Read This…Then That: Plot Twisty, Family Secret Books

Seriously – crazy mysteries with shocking outcomes paired with weird and/or unreliable characters? Read them alllllll! (And don’t read plot summaries or pick up too many details beforehand!)

wewereliars

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn Goodreads / Amazon

This one is really wonderful and surprising. Also, the writing is fantastic. You’ll be left guessing up until the very end as to what on Earth is going on in the story. Is it supernatural? What family secrets is the MC hiding? The New England boarding school setting adds a really nice foresty and melancholy background for what turns out to be a pretty incredible story! I’m surprised I didn’t chop my fingers up with paper cuts at the rate I was racing through the pages to get to the end.

(These next two involve rich family summer vacation settings, which I’ve decided is one of my new favorite things.)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Goodreads / Amazon

This plot is BANANAS, y’all. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters quite as much as I’d like, but still. Whoa. If you like contemporary YA and/or mysteries and/or unreliable narrators and/or BIG OMG reveals – oh yeah, you should definitely read this. My lack of real involvement with the characters left me a little less dazzled then I know some people have been, but this was a solid read. I’m pretty sure my thought process while reading was IHAVEABADFEELINGIHAVEABADFEELING x 100. The end will leave you reeling hard.

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore Goodreads / Amazon

This being adult, it moves a little slower than the previous two. It’s also a little different in that the biggest mysteries/conflicts don’t really involve the mental state of the narrator so much. Things build quietly and carefully as you get to know the cast of characters. Things are never comfortable though – I was tense and curious and nervous throughout the entire story. Once things get going? They don’t stop. There are several pretty major plot twists, and while some of them might not be huge surprises…some of them will catch you off guard! I very much enjoyed reading this, I ended up finishing it over the course of one day. I would probably recommend it the most out of the three. I’ve already grabbed up one of this author’s back list titles!

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Six Degrees of Separation: Burial Rites

So, two bloggers – Emma and Annabel – started a new meme called Six Degreeds of Separation. It sounded like a lot of fun, so I decided to join in!

Basically, they pick a book and anyone who wants to participate makes a list of six books in a “Read this…then that” format. It can be as specific or general as you want! Jane Austen can lead to Stephen King can lead to Nora Roberts. Whatever!

So, this month the chosen book is Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It’s a really brilliantly written and atmospheric story set in 19th century Iceland surrounding a woman accused of murder.

Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent Goodreads / Amazon

six degrees

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

This has always struck me as a similar read to Burial Rites in a lot of ways – a harshly judged and misunderstood outsider in a community + a super atmospheric setting.

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn Goodreads / Amazon

Oh, you want to talk more about books with birds in the title? Okay! This is the first in a fantasy series set in a fictional Oriental setting. It’s absolutely brilliant and stands alone just fine.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

I absolutely can’t bring up a fantasy Oriental setting without talking about this one. It’s a novella written by one of my all time favorite fantasy authors – I will always be ready to fight that Sanderson is the king of world building. Plus, this is a novella. Lots of fantastic world building compacted into less than 200 pages.

Big Boy by Ruthie Knox Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

Speaking of wonderful and complex novellas – this is a contemporary romance with trains, family drama…and enough chemistry to start a fire.

Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow Goodreads / Amazon

Drama, chemistry…trains? How about Calico Palace, one of my favorite novels set during one of my favorite settings – San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson Goodreads / Amazon

Talking about my favorite historical periods always brings me local – this is a fictionalized account of a true story about a young girl who was kidnapped in 1836 by the Comanche Indians. She grew up and ended up raising her own family as one of them before being discovered and more or less forced away from them. Really fascinating and heartbreaking story.

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Top Ten Unique Reads

This week’s prompt at The Broke & the Bookish is top ten unique reads. These books are prettyvaried, but I definitely consider them all unique in one way or another! Putting this list together wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be at first.

unique reads

1. All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

If has to be one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. I love it so much, and every time I think about how underrated it is I get a little sad. More people should be picking this up! A steampunk mashup of The Importance of Being Earnest and Twelfth Night? COME ON! The setting, characters, plot and romance are all fantastic. Read it read it read it.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessl Goodreads / Amazon

I finally got around to this one at the beginning of the year, and it is definitely going to make an appearance on my best of 2014 list at the end of the year. This book is SO WEIRD and creepy and fascinating. You have totally never seen characters like these. Nope. A reclusive, mysterious horror film director + a desperate reporter equals one heck of a story.

3. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

Deadly water horses, you guys! So original and wonderful. The beautiful writing and setting in this one completely wrapped me up into the story.

4. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman Goodreads / Amazon

A Holocaust graphic novel using cats and mice, and the first graphic novel I ever read.

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

Like The Scorpio Races, this one is unique because of the rich, vivid setting. The creepily beautiful circus depicted here is miles away from the craptastic carnival that hits my hometown every year, that’s for sure.

6. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Goodreads / Amazon

I’m pretty proud of myself for finally reading my first Vonnegut this year – and I’ve read several since then. This one hooked me because of how awesomely weird it is. Drawings of assholes, Vonnegut describing how he is writing himself into the story so he can talk to his fictional main characters…sigh. Mind blown.

7. The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough Goodreads / Amazon

This one is definitely unique in a different way than the rest of the books on this list. It is a 1000+ page chunkster set in Ancient Rome with a massive glossary, but it’s technically not non-fiction! It kinda straddles the line in a really awesome way.

8. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey Goodreads / Amazon

I usually roll my eyes when I see what books adults think their children shouldn’t be reading. But uh, yeah. This one is probably for the grown ups. Great worldbuilding (and I mean GREAT) meets really intriguing characters and politics and religion and…BDSM. And sex. and BDSM. But mostly in a calculating, businessy way – this isn’t gratuitous porn by any means, but it is graphic. It’s also pretty awesome, and I recommend it a lot to fantasy fans.

9. Chime by Franny Billingsley Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

Super bewitching and eerie narrators for this win! This book is hard to describe, but if you love swamps and quirky, odd, sad, scary witchy things…you should be reading this! Definitely another underrated read.

10. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch Goodreads / Amazon

Ever since reading this in 2009, I have recommended it to about a million people. Prepare to meet the most sarcastic and hilarious band of thieves ever created in an incredibly complex and interesting world.

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My Oklahoma TBR

I really love reading books set in (or near) my home state! Especially if they are in rural areas like where I grew up. I recently rounded up a few titles I have on hand that I hope to read over the course of the next few months. To the best of my knowledge, they’re all at least mostly set in the great state of Oklahoma!

Oklahoma TBR

The Past Never Ends by Jackson Burnett Goodreads / Amazon

Not a lot of people have reviewed this on Goodreads, but the synopsis sounds really interesting. Plus – it’s only $2.99 on Amazon! It sounds like a murder mystery that tries to explore the notions of justice and unjustice as they apply to the sex trade.

Hope Ignites by Jaci Burton Goodreads / Amazon

This is the second in a romance series set in a fictional small town near Tulsa, OK. I enjoyed the first book of the series, and this one features a ranch owner. Yes please! I grew up in a family full of farmers and ranchers, so this will definitely be up my alley.

Paradise by Toni Morrison Goodreads / Amazon

So far, the only Morrison I’ve read is Sula – and I enjoyed it! I picked this one to read next based solely on the setting.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan Goodreads / Amazon

This is a nonfic that covers the Depression. My parents both speak highly of the documentary, so I’m looking forward to diving into the book.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp Goodreads / Amazon

This didn’t enter my radar until the movie was announced, and I don’t know a lot about it – just that it’s a young adult that starts with a guy waking up on a random front lawn. Intriguing, no?

Cimarron by Edna Ferber Goodreads / Amazon

I have an omnibus of three of Edna Ferber’s novels – two of her more famous books and this one. It actually sounds pretty awesome, too! A woman ends up in the Oklahoma Territory in the late 19th century. Her brilliant business sense eventually leads her to Congress and the forefront of the debates about the treatment of Indians.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham Goodreads / Amazon

Until I came across this, I didn’t realize Grisham ever wrote true crime. This covers a 1982 murder in Ada, OK and the mismanagement of evidence that led to a possibly erroneous trial.

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Do you guys have a thing for reading books set near where you’re from as well?

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Top Ten Influential Reads

I thought this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt at The Broke and the Bookish fit pretty well with the BookTube Influential Books Tag – so I did both! Feel free to check out the vlog version if you so desire.

ten influential books

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

I mean, really. This series is everything.

Meet Felicity by Valerie Tripp Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

This series was an obsession of mine as a kid – we even took a family trip to Williamsburg! I absolutely adored everything about all these stories – 1776ish Virginia was a favorite setting of mine for many years thanks to Felicity.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins Goodreads / Amazon

One of the first classics I actually read for fun once I grew out of the Great Illustrated Classics phase. I kinda wanted to be one of those snooty people, nose high, that could say ‘Yes, of course I read classics for fun!’ Then I picked this up, read it, and was too busy moving straight on to The Moonstone (also by Collins) to worry about anything else.

