Nicole's Monthly Reading Dispatch - April 2018

A post dedicated to Nicole's latest reads and reviews...

Nicole's Rating Scale: ☕ to ☕☕☕☕☕ coffee cups, 1 representing my least favorite, 5 I highly enjoyed it

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, Winternight book #2 -- ☕☕☕☕

My Review: The second book in the Winternight series was another enjoyable read centered around Vasya’s latest adventures. The medieval Russian fantasy continues to be intriguing and a strange unusual tail. Book #2 focuses a bit more on Moscow and roles/expectations at that time, which I found really interesting. I continue to have quite a few questions unanswered, but it doesn't take away from enjoying the story. However, I was bummed to find out that the last book in the series doesn’t come out til August! :(

GoodReads Summary: The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, Remembrance of Earth's Past book #2 -- ☕☕☕☕

My Review: Book #2 in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. The book continues to be interesting and imaginative. Still very much high Science Fiction, but not in a way that would normally have me running. I especially enjoy the Chinese perspective given that most of the science fiction I read these days is American-centric.

GoodReads Summary: This is the second novel in "Remembrance of Earth’s Past", the near-future trilogy written by the China's multiple-award-winning science fiction author, Cixin Liu. 

In The Dark Forest, Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion — four centuries in the future. The aliens' human collaborators have been defeated but the presence of the sophons, the subatomic particles that allow Trisolaris instant access to all human information, means that Earth's defense plans are exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains a secret. 

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four men enormous resources to design secret strategies hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead. 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë -- ☕☕☕

My Review: Admittedly I read this back in January, so it is a late add but I felt compelled to include. I'm not the first one to not love this book nor will I be the last. I knew the typical cristism -- selfish main characters, oddball love story, ridiculous family dynamic -- but despite the feedback, it had been on my list for quite some time and I finally wanted to check that box. I'm so glad I did and not because I enjoyed it so much, but more so because it always gets brought up in literary discussions. Now I can be a part of that club :) It won't go down as one of my favorites, but given it's fame it's worth the read.

GoodReads Summary: Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen -- ☕☕☕☕☕

My Review: I thoroughly enjoyed this and will highly recommend for those that enjoy psychological thrillers. Not too long, not too short, a great fast read over a weekend. At a certain point, there was a shift that left me confused for a bit, but as nuggets of information came to light all became clear in the end.

GoodReads Summary: A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement. You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her. You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.

Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

Mansfield Park.jpg

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen -- ☕☕☕

My Review: In my quest to read more classics in hopes of finding the next Count of Monte Cristo or Jane Eyre (both in my top 10 list of favorite books), I picked up a copy of Mansfield Park. I'm glad I read it, but nothing in comparison to other famous works by Austen. I couldn't relate to the main character, Fanny, who was passive and very dull to me. At the same time her character needed to be for this book to work. Everyone around Fanny was self absorbed and treated her like second class, with the exception of a few. I'm satisfied with the ending and happy to check another classic off the list.

GoodReads Summary: 'We have all been more or less to blame ... every one of us, excepting Fanny' 

Taken from the poverty of her parents' home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny's uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry's attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary's dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords' influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen's most profound works.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab -- ☕☕☕

My Review: I really enjoyed the Darker Shade of Magic series, so I was excited to try another book by the same author. I enjoyed reading it, but wasn't enthralled. I had difficulty buying into the characters and their story, it all seemed a little too simple and straight forward. Having said that, since I am a sucker for a series, I will likely read the second book when this comes out...

GoodReads Summary: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. 

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares -- ☕☕☕

My Review: That was the ending? I can’t... I have about 500 questions still unanswered. I really loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when I read them years and years ago, so was excited for a new book from Ann Brashares. It was certainly an enjoyable read, but I’m still in a state of confusion from the way it ended. I NEED a sequel to be happy about this book.

GoodReads Summary: Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders -- ☕☕

My Review: This book was completely unique from anything else I have read. The writing was creative and I liked the parts that were captured entirely by historical texts. The story told from the ghosts' perspective was interesting, albeit a little disturbing at times, but not captivating. Based on what I have heard from others, listening to this on audible is the best way to experience it. From my experience reading it in hard copy, I can see why. If you want to read it, I would recommend it as an audio book as well.

GoodReads Summary: In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices—living and dead, historical and invented—to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah -- ☕☕☕☕☕

My Review: Wow. That was beautiful, terrifying, painful and incredibly well written. I felt so moved, articulating how much it affected me is difficult. The story still pops up in my mind from time to time and leaves me thinking. This was a five stars.

GoodReads Summary: In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

Like this post? Check out Nicole's Monthly Reading Dispatch - March 2018

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