Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is Top Ten Books I've read so far this year. In no particular order...

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (audiobook)

Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (graphic novel)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (This might be cheating but I reread it for a project for a grad class!)

Yeah, yeah, I know it's only 7 books but this has not been a great reading year for me so far. I've been DNFing or setting aside for later A LOT, which is fine with me, but that means I've been investing some time into books and then not finishing them, and now my number of finished books isn't as high as I wish it was. 

Help me out: what's the best book you've read so far this year? What do I need to read ASAP?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Audiobook Review: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

Narrator: Anna Massey
Publish date: audio 2014; novel 1938
Source: audiobooksync.com
Length: 14 hours 48 minutes
"The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives--presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave."

I had actually never even heard of this book until recently when I saw someone on Twitter mention liking it. I looked into it, added it to my TBR, and promptly forgot about it. When I saw that it was one of Audiobook Sync's free audiobooks for this summer, I got excited, remembering that I wanted to read it. I ended up loving it much more than I expected!

Basically Rebecca is about an unnamed woman who marries Maxim de Winter, a widower who lives in this amazing house and property called Manderley. The main character works as a lady's maid and kind of swept off her feet by Maxim and moves with him right away to Manderley. Once there, however, she discovers that Maxim's late wife's presence is still controlling everything at the house as the new Mrs. de Winter learns more about Rebecca.

Rebecca is an odd, but very good, book. It's really confusing at the beginning and the story itself doesn't start making sense until about chapter 4. Everything at Manderley is so mysterious and the whole time I just wanted to know more about Rebecca, Maxim's first wife. Why does everyone love her so much? Why does she seem to still have a hold on the house and the staff? These questions DO get answers and at one point while listening, I even said, "oh my god!" I do not normally react like that to books, so that should tell you something!

As an audiobook, this was excellent. The narrator, Anna Massey, was great and I think her voice added a lot to the tone of the book. Very mysterious, but naive at the same time when she was voicing the new Mrs. de Winter's thoughts. I'm glad I read this via audio and would highly recommend this format if you are thinking about reading it.

A final thought: If you've read Rebecca, what are your thoughts on Mrs. de Winter never having a first name? 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Publish date: 2012
Source: Library
Format: Paperback
Length: 287 pages
"Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets - skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood's band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet's biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know...that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.
The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in a put innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more - making this a fight worth dying for." (Goodreads)
I will come right out and say that Scarlet is a book I read because other people were reading it and I thought, hey if they like it so much then I might too! And that was that. I got it through my state library system since my local one didn't have it and I read it over a few days. I ended up really liking it!
My only experience with Robin Hood is Disney's animated version that I watched as a kid, so I was a little worried going into Scarlet that I'd be lost. I was a little confused at the beginning, but nothing that wasn't fixed by continuing to read. I will say that Scarlet's voice (the narrator) is a little difficult to get used to because of the dialect she speaks in, but I got used to it pretty quickly. After a few chapters, I was fine.
For the first 2/3 of the book, I thought it was good but nothing great, but then a few delicious plot twists popped up and it turned great. I was itching to finish the book and find out what happened to everyone. I really liked Scarlet, despite being frustrated with some of her actions, and liked Robin a lot too. 
Ultimately I thought it was a fun retelling of Robin Hood and I liked it enough that I already have the sequel on hold! Have you read Scarlet? Thoughts?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Publish date: February 10th, 2015
Source: Classroom Library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 383 pages
"The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

Red Queen is one of the most hyped books that I can think of this year. That much attention means I've definitely heard of it, but I'm also a little wary because sometimes the hype monster kills a good books for me. I tried going into Red Queen with an open mind, but I still feel like it didn't live up to my expectations.

That said, don't get me wrong. Red Queen is still a solid fantasy novel. I liked Mare as a character and I loved all the secrets that everyone had about powers, alliances, and all that good stuff. I think my main complaint was that I just wanted more: more background on the world, more deceit, more intrigue, etc. With all the hype surrounding it, I was waiting for more and never got it. That's not to say I didn't like it; I just didn't love it. 

I read a review of Red Queen somewhere (and I wish I could remember where! Sorry!) in which the reviewer pointed out that the title was misleading and I completely agree. Maybe that's partly why I was expecting more? If you've read it, do you agree?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is the top ten books on your summer TBR (to be read list).

If you're anything like me, the minute I put a book in a TTT post or add it to a special to read list, that is some sort of magical sign that now I'll never read it. HOWEVER, I really would like to get to these books this summer.

Vitro by Jessica Khoury: This one sounds interesting and I enjoyed her first book, Origin.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan: Gotta continue the Heroes of Olympus! 

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen: This is my book club's July pick. Looks interesting!

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich: I think this would be an easy summer read and hopefully a fun series to dive into.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I don't even need to explain.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline: This looks interesting and I wonder if it would make a good future book club pick?

The Brides of Rollrock Island (aka Sea Hearts) by Margo Lanagan: I probably would not have picked this up on my own, but it's one of Audiobook Sync's freebie's this summer, so I'm giving it a try

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: I pre-ordered this for my Kindle (which I normally NEVER do), but I think it was only 2.99! I had to!

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows: I wasn't a big fan of Incarnate, but The Orphan Queen sounds good and it was another cheap Kindle deal, so I gave in.

Number 10 is a professional book. Kelly Gallagher is amazing and his newest book is about best practices in ELA. If you teach 6-12 ELA and have not read Kelly Gallagher, you must.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Publish Date: 2006
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Length: 406 pages
"Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story.

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still.
 " (Goodreads)

The Thirteenth Tale was one of those books that I was aware of, but never added it to Goodreads or anything. I have a copy in my classroom library and thought the cover was cool, but that was as far as my interest went. We decided to read it for our June Book Club meeting, so I bought a copy for myself and started reading it when school got out. 

This is a timeline of my feelings as I read: 
Little slow to start.
Hmm...that's interesting. 
And now I'm sad that it's over :(

I loved The Thirteenth Tale. Like, really loved it and gave it 5 stars which is pretty rare for me. The beginning was a little slow as we get to know Margaret and the mysterious Miss Winter, but then it really picks up the more you learn about the latter's past. There were all sorts of twists and turns that I didn't expect and I felt like I was on the edge of my seat for the last 200 pages. 

Read this if you are looking for something different or if you just need a good book. I don't reread very often but I get the feeling I'll be rereading this at some point so see what I might have missed the first time around. Let me know what you thought if you've read it too!