My 5 Monday: Required Reading

Happy Monday my bookworms! It’s been awhile since I posted, but I’ve been slowly settling back into my second home, NYC. Coming back to NYC is always a little like riding a bike, I fall right into my old ways like no time has passed: waking up to my cat’s meows, standing at my favorite end of the subway platform, going to the same place for my favorite oatmeal, and of course, listening to an audiobook through it all.

Because it’s Monday and I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs a little pick me up, I wanted to start a new weekly blog post called “My 5 Monday” which is a top five of my favorite bookish things. And this Monday I wanted to talk about some of my past favorite books, specifically my favorite required reading from my school days. My fiance is in grad school, (working his butt off and making me so proud I may add!!) and it sometimes makes me think back to my school days and all the reading that was assigned. In fact, some of the books I was required to read in college actually became a few of my favorite books of all time, and wanted to share “My 5” favorites.

In college, I was a Geography major, and have always been a lover of maps. Senior year though, I returned to my first love, reading, and took a few literature classes. I took Latino Lit, focusing on POC narrators and authors, and Classic Lit, where we read classic literature but with more intersectionality: feminist and LGBT+ focused specifically. I learned so much in these classes; both of them shaped a lot about what I know and think today, and I even got some favorite reads out of it!

And with that, here are My 5 Monday: Required Reading edition.

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel that doubles as a memoir of Alison Bechdel’s growing up. Don’t be deceived by the title or the fact that this is a graphic novel, it is not necessarily fun and lighthearted. Although she has a knack for comedy too, Fun Home illustrates the dysfunctional and darker family issues such as internalized homophobia and death. I love how Alison Bechdel can lets us into these family issues and hardships in a, well, fun, way such as a graphic novel. If you want to know the woman behind the Bechdel-Wallace test a little more closely, this a great and quick read, yet also full of rich meaning.

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I don’t really think I could accurately sum up such a classic in a few sentences, but this book really changed my outlook on a lot of aspects of life and religion. It also happened to take place in some of my favorite Californian scenery- San Luis Obispo County. The first 200 page description of rolling hills may not appeal to everyone, but it really holds a special place in my heart. I finished this book in a few sittings, despite the length of the book; ok maaaaybe I finished because I was approaching some deadlines, but I like to think that it was really just that compelling. The ending brought me to tears (probably the first time that had ever happened to me) so this book is really special to me, more than I could sum up on this fine Monday afternoon.

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

It’s kind of funny that this book is number three on my list, because that’s the exact amount of times I’ve had to read it for different classes. I love this book for many different reasons, but it hasn’t always been this way. I actually hated this book the first time I read it, I think I was too young to really grasp it. By the third time this was assigned, I was enthralled. I feel like this book has grown up with me through the years, I read it at three different stages of life, and each time it meaning something different to me. This is a quick read that I will staunchly defend as important feminist literature with themes in: free will, love, and ultimately being a woman in the Victorian era.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I promise I’m not being biased when I place this as my second favorite required reading even though it DID assist me in winning a regional competition in literature when I was in middle school. I read this book numerous times, wrote essay upon essay, and was even tested among other students on my knowledge of it. So to say I know this book like the back of my hand is an understatement. You would think with how many times I read it, this book would grow tired and boring. However, reading this book over and over again actually added to my love for it. This book was probably one of my best friends in middle school, and think what you want about me for saying that 🙂 This book was stuffed to the brims with important life lessons that kids and adults alike can benefit, and Scout will always be my little heroine.

1. The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar

To say this novel, read in my Latino Lit class, changed my outlook on life is a complete understatement. Told in three different perspectives, and set during prominent historical moments, this book intertwines politics, love, history, and war. Partly set during the Guatemalan Civil War, Red Scare, and the Rodney King riots, this book covers so many important topics that will make you want to scream and cry and hug your loved ones all at once. This book impacted the way I think, and it made me love reading again after a very long dry spell of books. Whenever someone wants a reading recommendation, this is the first one I go to, and one I will always hold dear. It’s a tough read, but it will teach you in ways school doesn’t, and is an incredibly important required read.

