry and some semblance of motivation for your characters. Not general attractiveness. 

Glad I found out what the fuss was about but doubt I’ll read any other books in the series.