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Jessica (HDB)

I'm a bookworm of the highest caliber! If you see me, I'll probably be reading. There's nothing I love more than finding a good book, and then sharing it with the world!

In which I CULL.

So I realized that my "to-read" shelf on Goodreads was getting massively out of hand. When there are upwards of 680 books sitting on there, and I can't even remember what I've added, it's time for a cull.

 

I imported everything into LibraryThing, since their cataloging system is loads better than GR, and started the process. It's daunting, but it feels kind of good too. It's nice to only keep the books on there that I seriously want to read. And it opens up so many more spaces for discovery books! I miss discovery books.

 

I'm trying to keep some small semblance of order in my life right now and, albeit barely, succeeding! I count each day I win at staying sane a success, and move right on to the next one.

 

How are you all holding up in 2019? 

Song For A Whale by Lynne Kelly

Song For A Whale - Lynne  Kelly

I've written, then deleted, at least four different versions of this review so far. Sometimes you pick up a story and it's so poignant, so important, that it's really hard to write anything resembling a coherent review. That's this book right here. Lynne Kelly has created something magical with Iris' story. It's not just the fact that she's a character who represents the Deaf community. It's not just the sweet way that she ties her passion for radios into communicating with someone who is just as lost as she is, in a sea of others. What makes this book special is how simply it shows how important connections are. To others, to yourself, to the world. I teared up while reading this book and, trust me, you're probably going to as well.

I wanted to give love, first and foremost, to Iris as a protagonist. You can absolutely tell that Kelly did her research, because Iris is precisely what readers from the Deaf community would be looking for in a character. Her inability to hear doesn't define her, but it does kind of set her apart in the world that she is attempting to navigate as a young person. She does a lot of growing from the start of the book, but my favorite part was watching her learn that she wasn't the only one who felt that way. I won't spoil, but there's a lot in this book about accepting others and, especially, appreciating their efforts to learn.

The scientific portion of this story, or the portion that had to do with the ever amazing Blue 55, was also beautifully executed. Learning about whale songs right alongside Iris made me smile. Kelly peppers in things like whale spout shapes, and fluke shapes, all the while making the learning feel like a normal part of the story. Plus, Iris' passion for all of this is infectious. I was rooting for her to communicate with Blue 55 right from the start, and you couldn't have pulled this book away from me if you tried.

I could gush on and on about the familial relationships in this book, or the way that it deals so perfectly with the loss of a loved one, but it would take many more paragraphs than you'd want to read. The fact of the matter is that this is both a gorgeous and important story. I thought the ending was a little bit out there but I had to remind myself that my middle grade self would have LOVED it. It's sweet, and Iris definitely deserved a happily ever after.

Read this! Put it into the hands of all the budding readers that you know. They're going to love Song For A Whale, and so are you.

That's Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm

That's Not What I Heard - Stephanie Kate Strohm

Oh, this sweet, sweet book. It's been quite a while since I've read a YA book that didn't contain tragic romance, or tough lessons. Not that I don't love those books, don't get me wrong, but That's Not What I Heard was like a breath of fresh air in a genre that's starting to feel a little heavy. This book is pure fun, really. It's almost like a satire of high school, except it's even smarter than that. While I didn't absolutely love this book, I saw the brilliance in it. Plus, I definitely giggled out loud more than once. Trust me, this is something YA readers are going to love.

You know how the high school rumor mill is. One little thing overheard, and suddenly it's morphed into something that is nowhere near what was originally said. That's this book in a nutshell. Perfect couple Kim-and-Teddy have been together for what feels like forever. Now it's their Senior year, and it's time to start thinking about the future. Except... are they on the same page? A fight begins, and what follows is a breakup story for the ages. Seriously, it's on that type of scale.

I had to keep reminding myself that yes, school really was as absurd as this book felt sometimes. It did feel a little over the top at points, but what I really enjoyed was the fact that the reader actually gets to see the rumors progress as they move along the telephone line of gossip. Each chapter would pick up with the last person who had heard something, and I honestly laughed more than once at how that next person interpreted it. There are school hijinks, plans to get back together with lost loves, and more friendship than I think I've ever seen in a book like this. You can tell that Strohm has been there. You can tell that she knows just how silly things can get when the rumor mill activates. There's just a flair on top of that to make things seem funnier, and that's the pat I had the hardest time with.

