Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

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From indie horror author and bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn, this brand-new supernatural thriller questions: how far would you go for success, and what would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

 

I picked this up last year at NYCC.

I enjoyed Within These Walls immensely. At 447 pages and taking me only 5 days to read, it’s a true page turner.

It stirs up all kinds of emotions. I was nervous, spooked, annoyed, angry, and saddened.

The f—ed up mentality, abuse, and manipulative behavior of the cult is really well developed; as was the loneliness, desperation, and vulnerabilty of the victims.

The story goes back to 1982/83 and forward to present day with some inclusions of articles, incident reports, and paranormal reports – which I really enjoyed. It connected everything really well.

This is one of those books that will keep me thinking for a few days. I have a book hangover. I even thought of a playlist that would go well with it:

-“Father Figure” by George Michael. The whole song is Jeff Halcomb.
-“Big God” by Florence + the Machine. “You need a big God. Big enough to hold your love.”  and “You always were my favorite ghost.”
-“”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics. The whole verse about wanting to use and abuse and be used and abused.

There are some issues though which made me decide to downgrade it by 1 point. While I really liked the way it ended because it remained true to the powerful and ominous direction it was headed all along (and I think leaves it open for a sequel) not everything is answered and they are pretty important plot holes.

4 out of 5 Ornate Crosses.

These are major spoilers so enter at your own risk!

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Wolf’s Mate (Wind Dragons MC No.5) by Chantal Fernando

Wolf’s Mate (Wind Dragons MC No.5) by Chantal Fernando

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I don’t feel like uploading a new photo so here’s the one from NYCC 2016. You can see the cover middle row, far left.

Vinnie – or Wolf, as he’s known now that he’s no longer a prospect but a full-fledged member of the Wind Dragons MC- has always been a man of his word. So when Talon, the leader of a rival MC, calls in a favor, Vinnie must respond, even if his fellow Wind Dragons aren’t too keen on it. Little does Wolf know that the “favor” is babysitting Talon’s cousin Shayla, who’s know to be a spoiled princess whose daddy embezzled his way into the slammer.

But when he meets this damsel in distress she’s far from spoiled- in fact, Shayla’s pretty amazing. But her security is crap, and Talon’s guys don’t know what they are doing. It’s up to Wolf to take matters into his own hands, and not even his brothers at the WDMC can help with this one. Shayla’s all his-if he can keep her alive.

For starters this is not a genre I typically read. I picked it up at NYCC 2016 not knowing it was part of a series and thinking it was about werewolves.

Spoiler alert – it’s not about werewolves.

Anyway, I am waiting on my order Radiate, the third book in the Lightless trilogy, to come in. As I do that I am reading some other books from my NYCC 2016 pile.

What I liked about Wolf’s Mate was that it was a really fast read. It took me three days. It’s like reading fan fiction. It’s amusing. Also, you don’t have to read the previous five books to be caught up. This can stand on its own.

Once I read the book jacket and realized it was not about werewolves, but a bad boy romance novel (think the tamest version of Sons of Anarchy meets erotic fan fiction), I knew what I was getting into. So it was exactly as I expected. The storyline follows a typical formula and is a bit silly and not very deep with lots of typical tropes.

But that’s fine. If I am going to eat fast food at least I know I am not eating a healthy meal.

Somethings really made me roll my eyes, but you have to look past it when this book is just meant to be fluff. For example, like not using condoms with someone you just met – so idiotic. And if you really never wanted kids – get a vasectomy.

Oh, and one more thing. He’s called Vinnie by his MC family. His name Wolf is mentioned once or twice! False advertising!

Anyway…this book served it’s purpose as a quick filler while I am waiting for another book.

3 out of 5 Motorcycles.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Narrated by B.J. Harrison

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Revenge at all cost!

A young sailor returns home from a dangerous voyage. His father and his sweetheart are waiting for him. But an act of jealous treachery changes his life forever!

An unexpected meeting changes everything and the man who was once an unknown sailor emerges as The Count of Monte Cristo, mysterious, rich, and powerful enough to take the ultimate revenge against his enemies.

I love, love, love this classic novel. Definitely one of my all time favorites. The complexity of it is just brilliant. It’s not just a revenge story (though the revenge is juicy and deserved!) but also a story of hope and forgiveness.

