May 2018 Blots & Brews

So it’s May, and it definitely feels like we skipped spring and went straight into summer, with these ridiculous days of 95 degree weather with 90% humidity. Along with hot weather comes the desire to just relax – for me, at least. I’m not sure about you.

Similar to my last post (in December… man, I need to get better at writing more frequently! I certainly still read enough), I’m going to be posting a list of recommended books and drinks. I’d like to try to do this more regularly – would that be enjoyable for y’all? Leave me your thoughts in the comments! It’s like a combination book review & drink review, and it’s oddly enjoyable for me to write.

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake
My Thoughts: OMG. I love fantasy but this book took the cake. Absolute adoration for this one! I loved the three queens, I loved the characterization… the world building was complex and honestly, because of this, the first 50% of the book was slow going. But Blake created an amazing world here, and I’m so excited to read the second book in the series that I checked the e-copy out from the library immediately after I finished the first one!
One Word Description: Stunning.
Drink Pairing: a lavender white mocha… complex, rich, but with a light herbal flavor.
My Blot & Brew rating: 5/5.

Incarceron – Catherine Fisher.
My Thoughts: The world… wow! To me, it was a unique setting – a prison that’s alive and sentient – but also indescribably creepy. There were a lot of details that were somewhat scattered, and I do feel like there were ways to tighten up the plot. I also didn’t fall in love with any of the characters… but I still loved the story, and I also checked out the e-copy of the sequel immediately after finishing this book!
One Word Description: Intriguing.
Drink Pairing: Bubly Grapefruit sparkling water… light, tangy, refreshing.
My Blot & Brew rating: 3.5/5.

The Deception Of The Emerald Ring – Lauren Willig.
My Thoughts: Currently reading. However, I adore Lauren Willig’s writing – a combination of swashbuckling adventure and chick lit – and so far Emerald Ring is not disappointing me! I’ve been a fan of her Pink Carnation series since I discovered the first book in the early 2000s. I adore the court intrigue, humor, and light romance. Willig’s characters are also quirky and don’t take themselves too seriously, which is appreciated given how seriously most characters in historical fiction take themselves.
One Word Description: Lighthearted.
Drink Pairing: Steel Reserve Blue Razz beer… fruity, sweet with a fizz of alcohol, but very smooth.
My Blot & Brew rating: Thus far, 4/5.

So there you have it! My May 2018 Blots & Brews. Hopefully I will be able to continue this at least once a month. Life is busy but this year I’ve been trying to keep up with reading, so I may as well continue posting my thoughts and recs! (Though I am noting here – I have not been active at all on Netgalley for over 2 years at this point, and I am woefully behind in reading provided ARCs. Only in the past few months have I been able to amp my reading back up, and we’re still getting settled in a new house… but hopefully once we’re settled here, I’ll be able to start catching up on the ARCs I’ve received. Apologies for my impossibly slow pace…!)

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Another absence.

Hey y’all. I’m still here!

I figured I’d post and say that no, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. For those of you who are authors and have commented and received a reply from me, I have not forgotten about your books, and for those of you who have commented and have not yet received a reply – I have not forgotten about you, either. I promise!

Life has just been really busy. The time I set aside for reading took a tumble in March this year, when my partner at work quit. It’s been 25 and a half weeks that I’ve been on my own, working about 200% of what my job is supposed to require (I have gotten some help from my supervisor as well as an intern that was with me for about 10 weeks). They are currently going through the hiring process now for a new partner for me, so I hope that soon I’ll be back to reading more.

I’ve been reading a lot of different books (and of course, not finishing [m]any) – from Crank by Ellen Hopkins to Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks to Fat Tuesday by Sandra Brown. And many others also.

It’s already late August 2016. Where did this year go…?

Several book reviews!! \o/

The Sixth — Avery Hays.

5/5 stars.

