Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Thoughts: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

My grandfather, whom I lived with along with my grandmother, fell ill when I was around 10-years-old and remained in a wheelchair until he passed away when I was 19-years-old. My grandfather was a quadriplegic.

I can remember days missed from school helping my grandmother take him to doctor's appointments, helping to feed him, reading to him, emptying catheter bags, etc. These things never seemed out of the ordinary for me to do, but there were always those moments of self-consciousness. Not because I was embarrassed of my grandfather. Never! It came from the fact that there was always that sorrow or pity in the eyes of others. That is absolutely something that my grandfather did not want. It was such a relief to bring home my husband to meet my grandfather (while he was still my boyfriend) and have him look my grandfather in the eye, man-to-man, and to shake the hand my grandfather offered where most people were unsure or felt awkward with the gesture.

As someone who has perspective, this book was quite the emotional journey for me. Readers meet Louisa "Lou" Clark, a 26-year-old cafe worker living at home with her parents, her disabled grandfather, her younger sister, and her younger sister's son. Her life takes a sudden change when the cafe closes, and after a series of odd jobs, she becomes the companion to Will Traynor. Will is a former business executive and adrenaline junkie who becomes a quadriplegic after a tragic accident. He's hard to get along with and has allowed his bitterness toward his situation to fester over a course of years. They're an unlikely duo who goes from tolerating one another to forming a solid bond.

If Will is a quadriplegic, what about the romance? I see you asking it. I've seen some people say this book is misleading because it is not what they'd consider a romance. On one hand, I say, that is an unfair and limited view of what a romance can be. Romance is not limited to people able to express physical desire toward one another and that thinking precludes that romance can include romantic partners who may not have sex because one, or both partners, may not be interested in sex for whatever reason and romantic/passionate friendships, which are (usually) non-sexual, and includes friendships of all gender makeups.

On the other hand, I concede that romance is largely defined by an individual's feelings and intentions toward another person. Where one person may see it as romantic, the other personal may not feel the same. It doesn't necessarily mean that one person may be more invested in the relationship just that their ideas of romance differ from the other person's. With this book, I think both the romantic and aromantic POVs regarding this book are valid, but I feel like some dismiss the romantic possibility in this story because their ideas of romance are bound tightly to a "sexual" aspect, that there can be no intimacy outside of what many consider the "typical" romance. I even feel like the book challenges this idea by having a character say that Lou and Will's relationship is false intimacy, that it's "not real." It denies intimacy to people because they don't fit society's standards of who should receive it. Personally, I do see a romantic aspect to Lou and Will's friendship, and there is even some attraction there between both of them. I wouldn't say this is a romance book as the romance genre would typically define it, but there is a romantic aspect to this, in my humblest of opinions.

The story is largely told from Lou's view, but there were singular chapters told from the POV of Will and other people in his life, which are voice by different narrators. This is an instance where these outside POVs were not needed outside of Will's. I really didn't need a justification from people like Will's parents and felt the book performed fine without that filler. My biggest peeve with this book is I didn't like the minimizing of Lou's feelings. Lou doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, so characters spend a great deal of time trying to decide for her, telling her that interests aren't good enough. She's often ridiculed by those who love her most in a way that can feel emotionally abusive. I think, much of it was supposed to be funny, but there's little funny about Lou having to endure name-calling and negativity that can hurt the most coming from the people you love. I hated that Lou never really did stand up for herself. She was usually cowed into agreeing with whatever was being thrown at her. She had her moments, but she was mostly resigned to take the ridicule in relative silence and acceptance.

