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Photo Review – All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

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All the Crooked Saints

by Maggie Stiefvater

Summary: From bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, a gripping tale of darkness, miracles, and family. Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Source: I purchased a signed hardcover

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Review:

Man, do you ever just open a book, begin reading, and sigh because this was exactly what you needed? That’s how I felt when I picked up All the Crooked Saints. I remembered just how much I adore Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.

This has been my second 5 star read of the year, which I guess isn’t terrible considering it’s only April.

I loved the characters, the quirkiness of the story, and the way that nothing is really explained, yet everything makes sense. The desert setting felt natural, despite never having read a Stiefvater book that doesn’t have forests of some sort.

Magical realism isn’t the genre for everyone because it can be frustrating that these weird things happen and somehow, that’s not what people are talking about. I thought the book was well written and I was engrossed in the characters and the fate of the family.

I loved the way miracles were performed and what each person had to go through to have their “second miracle” and be saved.

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Star 5

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – A book about Mexican culture or mythology

2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – A book I meant to read in 2018

Photo Review – Renegades (Renegades #1) by Marissa Meyer

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Renegades (Renegades #1)

by Marissa Meyer

Summary: Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Renegades was a cool story about heroes and villains in a future where chaos reigned and many people had superpowers. The Renegades were members of an organization of superheroes also trying to keep the peace and govern the citizens. The main character, Nova, was a villain and part of her recent task was to join the Renegades as a spy since no one knew who she was or that she was in league with other villains.

The themes were comic book themes, but the book was a novel, which was what prompted me to pick it up. I’m just not a comic or graphic novel kind of person, but I enjoy the stories and themes. I really enjoyed Vicious by VE Schwab, so I felt like this was right up my alley.

I’m going through a phase where I think I might be too old for a lot of YA, maybe my tastes have changed, but sometimes I’ll grab a YA that makes me think maybe I’m not too old, I’m just picky. Either way, this story wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped and maybe it’s because it’s just me or it’s just the same old YA. I’m starting to think my love of the Lunar Chronicles by the same author is a fluke because I haven’t enjoyed anything else I’ve picked up by her as much.

Decide for yourself. It’s fun, I flew through it, and I’d probably read the rest of the series if they were out right now.

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Star 3

Fox and Wit Challenge – A book about someone with a superpower

2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – a book about someone with a superpower

Photo Review – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

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

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

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my library

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Review:

I’ve heard so much praise about this book and I’ve enjoyed most of Reese’s Book Club picks so far. I put a hold on it for the digital copy through my library and waited months to finally read it. I almost ran out of time before my borrow was expiring, so I hunkered down and got to reading, knowing it would be another few months if I had to return it and begin a new hold.

I’m really glad I read this one and I think it’s deserving of the hype. It’s rare that I feel that way, especially about a contemporary novel, but it was really good.

I enjoyed Kya as a character. My heart ached for her as she was abandoned, left to fend for herself, the talk of the town.. a girl learning how to survive in a marsh. She longed for her family, human connection, and love. The story followed her childhood and then flashed to a later time when a body was discovered in the marsh. It flashed back and forth as the full story emerged. I was engrossed in it all.

It was a book about finding connections, love, survival, and identity. The townspeople treated her very wrong, but she persevered anyway.

And man.. that ending!

I definitely recommend this one. It was so unique and compelling. I truly enjoyed reading it, even if it’s not my typical genre.

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Star 4

A book I think should be turned into a movie (2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge)

Photo Review – The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos

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The Precious One

by Marisa de los Santos

Summary: From the bestselling author of Belong to Me, Love Walked In, and Falling Together comes a captivating novel about friendship, family, second chances, and the redemptive power of love
In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.
Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once.
Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister — a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?
Told in alternating voices — Taisy’s strong, unsparing observations and Willow’s naive, heartbreakingly earnest yearnings — The Precious One is an unforgettable novel of family secrets, lost love, and dangerous obsession, a captivating tale with the deep characterization, piercing emotional resonance, and heartfelt insight that are the hallmarks of Marisa de los Santos’s beloved works.

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my library

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Review:

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really want to read this book when it was selected as my local book club monthly read. It sounded like one of those wholesome contemporary fiction novels that would be achingly sweet, but it wasn’t at all one of those stories.

I really enjoyed the book from the very first page. The book began with Taisy and I immediately liked her, felt for her, and understood her family history and dynamics were strange. Her father basically had a new family and a daughter he preferred. He was rude and terrible, but seemed to care about the fate of his precious new daughter. The other POV was of Willow, the other daughter, the loved one. It was such an interesting POV to have and one that I didn’t expect.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the book and I wanted to see how it would play out. I actually cared about all of the characters, even when they were at odds with one another. It was interesting to get two completely opposite types of POVs because I felt like I understood the motivations of both characters and hoped they’d eventually come together and stop blaming each other.

