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Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1)

⇒My October Spooky Reads book #2 is Prodigal Son, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1. The monster has become a face-tattooed monk and his creator is plotting a global takeover with a pack of perfectly placed zombies!⇐

by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson
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(4.02 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 25, 2005, by Bantam

Genre: Fiction / Horror / Thriller

Format: Paperback

Pages: 469

#Prodigal Son   #Frankenstein

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)He cannot understand why Father would create him to be… dysfunctional. Father seeks perfection in all things.

Say “Frankenstein” to almost anyone and you can just about guess what image pops into their brain: a big, green, rectangle-headed monster with crazy stitches marking where his body parts have been sloppily meshed together.

Whether you’ve read the classic novel by Mary Shelley or seen any of the many movies about this well-known scary guy, you come to realize that the monster isn’t, in fact, the raging creature that terrorizes a town. The monster turns out to be that creature’s creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

It’s still hard to separate the name from the creature,  but leave it to Dean Koontz to figure out a way to do just that. Not only do we see the “monster” as a man, but we also see the hero in him as well.

Every city has secrets – but none as terrible as this.

Here’s the book summary:

Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself – and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more – and less – than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac – but his deranged maker.

My origins are a prison graveyard, the cadavers of criminals – combined, revitalized, reborn.

As the book opens, we see that both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster have achieved a level of immortality (200+ years of it) and find themselves living in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Nope, not joking.

Dr. Frank – now going by the name Victor Helios – has become a local entrepreneur. In public, he is a do-gooder and a powerful, influential man. But behind the scenes, he is creating a New Race of people – having perfected the method he used to create his first “person” so many years ago. As he strategically places his minions in key positions within the police force, religious institutions, healthcare, and government, his plans to achieve a future global takeover are coming together.

Frankenstein’s original monster – who has given himself the name Deucalion – spent time in the mountains of Tibet becoming a monk and getting all zen and stuff. Not kidding. He had to find a way to suppress his rage, the monks accepted him (warts and all), so he stayed. That is, until, he receives a letter from a trusted friend telling him that Dr. Frank is still alive and the S*^# is very close to hitting the fan! Deuc high-tails it to NOLA to finally confront his creator and try stop him from destroying everyone on the planet.

One man’s resistance, while admirable, cannot turn back the most titanic forces of nature.

As powerful as Deucalion is, he isn’t battling old Frank alone. He’s hitched his horse to two homicide detectives, Carson O’Connor and her partner (maybe eventually boo-thang) Michael Maddison – who weren’t exactly expecting their homicide case to turn into a supernatural saga.

Koontz’s writing is as interesting as ever – drawing you into a web of complex characters and laying the foundation for a thrillingly monstrous series. I never would have thought of the story of Frankenstein and his monster this way, but now I can’t wait to see how Deucalion, Carson, and Michael manage to save the world!

There are a whole lot of characters, but you quickly get used to the multiple POVs and all the different “voices”. By the middle of the book, I even began to anticipate which character’s story was coming up next. Don’t take that to mean that I’m calling the story “predictable”, it was… sensible.

If you’re picking this up expecting a bit of a fright for your October TBR, you may be disappointed. There are some gruesome moments, some mystery, and some definitely off-kilter characters, but all-in-all it’s basically more of a thriller than a horror novel.

That does not, however, make it any less enjoyable a read!

Koontz’s Frankenstein series continues:

Book 2: City of Night (2005)
Book 3: Dead and Alive (2009)
Book 4: Lost Souls (2009)
Book 5: The Dead Town (2011)


About the Authors

Credit EngstromKevin J. AndersonDEAN KOONTZ and KEVIN J. ANDERSON

Acknowledged as “America’s most popular suspense novelist” (Rolling Stone) and as one of today’s most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human.

Kevin J. Anderson has written spin-off novels for Star Wars, StarCraft, Titan A.E., and The X-Files, and is the co-author of the Dune prequels. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series and the Nebula Award-nominated Assemblers of Infinity. He has also written several comic books including the Dark Horse Star Wars collection Tales of the Jedi written in collaboration with Tom Veitch, Predator titles (also for Dark Horse), and X-Files titles for Topps.

(Bios from Goodreads)


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City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake, #1)

⇒October is the BEST time to read all the horror/thriller books on your shelves! I started my Spooky Reads reading list off with Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts!⇐

by Victoria Schwab
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(4.05 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published August 28, 2018, by Scholastic

Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Middle Grades

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 272

#CityofGhosts

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake, #1)… I remind myself that every good story needs twists and turns. Every heroine needs an adventure.

October is my absolute favorite month of the year for several reasons: One, because it’s my birthday month (cue the confetti 🎉), two because it’s the start of fall, and three because (and this is the most important reason) it’s time for HALLOWEEN!!!

I can’t explain how Halloween became my favorite holiday, but it is. The costumes, the weird traditions, the costumes, the excuse to eat loads of candy, and, oh, did I mention the costumes?!?!? Any holiday that gives you an excuse to wear over-the-top makeup and a hideous wig (and get away with it) is a great holiday.

And because of Halloween, October is the perfect time of year to get settled in a mostly dark room, grab a warm blanket, and sink into a torturously frightful book!

I have one foot in winter and one in spring. One foot with the living, and one with the dead.