Honorable mentions: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

Before I started my love of thrillers and mysteries, I loved my required reading. These are some of my first loves and ones I will carry with me for a long time. Thanks for reading about some of my favorites- now I want to hear yours! What are some of your required reads that became favorites? What about ones you read but couldn’t stand? What do you think we should all be required to read in schools?

 

 

 

 

Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

ABOUT:LITTLE

Name– Little Monsters
Author– Kara Thomas
Genre– YA Thriller, Mystery Thriller
Source– Purchased
Katie’s case– 5/5

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DESCRIPTION:

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

REVIEW:

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas hooked me before I even opened it, when I read that it was a high school drama that could be compared to Pretty Little Liars. I will (not so) shamelessly admit that I stuck through almost a decade of that show’s ridiculous twists, turns, cheesy writing, and plot holes galore. Although I loved every second of it, I can still admit that it maaaaybe wasn’t the best quality television out there. When I read that Little Monsters had the same feel as PLL, I was eager to get my hands on it right away, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t also a little hesitant; like I said, I know PLL wasn’t great quality.

Well, Little Monsters completely exceeded my expectations of a high school-centered YA mystery novel. I would say the only real similarity between Little Monsters and PLL is the high school setting. Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic- Little Monsters definitely serves up some sinister high schoolers like in PLL, but I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory there. All I will really say is that just like in PLL, you will have no idea what these characters are capable of, and you will be on your toes until the very. last. line.

So yes, Little Monsters is absolutely a dark and twisted high school thriller, but it’s also much more than that. I was actually moved to tears at one point in the novel. The characters were written so beautifully with their own unique voices, I actually felt like they were real people. They were complex and interesting, and very different from other YA high schoolers. Kacey is such a little gem, I wish I knew her when I was in school. She’s smart and driven, with some added spunk under her brooding appearance. And Bailey! I absolute ate up her diary entries. That was a lovely addition and I found myself hoping, “please let the next chapter be a Bailey chapter!!” I loved reading her unfiltered perspective, and it was perfectly executed.

I still haven’t even touched upon the writing in general! Kara Thomas has such a wonderful way with words, such vivid descriptions and brilliant metaphors that sound like a teenager could have actually thought them. Now, don’t take that to mean her writing is simple or juvenile, she just captures the mind of a young person so well, and it even brought me back to my own teenage years. The lying, rumors, sneaking out- and internal monologue about the aforementioned- is spot on with these teenagers. It’s not easy to master this level of writing while maintaining a childlike voice, and this is coming from someone who is really harsh while reading YA books. I’m always nit-picking what the narrator says and I think to myself, “ok would a teenager REALLY think that?!” but Thomas completely nailed it. She knows her audience, captures them, shocks them, and then does it all over again with her adult readers too.

If you want a stroll down your high school memory lane, with a hint of added small town mythology, dark secrets, and crime, this one’s for you. I’m rating Little Monsters 5/5 because I want to live in Broken Falls and just insert myself into this small town and their mysteries. I guess I will just have to keep reading Kara Thomas’ books to fill the Little Monsters, and PLL-esque high school drama, shaped void in my heart now!

Next book by her: The Cheerleaders! Already included it as a space on my Winter Bookworm Bingo card. If you haven’t already checked that out, see my last post for details!

 

Introducing: Winter Bookworm Bingo!

Happy Tuesday my fellow bookworms! Winter is beginning to show herself early here in (Northern) California in the form of rain, rain, and more rain. But being the bi-coastal dweller I am, I’m getting ready to go back to NYC this week and know I will be in for a chilly awakening! I was completely devastated that I missed the first snow of the season there, because it’s by far the most magical day of the year in New York. Everyone in the city has this collective childlike-joy that’s vibrant and completely contagious. Even though I missed that day, I’m eager for the inevitable holiday excitement that happens in NYC in December like Christmas markets and snow days.

