challenges

Thanksgiving Dinner Book Tag

Coming out of temporary hiatus to do a fun-looking book tag! (I have since put out a review of JP Delaney’s “The Girl Before” on my Instagram, come check it out!)

Thanksgiving is upon us here in the USA, so Mayah at Library in My Mind created a fun new tag. The goal is to assign a book to each Thanksgiving food based on its characteristics.

Roast Turkey

A boss among books, because of it’s strong willed and well rounded characters: Things You Save in a Fire

The MC has a personality all her own, and so do the other firefighters and even her mother who insists that they bond together.

Mashed Potatoes

that book that makes you all mushy inside just to think about it: Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe!

This one got me into fluffy chick-lit stories and reminded me how much fun they could be. A bakery, a legitimately cute love interest, a doting grandpa…what more could you want? It semi-inspired my novella Twelve Days till Dating.

Green Beans

is the book that you personally love, but isn’t for everyone: The Hypnotist’s Love Story.

There are a lot of skeptics about hypnosis out there, but whether you think it could work or not, I love this story. The suspense of a stalker is an interesting angle for a book to take, especially when it’s a women who you can kind of sympathize with. This is an interesting book for me because I think it loses something in the last 3rd with a silly subplot about the protagonist finding her father, but otherwise, I really like this one.

Stuffing

a book you will never get tired of rereading: A Dog’s Purpose.

Insightful and incredibly well-researched, I love watching the dog grow up with several families and owners, especially Ethan’s. By far Cameron’s best work. People say the sequel is better but I strongly disagree and actually think it’s his weakest work.

The book I actually do reread more often? Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Cranberry Sauce

the book that just drips sweet romance, but has a bitter ending: With You Always.

Bryce seems perfect…so perfect that the first part of the book is pretty slow and bland. However, you can’t say you wouldn’t want to be Julia…until his controlling side comes through, not just for him, but with his church family.

Cornbread

a book that seamlessly merges romance and adventure: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris.

um. Hmm. This was a tough one. I don’t read a lot of adventure books, or a lot of straight-up romances! (Even less adventure.) However, I’d say moving to Paris qualifies as an adventure, especially when you’re scheming to get your terminally ill French teacher aboard a ship so she can see her first love one more time.

Pumpkin Pie

a special book you look forward to once a year: Garfield?

Image result for garfield christmas

Uh. I don’t really have any of these. Christmas Garfield strips count, right? And the special is based off some lines from the strips, soo….yeah. Garfield it is. Whether you think it’s still a good comic or not, Garfield Christmases are always something special, and I do look forward to a new storyline every year.

Be sure to tell me what’s on your Thanksgiving table, and check out the original post listed above!

blog business

Probably taking a semi-hiatus.

I’m sorry y’all. There are two main reasons for this.

1. I am still getting little to no views all of a sudden.

So yeah. Things have just CRASHED since my Dumbledore post back in October. Either everyone really disagrees with me that Dumbledore is a good guy, or people are busy (October is usually slow for me, idk why), or there is some other reason. But now it’s November and there are still barely any views, barely any engagements, to the point where I’m going through my settings and seeing if I accidentally marked the blog private. I have no clue what’s going on. I may or may not be experimenting with upgrading my plan and trying a bit harder to SEO the place so it gets seen more, but it wasn’t as much a problem before…

I think that for now I will stick to posting book thoughts on Instagram. My username is the_real_morgan_myers. It is open to everyone who has an account there. The thoughts I put on those posts will start to become more detailed than what I had in the past. It’s possible I may put my Instagram reviews on the blog as well to see how shorter formats do. Overall, this really saddens me, and hopefully I will try again soon.

2. I will be spending more time on my holiday/party design endeavor anyway.

November/December is Elf on the Shelf season at my other blog and Pinterest account, so I get quite busy at this time of year. I can now have a bigger opportunity to focus on that making Elf on the Shelf printables, which can be busy in itself. You can see that stuff here!

