The North Water: Book Review

The North Water by Ian McGuire

Length: 270 Pages

“Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship’s medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire’s The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.”

Okay… So to be honest up front, I gave this book a two. It was also our book club pick for April (I was the host this month).  Three of our members gave it 1 star, I gave it a 2, someone else gave it a 4, and one gave it a 5.  So we had a nice range of opinions, and this was one of our liveliest debates. I research several different lists and this one was on many of them, plus it is:

One of The New York Times Book Review‘s 10 Best Books of the Year – National Bestseller – Longlisted for the Man Booker Priz – A New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller – Named a Best Book of the Year by Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, New Statesman, Publishers Weekly, and Chicago Public Library”

However… I don’t think the blurb really prepared me for what this book was about. I personal opinion is that the last 100 pages or so could have been condensed, or completely changed.  After a certain major event (spoilers for the end), it felt like it slowed to a crawl, and almost never picked back up. Plus, the final big event almost fell flat because of it.  I was disappointed.

**Spoilers**

The blurb says something dark in the hold.  The book starts out with a man killing a another man for money, then following a little boy, knocking him out and raping him. Oh and then he does rapes a cabin boy aboard the ship, and finally kills him. I just was not prepared for that.

I have to say, the overall writing was amazing. It is very in tune with the time, the language, the history, etc.  They story was dark, and yet conveyed the struggles these men would have really faced.  The whaling was excellently described. The sealing hurt my soul. As did a scene involving polar bears.  There is cannibalism, death, murder, and more.  All the grim darkness you could just about imagine. And amazingly, with basically one female character in the beginning, mentions of whores in another town, and one maid at the end.  Of course, also true to the time and the job.

As to things that my friends loved – the language, Drax (who we debated on between Sociopath and Psychopath and landed on Psychopath), and the general overall story.  I will say we all mostly agreed that the ending could have been better.  The friend who gave it four stars did so because she wanted to see a better fight between Drax and Sumner.  The 2 star/1 stars of us had issues with the timeline. And violence. Oh it is brutally violent and the language is quite awful within (as to be expected of whalers but still).

Overall, I suppose give it a chance but just go in warned about the actual content.

The Princess and the Page (Book Review)

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley:

“A dark secret lurks in Keira’s family. She comes from a long line of Word Weavers, who bring their stories to life when they use a magical pen. But for generations Word Weavers have been hunted for their power. That’s why Keira is forbidden to write. When Keira discovers her grandma’s Word Weaver pen, and writes a story for the Girls’ World fairy-tale contest, she starts to wonder if anyone ever truly lives happily ever after. Inspired by the life and times of Gabrielle d’Estrées, a real French princess who lived during the 1500s, The Princess and the Page follows the mystical journey of a modern-day ‘royal’ who goes from having a pen in her hand to wishing for the world at her fingertips. ”

I saw this book at the SOKY Bookfest, and instantly fell in love.  Just the name grabbed my attention, and I had to go find out what it was about. After reading the brief description, I was hooked.  This is the story I would have wanted as an 8 year old. I had to have a copy. The author signed it to “Princess Fallon.” My inner child was giggling in glee.

Now, I will say this is certainly a child’s story.  The writing is perfect for 8-10 year olds, as are the characters. So while I loved it, part of me was unfulfilled.  Now I need an adult version of this story as well.

I read it, and told four different people I knew with little girls that they needed to get it immediately.  I love the idea of being able to have stories that you write come to life.  The dynamic between the mom and daughter is important, and I thought it was a fun take on the fairy tale every little girl dreams of.  In a moment of anger, she quickly writes that the bad person wins. And it comes to life.

This is a fast paced book – as it probably must be to keep young readers’ attention.  I personally wished for more development, and more of the mom’s story – but again, I’m an adult so things differ there.  The writing is fun, and the snippets at the beginning of each chapter are cute.  Character wise, Kiera was fun (but also trying to figure out who she was, and I wish we had seen more of that develop), Bells was a bit selfish, and Chet was the cute romance factor.

This book also shows that our words have power. The things we do can affect everything (though maybe not change the past), so I feel like that is a great lesson.  The end was fun, and slam packed with a nice twist.  It leaves plenty of room for future books without leaving us hanging on a cliff.

Read it to your kids! Read it for yourself!

