The Witch Elm

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The Witch Elm

By:  Tana French
Published: 
2018
# of pages:  464
Challenge:  Monthly Motif (new to you author)Book Bingo
Quote: “The rain had started, a light unobtrusive patter, its shadows down the windowpane mottling the sill and the bare floorboards. I stayed there for a long time, watching the drops merge and course down the glass, picking two and betting on their race to the bottom, the way I had when I was a kid.”

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Goodreads description:

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

Review:  I saw a review about Tana French’s books and decided to check this one out after hearing it was good.  French is a new-to-me author, so it counts for January’s Monthly Motif challenge.  I enjoyed The Witch Elm so much that I’m planning to check out more of Tana French’s books soon!

I spent much of this book feeling amazed that the author could think of something so complex and keep it going for so long.  The whole book is intricate – from the plot to the many characters.  The story mainly follows Toby, a young man whose life is abruptly ruined when he’s attacked in his own home and almost killed.

Toby is an interesting character because the reader can’t help but like him and root for him, but also feel dislike for him at times.  And honestly, don’t we all know people like Toby, people with the gift of gab and with enough luck to easily swim through life’s ups and downs?  Sometimes you wonder what that person would do if something truly awful happened to them, something that would be difficult or impossible to talk their way out of or ignore.  That’s partly what this book is about and I commend the author for writing her character so well and avoiding what was probably a temptation to dilute him and make him “better.”

I’m recovering from a surgery on my nasal passage to correct a deviated septum, so maybe that’s affected my thought process, but I couldn’t stop thinking of this book over the days I spent reading.  I wanted so badly to figure out the mystery of the skull.  I sort of figured it out, but that wasn’t even the main point of the book.  The story took a weird turn at the end, but overall I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it to adults who enjoy mysteries.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting plot, intricate and realistic characters, thought provoking.

What’s in a Name 2019 Challenge Sign Up

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Welcome to the 12th annual What’s in a Name reading challenge!  In years past, the What’s in a Name reading challenge has been hosted by Charlie @ The Worm Hole.  This year is not only my first year hosting WIAN, but my first time ever hosting a challenge.  So bear with me as I learn and keep in mind that I plan to continually improve!  My goal for WIAN this year is to have fun and be inspired by others.



The challenge extends from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019.  You can sign up any time, but only count books that you read between those dates.

Read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits in each category.

Don’t use the same book for more than one category.

Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!

You can choose your books as you go or make a list ahead of time.

Sign up below with a link to your What’s in a Name challenge page, not to your main blog page.  Feel free to save the graphic at the top of this post!  Also, link back to this sign up page in your challenge post so others can join too.

The categories below are links to each category sign up link.  Add your post for each category so we can see what you’ve read and discover ideas as needed.

Here are the categories:

Click the Mister Linky graphic above to enter your name and/or blog name (many people use this format: Andrea @ Carolina Book Nook) and the URL to your challenge post.  If you have any issues, email me through the Contact menu at the top of my blog and I’ll manually sign you up.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!  Thanks and happy reading!

 

Where the Crawdads Sing

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Where the Crawdads Sing

By:  Delia Owens
Published: 
2018
# of pages:  384
Challenge:  A to ZBook Bingo
Quote:  “Kya bit her bottom lip as she watched. Wondering how it would feel to be among them. Their joy created an aura almost visible against the deepening sky. Ma had said women need one another more than they need men, but she never told her how to get inside the pride.”

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Goodreads description:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Review:  My first book read in the new year and it was worthy of five stars and a place on my favorites list!  In a way I hate reviewing amazing books because I can’t do them justice.  This book is beautifully written, has a great plot full of thought provoking subjects and an intriguing mystery, and the character of Kya is one easy to emphathize with and understand.

Kya was abandoned by her mother at age six and in the short years that follow, her siblings and father leave her as well.  She makes do in the marshes of coastal North Carolina, but while she doesn’t physically starve, she often feels emotionally starved.  In order to feel connected to the world, she falls in love with the nature that surrounds her on a daily basis.  Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of how she interacts with all of nature, that of the marsh environment and that of the townspeople floating by on the fringes of her existence.

At times this story made my heart ache, but it was also inspiring.  Kya led a rough life that no one deserves, but she made the best of it and handled situations with strength and resolve.  This would be a good book club read.  The way Kya interacts with people and the mystery that’s presented throughout the novel made me want to discuss the book with someone!  I recommend it to all adults.  And I also recommend visiting the NC coast if you haven’t done so yet, it’s a beautiful place.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Interesting plot, beautiful story, strong characters.

2018 End of Year Survey

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Happy New Year!  This is my end of year review that includes my usual wrap up and then the annual survey created by The Perpetual Page-Turner.