To kick off my Spooky Reads TBR list this week, I decided to tiptoe into the scary stuff, so I chose Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts. My daughter – who is also named Cassidy – recently received this book in her Owlcrate Jr. subscription box, so I took advantage. Ok, ok, I took advantage only after begging her to let me borrow it and offering her a nutty bar for dessert).

First, I have to say that the cover is amazing! It displays the atmosphere of the story perfectly! Covers can often fool you by being so much more interesting than the book itself turns out to be, but this cover was truly representative of a captivating story.

… what you don’t see is always scarier than what you do.

Here’s the synopsis from the cover:

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead… and enter the world of spirits. her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.

When Cass’s parents land a gig hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets another girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil — and herself.

And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Maybe the world is even stranger than I know.

Schwab’s City of Ghosts moves at a great pace. Since this is a series, this first book gives us just enough background to figure out what we’re doing here and why we’re able to see dead people while still leaving enough unknown to keep the sense of discovery alive for future books in the series.

During all this introduction, we meet vibrantly rich characters (living and dead!). Cassidy herself is very relatable in every weird way possible. I mean, how “normal” can you be when you almost die, your best friend is a ghost, and you’re able to walk on the other side of reality? If Cass were a person irl, I’m sure we’d be friends.

And the setting is SO atmospheric! Rainy gray skies, graveyards, abandoned prisons, and dark cobblestoned streets – Edinburgh becomes an extra character that threatens to steal every scene! You can almost hear the Red Raven’s haunting song in the background as you read (shiver!).

This book was the perfect amount of spooky to kick off my month of scary lit. It’s going to be a great read for my 10-year-old (after I give the book back to her) and I love that we’ll be able to talk about it together. There are some thrilling moments: the introduction of the Red Raven, the “empty children”, etc., but nothing extremely horrifying or gruesome. Personally, I thought Robert Beatty’s Serafina and the Black Cloak was much scarier!

…ghosts are everywhere.

Four spooky stars for this atmospheric ghost story that had all the elements of a book that’s perfect for the season. Recommendation: grab your middle-grader and a flashlight and settle in for pleasantly spooky read. Oh, and keep a mirror nearby!

Keep your eyes open for future installments in the series. Cassidy’s parents host the TV show, The Inspecters (get it? Specters, like ghosts?), so they’ll be traveling to different haunted locations and no doubt taking Cassidy (and Jacob) along with them. And we’ll be able to see if Cass learns to hone her skills for handling what’s on the other side of the Veil.

 


About the Author

VICTORIA SCHWAB

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab is the #1 NYT, USA, and Indie bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Vicious, the Shades of Magic series, and This Savage Song. Her work has received critical acclaim, been featured by EW and The New York Times, been translated into more than a dozen languages, and been optioned for TV and Film. The Independent calls her the “natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones” and touts her “enviable, almost Gaimanesque ability to switch between styles, genres, and tones.”

(Bio from V.E. Schwab’s website)


 

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October Spooky TBR

⇒No offense to all the other months, but October is my favorite! So I decided to celebrate my favorite month and the Halloween season with some spooky reads – muhahahaha! ⇐

Image result for spooky october

Halloween is my favorite holiday. Yes, over Christmas, over Independence Day, and even over Thanksgiving. There’s so much I love about Halloween but one of the main things is that it gives me an excuse to wear costumes in public! Plus, it’s a great season to find all those horror/thriller books on your shelves and settle in for some spooky reading.

I’m doing double duty this month by cracking open some truly creepy books AND continuing my shelf-discipline challenge by choosing books from my personal shelves that fall into horror/thriller/mystery categories. Hopefully, by the end of the month, I’ll be thoroughly freaked out BUT my shelves will be a little bit lighter!

Here’s a look at the October TBR that I started building in September:

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 (pronounced “Nosferatu”) is the third novel by American author Joe Hill. The book focuses on a woman trying to save her son from a vicious, supernatural killer who has set his sights on him. The novel is called NOS4R2 in the United Kingdom.  (Wikipedia)

I have wanted to read this book for so long! When I finally found it on sale at Half-Price Books I snapped it up and immediately knew that I would add it to my October TBR. 

Apparently, NOS4A2 is currently in development to become a 10-episode TV miniseries in 2019 on AMC, so I’m glad to go ahead and read this before it hits the little screen.

Broken MonstersBROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies, but this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams? If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world. (Goodreads)

I remember picking this book up randomly somewhere and it has been on my shelf for a while now, but it originally caught my interest because it seems to mix horror with fantasy. I love it when genres merge and create something more fantastic and freaky!

A Head Full of GhostsA HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia. To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession.  (Goodreads)

I will admit to having read a few reviews by Goodreads friends about this book, so I feel kind of prepared to be scared. I’m not expecting the next Great American Novel here, but I am looking forward to some genuine scares.