This book is heartwarming, funny, and touching. It also poses ethical questions in regards to the disabled and their wishes concerning their own life. Many things Louisa experienced as a caregiver, I could picture a corresponding moment in my own life. I could nod knowingly at many of the triumphs and frustrations that this book presented. Even to this day, it's hard not to get choked up about all the good and bad times. Believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how this one is presented on the big screen.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Thoughts: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Mackenzies & McBrides, #1)The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Prior to listening to this book, I hadn't read a historical romance in quite some time. I think it's safe to say that it's probably been a few years. It's a little harder for me to get into historical romance than some other romance genres, but sometimes, I get the itch to read one. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie introduces us to the MacKenzie clan, a group of Scottish brothers who are the scandal of London. In London, Ian meets and subsequently begins having an liaison with the widowed Beth Ackerley after warning her away from a dubious suitor. Surrounding their affair is a bit of mystery as an inspector begins hounding them due to the death of a woman with connections to the "mad" brother, Ian MacKenzie, who has spent some time in an asylum. Despite their status and wealth, the brothers grew up with an overbearing, abusive father. We get to dip into some of Ian's torment at the hands of his father and again at the asylum he was confined to and see how these events have shaped him as a person.

I liked both Beth and Ian. Beth was warm, funny, and assertive when she needed to be. I appreciated that she wasn't an 18-year-old virgin, but a woman who'd been with a man, enjoyed sex, and while she had decorum, she eschewed convention for happiness. Ian obviously had Asperger's, which would be seen as defiance and madness in 1881. Ashley was consistent in his actions. His "eccentricities" weren't just conveniences needed for certain scenes and then forgotten. The decision to write Ian on the autism spectrum is probably something you'll never see in a historical romance again. Be warned. This is a fairly steamy book. You're not going to find as much bawdy language in the descriptions as books that take place in modern erotica, but it manages to slip in a few laugh-worthy words and phrases that had me shaking my head a bit. This book doesn't overwhelm you with sex on every page, so it's easy enough to skip over if you don't enjoy reading explicit sex.

A couple of things I wanted to point out that hindered my reading experience a little. Beth flip-flopped between believing Ian's sincerity and questioning it at the strangest times, which was a little odd because she seemed to maintain that she believed him to be a man of his word. I guess she was supposed to be put-off some because Ian wouldn't meet her gaze or always pay attention to what she was saying (all due to his being on the autism spectrum), but Ian was straightforward about his intentions and never wavered in what he wanted from her. Also, even though there's a hint of mystery, this doesn't overtake the romance portion of the story. It's not supposed to, but what I mean is that, despite the fact that Ian stands accused of murder by an inspector, there's not really much official about the investigation. The accusations come from an investigator who has a personal vendetta against the family and uses his own time to "investigate" the matter.

Angela Dawe narrated this story, and this was the first time I've listened to anything by her. She did an admirable enough job even with a few production hiccups in the story, such as sometimes not changing her voice until she caught herself mid-dialogue for the male characters. Overall, I enjoyed the story for what it was, and of course, it ends with happily ever after because of course it does. I don't know if I want to continue reading more about the MacKenzie clan, but I think this has scratched my historical romance itch for a while. When the urge pops up again, I'll certainly consider these books to sate that need.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Thoughts: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Libby "Baby" Day is the only surviving member of a brutal murder that claimed her mother and her two older sisters. Her brother, Ben, stands accused of the murders--based largely on Libby's testimony, which she admits early is a lie, and his uncooperative behavior--and has spent twenty-five years in prison for the murders. Libby has spent these years living on a trust fund created by sympathizers for her while living in a perpetual state of self-destruction. However, her sympathizers have largely moved on to other tragedies, and Libby's money has dried up. In desperation, Libby begins helping a group known as the "kill club" to investigate the circumstances surrounding her family's death and her brother's possible innocence.

The murder of Libby's family has left her ambitionless, lost. She doesn't want to work and doesn't want to "try" to lead anything that might resemble a normal life. She's spent the past decades barely bothering to keep her own utilities on. She's grown into a selfish woman who tries to use her misfortune to continue her sorry existence. While this might not endear her to many readers, I can understand her turning out as she did. Everyone doesn't grow from their tragedies, or at least, they don't grow in ways that would be deemed positive. Libby doesn't have many redeeming qualities, but her life view, her attitudes, were bred out of a necessity to protect herself. It isn't until she starts investigating her family's deaths at the behest of the kill club that she starts to actually have an aim in her life as she works past her painful memories in her own way.

