Saturday, December 15, 2018

2019 Retellings Reading Challenge Sign-Up and TBR

When I found out about the 2019 Retellings Reading Challenge, hosted by Tracy at Cornerfolds, I knew I couldn't pass it up!  I don't read a ton of retellings, but I do have quite a few on my TBR that I want to get to.

To get all the details about the challenge, visit Cornerfolds here.  Pretty much any retelling, in any genre, in any book form, counts - and you can use books from other challenges, too!  You can earn points by writing reviews and linking up quarterly.  There's also a Bingo element to earn even more points!

There are five challenge levels:

  • Silent Assassin: 1-5 Retellings
  • Warrior Princess: 6-10 Retellings
  • Elemental Witch: 11-15 Retellings
  • High Fae: 16-20 Retellings
  • Fairest of them All: 21-25+ Retellings

  • For now, I am going to aim for Warrior Princess, but things could always change!  Here are the books I'm hoping to get to:

    What retellings are you going to read in 2019?

    Friday, December 14, 2018

    Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: Women With Extraordinary Jobs

    Sometimes Amazing Things Happen: Heartbreak and Hope on the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Prison Ward by Elizabeth Ford, MD (2017)

    Dr. Elizabeth Ford is a psychiatrist who worked on the Bellevue Hospital psychiatric prison ward, treating mental illness in prisoners from New York's jails, including Riker's Island.  Sometimes Amazing Things Happen is a chronicle of her time on the ward; she shares stories of the patients she treated and the bureaucracy and red tape she was often caught up in.

    This book definitely featured a lot of heartbreak.  The inmates have so much working against them.  They're in jail, waiting an indefinite amount of time to have their case heard, sometimes for a crime that was a result of their mental illness.  If they get transferred to Bellevue, they'll get treatment, but the downside is that as soon as they're "well," they're transferred back to prison where the guards don't know how to deal with them and they may or may not get their medications.  It's a vicious cycle.  A few chapters on how the hospital was affected by Superstorm Sandy were a stark reminder of the tangled web of the criminal justice system.  It really made me think about this lost population of men and how the system could be improved.

    My issues with this book came from a couple different sides.  This book was really short, about 240 pages, and felt more like short stories than a cohesive narrative.  And unfortunately, I had issues with Dr. Ford herself; more than a few times I got the impression that she felt an air of superiority over everyone else.  She came across as seeming like she was the only one who cared about the patients, and the other doctors, nurses, and officers were overwhelmed, under-educated, and just unsympathetic.  I think it would have done her some good to realize the hard work and hours they also put in to this extremely difficult and often thankless job.  3.5 stars

    The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts by Tessa Fontaine (2018)

    After her mother suffers a massive stroke, Tessa Fontaine spends years in limbo - will her mother survive?  What will her life be like?  Then, her stepfather takes her mother on a dream trip to Italy, giving Tessa a few months to join a traveling sideshow, where she performed such acts as snake charmer and the Electric Woman.

    I feel like this was two different books joined together only by the fact that the two events happened to take place at the same time.  On one hand, this was a book about mothers and daughters and the sometimes difficult relationship Tessa had with hers.  Reading about her mother's health issues felt almost invasive at times, but I think a lot of people will be able to relate to it.

    On the other hand, this book is a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to work at a carnival/fair/circus/sideshow.  This part was probably more interesting to me, although it felt a bit repetitive at times.  It's not an enviable lifestyle - the hours are long, it's physically taxing, you're living in a tiny space with a lot of other people, cleaning your clothes in sinks.  However, I enjoyed learning about the different sideshow acts.  3.5 stars

    Wednesday, December 12, 2018

    Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Fairest Kind of Love

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

    The Fairest Kind of Love (Windy City Magic #3)
    Crystal Cestari
    Expected publication date: March 5, 2019
    "Amber! I never even thought of that! Maybe she can tell you your match."

    Whoa. Now that's interesting.

    Amber Sand has spent half her life solidifying other people's happily-ever-afters. As a matchmaker, she has the ability to look into anyone's eyes and see their perfect match. But lately, her powers have been on the fritz, and not only is she totally unsure whether her matches are true, she can't see anyone in the eyes of her boyfriend Charlie Blitzman. With Amber and her friends graduating high school and about to take off for various colleges, Amber is hoping to have one last carefree summer-but she's also dying to find a way to fix her powers, and learn, for better or worse, if she and Charlie are truly meant to be. 
    So when an online matchmaker named Madame Lamour comes to Chicago, Amber sets out to talk to her and find out who her match is once and for all. Of course, when it comes to the magical community, nothing's ever that easy, and Amber soon finds herself caught up in a breathless showdown that involves a fairy family feud and a magical-creature auction--and requires teaming up with a certain siren nemesis. Can Amber and her friends save the day one more time before setting off for their new lives? And will Amber ever learn whether Charlie is her one true love?
    With tons of laugh-out-loud moments, appearances by all your favorite characters, and one totally tearful reveal, you won't want to miss a single swoony moment of this romantic conclusion to the Windy City Magic trilogy. - from Goodreads
    I have loved this series about a teenage matchmaker from the beginning, and even though I'm sad it's ending, I'm really looking forward to this third book!  I would love for more people to try this series!

