New Year, New Challenge

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For 2016 Popsugar has posted a new reading challenge that I am ready to conquer. Doing last year’s challenge was so much fun for me. Seeing the feedback from fellow bloggers and seeing what others are reading was beyond amazing. The challenge also got me reading things outside of my comfort zone, which I found that I immensely enjoyed.

This year’s challenge is shorter than the last one but has a few more interesting categories. There are 30 some odd books in the 2016 challenge with topics like futuristic YA romance and political memoir.

I’ve started making my list and filling in the categories and have stumbled across some great reads.

I can’t wait to share what I’ve come up with for the Pop Reading Challenge 2016.

Stay tuned for the first category pick! Happy reading! And happy 2016!

The Moonstone

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This is it. The last novel of 2015. In a way I can’t believe it’s over. I have to say that this book challenge was so much fun to do. It got me reading so many novels that I felt were way too far outside my comfort zone to try. This Book Battle has not only made me a more adventurous reader but also a more open minded one. Instead of just turning down a book because I think that I don’t like the genre, I’ll give it a try and see if I actually do or don’t. And thank you all for coming on this journey with me.

Now for the review.

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy The Moonstone nearly as much as I enjoyed The Woman in White. Both novels have very similar set ups. They’re epistolary novels and told in many different perspectives and in many different voices. I did enjoy the butler’s narrative in this novel but there were many that I found rather grating. In The Woman in White, I really enjoyed how many strong female characters Collin’s incorporated into the novel. The Moonstone is almost entirely male dominated and the women are just on the margins or, quite plainly, annoying.

I do love the detective aspect of this novel and seeing detective novels in their infancy and how much they have grown since this time. The detective isn’t in the novel long and isn’t infallible. He doesn’t quite have it right at first. He only solves the case after everyone comes together a second time.

All in all, The Moonstone was an enjoyable novel. However, if you’re looking for a great Wilkie Collins read I’d chose The Woman in White. 

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Blast from the Past

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According to T.S. Eliot, The Moonstone is the novel that invented the detective fiction genre. I’ve been wanting to read this novel forever. In high school, I read The Woman in White and absolutely adored it. There is a soft spot in my heart for mystery and detective fiction so I thought that this book would be perfect for this category, a book over 100 years old.

The Moonstone is one of Collins’s most known works, after The Woman in White. From the back cover, this novel is about a mysterious diamond from India that causes havoc in the life of whoever owns it. The jewel was originally in a statue and was stolen.

This novel, like The Woman in White, is told in different narratives and from different perspectives. I can’t wait to read this novel and see where the story takes me.

I also can’t believe that this is the final book in Book Battle 2015. It has been quite the ride so far.

Stay tuned for the full review of The Moonstone. Happy reading!

The Nightingale

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When I first started reading The Nightingale I was immediately reminded of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Both novels are very similar, in some respects. They both take place in France during WWII and deal with the German occupation of the country. Both are tragic tales about the courage of ordinary people who become extraordinary.

The Nightingale is a novel about family. Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, have been torn apart by the tragic death of their mother and their father’s inability to take care of them. As they grow older the rift continues to deepen. Vianne marries early and starts a family as her way of coping with the loss, while Isabelle escapes from various boarding schools making her way back to their father in Paris before being sent out again.

The war brings the two sisters together again in their family home in Carriveau. Isabelle is determined to stand out and help the French Resistance, while Vianne is determine to hide in the background and take care of her young daughter. But naturally, nothing goes as planned in war.

The sisters soon find themselves doing things they never thought they would to protect those they love and find the glory they wish to achieve. They realize things about each other and themselves that they had refused to see before. And find out that maybe the other sisters’ way of thinking may not be so wrong after all.

Isabelle becomes further and further involved in the Resistance, earning the name The Nightingale. Vianne becomes a force herself trying to protect the children of Carriveau and surrounding areas.

I don’t want to say too much however. This is a novel that you must experience for yourself. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I did indeed cry for about the last quarter of the novel. There is so much tragedy that is all the more heartbreaking because it happened. People’s capacity for hope is an amazing thing. Even in the bleakest of times there is something to strive for.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next, and last, installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

A Re-Return

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel that I started reading but didn’t finish. There aren’t many novels that I start and don’t finish simply because I have a compulsive need to finish every novel even if I don’t particularly care for it. In this case, I just couldn’t read the novel fast enough. I checked Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale out from the library many moons ago and started to read it but couldn’t finish in time before I had to return the novel. I’ve placed a hold on the novel and have finally got it back so that I can finish it.

I can’t wait to finish the novel and see what happens to each of the characters. I have a feeling that this is one novel that will bring me to tears. The other Hannah novel I read for this challenge, The Winter Garden, had me crying and I feel this novel will be very similar.

Stay tuned for the full review of The Nightingale. Happy reading!

In a Dark, Dark Wood

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“In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house. And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room. And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard. And in the dark, dark cupboard there was a dark, dark shelf. And on the dark, dark shelf there was a dark, dark box. And in the dark, dark box there was…”(Alvin Schwartz).

Sometime not completely unexpected but surprising nonetheless.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is Ruth Ware’s first novel. In the beginning, this novel reminded me so much of Agatha Christie’s Endless Night. There’s a house in the middle of the woods cursed by the townspeople for it’s very existence. A young woman about to be married, in this case throwing a hen party, and suffering through a series of “tricks” that will test her psychological stamina.

I loved how Ware created the creepy and suspenseful ambience in the novel. The house was terrifying. Full of windows that give the characters the feeling that they are a spectacle meant to be watched. Actors on the stage of a play they haven’t been given the lines for.

The main character, Nora, is a writer who left her hometown under mysterious circumstances and has yet gotten over it. She’s suddenly invited to her high school best friend’s hen party out of the blue and on a whim decides to go. Once there, she and the rest of the hen party, are in for quite a surprise.

This novel did pack some twists and turns but I have to say that I was a little let down by the big reveal. The foreshadowing in the beginning of the novel was amazing but kind of faltered in the middle and never was quite able to match the suspense of the beginning.

I did like how Ware used her red herring in the novel. It definitely threw me off the scent for a while.

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. I liked a nod to the Classic Mystery genre, and one of Agatha Chritie’s lesser known novels. I’m excited to see what Ware’s next book will be and whether she will continue in the mystery genre.

Rating: 3.5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

 

The Bottom of the Pile

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book on the bottom of my to read pile. Since I’ve been doing this challenge, my list of books to read has narrowed and narrowed. I don’t have many books from which to choose for this category anymore. Ultimately, I decided upon Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood. This book was published this year and hasn’t been on my list long. However, since I’ve started this book challenge, I’ve bumped this novel from many other categories it could have fallen into. I was going to read it for the crime novel but decided against it. Then I was going to read In a Dark, Dark Wood as an author I’ve never read before and bumped it again.

Finally I bumped the novel to this category, a perfect fit. From the back, this novel sounds like it’s going to be a nice cozy type mystery. Women get together after many years for a hen party that goes tragically awry. I can’t wait to see what twist awaits me in this mystery.

Stay tuned for the full review of In a Dark, Dark Wood. Happy reading!

Career of Evil

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Career of Evil is the third installment in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. The first, The Cuckoo’s Calling, introduced us to both Strike and Robin and focused much of it’s efforts on how to plot of the novel brought the two characters together. The second Strike novel, The Silkworm, was extraordinarily plot driven. And this newest novel is a mix of the two. Career of Evil lets us get to know more about these characters that we’ve come to love. We learn about both Strike’s and Robin’s past and how their pasts lead them to each other and the life that each has chosen.

Strike and Robin remind me so much of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They have a similar rapport with each other, outside of crime solving. Out of the three, this novel is by far my favorite. I feel like these two characters have been through so much together but know so very little about each other. And as a consequence, we the reader, don’t know much about either’s past.

This novel shines a light on the past of each and how it drew them to where they are. As we already know, Strike’s mother was a groupie and his father a famous rock star. The crime in this case directly goes back to Strike’s past and is the perpetrator’s way of getting revenge on Strike. The three main suspects represent each phase of Strike’s life and all of them have a good reason to want revenge. Robin’s past, although not directly related to the case, ultimately leads to her involvement in it.

I loved seeing both Robin and Strike evolve in this novel. The characters have so much depth to them. The closer I got to the end the sadder I became. I didn’t want this novel to have an ending. I would happily continue reading about Strike and Robin.

As with the other two novels, this one has all of the danger and perhaps a bit more romance. I loved the focus on each character as they get to know each other better, faults and all. This novel has a lot of miscommunication, especially between Robin and Strike. They see and hear what they want, and that may not be at all what the other person means. It leads to many tense moments in the novel and to the novel’s conclusion, which isn’t so much about the plot but more about resolving the conflict between characters.

Rating: 5/5 Can’t wait to see what’s next for this crime solving duo.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

The Mistress of the Salmon Salt

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a book my mom loves. Like myself, my mom loves a good mystery. She’s been reading the Cormoran Strike novels and recommended them to me for this challenge. I read the first two and liked them immensely. Cormoran Strike is a brilliant character. He’s an English Philip Marlowe if you will. He’s got all of the demons chasing him from his past that he continually tries to outrun.

In this novel, his assistant Robin gets sent a human leg in the mail which leads them down a dark trail to find a killer who has a vendetta against Strike. Once again, Strike and Robin take matters into their own hands and doggedly try to solve the case against the wishes of the police department.

I can’t wait to read what’s in store for Strike and Robin and perhaps find out more about both of their pasts.

Stay tuned for the full review of Career of Evil. Happy reading!

Rivers of London

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Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch reads like a hybrid between a Doctor Who episode and a police procedural. In a way it’s not surprising since Ben Aaronovitch has written two serials for Doctor Who about Daleks.

Rivers of London is the first book in a series by Aaronovitch about police detective/wizard Peter Grant. It doesn’t take the novel long to reveal it’s magic elements to the reader. The first element introduced is the ghost Nicholas Wallpenny. Grant sees Wallpenny while investigating another crime and Wallpennt gives Peter details about the crime. The crime itself has it’s supernatural elements as well. A man seems to appear and disappear without ever being caught on camera.

As Peter delves deeper into the mystery he is confronted by the head wizard in the police department, Nightingale, and asked to join as his apprentice. Grant then becomes the first English apprentice wizard in over 70 years. As the apprentice, Peter must practice and hone his magical abilities as well as solve two seemingly unconnected cases.

In one case he must find an entity that is possessing people and forcing them to kill, and in the other Peter must make peace between the gods of the River Thames. As the novel unfolds the connection between the cases becomes clearer.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the protagonist, Peter Grant, and the way he interacts with those around him. I did, however, find this novel a bit hard to follow in terms of the plot. It read very much like a TV show, abrupt cuts and all. But whereas in a TV show you have visuals that connect these scenes together, in the book it left me a bit lost.

Even with a few plot holes, I would love to read the other books in the series and see what’s next for Peter Grant and Nightingale.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!