Your Next Must-Read Thriller, Into the Water
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"I didn't have to be fixed, I could be fluid. Like the river. Perhaps it wouldn't be so difficult, after all."
Although many readers were obsessed with The Girl on the Train and Paula Hawkins had high expectations to live up to, I think she did the unthinkable with this book: She surpassed even her own writing.
For me, I thought The Girl on the Train was just an okay read. I loved the narrative pattern and the whole concept. I just thought the middle of the book lost its edge. Into the Water, however, was completely different in the fact that it never lost my attention for a second. Hawkins weaves together an intricate tale of family secrets, love, power, and revenge. Her expert writing kept the plot moving the entire time. I was stunned by the book and the secrets revealed up through the last paragraph.
The book focuses on a small town rocked by tragedy after tragedy, all centered around a cliff by a particular river. The book opens with a second death that has just happened. Lena's mother and Jules' sister has just died in what seems to be a suicide. However, questions surface as to what really happened on the cliff and if her death could be linked to the death of Lena's best friend, Katie, who died in a similar way.
The characters were lovable in this book and really easy to connect with. I liked that both Jules and Lena, although family, are very distant from each other and very flawed. I liked that they were not perfect characters in any way and both suffered great loss in life. Their relationship and the changes in it was a nice backdrop to the horror of the book.
There are a lot of narrative perspectives in this book, which was hard to keep track of at times. However, I think that is the lure of Hawkins' books; they are complicated to the point that when you finish, you are in awe that she pulled it all together. I liked that I never had everything figured out. I loved the dynamic characters and relationships.
I also loved how everything, even flashbacks, came back to the water. It became not just a setting and plot element, but almost a character in itself.
This book is definitely a must read for 2017. Hawkins shows us again why she is one of the greatest writers of our time with this novel.
View all my reviews
Title: Curves in the Road
Series: Southern Devotion, Book 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 6, 2017
Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Designer: Claire Smith
ALL BUY LINKS
Living in Nashville with his daughter, Katelyn, single dad Derrick Collins’s main goal is to provide a good life for his daughter. With no social life to speak of, he knows it’s time for a change. He just needs to find the perfect woman who will complete his happy family. The problem is he’s already met her and let her go.
Mary Jane Evans’s life took a path she could only dream of. Though leaving her home in Nashville meant saying goodbye to childhood friends, family, and the first man she ever loved. Now she has to choose if she will return or continue her new journey.
With a decision to make, is it possible for two lost loves to find their way back to each other or are there too many curves in the road?
(Please add your review here.)
ALL BUY LINKS
Southern Devotion Series
Book 1 on sale for 99 cents!
Amy McClung was born in Nashville, TN. She is the second oldest of four girls and occasionally suffers from middle-child syndrome. She met the love of her life online in August of 2004, on his birthday of all days, and married him in September 2005.
Currently they have no human children, only the room full of colorful robots that transform into vehicles and the large headed Pop Funkos who represent their favorite characters. Collecting movies, shot glasses, Pop Funkos, and dust bunnies are some of her favorite pastimes.
Amy began writing in September of 2011 and independently published her first YA novel, Cascades of Moonlight, Book one of the Parker Harris series the following May. Her first book was a means of therapy for her, enabling her to escape reality for a while during a difficult transition in her life.
Rafflecopter Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ea80a6ed223/
Yes, You Absolutely Should Read Books You Hate
James Joyce once said, "Life's too short to read a bad book."
I couldn't disagree more.
Sure, our goal is ultimately to pick up that novel that will speak to us, that we will rave about for months if not years. We all want to read books that we feel are 5-star books, that touch our souls.
But does that mean that we should completely discount the books that we don't like, the books that we would be more likely to one-star?
I don't think so.
In high school, I had an amazing English teacher who constantly halted our whining about hating books in the curriculum by reminding us that every book has value. Every piece of literature that makes it through the publishing process has something to offer: It just takes a dedicated, literature-savvy person to understand this and to find one thing to cling to. Furthermore, we talked about how literature we hate can sometimes teach us more about ourselves, our values, and our perspectives of writing than the books we love.
