Book Reviews

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Things The Sanatorium has: murder, mystery, history, anticipation, and an unforgettable ending.

I finished this book on a cold, grey, drizzly night. Definitely spent the next hour or two feeling like there was someone watching me. Thanks a lot, Sarah! *accusatory but secretly thrilled stare in her direction*

One of the reasons I like this book is that Sarah Pearse did such a good job of making anyone seem like a suspect that I had to get to the end to find out who did it.

I even suspected the main character a few times!

And while along the way I had plenty of speculations, Pearse provides a few surprises to keep us on our toes.

And that ending! I can’t give too much away but let’s just say, it made me want to go back and immediately re-read the whole book to look for clues!

On a personal note, finishing a book lately has been a mental struggle for me. We are all exhausted with many things and I was so happy when I finished this. Starting to feel back in my groove!

Have you read The Sanatorium? Let me know in the comments what you thought or if it’s on your tbr!

Learn more about Sarah Pearse at her website.

Happy reading, friends!

Book Reviews

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is not your typical suspense novel.

The best way to describe Leave the World Behind is that it is somehow both subtle and specific.

Human nature + the unknown + what we do when we are put to the test are themes throughout.

I will not lie – while it picked up at the end, I struggled with a good chunk of this book. Leave the World Behind is certainly not an edge-of-your-seat thriller. It is at times (purposefully?) slow.

The writing style is also in stark contrast to the books I normally read. One thing specifically is that I had a hard time connecting to the characters.

After I finished reading, I watched a couple short videos of Rumaan Alam talking about Leave the World Behind and I think if I had watched them while I was having Motivation Difficulties, it would have helped – must remember this tip for future reading!

What kept me going were the overall themes and that I was intrigued by the concept itself. Plus this line specifically I really enjoyed: “if they weren’t human, in this moment, then they were nothing.”

This book was hard to read while I was reading it, but I’ve been thinking about the concepts ever since. Maybe that’s just as important, if not more so. That almost makes me want to read it again – so I can see what I missed the first time.

The mystery of the emergency in the city also compelled me to keep reading because I wanted to find out what actually happened.

In summary, I’m glad I read it. It was easy to put down but impossible to forget about so I kept coming back to it. I think it’ s important to explore texts outside of our “reading comfort zone”.

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam sounds more my speed – it’s about two best friends who grow up and have to find out if they can still be best friends. That’s definitely a concept I’m familiar with. I think I’ll give that one a shot next 🙂

Read more about Rumaan Alam and his other projects here.

Successful reading, friends!

Book Reviews

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Vicious tells the story of Victor and Eli: college buddies, roommates, handsome and intelligent, and striving for excellence.

And it presents an ultimate question – What will you do to be a hero?

Victor and Eli are ambitious. Their experiments in near-death experiences lead them down a path of no return. Will they go beyond the brink or will it be too late to stop each other?

I like to read on the back patio while my son plays outside.

This story was a fast read. The science-made-relative aspect reminded me a little of Michael Crichton and I liked that the chapters alternated storylines so we got to learn about each of the primary characters.

This book makes you think about what it means to be a hero or an anti-hero. Good vs evil and wrong vs right have a lot of grey area. Something that starts with the best intentions can still turn sour, and the worst situations can prevent interesting opportunities.

I am not a huge “superhero” fan. I like the old Superman movies and the Batman ones with Christian Bale, but I don’t own any comic books. Vicious was still a comfortable read to dip a toe into the proverbial waters of that world.

Learn more about V. E. Schwab and her other works – including Vengeful, the sequel to Vicious – on her website.

Happy reading, friends!

Book Reviews

My first audiobook! Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I first heard of Matthew McConaughey’s memoir a few months ago and mentioned it in my post of anticipated releases of late 2020/early 2021. Looking for something different to listen to on my morning commute, I recently downloaded Audible. Greenlights was my first audiobook choice.

Audiobooks have quickly become a godsend, and Greenlights was a reminder to live my life. My life. Explore my passions and seek my truths.

One theme I enjoyed that particularly resonated with me was being involved in your success. What does this mean to me? Am I putting in enough effort? More importantly, am I putting effort into the things that actually matter the most? What does success mean to me?

McConaughey welcomes us into his life, sharing stories from all ages and imparting how to be our most authentic selves.

Have you read or listened to Greenlights? Let me know what you thought!

Learn more about McConaughey’s current role as a faculty member at The University of Texas at Austin here.

Happy reading – and listening – dear friends!

Book Reviews

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

“One more hour until I prove to Visidia that I’m meant to be their heir… Two more hours until I’m engaged to a man I’ll never love… Three more hours until I give the command to ready a ship to set sail tomorrow, and demand to know every secret about this kingdom that’s ever been kept from me.”