Final verdict? This wasn't quite my book, but I do know that a ton of YA readers out there are going to love this. Young YA readers especially, who are just entering the wide world of high school, will probably really enjoy this story. It's silly, it's a little too quick moving at times, but it has a ton of heart behind it too. I enjoyed getting to know the residents at William Henry Harrison High! I know that others will too.

Reading progress update: I've read 45%.

Sadie - Courtney Summers

This book is breaking me into a million pieces. I originally tried reading it in a physical book form, but so many people suggested the audio book that I caved and switched.

 

So worth it.

 

The whole time I've been listening to this, I've been completely engrossed in it. I can't believe how raw this book is, and yet I'm loving every minute of my heartbreak. *sigh*

 

No wonder this book won so many awards.

First Romance Bingo Giveaway is up!

If you wanted to participate, now is a great time to come and check in :). I'm giving away a copy of 99 PERCENT MINE by Sally Thorne (which I'm reading right now and can easily say is adorable.)

 

Link is here:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtO-36fnDJL/

A Slice of Magic by A.G. Mayes

A Slice of Magic - Frances Mayes

Sometimes it's nice to take time away from all the heavy stuff, and just read something nice and light. I like to call it "brain candy", because it gives my mind a little treat to devour while I wind down from dealing with serious book emotions. That's how I stumbled upon A Slice Of Magic! I wanted to get lost in something sweet (no pun intended) and fun. The prospect of a magical pie shop sounded like just what I needed, and I was right.

Now, this isn't the most complex plot I've ever read, true. However that's not what I went into this book for in the first place. Mayes easily nails the feel of a small town in this book. A place where everyone knows everything about everyone else, and it's pretty easy to get a reputation. A place where being a new arrival means being the center of attention, whether you want to be or not. I loved the town of Hocus Hills. I settled in easily, fell in love with the residents (especially Henry *swoon*), and was enamored with the vibes that this book gave off. Susanna may have had a rough start, but you couldn't pick a sweeter place to get your footing.

What hampered this story, I think, was how quickly it needed to move in order for everything to wrap up. While it made for an easy read, it also never allowed any time for any real plot points to be hashed out. Susanna starts to pick up on the fact that Hocus Hills might be much more than it seems and then, suddenly, everything is all wrapped up and the book is over. I wanted more time to learn about the magic around the town. I wanted more magical pies, and more sweet romance. I just wanted more. This book felt like the frame of a story, rather than the complete story. A lot of what I wanted to know the entire time I was reading was revealed at the end, in an info dump. I was a little sad about that.

Still, as I said above, I started this book to get lost in something fun. A Slice of Magic definitely provided me that. If only it had been a little more fleshed out, and I'd had more time with my newly found town of lovely people, I would have loved this book endlessly. As it stands, I'll happily reward this a three star rating. It was sweet, a little silly, and an easy read. Now I want pie, and I can't wait to see what happens in this town next.

Nine While Nine by Stasia Morineaux

Nine While Nine - Stasia Morineaux

My purchase of this book was a serious case of cover love, I make no apologies for that. Plus I have a deep love for anything dealing with the world beyond the veil, whether you call them Fae, Siog, Elves, etc! So it wasn't hard to believe that I'd love this book. Stasia Morineaux promised me a world filled with creatures from beyond my understanding. A world where death wasn't the end, but simply the beginning of something new. I was already enchanted, and so ready to settle in.

 

I have to admit that Isabeau wasn't my favorite character at first. Morineaux does an excellent job of fleshing out the type of person that Isabeau is, from her fashionable clothing down to her old world roots. I did love that Isabeau refused to go quietly into her new life. After all, who would want to leave behind everything they love? However I couldn't let go of how whiny and self-centered she felt for a long while. Watching poor Liam, who just wanted to do his job mind you, try to deal with her made me want to hug him and pinch her. The good news is, that she gets a ton better!