I began listening in the fall of 2017, but I didn’t like the narrator’s voice and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Then I found B.J. Harrison. He narrates a few of Poe’s short stories I love and his voice work is amazing. When I saw he narrated TCoMC I started listening to his rendition.

For two days in December I listened to 14 chapters. Then I took a break to do a re-listen of the Red Rising books before Iron Goldcame out. Fast forward to mid-February I went back to TCoMC and spent the next couple of months only listening to it. The audiobook is 52 hours long (117 chapters). To clear things up in the beginning (February- March) I wasn’t listening everyday. I was doing like only 5 hours a week. The past few weeks of April I have been listening 1.5 – 2 hours daily.

The length of the novel can be intimidating but it is so engaging, and the prose is so poetic. I book marked a lot of sections. I’ll have to share a few of my favorite quotes.

There are so many details between the events and the characters’ connections. There is just so much planning involved that
A) I would have loved to see the outlines that Dumas made and B) I don’t know how anyone can read an abridged version. So many little details from early in the story come back later. You may think something is insignificant, but it’s not. Every subplot has a purpose.

I kept a list of the characters nearby and would refer to it in the beginning to keep them straight, but as time went on I didn’t need it.

I love the evolution of Edmund’s character from innocent and naive to worldly, educated and cunning. I don’t know how Edmund juggled all those identities and stories. (My friend who listened to it right before I did called Edmund the first Batman. I’ll say! She also listens all day long and finished in about a week or so. Damn!)

I loved the way Harrison changed his voice for Edmund. When he was young and naive it was a bit higher and faster. When he became the Count it was deeper and more articulate.

Harrison is a wonderful narrator. His pacing is just right and he does a great range of voices so you know which character is speaking. I love the way he pronounced the name Mercédès. Actually, if it weren’t for the audiobook and hearing all these French names and words pronounced correctly I would be saying them in my head the incorrect American way.

I also loved the way Harrison said “Yes” for Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort (he is paralysed and only able to communicate with his eyes, but retains his mental faculties). His “Yes” is very long and deep.

I could go more into all the characters and their fates but that would turn into a whole essay. (So maybe another post someday.) I’m really glad that I persisted because now I am proud to say I read The Count of Monte Cristo.

5 out of 5 Millions in Diamonds.

FAVOTRIE quotes:

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Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Book Con 2017 so I can’t say how this differs from the final printed version.
My friend borrowed my ARC and read it first. She’s a fan of Krysten’s acting work but was disappointed in her first novel. She said there was too much environmental stuff. She just wanted the hometown story.
That lowered my expectations about the novel. I thought I would be bored with environmental jargon.  I felt the opposite.  Abby leaves most of the environmental research to her team, and 3/4 of the way through they go back to Chicago to continue investigating there. Abby becomes more and more obsessed with what happened to her friend, Kaycee, ten years ago, and the scholarship conspiracy at Optimal.
**Minor spoilers below**

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Bellwether by Connie Willis

Pop culture, chaos theory and matters of the heart collide in this unique novella from the Hugo and Nebula winning author of Doomsday Book.

Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O’Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions.

I got Bellwether at a signing at NYCC 2016. It was a double author signing and I was really there for the other book, but this was a happy surprise.

I liked that it was a short and fast read (the only reason it took me so long to finish was because work was busy and NYCC 2017 had me put the book on the back burner. Otherwise I could have easily read this over a weekend. I sailed through it to finish this weekend.)

It was really funny. The satire had me really laughing out loud at a few moments. The actions and herd mentality of some of the characters was amusing and comical.

I liked how each chapter began with a bit of history of a fad or trend. It was like a mini encyclopedia.

I was unsure about the time period it took place in because I often wondered, “Why don’t they just order this on amazon?” It was published in 1996. Surly people ordered things online 20 years ago?

Anyway, the romance is minimal and predictable, but the plot is simple and if you’re looking for a fast read that will keep you amused and give you some chuckles., this is it.

3 out of 5 Sheep.

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes an exclusive conversation between Ruth Reichl and Emily Giffin

Ruth Reichl is a born storyteller. Through her restaurant reviews, where she celebrated the pleasures of a well-made meal, and her bestselling memoirs that address our universal feelings of love and loss, Reichl has achieved a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, with this magical debut novel, she has created a sumptuous, wholly realized world that will enchant you.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.

