Reading Taste Test · Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Cousin Edition | Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Hello and welcome to the July edition of Someone Picks My Books! This month I reached out to my cousin to pick a book for me. She ended up picking Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, but you probably figured that out from the title. I have read a few of Murakami’s books so I was thrilled when she brought this one up so I get to read it. I was able to get it right from the library on my ereader so I got right to reading!

Description

A dazzling new collection of short stories—the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic. –goodreads.com

What I Liked

I really enjoyed the bite sized looks into the lives of those within the stories. I felt like the stories were well paced and the length of each one was perfect. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything, but I also never felt like a story went on too long. A very difficult balance to maintain as a writer. I felt that while we got a snippet of each of these men, each was unique and I didn’t feel like a plot was recycled in any way.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that these short stories has the same feel that I have previously loved in works I have read by the author. This is personally a worry for me when I am used to reading novels by an author, changing the type of fiction an author writes can at times ruin an author for me because they can loose a sense of what I enjoy about them. Happily that was not the case at all here.

What I Didn’t Like

As with short story collections there are some winners and some not great ones. I normally have this experience with collections, but I have to say I felt overall very positive about the collection and I didn’t outright hate or fully dislike one in particular.

Overall

This is a great collection of short stories and I am very glad that my cousin picked this for me to read. I was lucky enough to bring this with my on vacation and it was honestly perfect for that setting. It was bite sized chunks of great works by a very talented writer. The stories didn’t go to fast or drag on in any way. If you love Murakami or have been wanting to give his works a try, but 1Q84 is overwhelming I think you should look into this collection.

Up Next

Next month I am reading a book picked by the lovely Minna, where you can find them on twitter as @bookishminna and on their blog bookishminna. I really love their combination of book content and life where their personality shines through as well as their passions.

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Goodreads

Reading Challenges

2021 Mid-Year Check-In

Hello lovely people and welcome to my 2021 mid-year check in for my goals. If you would like to see my origional post you can find that here, Reading Challenge | 2021 Reading Goals. I went kind of easy on myself this year, but to be honest the 2020 was a bit hectic in quite a few ways. I wanted to really tailor my goals to what I truly wanted and not try to compete with anyone.

Use Library Monthly

So far I have stuck to this goal very well. Even if I owned a book I used my local library to read the book digitally when on the go or used the library as my only copy of a book. I am still not comfortable going to borrow a physical copy of books just yet, so I am using their digital services at this point of the year,

Twelve Non-fiction Books

I am actually ahead on this goal, which thrills me honestly. I have read a total of 9 non-fiction books at this point. The books I have read that meet this goal are; A Promised Land by Barack Obama, Clanlands: Whisky, Warfare, and a Scottish Adventure Like No Other by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard Grant, White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Telfer, The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary by Catherine Gray, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein and Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde.

Read 50 Books

I am excited to say I am also ahead on this goal as well, at the time of writing this I have read a total of 42 books! If you want the most up to date read count for the year you can check out my goodreads challenge page.

This is where my goals kind of take a turn. The past few ones I have been pretty on top of, but from here on out I have made progress in almost each of the goals, but have not quite on track. Ooops.

Read International Booker Prize Shortlist 2020

The good news is I have read two books from this list, you can see a more detailed post talking about Hurricane Season and The Memory Police here: Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist Vol. 1 Update. The bad news is I have 4 more to read. I will say, I am glad I have 6 months to read 4 books, that is very doable and I plan on continuing to work towards achieving this goal.

Read The Farseer Trilogy & Liveship Traders Trilogy

Once again, I have read two books towards this goal. I have read the first two books of The Farseer Trilogy, which I really enjoyed so I cannot wait to continue. I do have all the books either physically or digitally to meet this goal and I plan on doing just that.

Reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilology

This is where I start to hang my head in shame. I have not attempted to pick up these books at all so far this year. I love them so much, but the mood has not hit me at all the first half of the year. I am hoping that this changes very soon.

Keep TBR under 10 Books

Last year I got my TBR down to 0 books. I wanted to keep my owned TBR under 10 books going forward, but I am at about 30 books as of writing this. I am not totally happy with it being this high, but I am really happy that it is not as high as it once was. This is what happens when you have some holidays, birthdays, and sales.

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Goodreads

Monthly Intent

Monthly Intent | July 2021

Hello and welcome to “new” kind of post here on my blog. In the past I just did monthly TBRs and didn’t really talk about my goals outside of this or share the things I wanted to try to get to during the month. Well, I decided to change that and post a monthly intent post to share what I intend to do over the course of the month book wise and beyond!

