Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mid-Year Reading Check In!

Please note that the above sentiment does not work on my husband, hahaha. I've tried. I've got three huge bookshelves though, so he may be right at this point ;). Who can really say?

I actually meant to post this on the 15th, but got really busy and forgot. So it's coming at you a few days later than expected. I really just wanted to check in, and let you know how my reading is going so far this year! Truth be told, it's going pretty fabulously. I know the posts here have been sporadic, but I'm reading more than I have in a while and it feels good.

I set myself a goal of 120 books this year. Only 10 books a month, so that way I could pick and choose what I wanted to read and not overwhelm myself. As it turns out, I'm killing that goal! So far this year I've read 79 books out of 120. I'm ahead of the game!

Favorite book of the year, so far, has been We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson. I'm pretty sure I've gushed about this book before, but it's absolutely excellent. Beautifully written. Haunting. Full of the kind of deep thoughts that make you feel all the feelings. I highly recommend it!

Second runner up goes to A Million Junes by Emily Henry. This book was just so much more than I expected it to be. It absolutely blew me away, and I was so happy. Again, highly recommended!

What I'm most proud of is the variety of things that I've read lately. I've been delving deeper into Contemporary books, and finding so much to love there. I've also been working hard on including more diverse books in my reading as well. As a whole, I'm trying to step outside the box. Which means, of course, that before the end of the year I'm going to have to finally read my most dreaded genre: MEMOIRS. I have faith though.

How is your reading going?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: Like A Fly On The Wall

Media Type: Print Book (ARC)
Title: Like A Fly On The Wall
Author: Simone Kelly
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pages: Paperback; 448
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Source: Harper Collins / TLC Book Tours
Genre: Suspense / Contemporary

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy intrigue mixed with some scenes on the steamier side.

Add it on: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
From talented debut author Simone Kelly comes this suspenseful novel that crackles with intrigue, sex, and plenty of surprises—perfect for fans of Eric Jerome Dickey and Carl Weber.

Meet Jacques Berradi. Moroccan-born and Manhattan-raised, his genuine, sexy-smooth allure goes hand in hand with a unique gift. Since Jacques was young, he has had the ability to read peoples’ energies, communicate with spirit guides, and even catch glimpses of people’s futures. Now a professional “intuitive counselor,” Jacques’s clients pay him handsomely for his insight. Unfortunately, Jacques’s psychic abilities don’t come with an off switch to tune out the world’s noise, nor do they always provide him with easy answers; recently Jacques has begun having dark, alarming dreams about his beloved father, a Moroccan immigrant who died when he was a boy.

Meet Kylie Collins, an adventurous, Miami twentysomething who is trying to find her footing after being laid off from a cushy music industry job. When a mishap brings them together, Kylie is instantly mesmerized by Jacques’s cool demeanor and intuitive abilities, and he’s captivated by her outgoing charm and breezy good looks. Seeking to learn more about her family history—including the identity of the father she’s never known—Kylie visits Jacques’s office to gain some insight about her future, and about her free-spirited and headstrong Jamaican mother, True.

But on the night that they meet, a rolling blackout cuts off power throughout Miami. Kylie and Jacques, and a few of his clients, head to the only place in the neighborhood with enough light to see: Like a Fly on the Wall Detective Agency. There, Kylie serendipitously lands herself the perfect new job as an apprentice private eye.

As partners, Jacques and Kylie are an unstoppable duo. Can Jacques’s intuition reveal the scandalous history of Kylie’s mother and father? Will Kylie’s newfound detective skills uncover evidence about the death of Jacques’s father? And will the chemistry that charges their friendship bubble over into something much, much hotter…?
This book is a little tricky to fairly rate, because I don't think I was quite prepared for how dark and steamy this was going to end up to be. To be fair, Like A Fly On The Wall definitely doesn't skimp on the descriptive writing. I met Jacques, and then Kylie, and it's like I could see them in my mind. Sitting, chatting, flirting. That's an impressive feat. Unfortunately, the plot and character development weren't quite on par with the writing itself.

The reader is kind of thrown, head first, into Jacques existence. The prologue, while steamy as all get out, is a bit disarming in how bluntly it shoves Jacques and his relationship into the limelight. I liked that he was nothing but himself. As the story progressed, and I got to know him better, I appreciated his honesty. Jacques knows himself, and he's not afraid of who he is. It was kind of refreshing. Kylie comes into the story a few chapters in, and it takes a little longer to discern exactly who she is. I can say, that as these two came closer and closer together, things were definitely not boring. I only wish the plot had been a little bit stronger.

Which is true of the whole book, honestly. Their story is laid out in a way that would suit a movie brilliantly, but as a book kind of falls flat. There's not a lot of actual story line present, and so it takes a lot longer than expected to finally find your footing in this book. I had made it 50% of the way before I could honestly feel confident telling you what the purpose of Jacques' abilities were, or how Kylie fit into the picture. In fact, it wasn't until the very end that I finally felt fully rooted in the story. Due to this, it took me a long time to finish this book. It wasn't badly written, or uninteresting, just a tough read because of the way it was laid out. A lot happened, with very little explanation, and I had to wait patiently for the book to catch me up.