So in anticipation of that excitement, I would like to introduce a new section I’ve been planning: a winter edition of Bookworm Bingo! I’m going to be making my own Bingo cards at the beginning of each new season that can act as a guide, challenge, or just inspiration for your next book choice. If you’re anything like me and can read the same genre for 10 books in a row, it’s a good way to branch out of a cycle and dip your toes into something new. And what better way to try something new than by doing it as a part of a game?!

My rules are:

+ you’re not allowed to use the same book for two spaces
+ you can use one dnf book
+ you can do a reread, of course!

Aaaaand here it is… Bookworm Bingo: Winter Edition!

BINGO

Before I even thought about making this a blog section, I made this as a way to challenge myself to get into more genres. Since I am now sharing it with y’all, I figured it’s also a good way to introduce some books on my TBR for winter! Because I’m incredibly indecisive, I’m sure this list will change 100 times by the end of winter, but here is just a little taste:

+ Holiday-themed cozy: In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon (Netgalley read), ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost (Netgalley read), Slay Bells by TC Wesscott (Netgally read)
+ Cabin setting: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
+ Snow on the cover: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden
+ 2018 winter release: The Anonymous Girl, technically to be released January 2019.
+ Compilation of short stories: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories by Raymond Carver, A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
+ Blue, white, silver cover: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
+ Book then movie: You by Caroline Kepnes, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
+ LGBT+: This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
+ Retelling: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
+ Book in Europe: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Amsterdam)
+ Funny book: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
+ Memoir/biography: I’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends (YES I’m letting a biography about a show or fictional characters count!), Becoming by Michelle Obama
+ Recipe: Probably going to do a lot of these! Probably a lot of macaroni and cheese ones, specifically….
+ Female lead: The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
+ Book you own but never read: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
+ Gift book: Nightfilm by Marisha Pessl (thanks Emily!!)
+ Heartwarming or feel-good: One Day in December by Josie Silver
+ Published year you were born: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
+ Thriller you can finish in one day: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (hopefully one day?!)
+ POC lead: An American Marriage by Tarayi Jones, The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
+ Banned book for winter: The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (is this in winter?? Are there bears again?!)
+ Summer/hot setting: Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard, In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
+ One word title: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
+ Goodreads choice: The Outsider by Stephen King

Have you read anything on this list that you recommend or don’t recommend? Anything you loved or anything that you read and have already forgotten about? What about any ideas that you have for me for these spaces? Let me know in the comments! I want opinions since I haven’t read anything on this list yet and am curious what y’all think.

Good luck with Bookworm Bingo and HAPPY READING!

Gift Guide for the Thriller-Lover in Your Life

I don’t know about you guys, but when I was a kid, I always got socks for Christmas. You know what I hated getting for Christmas? Socks. You know what I secretly hope everyone gets me for Christmas now? Socks. Socks and books. Now my holidays are spent in my warm, cozy Christmas socks snuggled up with the newest thriller or a classic mystery, and I know I’m not the only one. If you’re like me, or your loved one is like me, you’re always on the hunt for one of these types of books. Well, look no further, because I have the perfect book gift guide for every thriller-lover in your life. Or for yourself if you like to spoil yourself with new books as much as I do. 

FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO EMBRACE THE WINTER COLD: 

An Unwanted Guest By Shari Lapenaunwantedguest

I’m originally from California, where the winter is maybe 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the year. During this time, I like to pretend I understand what a “white Christmas” is and read books that will give me the chills- both in the weather and the thrill. And is there a better way to welcome the chilly weather than by murder(s) in a winter resort that’s freezing cold and the guests are even colder? Maybe even cold blooded? This who-done-it is an atmospheric page turner that would make anyone stay up late in their fuzzy socks just to figure out what happens next. A quick read that I devoured in one day would be sure to be perfect for anyone craving a cold case. Grab your blankets and hot chocolate for this one!

Goodreads Description:

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway. . . until the bodies start piling up. It’s winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell’s Inn is so delightful! The cozy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a book and someone you love. So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. The power’s down but they’ve got candles, blankets, and wood–a genuine rustic experience! Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there’s nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they can survive the storm. 

FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO ESCAPE THE WINTER COLD:

The Dry by Jane Harperthedry

Maybe you’ve had enough of the cold cases? Both with the weather AND in your books? Maybe you need a warmer book, but certainly not warm-hearted in this thriller! Set during a drought in Australia, you might almost forget it’s winter here because you will practically hear the dry grass in the hot air, see the falling flies, and feel sweat drip down your face as you read this incredibly descriptive page-turner. I read this book last winter and not only is it beautifully written, it’s a great mystery and a touching story. The book hooked me from the first chapter and kept me guessing until the very end. Now excuse me while I impatiently wait for Harper’s third book in the Aaron Falk series to come out.

Goodreads Description:

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier. 
But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds in bleed into new ones.

FOR THE PERSON WHO MISSES CHILDHOOD SUMMER CAMP:

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

thelasttime

Ah, summer camp as a kid: swimming in the lake, taking art classes, your friends go missing in the night never to be seen again… wait what? That last one didn’t happen to you? Well it does to Emma in this creepy mystery-thriller by Riley Sager. What can I say, I love creepy, atmospheric, descriptive novels that make me feel like I’m at the scene of the crime, and this book does not disappoint. I felt like I was returning to a childhood summer camp, but with less missing persons for me. I got this book when it first came out because I love campy stuff, and I ate this book up in a matter of days. This hit all my boxes: teenage secrets, spooky cabins, weird families, dark histories, and a haunted heroine. Just be sure not to check your kids into any Camp Nightingales this winter.

Goodreads Description:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

FOR THE PERSON ANXIOUS TO RETURN TO THEIR CREEPY, SMALL HOME TOWN:

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

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Maybe you don’t want to return to your childhood summer camp, but what about your dreaded hometown that was once the place of your best friend’s disappearance? Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls was my top read for 2018, a novel told in reverse about two disappearances that shake a small town. This book is creepy. Maybe you want a chilling read for the chilly weather, but I personally couldn’t read this alone or in the dark, it’s that good at creeping me out. I say that with the highest praise because I don’t get scared of mysteries easily, but this one was so atmospheric in a way that I had never read before, and I savored every second of it. This book made me want to hug the main character and be her friend. If you can scare me AND make me feel every human emotion, it’s a pretty good book.

Goodreads Description:

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

FOR THE PERSON A LITTLE TOO OBSESSED WITH SOCIAL MEDIA:

The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent

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We all know that person, the person who spends all day checking their Instagram or blog obsessively. Ok maybe I’m sometimes that person… But what about when your constant blog scrolling leads you to your daughter who you had to give up for adoption years earlier? The Memory Watcher introduces us to Autumn, whose social media scrolling does just this. I loved Autumn, she was such a fun character for me to read, and completely unlike any other narrator I’ve met. Minka Kent paints a very unique picture of the connections between social media, lies, family secrets, and the lengths we go for the people we love. This book took me maybe two days to finish, because I was so eager to get the truth. Give this as a hint to someone to maybe get off social media every now and then, you never know what you’ll stumble upon!

Goodreads Description:

When Autumn Carpenter stumbles upon the social media account of the family who adopted her infant daughter years ago, she finds herself instantly drawn into their picture-perfect existence. 
 
From behind a computer screen, Autumn watches Grace’s every memory, from birthdays to holidays to bedtime snuggles. But what starts as an innocent fascination spirals into an addictive obsession met with a screeching halt the day the McMullen family closes their Instaface account without so much as a warning. 
 
Frantic and desperate to reconnect with her daughter, Autumn applies for a nanny position with the McMullens, manipulating herself into Grace’s life under false pretenses. And it’s only then that Autumn discovers pictures lie, the perfect family doesn’t exist, and beautiful people? They have the ugliest secrets.