As a bookworm, a high school English teacher, and an author, I've come to realize that even, and perhaps especially, the books we hate have intrinsic value. So the next time you come across a book you don't like, don't think of it as a waste of time. Don't promptly close the book and chuck it under your bed. Challenge yourself to think about the benefits you get from literature you don't particulary love.
The Reader's Perspective
As a reader, I've found it helpful to ask myself the true reasoning behind my hatred for a particular book. Is it the characters' values that causes me to pull back? Do I have an issue with the plot, the theme, or the topic? Or is it simply that the writing style has lost my interest?
Taking a step back from the book and really forcing yourself to dig into the true reasons behind your dislike can teach you about yourself.
For me, one of the books I strongly disliked was (*here come the gasps*) Fifty Shades of Grey. I found myself not wanting to finish the book. However, when I really analyzed my feelings, I realized the problem was that I did not like Christian Grey. He stood for the alpha-male I do not find attractive, and I found him to be belittling. I also found Anastasia to be very weak and easily controlled.
This is not a reflection of the book's value. In fact, I would say I still got value from the book even though it wasn't my cup of tea. The value didn't come from an emotional connection to the book or my raving about it. Instead, the value was more intrinsic. I learned about myself and what I value in relationships, something certainly worth my time, even if the particular story didn't speak to me.
We all have books we don't like, which is perfectly okay. It would be quite 1984-like if we all liked the exact same books all of the time. We all carry our own experiences, beliefs, values, and ideals into our reading experiences. The challenge, however, is not to shy away from books that we aren't into. It's to really dig deeper and figure out why. Most of all, it's to dig deep enough to find something of value, something you can appreciate in the pages.
The Teacher's Perspective
Perhaps this was the biggest motivator for this article--my job as an English teacher in a high school. Lately, I've heard so many students say, "Oh, I didn't finish the book because I just didn't like it," or, "My essay wasn't good because the book wasn't good."
I can remember being a student and reading books that just seemed so distant to me. No matter how hard the teacher tried, the world of Shakespeare, the "universal themes" of Lord of the Flies just seemed so foreign to my own life. How could I possibly read something I didn't connect with?
It is years later, though, as a teacher, that I can appreciate the value of the books I read and didn't like. First, it taught me endurance. There will be, in real life, things you have to read that you don't want to--real estate forms, tax forms, text books. Learning to look beyond my emotional feelings toward a book and muscle through readied me for these experiences.
The value for students, however, is much deeper than this. Pushing through and reading books you don't particularly love can, as I said, teach them about their own values. I find that many students struggle to realize they don't have to agree with every message the author sets up in the book. In fact, for teenagers, the value of literature comes in the questioning. Do you agree with the message? Do you agree with the characters' actions? Why not?
Reading books they dislike helps them form a sense of self and a sense of opinion. By reading things they don't necessarily like or find boring, they can strengthen their awareness of what they do like and find interesting. It's all about self-awareness.
It's also about teaching them appreciation. As my AP Literature teacher taught me, everything in literature has value. Even if it is a single line you can agree with or a single line you can say, "Wow, that is well written," your goal is to find it. It teaches students to be able to appreciate the beauty, the goodness, even in things they don't like. Furthermore, it teaches them to appreciate hard work and diversity.
Finally, sometimes the books teenagers don't like are just stored ideas for later. Some books I didn't like in high school stuck with me. Later in life, I found that I could connect with them or understand them. Sometimes the classics we read in English classes set us up for the realities of the world later, some of which we aren't quite ready for in high school but are glad we read later in life.
The Writer's Perspective
One of the hardest things to accept as a writer is that not everyone will love your books. In fact, some people will hate them. Some people will voice this hate.
However, I've come to appreciate that hate for a book, even if it is one I wrote, isn't necessarily a bad thing. It means that I've stirred something in the reader, which is the ultimate goal. Sure, I'd certainly like to only stir good, rosy reviews of my works. Nonetheless, the fact that someone doesn't like my book doesn't mean I've failed as a writer. It simply means my style, my words, are not for that person.