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Challenges in which I participated:

A to Z (finished 21/26)
What’s in a Name? (finished 6/6)
Full House (finished
Monthly Motif (finished 12/12)
R.I.P. XIII (finished 4/4)

# of books read:

81

Previous years:
61 in 2017
35 in 2016
52 in 2015
58 in 2014
60 in 2013
75 in 2012
39 in 2011
30 in 2010
28 in 2009
48 in 2008
81 in 2007

Favorites (in order read):

Saga Vols. 5 & 6  by: Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Beacon 23  by: Hugh Howey
Sunbolt  by: Intisar Khanani
Turtles All the Way Down  by: John Green
Mosquitoland  by: David Arnold
Educated: A Memoir  by: Tara Westover
The Song of Achilles  by: Madeline Miller
Nine Perfect Strangers  by: Liane Moriarty
Circe  by: Madeline Miller
The Good Daughter  by: Karin Slaughter

Least favorite:

Lincoln in the Bardo  by: George Saunders

# of non-fiction:

7

Repeated authors:

Brian K. Vaughan (7) (Saga)
Hugh Howey (2)
Sylvain Neuvel (2) (Themis Files)
Laura Thalassa (2) (The Bargainer)
Michelle Bryan (3) (Strain of Resistance)
Intisar Khanani (2) (The Sunbolt Chronicles)
Ruth Ware (3)
N.K. Jemisin (3) (The Broken Earth)
Stephen King (4) (Bill Hodges Trilogy)
Madeline Miller (2)
Gena Showalter (2) (Everlife)

**2018 READING STATS** Survey by The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Number Of Books You Read: 81
Number of Re-Reads: 1
Genre You Read The Most From: Fiction, Sci-Fi

 

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1. Best Book You Read In 2018?

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Circe  by: Madeline Miller

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

That Inevitable Victorian Thing  by: E.K. Johnson

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

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Mosquitoland  by: David Arnold – surprising in a good way!  I thought it would be more of a shallow young adult story, but I was pleasantly surprised and it ended up being one of my favorites of the whole year.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

The Song of Achilles  by: Madeline Miller

 5. Best series you started in 2018? Best Sequel of 2018? Best Series Ender of 2018?

Started: The Sunbolt Chronicles  by: Intisar Khanani
Ender: Obsidio  by: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (#3 of The Illuminae Files)

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018?

Intisar Khanani

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Saga Vol. 5 and Saga Vol. 6  by: Brian K. Vaughan (graphic novels)

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

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The Woman in the Window  
by: A.J. Finn

 9. Book You Read In 2018 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

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The Book of Strange New Things  
by: Michel Faber – it was incredibly deep and odd and made me want to talk to someone about it while reading it and after I finished.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018?

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11. Most memorable character of 2018?

Circe from Circe  by: Madeline Miller
Bill Hodges from The Bill Hodges Trilogy  by: Stephen King

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2018?

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Salt to the Sea  
by: Ruta Sepetys

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2018?

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Nine Perfect Strangers  
by: Liane Moriarty – the discussion of depression/suicide really hit home.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read? 

Interview with the Vampire  by: Anne Rice

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2018?

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” –Wonder  by: R.J. Palacio

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2018?

Shortest: Woman, These Are Yours  by: A.C. O’Dell (28 pages)
Longest:  The Good Daughter  by: Karin Slaughter (656 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

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Before We Were Yours  
by: Lisa Wingate – The things that happened in this book were shocking enough, but then to find out it was based on a true story…

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Alanna & Marco in the Saga series ♥
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19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Melanie & Miss Justineau in The Girl with All the Gifts  by: M.R. Carey

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2018 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

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Beacon 23  
by: Hugh Howey

21. Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:

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Educated: A Memoir  
by: Tara Westover – My mom told me a little about it so I checked it out from the library.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018?

Val from The Sunbolt Chronicles  by: Intisar Khanani
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23. Best 2018 debut you read?

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The Woman in the Window  
by: A.J. Finn

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

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Obsidio  by: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Gracie: A Love Story  by: George Burns

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2018?

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Winter Garden  
by: Kristen Hannah

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Sunbolt  by: Intisar Khanani

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Winter Garden  by: Kristen Hannah

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2018?

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon  
by: Kelley Barnhill

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Before We Were Yours  by: Lisa Wingate

The Girls Who Went Away  by: Ann Fessler

 

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1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2018?

I don’t follow any Bookstagrams or YouTube channels and I don’t keep track of when I started following certain blogs, so I’ll choose a blog at random that I think I started following in the last year: A Lovely Book Affair

2. Favorite post you wrote in 2018?

Top Ten Titles With the Word “Girl”

3. Favorite bookish related photo you took in 2018?

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My oldest son reading in the lobby of the karate dojo while waiting for my younger son to finish his class.
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A book tree at the Imaginon library in downtown Charlotte.

4. Best bookish event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, etc.)?

All of the challenges, especially R.I.P. XIII!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018?

Finishing most of the challenges in which I participated, reading 81 books total, blogging more.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

Homeschooling has made finding personal time a little more challenging, but at least I still read children’s and picture books to my sons and nephew.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Top Ten Favorite Fictional Couples

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

The Girls Who Went Away – It didn’t receive many views and I understand that it’s a non-fiction that hasn’t received much recognition, but I really think that people would find the subject interesting and perhaps even relevant to their family history.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

100 Books Bucket List Poster
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10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I completed 4/5 challenges and exceeded my Goodreads challenge goal of 70 books by reading 81.