 

In fact, as Isabeau became Iliana, and the world around her new life started to unfold, I fell deeply for this book. I loved the idea of a whole squad who deals with the predetermined death of us all. I watched as Iliana bloomed, became a whole new person, and really started to realize how important she was. Her fierce attitude became a boon, and her stubbornness became the perfect way to unearth the truth behind everything going on. I liked her a lot, and it made me so happy.

 

There's a lot to love about this story. The lore behind Iliana's new life is rich and, for the most part, eventually very well explained. Even the characters who are not in the limelight most of the time are fleshed out, and feel like someone you'd want to spend time with. The reason that this book lost a little of my love, and ended up at a three star rating, was simply that all of what I mentioned above took a lot longer than I would have liked. This book moves slowly. At times, it feels like Iliana's brain is just looping and looping with the same thoughts. The amount of time that it took Gideon to finally explain things to her didn't feel natural, but more convenient. A way to keep the reader going through all of the romance parts.

 

Oh, and the romance. While I definitely loved the heat between Gideon and Iliana, it was just so drawn out. I felt like after a while it lost its ability to make me smile, and started to feel like a chore instead. Some of the interactions between the two of them felt so forced. With Gideon always being hard to discern, and Iliana wondering how on Earth she was going to survive without him. If that type of scene had been cut by about half, it would have made a bigger impact on me. I loved their forbidden love, but I didn't want that to be all I was reading about.

 

This book ends on a rather harsh cliffhanger, which makes me hopeful that there might be more. One can hope! I want to see further beyond the veil.

Tomorrow by Merilyn Ruth Liddell

Tomorrow - Merilyn Ruth Liddell

My first impressions of this book were a little rough, to be honest. I have to admit that I'm not the best at reading from multiple points of view and that, coupled with not having my footing in this dystopia at first, made the first few chapters a bit rocky. As I read on, however, I soon fell into step with the characters who lead us through this story. I understood that this was a future where survival was based on how important you were to the people in town. Where, although resources are limited, there are still good people who help others. Where, just like real life, there are those who take advantage of everyone else. Once I got my bearings, I was set. I knew this would be a book I'd devour.

Devour it, I did. I know that this book is technically classified as dystopian, but what I found on these pages had so much more hope than I'm used to in this kind of story. Jake, Sophie and Martha were each so different and yet they came together in a way that really made me smile. The setting for this story, an old historic mining town in Canada, felt perfect to me. Small, surrounded by nature, and the perfect way to really expose the damage that had been done to the world by the people who were now trying to survive in it. Like I mentioned above, so many people were still good people in this book. They fought for others, cared for others, and shared. It was lovely to read a story where, although it had dark undercurrents and violence, a little bit of love still shown through.

Martha, in particular, stood out to me. She has her own story arc, that winds through those of the others, and it really lets the reader further delve into the world that Liddell has built and where all the devastation came from. She was quirky, to be certain, but that made me love her more. Imagine knowing that your world was destroyed by someone close to you, and feeling like you were now the only one who could save it. Those are some big shoes, let me tell you what.

So why the three star rating? I think my biggest issue with this story was really the fact that it took so long for me to get enough information to finally feel invested. Although I appreciated the slow build up of facts, it also hindered my reading somewhat. I wanted to know why I should care about the people I was walking along with. That came eventually, but not quite fast enough. My other gripe was about the ending. After all the drama I'd gone through with my new friends, it felt like everything just wrapped up into a perfect forever after. Going from a tension filled, secret laden story into a place where suddenly everything is sunshine made me feel lost. It just didn't flow.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with this book. I powered through it, and I don't regret diving into Liddell's world at all! This story may have needed a bit more polish, but I'm definitely still a fan. I'll be back for more.

Taking a Break

Hahaha. My clicking finger hurts. Expect more review update avalanches when I get home :). Today is my Friday and I can't wait to just go home and put on pajamas. And get some wine.

 

Yes, wine.