PhantomsPHANTOMS by Dean Koontz

CLOSER… They found the town silent, apparently abandoned. Then they found the first body strangely swollen and still warm. One hundred fifty were dead, 350 missing. But the terror had only begun in the tiny mountain town of Snowfield, California. AND CLOSER… At first they thought it was the work of a maniac. Or terrorists. Or toxic contamination. Or a bizarre new disease. AND CLOSER… But then they found the truth. And they saw it in the flesh. And it was worse than anything any of them had ever imagined… (Goodreads)

One of the scariest images is an abandoned town existing where there should be the hustle and bustle of people, activity and… life. Dean Koontz is a masterful storyteller and I used to read his books much more often than I do now. Here is my chance for redemption since two Dean Koontz books show up on my October TBR…

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)PRODIGAL SON (FRANKENSTEIN, BOOK #1) by Dean Koontz & Kevin J. Anderson

Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing in himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself–and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more—and less—than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac—but his deranged maker. (Goodreads)

I’ve read some pretty amazing new interpretations of classic literary treasures this year. Why not in the horror genre too? Dean Koontz works with Kevin J. Anderson to deliver the first in a series of thrilling Frankenstein-ian stories that may have me looking over my shoulder before I finish reading.

Haunt Me Still (Kate Stanley, #2)HAUNT ME STILL by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Caught in a web of evil, Kate Stanley tangles with a legendary curse, a witch-haunted blade, and all-too-modern murder. What price genius? Macbeth is so famously cursed that many actors refuse to name the play aloud. Kate Stanley, Shakespearean scholar and theater director, dismisses the curse as superstition, but–as the cast begins rehearsals at the foot of Scotland’s Dunsinnan Hill–evil begins to stir. Actors go missing, and a trench is found filled with blood. Then Kate discovers a local woman dead in circumstances that suggest ancient pagan sacrifice. Marked as either suspect or future victim, Kate races to find a dangerous, alternate version of Macbeth said to contain actual rituals of witchcraft–and Shakespeare’s darkest secret. (Goodreads)

A haunted play and a legendary curse are apparently all it takes to get my attention in a bookstore when I’m hunting for books to beef up the scare factor for my October TBR.

The Little StrangerTHE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters

One postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country physician, is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. Its owners—mother, son, and daughter—are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his. (Goodreads)

A ghost story wrapped in the cloak of historical fiction, The Little Stranger may give me more than I’m expecting from my spine-chilling list this month, and that works for me. Even that cover looks eerie – maybe that’s why I tucked it in the back of my bookshelf until now, you know… for safety…

BlazeBLAZE by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., was always a small-time delinquent. None too bright either, thanks to the beatings he got as a kid. Then Blaze met George Rackley, a seasoned pro with a hundred cons and one big idea. The kidnapping should go off without a hitch, with George as the brains behind their dangerous scheme. But there’s only one problem: by the time the deal goes down, Blaze’s partner in crime is dead. Or is he? (Goodreads)

I started reading this several years ago but never got very far into it before being distracted by other books. Now is the perfect time to pick it up again and delve back into King’s world (which always proves to be more than a little bit twisted and sinister).

So there it is, my October TBR in a nutshell. Will I have any put-the-book-in-the-freezer moments (Friends fans, raise your hands)? Maybe. But I’m determined to get through as many of these as I can – and maybe I can plug in a few chilling audiobooks as well along the way. Let’s celebrate the season book lovers!

HAPPY OCTOBER READING!



 

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September Shelf-Discipline Wrap-Up

⇒As my Shelf-Discipline month ends, I am patting myself on the back for clearing SIX books from my bookshelves this month! ⇐

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I know that six books may not sound like a lot to you, but any progress made on my out-of-control bookshelves AND my equally chaotic TBR list is a win-win in my book. I probably could have fit in one or two more “shelf books” this month, but I also had two NetGalley books whose release dates came up this month and a library book that came in for me from a lengthy reserve line. We’ll get to the extra books, but first, let’s look at my “official” Shelf-Discipline books that are now in my “Read” (past tense) column:

TheDinnerTHE DINNER by Herman Koch

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The reader isn’t necessarily prepared for the dark places this dinner meeting takes us to. The development is shrouded in angst and confusion, but when the truth is revealed, you might wish you had remained in the dark. The Dinner is ominous but magnetic – a well-written book with a dark story and shady characters with few redeeming qualities among them.

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME for PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs

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It’s X-Men, mixed with WWII and time travel elements. If those themes interest you, this could be the book for you. The book is well written and has a thread of suspenseful tension woven through it from beginning to end. I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it had not become a series – I wanted a more solid conclusion.

SWEETHEART by Chelsea Cain

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There were thrills in this novel. There was raw emotion. There was also confusion and stupidity in this novel. But it all came together for another seductive addition to the series. Gretchen Lowell is a sadistic and cunning antagonist. As much as I hate her, I love her resolve and strategy. She’s a thinker. And as much as I want to love Archie Sheridan, his flaws were overwhelming in this book. Gretchen is a bitch of a villain; however, while the first book of the series, Heartsick, made me love Archie, Sweetheart yanked my reins as more damaged, sick, and twisted layers were exposed. I’m invested in this series and I’m just two books in.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng

SmellRating4

What is it about Celeste Ng’s writing that immediately sucks you into a  vortex that is often haunting and inescapable? That is certainly descriptive of Everything I Never Told You. It’s so layered, and that’s what made it an excellent read. It’s a story of the character of a family with their own special set of trials and triumphs. It’s a story of lives overloaded with love, lives going unnoticed, and lives hovering somewhere in between. It’s a showcase of all the mistakes and all the second tries that happen behind closed doors. And I thought it was worthy of a strong 4 stars.