To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love.

 

I picked this up at Book Con 2015.

I loved this story. I wish it came with some of the meals mentioned. Instead of scratch and sniff stickers I want read and eat books. It’s also a good history lesson, learning about the food during World War II, with the rationing. I loved the way Lulu was so resourceful using pumpkin leaves, growing a garden, and finding milkweed in the wild.

It wasn’t just the talk of food that I loved. The hidden room in the library is a dream of mine. I was so engulfed in the mystery of the letters from Lulu, as well as the scavenger hunt on the index cards that Bertie created.

I also loved the group of friends that became Billie’s family. I became attached to them. No surprise here, I especially loved the Italians: the Fontanari and the Cappuzzelli families. Those names are so much fun to say.

Another thing I thought was an important part was the subject of how during WWII there was such a deep prejudice against anything Italian that, in some parts of the U.S., spaghetti, lasagna, and other pastas were considered “enemy food”.
Your loss, prejudice jerks. Italians have the best food in the world. I am not being bias.

(I need to read more WWII historical fiction books that focus on Italy and Italian Americans.)

I liked the way it ended. I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll be very cryptic, I felt the way it left off with a certain character was realistic, and there is still a chance for Billie to write her book, one day when she is an older woman.

My one critique is that in the real world the publication would have transferred Billie to an office to deal with the Delicious! Guarantee. Or it would have been the responsibility of the customer service department at another publication. But then that would defeat the whole point of finding the secret room and reading the letters while alone in that big mansion. Which was cool and mysterious because the mansion had it’s own history and story.

I am glad that some recipes are included (maybe I’ll try to make them, though that gingerbread cake sounds complicated!), as well as a conversation between Ruth Reichl and Emily Giffin, and a reader’s guide.

4.5 out of 5 Gingerbread Cakes.

 

 

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

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Jessamy “Jess” Harrison is eight years old. Sensitive, whimsical, possessed of an extraordinary and powerful imagination, she spends hours writing haiku, reading Shakespeare, or simply hiding in the dark warmth of the airing cupboard. As the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother, Jess just can’t shake off the feeling of being alone wherever she goes, and the other kids in her class are wary of her tendency to succumb to terrified fits of screaming. Believing that a change from her English environment might be the perfect antidote to Jess’s alarming mood swings, her parents whisk her off to Nigeria for the first time where she meets her mother’s family–including her formidable grandfather.

Jess’s adjustment to Nigeria is only beginning when she encounters Titiola, or TillyTilly, a ragged little girl her own age. To Jess, it seems that, at last, she has found someone who will understand her. But gradually, TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, making Jess start to realize that she doesn’t know who TillyTilly is at all.
Helen Oyeyemi draws on Nigerian mythology to present a strikingly original variation on a classic literary theme: the existence of “doubles,” both real and spiritual, who play havoc with our perceptions and our lives. Lyrical, haunting, and compelling, “The Icarus Girl” is a story of twins and ghosts, of a little girl growing up between cultures and colors. It heralds the arrival of a remarkable new talent.

I am going to start at the beginning to make this easier. I bought this novel (and it is signed by the author) 11 years ago. I still have the receipt in the book from Housing Works. I bought it August 15, 2005.

It has been on my to-be-read piles all this time (along with other books I’ve had for years.)

Back when I bought it the synopsis sparked my interest, but for many reasons, procrastination and reading hundreds of other books instead, it fell to the back of the piles.

Recently I did a Top Ten Tuesday list for my friend’s blog, Lazy Book Lovers. That week’s theme was: Top Ten Tuesday! Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven’t Read Yet.

That made me finally read it. But I found I didn’t like it very much. Which is a heartbreaking disappointment. I feel like I should have read it when I first bought it. Sometimes reading a story at a certain point in your life brings out different feeling about it. I might have felt differently 11 years ago, but I will never really know.

To be honest I was expecting something more eerie and supernatural and I ended up bored. I would put it down for days, and now I am 4 books behind on my Goodreads goal.

The thing that made me want to push through and finish was guilt. This book has been collecting dust in my room for a little more than a decade so I felt I owed it something. If I didn’t have this guilt I would have given up sooner and moved on.

So my issues: Which might be somewhat spoiler-ish.

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