July: Cased Closed

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

WOOO it’s Friday and DOUBLE WOOO I’m finally making a post after MONTHS of hiatus. It’s seriously been so long since I’ve even written a Case Closed- definitely a pretty accurate reflection of the sad number of books I’ve been reading. I’m super behind on my Goodreads challenge for 2019 too, but hey, that’s why it’s called a “challenge” right? It isn’t supposed to be easy all the time, and that’s ok!

Since it’s been so crazy at work, wedding planning, and travel, July’s Case Closed is actually going to be more of an April-May-June-July Case Closed. That being said, these will be more bite-sized reviews, so I can fit in all my thoughts, especially since it’s been awhile.

My first April read was Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller. This was my first Claire Fuller read, and actually really loved it. I know some of her other books are more cult-classics on Bookstagram and in the thriller world, but I guess I’m just going to make my way backwards to those?38589871

Anyway, Bitter Orange is not a thriller. At least, not in the traditional sense. I, for one, was certainly thrilled, but in more of a creepy, gothic, haunted house sort of way. In fact, the creepy house was probably my favorite character. That being said, this was definitely more of a character study I thought, and even a setting/house study, if that’s a thing. (And yes I know the multiple layers of symbolism of calling it a house study when that’s exactly what the main character is supposedly doing at the house- studying it.) The characters are weird, but you can’t help but want to know everything about them. Except Frances, tbh, I kinda want to know less about her and her weird thoughts.

Like I said, I loved this book, even though it was a really different type of book for me. I normally go for fast paced and un-put-down-able thrillers, and even though this was pretty slow paced, I still couldn’t put it down. I wanted to rate it 4 stars up until the very end, when one little plot piece threw me way into 5/5 territory. A subtle, simple twist that completely caught me off guard and made me suddenly want to write a graduate degree level thesis on the book (don’t worry- I won’t- for all of my readers’ sake.)

Even though I own Swimming Lessons, I have yet to read it, so we will see how that one compares! Maybe you dear readers will be seeing that one in a Case Closed to come. Until then- solid 5 stars for me for BO.

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Although I promised all bite-sized mini reviews, I want to ~close the case~ on not just one book, but five at a time. This is a symbolic wrap up, actually, a metaphor for me closing the case on an entire sub-genre of thrillers I’ve noticed recently. Part of the reason I was in such a reading and writing slump lately was because I read so many vapid, boring, and pointless thrillers that I honestly didn’t even want to review or post about. These new types of twisty thrillers are just that- twists. No actual problem, no well written characters, and no plot to actually make me really care. I felt completely empty after I finished these five books that I didn’t even want to read anymore at all. Hence why I’m currently EIGHT (I know…) books behind on my reading challenge this year. I don’t want to even put that much energy into talking about the books, so these are even less than mini reviews, these will be more like crumbs of reviews. Crumbs of rants actually?

My first rant I want to go off on is A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena. Even though 33984056._SY475_I want to go off on this book, I honestly can’t because I can’t even remember what it’s about. Some trope about losing memory maybe? Who even cares. I don’t. Something about a woman losing her memory, a plethora of dumb red herrings, and an unsatisfying conclusion are the only aspects I can really remember. So, that’s number one, in no particular order, of my vapid thrillers I somehow decided to read the last few months.

Rant number two is going to be about the The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. Actually, 37642030let’s go ahead and combine rant two and three into one here, and talk about In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware too. All I want to say about these is that they are the exact. same. book. Group of friends go into the woods 27834600._SY475_after not talking for awhile, someone ends up dead, someone’s crazy, and everyone is on tons of drugs. These were the two most predictable books I’ve ever read, and that wasn’t even the worst thing about them. They were shallow and completely pointless on top of everything else. There, I saved you TWO reads in one. If you’ve read one, you’ve read the other!

My fourth rant is less of a rant and more of just a sigh: Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris. I 29437949know this is a bit unpopular in the thriller community, so I’m going to blame myself for this one. I try to never get sucked into reading hyped up books from Facebook comments, but this one totally lured me in. This book wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t for me. It was more of a cat and mouse chase than a mystery, and that’s fine if you’re into that. Regardless of what you’re into, though, I still felt this book was shallow with no actual development or plot advancement, just a heart attack on the page.