I will be here doing my 2019 Book Awards at the end of December as usual, so stick around. After that, I will probably try putting my longer reviews up again; get a fresh start. If that still doesn’t turn out anything, I don’t know where I’ll go from there. Hope to see some of you guys around.

reviews

Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story; Jacob Tobia

Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story; Jacob Tobia
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2019
Pages: 315
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Ravenclaw

Jacob may have been born a male, but they didn’t stay that way. From an early age, Jacob was far more interested in the feminine; looking up to female characters, dressing up, playing with Barbies. This called to mind a term that would stick with Jacob: Sissy.

As they grew older, however, his parents thought it prudent to hide Jacob’s non-conforming identity for reasons of “safety.” The world did not always agree with Jacob’s gender. In some cases; it seemed out to get it. Throughout childhood and as a teenager, Jacob takes you through their journey of self-discovery, proving that gender is more than just a matter of male and female. Ultimately, between the success and failures, Jacob will discover that self-expression is the key to living an authentic life.

Transphobia has always confused me. Think about it. Imagine your kid coming out to you, and you as a parent being like, “You’re the WRONG gender? Get out of my house! I no longer love you and never will again!” I can’t think your love for your child was very strong to begin with if something as superficial as gender affects your entire opinion of them; if that’s all it takes for you to get rid of them.

These are the same questions Jacob explains in their memoir. Why does so much ride on gender? Why do we insist on placing each other into categories…and get angry at each other when we refuse to be labeled? Why does their mother insist she supports them, when she actually encourages them to be more like a guy? However, these questions really aren’t answered. Instead, Jacob presents a different transgender narrative, making for a different book than I thought I was going to get, one that was just as much about. Jacob themselves isn’t taking measures to physically transform into a female, like taking hormones. Instead, they dress up and express femininity that way, along with using the pronouns them/they. And they really love gowns and high heels, something that will last into adulthood.

There is a lot to be learned here. Jacob essentially takes us through their childhood, from dressing up and liking Barbies to going to college and dealing with the social systems in place there, from first coming out as gay at sixteen to fully accepting their feminine identity. While Jacob was indeed celebrated on campus, it didn’t mean that there weren’t little things ingrained in the system trying to bring them down that cisgender people (read: people who identify as the gender they were assigned) won’t notice. I especially liked their thoughts on what it meant to be professional; how the workforce seems to cater to straight white men, and while overt discrimination isn’t as present as it once was, it can display itself in other ways. A born male wearing a dress, for example, won’t be seen as “professional” and may have cost Jacob some scholarships. One thing that did make the Christian in me very happy was that church was a big part of Jacob’s life. While they did take a break from it, they seemed to be mostly accepted, something I wish all Christians would do, as we are a faith of love. Jacob even presents the idea that discrimination is against the Bible’s teachings, as we are supposed to love and embrace one another. It’s not God making a mistake, Jacob argues, if that’s who they are. Overall, they aren’t hesitant about sharing their struggles, but they celebrate the joys and the funny moments as well. It’s not all doom and gloom. Many people in Jacob’s life were quick to accept them. Others were not.

Obviously as a cis woman, I’m hesitant to “critique” anything, because who am I to say whether Jacob is wrong or right? (Except for when they insulted my Hogwarts house…HOW DARE YOU??!??) However, I am a book blogger, it’s my duty to share opinions, and it would be unfair to give it five stars just because Jacob is transgender (see their chapter on being a college campus token–being celebrated for being diverse comes with its own set of rules). Most of the “issues” here, though, were writing-related and I won’t get into them…organization, footnotes (unnecessary and distracting in nonfiction in my opinion, unless you’re crediting someone) and maybe getting a bit sidetracked. What I mean by that is that Jacob is one of those people who figures that since they’re talking about one social issue, they’ll address them all. Paragraphs about cultural appropriation (why white US citizens shouldn’t dress as Native Americans for Halloween), health care politics, the NFL’s treatment of women, and diversity are all present. Although having interesting things to say, most of them distract from the overall ideas and could have been cut.

I also would have liked to hear more about Jacob’s professional life as a culmination of their initial story. I don’t know what they do in LA, but apparently that are very successful in their job. I would have loved to see where they’re at now since I have not heard of them before this book and was a bit disappointed I couldn’t learn more. I guess the theme here, though, was growing up.