Reading Plans

This upcoming month I really want to read a few books, but the two I want to prioritize this month are How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson and Later by Stephen King. When it comes to How to Think Like a Roman Emperor I am curious to continue looking into philosophy. I took a class when I was in school and really enjoyed it, but I have not really explored it more since. I am really hoping to chance that. As for King’s book, I really loved the last two books he wrote for hard case crime, so I am hoping that this is another great mystery penned by King.

Crochet Plans

This month I want to finally tackle a project I have been putting off. I have all the yarn for the project and everything, I just have been so intimidated by it that I keep picking up other projects first. The pattern in question is the Macchiato Crochet Poncho created by BrianaKdesigns. It is a beautiful sweater/poncho that I really want to have done for the fall months so I can wear it out and about. I have been dabaling in creating wearables this year outside of scarfs and hats and I already notice an improvement in my abilities. I am hoping I have gotten good enough to create this beautiful pattern. I ended up picking up Brava Bulky Weight Yarn in the color Sienna.

Random Goals

Something different I would love to do this month is create a room spray. I normally just buy some from the store and call it a day, but I think it would be a ton of fun to try and make one myself and really tailor it to my tastes. This is not to say that the store bought ones or bad, I tend to like most of the ones I have picked up. I just think it would be fun to mix my own or follow a guide to create a scent I really adore.

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Goodreads

Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Whit Reads Lit | Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

Hello and welcome to the second Someone Picks My Books within the past week! If you are are new to the blog, this is a series where I have other book lovers pick a book for me to read and I give it a try! I love it because I always end up reading books I might not have read otherwise. This month Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com picked a book for me to read. As someone who loves historical fiction, I was thrilled with her choice!

Description

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border. Her success and her remarkable ability to evade capture earns her the nickname THE WHITE MOUSE from the Gestapo. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, her new comrades are instructed to call her HÉLÈNE. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉ, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, armed with a ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and the ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces.
But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she–and the people she loves–become. –goodreads

What I Liked

This historical fiction novel is both a story of a really awesome woman, but also a love story of sorts as well. I really like this balance that is was not one or the other, but we got two stories working side by side. I would have to say that throughout this book there were times that were lulling a bit, where other times there was so much tension I had to actually get my muscles to relax. This was an interesting thing to be because when I read a book it is usually one or the other. It really shows how this book is almost two stories in one.

I thought the author did a great job when it came to really sharing the characters with the reader. I felt that I really knew their motivations and why they did things. I was really connected to them and was emotionally invested because they were written in such a way that made them feel real. This is especially apparent when exploring Nancy and her husbands relationship, but really apparent throughout. Can I just say here and now that Nancy was just a total badass? Because I can’t think of another word to describe her. She was/is a badass.

What I Didn’t Like

While I really loved exploring the role of Nancy in her relationship as well as her role as being a spy, at times I felt like it was in the way. It was not that I didn’t enjoy these aspects, but I found myself wanting to get through them because I wanted to read more about this very strong female protagonist in the context of her espionage.

Overall

Overall, this was a really engaging read. I read it quite quickly because I was sucked into the story when I did pick it up. This surprised be because it is not on the short side with almost 500 pages. Sometimes historical fiction can be long winded and at times I did feel this, it was not a constant in my experience. I felt like this was a very well done historical fiction set against the backdrop of WWII. Not only did it highlight that atrocities, it also showed the story of female spies that helped get many to safety and the dangerous choice that some made to put their own lives at risk to safe the lives of others. With this there is discussion of violence and other dark themes, here is a full list of trigger warnings compiled by Book Trigger Warnings.

Up Next

The next round of Someone Picks My Books is actually picked by a family member who doesn’t have a blog or anything, but we often talk about books so I thought it would be fun to read a book picked by my cousin! I am really excited about her picked because I have read a book by this author in the past and really enjoyed their style.

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Goodreads

Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | JJ Clapton | The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Someone Picks My Books where I ask for volunteers to pick a random book for me to read and see if I like it just as much as they did. This past May I had the wonderful JJ Clapton, who you can find over on twitter as @JJClaptonWrites as well on her website jjclapton.com. Yes, I am sorry I am late to posting this because I have been rethinking my blog a bit, but this series is one I truly love and wont to continue into the future. Anyway, I really excited to share my thoughts on this adventure of a book!

Description

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world… and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing.
There’s someone else who shares his powers. It’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality. –goodreads

What I Liked

First and foremost, I absolutely adored the imaginative aspect of this book. I mean, the ideas of book characters jumping off the pages is something a lot of us book lovers say as a figure of speech and most likely has been around for a while. The thing is, the author actually made this figure of speech seem like a reality and created a whole book around it, amazingly I might add.