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus

The Lilly Singer Adventures by Lydia Sherrer

First, let me say that I met Lydia Sherrer in person at the SOKY Bookfest. She was actually on my Young Adult Fantasy Panel. She was very vibrant, a great dresser, and was quite funny.  I enjoyed talking with her before and after the panel, and am very glad that I received the first two of her books for moderating the panel (and really wish I had bought the third and fourth).  There are four + a novella currently published and there will be a total of 12.  She funded the publishing of these books via Kickstarter, which is kind of awesome. I wish I had had the chance to talk with her more.

Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus – the Lily Singer Adventures is a witty, fun-filled urban fantasy series about a bookish and awkward wizard, Lily Singer, her troublemaking witch friend, Sebastian Blackwell, and her talking cat, Sir Edgar Allen Kipling. They must work together to save the world from magical mayhem and bring peace between magical and mundane races. Will they succeed? Or will the world be plunged into an era of darkness and war?” via Kickstarter.

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: Beginnings

Saving the world is such a bother when it makes you late for tea. By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him. From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily’s mysterious past begins to unfold–a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?”

At only 240 pages, this is a quick read. You really won’t want to put it down. I was a little amazed at how much I loved it.  Lily is a librarian, and prim/proper, and loves Tea. How could I not love this book?  The snarky humor between her and Sebastian is also great.  I was not expecting the format of the book, but found I loved it. Basically, you get two stories from Lily’s point of view, and an interlude between them from Sebastian’s point of view. I liked having two different stories in one book.  I also love the witch/wizard concept. The stories are serious but light hearted, and I liked getting to know the characters and the world.

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: Revelations

After finishing the first, I immediately picked up the second. Again, a quick read, but I think this one goes even more in depth to the story and character of Lily, and I really wish I had bought 3 & 4. In an attempt to decide if I could spend any more money (I couldn’t), I found the novella for free on Kindle! I instantly downloaded it and finished it that night. There is now a TALKING CAT! What can be better than that? A sarcastic, snarky cat to boot. It ends on an almost cliffhanger, and I am getting the third/fourth book soon.

“Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus: A Study in Mischeif” – A Novella

Now this was just cute. I loved the chance to see these two actually meet. And reading it after the second book worked well. Truly adorable. I love these two. And the cat.

Hey look! I’m back :)

It has been six months since I wrote a blog post. Woah.

First, sorry.  Things has been kind of hectic, and I just let writing slide.  My husband was back in school, my son is crazy (in a good, energetic, terrible threes kinda way), and from October on was crazy at my job, then it was the holidays, and such, and such.

Basically, I just let my blog go. I was still writing reviews though, and you can see those in the following:

Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/book-review-mississippi-blood/article_49b191bd-aa19-5035-8a9c-ba2fbb279d33.html (go read this, it is awesome!)

The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/the-man-who-loved-birds-author-leaves-major-holes/article_51942091-d79a-5490-b78a-6575b51d3371.html (the ending of this book greatly upset me, and I felt there were holes, but it was an interesting story).

The Bourbon Thief: A Family with Bourbon in its Blood and Blood on its Hands by Tiffany Reisz: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/bourbon-deliversa-book-of-intrigue/article_1b5a12c6-b962-5a36-b0b6-546a1bb60ffd.html (5 Star book. Loved it)

The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/opulence-a-reminder-of-culture-and-community/article_8cfb1a06-7c6a-5a4b-b833-807ff383550d.html (Again interesting read but I felt things could have been more in depth or less jumpy)

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter by John Pipkin: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/astronomy-novel-falls-short-of-the-heavens/article_51af751e-7572-5831-8f3f-547667a38644.html (the title says my feelings. Fell short. Was really disappointed).

The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/journalist-is-on-target-with-fast-paced-sequel/article_553db823-00a8-5248-a7b7-10c7cc01d1e8.html (great sequel, fast paced)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: http://www.bgdailynews.com/community/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-reunites-old-friends/article_8258034d-483f-5f91-b2bc-1faec1e2a6f3.html (great!)

That should about catch it, and I will update my publications page.  Overall, I’ve read quite a few.  For my goodreads challenge of 2016, I read 50 books. I’m hoping for 55 this year, and plan to exceed that – I’ve already read 25! Here is the list: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/7034581

I will be reviewing a few of those over the next week. I have several that will be eventually published in the Bowling Green Daily News. I also will be doing a post over the SOKY Bookfest!

Have a great day guys!

Prepping for Battle

I’ve done NaNoWriMo technically twice, but last year I did not truly participate due to my mother-in-law passing away on November 2nd. However, last year I did do writing prep in October, and if you are curious about previous blogs, click here for a list of them. I won in 2014, but I wound up completely scrapping my project half way through (20ish thousand words) and starting over.  In the end I wrote over 50k, but I only kept about 30k.  Sad days.

