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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

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25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

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6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Twisty Psychological Thriller Engrossing, But Not Satisfying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

High school senior Hattie Hoffman appears to have it all.  She's beautiful, popular, smart, and a talented actress.  Maybe too talented.  Hattie is hiding a lot more under her innocent, girl-next-door facade than anyone would ever guess.  When the 18-year-old is found murdered in an abandoned barn, one question hovers the whole sad affair:  Who was Hattie Hoffman?  The answers are plentiful.  What's the truth?  

County sheriff Del Goodman is tasked with finding Hattie's killer.  A close friend of the Hoffmans, he's baffled by what he's finding out about their daughter.  Did anyone really know Hattie?  He's beginning to think not.  There's only one thing he knows for sure:  He will find her killer.  No matter what it takes.

Peter Lund, Hattie's English teacher, is hiding an incriminating secret—from his wife, from his colleagues, from the police.  What will happen when the truth comes out?  Will he find himself accused of killing his favorite student?  Did he?

Told from three perspectives—the victim, her English teacher, and the policeman investigating them both—Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia is a compelling psychological thriller.  The story twists and turns all over the place, making for a tense, engrossing read.  Hattie and Peter are complex characters, neither of whom is very likable.  The former is a manipulative brat (who seems WAY older than 18) while the latter is a selfish wimp.  Despite these less-than-desirable qualities, I did want to know what happened to them.  The ending of this one frustrated me, so in the end, I'm not sure quite what I thought of Everything You Want Me to Be.  It's an intriguing page turner for sure, but I can't say I really liked it.  Overall, it didn't leave me feeling very satisfied.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of The Secret Place by Tana French)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Everything You Want Me to Be from the generous folks at Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!

It's A Book! It's A Film! It's Fantastic All Around!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I think most readers would agree that:

(1) It's better to read the book before seeing a movie based on said book.
(2) With a few exceptions, the book is always better than its movie. 

Am I right?  Thought so.  

Well, I adhere to Rule #1 the vast majority of the time since I prefer to "see" a book in my head before I view it on the Big Screen.  Hollywood and I rarely see eye-to-eye, so this technique has served me well.  I break this habit only on very rare occasions.  A movie date with my California sister and our daughters over Thanksgiving weekend seemed like a legit reason, so I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them before reading the original screenplay by J.K. Rowling.  The shock!  The horror!  Actually, since the film follows the published screenplay exactly, it wasn't that big of a deal.  And you know what?  I loved the movie.  Loved it. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them features Newt Scamander, a British magizoologist, who arrives in New York City in 1926 to perform a special mission.  Obsessed with magical creatures, Newt carries a number of them in his suitcase.  When Jacob Kowalski, a Muggle baker, accidentally opens the case, he sets the animals free.  As Newt's precious creatures escape and wreak havoc on the city, he tries to convince the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA) that he can take care of the problem without any harm to either the creatures or American Muggles.  
MACUSA is already struggling to manage magical-Muggle relations.  It doesn't help that a dark force is causing trouble in the city.  MACUSA assumes it's the work of one of Newt's creatures; Newt refuses to believe it.  He thinks it's something much stronger, much more dangerous.  With the help of Tina Goldstein, a disgraced Auror; her sister Queenie, a skilled Legilimens; and Kowalski, Newt must find the culprit in order to pacify MACUSA and save New York City.  The job is a much more dangerous one than anyone could possibly have imagined ...

When I heard about J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter screenplays, I wasn't sure what to think.  All Potterheads long for more from the HP universe, but I've been hoping for novels.  It's only in this format that the real color, charm, and depth of Rowling's world-building can truly come alive, right?  Right.  Sort of.  The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay definitely lacks the fullness that would no doubt be found in a novel version.  With short stage directions instead of meaty description, it's difficult to really visualize the setting, characters, and creatures that appear in the story (at least I assume this is true since I actually saw the film before reading the screenplay).  What this format does offer is a reading experience that is fast, exciting, and unique.  Readers— especially young, reluctant ones—who want to delve into the Harry Potter books but shy away from the weighty tomes might find this format more to their liking.  It also helps that they can enjoy this story without having read any of the Harry Potter books.  Personally, although I enjoyed reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I would have preferred it in novel form.  Still, this is a fun, magical tale that translates perfectly to the Big Screen.  I loved both the written screenplay and the film version.  

(Readalikes:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Quidditch Through the Ages; and The Tales of Beedle the Bard)


If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated:

for brief, mild language, violence, and scary images

(Note: The actual movie is rated PG-13)

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha. 

*Movie image from

Quiet WWI Drama Engrossing (Enough)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"... Our time was wartime ..." (235).

Longing for adventure, 23-year-old Pearl Gibson is thrilled to secure a position as a lady's maid to wealthy, glamorous Ottoline Campbell.  The Scottish estate where the aristocrat spends her summers is peaceful, but full of its own quiet dramas.  As Pearl becomes acquainted with the staff and grows closer to her employer, she begins to see the cracks in the Campbells' careful veneers.

With the threat of war creeping ever closer, life at the estate changes.  As the men leave for the front lines, the women are left to fend for themselves.  With fear and anxiety hanging over them, Pearl and Ottoline must figure out how to survive.  Pearl is closer to Ottoline than to anyone else, but she's harboring a secret that could shatter her employer's frail existence ...

It's difficult to describe the plot of The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn because it doesn't have one.  Not really.  Episodic and character-driven, the novel meanders about with little focus.  Which isn't to say that it's not engrossing.  It is, but there also isn't a point in the story where I couldn't have put the book down and walked away.  Kinghorn's prose is strong.  I found her characters lacking, though.  Besides Rodney and Mrs. Lister, none of them are very likable.  Pearl has no real personality, which makes her story a bit dull.  Overall, the novel's quiet, depressing, and not all that memorable.  In the end, it was just okay for me.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Echo of Twilight from the generous folks at Penguin Random House.  Thank you!
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