In what I can only describe as a magical turn of fate, I happen to work with one of Adalyn Grace’s brothers. Upon learning of my obsession passion for books, he informed me that his sister was the author of All the Stars and Teeth. Within the past year I have been developing an appreciation for young adult/fantasy books so I decided to add it to my list.

I ended up forsaking everything else I was reading to finish this one first.

All the Stars and Teeth is a high fantasy novel that explores the very real boundaries of curiosity and corruption, and the choices we make when caught between power and the desire to do what’s right.

(What is high fantasy, you ask? Click here for Goodreads’ description.)

I was captivated by the mystical Kingdom of Visidia and at least a little jealous of the adventure that Amora, Princess of Visidia, embarks upon as she sets sail to save herself and her kingdom – and not just because she finds herself in the company of the handsome rogue Bastian! Who hasn’t daydreamed about going on a heroic and life-changing quest?

Amora’s character really resonated with me. She has so many qualities I wish I could see in myself: brave and adventurous with a self-confidence I fail to muster on a regular basis. She is unafraid to go after what she wants most.

In this interview, Grace describes Amora’s character as “morally grey”. I liked this about Amora; it made her realistic and relatable. No heroine should be pristine; I would argue that our “flaws” are often what make us the most human.

The story itself was fresh yet comforting because it reminded me of things that I already liked. While reading, I got vibes of Children of Blood and Bone, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Hunger Games. But don’t be misled – this story stands alone, too.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters continue to develop in the next installment, All the Tides of Fate, set to release in February of 2021.

Have you read All the Stars and Teeth? Let me know in the comments!

Learn more about Adalyn Grace at her website and on her Instagram.

Happy reading, friends! ❤

Book Reviews

The Maiden of the Storm – My First Adult Romance Review

The Maiden of the StormThe Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple is a fast read full of depth, developed characters, and researched content. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this story really delivers with the historical details, such as clothing, vocabulary, and scenery. As someone who isn’t normally a romance reader, I can say this story has me hooked on Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple. She has taken tremendous care to put the best in her books and her words stirred something within me. The tale of Riana, daughter of the village chieftain, and Horatio, captive Roman solder, combines passion, pleasure, and pride – and I will be reading it again!

*I received a free copy of the ARC in exchange for an honest review.*

View all my reviews

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last Story of Mina Lee

“What would the world look like if she made it her own, even temporarily, for a moment, fleeting, so that she could experience again the throb, the hunger of being alive, eyes wide, teeth showing?”

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a gripping tale. It’s addictive, edgy, and so full of truth.

And I really mean addictive! I could not resist picking this up while I was still in the middle of another book. But I had to finish it asap. No regrets!

The story goes back-and-forth between Margot and Mina, two women trying to make their way on the West Coast.

Margot, set in the present, discovers her mother’s body, still and unmistakably dead. Despite her initial shock, suspicion immediately sets in. As Margot goes on a quest to discover the truth about her mother’s untimely demise, she ends up discovering more about her mother – and herself – than she thought possible.

The story of Mina, Margot’s mother, is set in the beginning of her new life in the United States, years that lead up to and include Margot’s birth. She finds, with mixed feelings, camaraderie in coworkers and a few new friends. Through her new relationships and finding her way in a new place, Mina must navigate the murky waters that come with starting over while coping with the pains of the past.

As Margot traverses the mysteries surrounding her mother’s death, she must also grapple with the mysteries of her own mind. How much of her life has been shaped by who she thought her mother was? Who could Margot be if she allowed herself to just be?

This novel explores immigration, power, status, the American dream, loss, heartbreak, and what it means to belong. The characters learn lessons on owning their lives for who they are and what they have done – and it some cases, what they have not done.

This is a mystery without reading like a mystery. The characters are diverse and well-developed. I like that the storyline alternates between Margot and Mina – vastly different but similar in ways that run deeper than the surface.

Have you read The Last Story of Mina Lee? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought or if it’s on your tbr!

Happy reading, friends! 🙂

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds

Cara is a traverser – jumping between worlds by both the mercy of Goddess Nyame and the intentional hands of science. She spends every day with a woman she loves from afar while trying to reconcile the present with the past… That is, until a powerful announcement is made and Cara begins to believe that while she can’t alter destiny, she can still exercise her free will to choose between what’s right right now and what’s right for all.

When I hear “sci-fi” my brain automatically goes to things like The Twilight Zone or intergalactic travel (I grew up in a Star Trek household). The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is sci-fi that feels…. accessible. While not caught up in the technical aspects I usually lose interest in, there’s just enough for it to set the scene without rubbing it in your face. The emotions of the characters also create the drama that keeps me (and hopefully you!) coming. back. for. more.