As a writer, you can sometimes learn from the opinions of those who don't like your work. Although a part of being a writer is knowing when to take criticism to heart and when to stick to your gut instincts, continual criticisms can give you guidance toward improvement. Sometimes our biggest critics teach us the most valuable lessons and help us fine-tune our craft.
Every Book Is Valuable
So whether you adore a book or hate it, the value is still there. Each piece of literature has the capability to teach us something about ourselves, about story telling, and about the world around us. The next time you find a book you don't like, take time to really delve for a sense of appreciation before just discounting it.
Reading is a journey that teaches us about ourselves, good or bad. Thus, everything we read offers us the benefit of self-discovery.
How about you? Are there any books you have read that you didn't like but taught you something? Share below!
Sophie Kinsella's must read for the summer
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"I think I've finally worked out how to feel good about life. Every time you see someone's bright-and-shiny, remember: They have their own crappy truths too. Of course they do. And every time you see your own crappy truth and feel despair...remember: Everyone's got a bright-and-shiny, even if it's hard to find sometimes."
My Not So Perfect Life is a great summer read or weekend read. It's light and fun but filled with powerful messages that resonate with every woman.
Katie Brenner, a.k.a. Cat, is trying to live her dream life in London. She works in promotion at a top-notch firm in London and is trying to make it work. London, she quickly learns, is a far cry from her rural life, however, and things start to fall apart. When her very condescending, mean girl boss Demeter fires her, Katie's life falls to pieces and she must go back to the life she left behind. Through the course of the novel, however, Katie learns she's not the only one living a not so perfect life.
I love this book because I feel like we've all been Katie at some point. We've tried to climb the ladder, reach for the glam life we see in movies. We've all wanted to chase after dreams of luxury and success. We've also probably tried to be something or someone we're not because of where it could take us. Most of all, like Katie, we've all fallen on our faces at some poitn.
Katie is very easy to like. She's not perfect, even though she tries so hard. She reminds me a little bit of Annie from Bridesmaids who is never quite getting what she wants in life and who is often in the shadow of more powerful women. She's very easy to relate to, and her sense of humor makes her sometimes miserable life feel not so miserable. My favorite scene is where she can't afford a cafe and has to run out to eat her packed sandwich, only to be mistaken as a homeless woman due to her less-than-London coat. Kinsella does a great job at including unique, funny scenes that lighten the mood, despite the fact Katie's down on her luck.
I also love this book because it's about something we all do: Judging. It shows that it's not just the "mean girls" who do the judging. Katie quickly learns how quick she was to judge others, including Demeter, and comes to find everyone has another story. Like Katie, by the end of the novel, we see Demeter in a very different light. It's easy to hate her and make her into a villain in the beginning, but by the end, we realize we are guilty of the very things we fault her for.
Kinsella also did a great job with details in this book. Katie's family starts a glamping business, and Kinsella leaves no detail unattended. I actually felt myself wanting to go see the glamping site because of the great details, down to the handmade soaps with monograms. Kinsella paints a wonderful picture of both London and the rural life, and helps you see the contrast Katie is facing.
Love takes a backseat in this book, and I liked that. Although it is a part of the story, it's not the focal point. Katie's focus is on her career, on her dreams, and on friendship/loyalty. I thought it was refreshing to see these themes at play in a book targeted at women.
Overall, this book is a refreshing read many will relate to. Kinsella steps out of the romantic comedy/chick lit box slightly to offer unique storyline, characters, and plot. I would say this is a must-read for your summer!
View all my reviews
Hot New Romantic Drama Remember When Available Now
☆ New Release & Giveaway ☆
'Remember When' by Lindsay Detwiler is LIVE!
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be….