In exploring gender and knocking down stereotypes, Sissy does what it sets out to do, nitpicky writing pet peeves aside. It’s a very eye-opening memoir; if you are cisgender, you will learn something. If you’re looking to inform yourself, pick it up and learn something new. If you struggle to accept trans people, even more reason for you to read it. Just try. Love is easier than hate. This book is not “shoving gayness in your face” or “presenting an agenda.” Jacob is right: gender doesn’t need to be serious. This is a way that people are born, and by reading each other’s perspectives, we can change to become more accepting ourselves.

Book Club Questions

To be used for book clubs/blogs/thinking, and answers in the comments are also welcome if you are inspired!

  1. Jacob says that we all have experienced some sort of gender-based trauma, whether we stay the gender that we are assigned at birth or not. Can you recall a time like this in your childhood? If not, can you recall a time you thought “Man, boys (or girls) are so lucky to be able to do this?”
  2. What is one idea you had about being transgender that was proven incorrect in the book? How so?
  3. Based on Jacob’s experiences, what are some steps that we can take to create a more friendly and suitable world for LGBTQ people? How can you personally start living by these principles today?
  4. Describe a time that you deviated from your gender roles. Did anything come of it?
  5. Jacob mentions several well-known institutions. Did the way these locations, organizations, and how people treated Jacob make you think less of them?

articles

Should Writers be Unique or Write to Sell?

This morning on bookstagram, a fellow bookstagrammer posted about their weekend read. It was a story about a teenage girl who is sick and so prevents many people from getting near her. But, surprise surprise, she enters a relationship with a boy and has to find a way to let people in. The book’s title? “Sick Kids in Love.” It doesn’t even try to be creative. That’s like a vampire novel calling itself The Sparkly Vampire Meets the Awkward Loner. (Not that it’s fair for me to criticize a book without reading it, but by the summary alone, which I often use to decide whether I want to read something, I’d be letting this one go.)

It was the same thing with vampires back when I was younger. Our local library’s YA section was so saturated with vampire books–I’d say that was 50% of the book selection– that I got sick of going to the library and went to Barnes and Noble a lot more. (Of course that could just be a slight on my local library, but still.) I think it goes without saying that not every teenager wants to read the same thing. Perhaps that library was trying to make reading “cool” by being super-trendy. But there was nothing for me there. I personally don’t want to read the same story over and over again, nor do I want to pay money to do so. Yes, I do like psychological thrillers featuring obsessive love, but the books still need to do something different to keep my interest. I’m even tiring of the Netflix versions of these because the same cliches keep popping up. What I do appreciate is when a thriller tries something new.

So what can writers do if they do have legitimate interest in writing something that’s seen a lot? Do something new, even if slightly. I took a copywriting course recently, and one technique that advertisers can do to enhance their brand’s message is finding a unique selling point. Meaning, if you want to write another book about sick kids, for example, add something that hasn’t been done yet. Some ideas might include characters being cousins who hate each other, having it be a thriller where the guy isn’t who he seems and may have something more sinister going on, adding a racial/cultural conflict, etc.

Is their risk in doing something new? Sure. But you’d be hard pressed to find me, or many readers, complaining about actually doing something different. In my reviews, even if I don’t like the way something is done, I will almost always applaud seeing something different. Every time I see a character have a good relationship with their father, I want to jump up and down, because it’s so weirdly rare these days. Who knows? Writers may start the next popular trend.

Ultimately, writers should write what makes them happy. If they enjoy writing what they create, chances are it will be a good story. And if something is popular, there will probably be an audience for it. But I think, too, that creativity is important, and that writers shouldn’t hesitate to break new ground. People will eventually get tired of hearing the same narrative over and over. If they’re ultimately doing it for the money, they may do better, and be happier, finding a different career path, as it’s so hard to make a career from it to begin with.

reviews

Things You Save in a Fire; Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire; Katherine Center
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 310
Published: 2019
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Hufflepuff, Gryffindor

Cassie was made to fight fires. It’s her life. She does her job and moves on to the next, being the tough girl that she is.

When disaster strikes at her Texas firehouse, Cassie finds herself packing her bags and moving in with her mother on the East Coast–the mother who abandoned her on her sixteenth birthday. The firehouse that she joins is an old-school boys club and nobody is to thrilled to have a female firefighter join the ranks.