This is the first book that I've read by Gillian Flynn. I have watched Gone Girl finally, but I still haven't read the book. I started Dark Places on a whim after two of my friends flailed over the book. I also remembered catching a quick glimpse of the end of the movie, and curiosity got the better of me with this story. (I've since watched the whole movie.) This started a bit slow, but it finally hit a stride with me a few hours in. This book is told from three different perspectives--Libby's, her mother Patty's, and her brother's Ben. The latter two tell the story from the past on the day of the murder. What a journey this story is. Aside from the mystery aspect, there are so many things being touched on here from abuse to poverty. It's a dark, depressing story revolving around people who didn't have much going for them in 1985 and certainly don't have much going for them now. This also captured the sensationalism that follows cases like this fairly well.

I follow a popular-ish case in the media involving a man who was convicted of his ex-girlfriend's murder in 1999 when they were seniors in high school. He recently had a hearing to see if he'd be granted a new trial after 16 years in prison--a decision that the judge is still working on after five days of testimony in early February. Parts of this book made me reflect on just how true it feels to real life as far as people putting a sensational slant on such a tragic event. I have watched supporters of the man convicted of this murder express dismay toward the family because they still maintained the system worked. It hasn't been as nasty as the portrayal in this book, but this book certainly captured the culture of amateur sleuths while showing how painful/traumatizing this can be for families that live through these tragedies. People often forget about the victims or try to pooh-pooh their feelings with cases like these.

Narration wise, the narrators for this book did such a wonderful job with the story, and I liked that there were three different narrators (with one additional narrator for a single chapter told from a completely different character's POV, which I felt could've been skipped or written into either Libby's or Ben's parts) for each of the characters. However, I can't rate this higher than a 3.5 because some parts of this plot was just too unbelievable for me to let go. A perfect storm led up to the murders with one terrible thing piling up one after another, which I largely accepted, but then the big reveal at the end had me shaking my head like: "This book is doing way too much right now with this."

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Musings - Jan 4, 2016


Musing Mondays is a weekly meme hosted by Jenn of A Daily Rhythm that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…


THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What do you do when you finish a book? Do you immediately start another one?

It really depends on the emotional state that the book left me in. If it was a book that I was very emotionally attached to, then, I'll probably give myself a few hours to think on it and write out my thoughts for either Goodreads or The Bibliosanctum. Sometimes, if this book has a sequel, I might dive immediately into the sequel. Other time, I may just marinate in the first book for a while before going on to the next book. Other than that, I typically move on to my next read after finishing a book, if I'm not already ready something. I tend to read multiple books at the same time, so there's usually a chain of books going on with me anyway.


I'm currently reading: 



The second novel set in the Old Republic era and based on the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars®: The Old Republic™ ramps up the action and brings readers face-to-face for the first time with a Sith warrior to rival the most sinister of the Order’s Dark Lords—Darth Malgus, the mysterious, masked Sith of the wildly popular “Deceived” and “Hope” game trailers. Malgus brought down the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in a brutal assault that shocked the galaxy. But if war crowned him the darkest of Sith heroes, peace would transform him into something far more heinous—something Malgus would never want to be, but cannot stop, any more than he can stop the rogue Jedi fast approaching. Her name is Aryn Leneer—and the lone Knight that Malgus cut down in the fierce battle for the Jedi Temple was her Master. And now she’s going to find out what happened to him, even if it means breaking every rule in the book.
I'm a big gaming fan, and I've been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) for a while now, which is what this book is based on. Many years before this game was released I played the original single player games that inspired this MMO, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR). A few months ago, I reviewed the first book in this series Fatal Alliance on The Bibliosanctum. Where Fatal Alliance proved to be typical gaming novel fun, this is one is setting a tone of being a better crafted story that's exploring the differing philosophies regarding emotions between the Sith and the Jedi and how it might not always be the "best" philosophies to live by. I'll have a review up on The Bibliosanctum when I've completed it.
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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Book Thoughts: You by Caroline Kepnes