TUMBLEDOWN MANOR by Helen Brown

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I didn’t hate it, but Tumbledown Manor just didn’t deliver what I wanted from it. It hit the ground running and I was entirely invested… at first. However, that same energy did not continue throughout the story and eventually just petered out into disconnected snippets of events that only masqueraded as romance and never actually became interesting. I wanted a romantic do-it-yourself story and it turned out to be only half of one and even less of the other. It just wasn’t the book for me.

PERSONAL by Lee Child

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Can Jack Reacher be any more of a hero?! Even when he’s operating under the shadow of past failures, he’s damn good under pressure. I think I have read this particular book in the series before, but if you’re a fan, you can never get too much Reacher. I need to catch up on this series because I have the NetGalley of the latest book, Past Tense, queued up and ready to go.

🍁🍂As I mentioned earlier, I was also able to knock out two NetGalley ARCs this month:

THE FORBIDDEN PLACE by Susanne Jansson

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OK, so I wanted this book to be so much more than it is. It is a crime mystery/thriller that has whisperings of something sinister and creepy underneath the surface. It is not a horror story, but I’m thinking that maybe it would have been better if it was.

GUESS WHO by Chris McGeorge

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I did not enjoy this book. I felt it was too derivative – specifically of the movie, Saw. And the dual timeline fell apart toward the end, making the story feel disjointed and, at one point, like you had entered a different (almost better) story altogether.

UPROOTED by Naomi Novik

SmellRating3.5

A truly unique fairytale. Uprooted tells the story of a small-village girl who ends up with abilities beyond what she knows how to handle. What I love about this book: the intricate story, the fabulous magic, the flawed heroes, and the unlikely romance. Although I enjoyed the book and I think Novik is a fantastic storyteller, there were times when I felt like it went a bit off the rails, hence the 3.5 rating. It wasn’t bad, but it became a bit disjointed in the end.

🍁🍂I also fit in two audiobooks this month, which I won’t break down, but I’ll list below:

The Cove  (FBI Thriller #1) THE COVE by Catherine Coulter

and

Triptych (Will Trent, #1) TRIPTYCH by Karin Slaughter

🍁🍂So as I say goodbye to the final days of September, I look forward to my spooky October TBR list (which I started building on September 1st!) because – if I stick to it – I’ll be able to clear even more books off of my shelves!

#shelfdiscipline #cleartheshelf #readwhatyouown


 

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Uprooted

⇒Bet you’ll never look at the woods the same after this magical fantasy featuring a very unlikely heroine.⇐

by Naomi Novik
SmellRating3.5
(4.1 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 19, 2015, by Del Rey

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 435

#Uprooted

UprootedThere was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage.

I know, I know. September is supposed to be Shelf-Discipline Month, but I had to take just an itty bitty detour to read Uprooted because it finally became available for me at my library AND because I really wanted to read it since I finished Spinning Silver a little while ago.

I am determined NOT to compare this book to Spinning Silver because I believe it deserves to stand on its own merit, but I have to say that I do understand why so many reviewers like one of these books and then end up not caring for the other – and the one they love is usually whichever one they read first!

I have to admit that is true for me as well; however, I give Uprooted all due respect for having me thinking I was about to read a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but instead, I read a clever fantasy that was – surprisingly in this day and age – a clever, original fairytale.

His name tasted of fire and wings, of curling smoke, of subtlety and strength and the rasping whisper of scales.

Uprooted is the story of Agnieszka (“Nieshka”), an average girl from a small village with no big dreams or aspirations. In fact, her biggest goal is to make it through one day without muddying her dress or tangling her hair. She isn’t anyone’s idea of a brave heroine.

Then The Dragon comes.

Sarkan, “The Dragon”, is a powerful wizard who comes to the village to select a young female who will serve him for the next 10 years. No one knows what happens to the girls who enter The Dragon’s tower – no one dares to ask. But this is the price required to keep the villages safe from The Wood – a forever encroaching force that would force them away from their homes and families if not for The Dragon’s magic holding it back.

Nieshka’s friend Kasia has been groomed to be The Dragon’s choice almost since birth. She is beautiful, poised, skilled, and ready. But Kasia is not who Sarkan has in mind this year…

What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.

I love, love, love books with unlikely heroes/heroines. I love it when the men are physically flawed in some way and the women aren’t always beautiful and perfectly put together. That is why I loved Agnieszka (even though her name is a b**** to type)! Novik’s descriptions of her remind me of myself as a child: torn, muddy clothing, hair falling out of braids, scuffed shoes, etc.

She becomes a heroine for the masses, not the elite. She battles the forces of evil with splotches of mud on her sleeves and her hemline half torn and dragging. That’s my kind of heroine!

I also loved that Sarkan stayed true to his innate character – a crotchety old wizard who prefers scowling and bitter insults to doe-eyes and niceties. It only made me love him more. Judging from both of her books so far, Novik really knows how to make an unlikable bad guy loveable.

‘You intolerable lunatic,’ he snarled at me, and then he caught my face between his hands and kissed me.

So why only 3.5 stars? you might ask. Well… the book was good, but in certain places, the story seemed to drag. I can’t put a finger on whether there was just too much detail or if we just “lingered too long at the party”. And there were other places (particularly toward the end of the book) that seemed out of place with the rest of the story – as if someone else came in and stuck in story parts that didn’t quite fit. But overall it was a solid book that kept me engaged and entertained – even if the ending was a little less “tied up” than I was expecting.

