Friday, March 22, 2019

Blog Break + Review: Foe

Just a quick scheduling note that I'll be taking a brief break from the blog next week!  I'm hoping to get some fun stuff ready for the coming weeks, so I'll talk to you all in April!

Iain Reid
Published September 4, 2018
A taut, philosophical mind-bender from the bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

We don’t get visitors. Not out here. We never have.

In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm...very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won't have a chance to miss him, because she won't be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

Told in Reid’s sharp and evocative style, Foe examines the nature of domestic relationships, self-determination, and what it means to be (or not to be) a person. An eerily entrancing page-turner, it churns with unease and suspense from the first words to its shocking finale. - from Goodreads
The thing that ran through my mind the most while reading this book was, WTF WTF WTF?!? This sci-fi story is a thriller, but not in the typical action-packed sense.  It's a character-driven, atmospheric, and psychological thriller.

Junior and his wife Henrietta ("Hen") live on a farm in the middle of nowhere.  One day, Terrance, a representative of OuterMore, a quasi-government organization that is researching space exploration, visits their farm and announces that Junior has been entered into a lottery to be a part of the expedition to the space station.  Some time later, Terrance returns to inform Junior that he has been chosen.  The trip could last years, but Hen won't be alone back on Earth - OuterMore will provide her with a very familiar companion.

One of my first thoughts when reading was, well, this seems unfair - Junior didn't ask to be part of this expedition, and now there's a chance he could be taken away from his home?  What if he doesn't want to go?  The lottery process takes so long that it's actually a couple years before Terrance comes back to tell Junior he's been chosen, so now he's been stewing about it for all this time.  Then once he's been chosen, the process to prepare him and Hen for the mission starts, and things get even weirder.

In the midst of all this, we have three major characters.  Junior is the narrator; he's a pretty simple guy.  He loves his wife, loves his home, goes to work everyday.  Hen was not super-likable.  There were several times she attempted to tell Junior how unhappy she is in their life together, how she feels smothered by him, how she wants to see more of the world, but she would never come out and say she wanted to leave him.  And then there's Terrance.  It was hard to know what to make of him, to know if I could trust him.  He's so invested in helping Hen and Junior prepare for the mission, but his methods were strange.

Just when I was wondering how this would all work out, boom - MASSIVE twist I didn't see coming!  It totally changed the way I looked back at the story.  I really liked the ending of the book, too - even though it felt slightly heavy-handed, for me it was the only logical conclusion.  I loved the writing; it was very straightforward, but also had an eerie and ominous undertone to it.  If you're looking for a sci-fi story that's a little different, definitely give this one a try!

4.5 stars

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Stepsister

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Jennifer Donnelly
Expected publication date: May 28, 2019
A startling, fiercely feminist re-imagining of Cinderella from the bestselling, award-winning author Jennifer Donnelly.

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe ... which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Evoking the darker, older versions of the Cinderella story, bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly shows us that ugly is in the eye of the beholder, and uses her trademark wit and wisdom to send an overlooked character on a journey toward empowerment, redemption, and a new definition of beauty. - from Goodreads
I love that this dark Cinderella retelling is from the stepsister's POV!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our spring TBR.  I had a hard time narrowing this down to ten books.  Everything has been looking good lately, and I never have enough time for it all!  This spring, I'm hoping to finally catch up on some books that I've been wanting to read for a while.

Have you read any of these?

Monday, March 18, 2019

How Do You Manage Your Blogging Time?

Around this time last year, I was in a little bit of a blogging funk.  I was unmotivated and uninspired, and I had way fewer scheduled posts than I normally do.  Fast forward to this year, and again I feel like I'm falling behind in my blogging.  This time, though, it's not because of feeling burned out.  Now, my biggest issue is time.

There is so much that goes into blogging, and lately I never feel like I have enough time to do it all.  I'm not sure why that is - even though I started a new job, my schedule is still the same.  I have my husband and house to take care of, but that's not new, either!  I think a lot of it comes down to priorities and how much time each individual task takes to do: 