You (You, #1)You by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars



My general reaction while reading this book and thinking, "Oh, I really don't like you... OMG, this bish here... Why am I even reading... let me see what he's going to do next... oh no, you didn't..."
So, yeah, in its strange way this did end how I thought it would as mentioned in a prior status update. I need to think about this one because right now all I feel is, "This was... a book." I'd give it a 3.5 mainly because of the narrator.

I said that when I finished this book and my general feeling is still, "This was... a book." I can't decide if this is one of those books that I liked so much I hate it or I hate it so much I like it. Readers follow Joe Goldberg--a highly intelligent high school dropout, bookshop manager/worker, book lover, and psychopath--as he instigates himself into the life of a woman he feels is "perfect" for him despite all the signs pointing to her having her own severe issues. Social media and her habit of being easily accessible on social media makes it easy for him to start skirting the fringes of her life until he's able to set a series of "chance" encounters that allow him to become fully immersed in her life. Social media stalker mixed with Joe's relatively "normal" appearance also serves as a cautionary tale that you never know who may be using your personal information gleaned from posts for some disturbing purpose.

The interesting thing about this book is that it's told entirely in the POV of the perpetrator, Joe. This makes You an especially creepy read as you stroll through his thought process and how everything is rationalized just so to make him seem like the hero of the story in his own mind. In his own narrative, he is the love-ridden, patient man who deals with a woman fraught with inconsistencies because "that's how women are." Too many times, you find yourself raising an eyebrow as Joe points out the predatory stalker behavior in others, but sees his own behavior as him being the "stronger" one and being the one who needed to be the "glue" that keeps everything together in their "love story," removing whatever obstacles are necessary.

Most of the characters in this book are pretty hard to like with the exception of maybe a handful, but nobody takes the crazy cake like Joe. He is absolutely reprehensible. Kepnes certainly knows how to write a story that can keep you interested even if you're only hanging on to angrily get through this book. It reminds me of American Psycho in a way with all the brand-dropping, except Joe despises all the glitz unlike Patrick Bateman, and I'll definitely check out the sequel if only to hate-read what Joe's been up to. The narration for this was top-notch. Santino Fortana was the perfect voice for Joe. He managed to capture the delusional, mocking, self-righteous tone of the main character well, and I think his narration made me dislike Joe even more because that's exactly the way I would think a person like Joe would sound. I definitely will be picking up the audiobook when the second book is released.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Audiobook Challenge

The Book Nympho

Last year was the first year that I participated in the Audiobook Challenge hosted by The Book Nympho and Hot Listens. I'd initially aimed pretty low for the challenge, hoping to complete only 15-20 audiobooks over the course of 2015, but I ended up listening to 59 audiobooks last year, which is truly an amazing accomplishment for me. Most of the books I listened to were speculative in nature and reviews were posted on Bibliosanctum. For a quick recap of my progress last year:

Introduction Post
1st Quarter Update
2nd Quarter Update
3rd Quarter Update
4th Quarter Update

This year I've decided to participate in the challenge again, but even though I know I am capable of finishing many books, I'm still aiming for the 20-30 range because I never know what's going to pop up during the year, especially since I work full-time and have a family. I think that's a realistic goal to aim for, but I won't be upset if I make it to 50+ books again this year. I'll be updating the book site and this site with my progress throughout the year. Also, we'll be participating as a group again on Bibliosanctum.

The rules are as follow:

Reading Challenge Details:

  • Runs January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016. You can join at any time.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2016 than you did in 2015.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Shelfari, Booklikes, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button (on the sidebar) and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.

Levels:

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30-50
  • Marathoner (Look Ma no hands) 50+ 
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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

goodreads.com

Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

goodreads.com

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