The Sixth was a delightful mix of history and mystery that had me on the edge of my seat at times. The plot was clever, the protagonist was likable, and the backdrop very interesting for someone like me, who is interested in art and art history. I found it quite fascinating to see the way that Florbela interacted with the unestablished painters of the time, like Diego Riviera and Marc Chagall. Those names are almost household names now — or close to it, I should think — but the way that Hays describes them makes them seem like people that would never become famous, but she does so in a charming way. They are also quite likable, but not the “type of people” one would assume become famous. (Then again, I am reminded of what my 10th grade English teacher used to tell us about the word “assume”… “it makes an ass out of u and me.” XD)

Although it took me awhile to get around to reading The Sixth due to school and other life stuff getting in the way, I’m glad that I did read it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a relatively light/easy read about espionage and secrets as well as art and art history.

Many thanks to Diadema Press via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book!!

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City of the Sun — Juliana Maio

4.5/5 stars

I quite enjoyed reading City of the Sun — I love anything to do with WWII, and to have this novel’s setting be entirely different from that of any other novel I’ve read about World War II was quite refreshing!! Rather than being set in London, America, Japan, the UK, or Europe, it was set in Cairo. A very exotic locale indeed.

I found myself cheering Maya on throughout this novel — while she harbors secrets of her own, secrets that she needs to keep her family safe, I found her more likable than Mickey. I felt bad for her living situation in Cairo, however, since it was so cramped, and almost unwelcome.

The multiple storylines were a little confusing at times, however — switching from Mickey, to Maya, to the Nazi spy’s (whose name I currently forget, oops!) — but I think that while it could’ve been done a little more smoothly, overall it lent an air of believability to the novel.

Well done, Ms. Maio. Well done, indeed. I will keep my eye out for other books that you have written.

Many thanks to Greenleaf Book Group via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book!!

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The Body in the Woods

2/5 stars.

I had a very, very hard time getting interested in The Body in the Woods. I picked it up initially because it sounded intriguing — I love YA, and I love murder mysteries — but I ended up reading this over several months rather than in the day or two that it probably would’ve taken me had it really pulled me in.

I’ve never read anything by Ms. Henry before, and I’m not sure what it was exactly about this novel that made it fall flat for me. Maybe the 3 different POVs, the way that I didn’t feel like I ever got to know any of the characters… I’m not sure. But it really just didn’t hit the mark the way I had been hoping it would.

Maybe I’ll try another one of April Henry’s books. Maybe. I’m really not sure though… I don’t want to feel as though I can’t say anything good about the books I review, and I don’t want to read something that I find unfulfilling and, in the end, a disappointment to have picked up. I might try the second in this series once it is published, but that is a very large “maybe” at this point. Who knows, it might be better than this one was… I can always hope, right?

Many thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book!!

We Are the Goldens – Dana Reinhardt.

4/5 stars.

This was probably the fastest reading YA novel that I have picked up in quite awhile. I read it in about two hours, and found it to be quite engaging. Some of it was a little unbelievable – I mean, Nell is only 14, but she sounds so grown-up compared to her sister, Layla, who is 17. Also, while I understand that it does happen, the fact that she, as a freshman, got on the varsity soccer team seemed a little unusual, although granted, she didn’t get much playing time.

However, those and a few other unrealistic things were the only reasons that I brought my rating down to a 4/5 stars. I had a good time reading this book – Ms. Reinhardt’s portrayals of a close sister-sister bond and family ties were very good and very interesting, and even though the plot of the book was mostly “passive” – there was not a great deal of action, since it was mostly Nell talking with Layla indirectly, through the medium of this book – it was still well-written. Otherwise it would not have pulled me in as easily as it did.

Oh, and the other thing that bothered me was the ending. It seemed very abrupt, as if Ms. Reinhardt just got tired of writing about Nell and Layla and wanted an easy way out. It left me wondering a lot of things – about Nell and Felix, and what happened to Mr. Barr, and how Layla reacted… I feel like the author could have done a little better job with writing a less up-in-the-air ending.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants an interesting-if-not-entirely-believable YA novel about sister-sister bonds and the troubles than can be run into in high school.

