Book Challenge 2018 — On Fire

I decided to give audio books a try this year. Given that I can devour podcast upon podcast during a week’s time, it seemed to follow that I could listen to books just as well. I had to get over my initial idea that if I weren’t actually using my eyeballs to read the book, that it shouldn’t count as a book I’ve “read.” In the book tracker pages that I keep in my traveler’s notebook, I do make note of the books’ form. I use the short cut of “A” for audio and “K” for kindle. If I  do not denote either, it is a good, old-fashioned paper book that I held in my own two hands.

As January comes to a close, here are the books I have finished. Each one I enjoyed, but all for different reasons.

Pretty GirlsPretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn


Choosing to listen to Dark Places in its audio form likely helped me enjoy it more. Given that the story keeps pace by bouncing among characters and from past to present, the narrator’s skill in voicing those transitions helped me keep things straight as I moved through the book. I have a feeling this is the type of book I would have had to keep flipping back to previous chapters to refresh my memory each time I picked it up–but the audiobook version negated that necessity.
The central mystery to this story engaged me from the opening moments and held me until the end. I love the “Wow…didn’t see that coming” kind of revelations in a good book and this one was chock full. In addition to the engaging mystery, readers have an opportunity to see characters from the inside out–inner monologues plus how other characters are interpreting their behaviors and actions.
As a fan of true crime and cold case investigation media in all its forms, I also found the perspective of Libby Day as she dealt with “enthusiasts” devoted to her family’s tragedy interesting and thought-provoking.

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All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had this book on my to-read list for quite awhile before I reached to top of the hold list at my library. Once I checked it out, I made it about 50 pages before life interfered and I had no hope of finishing the book before my due date arrived. I am not the type to hang onto a book past its due date when I cannot renew it, as that means someone else is waiting on me. So, if I am not close to the end, back to the library it goes and I will try again later.
In deciding to give audiobooks a chance, I realized I could check out this title immediately and did so. I found this story to be simultaneously painful and beautiful–as many stories told about wartime. The quiet bravery and depth of intelligence of Marie-Laure and the cleverness and good heart of Werner Pfennig were silver linings in what could otherwise have been a heavy, depressing tale.
Everything from the setting of the scenes to the mannerisms of the characters were made richer by the author’s thoughtful descriptions.
This is one book that I do not think lost any of its impact by being completed in audio form.

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I Am Watching YouI Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Believe it or not, I devoured this book in one day on my iPhone’s Kindle app. Who knew your kid’s hockey tournament weekend could turn into a real reading opportunity?
This book begins with an ultimate “what would you do” moment and rolls like a locomotive full steam ahead from there. A handful of important characters share the story with the reader in chapters devoted to them and their perspectives. This mystery is covered in layers of secrets that began long before Anna disappears. Once the layers are peeled away, the fate of each of the characters is also known. Just when you think you have it figured out, another fact is thrown into the mix and you have to start your analysis all over again.
I found this book to be a real page turner and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good whodunit with a twist of what would I have done.

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The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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If It’s Good Enough for Stephen King…

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I am willing to stay awake until 2 a.m. on a Sunday night to finish a book, then you know I think it’s a good book. (Of course, the visit to the coffeehouse at 6:30 p.m. may have contributed to my ability to stay awake that long, but only slightly. ) Final Girls did not disappoint.

I tend to enjoy a good thriller, especially when a gruesome murder (or murders) form the core of the plot that ripples to the edges of the book from cover to cover. In this novel, the central character, Quincy, finds herself among a tiny group of individuals known as “final girls.” My viewing of horror films ended at junior high slumber parties ages ago, so I was not familiar with the term. But, I could easily name the character who fulfills the role of the last girl standing in any scary movie–the final girl.

The author spends a good deal of time early in the story building Quincy’s character in a solid way. While some readers may tire of the time spent, I found this important as the book progressed as I found myself frustrated with her behavior and, ultimately, surprised once the layers of her persona are peeled away and her repressed memories resurface for both her and the reader at the same time. By the end of the book, I found myself pushing my eyes to read faster and faster because I wanted to know who did what to whom and when.

This book had many of the tried and true conventions of a solid thriller–a traumatized survivor trying to recreate a sense of normalcy in her life; a love interest who is more for stability that romance; an equally scarred character who enters the fray to knock the traumatized survivor off the pedestal; and a handsome, trustworthy law enforcement officer who quietly supports the survivor after the initial trauma.

If you are looking for a book that can pull you in and quickly chalk up another finished book for your reading challenge stats, Final Girls should be on your list.

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Are You a Mystery Buff?