White Stag by Kara Barbieri

White Stag - Kara Barbieri

TW: Rape, Violence, Abuse

I had to sit on this review for quite a while, because my feelings about this book were all over the place when I finished it. I absolutely adore modern fairy tales. Anything that even hints at a world beyond the veil of our own, instantly goes onto my reading list. I don't shy away from books that are dark and gritty, and I actually often praise stories that aren't full of insta-love and wilting women. So, by all rights, this book should have been an instant five star read for me. It wasn't though, and that took me a while to unpack.

First off, praise where praise is due. Barbieri does a stellar job of dropping the reader right into the fray from page one, and doling out just enough information to really keep things intriguing. From the moment I met Janneke, and realized her plight, I was completely sold on this story line. The idea of a human servant in a world of goblins, a character who is slowly losing her humanness with every decision she makes to survive, was just fascinating. I found myself rooting for Janneke and her inner fire. Here was a character who, despite all the odds stacked against her, was surviving. I wanted to see her burn everything around her, and walk valiantly through the flames.

When I finally got an opportunity to really know Soren, my heart was pretty much given to this book. I loved how he was so at odds with those around him. Any character who is equal parts compassionate and brutal pretty much instantly has my heart. I like to believe that we're all a little bit in the gray area, and Soren definitely fits that bill. As he and Janneke bantered and fought together, I couldn't help but smile that their relationship. There's no insta-love here at all. This is a relationship built on a foundation of trust, and it shows. You would think that these two paragraphs were more than enough to explain why this would be a five star read for me, but here comes the difficult part of this review.

First off, this book relies heavily on flashbacks to Janneke's repeated rape and torture at the hands of our villain, Lydian. I completely understand that the goal was to elicit sympathy for Janneke, and explain the quirks her character displays. However I also believe, strongly, that this could have been achieved by giving a one time rundown of her backstory, and moving on. The repeated flashbacks get really uncomfortable after a while. As I mentioned above, I am not squeamish in the least. I think that gritty and dark Fantasy books are the best. In this case though, I felt like it was really overdone. In fact, it started to chip away at the fierce woman who I originally fell in love with. I think the idea was a fair one, to create a back story to show Janneke rise from the ashes. Instead it almost made her seem broken to the point that Soren was her savior, and I wasn't a fan.

My other big issue with this story lies with Lydian. There's no denying that he's an absolutely loathsome character. If anything, Barbieri should be given credit for creating a character who has not a single redeemable trait. That's fairly impressive. However there is never any explanation for Lydian's madness. There is a prophecy hinted at, and talk of visions, but Lydian never really gets the backstory that he really deserves. Instead he's just a character built of madness and hatred, a completely dark individual. It almost made him feel less scary to me, simply because he didn't feel like a real person. Like I said before, the grayness of the world is what makes it fascinating. Think of the scariest villain you know of, and they probably have at least a shred of humanity in them. Lydian definitely does not.

Well, so there you have it. I apologize that this review is so long but there's even more I could discuss about this book. It really sat on that line for me, where I wanted to love it more but had to be honest about how I felt overall. Perhaps the next book, which I will very much be ready to read, will bring back the Janneke that I loved. Perhaps the next book will have a little more polish, and a little more fairy tale feel to it. If so, that will be a five star read. I can't wait.

The Disasters by M.K. England

The Disasters - M. K. England

Well now, this was a surprisingly fun ride! It shouldn't surprise me that a book with teenage flight school rejects, put into an impossible situation, was a breezy read. It's pretty hard not to get caught up in their emotional roller coaster as the world that they thought they really knew falls out from under them, and it's straight to flight or fight mode. Or, in this case, I guess it would be fight and flight mode? No spoilers, but yeah. That's pretty accurate.

Kudos where kudos are due, M.K. England did a stellar job of getting these characters to go from complete strangers to a ragtag little band of heroes, in no time flat. Nax and his motley crew probably wouldn't have been all that chummy in other circumstances but, as catastrophic events tend to do, the sheer amount of craziness they go through quickly and believably pushes them into a mini family. I loved watching as they learned to navigate the quirks of one another. I can't count the number of times that I smiled as England gave a nod to anxiety, or a hug to a transgender character, and then carried on as normal because the whole point was that this was a part of them, but not who they were. These character worm their way into your heart really quickly, I'll tell you that. You've been warned.