Until another rookie shows up. He’s handsome and crushworthy, two things that Cassie has sworn would never sway her. After all, love is for girls. And Cassie is a firefighter. But as time goes on and the two must learn to work with one another, Cassie will have to learn how to deal with those strange things called feelings.

Things You Save in a Fire is a novel that bookstagram and the blog universe have been talking about considerably. Firefighters? That’s a group I’ve never read about before. Romance? Hmm, possibly interesting. Fair warning, though: there are elements of click-lit novels, but there are equal parts of toughness, making for a certainly unique read. But is it truly a romance?

This novel changes the chick-lit narrative by inserting a tough-as-nails heroine, Cassie. This, I liked. It was a nice change from the ditzy magazine writer types I usually see. After standing up to her rapist back home, and forfeiting a promotion, she goes to live with her mom in Massachusetts, becoming a firefighter in what is known as a boys’ club. She was well-developed as a character and had a personality all her own. If she had a flaw, I didn’t care for how she believes that anything girly is bad…just like her captain, who warns her of all sorts of bad man behavior that don’t happen as often as Cassie thinks. This is not the kind of feminism I like to see. I appreciate Center wanting to take a feminist angle, but “only being tough, you know, like a traditional man” isn’t really the way to go about it. Some of the male behavior is pretty corny, too. They make kitchen jokes and talk down to Cassie and all kinds of trite things that misogynistic caricatures do. Speaking of which…

When this book has something it wants to say, either about feminism or forgiveness, it tells you. It’s definitely prevalent–Cassie has to forgive her mother, other firefighters, a rapist, and more. But this novel doesn’t send a subtle message when it says something. It whacks you over the head with a baseball bat. Repeatedly. This was probably the biggest issue I had with the book: it’s preachy. Near the end especially, it gets so heavy on forgiveness–Cassie launches into full-blown speeches about it–that I think it forgets to give Cassie and her coworkers and Owen enough screen time, because it’s so busy getting deep about forgiveness and why women don’t come forward after rape and finding justice and who knows what other things that weren’t all necessarily central to the story. I wonder if it tried to take on too many subjects, between Cassie’s estranged mother and her past and the firehouse drama. If this was truly a romance, I think that more time between Owen and Cassie was necessary. But it often skips over these scenes to go right to the philosophy. These messages are definitely worth thinking about. However, they took up too much time that should have been devoted to Cassie and Owen. I felt like a lot of their relationship was summarized. In fact, I’m almost hesitant to call this a romance because it could be much more in-depth than it was.

Nevertheless, I did like her. As was true for the other characters. Despite the firemen not always treating Cassie respectfully, I had the sense that there was more going on beneath the surface. Diana, her mom, I wanted to dislike and shared Cassie’s stubborn streak when it came to looking at her, until I realized there was more going on there, too. Both tough feminists and romance lovers will find something to like here. On the other hand, will both groups end up disliking the other half of the novel that doesn’t cater to them because it’s so jarring?

Let’s talk about that. The firefighting parts are full of toughness and excitement. The parts with Cassie visiting her mom turn into Hallmark shmaltz. These parts are so different from the other that to move from one scene to another can be jarring. However, I was fine with this, as I do like both. It’s hard to think of a target audience for this book, though. Is it for middle-aged woman who love a Macomber novel and a cup of tea? Is it for radical feminists? Truthfully it appeals to sides of both, maybe to say that the two can run together. Cassie, too, ultimately learns to embrace her emotions, even if these parts are overshadowed by philosophical thoughts on what it means to forgive. Don’t look at it as just a romance, though, because there are plenty of things going on here–maybe too much, as the book seems rushed in places. I often found myself wanting to know just a little bit more–about characters, about a scene that wasn’t included, about the rookie Owen, etc. Additionally, I feel like a lot of characters were extremely quick to make amends and forgive and forget. The bad guys suddenly become great guys. I appreciate that that’s a major theme in the book, but it seems like the author went for the wish-fulfillment resolutions that were too good to be true.

It’s definitely a unique take on romance and different from your standard fare. It could have been made better if the issues and messages were more subtle, and if it was a little longer to expand on some ideas. Still, it’s not just a romance and I’m hesitant to even call it just that. This is a novel about forgiveness and firefighting culture, and if you can swallow the preaching, it’s worth checking out.