Many thanks to Random House Children’s and NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book!!

Hmm… suggestions? and other things.

I have been trying to figure out which YA author I should try next.  I mean, I have several books by Sarah Dessen left to read, and in fact, just picked up one that I had started last July then lost amidst stacks of other books (I tell you, our apartment is cluttered!!), but I do want to try other authors that are out there.  I also am in love with hard copies of books right now, although I know my husband isn’t keen on me buying more books that will take up yet more space in our apartment… so that will have to be considered.  Kindle books I can manage, though.

So, the authors I am considering: Courtney Summers, Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare (I have read City of Bones and am working on the second in the series, but I’m not sure if I should try a different series too/instead?), and Veronica Roth.  I’m sure there are others of whom I am just not thinking right now, but those are the main ones in my head at the moment.  And of course, if you have any suggestions, I am definitely willing to see about trying them!!  There are so many YA authors out there that come with good recommendations, that sometimes I don’t even know where to start. (Even though right now I have over a thousand books on my Kindle, and probably over a thousand books lying loose in the apartment, so I am not in any dearth of things to read!! [My Kindle books are about half YA, my paperback books are probably only about 10% YA.])

There have been several interesting developments in the life of April lately.  Well, not really in my life, per se – more so in my brain.  Expanding horizons.  I am so excited to graduate in a year and actually be in the social work field, rather than just a student – there are so many interesting things going on right now in terms of policy changes (and they’re not good policy changes, either, but they inspire growth on the part of social workers as well as critical thinking).  It’s sad to think how these policies will be affecting my current and future clients (I do have a few clients now, as an intern) – mostly my future clients, but I daresay that some of my current ones will be feeling the backlash at some point.  I have enjoyed stimulating discussions with my field instructor about one of these policies – I forget its name (it’s only part of a bill about Medicare/Medicaid) but it basically is giving federal right to involuntarily commit people to psych wards.  I am not entirely sure the point of the bill – in what I read about it, there was some mention of a “doctor fix” as well as how this would help Medicare/Medicaid in the long run, as well as how it could stop mass shootings etc. by getting people care they need, but it was pretty unclear how that all tied together.  The criteria for involuntary committal is still the same it always has been.

(And, by the by, involuntary committal, also known as “302ing someone,” has not been shown to actually be effective at helping people.  They’ll take meds while they’re in the hospital, maybe – if you’re lucky – but once they’re released, it’s not likely they will keep taking their medication.  So.  The fact that that bill passed with such speed through both the House and the Senate was a little disconcerting.)

Anyway, so that’s been some interesting things going on right now for me.  Thinking about this, discussing how I would advocate against bills such as these, discussing how I would advocate for a client for whom a 302 may be imminent… stuff like that.  Very interesting – to me, at least.

The last bit of news: only 4 weeks until my second year of grad school is over.  I can’t believe it is going by this quickly. (I also can’t believe that this blog is over a year old now!!) There is some uncertainty about what I will be doing this summer in terms of classes, since there is A Thing I may have to do for my health in the first summer semester that will prevent me from taking a class, but I have spoken with my adviser and she said that I can always double up on courses in summer 2, even though that is not advised, just because of the workload. (The only other option is for me to wait until spring 2016 and travel 1.5 to 3 hours to take the integrative seminar course at a different campus, since it requires that I have taken all of the courses to date.  I do not want to do this for obvious reasons.) Anyway, so if you guys could keep that in your thoughts/prayers it would be awesome!!  Just that everything works out somehow.

So it’s 2014!!

What are you all looking forward to in this year, still so new that it is squeaking as each day passes?