In terms of strengths, I'd say this book definitely hits the mark with its descriptive writing. If only the the plot and the character development had gotten the same treatment, this book would have been a solid debut. As it stands, I wavered between a two and three star rating. I ultimately decided on three because, despite feeling confused, this was a really easy read. Jacques was likable, Kylie was interesting, and this 400+ page book flew by. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next from this author.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book Review: Toonopolis: Gemini by Jeremy Rodden

Media Type: Ebook
Title: Toonopolis: Gemini
   *Series: Toonopolis Files #1
Author: Jeremy Rodden
Publisher: Portmanteau Press LLC
Pages: Paperback; 314
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Source: Author
Genre: Humor / Adventure

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy humorous stories with larger than life characters, and a ton of cartoon references!

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Toonopolis is a cartoon city that is home to the thoughts and ideas of all sentient beings in the universe. As the center of the Tooniverse, it acts as an other-worldly rest stop for these creations. Gemini is a teenage human boy who is thrust into Toonopolis through his father's scientific research program. He loses part of himself in the process and immediately begins a quest to regain his lost memories with the help of his Tooniverse guide named Jimbob the Talking Eggplant. After an altercation with a mysterious Shadowy Figure, Gemini's mission is changed, and he begins a new quest to defeat Shadowy Figure and protect Toonopolis from his nefarious destruction. Along the way, he meets new friends, discovers just how diverse and strange Toonopolis is, and learns lessons about compassion, forgiveness, redemption, and being true to oneself.

In my recent mood of reading ravenously, but failing to write reviews, I completely forgot that I'd read and enjoyed Toonopolis: Gemini. My apologies to Jeremy Rodden for that! Truth be told, this book was a lot of fun to read! It made me laugh, and feel nostalgic, during a time when I needed it most. So, here's my attempt at a review that will do this book justice!

First off, kudos to Rodden for pouring his evident love of the cartoon universe into this book. There are so many references to the physics and unspoken rules of the cartoon worlds that just made me smile from ear to ear. I think the "Gravity Displacement Theory" was my absolute favorite. Ever wonder how cartoon characters manage to walk across open air, with no apparent problems, until they look down? Well now, Rodden has your back. It was little gems like this that had me giggling, and feeling nostalgic for lazy Saturday mornings spent watching my favorite shows.

More than that, I appreciated the fact that the characters in this book never take themselves too seriously. Gemini was well fleshed out, but also appropriately confused about his new situation. Jimbob the Talking Eggplant (yes, it's just what you're picturing) stole the show with his hilarious one-liners and complete disregard for anything serious. In fact, every character in this book had their own quirks and genuine personality that delighted me. The banter between them is fabulous.

My biggest issue, truth be told, was the underlying plot to this story. Gemini's background is uncovered through alternating flashes of the "real" world and the cartoon world that he has found himself a part of. There are also journal like entries interspersed that are meant to shed some light on the shady dealings going on. That portion of it, as well as the twist at the ending, were what kind of threw me off. I loved following Gemini and his motley crew through on their adventures. I laughed out loud as they were caught up in side quests, and met all sorts of random NPCs. It was really the hidden plot that had me confused.

So, for making me crack up and remember the days of amazing cartoons, I'll happily award Toonopolis: Gemini a solid 3-star rating. It's a lot of fun to read, and something I think most everyone would benefit from adding to their reading list! Just be prepared for some amazing silliness.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Books For You Ears - Audio Book Recommendations!

Ah, audio books. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Truth be told, almost 1/3 of the books that I finish every month are audio books. I pop one on to zone out on the train ride to/from work, to relax in my hammock and take in the day, or even to amuse me while I clean or cook. I've worked my way through hundreds of audio masterpieces, and even a few duds. I've found narrators that I absolutely adore, and ones that I'm not too fond of. I'm here to share some of that knowledge with you all, if you're amiable.

First off, if you're new to the world of audio books, please let me assure you that it's not cheating and no, you don't have to feel bad about not physically reading a book. If you're worried about not being able to pay attention, that is one thing that I do understand. Listening to audio books takes a bit of practice, to learn to focus. If you pick a good narrator though, that helps immensely! So here are some of my picks for things you might fall in love with.


Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel

One of my new favorite things is full cast audio books. Getting to hear a story with a full range of actual characters is a lot of fun! In the case of Sleeping Giants, it's also kind of necessary. This book is told through a series of interviews, journal entries, and event logs. So getting a chance to hear all of those things, in the voices of the characters themselves, makes for a much more fulfilling experience! I highly recommend this as an audio book!

Goodreads | Amazon

Neverwhere (Author's Preferred Text) by Neil Gaiman

Another thing I love is when the narrator of the book is also the author of the book. There's no greater example of that, than Neil Gaiman. Okay, so I'm admittedly a bit biased. Gaiman is one of my favorite authors of all time. That doesn't change the fact that he's also an absolutely amazing narrator though. He reads all his own books, and rightly so. No one tells a story like Gaiman, and no one narrates it like him either.

