Author: tamaramorning

Book Review: Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal

unmarriageable
Image belongs to Random House Publishing Group.

Title:  Unmarriageable
Author:  Soniah Kamal
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.”

This is the belief that Alys Binat, second of five daughters and a literature teacher, faces in her students, girls who will likely marry instead of finishing school. That’s just how things are in Pakistan in the early 2000s, but Alys hopes to influence some of her students, nonetheless. Then her family is invited to the society wedding of the year, and her mother sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase her five daughters.

The eldest, sweet Jena, catches the eye of “Bungles” Bingla, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Mrs. Binat is convinced a proposal is imminent. Alys and her best friend, Sherry, who is determined to marry so she can escape her home life, watch in amusement—and horror—as Aly’s mom and other three sisters—uber-religious Mari, flighty Lady, and artistic Qitty—make a less than stellar impression on Bungles’ sisters and very rich Valentine Darsee, his best friend. Alys hears Darsee’s scathing remarks about her and writes him off as a jerk.

But fate—and Jena and Bungles’ romance—keep throwing Alys and Darsee back into proximity, and Alys discovers the haughty man might not be quite as horrible as she thought. When Lady’s antics destroy the Binat family’s chances of ever holding their heads up in public, no one can save them. Except, maybe, Mr. Darsee.

Fact:  I love Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen had a phenomenal insight into people and portrayed them very well. Fact:  I know basically nothing about Pakistani culture.

Unmarriageable is a close re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still its own story. The characters’ names made me laugh—Bungles—but there’s enough of the original in them to make them feel like old friends. I found Mr. Binat much more ineffectual than Mr. Bennet, but everyone else I enjoyed. Even Lady, annoyingly oblivious as she was. Alys was much more of a feminist than Elizabeth Bennet, but I love how her mind worked, and how quick she was to grasp her own mistakes. I highly recommend this!

Soniah Kamal was born in Pakistan, but grew up in England and Saudi Arabia and now lives in the U.S. She is an award-winning author and a creative-writing teacher. Unmarriageable is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Perfect Liar, by Thomas Christopher Greene

the perfect liar
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Perfect Liar
Author:  Thomas Christopher Greene
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Susannah’s first marriage was to an older man—her therapist—who spent a lot of time “helping” her work through her issues. Now, she’s married to handsome and charming Max, an artist and speaker whose new job at a university took them out of New York City to a small Vermont town where she hopes her 15-year-old son will thrive.

One morning, Susannah finds a note on the door. “I know who you are.” The note triggers her anxiety, and she worries her family is in danger, but Max thinks the note is just a prank. All the same, he starts looking at his coworkers and their neighbors with new eyes—do they know his secret? When a couple visit for dinner, Susannah finds Max’s behavior suspicious, and, a few days later, the man dies tragically while on a run with Max. Then, a second note appears. “Did you get away with it?”

Susannah knows Max is hiding dark secrets, but she has secrets of her own she wants to keep hidden. Who is leaving the notes? And just which secret is he or she talking about?

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and the writing was solid, but I couldn’t stand the characters. Susannah had a history of mental health issues as well as abuse, and I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her at all. She let life happen to her—except near the end of the book—instead of making choices and moving forward. Max was just creepy to me. I really wish I’d liked the characters more. I finished the book, which speaks to the quality of the plot and the writing, but the characters just didn’t work for me.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Massachusetts. The Perfect Liar is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #2

Look at me:  for the second Sunday in a row I’m talking about writing! Yay for New Year’s goals that last longer than a week…

The truth is, I haven’t started actually writing this story yet. But I’ve completed five weeks’ worth of worksheets for Holly Lisle’s How to Write a Novel Class, and now I have an actual idea (or three) of what this story is about, in addition to knowing more about my characters and the conflicts. (To be fair, what I knew about them before this class was basically zero.)

And I know what my first scene is—along with my second. This story is not about quite what I thought it was, and it will be interesting to see how it develops. I’ll be starting the first draft this week, so here’s to hitting my writing goals…the same week my semester starts.

 

 

 

Book Review: White Stag, by Kara Barbieri

white stag
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   White Stag
Author:   Kara Barbieri
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Janneke was the last child in a family of daughters, so she was raised as a son and heir. Instead of being trained as a wife and mother like her sisters, she learned to track, hunt, and fight.

A hundred years ago, goblins attacked and destroyed her village and her entire family, leaving her bound to the cruel goblin prince Lydian, who tortured her for years, before she became bound to his nephew, Soren.