They met at a wedding, Todd the only man wearing jeans, Jessica the beauty with a troubled background. Settled into married life after falling in love, they have so many things left to do in life. They think they have so much time… until Jessica and Todd’s average married life comes to a halt on a snowy back road. When their truck careens down an embankment, they find themselves in a life-or-death situation. With rescue seeming impossible, they cling to the only hope they have left: their love for each other.
As they fight for survival, their connection carries them through the biggest challenge of their lives. Memories and regrets swirl around the couple as they finally take a moment to reflect on what they’re doing in life.
There’s one big, icy question that haunts them, though: Is this where their story will end?
All links: http://books2read.com/remember-when
Tour Organizer: https://www.facebook.com/hottreepromotions
Chillingly Stark, The Handmaid's Tale is Truly a Must-Watch
I was a high school senior when I read Margaret Atwood's haunting novel, The Handmaid's Tale. Labeled as speculative fiction, this dystopian novel stuck with me for over a decade. The chilling connection to realities of society coupled with my fascination with the overall plot made it one of those books you come back to again and again. Thus, when I heard Hulu was making an original series out of the book, I was counting down the days.
The show didn't disappoint. Today was the release, and I finished all three episodes on Hulu already.
The Handmaid's Tale is set in a futuristic society that is eerily not too far from our own. In this society, females have been targeted and rights have been stripped away. Due to pollution, the society is having major reproductive problems. Women are mostly infertile and, those who can bear children, can't carry them to term. However, a select group of women are able to bear children. These women are rounded up and forced to become handmaids. The handmaids basically serve as surrogates for wealthy, influential families in the society. However, it is much more sinister than that. Essentially, these women are kept as submissive servants, raped, and forced to give up their children. They have no freedoms, no rights, and no love. Women who were once revered in society, career-oriented, and part of loving families are degenerated to objects.
The story is told from the perspective of Offred--not her real name; they are forced to abandon their real names, given names Of + the man they serve. She tells the story of her life with the Waterfords and, through flashbacks, shows us how things have changed.
The first three episodes didn't disappoint. The acting was amazing. Elizabeth Moss does a stunning job at capturing the dual-sided Offred, showing the shiny, superficial woman society expects her to be and the gritty, raw woman she is on the inside. Alexis Biedel breaks away from her Gilmore Girls role in this series, showing a much more determined, rebellious woman. Furthermore, the filming in this series is stunning. Every detail of the world shows the atmosphere and gives the viewer a sense of the oppression. The flashbacks are worked in perfectly to give just enough backstory when it is needed.
This is not your light, weekend watch. It is heavy and truly guts you to the core. It sinks right into your bones and haunts you, making you put yourself in Offred's position and wonder how you would keep going. The devastation of the characters comes through the filming. You feel hopeless and powerless when you watch the show, which is similar to what Offred experiences.
The series is about power and what happens when you become powerless. It's message is that anyone can become powerless, and that society can turn on you in an instant. It is terrifying how realistic the series is. This is not some distant, sci-fi-like series that you assure yourself could never happen. The grounding of the tale in our society and its values is the most frightening aspect. You see how we are not immune to terrors like this potentially taking over our world. It's a cautionary tale in a way, too. It shows how Offred was somewhat naive in her old live. She mentions that she was asleep before, that she didn't bat an idea when they changed things. She thought something like this couldn't happen. However, her story shows that change can be for the worst. It also shows how fear can get people to agree to any conditions.
At the end of it all, we are run by fear and the desire to live. Thus, we can fall prey to situations we never imagined.
The series' dark, stark nature also highlights the beauty of freedom. It makes you not want to take anything for granted again. It shows how freedom is the liveblood of humanity and spirit. Without it, the world is a very dark place to live.
The Handmaid's Tale, just like the book, is not a fluffy read meant to please. It is not censored. Offred's narration isn't sugar-coated. It's raw, real, and difficult. You feel every pang of her loneliness. You feel her crazy desperation. You feel her searing pain.
This series is a must-watch for every woman and man. It makes you realize how quickly freedom can be taken away. It also makes you realize what matters most.