It wasn’t just family drama, but a book about being human, keeping secrets, becoming your own person, and making mistakes.

I highly recommend the book. It was fun, thought provoking, and unique. I’m glad I cracked it open for the book club.

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Star 4

 

Photo Review – Different Seasons by Stephen King

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Different Seasons

by Stephen King

Summary: From the Magical Pen of Stephen King, Four Mesmerizing Novellas…

“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”

An unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge…the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award nominee The Shawshank Redemption.

“Apt Pupil”

Todd Bowden is one of the top students in his high school class and a typical American sixteen-year-old—until he becomes obsessed about the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. The inspiration for the film Apt Pupil from Phoenix Pictures.

“The Body”

Four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. The film Stand By Me is based on this novella.

“The Breathing Method”

A disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death.

Source: I purchased a used paperback

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Review:

I enjoyed this collection of some of King’s not quite so horrific tales.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption was the same story I recognize from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, just not as in depth due to the fact that it’s a novella. I loved the story and I’m glad I read it, even though it wasn’t quite the same.

Apt Pupil is also a movie of the same title that I’ve seen before, but the novella was even more disturbing in my opinion. The way that both Todd and Mr. Denker feed off of each other was fascinating and disturbing.

The Body is also a movie, Stand by Me, but one I have never seen. I think this was my favorite of the bunch because it showed the beauty and tragedy of growing up. I felt transported to the summer the 4 boys embarked on their adventure. I wanted to know more and could’ve read a long novel about the 4 of them. They each had their own stories and backgrounds and the summer of the body changed them to some degree. The movie is definitely on my to-watch list now.

The Breathing Method brought a little more horror into the collection with the wintry nights, the weird club, and the spooky and haunting tales told inside. I thought it ended the collection perfectly with a bit of a chill.

I am so glad I finally picked this collection up!

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Star 4

Fox and Wit Reading Challenge – Book that makes you feel nostalgic

2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – Book that makes you feel nostalgic

Photo Review – What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

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What Alice Forgot

By Liane Moriarty

Summary: Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

Source: I borrowed a Kindle copy from my library

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Review:

Man, this book really made me think about life, the passage of time, and how the people and things around us can influence us. Parts of it were hard and frustrating to read because it was clear that Alice, who couldn’t remember any of the previous 10 years, had turned into someone completely different and no one would tell her how it happened. I couldn’t even imagine!

I like Liane Moriarty books because they are engrossing and keep me on the edge of my seat, but yet most of them have made me reflect on some pretty deep things, despite the clear suburban type of drama going on. This book definitely made me think about how important it is to have a good relationship with your spouse and do things together and not let the drama of others slowly tear you apart. Marriages do not need big and terrible things to crumble.

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Star 4

Photo Review – Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Eat, Pray, Love

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Summary: Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned 30, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. She had everything an educated, ambitious American woman was supposed to want: a husband, a house, a successful career. But instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed with panic, grief, and confusion. She went through a divorce, a crushing depression, another failed love, and the eradication of everything she ever thought she was supposed to be.

To recover from all this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself the time and space to find out who she really was and what she really wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, and undertook a yearlong journey around the world, all alone. Eat, Pray, Love is the absorbing chronicle of that year. Her aim was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature set against the backdrop of a culture that has traditionally done that one thing very well. In Rome, she studied the art of pleasure, learning to speak Italian and gaining the 23 happiest pounds of her life. India was for the art of devotion, and with the help of a native guru and a surprisingly wise cowboy from Texas, she embarked on four uninterrupted months of spiritual exploration. In Bali, she studied the art of balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence. She became the pupil of an elderly medicine man and also fell in love the best way, unexpectedly.

An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, Eat, Pray, Love is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society’s ideals. It is certain to touch anyone who has ever woken up to the unrelenting need for change.

Source: I borrowed a kindle copy

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Review:

I decided to read this book for the Fox and Wit Challenge as Book About Food and it worked well because it also fit the 2019 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt of a book with over 1 million ratings on Goodreads, which I knew I would struggle with, having read so many of the ones I’d want to read.

I should probably start with the fact that I don’t think this book was ever really for me and I think I knew that going in, but I expected to roll my eyes at the cheesiness of “finding yourself” in a new place, but still enjoy the story overall. I did not expect to hate it.

I know a few people who really enjoyed the book and a couple of them have even been inspired by it so much that I think they’d call it life changing. If you recently went through a divorce or have lived a life solely devoted to others and generally never splurged on yourself or if you’ve been in an abusive situation where you’ve never stretched your own wings, then perhaps this book really is for you and is life changing to some degree. If you are quite selfless, it is kind of nice to see someone be utterly selfish and not be ashamed of it and perhaps it can inspire you to finally start doing things for you. And if that’s what you got out of it, then I’m happy and feel that perhaps this book has done some good.