Book Club Questions (spoilers!)

  1. What does forgiveness mean to you? What are your limits? What are Cassie’s? Does she end up forgiving Heath? Is forgiving the same as wanting justice?
  2. Cassie refuses to be a girly girl, finding feelings and crushes to be silly. Can you be both a feminist and girly? Is it wrong to be a feminist girly girl?
  3. Do Cassie’s new coworkers truly disrespect her, or is this just how they act to everyone they work with?
  4. Cassie’s captain in Austin warns her about all the things that her new firefighters could do to her. In reality, they sometimes do treat her differently because she is female, but it is much more subtle. How does gender influence our perceptions of others? How did it for Cassie and her fellow firefighters? In which situations do girls have the advantage? Boys?
  5. Is this novel considered chick lit? Why or why not/
articles

Stories of My Childhood: Amelia’s Notebook

In this series, I explore books that have had a special meaning to me as a kid. It can be any book that tells a story that isn’t a board book, counting/alphabet book, and that is one I remember well. Of course, it should ideally be good too.

What is the book about?

The first book begins when Amelia is getting ready to move to a new house in a new state with her older sister and her mom in fourth grade. She doesn’t want to leave her best friend, Nadia, but there are other fun adventures that wait at her new place. In her notebook, she writes and draws about her time there and new friends. And Amelia isn’t just a writer–she’s an artist and scientist curious about the world.

There are many other books in the series, too. In the sequel, she struggles with a school fire. In another, she corresponds with Nadia and they talk about their dads. When Amelia enters middle school, the books become hardcovers and take on a more linear storyline and deal with subjects such as a mean teacher, gossip, and overnight field trips. Other books are purely entertainment, such as a notebook with boredom busters and another devoted to fortune-telling games.

My favorites had to be Madam Amelia Tells All, Amelia’s Easy-as-Pie Drawing Guide (which actually taught me of all people how to draw some things well!), Amelia’s 6th Grade Notebook, and Amelia’s Family Ties.

How did I discover it?

I was subscribed to American Girl magazine, which used to have a two-page Amelia spread–a mini-story– in every issue. Most of these stories weren’t published elsewhere, but once the feature was retired a book was published that included some of the best stories from the magazine. I bought it, and one thing led to another, and soon I was purchasing other books in the series. It soon became a favorite. Well before that, I think, I bought her Boredom Survival Guide from a school book order.

What I like about the books

They were different! Although they were also good for middle schoolers, it wasn’t a chapter book format–just Amelia’s entries and drawings that combined to form an overall story. They even looked like notebooks with marble covers and lined pages. Amelia was a great artist, too, and her drawings and side notes lined the margins. When she went to Chicago, for example, there was a cow exhibit throughout the city at the time, so she made up little themed cows to draw throughout the notebook.

Just look at these pages. How cool are they? I think these predated Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, and most other notebook-style stories. I’m not sure if it predated Abby Hayes or not, but either way, this notebook series was arguably the original.

How did the books inspire me?

I tried once or twice to make a notebook of my own, but didn’t get very far. Journaling has always been challenging to keep up with! Fortunately, there was an official notebook you could fill in from the author of the series, and I loved working on that. Of course, I didn’t complete that either.

My thoughts on the books today

I still enjoy them. Looking back, these are very standard issues, but the format is so unique that it never feels like the author is trying to beat you over the head. I don’t know if Marissa Moss is still writing them, but supposedly she also has 7th and 8th grade notebooks. One of them I think involves Amelia wanting to ask a boy to the dance, but it’s my personal prediction that Amelia will eventually come out as bisexual if the books go that far.

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Eleven Fun Garfield Facts

All comics courtesy of Garfield.com.

There shalt be no comments complaining, “but it’s only a comic, you’re looking into it too much!!!” This is just for fun.

Jon wasn’t always the dweeb we know him to be.

His clothing hasn’t changed much, but in the early days, he was your normal bachelor. He smoked a pipe and it was hinted that he liked print pornography. Perhaps this normality was because he lived with a roommate who influenced him. Lyman stopped appearing in the strip sometime in the 80s. Soon after that, Jon dumbed down considerably once the strip needed to find other sources of humor. See my post on Jon’s possible history here.