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin Goodreads / Amazon

The obsession I had with these books isn’t even funny! I read and owned literally hundreds of them – pretty sure they’re still boxed up in my parents’ garage. I can, to this day, still name all the characters and details about their personalities.

And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander Goodreads / Amazon /My Review

Historical mysteries are a favorite genre of mine, and it all started here. Also, I’ve picked these up to reread during more than one difficult time in my life because I find something extremely comforting about the characters.

The Stand by Stephen King Goodreads / Amazon

Reading this began both my interest in dystopian lit and in Stephen King himself. It also taught me a lot about characterization and what it really takes to be able to create great ones.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery Goodreads /Amazon / My Review

Anne and Gilbert were two of my first book loves, and I can’t imagine how I could have survived childhood without my manymanymany binge watches of the amazing miniseries.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this is pretty much my book BFF. I’ve read it numerous times over the last decade, and it never fails to make my laugh/scream/cry in all the best ways. The characters and plot both resonate with me a lot.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell Goodreads / Amazon / My Review

My all time favorite classic, and one of the first books I picked up based solely on a recommendation from a Goodreads friend. When I joined GR in 2008, my life changed a LOT, and this book kinda represents all that to me. Also, my feelings for this book are tied up with the miniseries. So, Richard Armitage.

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough Goodreads / Amazon

I’ve never been prouder of a reading experience – this 1000 page chunkster kinda straddles the fiction/non-fiction line. It’s set in Ancient Rome and it is an extremely difficult and time consuming undertaking. But man, SO WORTH EVERY SECOND. There is a crazy huge 300 page glossary that you have to flip to constantly, and connecting with all of that as much as I did? Yeah, it was awesome.

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Reading Round-Up

March 2014

The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand Goodreads / Amazon

You guys, I don’t think it’s possible to love a series more than I do this one. Also, I swear – each one just keeps getting better! This is fourth in a romance series featuring Paris and chocolate and all the things. No one – and I mean no one – can write seduction like Laura Florand. The writing is so lush and gorgeous and sexy. You absolutely cannot pass this series by if you’re a fan of the genre!

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy Goodreads / Amazon

I’m really not normally a fan of books featuring characters with cancer, but this one got an incredible amount of pre-release buzz, so I couldn’t resist picking it up. Unfortunately, I should have stuck to my guns. When teenage Alice finds out she isn’t going to die of her cancer after all, she kinda hits the breaks hard on all the rash decisions she made when she thought she was terminal. The premise is pretty interesting – can saying “um…oops?” really be enough when you have to own up to the consequences of the things you did when your days were numbered? Well let me tell you, Alice was an incredibly unlikable character. Also, the love interest? I thought I adored him through  most of the story, until he finally crossed the line into absolutely pitiful territory. He 100% should have punched Alice in the nose and walked off into the sunset whistling the tune of a free man. If the story had ended like that, I’d still be fist pumping.

Searching For Perfect by Jennifer Probst Goodreads / Amazon

Another romance read – I have been looking forward to picking this up for months after really enjoying the first in the series. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite measure up. I really liked both characters – especially the male lead. (I will never say no to reading about a sexy nerd. EVER.) I just never quite felt their chemistry together, so the story never quite clicked for me. Bummer!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin Goodreads / Amazon

Drop everything, y’all. EVERYTHING. You need to do everything at your disposal to get this book into your hands as soon as possible. I wish I could buy ALL THE COPIES to give to everyone I know. I loved this story so incredibly much, I can barely form words. A.J. Fikry is a bookseller on a charming small island, but charming is definitely not a word you would use to describe him when the story opens. He is cranky, alone and barely a notch above completely miserable. By the time the story is over? Everything has changed. Also, you will have done the whole laughing/yelling/crying trifecta all the best books cause you to experience. Please, please add this to your reading lists! This will no doubt end up on my “Best of 2014″ list in a few months.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh Goodreads / Amazon

This was pitched to me as a cross between Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell. Since I am a pretty big fan of both authors, I had to pick this one up! The Daniel Woodrell comparison is definitely fitting – McHugh shows the same reverence to the Ozarks, while at the same time not being afraid to show the dark and gritty side of that part of the world. The nod to Gillian Flynn? Ehhh….maybe not quite so spot on. I don’t think there is a lot of mystery to the plot – and while there were a couple of reveals, I really think the plot’s strength lies in the suspense. Just because I knew who the bad guy was didn’t mean I knew quite what he’d end up doing, you know? If literary suspense is your thing, I definitely recommend this one. Just don’t expect a Gillian Flynn-style thriller!

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