For me, I was mostly disgusted, aggravated, and appalled by the author/narrator. She was completely self centered. She was paid to travel and write about her experiences, but it never occurred to her to view the world outside her own lens. She never really talked about other people in the places she went, unless she mentioned how they interacted with her or further served her purposes. It was just completely insane to me how shallow the whole book was. She rubbed me wrong from the very beginning with her whining, but I assumed that once she embarked on her trip, she would explore and be less frustrating.

I thought I would get a glimpse of trying new things through food, spirituality, and friendships.

I think part of my problem was her attitude about life. She was the kind of person who would let the ocean drift her out to sea on a raft as part of the will of the universe and completely ignore the paddle she’s holding because it would be far too difficult to paddle determinedly back to shore. She’d write a long monologue about how the land is getting smaller and do nothing to save herself. She travels and never plans ahead, but gets lost and anxious and overwhelmed on her travels. She spent all of this time lost in her own relationship drama in her head and ignored the sights and sounds and real experiences you can have in places if you just look beyond your own self. She chooses to compare the struggles of the areas around her to her own emotional baggage and that’s kind of where she lost me.

She looked for the easy way out of things and then, if actually challenged and successful, she patted herself on the back like she was a pro and scoffed at her “less spiritual” friends who could never dream of understanding that struggle. (She actually struggled with this part of life in the Ashram where they had to recite a mantra that she hated and also she struggled to meditate. She tried everything to get out of reciting the mantra, asked for permission to skip the morning mantra, and was told absolutely not because if it bothers you, it must be hitting a nerve and she must work it out spiritually. So she did, she worked hard to overcome her issues and was able to recite the mantra and meditate successfully and she became determined to show up everyday. It was a great lesson if it stopped there, but afterwards, her attitude about how successful she was and how her friends in New York just wouldn’t “get” her time at the Ashram really bothered me. She did almost nothing the entire time in Italy and India that she didn’t want to do, so overcoming ONE thing is not an excuse to just parade around being proud and arrogant.)

I think maybe the personalities of the author and myself are just at odds and I found myself frustrated by her attitude and her habits. Perhaps it wasn’t the same for other people and I’m trying to be as fair as possible, but I absolutely hated Eat, Pray, Love. I don’t think it was what it was advertised to be, I don’t think it is or should be inspirational, and the whole thing just seemed fake. She glossed over the surface of what being in those countries is probably like and I felt no authenticity to her quest for enrichment.

Apologies if this review seems harsh. I do understand that sometimes, when you’re in emotional turmoil, you can be stuck inside your own headspace and not realize it. I do not have issues with her feeling and thinking the ways she did. I have more of an issue with her publishing all of it under the guise of a memoir with inspiration and travel and sharing it with the world when she didn’t fully embrace her own experiences in a meaningful way.

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Star 1

For fun, here are my Goodreads updates:

17% First, you “grieved with NY” after 9/11 as your divorce was ramping up which I find utterly self centered. Did you grieve FOR NYC or just for yourself?!
Now, you’re in Rome and say “it’s like the whole society is conspiring to teach me Italian. They’ll even print their newspapers in Italian while I’m here; they don’t mind!” And I just can’t with this self centered narration! It’s not cute.

18% Seriously, you can’t complain about being lost and out of place while traveling in the same paragraph where you admit you never plan ahead when you travel, preferring to just see what happens.. that’s WHY you’re so GD confused and quite literally lost. I literally hate this person and want to throw this book.

23% Even now, she’s describing the people she’s met and it’s still al about what it means to her or for her to have met these people, not who the people really are aside from surface descriptions. Now she can one up her other friend since she has a new friend with a weird name, she gets to teach one English, blah blah blah still all about her her her. It’s maddening.

38% Oh, an entire chapter about feeling fat and buying pants. I feel so enlightened. *rolls eyes*

40% “I don’t want to insult anyone by drawing too much of a comparison between myself and the long suffering Sicilian people.” So… don’t. Just stop right now. “I will say that the same thing which has helped generations of Sicilians hold their dignity has helped me begin to recover mine…” oh, never mind, you ARE going to keep going.

49% “Here I am in this sacred place… and all I can think about is my ex boyfriend? What am I, in eight grade?”
How am I almost halfway through and she still doesn’t realize that all of her problems stem from the fact that she’s self centered? How has no one has brought this up? Get over yourself, let yourself go.

66% The Ashram part hasn’t been nearly that bad, especially as she tends to realize she is part of her problem and seeks to correct it and get serious, but now that she’s been successful with meditation, she begins to sound a little condescending about how her NY friends are missing out by not being spiritual. One step forward, two steps back.