FOR THE PERSON SECRETLY CURIOUS WHAT A CULT WITH THEIR SPOUSE WOULD BE LIKE:

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

marriage

I should have titled this: “For the person who secretly curious what a cult with their spouse would be like, wants a wild switch up from the average domestic thriller, and just craves a fun, completely insane roller coaster of a book” buuuut that might have been too long of a title perhaps. My alternate title completely sums it up: the is a wild ride and quite the stray from the other domestic thrillers that are popular right now. This book somehow manages to be one of the darkest I read this year, but also one of the most fun. Does that make me sound twisted?! This book asks you to suspend a bit of belief, but after all of the cheating husbands and crazy children in the recent domestic dramas I’ve read, I was happy for a weird little change. If you’re like me and want to laugh, get creeped out, and scream at the characters: this is the ultimate read.

Goodreads Description:

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . 

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS A LITTLE LESS MYSTERY, A LITTLE MORE SPUNK THIS WINTER:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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If you haven’t gotten the chance to read this one, RUN do not walk to your nearest bookseller, and do yourself a huge favor this winter. This book is a little different from the others on my list, but that’s not to say I wasn’t thrilled and terrified while reading it. The Bear and the Nightingale is a dark retelling of an ancient Russian fairy tale, filled with demons, magic, and of course, a spunky and strong heroine. If you couldn’t already tell, I read a lot of thrillers, but this was such a magical stray for me. This book actually thrilled me in a way other books this year hadn’t. Above all, this book was just a work of art both in the writing and in the story. For this reason, it is the ultimate winter read and the perfect gift for a lover of all things thrills, magic, and a little chill.

Goodreads Description:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Have you read any of these thrilling novels this year? Are there any books you are hoping to give or receive this holiday season? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your wish lists for this year!

November: Case Closed!

Case Closed is a wrap up of the previous months’ reads, q+a’s, top 10s, and all things books.

Happy December! As we make our way into the winter months (and of course Christmas-themed cozy mysteries), I wanted to close the case of November’s thrilling reads.

But first, I want to start by saying that November was a pretty exciting and monumental book month for me. Why? My first blog posts! After months of religiously following bookstagrams, reading a plethora of Goodreads reviews, and even joining NetGalley, I decided it was finally time to take the plunge. More specifically, I needed to stop sitting on the sidelines as a spectator to my favorite sport: book-reviewing. Let’s face it, my life recently has been all things reading, especially thrillers, and instead of reviewing every psycho-domestic-drama to my fiance after each one I finish, it was time I put my thoughts down on (electronic) paper. So officially- HELLO- and welcome to that space for all things thrilling and compelling, hopefully you think the same of my reviews.

Another exciting November moment was joining Book of the Month club. You got me, Instagram ads, I finally caved. I am constantly driving myself crazy deciding what book to choose next (even though my TBR is a mile long) and choosing 1 (ok maybe 2) of 5 books per month is right up my indecisive alley. This month I chose The Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and I cannot wait until my box arrives. I absolutely loved The Wife Between Us (did anyone see that twist coming?!) and hope The Anonymous Girl shocks me again. Review to come!

Ok back to my November reads. With Halloween being one of my favorite holidays, I never want the spooky books to end! Even after all of the ghost and witch decorations are replaced by cornucopias, I want to be spooked in my reading life. So naturally my first pick of November was a twisty read with a backdrop of a strange and almost magical happenings: The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti. This was a solid 4/5 read for me, as I was hooked to the story from the first chapter, and was kept guessing throughout the novel. Moretti has a gift for writing realistic characters, with just the right amount of unexplained magic set in the background. But don’t be mislead- The Blackbird Season is a real mystery, with real people and real domestic drama. The hints to witchcraft and magic are just a fun detail. As an owner of more than one Tarot deck, I really enjoyed the small connections to those witchy practices like Lucia and Bridget. The ending was a shocker to me for sure, but did leave a few questions unanswered, hence the 4/5. Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good twist and more specifically: witchy undertones, domestic drama, high school secrets, and potentially questionable characters.