The only complaint I have about the series is that Hulu only released three episodes. However, maybe this is a good thing. If all episodes were available, I'm pretty sure I'd be getting absolutely no sleep tonight because it is so good.
All Books on Sale at Hot Tree
To celebrate World Book Day, Hot Tree Publishing is having a Mega Sale! All titles, including my popular chick lit series Then Comes Love and my latest Who We Were, are on sale! Sale price is reflected once you add to your cart. Right now, To Say Goodbye is only $2. Get your reading on this weekend with a slew of romances from sweet to spicy.
Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Review
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Some books you read are entertaining, engaging, or page-turners. Some books are exciting, interesting, and fun. Although The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has some of these qualities, there is one major quality that stands out from the rest: Importance. This book has great importance.
Henrietta Lacks is a woman who has impacted millions of lives and probably indirectly impacted your life--yet few people know her story. Before Skloot, few people even knew her real name. This book is important because it gives a face to the name that has been so influential in science. Moreover, it is important because it addresses so many deep and potentially controversial issues, from racial tension to medical ethics to scientific research. This is a book to make you think but also to help you celebrate the life of a woman who certainly deserves our accolades.
Henrietta Lacks died early in life from cervical cancer--but not before doctors at Johns Hopkins could take some of her cells for study. These cells proved immortal, leading to advances in tissue research and cell research. As the cells defied all odds of the time period and became immortal, they allowed for many scientific discoveries. The cells were used for everything from developing new medicines to searching for cures for cancer to testing nuclear radiation. Henrietta's cells quickly became the foundation worldwide for scientific study.
This sounds like a noble pursuit and a positive thing. There are just a few problems with the endeavor. 1.) Henrietta Lacks never gave permission for this study, and her family was never even informed about the studies until years later 2.) The cells of Henrietta became a multi-million dollar industry, of which Henrietta's family never saw a penny.
This book stirs so many emotions. First, I think this book stirs great sympathy. To read about Henrietta's immense suffering at the clutches of cancer is very sad. To hear about her families struggles afterward also really grips the reader. Skloot does an excellent job at portraying the human side of Lacks' story when no one else really did. Most only remember Henrietta as HeLa cells. They see her as a scientific commodity. Skloot puts emotion to the story and paints a picture of a strong woman dealt some difficult hands in life. I appreciated the honor and tribute Skloot paid to Henrietta in making her personal story known.
The book also incited a lot of questioning and even anger within me. This story raises crucial questions about bioethics and how far science should go in the sake of discovery. The concept of medical testing and experimentation being done without consent was, quite frankly, frightening. It raises the question of ethics and what elements of the individual and privacy should be sacrificed in the name of science, a question that Skloot clearly emphasizes as a murky question. Although Henrietta's cells certainly lead to groundbreaking discoveries, the idea that this was done behind the family's back is angering. Perhaps the most frustrating part is the commercialism of the endeavor. The fact that these cells were sold for large amounts of money calls into question the motives of some of the scientists involved. The fact that the Lacks family struggled with poverty while scientists selling Henrietta's cells were making millions seems completely unjust.
Finally, Skloot sheds light on racial tensions of Henrietta's time period. To learn about medical treatment--and the lack thereof--of African Americans during Henrietta's time period really opened my eyes. This is an issue not heavily discussed, but to hear about the lack of treatment or the sub par treatments afforded to certain races during this time period is angering. Skloot highlights how medical treatment and science aren't always a cut and dry issue. Politics, social values, and money all play a role in who gets treated and how.
Some critics of this book find Skloot to paint herself as a hero. I did not find this to be the case. While she is inserted into the narrative throughout, it is to discuss her research endeavors. I believe this highlighted the depth and complexity of Henrietta's story. It showed just how much work it took for Skloot to find the truth. It showed how layered the truth was and how much mystery surrounded a woman who is still regarded as having the most important cells in science. I admire Skloot for all of the work she did to find the story and to tell the real truth about Henrietta Lacks. I do believe that paints her as someone to be admired. I did not feel like she wrote the book in a way that focused on that. I truly felt that her focus was on shedding light on Henrietta the woman instead of HeLa, the scientific entity. I believe she paid tribute to a difficult and sometimes controversial subject in the most sensitive, respectful way she could without sugarcoating the hard truths surrounding the story.