This year, I’m hoping not to do any of that craziness. I’m going to start working on my story now, and it is a project I started earlier this year.  A friend has been helping with some research, I have pinterest board, and for the first time ever, I’ve almost completely plotted out a story.

So when prepping for battle, be aware that nothing goes as planned. Some people may argue that since I scrapped what I had and restarted, I may not have won in 2014. To me, I did. I wrote all of that, even if I went crazy, switched perspectives, added characters, and completely rewrote what I had to the point of adding new scenes and a new narrative. Not at all what I planned.  If you cannot tell, I do not usually plan much.

This year, I hope to change that. The story I wrote in 2014, actually came from a short story I wrote about Dragons, and a dragon ride (the first in centuries).  The short story was great. I pantsed it and went on with the story. I decided instead of third I wanted to do first. I fleshed the story out so much more.  Then after NaNo, when I was trying to finish it, I hit a wall.  A friend read it, and reported to me that I had no real villain. Oops. I had been so focused on the character, and the war, that I did not think about the fact that I needed something more central to focus on. I still love that story, but I’ve put it aside for now. Once again, I’m going to have to rework what I have and I just need a break.

So pantsing may work for some people, but right now I need a story I’ve planned. Enter “We Witches Three.”  I’ve planned and plotted and am researching. I’ve started the beginning of it. I know where I want to go.  I’m going to hash out what I have tonight, and really start reexamaning. I had meant to all this craziness starting in October, and really get used to writing every day again. Starting a new job in August, with this being one of two of my busiest months of the year, made things hectic.  Why can’t Nano be in like July?  There are hardly any kids here in July…

So are you a pantser or a plotter or both? I’d be interested in hearing your tales!

(Side note – I submitted a new book review last night for “The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter.” 2.5/5 – I will link it when it is published.)

 

Updates, General

Hello!

I hope you all are doing well!  I am currently taking a small break at work to update my blog!  I’ve been crazy busy of late. I started my new job on August 1st, so I’ve been figuring all of that out, helping my husband return to finish his degree, and also working on side projects!

I wrote three book reviews for Bowling Green Daily News last week, and one for Edmonson voice.  I am currently reading three books at once. I am reading I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter for my book club on Saturday, and The Man Who Loved Birds for review, as well as a Higher Education book a couple of professors wrote (also for a review).

I am pondering dying my hair red… it also needs cutting.

As things are beginning to level out, I am going to start writing again.  I want to get back on the wagon, and really work on my witch novel, which will be my focus for November. I plan to finish it by the end of November, which means I need about 65,000 more words on it.  We shall see how that goes!

Surely I will start writing on my blog more as well. I am currently obsessed with the song Lost Boys by Ruth B. If you haven’t heard it – go look it up on Youtube.

Oh, and I’m obsessed with PokemonGo.  I’m level 21, almost 22.  SO MUCH FUN!

Laters my friends!

Reading/Book Review Update

Oh me, oh my.

I’m having a hard time getting into a book this past week, for several different reasons.

First: Our book club picked “John Dies at the End” for June. The audiobook was on Overdrive, so I downloaded it.  I could not. I could NOT finish it.  The writing bothered me.  The tone bothered me.  There character drove me crazy. And from what I have been told, it got even crazier as it went on.  Only one person in my group liked it. I take that back, she LOVED it, and gave it five stars.  To each their own. I even tried to watch the movie on Netflix and made it about three minutes. To anyone who loved it, I’m sorry. I tried.

 

So, I think disliking that one so much but trying to listen to it as much as I could for book club kind of ruined for it me on the reading front at all.  That being said, I have several lined up I need to read. And I’m behind on book reviews. I need to review Queen Hereafter for the Edmonson Voice. I’m glad I get to review whatever I want for them.

'Third Target' an action-driven storyI have several books lined up for Bowling Green Daily News.  My review on “The Third Target” by Joel C. Rosenberg was published today. Check out the link for my full review, but overall it was a great read. There is death, destruction, politics and a bit of romance. It does have Christian overtones.  The overall politics are fascinating and slightly disturbing, since it is fiction but seems to ring so true to today. I have “The First Hostage” sitting on the shelf ready to read but I needed a small break from such topics.