My final rant is coincidentally my angriest rant of all, and the reason I’ve actually 37561550dropped psychological thrillers for the moment (hey don’t worry, I’ll always still be on the case!) This angering book is The Au Pair by Emma Rous. Sigh. This book was ROUGH for me. I’m actually getting angry again writing this out. Awhile back, I gave my first 2 star review. I gave it 2 stars because I figured, even if I DESPISED every single character, twist, and plot piece, at least I wasn’t bored. I gave it a star up from a single star just because it at least wasn’t boring, because to me, boring is the worst thing a book can be. Well dear readers, this is where I will give my first single star mini review for a book. The Au Pair is everything I just mentioned and it’s abysmally boring. I honestly can’t even believe I finished this book, when I was screaming in my car “OH MY GOD WHO CARES” every chapter. Just… skip this melodramatic, boring, soap opera of a book.

Anyway, I’m going to stop myself right here because I’m already taking up so much blog room on negative thoughts about my recent reads. Honestly though, it’s really important for me to wrap up these reads on paper/desktop screen so that I can really shift in a different direction with my reading challenge. I’m getting myself back on course by closing the case on psycho thrillers at the moment, and focusing on books with depth, lovable characters, and emotional story lines about something other than cheating or memory loss.

These books were all between 1-3 stars for me on Goodreads, so we’ll average that for 2/5 on these.

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With all of that now behind us, I want to make a shout out to two books I read in June that are going to be some of my favorites for 2019: Miracle Creek by Angie Kim and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.

I know, I know, I’m a little late to the party with Little Fires but better late than never, right? Little Fires is a beautiful, moving, and insightful piece of literature that touched me in ways I didn’t know a book could. Like I mentioned (ranted…), I’ve been reading some pretty shallow thrillers, so going right into Little Fires was like a deep, dark plunge into some emotional caves.

I honestly think I’m still processing this book after a month, but I get why it was so 34331079._SY475_popular now. It had everything I didn’t know I needed in a book: themes of motherhood and family, deep culture insights, and of course some small town secrets for good measure. The story telling and plot weaving was amazing in this book, all the characters were tied together in ways THEY didn’t even know they were, and that was a treat as a reader to watch unfold.

Besides the captivating and moving plot, I was so drawn to these characters and honestly, kind of miss them now. I wish I could hang out with Pearl and Mia, go shopping with them, and then give all of the moms a hug. Every mom deserves it for one reason or another.

I also loved how this book really made me think and really ask myself some hard questions. Without giving too much away, I will say that there are issues that come up in this book that no one should have to face, and that there is no right answer too. Who deserves to be a mother? What makes a good mother? What even IS a mother?

This book is incredible, Celeste Ng and I apologize for taking so long to read it. A re-read is definitely in the cards for me, as well as picking up Everything I Never Told You. A friend of mine said the characters are even MORE lovable in that one, so we’ll see!

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The last book I want to wrap up today is Miracle Creek which was, again, possibly my 40121959favorite book of 2019 so far. I got this book in my BOTM subscription because it seemed like everyone was getting it. I loved the cover and the name, but wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a legal thriller that had a lot of medical terms in it. Boyyyy was I wrong. These themes were not only unique, but incredibly captivating and interesting. I learned about a whole new medical tech, while also learning  insights into the immigration culture on the East Coast. Like Little Fires, I loved the themes of family- and all of the good and bad that goes into parenting.

For this mini review, I really want to focus on the characters. These characters are amazingly written. They’re raw and real, and they’re completely and fully human. I loved getting to know their inner thoughts and feelings (except Matt lol he really sucked) and their take on everything going on. Each character is flawed, but that’s what made them so believable and captivating. Each had a struggle I couldn’t even imagine, but was so well written that I felt like I was there with them.

I don’t want to give a single thing away about this plot though, because besides its rawness, it’s still a mystery, and still will keep you guessing until the very end. Go into this book knowing you won’t have a clue what’s the truth, but you will love every second of this gut-wrenching piece of literary magic.

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Alrighty lovely readers! That’s all for this month, er, last four months. Hopefully you will see me in August for more reviews and bookish fun!

 

 

Friday Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag~~

It’s Friday, folks! Like I mentioned in my last post, I’m getting back into the swing of things after my incredibly drawn out winter break, which also means getting back into my regular blogging schedule. Which meeeeans- Friday book tags! I like doing book tags on Friday because they’re just fun and can be kind of silly, just like a total embodiment of a Friday.

I found this Seven Deadly Sins book tag from Crazy For YA and just had to do it. If you’re reading this, PLEASE consider yourself tagged because I want to share the Friday love with this fun tag.