 

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1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2018 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2019?

Where the Crawdads Sing  by: Delia Owens

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2019 (non-debut)?

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Aurora Rising  
by: Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman – May 2019

3. 2019 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I don’t keep up with debuts.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2019?

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Darkdawn  
by: Jay Kristoff (The Nevernight Chronicle #3) – September 2019

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2019?

I hope to blog consistently instead of slacking off halfway through the year and I hope to read at least 75 books throughout the entire year.

 

The Song of Achilles

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The Song of Achilles

By:  Madeline Miller
Published: 
2011
# of pages: 
352
Challenges: Full House (historical fiction)

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Goodreads description:

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

My review:  I can’t remember where I stumbled upon this book, but it’s been on my TBR list for a few months.  It doesn’t sound overly fascinating, but since I’m interested in mythology and want to learn more, I decided to check it out.  I’m so glad I read it because it was great!  Miller has a true talent for taking an ancient story of a time and place that are foreign to me and made it interesting and real.  I cared about the characters and learned a lot about the story of Achilles and the Trojan War in the process.  I visited Greece many years ago and was excited to read about some of the places I’ve seen with my own eyes.

We’ve all heard of Achilles, but this story is about Patroclus, a prince who was exiled from his home to the court of Achilles’ father.  Patroclus is an awkward character and definitely doesn’t fit in with the other men of Greece who live to fight for all sorts of different reasons, including the kidnapping (run away?) of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.  Patroclus is also very thoughtful and for the most part, he sticks with his values.

I loved how his story and the story of Achilles is realistically woven into the mythical aspects.  The gods are a regular part of men’s lives, especially Achilles, whose mother is the sea goddess Thetis.  I don’t feel like this review does the book justice, but The Song of Achilles is now one of my favorite books and I’m eager to read more by Madeline Miller.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:

Interview with the Vampire

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Interview with the Vampire

By:  Anne Rice
Published: 
1976
# of pages:  342
Series:  The Vampire Chronicles (#1)

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Goodreads description:

This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.

Louis and Claudia travel Europe, eventually coming to Paris and the ragingly successful Theatre des Vampires – a theatre of vampires pretending to be mortals pretending to be vampires. Here they meet the magnetic and ethereal Armand, who brings them into a whole society of vampires. But Louis and Claudia find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined.

Review:  At the beginning of October I traveled to my cousin’s wedding in New Orleans, Louisiana.  I couldn’t resist bringing Interview with the Vampire along.  I watched the movie many years ago, but I’d never read the book.  It was awesome being able to see places in the city that I had just read about in the book.  However, the book was way too wordy for me to thoroughly enjoy.

Louis tells the story of how he was a young man enjoying his life on a Louisiana plantation.  After an unexpected tragedy, he meets Lestat, who turns him into a vampire.  Louis is confused about his new way of life and has no one except Lestat to tell him how he must and should behave.  Louis soon learns that he seems to have retained much of his humanity, unlike his creator.  Later, Lestat makes a vampire of Claudia, a young girl.  Claudia and Louis are close companions and try to figure out how to navigate life in their immortal bodies.

The concept of the book is really neat and I would like to know what happens to the present day Louis who is being interviewed, but like I said before, the book is very wordy.  Sometimes the action was hard to follow because of the way it was told in a very thoughtful, eloquent, lengthy way.  Apparently some people really love this book, but I found it hard to keep picking up to read more.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Neat concept (especially in the 70s before the vampire theme was popular), inspiring character in Louis, way too wordy and meandering.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

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In a Dark, Dark Wood

By:  Ruth Ware
Published: 
2016
# of pages: 
308
Challenges: 
R.I.P.

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Goodreads description:

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room…. 

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

Review:  Now I’ve read all of the books Ruth Ware has published.  Her books are interesting and easy reads.  This book is on my R.I.P. Challenge list.  It wasn’t as creepy/suspenseful as I thought it would be based on the description, but it held my interest and was a fast read.

Nora receives an unexpected invitation to her ex-bestfriend’s bachelorette party (hen do in the U.K.).  She hasn’t seen Clare in 10 years since they were about 16, but she consults with a mutual friend who was also invited.  They decide they’ll both go even though neither really wants to attend.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the remote country house in the woods, things start to go downhill.  Nora wants to leave before the weekend has truly begun, but she’s prevented from doing so.  Trapped in the house with a mixed group of strangers and estranged former friends, she slowly realizes not everything that’s happening is a coincidence.

I wasn’t too attached to any of the characters.  I couldn’t really relate to many of Nora’s decisions.  I felt sorry that she was so tramatized by her past and concerned about impressing Clare both in the past and present.

This wasn’t the most amazing book I’ve ever read, but it was fun and easy.  I wouldn’t have minded a little more creepiness, but there was still some suspense and mystery.  I recommend it to those who enjoy the suspense/thriller genre.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Fun and well-paced mystery, so-so characters and plot.