    Tuesday, December 11, 2018

    Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books From The 2nd Half of 2018

    Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  Earlier in the year, I gave my top books from the first half of 2018, so since this week is a freebie, I wanted to share the books I loved from the second half of the year!





    Have you read any of these?  What are some of your favorite recent reads?

    Monday, December 10, 2018

    How Do You Define Success As A Book Blogger?

    When I first started blogging, I had these preconceived notions about what constituted a successful book blogger.  It was some combination of a beautifully put-together site, tons of comments, a huge social media following, and getting all the ARCs, whether from a site like Netgalley or unsolicited.  I worried about how I would ever make my mark on the book blogging community or even achieve some of the things other bloggers do.

    Over the past couple years, my definition of "success" in blogging has changed a lot.  While I still admire the big blogs, I've learned that there are other ways to define success.  We all talk a lot about stats and at least somewhat keep track of how many hits and visitors we're getting, but it's so much more than that.

    I don't have thousands (or even hundreds) of followers, but I feel like most of my posts get a good amount of interaction.  People leave thoughtful comments and give me their opinions, and I love it!  I love that readers are connecting with what I'm writing.  I feel like I've found a really amazing group of bloggers and we all support each other.  That interaction and camaraderie makes me feel successful, like I really belong in this community.

    I also feel successful when someone comments that I've convinced them to read a book or add it to their TBR.  It's such a compliment to know that my recommendations are being taken.  If it's a book that hasn't come out yet, making other readers aware of it, putting it on their radar, and knowing it might be something they'll enjoy is so fun.  It's an even greater feeling when someone reads my reviews and wants to read a book because of it.  As someone who loves to share books, I'm happy when I can bring a book that I've enjoyed to others.  I want everyone to love the book as much as I did, so I feel like I've done my "job" well when someone else wants to read it, too, based on what I've said about it. 

    How do you define success as a book blogger?  What makes you proud?  Is it reaching a certain number of followers, posting a certain number of times per month, etc.?

    Friday, December 7, 2018

    Review: The Light Between Worlds

    The Light Between Worlds
    Laura E. Weymouth
    Published October 23, 2018
    Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.

    When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.

    Now, Ev spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.

    Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.

    But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under. - from Goodreads
    The Light Between Worlds has a lot in common with the classic The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - a group of siblings are whisked away from WWII England and find themselves in a magical land.  After joining in a war for several years, they are transported back to the moment they left.  The Light Between Worlds, however, explores what happens to the siblings after they return.

    The story is told from three main POVs - Evelyn, Philippa, and flashbacks to the time in the Woodlands (there is also a brother, Jamie, but the book is more focused on the sisters' relationship).  I loved the first half of the book, which is told from Evelyn's point of view.  Just 11 years old when she finds herself in the Woodlands, Evelyn spends her formative years there, so when they return to London and she is back to being 11, she feels lost.  It came across so clearly that she immediately felt at home in the Woodlands, and her life back in the real world would never be the same.  Although she tries for many years to fit in, there is a desperation running through Evelyn's story that is hard to ignore.  Philippa, unfortunately, is not as interesting as Evelyn.  She even says herself at one point that things just generally work out for her.  After Evelyn disappears, Philippa comes home to England and, without even trying, lands herself a job and a suitor.  I just wanted to know more about what happened to Evelyn.

    The thing I loved most about this book was the beautiful writing.  It's elegant and feels a little poetic, but contains none of the over-the-top purple prose that I often dislike.  There are so many emotions running through the story; at times it felt melancholy and resigned, at others wistful.

    If you're looking for a lot of action, you won't find it here.  There are hints of it in the flashbacks, but this book is more about the characters than anything else.  One thing I did want more of, though, was better world-building of the Woodlands.  It seemed really similar to Narnia, so I was hoping for some differences. 

    4 stars

    Wednesday, December 5, 2018

    Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Lost Girls of Paris

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

    The Lost Girls of Paris
    Pam Jenoff
    Expected publication date: February 5, 2019
    From the author of the runaway bestseller The Orphan’s Tale comes a remarkable story of friendship and courage centered around three women and a ring of female spies during World War II.

    1946, Manhattan

    Grace Healey is rebuilding her life after losing her husband during the war. One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, she finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

    Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a ring of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

    Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war, and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances. - from Goodreads
    I love wartime stories and especially ones that focus on women and the roles they played!