The Space Between Worlds is also visually enticing. The juxtaposition of the technologically-advanced Wiley City and the left-behind-in-the-dust (literally) Rurals and Ashtown are something I would love to see on the big screen.

The Wiley City skyscrapers complete with gardens and courtyards are probably not far off from what our future holds. A quick Google image search of skyscraper vertical gardening gives you an idea.

It has the futuristic, post-apocalyptic thing going on which I think will never go out of style as long as we are pre-apocalyptic. Think The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, etc. Why are we so drawn to these books? A post-apocalyptic world seems so – forgive me – out of this world but is so full of heroes it’s hard not to be drawn to it.

Other than having a good plot and excellent character development, The Space Between Worlds is DIVERSE. The plot does not center around a cisgender, white protagonist with a few diverse characters sprinkled in to the edges for good measure. The story is about humanity, all of it, pulling back its layers and exposing its deep truths.

With appropriately-timed revelations and the continuous theme of the relationship between science and religion, there is plenty in The Space Between Worlds to spark conversation. It would be a great book club selection.

Have you read The Space Between Worlds? Would you want to world-travel? I would honestly much rather be the world-traveler than the person who is visited by a traveler because I would be INSANELY jealous!

Happy reading, friends!

Beliefs and opinions reflected in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the beliefs and opinions of the author and/or publisher.

Book Reviews

Book Review: THICK and Other Essays

THICK and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, was one of my August Book of the Month Club selections. It is eye-opening, descriptive, and academic (the 20 pages of notes and references rocked my world).

THICK is not a history book. While McMillan Cottom draws on personal experiences, it is not specifically autobiographical enough to be a classic memoir. It is academic without reading like a textbook. It does combine all of these elements. McMillan Cottom says in the text that it’s a loose version of “opinion writing”.

THICK is not a long read, but it is hefty. It’s not a book that feels right to devour in one afternoon because a) some of the sentences I had to read five times, out loud, slowly, and reword to make my brain comprehend them and b) this is Important Stuff.

What is Important Stuff? Historically, those who held power, money, and title decided what other people should think was important. For a long time, certain groups’ opinions on what was and was not important did not matter – especially if they couldn’t read, couldn’t write, and couldn’t speak English, and therefore could not vote.

“If my work is about anything it is about making plain precisely how prestige, money, and power structure our so-called democratic institutions so that most of us will always fail.”

Tressie Mcmillan cottom – “Girl 6” in THICK AND OTHER ESSAYS

Black women and Black peoples should not be delegated to the role of a statistic. Yet they are. And people still don’t believe them, and they choose to not believe or rely on statistics that don’t mesh with a pre-determined opinion.

Important Stuff includes anti-racism not only by educating ourselves and admitting to ourselves, if not others, that we are wrong – even if we don’t profit from systemic traits, we at least are not worse off because of it – but by also acting upon it. I look at my life and think of how so many people say “I don’t see color” and I remember when that’s something i would thought was progressive. But it only hides the issue. It doesn’t change reality.

Reading THICK and Other Essays can be part of the catalyst for us all to learn more while we do more.

To learn more about Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, and her other works, visit her website.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Death of Vivek Oji

How would you live if you carried a secret that someone would hurt you for? More, how would you die?

What would you do if you lost your only child? How would you weep? Resigned and silent… Loud and unforgiving…

In The Death of Vivek Oji, author Akwaeke Emezi shares sections of Vivek’s life and the lives of those close to him leading up to Vivek’s death and beyond.

Vivek Oji’s death is not a secret. Its occurrence is not the climax of the story.

The title is purposefully vague. While the injuries are presented, we do not know the details. Vivek’s mother, Kavita, goes in search of the truth.

She learns more than she bargained for.

We think, “Not in my town.” “Not where I live.” “That doesn’t happen here.”

And we are wrong.

The unwarranted hatred projected onto gendervariant and LQBTQ+ people throughout the world is real. And it does become violent.

When you read The Death of Vivek Oji, if you take nothing else away, think of what actions you can take to make the world a safer place for all.

What can you do to ensure the richness and fullness of life deserved by every one of us?

Other than that it makes you think, I liked that while the chapters flit between characters, it’s not confusing. Exploration of relationships – platonic, romantic, sexual, and familial – is a vital component of this story.

The character development is good and the plot is enticing. Sometimes the timeline may throw you off but take your time and connect with the characters.

And take time to think about the things in this story that give you pause or make you uncomfortable. Work through and past it.

Let me know what you think of this one, friends! Learn more abut Akwaeke Emezi and their other works and accomplishments here.