This book opened up the readers in such a great manner it was a mixture of explaining and showing that was balanced really well. I felt like the author explained just enough that the reader isn’t lost, but we are thrown right into the action of the story. The writing really was just wonderful throughout. The plot was well done, the atmosphere was great, and when I read it felt like I was falling into the book just as much as the characters in this story were coming to life because of Charley’s abilities.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly, I really enjoyed this book and I can’t think of a single thing I did not enjoy about this book.

Overall

If you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. It was imaginative and unlike anything I have read personally and on top of that was executed amazingly. I was honestly shocked to see that this was the authors first book, but very happy too see that they have others out and another one in the works. This review was hard to write because all I wanted to do was gush about it and say, how much I loved it. I will say that there are a few scenes in the book that depict a few dark things that could be triggering to some such as violence, if curious here is a list of trigger warnings. If this is something that does not affect you, I highly suggest giving this book a try. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I could not be more ecstatic that JJ Clapton picked it for me to read!

Up Next

The next installment that is coming very soon was picked by the wonderful Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com. She is a very kind individual and her content is amazing!

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Goodreads

Reviews

Book Review | Trading Secrets by Rachael Eckles

*Book given by BOOK PUBLICITY SERVICES in exchange for an honest review*

Trading Secrets

Description:

William Anson is done with relationships, thanks. He’s starting the second year of his medicine degree single, focused, and ready to mingle with purely platonic intentions.

Celeste Donovan, a high-powered finance executive, seems to have it all–the penthouse apartment, the supermodel physique with a mathematician mind, and a trail of beautiful men she has loved and left behind.

But when her boyfriend Theodore is killed in a mysterious accident, she discovers Omar, her abusive ex she had hoped would never resurface, is behind his death.

Now she’s caught in a game of cat and mouse, trying to anticipate Omar’s next move, as she realizes he will stop at nothing to get to her. She sets out alone on a whirlwind journey to entrap him, determined to put an end to Omar’s destruction.

Soon Celeste is thrust in the middle of the largest financial scandal in decades. This time, however, powerful government officials are in bed with some of the world’s most dangerous men.

When she discovers that those she thought she knew best are involved in a secret society warring with Omar and his coconspirators, she must decide how far she will go to avenge Theodore’s death and whether she is willing to risk her own life to save everyone she loves.


What I Liked

One of the most prominent aspect of this novel was how fast paced it was. There was one thing after another and this can be a good thing for a novel because it keeps you as a reader engaged. There was no lull feeling in the middle of the book that many novels seem to suffer from. While this novel had a lot going on it wasn’t all just fluff and filler. It was all meaningful to the plot and moved the story along.

Another thing I took note of was the fact the author was not afraid to talk about graphic things, so just to give fair warning about some of those difficult topics, this book includes rape and abuse. A topic that is very much a tough topic that has unfortunately touched the lives of too many. The author left in these details to really get you to understand the feelings of the main character and understand their motives for their actions. I feel like without that Celeste might have come across as a very different character.


What I Didn’t Like

While I really liked the fast paced aspect of this book, I did feel that it was a tad bit over the top from time to time. It felt very unrealistic. For me this took me out of the story from time to time, but not for long. To be honest this might not be an issue for others. I think this dislike it a personal taste issue more than an issue with the book itself.


Overall Thoughts

Overall, I thought this roller-coaster of a book was enjoyable. I read it quickly, never hit a lull in the story telling, and I found myself engaged in the plot and characters more than I thought I would. I feel like if this book is something that you are intrigued by after reading the description and the difficult and graphic content is not something that will bother you, I suggest giving this book a chance.


Author Links

Rachael Eckles

Book Information

Publication Date: May 2, 2020

Publisher: APHRODITE BOOKS LLC

List Price: $17.00

ISBN: 978-1734901818

Pages: 318 pages


Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Goodreads

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk | Best Books I Have Read so Far in 2021

Hello and welcome to a little chatty post where I put together a little list of the best books I have read so far in 2021. I decided since we are already in the 6th month of the year, I would take some time this month to reflect on the year so far in a few posts throughout the month, but this is the first!


The Books

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa

Lady Killers by Tori Telfer (Not Pictured, Loaned Out)

White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad (Not Pictured, Loaned Out)

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu


What has been a few of the best books you have read so far this year?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Hauls & Unboxings

Book Haul | April 2021

Hello and welcome to a bit of a haul from the month of April. I went on my first day trip this past month after getting fully vaccinated. It was my first time doing so in over a year and it felt so great! On this trip I went to a really awesome bookstore that was new to me and found some gems to bring home with me and picked up a few books from my local bookstore and sent one by a friend. Anyway, here are the books!


The Books

Record of A Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami and Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami I picked up on a day trip to a Japanese market. They have a really awesome bookstore there and I always find gems like this I would not have found otherwise. Record of A Night Too Brief caught my attention because it seemed to have so much packed into such a small package. Ms. Ice Sandwich caught my attention because of its talk of starting something new and possible love.