We may soon get to see Uprooted on the big screen as Warner Brothers has purchased the rights and Ellen Degeneres has signed on to produce this movie adaptation!

Read an excerpt of Uprooted (courtesy of npr.org): Click Here


About the Author

Naomi NovikNAOMI NOVIK

Website

Twitter

An avid reader of fantasy literature since age six, when she first made her way through The Lord of the Rings, Naomi Novik is also a history buff with a particular interest in the Napoleonic era and a fondness for the work of Patrick O’Brian and Jane Austen. She studied English literature at Brown University, and did graduate work in computer science at Columbia University before leaving to participate in the design and development of the computer game Neverwinter Nights: Shadow of Undrentide. Over the course of a brief winter sojourn spent working on the game in Edmonton, Canada (accompanied by a truly alarming coat that now lives brooding in the depths of her closet), she realized she preferred writing to programming, and on returning to New York, decided to try her hand at novels.

Naomi lives in New York City with her husband and six computers.

(Bio taken from Goodreads)


 

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Guess Who

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW (almost): Fame and fortune turn out to be a lot less fun than anticipated for a TV detective when he awakens in a room full of strangers, handcuffed to a bed – with a dead man in the tub. ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Hanover Square Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Chris McGeorge

SmellRating2

(3.66 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: September 18, 2018, by Hanover Square Press

Genre: Thriller / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 368 pages (Hardcover)

#GuessWho  #NetGalley

Guess WhoTime was escaping from the room. They were standing in an hourglass, with hands out trying to catch the sand.

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but reading a book that I am not enjoying makes me angry! I feel obligated to finish it – especially if I have promised a review, but I’m never happy about it.

So I guess you know by now what my emotion is as I write this review. To put it mildly, I didn’t care for this book. To put it less mildly, @#$%^&*()_(*&^%$#!!!!!!!!!!!

If you’ve seen the movie Saw, you’ve already experienced (a much better version of) this book. But besides the fact that it seemed derivative and unimaginative, ultimately, you discover that it was also extremely unrealistic and improbably in its execution! I don’t want to be more specific because, spoilers.

Trust me, I REALLY HOPE I HAVE THE UNPOPULAR OPINION HERE!

It doesn’t give me any kind of pleasure at all to hand out low ratings for books that an author has obviously toiled long and hard over. It pains me. But this book pained me too, so tit for tat.

Was his really a wasted life – only half lived? Maybe this was to be a fitting end.

OK, so let me stretch past my anger and at least tell you what Guess Who is about…

Morgan Sheppard rose to celebrity status on the wings of a scary event in his youth. His teacher was found hanging in his own classroom, and Morgan gave the police information to solve the case. From there, he became TVs “Resident Detective”, with his own show, fans, and substance abuse issues.

When he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange hotel room handcuffed to the bed, at first he thinks its just another night of partying gone a little wrong. But when he sees that there are five other people in the room with him – strangers – and a dead man in the bathtub, things start getting real.

Sheppard is then forced to put his over-hyped (nonexistent?) detective skills to work to find out why they’re all there and who killed the man in the tub. Does he? Do they all live? Who put them there? Honestly, in the end, it really isn’t all that interesting – even though it sounds like it should be, and I hate that it wasn’t.

I didn’t care about these characters at all. The most interesting one was the girl called “Headphones” who only spoke a handful of times. Maybe that’s why I liked her – she was the least annoying (and the least transparent).

The writing was clipped and, at times, disconnected. I know this is an ARC, but I felt like I was reading the first draft. Initially, the dual timelines flowed and brought more depth to the story, but that effect fell apart toward the end, making the story feel disjointed and, at one point, like you had entered a different (almost better) story altogether.

I felt like I labored through the second half of the book – already knowing who the perpetrators were and just waiting for the MC to realize it. Turns out, surprise! I was right and the denouement was easily apparent, but more than that – it wasn’t even interesting getting there.

If you have read Guess Who and enjoyed it, please tell me why you did so that maybe I can see it in a different light. I don’t think I’ll change my mind, but I welcome the different perspective.


About the Author

PictureCHRIS MCGEORGE

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Chris McGeorge has an MA in Creative Writing (Crime / Thriller) from City University London where he wrote his first crime novel Dead Room for this thesis. He constantly told stories from a young age, whether they took the form of comics, short stories or scripts.

He is a lover of Golden Age crime, like Christie and Conan Doyle, leading his crime stories to be a mix of the old and the contemporary. He likes weird and wonderful plots, with plenty of intrigue and twists. 

His often coherent ramblings about everything pop culture can be found on his blog Festival of Blood and occasionally he produces the Sarcasmicast podcast with a group of friends.

(Bio from www.dhhliteraryagency.com)



 

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Everything I Never Told You

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER is well underway with my fourth off-the-shelf read this month – a haunting story of one family’s unraveling after one member goes missing.⇐

by Celeste Ng

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(3.82 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published November 13, 2014, by Blackfriars

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary

Format: Paperback (Trade)

Pages: 292

#EverythingINeverToldYou #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

In September I committed to reading only (ok, mostly) books from the shelves in my house. I need to do this because books deserve to be read AND because, frankly, I don’t have room to buy/store any more books! 