Garfield used to see a male vet.

He didn’t make a ton of appearances, but based on some comics, we can see that Garfield saw a different person. Dr. Liz didn’t appear until later. She rejects Jon in her first storyline.

Jon finally found love in 2006.

He got together with Liz Wilson and they’ve been together ever since. There are still no signs of a marriage. Maybe Liz still has lingering doubts? (The storyline, in June 2006, shows Jon going on a date with longtime interest Ellen and swapping dates with Liz while there.)

At the time of this writing, Jon is almost 70.

He was twenty-nine sometime in the late 70s. That would make him about 69 today. He’s looking good!

Despite Garfield aging along with the comics, he is still a full-sized fat cat in his first appearance.

We never see him grow up with his parents in the pasta restaurant where he was born. His birthday is considered to be the day he was born. So did he just appear from thin air? Then again, Jon doesn’t seem to age either. Maybe they live in an alternate universe.

Jon going golfing, tropical vacations, and Halloween storylines were popular ideas all but nonexistent now.

Newer popular storylines involve Garfield challenging the dog next door, Garfield befriending mice, and Garfield at Christmas. There was a great existential storyline in the 80s involving Garfield waking up in his abandoned house. Unfortunately, weeklong tales of how Garfield squishes spiders are still common. Irma also barely shows up anymore, if at all.

Jon’s dated a plethora of interesting women despite being unlucky in love.

Garfield Comic Strip for May 27, 1979
Bye, Felicia.

Among them: Big Bertha, a woman named Euphemia, a woman raised by wolves, and more. Jon also dated some normal women near the beginning and even kicked one out of the house when it was revealed she didn’t like cats. He’s had better dating luck than I have.

Garfield has a non-canon Thanksgiving special.

Image result for garfield thanksgiving

In it, Jon must prepare a Thanksgiving dinner in less than a day when Liz actually accepts his invitation to dinner. Garfield, meanwhile, struggles with being on a diet. It takes inspiration and dialogue from the comics but creates an original story. He also has Halloween and Christmas specials.

Jon is not unemployed.

He is a cartoonist. In early days, we can see him working at a board.

There is a comic where Liz congratulates Jon, implying that he just drunk a mug of dog semen. When people took the joke too seriously, Jim Davis came forward and said that wasn’t the case.

In reality, the mug probably contained pet medication or coffee for Liz. However, it remains infamous and a popular meme among the fanbase.

Nermal belongs to Jon’s parents.

Image result for nermal
Garfield Wikia

So if his parents haven’t been off the farm since ’53, how does Nermal get to Jon’s place? And why don’t we see Nermal at the farm? So many questions.

reviews

Lock Every Door; Riley Sager

Lock Every Door: Riley Sager
Genre: Thriller
Published: 2019
Pages: 368
Hogwarts House Recommendation: Gryffindor

A luxury Manhattan apartment. Famous neighbors. $12,000. What could go wrong?
Everything. But Jules, trying to start her life over again, is up for the challenge of living at the historic Bartholomew. Sure, there are some strange rules, like not bothering the neighbors, or not inviting guests. But she’s lost so much–including her parents and sister who she never found again–that she is willing to overlook everything.
After bonding with a neighbor who reminds her of her missing sister, Jules soon realizes that there is more than meets the eye. She begins an investigation of her own and the things that she uncovers are frightening. But will she be able to survive long enough to get out?

I had said months earlier that I’d finally read the scariest book I’ve ever read. Behind Closed Doors, it was called. It was chilling in that it was something that it could really happen. I said it was already a good candidate for Overall Best Book in my 2019 Book Awards.

It now has some serious competition.

Lock Every Door appears to be your standard thriller. A character lands in a too-good-to-be-true situation and there’s probably a bad guy or girl in the midst. It’s more than that, though. This novel goes from just suspenseful (which I like) to Stephen King-scary to flat-out disturbing just like that–fair warning, then, that if you don’t have a strong stomach this probably won’t be the book for you, as the last third is pretty harrowing and not impossible. It never lets up in interest, from the glamorous apartment and interesting people to the times where things start going wrong. An apartment filled with rich and famous people is interesting on its own: favorite authors who wrote a book about said apartment, soap opera stars, and a handsome doctor are worth reading about without the suspense.

