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Anna from Gustine

Anna from Gustine

Joined October 2019

review
Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

Well, my favorite article was about the reintroduction of mammoths and other extinct creatures. I have very mixed feelings about this desire on the part of some scientists. It was a good article that also had a lot of information about elephant behavior. Elephants who are actually in the process of going extinct.

Other than this article though, I'm just not convinced this collection was the “best“ of 2018. 😕

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

This is my second time reading this book. The stories are sparse and straightforward, but that's what I enjoy about them. The endings are vague, but that's okay. I miss the subtlety of horror in modern fiction. I also appreciate the sense of a genteel and orderly world being unsettled. In a messed up planet, it's nice escapism. I would recommend viewing the BBC adaptations that were a staple at Christmas. Many are free on YouTube. 😊

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Anna from Gustine
Floating Staircase | Ronald Malfi
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Pickpick

Travis moves into a house haunted by a child ghost. He tries to find out what happened and the child's story interweaves with his own tragic past. The book works on a creepy level and as a mystery, but the relationships between Travis and his wife, his remaining brother, and an elderly reporter felt real to me. The child's tale is affecting as well. While this is not a book about gore and jump scares, sadness and regret can be just as frightening.

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Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

It took me almost two years to read this book! I acknowledge the level of research and attention to detail is incredible, even today. Auel's ability to imagine the inner workings of Neanderthal culture, internal lives and spirituality is admirable and ground-breaking. My problem was with Ayla's story itself. I struggled with too much melodrama, the “chosen one“ trope and the often slow pacing. But I'm glad I read it as I learned a great deal. 🙂

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Anna from Gustine
The Haunted House | Charles Dickens
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Bailedbailed

Unfortunately, I bailed on this book as it wasn't what I was looking for: a Christmas ghost story. The stories are by a variety of writers with Dickens as the main contributor. There is no haunted house and the “ghost“ stories are stories about regrets, memories, even bad dreams. Christmas is lightly present in the background, but the stories are quite eclectic. I may return some day, but reader beware if you are looking for a Xmas experience! 😥

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Anna from Gustine
Pickpick

This book plays out in a disturbing fashion, but then loses its nerve at the end. Everything turns out to be okay and I would have liked it better if it hadn't. However, it is the rare Goosebumps book where I felt like the main character had a good relationship with his sister. Often in these books, the sister is just a nuisance or comedy relief. She is snarky in this book too, but there was a mutual respect I could appreciate.

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Anna from Gustine
The Fallen Angels | Bernard Cornwell, Susannah Kells
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Panpan

This book was written in the 1980s and it should stay there. It is a tawdry, bloated, over-the-top historical novel set during the French Revolution. The plot and the characters are just ridiculous. Bad characters are not just bad, they are super ugly and disgusting. Good characters are not just good, but gorgeous. There is also brutalization of women that seems to just be for shock value. And the ending was incredibly contrived and silly. Fail!

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Anna from Gustine
The Iron King: a novel | Maurice Druon
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Pickpick

The first in the seven Accursed Kings books, a series best known from George R.R. Martin's claim that it is the original Game of Thrones. The series tells the story of the fall of the French Capet dynasty in the 1300s. Sparse, elegant, byzantine in plot, and brutal, this book starts with the execution of the Templars and ends with the death of Philip the Fair. It moves quickly and has compelling characters that really existed.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

A lot of Goosebumps books are just silly and formulaic, but these Horrorland ones are a cut above. This is the second book in the series that is actually quite tense with unexpected twists. Admittedly, I am an adult and I don't know why I'm reading these, but they are quite soothing if you want to turn your brain off for a while!

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

One of the best nonfictions I've read in a long time. Parallel biographies of mother and feminist trailblazer Mary Wollstonecraft & her daughter, the writer Mary Shelley. Told in alternating chapters following their lives from beginning to end. Not only does the book address events, but it also examines relationships and, most importantly, analyzes the women's feminism & political philosophies through extensive discussion of their works.

8 likes1 stack add
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Anna from Gustine
Lake of Dead Languages | Carol Goodman
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Pickpick

This book is all about snow, ice, winter, and past secrets that do not stay dead. It takes place in upper New York and is beautifully written. It's the old “something terrible happens at a girls' school“ trope. I read it the first time about 15 years ago. This time, the end seemed quite contrived and the villain a real stretch. There was also a long flashback that took up a large chunk. I was still engaged though and learned a lot about ice! 😂

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Anna from Gustine
The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories | Michael Cox, R. A. Gilbert
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Pickpick

Perfect book for Halloween and Christmas ghost story reading. Heck, this is great for Thanksgiving too. A wide range of Victorian ghost stories by those you know and those you don't. And with the famous writers, it's the lesser-known stories that are included. Just a great gift for any ghost story or Victorian era fan. Highly recommended!