Everything I Never Told Youdifferent has always been a brand on his forehead, blazoned there between the eyes. It has tinted his entire life, this word; it has left its smudgy fingerprints on everything.

Some readers classified this book as a mystery, but I think of it as exactly the opposite. The first line of the book is:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”

That’s the very first line. No opportunity for second-guessing or questioning. It’s right there. Spoiler Alert! And that’s how most of this book plays out. In fact, sometimes we know a little too much – things that would make the characters look better to us if we didn’t know. But that’s not what Celeste Ng is trying to do with this book. She wants us to see this family for who they are, and Lydia death for what it was. Was it all just a mistake? You decide.

And Lydia herself — the reluctant center of their universe — every day, she held the world together.

Lydia Lee is her parents’ favorite child. They don’t even hide that fact. Her mother wants her to be a doctor; her father wants her to be popular. When the Lees discover Lydia missing from their NW Ohio home, they soon discover that what they thought they knew about their beloved daughter couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Lees are a typical American family in the 70s/80s. There is a mom, a dad, two daughters, and a son. They live in an average house on an average street and they drive average cars. The father teaches and the mother takes care of the house and the children. Maybe not very exciting, but typical.

But the Lee Family is also atypical. They are a mixed Chinese-American family, and James Lee and his mixed children have been ostracized and criticized simply for not being white. Marilyn Lee is white, but she hasn’t escaped the claws of judgment and separatism either. As the only female in several math and science classes, she struggled to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor in a world that wasn’t quite tempered for that kind of ambition.

So, on these shaky foundations, the Lee family balances their days at work, school, and home with no help or support from neighbors, colleagues, or friends. Reading about how alone this family is made me really appreciate how much support I get from friends, family and even my never-met associates on social media. Come on Lees, no friends? Really?

…she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.

This is my second Celeste Ng book. The first was Little Fires Everywhere and I rated it a high 5 stars. Everything I Never Told You is just as well written and intriguing. The characters are entirely fleshed out – like people you’ve met before, or seen in your class, at your job, or in your family. And their tragic story will make you sad, angry, bitter, sympathetic.

Everything… is not entirely about Lydia’s death, nor is it a whodunit. There’s no long drawn out search or big community coming-together rally to plea for Lydia’s return. It wasn’t that type of town and the Lees weren’t those type of people.

Instead, it’s a story of the character of a family with their own special set of trials and triumphs. It’s about lives overloaded with love, lives going unnoticed, and lives hovering somewhere in between. It’s a showcase of all the mistakes and all the second tries that happen behind closed doors.

It’s also a display of what love looks like in several different forms. How that love infiltrates the hopes, desires, and expectations we all have for those we care about. And it’s a journey of self-discovery for each and every family member. When the scales tip, each person is forced to reevaluate in order to try to restore the balance.

I rated Everything I Never Told You a strong 4 stars. The characters are flawed and the story isn’t sunshine and roses, but both truly draw you in. And for 292 pages, you are shuffling through an earlier century with them uncertain about everything that you thought you knew about the world too.

Brava, Celeste Ng, again.


About the Author

celestengWebsite

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Celeste Ng is the author of the bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize. Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER continues with this peculiar story about unconventional people with unusual abilities.⇐

by Ransom Riggs
SmellRating3
(3.9 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published June 7, 2011, by Quirk

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA

Format: Paperback

Pages: 382

#MissPeregrinesHomeforPeculiarChildren #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I finally committed to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. A girl can dream!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #1)Sleep is not, Death is not; Who seem to die live.

You may already know the story of the X-Men. People with genetic mutations that give them superhuman abilities. Shunned by common society, some of them gather at Professor X’s school in order to hone their abilities. The school is a safe haven for them – a secure location where they are free to be themselves without threat from the outside world.

Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children are gathered together for some of the same reasons – to protect themselves from outsiders who don’t understand their gifts, but also from other, darker, things as well.

House you were born in, Friends of your spring-time, Old man and young maid, Day’s toil and its guerdon, …

Here’s the blurb:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

They are all vanishing, Fleeing to fables, Cannot be moored.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The story was just meh to me. The pictures were, by far, the most interesting and captivating things about the book to me. While the premise of the story is an intriguing fantasy, the pictures scattered throughout its pages are – for the most part – real. And creepy.

A note in the back of the book verifies that they’re authentic:

All the picture in this book are authentic, vintage found photographs, and with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered. They were lent from the personal archives of then collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few, rescuing images of historical significance and arresting beauty from obscurity – and, most likely, the dump.

There were peculiar children, threatening creatures, mysteries, hints at romance, and a few scares along the way; however, I realized as I neared the last chapter that I’d be required to read the sequel and maybe further to feel like I’ll receive any resolution to the story.

The story is X-Men, mixed with elements of  WWII and time travel. If those themes interest you, this could be the book for you. The book is well written and has a thread of suspenseful tension woven through it from beginning to end. The book has gotten a lot of buzz, won several awards, has spent a good while on the Best Sellers list, and was even adapted into a feature-length movie. I think I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it were a standalone novel.

The sequels include Hollow City (2014), Library of Souls (2016), A Map of Days (Pub date Oct 2, 2018), and a prequel Tales of the Peculiar (2016).