  • Blog hopping - I feel like this is a super-important part of being a member of the book blogging community.  I follow well over 100 blogs (is this normal?  how many do you follow?) so everyday there are dozens of new posts to look at.  I try to comment on as many as I can, and I think this is what's taking up the biggest part of my blogging time.
  • Prepping my own blog posts - This is where I seem to be struggling a bit.  I need to be spending more time working on my own blog, but I tend to blog-hop first, and then whatever time I have left, I work on my own.  Inevitably, I run out of time and keep putting things off.
  • Replying to comments on my own blog - I feel bad that this is a lower priority, because I really do love and appreciate all your comments!  It might take a couple days, but eventually I do respond to all of them.
  • Reading - If I don't read, then I have nothing to blog about, so I definitely have to make time for that!  Since I've been doing more mini-reviews, it feels like I need to read even more, because I usually put two of those into one review post.
I love to blog hop and read everyone's posts; it's also a good way of promoting my blog.  However, if I don't spend enough time on my own posts, there won't be anything new for readers - it's such a catch-22!  As much as I love blogging, I can't (and don't want to) spend several hours a day doing it.  It's really a balancing act, and it's one that I'm not doing such a great job of right now!

So, fellow bloggers, how do you do it all?  How do you allocate and manage your blogging time?  What is your top priority when blogging?  And how many blogs do you follow?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Backlist Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: A Storm Is Coming

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (1997)

In The Perfect Storm, Sebastian Junger recounts a massive storm that hit the Atlantic in October of 1991 and the lives it affected.  I remember watching the movie of the same name years ago, and so I wanted to read this book to help fill in the gaps.

Probably the most well-known fact about the storm, for me at least, is the loss of the fishing boat Andrea Gail and its crew.  Unfortunately, even with all the research in the world, no one will ever know what actually happened to them.  The men were out of radio contact for several days, and very little of the boat was ever found.  Junger can only speculate what the men's final hours were like.

However, that's not the only case he discusses in the book.  He goes into great detail about the lives of fishermen.  I really got a sense of how dangerous the work is, how transient their lifestyle can be, and, surprisingly, how often they have premonitions.  Junger also recounts several other sinkings and rescues during the storm.  He switches around between the different stories a lot, which sometimes got confusing with all the names, but it was still a fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking read.  4 stars

Under a Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye (2015)

In Heron Key, Florida, already-strained tensions are put to the test when a local woman is beaten almost to death and a hurricane bears down on the community.

First off, I loved the setting of this book - Lafaye did such a great job bringing the beach town to life.  I could practically feel the humidity as I was reading.  The story takes places in 1935, and although the Depression didn't hit this area of the country as hard, the people still faced problems, which were exacerbated by an influx of WWI veterans (both white and black) who were brought in to work on public works projects.  The characters were very complex, and the racial tensions were evident in almost every social class.  Black veterans who were embraced by the Europeans during the war came back to a country that still treated them horribly.

The massive hurricane that strikes the town took up a large portion of the book, but I didn't mind.  I was practically on the edge of my seat, wanting to know who would make it through the storm.  Overall, this was a well-written and engaging story about love, family, and racism.  4 stars

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Passengers

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Passengers
John Marrs
Expected publication date: April 1, 2019
Eight self-drive cars set on a collision course. Who lives, who dies? You decide.

The new gripping page-turning thriller from the bestselling author of THE ONE - soon to be a major Netflix series.

When someone hacks into the systems of eight self-drive cars, their passengers are set on a fatal collision course.

The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife - and parents of two - who are travelling in separate vehicles and a suicidal man. Now the public have to judge who should survive but are the passengers all that they first seem? - from Goodreads
John Marrs' The One was one of my favorite books from last year, and this upcoming book sounds just as clever, thrilling, and unique!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Down The TBR Hole #1

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story.  I've seen it on a few other blogs and thought I would try it out myself!  It seems like a really good way to cull your TBR of those books you're no longer interested in.  So how does it work?

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here are the books I'm looking at this time:

Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Daisy's sister is dating the Prince of Scotland, so Daisy joins her at the castle, where she meets the Prince's younger brother.

I'm obsessed with anything royal, so even though this isn't the most unique premise, it's on my TBR for a reading challenge and I'm still interested in it.  Keeping this one!

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young

A teenage girl is surprised to find out her best friend, who recently passed away, planned a scavenger hunt for her.

This one sounds so emotional, and I love a book that can make me cry.  Keeping this one!

The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

Historical fiction novel focusing on the life and loves of Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy.

I'm fascinated by the Kennedy family, and I love historical fiction.  Keeping this one!

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

When the Black Death starts to spread across England, Lady Anne brings her serfs and family inside the manor estate and closes off the outside world.

For some reason, this one just isn't grabbing my attention anymore.  It's 500+ page length also gives me pause!  Passing on this one!

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

The teenage daughter in a very religious family with its own reality show becomes pregnant.

I love anything reality tv-related, plus I've read so many good reviews - keeping this one!

Have you read any of these?