5 likes1 stack add
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Anna from Gustine
The Vanishing | Wendy Webb
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Panpan

Suspension of disbelief evaporated pretty early in this book. I could not buy the premise that a woman would willingly up and leave with a stranger to start a new job, leaving her identity, cell phone and wallet behind. I kept reading because it's a haunted house story and there are some creepy elements. However, the characters were not well fleshed out either. The resolution is also awkward with plot contortions that I just couldn't accept.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

The second book in the Dark Shadows series. Still no Barnabas Collins. Instead, we get another heavily atmospheric story with a damsel in distress (Victoria of course) and a Scooby-Doo-ish plot involving a suspicious family. It's the second book I've read in the series and the second book that has a twist ending that left me thinking “huh?“ The question is whether I'm entertained though and, admittedly, I am! So I keep reading....

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Anna from Gustine
Pickpick

The atmosphere is unbeatable. Dark, gloomy, well done. The characters are standard gothic tropes. There are a couple of characters unique to the book series. All men fall in love with Victoria and want to marry her after a few sentences of conversation. Elizabeth the matriarch is often the “lovely older woman“ and the younger women are all quite pretty. Overall, it's a fun book if you don't think too hard. And no Barnabas despite the cover.

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Anna from Gustine
Girl, Woman, Other | Bernardine Evaristo
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Pickpick

I liked it, but I can't say that I loved it. I appreciated its boldness. The author did a good job of creating distinct character sketches of individual women. However, I sensed repetitiveness in the style and a bit of self-conscious virtue-signaling. I also didn't think the sketches tied in well at the end, even though all the characters were somehow connected to each other. Nonetheless, still worth reading for the dynamic prose alone.

mcctrish I‘m about half way through this and I‘m not loving it. In fact, Im struggling to pick it up except before bed. I have really liked some stories but I‘m finding it hard to care about all these disparate characters 1y
Anna from Gustine @mcctrish Yeah, I can relate. It was not a page-turner for me. :-( 1y
15 likes2 comments
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Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

I can't think of Cadfael without thinking of the 90s tv series with Derek Jacobi. I enjoyed those, even though the plots were simplistic with a sanitized view of the Middle Ages. This is the first book of a 20 (!) book series. It was....fine. I liked the written Cadfael as much as the tv one, but the mysteries are still simple and the characters are not complex or interesting. Is “medieval cozy“ a thing? If so, this definitely qualifies.

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Anna from Gustine
Hannah-Beast | Jennifer McMahon
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Pickpick

This is my third Jennifer McMahon work so I'm familiar with her tropes by now. Her stories center around young, abused and/or bullied girls to which something bad happens. The stories are usually horrifying, but deeply sad as well. This short offering doesn't deviate, but it also doesn't disappoint. As an aside, it was in the Amazon Dark Corners series. I read all of those, but this is the only one I liked and would recommend for a dark night.

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Anna from Gustine
Witch Catcher | Mary Downing Hahn
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Panpan

This book had a promising start, but it failed for me halfway through. It felt as though a sophisticated book for middle graders devolved into a fantasy for even younger readers. The transition felt abrupt. I also thought too many characters showed up and the ultimate reveals didn't make much sense. The ending also left something to be desired in that we never see an important character redeemed. I was disappointed by this uneven effort.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

I'm a huge fan of Phil Rickman and I enjoyed this book. He creates such atmosphere and a sense of history. He has interesting, complex plots and vibrant characters. However, I prefer it when he focuses on the supernatural and the ancient. I'm just not that into Satanists. They bore me! Unfortunately, they play a significant role in this book. That feels very 90s to me. I hope they are not a recurring presence in the rest of the series.

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Anna from Gustine
Wine of Angels | Phil Rickman
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Pickpick

Rickman weaves British history with the supernatural and the contemporary in sleepy, ancient English villages. I especially love how thick his books are, the longer the better for savoring. Female vicar Merrily's challenges dovetail so well with the resolution to the core mystery in this first book. She also has a tense, but loving, relationship with her teenage daughter. This relationship felt real to me and I appreciated its inclusion.