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)Still Life by Louise Penny

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned about this book through the “What Should I Read Next” podcast. The idea of the book intrigued me because I have always loved a good detective story, especially if the author has created a series of books involving the same detective. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew in elementary school and spent one high school summer reading all the Agatha Christie books in my local library. I looked forward to meeting Armand Gamache and following him through his work.

Even if I did not know this book were the start of a series, I would have figured out it belonged in a series pretty quickly. Not only did it seem like Armand Gamache, the Chief Inspector and main character, would have more stories to tell, it also was clear he had a past–with a few mysteries of its own. I found myself wanting to learn more about those past work experiences that seemed to still sting him as he worked his current case.

The characters in this book proved interesting and certainly an example of the hodge podge of seemingly mismatched people who find themselves bonding in a small town. Having grown up in a “village”, I could relate.

The tension between Gamache and a rookie female inspector provided insight into Gamache’s leadership style, his personality, and foreshadowed work conflicts to come in future books.

An interesting whodunit, Still Life, revolves around the art community in a small Canadian village. A beloved, elderly community member is found dead under suspicious circumstances and it is left to Inspector Gamache to uncover the clues and find her killer.

This book moved fairly quickly for me and because of the fairly sizable collection of people who could have done it, but the constant wondering of why would they have done it, I was surprised at the end–and ready to read the next in the series, A Fatal Grace.

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Reading Challenge Continues…

The Alice NetworkThe Alice Network by Kate Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have found myself reading quite a few women-during-wars books lately. Historical fiction draws me in every time, but not every book makes the deep impression that the Alice Network made.

Wonder if this book could be for you? I enjoyed the Lilac Girls and The Nightingale, but could not force myself to slog through the Zookeeper’s Wife. I learned about The Alice Network in the Goodreads newsletter after finishing the Lilac Girls–one of those “What next?” suggestions. I also think the What Should I Read Next? podcast mentioned this one and it landed on my list. So, if you have found gems on the shelves that way, you definitely will find this book a worthwhile read.

The book focuses on the intersection between three people from very different backgrounds who intersect and form an unlikely traveling trio. Eve, a woman who fights her demons through self-medication; Charlotte “Charlie”, a young American socialite fallen from grace, and Finn, the rakishly handsome Scotsman with demons of his own.

The story glides seamlessly between Eve’s time as a member of a ring of female spies, and thirty years later when Charlie arrives on her doorstep looking for answers surrounding her beloved, missing cousin. The two women clash at first, but Charlie quickly scrambles to her figurative feet and seems to form a tenuous connection with the predictably unpredictable Eve. Finn provides transportation, protection, and the Scottish charm that Eve learned she loved in her espionage days.

If rough language is a problem for you, please know this book contains its fair share. I did not find it distracting or unnecessary. The instances involving sex were not too explicit nor were they gratuitous. The violence and recounted scenes of war were the hardest parts of this book to read. Scenes near the end of Eve’s spy career made my stomach turn and I audibly groaned reading some pages–but again, I found them necessary to fully appreciate the depth of the emotions surrounding the activities taking place in the “present day” 1940’s sections of the book.

This book stands above many I have read this year and will likely go down as a favorite from my 2017 reads. I definitely recommend it.

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7 Habits of Highly Voracious Reading

Did you challenge yourself again this year to read a certain number of books? Are you determined to do so even though previous attempts did not go so well? Join the club! I have changed some longstanding habits to increase my book consumption. Maybe some of them will work for you!

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What Are You Reading?

I stumbled upon a great podcast that asks and answers the quintessential question of all readers–What Should I Read Next? By listening to some episodes, I easily added several titles I had never heard of to the list of books I plan to read in 2017. I’m keeping the list in my bullet journal (something else I’m trying for 2017) and so far, I’ve managed to read three books so far!

I challenged myself on GoodReads to 25 books this year. I’m off to a good start!

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June Book Club Choice

My Pure Barre studio’s Book Club has provided me a reason to put “reading” on my to-do list. It’s sad that reading for pleasure makes me feel guilty, but it does. It requires me to sit comfortably somewhere and do nothing else. So, I rarely do it. But, if it is an ASSIGNMENT with a DEADLINE, well, the obsessive-compulsive overachieving task master in me takes over and it becomes a MUST lest I be unprepared for the meeting.

 This month’s reading to prepare for June’s meeting is Some Women by Emily Liebert. I don’t know anything about this book except that I like its cover. And given that I often select wines by their labels, I am guessing I could like this book. The old cliche about judging books by its cover aside, I am thinking this one might be a keeper.

Have you read this book? What did you think?