Janneke is slowly losing her humanity amidst the violence of the goblin court, but when the king dies and the ancient hunt for the white stag to choose the next king begins, she must choose between her lingering memories of being human and her loyalty to Soren, who has only helped her grow stronger.

White Stag was dark, atmospheric, and broody—in a good way. The Permafrost setting is stark and made me shiver. Janneke grows a lot, especially as she learns truths she never knew. However, I didn’t get a good feel for the goblin culture, apart from violence and cruelty, and I really wanted to know more. There must be a reason for the violence, so more information would have given the culture more nuances. And I found all the characters besides Soren and Janneke to be mostly one-dimensional.

Kara Barbieri lives in Wisconsin. White Stag is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: An Anonymous Girl, by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

an anonymous girl
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   An Anonymous Girl
Author:   Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Genre:   Suspense
Rating:   3 out of 5

Jessica Farris is a struggling makeup artist whose past haunts her when she takes a client’s place in a psychology study in an effort to make some extra money. She thought it would just be answering a few questions and collecting a check, but as the questions grow more personal—prompting her raw honesty—she starts to wonder.

Soon she’s meeting Dr. Fields one-on-one, and is fascinated by the brilliant, beautiful doctor. As the doctor’s questions get more personal, Jessica starts to wonder if the doctor knows what she’s thinking. Then their sessions become Jessica dressing as specified and following the doctor’s detailed instructions in encounters with other people.

Jessica isn’t sure she wants to continue in the study, but Dr. Fields knows so much about Jessica’s life she isn’t sure she can break the ties that bind them together—even when Jessica realizes just how twisted the good doctor’s mind really is.

I finished reading this, but my apathetic dislike for the characters made it a close thing. If even one of the characters had been likable, the book probably would have been engrossing, but as it is…well, the irony that Jessica gets into a study on ethics by lying is not lost on me…and tells you everything you need to know about her character. In the end, I think this just wasn’t the right book for me.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are New York Times bestselling authors. An Anonymous Girl is their newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Sunday is for Writing…

…well, actually, Sunday is for talking about writing. As opposed to books and book reviews, as I do every other single time I post. I basically haven’t mentioned writing in like the past year. That’s because I haven’t really been writing—grad school and working full-time keeps me busy—much less have I felt like talking about this fact.

But not being creative makes me cranky and changes who I am, and I don’t want that to be my reality anymore. So, I’m getting back into writing. Baby steps, right now, but it is forward motion (in the words of Holly Lisle).

I’m doing some very basic work on a new story, and I’m hoping to get things ready to start writing very soon. I’ll be posting writing updates weekly to keep me motivated.

Onward and upward. Write on.

Book Review: The Me I Meant to Be, by Sophie Jordan

the me i meant to be
Image belongs to HMH Books for Young Readers.

Title:  The Me I Meant to Be
Author:   Sophie Jordan
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Willa and Flor have been friends for years, so when Flor’s boyfriend breaks up with her, they start writing The Girl Code—starting with Never date a friend’s ex. Too bad Flor’s ex is Zach, Willa’s next-door-neighbor, best friend, and the guy she’s secretly had a crush on for years. But Willa would never betray a friend, so Zach is strictly off-limits.

Until she realizes there just might be a chance for her and Zach to be more than friends. Willa has always put others before herself, but she realizes that doing something for yourself can sometimes be important.

Flor wants to get back together with Zach. Her dad is obsessed with his much-younger girlfriend. She’s almost failing math. And she just wants something to change. Then she meets Grayson, her math tutor, and realizes sometimes the best things are hidden in plain sight.

I liked the female friendships in this book. They’re strong—even when tested to their limit. Neither Willa or Flor are clichés, they’re individuals with real problems, determined to support each other. Honestly, the romance took a back seat to the friendship aspects, which I really liked.

Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country and is a best-selling author. The Me I Meant to Be is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover

the similars
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   The Similars
Author:   Rebecca Hanover
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

The elite Darkwood Academy is for high-achievers from wealthy families. It’s not cheap, and it’s not easy. But this year, it’s going to get a whole lot more competitive when six new students join the junior class. They’re more than overachievers, they’re clones. And their originals already attend Darkwood.

Emma doesn’t care about the clones. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer, and all she can think about is getting through each day without him. Until she meets Levi and realizes forgetting Oliver will be harder than she thought:  Levi is Oliver’s clone, and seeing his face every day makes life unbearable.

But something is going on with the clones. They’re hiding something, and Emma discovers they have unheard of abilities to go along with their secret agenda. When her friend is almost murdered, Emma realizes something darker is happening, and she must trust someone if she is to find out the truth. But can she really trust Levi?