Read an excerpt of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Courtesy of TeenReads.com) HERE

Or see info on the 2016 movie directed by Tim Burton HERE


About the Author

Ransom RiggsRANSOM RIGGS

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“HI, I’M RANSOM, and I like to tell stories. Sometimes I tell them with words, sometimes with pictures, often with both. I grew up on a farm on the Eastern shore of Maryland and also in a little house by the beach in Englewood, Florida. I started writing stories when I was young, on an old typewriter that jammed and longhand on legal pads. When I was a little older I got a camera for Christmas and became obsessed with photography, and when I was a little older still my friends and I came into possession of a half-broken video camera and began to make our own movies, starring ourselves, using our bedrooms and backyards for sets. I have loved writing stories and taking photographs and making movies ever since, and have endeavored to do all three, in some form or another. These days I make my home in Los Angeles with my wife, fellow novelist Tahereh Mafi.”

(Bio taken from ransomriggs.com)



 

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Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER continues for me with my third off-the-shelf read this month – a twisted thriller featuring a truly unique and seductive serial killer.⇐

by Chelsea Cain

SmellRating4
(4.05 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published September 2, 2008, by Minotaur Books

Genre: Fiction / Crime Thriller

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 325

#Sweetheart #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I finally started reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell, #2)He had been happy for a minute, he thought. That was his mistake.

It has been a while since I read Heartsick, the first book in the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. But even though there has been a long stretch of time in between my reading of these two thrillers, anyone who meets Gretchen Lowell would find it hard to forget her.

But that’s something that Archie Sheridan clearly already knows. He’s never been able to forget Gretchen – even after she abducted him, held him as her prisoner for 10 days and carved him up pretty good during that time too.

But now he’s back. Back at work, back at home with his ex-wife, Debbie, and his kids, and back hunting down the next sadistic killer in town. Gretchen’s in jail and life can finally get back to normal. Sure. Sure, it can. <laughs villainously>

The drills did not take into account Gretchen Lowell. She was predicatable. She would kill until someone stopped her.

I refuse to give anything away with this review, so there are no spoilers (even though this book is 10 years old), but I’m not giving it away if it’s in the blurb, right? I think the best summary of Sweetheart comes from Chelsea Cain’s own words from her website:

Serial killer Gretchen Lowell escapes.  ’Nuff said.

Yes, indeed. With just that one sentence, Cain says enough to let us know that the ish is about to hit the fan in this book. 

Archie is just a teensy bit obsessed with Gretchen, still. And her escape not only puts him back between her crosshairs, but it also endangers his family and anyone else he’s close to.

Sin is rearely without complication.

Sweetheart is the second book in its series and one that I had been meaning to read for a very long time. Gretchen Lowell is a scary-as-hell, uncommon enemy. She is cunning and is 100% invested in the long-game. Archie Sheridan is… complicated. He’s dealing with a healthy dose of PTSD from his last encounter with Gretchen, The Beauty Killer, and really can’t be held accountable for his own actions. (That’s me making excuses for some of his crazy choices in this book).

No excuses for Susan Ward, the headstrong young news reporter who’s preoccupied with Archie and with seeing one of her stories on the front page of the Portland newspaper. She makes some dumb decisions in this book and I’m more than a little mad at her because of them. <insert salty side-eye here>

It’s fast-paced, definitely thrilling, and packed with characters that will attach themselves to you on so many different levels. They’re smart and stupid, loyal and deceptive, perfect and flawed, innocent and dangerous.

Fans of crime thrillers – especially those featuring prolific serial killers – should definitely not miss this series. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, Evil at Heart.

Interested in the series but haven’t read Heartsick yet? Read an excerpt (courtesy of ChelseaCain.com): HERE


About the Author

CHELSEA CAIN

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Chelsea Cain is the New York Times bestselling author of the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers HeartsickSweetheartEvil at HeartThe Night SeasonKill You Twice, and Let Me Go. Her book One Kick (August, 2014) is the first in her Kick Lannigan thriller series. Her book Heartsick was named one of the best 100 thrillers ever written by NPR, and Heartsick and Sweetheart were named among Stephen King’s Top Ten Books of the Year. Her books have been featured on HBO’s True Blood and on ABC’s Castle. Cain lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)



 

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The Dinner

⇒SHELF-DISCIPLINE SEPTEMBER starts off for me with this dark dinner party of unlikely antiheroes.⇐

by Herman Koch
Translated by Sam Garrett
SmellRating4
(3.22 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published February 12, 2013, by Hogarth

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 292

#TheDinner #ShelfDiscipline #CleartheShelves #ReadWhatYouOwn

This month I’ll be finally committing to reading some of the books that I swear are more than colorful decorations on my bookshelves. I need to do this for my own sanity, and maybe one day I will be able to say that yes, I have in fact read most – if not all – of the books I own. What? A girl can dream!

The DinnerWhen people get a chance to come close to death without having it touch them personally, they never miss the opportunity.

Every month or so, my friends and I get together for a fun little dinner party. We prepare our own food and share it around a table that is overflowing with laughter, life stories, and goodwill. And, oh yes, wine. There’s always wine!

After reading this book, I am so thankful for those cheerful parties and each one of my affable friends.

Only one time did something run amiss at one of my parties – an uninvited person crashed the party and uneasiness threatened to suck all of the air out of my normally welcoming home. It was uncomfortable for a time, but my wonderful friends managed to salvage the night and we laughed about it later.