I know I’m looking forward to a lot of things.  Fall will be “the beginning of the end” – my final year as a grad student.  In about a year and a half, assuming everything goes as planned, I will be graduating with my MSW.  I am so excited about this.  It feels like finally maybe my life can begin – I mean, I know that it has begun and is going on all around me right now – but I haven’t ever had a job in the field that interests me.  Also, we are being hammered with adult things like bills – but without the fulfillment of having jobs we love.  Hopefully that will happen in 2015.  But that is still a year off yet – I was asking you guys what you’re looking forward to this year, and I need to answer my own question!! 😉

I’m looking forward to summer – who doesn’t, especially with the temperature having been as low as it has been (-35’F was logged in a town near me with windchill), and all of the snow/rain, depending on where you live.  But summer – besides being a time of warmer temps and sunshine – is also the only time in the next year and a half that I won’t have an internship to go to, and the only time that I’ll be taking one class at a time instead of two.  So, presuming that things this summer go like they did last summer – online classes, namely – I will have more time to read!!  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the internship I am currently at, and I am looking forward to having a more clinically based one in my final year, but it is also nice having a break from all of the structure.

And books!!  What books are you guys looking forward to seeing published in 2014?  I have to admit that I haven’t really been keeping up with what is to be published this year, but I do know that Winter by Sierra Dean is being published this month (!!!) and I really want to read that, since it’s the sequel to Autumn, which I read and reviewed here sometime last year.  And I also want to manage to get my hands on a copy of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (even though that was published last year, I believe) since I so adored Eleanor & Park.  I’ve also heard that Courtney Summers is a good YA author, so I should probably try some of her books as well, if I am going to be dipping into YA more. (I love the genre – it makes me feel younger, which is usually welcome. :D) Also, I want to read more of Sarah Dessen books that I own. 🙂

More immediately, I am looking forward to the return of writing group. 😀 It starts the second week of classes, but man, I have missed the women in it, including my mentor.  It will be good to be back.  I just hope I can make myself do the edits on some of my poems, since I currently have a sheaf of scribbled on copies of poems that I brought to the meetings last year (how odd to say that when I just mean last fall…) to be critiqued, sitting on top of my defunct printer.  I don’t want to lose those poems, because I want to make sure to edit them, obviously, but for some reason I am finding it very difficult to just sit down and work on editing them, although it would certainly be easier than sitting here and agonizing over losing the sheaf.  I am such a strange person, sometimes.  My husband would agree, for sure. 😉

Now, your turn.  What are the top 3 things you’re looking forward to this year (if you can narrow it down so)? 😀

Going Back by Richard Watt.

4 out of 5 stars.

**spoiler alert**

Above all, this book surprised me. I picked it up thinking that it would be something else than it was – but it turned out to be the story of a girl raping a boy and how that echoed over the next 25 years, the repercussions that it had, and what all of the now-adults involved had to do in order to heal. I was pretty pleased, to be honest – although it was a tough story – that it was what it was, because not many books address that topic. Self harm was also addressed, except in an adult man, which also made me happy in the sense that not many people are aware that males are also affected by self harm, and that adults can be as well. So I feel that Watt did a good job of covertly raising awareness about some things that should be talked about more among certain audiences. (I think this is my inner social worker coming out.)

The main characters, Andrew and Karla – well, I liked Andrew, for all that he bumbled around. Karla is not a character that one likes, I don’t think. She was the one that raped Andrew, and she was not a nice teenager and even 25 years later, was still a shell of that scared, abused, and abusive teenager. The other characters that were practically main characters – Clare, Anne, Liezl, and Erika – were painted well and likably. The adults in the 1978 part of the story (since it flip-flops back and forth from present-day to 1978, when it all began) were well painted, and it was easy for me to imagine Matthias’ and Karla’s father being abusive to them from what little we saw of him in the story.

The storyline itself goes on at a fairly good pace for the first third. The middle third is a little slower, and I found that it was tough for me to want to read it, but by the final third, things pick up again. The ending actually zooms and is a very satisfying ending, given the nature of the story. Healing is found for all of the people involved. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a good redemptive story, and I will be keeping my eye out for any further books that Watt writes.

 

Many thanks to Smith Publicity via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book.