This book should be read by everyone because of the importance of Henrietta's cells and how much they have contributed to science. I think we owe it to Henrietta to learn her personal story and to put a face, emotions, and personality to the cells talked about in scientific terms in so many contexts. I also think it is crucial that we explore the issues presented in this book such as tissue ownership, bioethics, and the motives of science in medicine in order to be prepared for the future. Henrietta's story is a cautionary tale in many ways. It cautions us to live life to the fullest, but it also cautions us that medicine is not always a cut and dry subject. Furthermore, it forces us to explore a human, controversial question about how much we are willing to sacrifice in terms of individual privacy and well-being for scientific exploration.
Skloot's book does a beautiful job at weaving together these questions in bioethics with the personal tale of a woman I now feel like I know. She sheds light on a story often overlooked in history. Most of all, she puts a story to the woman, hands on hips, who appears in so many textbooks. Skloot has ensured that the world now knows her real name and much, much more.
Thank you, Rebecca Skloot, for telling the story of a woman almost forgotten by science, by history, and by the world
View all my reviews
Becoming Calder by Mia Sheridan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"And just like that, the whole world was a place I no longer recognized."
Becoming Calder is the story of love, sacrifice, and the realization that life isn't always what you think it is.
Calder and Eden live in Acadia, a religious sect separated from the world. Eden is promised to Hector, the leader of Acadia. She is to wed him when she comes of age so the group will be able to get to Elysium, their version of heaven. However, as the story unfolds and Calder and Eden grow up, it becomes apparent that Acadia has many cult-like tendencies. Nothing is quite as it seems, and Hector is a volatile, angry leader. When Eden and Calder begin to explore a friendship that turns into something more, they must choose between the life they've known and the big world outside of Acadia. However, Hector isn't going to let Eden go without a price.
I was entranced by this book from page one. Sheridan paints a clear image of Acadia as a utopian environment--and then she tears that image right down. To see Eden and Calder's acceptance of their way of life turn into questioning stirs themes of identity and happiness. Both believe in the values of Acadia without question until certain events make them wonder if they are living a lie. This realization drives the plot of the book forward and hooks the reader.
Calder and Eden are both developed fully throughout the novel. I loved watching them grow and learn about life, about the world, and about who they really are. Most of all, I enjoyed watching their relationship grow and develop. Their love is pure and rich but also passionate. In a hopeless situation, their love drives them forward, really showing that love can save us. I was rooting for their love story the entire book, even up through the exciting ending.
Sheridan does an amazing job at weaving tension into the story. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, my stomach twisting with fear for the two protagonists. I loved that we got to see the story from both Eden and Calder's perspective because it only heightened my appreciation for their relationship and for what they both had to lose.
This book is beautiful in the simplicity of the world Eden and Calder fall in love, but also in the complexity of it. As the story unfolds, you realize that Eden and Calder's love is their saving grace and is even more of a treasure considering the circumstances in which it blossoms. This book is a refreshing reminder of what freedom and love truly look like. I will definitely be reading more books by Sheridan, including the sequel, Finding Eden.
View all my reviews
What Matters Most? A New Romantic Drama to Remind You
A single moment can change everything… but can love help us survive?
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be…
Settled into married life, Jessica and Todd think they have so much time… until everything comes to a halt on a snowy back road. When they find themselves in a life or death situation, with rescue seeming impossible, they cling to the only hope they have left: their love for each other.
As Jessica and Todd fight for survival, their connection carries them through the biggest challenge of their lives. Memories and regrets swirl around the couple as they finally take a moment to reflect on what really matters.
There’s one big, icy question that haunts them, though: Is this where their story will end?
Remember When, releasing April 29, 2017 with Hot Tree Publishing
Add it to your TBR list!
Sign Up For My Newsletter!