And what makes it truly terrifying? Again, it’s something that could really happen, albeit not without lots of work behind it. (The goings-on here are definitely something that exists.) The implications made me nauseous; not something that I don’t believe has ever happened with a book before. This isn’t a slight on Sager’s writing, though. In fact, the mounting terror makes everything seem much more real. The scenario that Jules finds herself in is certainly unique, but continues to go above and beyond as the story progresses. Adding to the fact is that she has pretty much no money left and would otherwise be left to her own devices.

Admittedly, I was worried I came across a spoiler on Goodreads well before beginning, not knowing that I was going to read this novel. Someone asked a question that said: “Do you think that ___________ had anything to do with it?” Armed with this possibility of knowledge, I was able to figure out why they’d be connected to the goings-on pretty easily. However, this is an ending that will be hard for most readers to guess, leaving them with a chill most of the way through. I certainly didn’t. My guess could have been because I had this knowledge, so I can’t speak for anyone else.

What else does this book have? A fun setting, quirky characters to offset the looming mystery, and Jules herself. Okay, yes, Jules spends plenty of time missing her dead parents and sometimes it tries a little too hard to be “deep” about it by making readers dwell on short sentences with their own paragraphs. However, these parts don’t last long. And it also has an end that wraps things up nicely, which I like. One might think that it would be hard to blend components of a ghost story, a psychological thriller, mystery, and horror all into one, but Sager blends them seamlessly. And is it any of those things, really? Readers will have to figure it out.

Twisted, disturbing, and suspenseful, this isn’t a novel I’ll forget about anytime soon. I may read more by Sager–that is, once I’ve read some lighter books to offset the shock and scare factors a little bit. Really well done; though be warned as I’ve said above: there is disturbing stuff here. My five-star picks aren’t a lot of other people’s, I’ve noticed, but I wouldn’t rate it as such if I didn’t feel like it was top-tier.

Book Club Questions (spoilers!)

  1. There is a lot riding on money and wealth in this book. The Bartholomew was created because the family thought they were better than everyone. The staff preys on poorer people, like Ingrid and Jules. Why and how does money corrupt people? What about people that are charitable but unkind or even evil, such as Margaret Milton? Should they be let off the hook? Do you think that the rich always work harder? What are the pros and cons of being wealthy?
  2. Readers never hear what happened to Jane, as don’t many families who see a loved one disappear. Invent an ending for her. Was it possible that she could have been a Bartholomew victim?
  3. Have you done anything out of the ordinary to get out of debt? What was it?
  4. The day of this post is Halloween. There are lots of elements in this book that might qualify it as a spooky Halloween tale. What are they?

blog business

Psst….Anyone out there? Anybody?

I’m getting the feeling that it really is almost Halloween. This blog has taken on the aura of a haunted house, or perhaps a ghost town. I have had barely any views or engagements since my Dumbledore post on October 5. This is absolutely unprecedented ever since Google+ died and I got nearly nothing near the end of my Blogger days.

This is me just checking in to make sure you all are still alive and I’m not in a Halloween horror movie or something. I may also have something very exciting coming up, so watch this space. If you like to read, you are going to love what I have in store! However, if it doesn’t garner enough interest, I will have to cancel it, so bear that in mind.

Otherwise, I may take a break from blogging and move to Instagram for a while. This isn’t what I want to do, but if nobody’s listening, it may be better for the time being. (I do have a great spooky story to review, so keep an eye out for it if you need motivation to stick around.)

specials

My Favorite (and least favorite) Thrillers This Year

Happy almost Halloween! This means that it’s time to take stock of my spooky books over the last year.

I love the thriller genre. Some of you may be getting sick of seeing so many on the blog. But part of me is also picky. If the ending is weak, if a character is boring, if it centers around yet ANOTHER boring affair or someone else’s missing father, I will be at least slightly let down. I mean, sometimes they do get formulaic.

To me, the best thrillers are the ones I can’t stop thinking about. But what are they, and which ones could I live without?

Best Thrillers

The Woman in the Window

This was a great choice, not just because of the storyline, but because of the atmosphere. I really enjoyed the experience of reading it and “listening to” the author’s voice. It feels like a classic thriller movie and the MC liked classic movies as well, which was an interesting aspect.