1. Greed~ What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?

My most inexpensive book was technically Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty because I swapped it with another bookworm! If y’all don’t know Ashley Spivey, I sincerely urge you to join her book club on Facebook! She posts the books she’s reading, her rankings, and created this space for people to do the same! For those of you who don’t know her, she’s a former Bachelor contestant who now uses her platform for activism and feminism. Can you tell I love her?! Anyway, she has a spin off group for swapping books, and I traded One Day in December for Nine Perfect Strangers. So yes, I count swapping Nine Perfect Strangers at no cost to me as my most inexpensive book!

Most expensive would probably have to be I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson, but let me tell you I did not “regret this” purchase. Sorry for the lame pun, but I absolutely adore Abbi from Broad City and Disenchantment so supporting her is my pleasure. I’m only a few pages in, but I can tell it’s going to be a really special read for me for many reasons, and definitely going to be worth every penny.

2. Wrath~ What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Definitely Gillian Flynn. It’s not that I love/have a hate relationship with her necessarily, but more of a love/fear relationship. Her books are so well written and compulsive, but they also genuinely terrify me in a way that I think can easily be confused with hatred. I usually hate how terrifying her twists are, hate the unlovable characters, and hate her gut-punch endings, but also admire her for these same abilities. So maybe I am just as twisted as her characters when I say I love to hate these sick aspects?

3. Gluttony~ What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?

Since I have a TBR that’s a mile long, I don’t typically reread very often. I have enough trouble keeping up with my current reads and TBR let alone past books! I actually think the only book I have read more than once was The Awakening, but that was for different classes in high school and college. While I did eat this book up both times, I’m not sure if it necessarily counts since it wasn’t exactly of my own volition.

Instead, I tend to reread short stories and poetry the most. I reread Shirley Jackson’s short stories pretty frequently, I think because they always manage to give me chills even when I know what’s going to happen. I always gravitate toward the classic, The Lottery and The Summer People. I also have read a lot of poetry from Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur and salt. by Nayyirah Waheed multiple times!

4. Sloth~ What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

Uhhh can I answer “my whole unread shelf?” Because I think it could be argued I’m too lazy to read 50% of the books I already own. In all seriousness, I’ve been picking up, reading 5 pages, and putting down the A Song of Fire and Ice series for probably almost 3 years now. It’s not that I don’t like it, or that I’m bored of it, I just have so many fast paced, compulsive, few-day reads that are so much more appealing in the moment than the daunting task of those loooong pages. I will say it is always the book I take to the beach though! A really perfect calm beach read.

5. Pride~ What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

This question made me laugh out loud, because everyone totally has a book they talk about to impress a certain crowd. For some crowds it’s The Bell Jar, for some it’s Pride and Prejudice, and for some it’s Anna Karenina, depending on what’s cool to that circle. When I was in middle school, it was definitely A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that was considered cool and smart for my crowd. In reality, I had NO idea what was going on in that book and actually haven’t picked it up since.

In recent years though, I think my answer would be The Handmaid’s Tale. When Hulu came out with the show and it was all the buzz, I would casually drop in, “well in the book…” like I was some Handmaid’s Tale expert, even though it was simply required reading for me in high school. Ha!

6. Lust~ What attributes do you find attractive in characters?

Oh my God I was in love with BOTH Tuck Everlasting brothers as a kid. I would have stayed young with them forever too…

7. Envy~ What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

Maybe this should be an answer for greed but, um, anything? I absolutely love book gifts. I received a really awesome Ravenclaw edition of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone from my fiance for Christmas and it’s a treasure! Honestly though, if I had a friend or family member who had a book that meant a lot to them, I would love to receive a copy of it. I love connecting with people through books, like reading the same pages and wondering what they thought or felt also reading the book.

This doesn’t feel envious at all… I feel like if I wanted to say something envious, I would say like, I wish I lived at Hogwarts and I’m jealous of all the witches and wizards there! Ok that’s envious and deadly sinful.

Well thanks for stickin’ around, Bookworms! I want to read your answers too! Copy and paste these questions, or just answer below if you don’t want to post. But just know if you read this, I want you to play too! Happy Friday~~~

A Friday Harry Potter Tag

Happy Friday! And I say that with extra emphasis on the “happy” for me today. In case you haven’t seen my latest bookstagram post, my fiance’s parents surprised us with Harry Potter and The Cursed Child tickets last night! It’s a two night show, so we saw part one last night and I’m already counting down the hours until I get to see part two tonight. I can’t spoil any secrets from the show, but it’s pretty freakin’ amazing and truly a one of a kind magical experience.