I am reading “A Ghostly Grave” by Tonya Kappes, which was sent to me by BGDN. I am only about 20 pages in. It is … unusual. I thought it was a romance at first, but it seems to be more of a paranormal investigation type mystery – and the second in a series. I know I have two more coming from them, and possibly another on my shelf they sent.  I also have “The Drafter” by Kim Harrison to read. I’m actually really excited about that. I LOVED her Hollow series, and had been wanting to read her new Peri Reed Chronicles. She posted on her blog that they were looking for a few readers to get ARC’s of her second book in the series (The Operator). I wrote in, and talked about my blog, and that I could get my review published in the Bowling Green Daily News. I was picked for it, and will get The Operator in October. However, as a great surprise, her publishing company sent “The Drafter” (Which I had almost bought), along with an extra copy to give a friend to make sure we were all ready for the next one!

I have a few others I have bought myself that I want to read. Not to mention all the ones I’ve just been picked up or been given. I really wish I could make a living reviewing books and doing this all the time! Maybe then I would I wouldn’t be so behind…

So how do you handle being behind on your reading list? I’m ahead at least on my Goodreads goal! What do you do when you hit a book funk? When do you call it quits on trying to read something?

The Night Circus Book Review

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway–a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love – a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Why I Read It:

My good friend Nick found a copy, excitingly, at the Half Price Book Store when I was with him and my book club.  His girlfriend, my friend, had got him to read it. They both LOVED it. He had the copy in person, so I relented and gave in.  I am glad I did.

Thoughts:

Overall, this book is amazing.  The ideas in it are complex and different about magic. It is something that can be inherent, or taught. A great twist, and what eventually leads to the game this book surrounds.  There is magic, a circus, great characters, and twists and turns. I was sucked into this book and did not want to put it down. I finished it in about a day.

There are time jumps, and character switches. It can become slightly confusing to follow, but after a few of the switches you become more used to it, and it is easier to follow.  The switch in point of view I actually liked, because otherwise the story would have been much less dynamic.  There were moments when I laughed, moments when I cried, and when I hoped things would not go the way I feared. The voice of each character was different, thank goodness. Too often when you switch point of views you wind up with characters who all sound the same.  This is not the case.  The author did a fabulous job here. Characters are well built, they evolve and change, and they are faced with issues unique to themselves.  The game changes them all, in unforeseen ways.

There is romance, as it promises in the blurb. I have seen arguments that it feels like a “love at first sight” thing, but I disagree. I liked the two together, and how their relationship evolved.  I think often the acts we perform in this world speak volumes about who we are.  The magic these two are creating, the tents they set up, truly give each other a view into their soul and their thoughts. It is a way of speaking to each other that so few people could understand.  It is this that leads to their love, and from there that love grows.  I liked it.

Favorite Thing:

The Tents. Oh, I loved the tents and the circus. The magic was lovely.  The tents they created, magical to be obvious in description.  Each new creation was wondrous, and I could envision them easily. Too bad this circus doesn’t exist…

I am afraid to write more as I may start accidentally giving spoilers.  I enjoyed it.

5stars

Forever Doon is Enchanting – Giveaway

I received an ARC from the publisher in return for a review, which was published by Bowling Green Daily News.

“Forever Doon” by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Blink Publishing (an imprint of Zondervan/Harper Collins), 2016. 368 pages. $17.99.

“With the witch of Doon on the throne, Jamie believed dead and Duncan and Mackenna trapped in Alloway, Veronica has no choice but to put her grief aside and prepare her remaining followers for the impending battle against the false queen and her forces. But while on a covert mission to steal a powerful elixir from the castle, Veronica discovers her true love may actually be alive and fighting a battle of his own. With the Brig o’ Doon destroyed and the portal fragmented, Doon’s forces are not only divided but also isolated in different dimensions. With the help of a storyteller as ancient as the witch herself, Kenna and Duncan learn they must rebuild the bridge to have any chance of crossing back into Doon with their ragtag army. But when Mackenna insists on fighting as well, Duncan soon realizes the only way he can ensure her safety is to turn her into a cold-hearted killer. For Vee, Jamie, Kenna and Duncan, saving their kingdom while keeping their lives intact will take a miracle.”

 

We finally return to Doon, with the last book in this quartet. After the cliffhanger of “Shades of Doon,” the third book in this series, I eagerly awaited this book to arrive on my doorstep. Corp and Langdon do not disappoint in their final installment. Many of the things I loved about the previous three novels were still present, and there were new and better twists to the story. The Doon series is a wonderful mix of fantasy, romance and drama in a young adult novel. Although it is not necessarily dealing with things we would call an everyday reality (high school, cancer, moving, etc.), it still faces many realities head-on: relationships, family issues, drama, faith, acceptance and more.