Goodreads | Amazon

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn

Speaking of fantastic narrators, I need to give lots of love to Angèle Masters. I started this series by first reading it, and I just didn't get the hype. Then I listened to the first book instead, and fell completely in love. Masters brings Veronica Speedwell to life. She is Veronica. It takes a talented narrator to do that, and I'm so pleased to have found her!

Goodreads | Amazon


So there you have it, some books I've found that will knock your socks off! (Or so I hope.) Do you have any recommendations for me? Any books/narrators that you love? Let me know!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Media Type: Audio Book
Title: A Million Junes
Author: Emily Henry
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: Hardcover; 350
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Source: Library Borrow
Content Screening: Nothing of note

HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who love YA, adore magical realism, and just want to get lost.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Someone pinch me, please, because I honestly don't believe this book is real. Full disclosure, I started reading A Million Junes with the thought that it was yet another contemporary novel. I was worried about "bad boy" Saul, as he was touted in the first part of this story, and certain that this would turn into the type of book where a wonderful female character would turn into a simpering mess at the hands of a boy. Oh, was I wrong. I'm pleased as punch to let you all know that this book shattered all misconceptions I had, and left me completely speechless. Emily Henry can write magical realism, oh yes she can. I'm in love with this book, and I don't care who knows it.

First off, let's talk about the characters. I love flawed characters. Girls like June, who feel realistic in all the things that they do and say, make my heart soar. June isn't even attempting to pretend that she's perfect. She doesn't love school, or get amazing grades. She's not the edgy outcast who stands out without trying to. June is about as normal a high school kid as you can get. For that alone, she had my heart. Then, I started to find out about her past. About her loss, and the weight of it heaped on her shoulders. I met her best friend, and fell in love with their dynamic. Then, we both met Saul and time just stopped. For all my snap judgments about him, I am so sorry. Saul is not a cliche. He's just as real as June, and the two of them together had the power to completely enthrall me.

Better still, is the fact that this book doesn't skirt around any of the realistic aspects of what June is dealing with. Her family as it was now, her family as it was then, the perfectly imperfect way that her father met her mother. The way that June will be going through the day completely fine, and then be hit by a sudden onslaught of feeling and reminder that her father is still dead. It's never easy to read a book that deals with the death of loved ones, but A Million Junes turns this into something that is relateable and real. My favorite quote was one that was traded between June and Saul during their painful memories of their lost loved ones: "I'm useless, but I'm here." 

I could gush on, endlessly, about the beauty between these pages. This book rushed on, pulling me into the magical world that only June and Saul had access to. It touched on the importance of family, of loving yourself, of finding someone who you can just be you with, and so much more. It made me smile, it made me cry, and it made me feel like I was more myself than I had been in a while. A Million Junes was a book that I wasn't expecting to love so much, but it snuck up on me. I'm so glad it did. This is so very worth your time.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 2017 Reading List

Oh look, it's July! Am I writing this while snacking on hot dogs and hamburgers? Yes, yes I am. Am I already woefully behind because it's the 4th, and the month has already kicked off in a massive way? Yes, yes I am. June flew by, my birthday has come and gone, and I feel like I'm scrambling. 

I always hit a mid-year slump when it comes to the blog. Coming up with new content every week is tricky stuff. Especially when you've been doing it for 7 years. I shouldn't complain though, because the fact remains that I love this!

So let's take a look at what I'll be tackling this month.

Jonathan Stroud

I LOVE this series. It toes that line between spooky and just tons of fun. The characters are wonderful, although I don't deny that Lucy is absolutely my favorite, and the stories are always completely engrossing. Since I picked the first book up two years ago, I've been utterly addicted. 

Do you love audiobooks? This series is amazing on audio! Emily Bevan brings each character to life in a way that I just can't describe. You'll have to listen.

Zoe Whittall

I discovered this book, and this Canadian publishing company, at the LA Times Festival of Books this year. I've been hanging on to it, waiting for the right time to read it. Lo and behold, I picked it up this weekend on a whim and fell deep into the pages. This has become my train commute read, and I'm not even upset. It's an interesting glimpse at the world of 20-somethings who don't know where they stand in the world. It's a book that flits between the lives of different characters who come from all over, and are somehow now deeply intertwined. It's honestly pretty beautiful.

Nick Cutter

Rounding out my picks for this month is a horror novel that I've been putting off reading, mostly because I know it's going to freak to me out. I love Nick Cutter. I love the visceral way he writes, and the fact that you can't look away from his stories. Hilariously, I also kind of hate it. His books are obsessive reads. Ones you read until 2am and then can't sleep because you're too freaked out. It's hilarious.

I'm in the right place for this now though, and I can't wait to devour it!

That's my TBR for this month!

Obviously I have a ton of review books to tackle, along with other random reads I pick up, but you can look forward to reviews of these three at least.

What are you reading this month?


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