This is set in a future-America, but not that future, so it was easy to make sense of the world (sadly). I enjoyed reading Emma’s point-of-view and cannot imagine having lost my best friend and then being faced with his clone every day. There is a lot going on here, and I feel like the author glossed over some things that will hopefully be explored in the rest of the series. I noticed there wasn’t a lot involving the instructors, which seemed a bit odd, considering the setting is basically a boarding school, but it wasn’t something that made the story feel fake. The Similars is definitely a book I recommend.

Rebecca Hanover is an Emmy-winning writer and graduate of Stanford. The Similars is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

What I Read in 2018

Yearly total:  192 out of a goal of 150 books.

January 2018. (15)

February 2018. (13)

March 2018. (13)

April 2018. (15)

May 2018. (16)

June 2018. (11)

July 2018. (17)

August 2018. (19)

September 2018. (14)

October 2018. (21)

November 2018. (22)

December 2018 (18).

Here’s a link to my Goodreads Challenge page.

 

 

 

What I Read in December (2018)

Books Read in December:  18

Books Read for the Year: 192/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Olivia Twist (from the TBR pile). I thought this was a great twist on a classic!

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis (spiritual). I’ve heard good things about this for years, and it was definitely an interesting perspective.

The Tuscan Child (cultural). Loved this tale, told by alternating characters in two different decades.

Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis. This was an interesting read.

For Review:

fire & heist

Fire & Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst. This is about wyvern society, and girl whose family was disgraced because her mother failed in an attempted heist, then disappeared. She’s desperate to find her mother, so she plans her own heist—and uncovers secrets about wyvern origins. A decent read, but I’d place it more towards middle grade than YA.

once a king

Once a King, by Erin Summerill. I loved this book, about countries divided by years of hatred, and a girl who must work with the new king to solve the mystery of the drug trade that’s killing people. The worldbuilding is fantastic here, and I loved the characters as well.

the iron flower

The Iron Flower, by Laurie Forest. Another fantastic read, about Elloren, granddaughter of a murderess and part of the horrible Gardnerians, who are intent on destroying all other races. Elloren wants to help save her friends and stop the looming war and violence, but even the forest is calling her the Black Witch…and she has no power. An excellent read!

the queen's wing

The Queen’s Wing, by Jessica Thorne. At first, this seemed just on the edge of cheesy scifi, but I grew to like the characters, even if there were a lot of different things thrown in here (spaceships, swords, cyborgs, aliens, space travel…).

deadfall

Deadfall, by Stephen Wallenfels. Two brothers, whose father was an abusive drunk with ties to the underworld, end up fostering with a wealthy politician who’s hiding dark secrets of his own. This was dark, but I enjoyed the intertwined timelines.

what you hide

What You Hide, by Natalie D. Richards. A book about very heavy subjects:  abuse and homelessness, but a very hopeful book all the same. I do recommend this tale of Mallory, who’s terrified of her abusive stepfather and runs away. She ends up hiding in the library at night while she searches for a solution, where she meets Spencer, son of a wealthy family, searching for his own truth.

AccidentalBeautyQueen-2-610x947

The Accidental Beauty Queen, by Teri Wilson. Confession: I’m from Texas, and this book is pretty spot-on with the whole pageant-mom scene. I think my mom put me in one when I was like 3, but I’ve only seen pictures, no actual memories. I enjoyed this light read about Charlotte (she is ME, y’all!) who finds herself taking her twin sister’s place in a beauty pageant after her sister has an allergic reaction. I loved how this book actually skipped the typical beauty pageant contestant tropes, and the romance was sweet, too. Perfect for a weekend spent reading.

wicked saints

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan (review forthcoming). This one isn’t published for a few months, but I should have an author interview closer to release date, so I needed to do my homework.. I enjoyed this read, complex cultures clashing in a religious war, and I wasn’t expecting the ending at all.

the similars

The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover (review forthcoming). This near-future story blends attempted murder, clones, and a bit of romance and mystery into an intriguing read.

the me i meant to be

The Me I Meant to Be, by Sophie Jordan (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this light read  that explores what happens when love and friendship collide.

Just Because

The Black Witch, by Laurie Forest. This is actually the first book in The Black Witch series, but I read them out of order. I loved how much Elloren grew in this novel! Her eyes were truly opened to the truth of her world.

Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. I read the first book when it came out, then forgot it entirely…AND misplaced the second one, when it came out. So, I finally re-read the first and read the second. I love this world, and these books.

Cozy Minimalist Home, by Myquillyn Smith. Can I tell you how much I loved the pictures in this book? I worked my way through this one, and am starting to implement some of the ideas here in my quest to live more simply.