One of the most exciting and unexpected new twists to “Forever Doon” is that it is told from four viewpoints. Not only are we seeing the story from Veronica and Mackenna, we now hear Jamie’s and Duncan’s viewpoints as well. At first, it threw me off because it was not something I was expecting. However, after a few of these sections I was grateful for the added viewpoints. It added dimension and depth to each character and was a nice change with two male and two female perspectives. Now I’m equally curious which author wrote which …

 

Having said that I loved the new viewpoints, I was slightly frustrated with Mackenna and Duncan. If you are older, it can be frustrating to see their logic and why they are making the decisions they are. I may have shouted a couple of times, annoyed that they were making choices for silly reasons. However, we have to stop and think about what the characters are facing and their age. It works in the setting, and the story. Even if it is like one of those moments in a movie when you are almost too embarrassed to watch it happen, or just frustrated you want to scream at the screen. The fact that the writers can evoke such emotion is a great thing.

 

As always we are given new characters, and a few of them I really enjoyed. One of the things I have always loved about Doon is that it is wonderfully diverse and open to those who come through the portal. That never changes, and I was excited to see even more of this. In fact, I would have liked more of it. Sadly, I think with the two new viewpoints the previous main side characters fall behind a bit. We hear less from those we love such as Fiona and Fergus, and I did miss them. Veronica and Mackenna are still best friends, however, and I truly love what they did with their friendship in this series, especially in this final book.

 

The pop culture references were as relevant and fun as always. Pop culture references can date a novel in a bad way, but because Mackenna is such a Broadway fanatic, it is not only new pop songs, movies or plays that she mentions. She is able to bring the Broadway references to the story in a way that makes it perfect. It is even better with references to Harry Potter (which shall never die). Another thing that works in their favor is when they reference something modern around original Doonians who have been out of touch in the modern era, and then to new recruits to Doon who can understand it, which one scene in particular really highlights. I enjoyed the pop culture and think others will for a long time as well.

 

Although we have seen the setting change in the stories before, from modern to Doon, from Scotland to the United States, this novel really highlights the differences in the two. Because there were characters stranded in the modern era, I think the pieces we see from this side are really intriguing. Having one character picked up from a place they know and love and deposited in another always gives us further insight into their characters. Not only this, but we still continued to see Doon through Veronica’s eyes and see the trials that she was facing. The people of Doon, the landscapes, battles and changes were all written with attention to detail.

 

Characters face ever more difficult tasks in this novel. From learning how to find your strength and how to survive, to remembering that there is always joy to be found, this series continues to cover great ground. With small and large battles, private fights and sparring moments, this novel is touching and enchanting. Though a few characters are lost, this is an ending to be remembered.

 

For now, the Doon series is over, but perhaps there will be more stories in the future. Forever Doon!

 

Doon Poster

I am doing a Giveaway!  Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon autographed a “Shades of Doon” poster for me to giveaway.  Click on the link to register – It will run until midnight of June 29th!

The Harry Potter Book Tag

Came across this on Captivated~By~Fantasy’s blog!

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A Book you found interesting but would like to rewrite:

 

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Honestly, I’m still reading this.  The plot is okay, but there is nonstop comparisons and lists of what things something is like whenever she describes something. It also feels very slow paced. I am listening to it, and I do like the person reading it.

 

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The first book in a series that got you hooked:

 

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Okay, there are so many that could go here. Obviously, Harry Potter. However, I want to sing the praises of Doon. It’s a great quartet, that will be finished soon (the fourth comes out later this year, I’ve already read it. Ends great!).

 

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A book you wish you could have right now:

 

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I love every book Tamora Pierce has written (see previous posts), but somehow I still do not have this one nor have I read it.  It is never at the store, which does not help.

 

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A killer book:

 

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Tis pretty awesome. I think the title speaks for itself.

 

 

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A book you find confusing:

 

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Oh this book…. there is even a debate on whether or not it is a collection of short stories that kind of connect or supposed to be an actual novel. Yep.  It was… odd.

 

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Your spirit animal book:

 

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This was hard to pick.

 

 

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A dark, twisted book

 

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I probably never would have finished this if it had not been a pick for my book club. I must say though, it was good. But certainly dark and twisty. And sad. I still haven’t read the second. Not sure I will.

 

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A book that surprised you in a huge way:

 

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I had serious doubts about a book written from a dog’s point of view.I shouldn’t have. This book is everything, and you will sob at the end, I promise.

 

 

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And the people I vote to do this:

Amanda McCormick

Monica Spees

And anyone else who wants too!