Since I’m still in a very Potter-ish mood today, I wanted to try out my first tag post! And what better way to get involved in a tag than a Harry Potter tag after seeing The Cursed Child?!

To be honest, I just found this tag at Jenny in Neverland’s blog and wasn’t actually tagged but wanted to use my magical mood for something fun this Friday. Also it can kind of serve as a little get-to-know-me since I haven’t officially posted one yet!

Let’s keep it going! If you haven’t done a Harry Potter tag yet- no time like the present!

1. What house are you in?

I’ve always felt a strange connection to Luna Lovegood and Professor Trelawney, so it should come as no surprise that I am most definitely in Ravenclaw! I’d like to think my witch-self reads the Quibbler religiously and practices divination too.

2. What is your Patronus?

My Patronus is an otter- I’ve taken every detailed quiz on the face of this earth and always get an otter so pretty much confirmed right? Otters represent those who are meticulous, detail-oriented, and like to use their smarts. This aligns perfectly with my house as Ravenclaw, and even with my astrological sign of Virgo. Sorry to coworkers and other group members who constantly have to detail with my determined perfectionist attitude! 

3. What is your wand?

Taken directly from Pottermore- black walnut dragon heartstring core, 13 1/4 with rigid flexibility.

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The black walnut wood is associated with loyalty and special charmwork ONLY if the owner is self aware and honest with him/herself about their intentions. Dragon heartstring is powerful, and bonds very closely with its owner. I also read that it is prone to accidents? Yikes! Rigid flexibility is a pretty surprising characteristic to me, as I feel that I am pretty adaptable and resilient. But this mixed with the black walnut and dragon heartstring makes me feel like the rigidness is not a prevailing factor in the wand. And yes, I am pretty tall!

4. What would your boggart be?

Easy- spiders. Many, many spiders just descending on me. I’m actually squirming in my chair right now just THINKING about multiple spiders being within 10 feet of my person. Me and Ron would be the ultimate anti-dynamic-duo when it comes to spiders. Ok moving on from the spider talk!

5. What position would you play in Quiddich?

Honestly my Quiddich position belongs in the stands… I’m excellent in the stands.

6. Would you be a pure-blood, half-blood or muggle born?

Growing up, it was always me and my dad who did everything Potter-related together. My mom isn’t the biggest fan, so I think my dad would carry the magical weight for me, making me a half-blood I suppose!

7. What job would you want to have after leaving Hogwarts?

I think I would want to start off owning my own shop, maybe in Hogsmead? Or maybe Diagon Alley. And then return to my roots at Hogwarts to become a professor and maybe take over for Trelawney.

8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?

Cloak! I mean, responsibilities to the wizarding world aside, how fun would that be?!

9. Favourite book?

Ugh, what a rude question, can I pick three?! It’s my book tag so I’m cheating and choosing Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Half-Blood Prince. Maybe Half Blood Prince. Yeah.

10. Least favourite book?

Order of the Phoenix? I say this because I remember having nightmares for about 4 days after certain parts…

11. Favourite film?

Once again I want to say my top three, but I’ll try to follow the rules and say Chamber of Secrets. I could just watch that one over and over again. But Prisoner of Azkaban is a very close second!

12. Least favourite film?

I think the Deathly Hallows ones. They’re just hard for me to watch and I don’t feel like I can just sit down and easily watch them like I could for all of the others.

13. Favourite character?

Ok this one is hard because I have so many different types of favorites.  I have my favorite main characters, favorite professors, favorite side characters, favorite hate-able characters, favorite underdog characters, important characters, etc. I feel like trying to answer this question with one answer would keep me up at night.

I will say Remus Lupin for now and then think about this for the rest of my life and change my answer 1,000,000 times.

14. Least favourite/most hated character?

Umbridge, hands down. I love to hate her though!

15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Since I already said Lupin, I’ll say Professor McGonagall. What bad things could even be said about that strong and intelligent woman!

16. Least favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Ugh Professor Lockhart. So annoying. Unfortunate about his memory though…

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I like everything related to Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child too. I love anything that builds the world up more, even if not perfect.

 

Alright witches and wizards! I hope everyone has a happy happy Friday and maybe spreads some magic with this Harry Potter tag! Pictures to come later from my adventures with HP and The Cursed Child 🙂

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?