Behind Closed Doors

I almost didn’t pick this one up, feeling it would just be a normal domestic abuse story. I was so wrong. OMG THIS WAS FREAKING INTENSE, PEOPLE. With preparation, this could absolutely happen in real life. I don’t understand the lukewarm Goodreads reviews. This is a strong candidate for not just Best Suspense, but for Overall Best Book in my December 2019 book awards. I just lent it out to a coworker and she feels the same way I do! Cannot recommend enough. Sometimes, simple plots are better.

One Perfect Lie

This was a different and exciting one! I like to think of it as taking place in thirds, at which points the story moves in a different direction. It’s hard to take all of these moving parts, and Lisa Scottoline does it pretty well. One problem though: it didn’t need the forced romance.

I am also currently reading Lock Every Door, which obviously I haven’t reviewed yet. However, it is looking good so far…

Perfectly Fine Thrillers:

Before She Knew Him

Okay, this was decent. I did figure out the ending, though, and I didn’t remember much else about it. A good story, but not an especially memorable one.

Best Day Ever

This was another book I enjoyed for the voice. Paul, our narrator, is authentic and creepy. It’s a slow burn but I went in prepared, and I liked the story more for it.

I Know Who You Are

An actress’ husband disappears, leading to a great mystery and even better backstory. Hmm, the backstory was more interesting…is that good or bad? The ending, which although Hitchcockian and creepy, left a LOT of questions.

Obsession

I hadn’t heard of this one before it was on a “recommended” shelf at a local bookstore. Huh. Cheating, cheating, and more cheating. We’ve seen this before…plenty. There were chilling moments for sure, but I also felt that characters acted rashly out of nowhere to keep the book moving. The title is also misleading.

Watching You

I didn’t always find the plot thrilling, but ultimately I connected to the characters. Also, I solved it, and that was super exciting. Not as much of the watching and stalking aspects as I hoped for, but it was still an interesting and well-written book.

With You Always

This was a unique twist…a Christian thriller! But the guy in question is so seemingly perfect that the first third of the book is boring, and again, there are a ton of unanswered questions here. It needed an epilogue.

Someone We Know

This one started out boring me. It was a murder mystery and not much else with regards to substance. However, as things picked up, I connected more and more with the characters and ultimately solved this one as well. It has the honor of being the first mystery I solved before the book ended. I bumped this one up from 3.5 stars to 4 stars just because it got better as it went on and I cared about these characters.

The Affair; Sheryl Browne

A lot better than I thought it would be, honestly. It came with The Babysitter, another novel by the author, so I had to read it. It was a surprising twist on a kidnapping, essentially.

The Babysitter

Like the book above, this is another tale of family hardship and getting the kids involved. I despised this villain, and I worried if she was going to get away with everything. The characters, too, are great, and I would love to see more about these detectives.

Disappointing Thrillers

The House Swap

A couple moves into another person’s house and gets the sense that someone is watching them. Fascinating concept perfect for me even if overdone…but it was very poorly executed. This book was so boring I couldn’t even finish it. It was very repetitive with the same actions taken over and over between the couple. The “twists” were insanely predictable except for the ridiculous one at the end. I also didn’t like the preachy “alcoholism is bad” aspect to it. If you’re going to address issues, do it naturally. And I just can’t get down with protagonists who cheat. Ever. It was a clear first time effort though; maybe we’ll see better in the future.

The Night Before

It was okay, and it had a solid ending unlike so many I’ve read recently. I just didn’t like the main character who constantly reminded us how messed up she was. Overall it felt disorganized and tried to take on too many twists that didn’t relate to the central story. Not terrible, but still somewhat of a letdown.

Looker

Me, Goodreads, and everyone on Goodreads’s brother agrees that this is NOT a psychological thriller. This was such a marketing misfire that I’m not sure it’s 100% the author’s fault. Truthfully, though, it was still pretty boring. There’s a main character, everyone hates her because she can’t have children (so messed up), and so she takes out her sadness on having affairs with her students and though watching an actress–not even doing anything, just making observations. If you want 180 pages about watching a character complain and do basically nothing else, this is it right here.

Did you read any of these? Which choices do you agree/disagree with?