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My next choice The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) by Phillip Pullman. This was a buddy read with my fiance. (Is it still a “buddy read” if it’s with your long distance partner?!) Every few weeks, we like to read a book together to close the gap on our distance, and have something that feels like another connection when we are a country apart. I love knowing I’m reading the same pages he is reading, and wondering what he thinks while he gets to certain parts. In this case, he had seen the movie and knew a lot of major plot points, and was eager to know my thoughts. As a kid (and of course still now, Game of Thrones fans anyone?!) I loved all things magic and fantasy. For some reason though, I never got around to The Golden Compass. Probably because I was too busy watching the same Harry Potter movie two times in a row some days. So young Katie, this one is for you. The Golden Compass was nothing short of fantastic, filled with adventure, a spunky heroine, witches (I swear I’m not only into witch things!), lovable and cuddly demons, and phenomenally written characters. My only complaint about this story was that it made me realize I will never be able to have my own personal demon like Pan, the shape shifting companion. I can’t express the amount of times I wanted to squeeze my kitty and pretend he was my Pan. This story filled my heart, broke it, and then filled it over the top again through friendship, loss, evil, and finally friends-becoming-family. I already bought the Subtle Knife in anticipation to find out what will become of Lyra, Pan, and their new friends. Unquestionable 5/5, now I just have to impatiently wait for the HBO series that was just signed.

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My third November read was Into The Water by Paula Hawkins, which is kind of cheating since this long book spanned about 3 months for me, and finally finishing in November. That is not to say this book took me that long, but rather I took this book with me everywhere, savoring every beautiful word that left Hawkins’ pen as slowly as possible. This was typically my plane read, my travel read, my liminal space read. Whenever I fly, which is quite often lately (hence the long distance relationship), I feel like I am in a space between spaces and Into The Water was such an escape from my reality that it was the perfect read for this kind of feeling. When I was in a plane, or a hotel room, I was actually a woman in Beckford, questioning the lives and fates of troublesome women before me. If you can’t tell, this was perhaps one of my favorite reads this year, as it touched me in a way I haven’t felt in awhile. I should preface by saying I did not like the Girl on the Train- the story was ok, the writing was fine, the characters were meh, and the hype was just the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I procrastinated reading Into The Water because I was afraid I would read ~450 pages just to wonder why I wasted my time again. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Into The Water made me stay up late reading, stay up later analyzing, and even later questioning if I should go back to page 1 and start all over again. The novel was filled with loss, teenage angst, more loss, childhood trauma, more loss, a history of witches and magic (ok ok, maybe I really do need witchy themes! Fine, I’ll admit it!), another loss, and powerful women. To be honest I will be processing this book for awhile, and all I can say was that absolutely blew me Out Of The Water (sorry, terrible pun.) I’m sorry Paula I put this off for so long, and if anyone is wondering if they should read it, DO SO. So obviously this was another 5/5 read for me and a contender for favorite of the year.

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The last book I want to micro-review today is my last book of November, but certainly not least favorite! Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra was actually the most underrated book I read this year. After finishing Into The Water, I was worried I would get into a reading slump and that nothing would resonate with me as much. Although Only Daughter was a fast burning and twisty roller coaster unlike the slow burn drama of Into The Water, I felt just as impacted after finishing. Only Daughter had one of the most viscerally satisfying endings of a thriller that I’ve read in a long time. I almost didn’t want to start another book after this one, because I wanted to keep Only Daughter in my head for a long time after. Nowadays every thriller wants to live up to Gone Girl, but Only Daughter needs to be on more people’s radars as one of the most surprising twists all on its own. I’ve been the most hesitant to review this one, even micro-review it, for fear of giving too much away, and all I want to say is go in blind if this premise interests you even slightly. I was unsure if I wanted to read it at first, but I finished it in 2 days because I could not put it down. This book is CREEPY. Major heebie jeebies from this one, the most scared I have felt reading a thriller since All The Missing Girls, which is also a contender for favorite of the year for me. There is something dark and demonic feeling about this book, and I have to face it that the witchy undertones are something I really crave in a book, like the seance and spell that Bec has in this one. Ok I keep saying I don’t want to give too much away, and then I keep typing. One last thing- Bec is my fictional soulmate best friend and I wish I had her when I was 16. I also wished I was from Australia but that is a topic for another day.