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox, was a gift from the amazing Adrianna. I am really excited to get to this historical fiction novel with a possible paranormal twist to it.

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, I also picked up from the Japanese market. But, I have read this authors work quite a bit. He is a known horror manga writer. This book tells tales of his own life experiences as a dog person then owning two cats. It is quite funny and it was fun to read.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, this book has been on my radar for quite sometimes and I finally picked it up. I am really excited to get to it this month as well.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella, I will be honest the cover of this book really pulled me in. The cover alone has such a great atmosphere for a thriller and sets the tone so clearly. Then, when I read the description I added it to my pile before checking out from the store. This books talks about a girl going to Harvard to try and figure out what led her brother to suicide. There also seems to be ghosts possibly present in this story as well.


What book have you recently added to your shelves from the library or the store?

What book have you recently read?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Crochet, Crafting, Art & More

Crochet Talk | January – March 2021

Hello and welcome to another crochet check in! The past few months I have taken on quite a few new projects and challenges when it comes to crochet and I wanted to take a moment to share the outcomes of these adventures. I know a bit ago I did a post detailing my crochet plans called, Crochet Talk | Upcoming Projects, I figured I should share an update!


The Projects

The first project I finished was a Crochet Kobo Cover. I used a pattern inspired by Melanie Ham called Easy Crochet Kindle Cover. I used Lion Brand Comfy Cotton Blend in the color Chai Latte with a 6.0 mm hook. I added a the optional strap and button as well as a fabric lining, the first time I have done either. It was a bit of a challenge doing the lining, but I think the next time I try it will be better.

The next few projects I made were Drawstring Pom Pom Bags designed by Knit Crochet Addict called Crochet Drawstring Pom Pom Bag, I left the pom poms off, not really my style, but it is cute! I used Wool Ease by Lion Brand in quite a few different colors because I made two for me a few for friends of mine. When making this I used the recommended hook size on the yarn to complete the project.


This next project was a basket called the Jessie Stash Basket by Toni Lipsey. To complete the project I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick Color Fisherman doubled up and used a 9.0 mm hook. I really loved how this book came out so much in this cream color! I even placed it on my nightstand to hold my current read and current crochet projects. It is very durable too because the yarn was doubled up. I really love Toni’s patterns and videos.

Next, I created a Highlander Twisted Shawl which was designed by Lilian for a friend of mine. I decided to use Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick in the color Galaxy, which is a bit hard to see in the picture, but is a deep purple with sparkles here and there. I ended up using a 9.0 mm hook. On a great note, my friend loved it!

Following the shawl, I made another gift, but this one was a Snoopy Amigurumi plush by Amigurinos softies. I ended up using Big Twist Value Worsted Yarn in black and white and used the size down from recommended hook size for the yarn. What I loved about Amigurumi is you can change up the yarn size and hook size to make a larger or smaller plush. I am happy with how this one comes out and I really hope the person it is meant for will love it.


This month I made a lot of gifts for others, this time around I made an Outlander Cowl by Jamey from Dabbles & Babbles. I used Big Twist Sincerely Solids in the color Oatmeal Heather. I doubled up on the yarn and ended up using a size 10.0 mm hook. I really loved the texture of this scarf and really love how this came out. The person I made it for ended up wearing it all day when I gifted it to them.

This next project is for me, I ended up making myself the Crochet The Claire Shawl From Outlander by Selina Veronique
using Stylecraft Special Aran in Khaki (1) and Camel (4). I ended up using a size 6.0 mm (J) hook. I decided to use yellow and a green color instead of the green and black used in the show because I wanted to make it more spring-y.

The last project I finished in March was Beginner Felici Crochet Socks by Briana K Designs. I ended up using
Patons North America Kroy Socks yarn doubled up, I actually mixed the colors brown rose marl and
gray brown marl together and used a 4.5 mm hook. This was a project I was very much intimidated by, but so happy that I tried. Plus, I am really happy with how they came out.

What hobbies have you been filling your time with?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Wrap Up

Middle Mark | April 2021

Hello and welcome to my mid month reading check in for April! It seems I am still in a reading slump, probably one of the worst in years. I think stress and such in my day to day life is just leaving me so drained I am not really in the mood to pick up a book. I find myself coming home, watching something and crocheting. I am hoping the second half of the month I can beat this slump!


Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & MuJunji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu by Junji Ito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a cute and funny piece from a person I never knew could be so humorous. Normally, this author writes horror manga, which I normally love. I happened to see this in the bookstore and picked it up because it was something different from him. I ended up really enjoying it and reading it on the ride home.

View all my reviews

What have you read so far this month or what are you currently reading?

Any suggestions to get out of this reading slump?

Sign Off 2020

Tumblr Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads