Blind Date With a Book // Annie Gives Book Recommendations

A few months ago, I was browsing my favorite local bookstore and stumbled upon this: a blind date with a book.  A paperback book was wrapped in brown butcher’s paper and covered with adjectives describing the book.  The wrapping told me about the book’s nature, but didn’t give me a glimpse at the title, author, or cover design.

The idea made me somewhat uncomfortable at first.  I, a self-proclaimed cover judger, like books with pretty covers and reputable authors.  My brand-name book snobbery can get in the way of reading good literature, as I try to remind myself, so I browsed the blind dates available and picked one out.

The book I chose was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafón.  I’d heard fabulous things about the book, but had passed it over for something else.  I wouldn’t have picked this book out myself, but am beyond excited to read it.  The premise seems absolutely enchanting in the figurative and literal senses.  Click here to check out The Shadow of the Wind on Goodreads.

I want to share the blind date book love, my friends!  I picked out eight books I think you’ll love and shared a few choice adjectives and phrases about each book.  If the premise sounds intriguing, click the link and you’ll be transported to the book’s Goodreads page, where you can get acquainted with your blind date.

Without further ado, let’s meet our contestants. 

 

Book #1:

  • Alien invasion
  • Survival
  • Romance
  • Brother-sister relationship
  • Science fiction

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #2:

  • Murder mystery
  • Political intrigue
  • Fictional country
  • Thriller
  • Misunderstood heroine

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #3:

  • Deep South
  • Magic and voodoo
  • Romance
  • Cursed protagonist
  • Good versus evil

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #4:

  • New York City
  • Fame and fortune
  • Prep school romance
  • Feel-good
  • Cute and quirky

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #5:

  • Witches
  • Switched at birth
  • Earthy magic
  • Love triangle
  • Ancient prophecy

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #6:

  • Girl-next-door
  • High school
  • Hate-to-love romance
  • Strong sibling relationship
  • Charming

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #7:

  • Futuristic
  • Forbidden love
  • Matchmaking society
  • Defiance
  • Strong family

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

Book #8:

  • 1930’s
  • High society
  • Complicated love
  • New England beaches
  • Heartbreak

Click here to meet your blind date!

 

What did you think of your dates?  Find any new books to read?

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What Annie Read // Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
Published September 20th, 2016
Jimmy Patterson

Find On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Kerri Maniscalco

Goodreads Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

I rated Stalking Jack the Ripper 3/5 stars on Goodreads.

This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.

I was largely underwhelmed by Stalking Jack the Ripper.  With all the rave reviews on Goodreads, I expected this book to be an impeccable historical fiction with a dark, gothic twist.  I couldn’t wait to dig into protagonist Audrey Rose’s story and read about a badass young woman performing postmortems and catching murderers in between luncheon and high tea.  I expected sheer awesome, but what I got was nothing more than average.

Audrey Rose was consistently inconsistent.  At the beginning of the book, she raved about her surgical pursuits and the awful way proper society has handcuffed her as a woman.  She wanted nothing but freedom to practice medicine with her uncle, but enter her cousin Liza and Audrey Rose is privy to experiment with makeup and appreciate the finer things in life she formerly detested.  It’s one thing to understand beauty and it’s another thing to hate femininity one day and love it the next.  If her perspective on life had been somewhat constant, I might have related to her better.

Maniscalco tries to portray Audrey Rose as a feminist: she’s a woman with modern ideals who takes what she wants and keeps no prisoners.  However, her vague attempts at feminist undertones were ill-placed and didn’t fit well in the culture of 1880’s London.  If Audrey Rose were raised properly, she would still not hold the contemporary view of feminist portrayed in the book.  Dissecting bodies is a believable type of rebellion, but her outbursts regarding the relative weakness of men were unconvincing.

The budding romance between Audrey Rose and the mysterious Thomas Cresswell was just as inconsistent as Audrey Rose herself.  One scene, they were all but professing their love and next, they were exchanging insults and holding grudges and keeping secrets.  Their relationship felt incredibly ingenuine and almost unhealthy.  They couldn’t be honest with each other.  Just because they both have a penchant for gore doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together.  As I read, I found myself wishing another romantic interest would show up just so I didn’t have to read about them anymore.

In the middle of the book, Audrey Rose mentioned her Indian heritage that she inherited from her late mother’s side of the family.  I enjoyed reading about this detail because it made Audrey Rose seem like a more complete character, but there wasn’t much description of Indian culture outside of this one scene.  I wish that this facet of Audrey Rose’s identity had been weaved throughout the story rather than plunked in one scene.

Throughout the book, Maniscalco tries to set the scene of 1880’s London by using flowery diction and complicated syntax, but her efforts had an opposite effect.  Rather than seeming antiquated and charming, Audrey Rose’s voice came across as wordy and confusing.  She repeated the same sentiment multiple ways before moving onto the next thought rather than elaborating on each thought.  For someone as bright as Audrey Rose, I was intrigued by her thought processes and wanted to know more about how she saw the world through her analytical eyes.

One thing I did enjoy about this book was the ending.  I thought I had it figured out, my friends.  Halfway through, I cast my bets on the Ripper’s identity, but I had it all wrong.  Maniscalco’s smoke and mirrors to hide the Ripper’s true identity were impeccably bulletproof; I totally didn’t see that coming.

Overall, Stalking Jack the Ripper was a mildly disappointing read that did not even approach its assumed level of greatness.  While I will give points for the surprising climax, this book left plenty to be desired.

Have you read Stalking Jack the Ripper?  What did you think?

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What Annie Read // The Hawkweed Prophecy Series by Irena Brignull

 

The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy by Irena Brignull
Published June 16th, 2016 and August 15th, 2017
Hachette Books

I received copies of this series in exchange for an honest review.

Find The Hawkweed Prophecy On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads //

Find The Hawkweed Legacy On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads //

Click here to learn more about the author, Irena Brignull!

Goodreads synopsis of The Hawkweed Prophecy:

Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed couldn’t lead more different lives. Poppy is a troubled teen: moving from school to school, causing chaos wherever she goes, never making friends or lasting connections. Ember is a young witch, struggling to find a place within her coven and prove her worth. Both are outsiders: feeling like they don’t belong and seeking escape.

Poppy and Ember soon become friends, and secretly share knowledge of their two worlds. Little do they know that destiny has brought them together: an ancient prophecy, and a life-changing betrayal. Growing closer, they begin to understand why they’ve never belonged and the reason they are now forever connected to each other.

Switched at birth by the scheming witch Raven Hawkweed, Poppy and Ember must come to terms with their true identities and fight for their own place in the world. Enter Leo, a homeless boy with a painful past who – befriending them both – tests their love and loyalty. Can Poppy and Ember’s friendship survive? And can it withstand the dark forces that are gathering?

Goodreads synopsis of The Hawkweed Legacy:

Poppy is discovering a purpose for her powers in Africa, but she is haunted by a vision of her own death. Taken in by a boy and his great-grandmother, a healer, they vow to keep her safe-even if that ultimately means holding her captive. But Poppy never stops longing for Leo and, when she feels his magic begin to spark, she will do anything to be reunited with him.

Desperate to regain Poppy’s trust and bring her home, Charlock embarks on a plan to reunite Leo with his mother. What Charlock doesn’t foresee are the string of consequences that she sets into motion that leave Ember all alone and prey to manipulation, the clan open to attack from other witches, Sorrel vulnerable to Raven’s ghost, Betony determined to protect her son from his father’s fate, and which leave both Leo and Poppy in terrible danger.

I rated both The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.

The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy tell the story of Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed, two girls switched at birth by Poppy’s evil aunt because of her jealousy.  Why switch an innocent human girl and her unassuming niece at birth?  Well, Poppy is destined to become queen of the witches and Raven would much rather see her daughter, Sorrel, on the throne.  (Side note: these details are not spoilers.  They’re given in the description of the book.)

Poppy and Ember are drawn together by forces larger than themselves, causing their peaceful lives to collide and shatter.  They begin to wonder why they both feel out of place and alone in their respective worlds.  Poppy, prone to accidents that can’t be explained, and Ember, the witch with no abilities, inadvertently expose a conspiracy to keep Poppy from claiming her crown.  And then things get messy.

On top of trying to determine which life she wants to have, Poppy falls in love with a human boy named Leo.  As if her life weren’t complicated enough, Poppy learns that she and Leo cannot be together because witches are forbidden from having relationships.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a character who walked away from true love because it was “forbidden.”  You can guess what Poppy does next.

This modern fantasy duo was a lovely combination of the witchy magic we know and love with a handful of grit and a sprinkle of fate.  The earthy, gritty magic practiced by the witches in this series was unlike any I’d ever read before.  The witches confine themselves to their camp, living off of what nature provides and avoiding contact with any human life, especially men.  These women share a sisterly bond that’s tough to break and made me feel like a sister as well.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed the entire cast of characters not because they were perfect, but because none of them were truly likable.  They were all flawed beyond repair, but it made them unique and realistic.  Reading characters with whom I could identify so easily enhanced my reading experience and made me want to wrap up everyone in one giant hug.

Brignull switches perspectives often in these books, recounting both past and present while changing the central character in each chapter.  In The Hawkweed Prophecy, the chapters were not labeled, which wasn’t a terrible setback but did leave some detective work to the reader.  However, the chapter labels in The Hawkweed Legacy made reading a much easier experience and allowed Brignull to easily describe both past and present events.

The frequent change in perspective did leave some to be desired.  After investing so much time reading these books, I felt as if I were only reading half of each story rather than a cohesive work.

Brignull ameliorated this by making the writing style rather synonymous so we switched plot lines with each change in chapter, but not style.  Artistically, this definitely felt like the right choice for telling a story with so many facets.  This also created an abundance of dramatic irony, which had me gripped with anticipation as I approached the climax.  I knew what was coming, but I didn’t know when.

The development of Poppy and Leo’s romance was undoubtedly swoon-worthy.  Their personalities complemented each other beautifully because they brought out the best and the worst in each other.  Poppy and Leo exposed each other’s flaws, making them see even more human than before.  The speed at which they fell in love felt somewhat unrealistic for two teenagers, but the magic involved justified it.  If it’s true love, why not fall in love fast?

Similar to Poppy and Leo’s romance, the pacing of the book was definitely speedy.  This pace was entirely necessary because of the width of perspectives that Brignull had to cover.  We learned important snippets of information about each character and then learned another important snippet about another character.  This format made for an interesting complexity about the story and gave me as the reader a plethora of opportunities to fill in the blanks and personalize the reading experience.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy.  This duo was packed with interesting, complex characters and a story just as dynamic.  If you love a modern fantasy with an adorable romance and fantastically earthy magic, these are the books for you.

Have you read The Hawkweed Prophecy series?

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What Annie Read // When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Published May 30th, 2017
Simon Pulse

Find On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Sandhya Menon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

I rated When Dimple Met Rishi 4/5 stars.

This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.

When Dimple Met Rishi is about, well, Dimple and Rishi: two Indian teenagers growing up in America with vastly different perspectives on life.  Dimple is a strong feminist with a penchant for coding, annoying her traditional Indian mother, and paving her own path.  Rishi, on the other hand, takes great pride in his heritage and wants to please his family by being the perfect Indian son, which includes a quasi-arranged marriage to the fierce and fiery Dimple Shah.  Their parents arrange for them to meet at Insomnia Con, a summer camp for teenage coders, at which Rishi plans to woo his future wife.  The only problem?  Dimple had no idea that she and Rishi were betrothed.

This book absolutely oozes sticky, gooey, adorable teenage romance, but it doesn’t necessarily start out that way.  The balance of sass and sweetness is impeccable and so tastefully done.  Our two main characters, Dimple and Rishi, are such perfect compliments to each other whether they’re at each others’ throats or gazing into each others’ eyes.  They’re charming and quirky and really, really, really perfect.  Also, Rishi Patel may have shattered my boyfriend expectations, but that’s whatever.

I absolutely adored the juxtaposition of the geeky coder vibes and the traditional Indian influences.  These two aesthetics meshed so well together that they were practically seamless.  Menon dropped so many phrases in Hindu that I started to recognize what they meant regardless of their context, but there was enough context to not feel overwhelming.  I do wish that Menon had written a little more about the coding aspect, but the book was packed so full with romance, there was hardly any wiggle room.

Toward the end of the book, Menon added in a subplot involving Rishi’s younger brother, Ashish, that felt largely insignificant in terms of the entire plot.  Ashish was an entertaining character and I enjoyed reading about how his typical-jock personality contrasted so drastically with Rishi’s.  However, he didn’t serve much of a purpose other than to restate how different Rishi was from the average American teenage boy.

I think this book can be summed up by the image on the back: Dimple, wearing an orange kurta and big “geek” glasses, throws iced coffee on Rishi with a grimace on her face.  Dimple’s fire and sense of individuality, set in contrast with Rishi’s sense of tradition and propriety, makes for a delectable tale that’s sweet enough to give you cavities.

Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi?  What did you think?

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Annie’s Fall TBR

Nothing makes my bibliophilic heart smile more than the drop in temperature.  The leaves fall, the cozy cable knit sweaters come out, the autumnal candles get lit after months of sitting and waiting for the air to turn cold.  Life turns into an autumn-themed Pinterest board (at least I wish it did) as the chill forces us to stay inside and cuddle up with our favorite literary friends.  What could be better?

It may still be warm in North Carolina, but what’s life without a little imagination?  This fall, I’ve got quite a few books to tackle and I’m totally ready for it.  Here’s what I’m planning on reading:

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
Something about fall makes me want to read tearjerkers like this book.  They Both Die at the End is a book about Rufus and Mateo, who learn from an organization called DeathCast that they are going to die.  Today.  Have you started crying yet?  Good thing I’ve got plenty of fuzzy blankets to snuggle and mop up tears while reading.

 

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Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
This novella bind-up features two prequels to Red Queen that I can’t wait to finally read!  The first two books in the series were fantastic (you can read my Red Queen review here and my Glass Sword review here) and I’m sure these novellas will shed a new kind of light on the literary world I already love.

 

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Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
This young adult contemporary romance sounds perfect for a snuggly Saturday, a warm blanket, and some fuzzy socks.  I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review and can’t wait to read how protagonist Brie’s story unfolds.

 

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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
Nothing like a good paranormal romance to make it feel like fall!  Beautiful Creatures is about Ethan Wate, a boy stuck in his South Carolina hometown and itching to get anywhere else.  And then comes Lena Duchannes, the mysterious girl with an even more mysterious past.  This will be a reread and I can’t wait to get started!

 

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Emma by Jane Austen
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
I purchased a copy of this Jane Austen classic when I was visiting New York in August, so this book in particular has a special place on my TBR.  For someone who loves to read, I haven’t found many classics that I loved and am hoping this book will be the one!

 

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Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
If you need me after October 10th, I’ll be fangirling over John Green’s newest release.  I normally wait until release day to purchase a new book, but I preordered a signed copy of this book and am anxiously waiting its release.  The story of Aza, a teenage girl with obsessive-compulsive disorder, sounds like the perfect autumn tale to tug on the heartstrings.

 

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Amazon // Goodreads // ThriftBooks
Ah yes, we’ll also be revisiting my middle school obsession this season.  I haven’t read Twilight since my vampire craze in seventh grade and am looking forward to rereading a book that meant so much to me once upon a time.

What books are you reading this fall?

Also, I’ll be hosting a giveaway once I reach 100 followers on Instagram, so don’t forget to follow and stay tuned for giveaway announcement!

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Annie DNF’ed a Book

Today’s been a day of new experiences.  I attended my first college football game (my school, Elon University, won in case anyone’s wondering!), bought my first pepper spray (college safety is important), and DNF’ed my first book.  Whew, what a day!

I’ve read a lot of discussion posts lately that address the great DNF debate: as readers, do we have the literary right to elect to not finish a book?  If we aren’t enjoying a book, should we push through and finish or just say “no thanks?”

In the past, I’ve been on the push-through-and-finish side.  As a writer, reading is fuel to the proverbial fire, so reading a wide variety of books helps writers write.  Even when I’ve read books I didn’t like in the past, I continued because reading “bad” books is productive too.  In truth, I love reading a book and thinking through how I would write it better.

However, I’ve never sought out bad books just to appease my ego.  I also love reading books that stretch me, books that make me think in ways I’ve never thought before.  Books that pose a challenge inspire me to write at a higher level and motivate me to improve my craft.

So why did I DNF a book today?

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The book in question is The Program by Suzanne Young.  I’ve had this book on my Goodreads TBR shelf for quite a long time and when I found a discounted version on ThriftBooks, I couldn’t resist.  The cover is striking and gorgeous.  The synopsis, which I’ve included below, was enticing.  This looked like the kind of book that would transport me to a world where my BIO 101 homework no longer existed.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis of The Program:

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Sounds freaking awesome, right?  I couldn’t wait to start reading and practically jumped out of my skin when it came in the mail.  I was so excited that I actually stopped myself from ripping open the packaging so I could do an unboxing on my Instagram.  (Shameless plug: make sure you follow Annie Likes Words on Instagram so you can keep up with my day-to-day literary adventures!)

The first chapter or two were a nice transition into the world of Sloane, our protagonist.  Depression and teen suicide are an epidemic, so the government instituted The Program to “correct” teenagers who contract depression.  Thus far, it was all smooth sailing.  Well, the characters had it pretty rough, but it was smooth sailing for me as a reader.

And then we met James.  James was Sloane’s devoted boyfriend of two years and self-determined protector of Sloane and their mutual friend (and perpetual third-wheel) Miller.  James was a pretty-boy and knew it, which I’m not entirely opposed to if the trope is executed tastefully.  However, Sloane seemed to confuse his love for himself with his love for her.  I understand how the two could intermingle sometimes, but the relationship didn’t feel genuine.

Sloane was under the impression that James was the sun, moon, and stars.  He was her everything because she was his everythingI love a good sappy romance, but seriously?  The boy couldn’t hold a conversation without referencing his rock-hard abs.  I’m sure he loved Sloane, but his love for himself superseded everything.

About sixty pages in, the exposition stopped and we reached the first plot point.  Sloane and James are furiously racing to a friend’s house after receiving a call from him, during which he admitted to taking a drug known as QuikDeath.  Sadly, they were too late.  Sloane started to cry, which is all but forbidden in their world because it marks the onset of depression, but James isn’t having it.  So he slaps her.

And that’s when I slammed the book shut.

I understand the complexities of why James hit Sloane.  She was crying, risking exposure, and he didn’t wasn’t to lose his love to The Program.  But was physical violence really necessary to send a message?  Coupled with his rampant egocentrism and arrogant attitude, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I officially thew in the towel on The Program, turned off the lights and drew the curtain.  Time of DNF: 9:00 PM.

I might have enjoyed the book if I’d continued reading it.  I might come back to it later and give it another chance, but I’ve got plenty of other books to read at the moment and I don’t want to waste my time with a book that offends and confuses me.  I’ve got plenty of other books to keep me company.

Do you DNF books?  What’s the last book you didn’t finish?

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Annie’s Friends Give Book Recommendations

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but this girl’s best friends are books.  Over the years, I’ve come across other girls just like me, ones who will forget their keys or their wallet but never fail to have a book in their purse (probably because “must be big enough to hold a book” is a requirement for all purses).  So I reached out to some of my pals and asked them what books they totally love and think you’ll totally love as well.

Here are the books that my friends recommend:

Mary is a biology major at Baylor University and her dog, Sampson, is the cutest pup ever.  Mary recommends:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
“I loved Big Little Lies because it kept me interested. It was such an interesting book because it was funny yet depressing at the same time. If you are looking for a page turner then Big Little Lies is for you!”

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
The Hypnotist’s Love Story is more of a slow, vacation read. The plot was unique and different and had a good ending. If you are looking for a book to fill your free time, then The Hypnotists Love Story is for you!”

Kat is a freshman at Sewanee: University of the South and loves poetry more than anyone else I know.  Kat recommends:

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
“I’m going to be honest, this book initially drew me in because of the cover.  I’m a sucker for beautiful design, and I had already seen positive reviews floating around the internet, so when I bought this book, I started reading it immediately.  It’s rare that I simply ignore my huge TBR pile for a brand new book, but the magic of Exit West kept me captivated and I didn’t regret my decision for a second.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
“If you’re a reader that is thinking of trying out the ‘classics’ genre for the first time, this would be a great book to start out with.  It’s quite exciting!  There’s romance, death, drama, and a few mid-life crises.  If the plot doesn’t draw you in, Oscar Wilde really is a fantastic writer, so I would suggest at least reading a few chapters of this book to see where it takes you!”

Olivia is a freshman at the University of Delaware and wants to combine her loves of art and chemistry by working as an art conservationist.  Olivia recommends:

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke was a fun weekend read because it’s more of kids book but still exciting.”

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is cool and I always wanted to know what was gonna happen next and I felt soft and whisky and floaty while reading it.”

Lily is a freshman at Appalachian State University.  Lily and I met in fourth grade and the rest is history–we’ve been friends ever since.  Lily recommends:

The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without Youand We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
“Basically it was a love story that showed the real life problems that occur and get in the way of love. It’s real and powerful.”

Eva is a freshman at Wake Forest University and is a living, breathing Pinterest board: she’s perfected the cool-girl aesthetic and has gorgeous, tousled hair to match.  Eva recommends:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
“This is a classic coming-of-age novel that I loved for its innocence doubled with the dark side of racial tensions… I want to be a lawyer so the legal side of Scout’s story is fascinating to me!”

The Selection by Kiera Cass
“The Selection is a great series of fun-loving princess-y drama and it’s both captivating while still maintaining a more complex level of diction.”

Quiet by Susan Cain
“I just read Quiet for my college and it is an AMAZING look into introverts and how they are beneficial to society. Being an introvert myself, this novel taught me to embrace my reserved personality and to appreciate the Quiet.”

Payson is currently taking a gap year and plans to enroll at North Carolina State University next year.  Payson and I met when we were little in our neighborhood play group and have stayed connected ever since.  Payson recommends:

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Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
“I am a huge sucker for cheesy romance novels.  I enjoy reading books that are simple, easy to read, and take me out of my own head and into someone else’s.  I definitely challenge myself when it comes to reading, but when I am looking for pure bliss in a book I can always turn to Emily Giffin…  You’ll get through this book so quick because you never want to put it down!”

HUGE thanks to Mary, Kat, Olivia, Lily, Eva, and Payson for contributing to this post!

Share this post with a friend who always gives the best book recommendations!

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Annie’s August Update

Hello y’all!  Today I’m sharing a little about my month and announcing some pretty fun news regarding Annie Likes Words and myself, so let’s get started.

When I wrote this post, I’d been living in my flat for one week of my freshman year at college!  I attend a small liberal arts college in North Carolina and am studying English with a double concentration in creative writing and teacher licensure.  My plan is to graduate in four years with an education in creative writing and the required licensure to teach high school English.  I think that this plan perfectly combines my love of English, my love of education, and my love of sharing my love.

With this change has come an opportunity for me to reassess on all accounts.  A month or so ago, I wrote about my blog burnout (click here to read) and shared with y’all that I would adopt a more relaxed schedule in efforts to make blogging fun.  This kind of has to do with that.

I am not taking a hiatus.  I’m still going to be hanging around, writing posts when I have a spare moment, taking requests for review and following up on those requests.  As much as I would love to dedicate my entire day to writing and reading to my little heart’s content, I have to put school first… so I can get a degree and then read and write to my little heart’s content.

While my schedule is going to be much more inconsistent, I will do my best to notify you on my Instagram and Twitter when posts are about to go live so you can enjoy them as much as I do.  Long story short, head to my socials to get the scoop on when I’m planning a post.

Another facet of this refocusing is this: I’m going to start writing more about my life, particularly my college experience as I adjust to dorm life.  I’ve learned so much in one week, so I can’t begin to imagine the things I’ll learn and the ways I’ll grow between now and May.  I want to share this journey with you and maybe give someone younger than me the wisdom I wished I had.

My tagline is “A Girl and Her Books.”  I’ve spent a lot of space talking about the books, so now I’m going to start talking about the girl a little more.  The books aren’t going away, but the girl is starting to share their spotlight.

To kick off this shift in focus, Annie’s Guide to Dorm Shopping is going live within the next week!  I’ll post the exact date and time on my Instagram and Twitter soon, so follow me on both and you’ll never miss another post!

With that said, let’s get back to the books.  Here is a brief summary of my month in literature.

 

Books I Read:

The Daughters Break the Rules by Joanna Philbin
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Review Coming Soon!

Captain Guinevere by Clara Bennet
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // My Review

My British Bear by Dawn Dagger
Goodreads // My Review

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Review Coming Soon!

 

What I’m Reading Now:

On Writing by Stephen King
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

The Circle by Dave Eggers
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

 

Books I’m Reading Next:

Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

The Hawkweed Legacy by Irena Brignull
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads

 

In conclusion, here is a list of posts from the past month.

8/2: Annie Has Blog Burnout and Wants to Talk About It
8/3: Annie’s July Update
8/5: What Annie Read: Eleanor & Park Book Review
8/7: 11 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer
8/7: Annie Has 500 Followers and is Freaking Out About It!
8/9: Annie’s July Favorites
8/10: Annie Gives Book Recommendations Based on Hogwarts House
8/12: Annie’s Approach to Writer’s Block
8/14: What Annie Read: All Fall Down Book Review
8/16: The Five Books Annie is Taking to College
8/18: What Annie Read: Captain Guinevere Book Review
8/21: Annie’s Favorite Book Covers
8/22: What Annie Read: My British Bear Book Review
8/23: Annie is Giving Away Books!
8/25: What Annie Read: A Study in Charlotte Book Review

 

How was your month in reading?  What books are you reading next?

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What Annie Read: A Study in Charlotte Book Review

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A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Published March 1st, 2016
Katherine Tegen Books

Find On // Amazon // ThriftBooks // Goodreads // Brittany Cavallaro //

Goodreads Synopsis:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

I rated A Study in Charlotte 5/5 stars.

This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.

Oh boy.  Where do I start with this book?  I’ll start with this: it’s amazing.

Jamie Watson and Charlottes Holmes are the descendants of the original detective duo and have the same wit and deductive capabilities as their ancestors.  Jamie, a boy on scholarship for his half-hearted rugby skills at Sherringford Prep, encounters the ever-so-enchanting Charlotte, whose penchant for the morbid and creepy is almost as striking as her raven black hair.  The stars seemed to align when Jamie and Charlotte met, but not for the better: within days, a Sherringford student turns up dead in his room.  And our leading guy and gal are on a suspect list that’s two names long.

I mentioned this book in Annie Gives Book Recommendations Based on Hogwarts House for it’s wit (I also mentioned how gorgeous the cover is in my post on my favorite book covers), which is this book’s most notable feature.  Jamie’s charming, dry look at life was captivating.  He’s thrust into a place that feels entirely foreign, but he approaches it with an uncharacteristic willingness.  He’s such a sport about dealing with the familial tensions created by moving to Sherringford as well as the whole Charlotte Holmes situation–she’s not exactly a walk in the park.  Overall, Jamie was a likable character, an easily supported protagonist, and what felt like a reliable narrator.  He looked at life with a certain clarity that comes with being mature beyond your years.

Charlotte had a similar maturity, but she was chaotic where Jamie was methodical.  I think Charlotte is best represented by the way Jamie describes the jar of teeth found in her lab: odd, extremely concerning, probably hazardous, but mesmerizing all the same.  Charlotte was a hurricane of sharp cracks of wit and superhuman deductive power.  She was a force of nature, but her destructive tendencies applied to herself as well.  She was just as flawed as the rest of us, even though she could deduce blood type without sticking a vein.

One of my favorite aspects about the book was that it was laden with just enough clues to make you, the reader, feel like a detective yourself.  Charlotte’s philosophy throughout the entire book was to not theorize before you’ve collected all the facts.  This methodical acquisition of facts, which we learned about as Jamie and Charlotte discovered them, gave me the chance to start putting theories together myself: maybe it was Mustard in the hall with the knife… or Violet with the dumbbell in the theater… or Green with the pistol in the observatory.  With the way Cavallaro wrote about their investigation, I felt like I was playing a game of Clue, using strategy to deduce whodunnit.

The setting was equally as fabulous.  I went to a private high school (and am going to a private college, which I’m moving into today!) so the formal yet quirky atmosphere that accompanies academia has a special place in my heart.  Sherringford Prep, where our two protagonists attend class (well, they ended up skipping a lot), was a prestigious institution in the rolling hills of Connecticut known for educating the sons and daughters of the high and mighty, but I found that the school itself was a bit like Charlotte.  The exterior was pristine, the facade was glimmering and well-built, but the school ran rampant with corruption and nasty habits.  There were drugs and violence and underground gambling, all showing that exteriors and interiors rarely match.

My one complaint is… well, I don’t really have a complaint.  I thought long and hard about something that I’d perhaps want to change, but I truthfully cannot conjure up an idea in the slightest.  Overall, this book was as pristine as Sherringford’s campus appeared to be.  The characters were dynamic and interesting, the dialogue was fresh and packed with cracking wit charm, and the book as a whole was like reading one of the  classic Sherlock novels with which we all fell in love.

Have you read A Study in Charlotte?  What did you think?

Don’t forget that I’m running a survey to gather some information about you and your thoughts on Annie Likes Words, which you can access here.  I want you to love my blog as much as I do, so let me know what you love, what you’re not a fan of, and what I can be doing better as a reader, blogger, and writer.  I look forward to reading your feedback!

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What Annie Read: My British Bear Book Review

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My British Bear by Dawn Dagger
Expected Publication: September 1st, 2017
Self-published

I received a free copy of My British Bear from the author in exchange for an honest review.  This review is part of a blog tour for My British Bear.

Find On // Goodreads // Dawn Dagger //

Goodreads Synopsis:

After two months of hell living with her uncle, Maria is ready to give up. She’s already lost everything, and has no one to hold on to. Stuck in a small town where she knows not a single person, and physically abused by her uncle, she sees no hope. The only respite she gets from the hits on all sides is the small coffee shop down the road.

After an unlikely accident resulting in meeting a backwards British kid who is too polite and awkward for his own good, Maria starts to see a light in the darkness, but she’s also afraid of it.

She has her heart broken before, a hundred times in a hundred ways, and she doesn’t know if she’s ready to love, ready to let go, or even ready to face the reality of things. She doesn’t know if she’s ready to open up again and be happy.
She doesn’t know if she’s ready to live. 

I gave My British Bear 2/5 stars.

This review, like all of my reviews, is spoiler-free.

My British Bear tells the story of a young girl Maria, who has a chance encounter with British-born Brooks and is enchanted by his dashing looks and charming sense of humor.  In addition to struggling to comprehend her emotions, Maria lives in an abusive household and is caught between what her heart and her head are telling her to do.

This book had a lot of promise for me: a struggling character facing insurmountable challenges, a cute romance, a quirky cast of characters.  I wanted to love this book, but it didn’t live up to my initial perceptions.  Let’s talk about why.

I didn’t connect to Maria, the protagonist, probably because I didn’t enjoy her narrative voice.  For someone assumedly in high school, she had an immature tone that lead me to believe she was younger than intended.  I especially had a problem with a girl who spoke like a middle schooler contemplating love like she’d known her quasi-boyfriend for half her life.  Immature narrators and themes involving serious love are fine on their own, but I found they didn’t mix well.

Beside Maria and Brooks, the rest of the characters seemed flat.  Brooks and Maria’s gaggle of school chums were a fabulous device for comparing Maria to the picture-perfect image of a normal high schooler and were an even better device for representing her reintegration into normal high school activities, but they weren’t good for much else.  All of their friends seemed like cookie-cutter versions of the same character, but with different names and descriptions.  After a while, they all blended together and became indiscernible.

One of the major plot threads in this book is the abusive relationship between Maria and her uncle.  This subplot was supposed to tug at my heartstrings and make me feel for Maria, but I harbored a startling lack of sympathy for her.  Abuse is a heavy topic with multiple facets to explore and consider, but I felt that this book didn’t hit it out of the park.  I understand that every case of abuse is different, but this book seemed to show a sensationalized version, something that highlighted the causes but didn’t show the effects.  I wanted Maria to be vulnerable and open and honest and she was anything but.

The relationship between Maria and Brooks was frustrating on multiple levels.  First, I found that immense emphasis was placed on the fact that Brooks was British.  All we needed was one paragraph at the beginning or a few lines of colloquial dialogue to understand his heritage, not the constant barrage of reminders that he hailed from Great Britain.  In addition, a majority of their interactions felt forced.  Often, I felt that they were reading monotonously from a script rather than exchanging witty banter.

Like Maria’s narrative voice was uncharacteristically immature, Brooks had a similar childlike nature.  I found it hard to believe that he, who was supposed to be a hunk, slept with a bunch of stuffed animals on his bed.  There’s nothing wrong with stuffed animals–I still have the stuffed animal I slept with as a child–but it clashed with his existing character development so much that I found it unbelievable.  The teddy bears were an allusion to Brooks himself, which makes sense in theory, but didn’t exactly translate in the narrative.

Overall, this book was not for me.  I didn’t relate to the characters, found the narrative voice immature, and expected much more from this book than I got.

Have you read My British Bear?  What did you think of the book?

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