Plot wise, I thought the book started out fantastically. Although the action definitely gets started early on, and doesn't let up for a minute, there was plenty of time in the first few chapters to really get to settled in to the colonies, and up to speed on the way that life in Nax's time worked. I loved the diversity in the cities, and I can't deny that the attention to detail whenever explanations of new planets were being given made my heart happy. I felt like I was there right along with them. My only complaint in this department was that at about the halfway mark the book takes off at breakneck speed. It felt like the latter half of this book was so quick moving, and so rushed, that it almost completely changed the way that it was written. I'm all for space battles, and watching people work together, but I think some of the interactions that I had loved during the first part really suffered.

What settled this book down to three stars was really that last fact. By the time I reached the last few chapters of the book, the amount of battles and skirmishes had reached a point where there wasn't much else happening. I can't explain too fully without spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that there were some relationships that I so wanted to see more deeply explored that were left to the wayside while bullets were flying and ships were banking. Now, to be fair, this whole plot does center on a particular deadline. So I did understand that things needed to pick up speed. It's my own personal, character driven brain at work here. I can absolutely see how people will be in awe at the sheer amount of madness that poor Nax and his group have to go through before this book ends.

All this rambling is basically to say that I really enjoyed this book. Despite any qualms that I may have had, I think M.K. England did a great job of bringing diversity, humor, friendship, and space battles together into a book that is a lot of fun to read. If you're looking for a lightning fast read that is filled to the brim with characters who will make you smile, that's The Disasters.

Little White Lies (Debutantes #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Little White Lies - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

YA and I are in a weird relationship lately, and it's definitely making it harder for me to review books like Little White Lies. This is a book that made me giggle, endeared me to its characters, but then ran way longer than it probably should have. It's rough to sit in that middle ground where you genuinely loved the majority of a story, but there are just small things that make it rougher to finish than you expected. That's this book in a nutshell.

I mean, this book could have probably done with a bit of culling in the plot department. The mystery built around Sawyer and her newly acquired family members started out with a bang. However, as the story progressed, it felt more and more stagnant. The tension that Barnes built up so well at the beginning, that sense of growth that was tied to Sawyer, just slowly simmered off. I was frustrated towards the middle of this story, and really ready to skim. I kept on though and, I can say, the end of this book rewarded me. So, if you feel the same, just keep going. It's worth it.

Also I should note that I appreciated how well Barnes rounds out these characters. Debutantes of any sort have the ability to be vapid girls who have no personality to speak of. In this case, the girls have a wonderful amount of depth. Especially since Sawyer, an outsider to this whole world of pearls and balls, comes into the picture early on. I loved the friendship and the family relationships that came to life on the page. Each girl had their own little quirk that spoke to what we'd expect from the debutante scene: the mean girl, the pretty but spacey one, and the prim one. However as time went on, each one of them broke out of the mold slowly but surely. It was so refreshing.

The actual ending of the book did cause a bit of huffing and puffing from me. I knew that this was an ongoing series, and so I was thoroughly prepared for a cliffhanger ending. What happened instead was the exact opposite. Everything wraps up with a neat bow, and this book just ends. No fanfare, no excitement, but then isn't that just like real life? I suppose I've been groomed to expect book ending frustration. I'm not sure if that's funny or sad.

Anyway, this is well worth a read. It's a charming book and, while it has its flaws, it pushes the envelope on what has been done with characters of this type before. I honestly can't wait for the next book.

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

Start Without Me - Joshua Max Feldman

Pardon me while I compose myself, because this was a really emotional book to read. In fact, because of recent life events, I had to set this aside for a while because it was a little bit too much. Trust me when I say, that's a compliment of the highest order to Joshua Max Feldman. Start Without Me is breathtakingly beautiful. It's a love letter to all the people out there who are holding it together the best they can, while struggling to find their happiness in a world that seems to overlook them. It's all about finding another person, even fleetingly who accepts you and pushes you in equal measures. In other words, Feldman's book is about life. Both the good and the bad.

What first struck me about this story was honestly how upset I kept getting at Adam. It's funny how when a character is flawed, perhaps in a way that hits home, you want to scream at them to be more perfect. We expect our characters to make all the right decisions when, in fact, they should be just as human as we are. Adam was definitely rough around the edges. I loved that you could see the earnest, desperate person underneath all of that rough facade though and, eventually, it endeared me to him. When he met Marissa, and I found myself loving her as well, the story really took off for me. These two had such different lives, such different problems, and yet they managed to band together long enough to prop each other up during a difficult time.

The dialog in this book was spot on. The snippets of life lessons, spouted again and again because they are what you're supposed to say to people who are struggling struck me hard. However it was the deep conversations that were had in this book, the ones that were messy and emotional, that really did me in. I've always been one of those people who feels the need to fix problems for other people, even while I'm piling up my own problems behind a closed door. Watching Marissa and Adam, two lost people who found one another, continuously do this same thing just pummled me. How do you hide from what you're storing behind that door, when the person you're trying to help keeps opening it up? Argh. I'm still thinking about some of the scenes in this book.

Long story short, if you want to read something that is perfect and happy this isn't the book for you. However if you want to read something beautiful, gritty, and full of hope, then Start Without Me should absolutely be on your reading list. It's the kind of read I think a lot of people need around the holidays, and I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to read it. It wasn't an easy read, but it was a necessary one.

It looks so much better in here!

Hi all!

 

It looks like things are running a million times more smoothly in here. I stopped in a week or so ago to try to update my reading lists (I actually hit my goal, huzzah!) and it was so damn slow. Does it look like things are better?

 

Please pardon the avalanche of reviews and ratings as I get things settled again.

 

OH ALSO, UPDATE:

 

I'm hosting a Romance Bingo game in February on Instagram! If you have an account, and want to join in, come on over! I have goodies for prizes, too. *wink wink*

 

Here's the link to my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/hdbblog/

 

A New Beginning

Hi all!

 

In case anyone is interested, I've resurrected by dead book club! I had to let it go because last year was rough and, honestly, this year was rougher. I'm in a good place though, and missing chatting with my bookish people about the same reads! So, resurrection has happened.

 

We're starting the year with GOOD OMENS by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, since 2019 is the year that this will become a show! (I am so hopeful that it's fantastic.)

 

Join us?

 

Blog is here.

Catch Up Post

Hi all! Yes, I went MIA again. No, it was not planned. We had a bunch of family stuff happen and, as the holidays seem to bring that with them every year lately, I've been struggling to stay in the holiday spirit. I'm winning for sure, but I don't think they'll ever be a holiday where I don't get at least a little slump. That's just the long and short of it.

 

This picture makes me crack up every time I see it, because it kind of represents my emotions at this time of  year.

 

 

Anyway, here are some updates.

 

First off, I got my STRANDED book swap box from Grim last week, and it was much needed. I don't know how she always manages to get me things I SO WANT and didn't know I did.

 

 

A fuzzy purse, that I adore. Trump toilet paper which... come on... who doesn't love that to death? Apple pie Larabars which are so so yummy. A stack of books and audio books. A Boss Babes coloring book. Captain America in keychain form AND embroidery thread. In other words, all me things. SO ME THINGS. I love our swaps!

 

 

We put up our Christmas tree, and all of our Christmas decorations! That day was a good one, because I bopped around to Christmas music and kind of just zenned out with festive stuff. It was fun, and every night I turn on our Christmas tree and smile. This may be a rough time of year sometimes, but that doesn't mean that I don't love Christmas. It's still my absolute favorite holiday.

 

 

Lastly, I'm back on the bookstagram train. This photo is me messing around because I pulled out my scarves for the season and found the one that Mallory made me last year! It has a hood y'all. And I love it. I'm channeling my inner mystery. Hahaha.

 

That's it. I'm 11 books away from my goal of 120 for the year, and at the point where I don't know whether I care if I hit that or not. *shrug* We'll see. I'm being kind to myself, and that's all that's important.