Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) by Darren Shan


Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) by Darren Shan is a surprise read for me this year. It's not a book that had been on my radar, but the storyline and reviews of this novel and series reeled me in. I listened to the unabridged audio version of this young adult/fantasy novel, which is the 1st novel in the Cirque du Freak series.

I absolutely enjoyed Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) by Darren Shan!! The writing and storytelling is fabulous. Ralph Lister is a magical narrator and made listening to Cirque du Freak come alive.

The story revolves around Darren Shan and his best friend, Steve, attending a performance of Cirque du Freak. They must attend in secret as freak shows are illegal and their parents wouldn't allow them to attend the event most likely even if the shows weren't illegal.

Darren and Steve love the freak show and the various performances within the show... There is even a poisonous spider that performs in the freak show, which Darren loves as he loves spiders. 

However, things go south fast when Steve recognizes a performer, Mr. Crepsley, and that Mr. Crepsley is a vampire. Steve decides to confront Mr. Crepsley after the show and asks him to turn him into a vampire, which Mr. Crepsley flatly declines to do. Steve isn't happy with Mr. Crepsley's answer, period and says things to Mr. Crepsley that don't sit right with Darren. Darren begins social distancing himself from Steve.

Things become more interesting when Darren decides to steal Mr. Crepsley's poisonous spider. Darren must hide/keep the spider secret from his family as they would never let him keep the spider. Darren works with spider in gaining its trust and training it to do tricks. But, of course, Steve stops by for a visit with Darren who now has to explain why he's been avoiding Steve... Darren shows Steve the poisonous spider... And wouldn't you know it, Steve is bitten by the spider and is rushed to the hospital unconscious.

Things turn even more interesting at this point for Darren in order to save Steve and I'll leave it at that to avoid spoiling the ending.

Below is the summary for Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) by Darren Shan from Audible:
In the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, New York Times best-seller Cirque du Freak is the first title in the popular Saga of Darren Shan series.

Darren Shan and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the Cirque du Freak, a wonderfully gothic freak show featuring weird, frightening half human/half animals who interact terrifyingly with the audience. In the midst of the excitement, true terror raises its head when Steve recognizes that one of the performers - Mr. Crepsley - is a vampire!

Steve confronts the vampire after the show finishes - but his motives are surprising! In the shadows of a crumbling theater, a horrified Darren eavesdrops on his friend and the vampire, and is witness to a monstrous, disturbing plea. As if by destiny, Darren is pulled to Mr. Crepsley and what follows is his horrifying descent into the dark and bloody world of vampires.

This is Darren’s story.
I am giving Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak #1) by Darren Shan a rating of 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian was published earlier this year on April 6, 2021. I first learned about this historical fiction novel set in Mississippi from another book blogger (I have forgotten which book blogger off the top of my head) who loved this novel! 

So, I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian and narrated by Johanna Parker. Listening time for this novel is 9 hours, 56 minutes.

I'm glad I read The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian. It's a good read, but I didn't care for the narration of this novel. The southern accent felt off to me, so I wish I'd read the book instead of listened to it.

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian is a debut novel by the author and it is impressive for a first novel. Overall the writing was good. So is the storyline/plot... However, at times I felt like the pace of The Girls in the Stilt House was slow. 

My favorite character from The Girls in the Stilt House is Gertie/“Miss Tuttle", who is an elderly, colored midwife/nurse who is filled with so much wisdom. Gertie/“Miss Tuttle" is a true treasure within the community.

Below is the plot summary for The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian from Amazon:

Set in 1920s Mississippi, this debut Southern novel weaves a beautiful and harrowing story of two teenage girls cast in an unlikely partnership through murder—perfect for readers of Where the Crawdads Sing and If the Creek Don't Rise.

Ada promised herself she would never go back to the Trace, to her hard life on the swamp and her harsh father. But now, after running away to Baton Rouge and briefly knowing a different kind of life, she finds herself with nowhere to go but back home. And she knows there will be a price to pay with her father.

Matilda, daughter of a sharecropper, is from the other side of the Trace. Doing what she can to protect her family from the whims and demands of some particularly callous locals is an ongoing struggle. She forms a plan to go north, to pack up the secrets she's holding about her life in the South and hang them on the line for all to see in Ohio.

As the two girls are drawn deeper into a dangerous world of bootleggers and moral corruption, they must come to terms with the complexities of their tenuous bond and a hidden past that links them in ways that could cost them their lives.

I am giving The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday - Freebie - My Favorite New To Me Authors of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Top Ten Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

I have come across several new to me authors this year and have read some wonderful books in the process... And by new to me, I mean either I'd never heard or read anything by the author before OR as in the case of Ursula K. Le Guin, I'd heard of the author before, but had never read any of their books until this year.

1. Darcie Wilde

2. Susan Gregg Gilmore

3. Jennifer J. Chow

4. Gary D. Schmidt

5. Lily King

6. Ursula K. Le Guin

7. Xhenet Aliu

8. A. G. Howard

9. Anna Banks

10. Sherri L. Smith

Have you read any books written by any of the above mentioned authors?

Monday, September 27, 2021

Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye

I enjoyed reading the Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye, which is the follow-up to Laura Kaye's Hearts in Darkness (Hearts in Darkness Duet Book 1)

I am a sucker for well written contemporary romance and erotica reads and the 'Hearts in Darkness' duology is a winner. I read the first ebook in the series last month and was eager to read the follow up ebook, Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye, this month.

Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye delves into the newly blossomed romance between Makenna and Caden that began in the previous ebook. Their romance skyrockets quickly and soon Makenna brings Caden home to meet her family over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

A couple of small bumps over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend become a huge problem for Caden that leave him feeling unworthy of Makenna's love and has his PTSD flaring up big time to the point that his mental and physical health begin to spin out of control. Caden steps back from the relationship without discussing what's going on in any major detail, which leaves Makenna heartbroken and desperate to fix the situation. 

Will Caden and Makenna's young romance survive? Reading their trials and tribulations makes one wonder if it will.

 Overall, I enjoyed reading Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye. It isn't a perfect read by any means, but a fun and engaging read... An easy, breezy escape for the perfect getaway from reality.

Below is a summary for Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye from Amazon:
Two hearts in the darkness…

Makenna James and Caden Grayson have been inseparable since the scorching night they were trapped in a pitch-black elevator. But they're not strangers anymore, and Makenna hopes that night put them on the path to forever. All that stands in the way is introducing her tattooed, pierced, and scarred boyfriend to her father and over-protective brothers.

Must fight for love in the light…

Haunted by a childhood tragedy and the loss of his family, Caden never thought he’d find the kind of red-hot love he shares with Makenna. But the deeper he falls, the more he fears the devastation sure to come when he loses her, too. When secrets are revealed and the past threatens the present, Caden questions whether Makenna deserves more than he can give. Maybe they’re just too different—and he’s far too damaged—after all…
I am giving Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness #2) by Laura Kaye a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars. 

Until my next post, happy reading!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Banned Books Week 2021

Banned Books Week is an annual event I love!!
I don't like the idea of books being banned or censored
in any way. So for me, it is important to promote the end of censorship or banning reading material.

Usually, I read at least one (but usually more) books that have been banned or censored in some way, shape, or form each year.
Furthermore, I try to read at least one banned book during 
Banned Books Week itself.
This year, however, I have no plans to read a banned/censored book
during Banned Books Week. 

I have yet to read a banned/censored book this year.
I do plan to read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
later this year with an online group that is hosting a read-a-long 
and discussion of this novel with others, which should be a fun adventure. I've never read The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie before, but have heard plenty of hubbub about it since its publication in 1988.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate Banned Books Week?

Below is a video from YouTube featuring Jason Reynolds, the honorary chair for Banned Books Week 2021, discussing this year's
Banned Books Week theme.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Describe Yourself Book Tag

I found this book tag via Marianne's blog @ Let's read! The idea is to answer the questions with the titles of the books you've read in 2020... Well, not all the book titles I read during 2020 were appropriate enough to answer the following questions. So, I decided to choose books I've read over the years.

If you decide to participate in the 'Describe Yourself Book Tag', leave me a link in the comments section so that I can check out your post.

Here are my answers to the 'Describe Yourself Book Tag' as follows:

Describe yourself: Becoming by Michelle Obama

How do you feel: Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

Describe where you currently live: Such A Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: 
Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas

Your favorite form of transportation: 
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Your best friend is: Pack of Two by Caroline Knapp

You and your friends are: 
The Girls by Lori Lansens

What’s the weather like: Out Came The Sun by Mariel Hemingway

You fear: The Witches by Roald Dahl

What is the best advice you have to give: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Thought for the day: 
Only Time Will Tell by Jeffery Archer

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim


I absolutely adore the 1991 film adaptation of the novel, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, and have watched the film quite a few times over the years. I've wanted to read The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim ever since watching the film adaptation of this novel, but never did until now for various reasons.

So finally, almost 30 years after watching the film adaptation of The Enchanted April for the first time, I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim and narrated by Nadia May. 

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim was first published almost a century ago in 1922. It's a good classic, historical fiction novel. But frankly, I enjoyed the movie adaptation a bit more than I did the novel... There's only been a couple of times where I've enjoyed the movie version more than the novel itself and this was definitely one of those times.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim starts off well enough and even ends well enough, but the middle of the novel has its ups and downs for me... On the one hand, I enjoyed reading about what each of the four female main characters was thinking in more detail as they arrive and begin to unwind during their month long vacation/stay at a medieval castle in Italy. 

Each main of the four main character couldn't be more different from the other in terms of age and class... Being female, English, and their shared need to leave the dreary weather of London, England seemed to be their only common thread at the start of the novel. The insights to each woman's inner thoughts gave readers an enlightening perspective to their personal desires/thoughts and a glimpse of what a woman's life was like during this time period. But learning about their inner thoughts became too much after a while. I wish some of it had been pared down a bit quite frankly. 

I enjoyed the interactions between the characters in The Enchanted April and learning about where they were staying the most. Plus, seeing the transformation of each of the main characters by the novel's ending was also an added perk.

Listening time for The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim is 8 hours, 13 minutes. The narration for this novel was decent enough.

Below is the plot summary for The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim from Audible:

Four very diverse women, all seeking revitalization and escape from the dreary February rains of 1920s London, rent the small medieval castle of San Salvatore, nestled high above the bay of Portofino, Italy. Arriving at San Salvatore, they find it awash with the scent of flowers, its olive groves terracing down to the sun-warmed sea.

Mrs. Wilkins and Mrs. Arbuthnot are glad to leave their insipid duties and unresponsive husbands behind; the elderly Mrs. Fisher wishes only to sit in the sun and replay her youthful memories; and the bewitchingly beautiful Lady Caroline Dester desires to have seclusion from all adoring suitors. A month of blissful privacy at San Salvatore promises to be the remedy each of them is looking for. Amid the canopies of fragrant wisteria, in the sweet sunshine and melodious silence, four lives are transformed and resuscitated by the magic of San Salvatore.

I am giving The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Monday, September 20, 2021

First Edition Copy of 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley Sells for $1.17 Million Dollars at Auction!!

 Wow, simply wow, at the sheer fact that a first edition copy of Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein, sells for $1.17 million dollars at auction.

I learned about the recent auction through an online article from CNN titled, First edition copy of 'Frankenstein' sells for over $1 million at auction by Kaanita Iyer. In the article, Kaanita Iyer wrote the following:

Christie's, which hosted the auction, estimated the book would go for $200,000 to $300,000. But by selling for nearly four to six times as much, the book set a record for the highest price paid for a published work by a woman, according to Fine Books Magazine.

I think it's pretty cool that Frankenstein set the record for the highest price paid for a published work written by a woman.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer


Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer is a book that has been on my reading wishlist for quite a while. I listened to the unabridged audio version of Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer, which was narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christensen.

I am a fan of true crime and in 2019, I thoroughly enjoyed Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman... However, the focus of this nonfiction book was on male serial killers, not women serial killers. In fact, the only female serial killer I knew a little about at the time was Aileen Wuornos.

I am happy that I finally listened to Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer as it focuses on several women serial killers (15+) throughout history and from different countries around the world. All of the women serial killers discussed in Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer were ones I'd never heard of before. The writing for Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer was good and I enjoyed the flow of this book. The narration was decent as well.

Below is the summary for Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer from Audible:

When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are likely Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, and Kate Bender?

The narrative we're comfortable with is one where women are the victims of violent crime - not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally male that, in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared that there are no female serial killers. Inspired by Telfer's Jezebel column of the same name, Lady Killers disputes that claim and offers 14 gruesome examples as evidence.

Although largely forgotten by history, female serial killers rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite. Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different female serial killer and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media as well as the stereotypes and sexist clich├ęs that inevitably surround her.

I am giving Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu


I'd put off reading Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu for various reasons... I was mildly concerned that Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu wouldn't live up to the hype because it had won the 2020 National Book Award and also because so many people seemed to be talking about this novel last year.

Curiosity got the better of me though, so I decided to listen to the unabridged audio version of Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu and narrated by Joel de la Fuente earlier this month. 

I enjoyed Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu much more than I expected I would. This novel is written like a screenplay, which made it all the more unique. 

I must also add that listening to Joel de la Fuente narrate Interior Chinatown was a true pleasure... In fact, I may have liked Interior Chinatown just that much more as an audiobook than I would probably have if I had simply read this novel instead.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu is a satire that focuses on the stereotypes that befall Asian Americans in a way new and engaging way that makes one think about "race, pop culture, immigration, and assimilation." If you like satire, then this novel is a good one.

Listening time for Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu is 4 hours, 20 minutes.

Below is the plot summary for Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu from Audible:

A 2020 National Book Award Winner

"One of the funniest books of the year...a delicious, ambitious Hollywood satire." (The Washington Post)

From the infinitely inventive author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe comes a deeply personal novel about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.

Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He’s merely Generic Asian man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy - the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that’s what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.

Playful but heartfelt, a send-up of Hollywood tropes and Asian stereotypes, Interior Chinatown is Charles Yu’s most moving, daring, and masterly novel yet.

I am giving Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway


I listened to the unabridged audio version of Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway and the author narrates her memoir. 

Listening time for Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway is 9 hours, 7 minutes.

In general, I enjoy reading or listening to memoirs, and listening to Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway was no exception. 

However, I must admit that I was surprised to find myself listening to Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway this month as I'd never really been that interested in Mariel Hemingway's life in the slightest. I am not even sure I've ever seen any of the movies she has acted in over the course of her life. But for whatever reason the subtitle of Mariel Hemingway's memoir caught my attention and had me intrigued, so decided to give her memoir a go.

Surprisingly, I found Mariel Hemingway's memoir to be excellent overall. I enjoyed learning about most aspects of her life, although some areas of her life were not as interesting as other areas. I think the best take away for me was how well written and organized Mariel Hemingway's memoir was. She also devotes an appendix to resources for drug/alcohol addiction, mental health resources, eating disorders, and lifestyle health at the end of her memoir.

Below is a summary for Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway from Audible:
A moving, compelling memoir about growing up and escaping the tragic legacy of mental illness, suicide, addiction, and depression in one of America's most famous families: the Hemingways.

She opens her eyes. The room is dark. She hears yelling, smashed plates, and wishes it was all a terrible dream. But it isn't. This is what it was like growing up as a Hemingway. In this deeply moving, searingly honest new memoir, actress and mental health icon Mariel Hemingway shares in candid detail the story of her troubled childhood in a famous family haunted by depression, alcoholism, illness, and suicide. Born just a few months after her grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, shot himself, it was Mariel's mission as a girl to escape the desperate cycle of severe mental health issues that had plagued generations of her family. Surrounded by a family tortured by alcoholism (Mariel's parents), depression (her sister, Margaux), suicide (her grandfather and four other members of her family), schizophrenia (her sister, Muffet), and cancer (her mother), it was all the young Mariel could do to keep her head. In a compassionate voice, she reveals her painful struggle to stay sane as the youngest child in her family, coping with the chaos by becoming obsessive about her food, schedule, and organization.

The twisted legacy of her family has never quite let go of Mariel, but in this memoir she opens up about her claustrophobic marriage, her faltering acting career, and her turning to spiritual healers and charlatans for solace. Mariel has ultimately written a story of triumph about learning to overcome her family's demons and developing love and deep compassion for them. At last she can tell the true story of the tragedies and troubles of the Hemingway family, and she delivers an audiobook that beckons comparisons with Mary Karr and Jeanette Walls.

I am giving Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family by Mariel Hemingway a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!