Unfortunately for the characters in The Dinner, the only laughing being done is somewhat sinister and there is absolutely no salvaging of this strange summer night in Amsterdam.

Unhappiness can’t stand silence – especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.

The story starts off harmlessly enough. Paul Lohman and his wife Claire meet his brother Serge and Serge’s wife, Babette, for dinner at a swanky restaurant. It’s not just a casual night out, there’s something they all need to talk about. A discussion about both of the couples’ sons needs to be had. But that’s not why Paul is annoyed. He seems to be bothered by… everything: The choice of restaurant, the waiter describing the food, even the guy who comes into the bathroom next to him. Claire is cautious too because Babette had been crying before they even reached the restaurant, and for other secret reasons as well. Serge, who is on the political trail to become the next prime minister is his usual confident and demanding self, with something else lying just under the surface. Uncertainty? Anger? Fear? Yes.

By the time dessert is served, the gloves have come off and their lavishly prepared dinner has become only a bothersome backdrop to a frightful new reality. One in which everything they each know is threatened by the actions of people that aren’t even present at the table.

Happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn’t have to be validated.

The Dinner was not at all what I was expecting. Reading a book like this – one that defies your assumptions and charges down the road less traveled – is what most of us look for from this form of entertainment, right? But as the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

This was definitely a dark path and the people I met upon it are not the sort you want to run into after the sun goes down.

I can say, thankfully, that I could not relate to any of these characters. They each had something dark and foreboding about them that made them monstrous in their own right – our unreliable narrator, Paul, the chiefest among villains. His unrelenting negativity and criticisms left a figurative bad taste in my mouth before their dinner had even begun. And Serge, his charismatic brother is the kind of smarmy politician that sours any event. Babette the weepy sister-in-law who constantly interrupts the meal with emotional outbursts may be the most normal out of them all because Claire, Paul’s wife, eventually reveals that her moral compass is dangerously off-kilter.

Koch tells a cheerless but magnetic story where something obviously ominous is hovering over the dinner table at all times. As we start to learn what that “something” is, it’s clear that the darkness isn’t only present at the table, but within these characters and their relatives as well. I was left searching for even one redeeming character among them all – maybe Valerie, the daughter/niece that is hardly mentioned? Maybe her autism gives her position that is apart from and above all the rest of them, so that’s why she has no place in the story (or at the table).

The Dinner is not humorous or endearing in any way. It was a very good read, but maybe not an enjoyable one, if that makes any sense. However, it did make me consider mental health issues much more seriously. By the end, I felt grateful for all the dinner parties I’ve been to that ended only with hugs, more laughter, and takeaway boxes.

Read an excerpt of The Dinner (courtesy Goodreads): HERE


About the Author

Herman KochHERMAN KOCH

Website

Herman Koch (born 1953) is an internationally bestselling author. The translation rights of The Dinner (2009) have been sold to over 55 countries, which is unprecedented for a modern Dutch novel. The Dinner has been adapted into several international stage plays and into a Dutch and Italian movie. The US movie adaptation of The Dinner released in 2017, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney. Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011) and Dear Mr M. (2014) are international bestsellers as well.

His latest novel The Ditch is enthusiastically received upon publication, and already declared a ‘vintage Koch’.

(Bio adapted from Goodreads)


 

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New or Old – That Smell is Incredible

Welcome to my book review blog. Thanks for dropping in!

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.

–W. Somerset Maugham

Whenever I get a new book, or mooch an old book, or borrow a book from the library, for that matter, I bring it close to my nose… and inhale.

Sometimes the smell is crisp and warm, almost woodsy. Other times it’s ancient and musky, like well-worn furniture. Either way, it’s a great smell. Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory is showing Anna (future Yale student) around the library and she picks up a book and smells it? Yes, just like that: #bibliosmia.

So now you know I read old books and new – and I love them both equally. So if you’re here to just see reviews on all the hot new releases that everyone else is reading and blogging about, then you’re not in the right place. Sorry.

I do read selective New Releases, but I also have a lot of “Dusty Bookshelf” reads that I am committed to getting through in this upcoming year (I said that last year too), and a lot of books that people have recommended to me that I will finally get around to. The books I read/review won’t always be current, but they’ll always be interesting.

I prefer reading hardcovers or trade-sized paperbacks (there’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands), but I also read several e-books and listen to a few audiobooks each month, so you’ll likely see reviews for publications in those formats as well.

Occasionally, when she lets me, my daughter and I will read her books together. She’s in 4th grade and has a bookcase full of chapter books that we work our way through whenever she’s not bogged down with school-assigned stories. When our read-along books are especially good, I’ll review those too under Daughter Read-Alongs.

I’ll also occasionally be featuring my favorite authors, book events in Georgia, upcoming new releases, links to free e-book deals, and throwback looks at my favorite childhood reads.

I’m a Goodreads member and belong to several groups there. The book cover pics I post will most often come from Goodreads along with mentions of their overall rating of each book. However, I do not – I repeat, NOT – allow the rating from “the masses” influence my personal opinion of any book I read. Reviews are my own individual thoughts and I am absolutely not receiving any compensation for anything I post here.

As you may have guessed, this is my first foray into blogging so I’m sure I have some kinks to work out. If something isn’t working or posting correctly, just bear with me and I’ll get it worked out. Eventually. ♥

Enjoy!

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