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Alright friends! That was a pretty lengthy post, and props to you if you made it all the way through. Since it was my first Case Closed for a month, I wanted to give little short thoughts of each of my November reads since I don’t have any actual reviews for them, being a new blogger and all. I am incredibly content with my November reads, with a majority being favorites of all time.

Stay tuned for a thrilling December! I plan on reading a few cozies from NetGalley, my December BOTM read (The Anonymous Girl), and just started Little Monsters by Kara Thomas. I read some reviews from my idol bloggers who said they would compare it to Pretty Little Liars, which is my not-so-secret guilty pleasure and my all time favorite TV show, so I’m excited to see where this one goes.

That’s a wrap for November my friends, case closed!

 

Review: Child of the Moon by Jessica Semaan

ABOUT:cotm

Name– Child of the Moon
Author– Jessica Semaan
Genre– Poetry
Source– Author/Netgalley
Katie’s case– 4/5

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DESCRIPTION:

In between being your mother and father,
I forgot to be your daughter
And became the child of the moon

“In her debut collection, Semaan offers an upfront & moving glimpse into the true nature of healing: an imperfect, nonlinear journey”–Amanda Lovlace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one

An illustrated poetry collection about finding light in the darkness. Set against the backdrop of the Lebanese Civil War and the author’s turbulent family life, Child of the Moon is a powerful reflection on her journey through fear, shame and despair, and the unconditional love that helped her begin to heal from childhood trauma.

REVIEW:

Child of the Moon captures the journey of grief, trauma, and probably most profoundly- healing- and the many, nonlinear forms it comes in. Jessica Semaan’s diverse range of poetry will inspire a connection with anyone who is lost, lonely, or suffers from self doubt.

I was moved by Semaan’s ability to open herself in such a raw and relatable way to all of us fellow children of the moon, and I appreciate her hard hitting honesty in areas we need to hear it most. I also loved her poetic devices, such as rhyme, which I feel a lot of poets I’ve read recently have done away with. I enjoyed how some verses were fun and clever, while others resonated on a deeper emotional level, and that everything was different.

Besides the genuine, heartfelt, and resonating writing- the illustrations between the sections are simply beautiful. I think I will be purchasing a physical copy if just for the illustrations.

I read this book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down, bookmarked half of “New Moon,” and already know I will be returning to it again soon. Thank you Jessica Semaan for sharing your empowering story with us and thank you Andrews McMeel Publishing for the free copy of this book!

AUTHOR JESSICA SEMAAN: 
author goodreads

Review: Virulent by Jason Scott Melo

ABOUT:virulent

Name– Virulent
Author– Jason Scott Melo
Genre– Thriller, Horror
Source– Author
Katie’s case– 5/5

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DESCRIPTION:

virulent
adjective
1. (regarding a disease) extremely severe or harmful in its effects
2. bitterly hostile

A county epidemiologist and his summer intern are sent to investigate a potential outbreak at a research facility deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Soon after their arrival at All Cure, Dr. Chuck Sparrows and Nina Cabugao find themselves in a situation far more sinister than either could have ever imagined when they agreed to take on the case.

A strong will to live will be just as important as their infectious disease training if they hope to make it out of the mountains alive.

REVIEW:

What a gripping page turner! Melo’s background in epidemiology, paired with his incredibly fresh voice in the subject, truly make for an excellent thriller. You get the best of both worlds, an insight into the world of outbreaks, but also a chilling and skilled style.

I tend to go for books with a strong atmospheric component; I want to feel like I am right there with all of the characters. Melo’s latest novella does not disappoint. You can practically feel the treacherous and sinister setting throughout this novel as chills will run down your spine in real life. You can feel a range of emotion in this book as the characters have to know how to trust and know how to trust their own guts.

Without giving too much away, go into this book knowing you will not want to put it down until you have reached the very last page. I already cannot wait to reread it in the future!

AUTHOR JASON SCOTT MELO:
author wordpress
author goodreads