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Anna from Gustine
Terror at the Zoo | Peg Kehret
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Mehso-so

Despite some good qualities,, this 1992 effort doesn't stand the test of time. Two kids are stuck at the zoo overnight due to misunderstandings that could have been resolved with a cell phone. I appreciated and share the author's respect for, and love of, animals. There is also some tension and the villain is an unpredictable and threatening menace. But phones are important to the plot so do expect to explain pay phones to younger readers. :-(

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Anna from Gustine
The Night Gardener | Jonathan Auxier
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Pickpick

Not too scary, not that original, but pleasant with some moving moments. I kept flipping the pages to find out the resolution, even though I suspected what would happen. One scene with a supporting character left me in tears and I do not cry easily over books. And yet, this very same supporting character, whom I thought was pivotal, didn't really serve much of a purpose in the end. Odd. For middle-grades with some tough vocabulary.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

I loved this book until the end. It is based on the real-life 17th century English village that went into self-isolation to prevent the spread of plague to nearby villages. The hysteria, trauma & horror of such a situation is brilliantly & deftly imagined by the author. There is also humanity, compassion, & selflessness, particularly with the friendship between the main female characters. The ending, however, felt abrupt and out of place.

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Anna from Gustine
Deep Trouble | R L Stine
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Panpan

Not a fan of this book. It's not a horror novel. It's a fantasy adventure, albeit with the standard Goosebumps ingredients. Annoying little sister, jump scares that go nowhere, super simple writing, etc. I did not like the main character. Billy Deep and his desire to be famous bugged me. I wanted something to eat him. However, there was one twist that I didn't see coming, resulting in a few pages of tension & wanting to know what happened next.

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Anna from Gustine
Brave Story | Miyuki Miyabe
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Pickpick

I enjoyed this story immensely, but it could've been about 150 pages shorter. There are too many unnecessary or drawn-out side quests. About 1/3 takes place in modern-day Japan before transitioning to a 10-year-old boy's epic quest in a fantasy land called Vision. It's an ambitious novel with betrayal, death, religious conflict, and racism, It is also about love, friendship, & growing up. I was in tears towards the end, but patience is required.

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Anna from Gustine
Crossing Places Proof | Elly Griffiths
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Panpan

At first, Ruth was an interesting character. She was a different hero, not skinny and beautiful, someone who likes to be alone with her cats near the sea. But the story itself was quite predictable and formulaic. I figured out who was involved pretty early. You could really see the author's mental gyrations in constructing this plot, trying to weave in all of the strands. The atmosphere petered out quickly as well.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

A great YA book. Readable and engaging. The one problem I had was that the author neglected to sufficiently talk about WHY the Flint River arrived at the highly polluted state it did. It was a long process of abuse and dumping. We miss the intersection between abuse of our planet and the subsequent impacts it can have on communities. I think this was a part of the story that should have been told and tied into the narrative.

12 likes1 stack add
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Anna from Gustine
Night Tiger | Yangsze Choo
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Pickpick

Overall, I enjoyed it. The author created an engaging world in 1930s Malaysia, interweaving British colonial, ethnic Malayan, and ethnic Chinese characters into one story. I raced to the end to find out what happened. Unfortunately, what appeared to be a mysterious tale with supernatural elements ended almost like a stereotypical British mystery. A book with great promise and ambition, it just didn't stick the landing for me. Close though!

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Anna from Gustine
Miao Dao | Joyce Carol Oates
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Panpan

Ms. Oates is usually a miss for me, although I keep giving her chances. She is an accomplished writer and I share her dark and macabre view of the world. And yet, reading her work is usually so...unpleasant. This story is another example. While the unpleasantness was expected, I was surprised at how predictable the story was. If you read the description, you can probably guess the plot. The only real suspense was what would happen to the cat. 🐱

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Anna from Gustine
The Remedy | Adam Haslett
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Panpan

The narrator has an undisclosed illness. His parents send him to a specialist who I think is a psychiatrist or psychologist? Hard to tell. There are some conversations about life, a little bit of suspense, and then an ending that comes out of nowhere. It was weird and it seemed like a last-minute attempt to qualify the story for Amazon's Dark Corners series. The ending doesn't make much sense if you think about it. Ambitious though.

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Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

This book is technically fiction, with a hefty dose of nonfiction. It's a book about people in the future, looking back and saying, “wow, were you all stupid about climate change!“ I totally agree with the message and the conclusions, but this book is hard to read. There are three chapters, all quite dense. It's really for those wonks out there, not for the lay person. That's unfortunate as it has a crucial message that I think will get lost.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

This review is specifically about The Fallen Idol. The story is quite short. About half-way through, I almost quit because it was a dark and dreary tale. At some point though, my appreciation of the story changed. It's ultimately about lost innocence and whereas at first I didn't like the child protagonist, I finally realized that the kid is 7 YEARS OLD and I started to rethink who the actual victim of the story is. In the end, I'm glad I read it.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

I was surprised at how Graham Greene was able to write such a tight, efficient, complex tale using a first-person narration from someone who is only peripheral to the story. It only takes place over a few days too. I was impressed by how he drew the characters and their relationships mainly through actions and dialogue rather than flashbacks and long extrapolation. A thriller with a world-weary tone and a poignant ending. Short too!!

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Anna from Gustine
The Dangerous Dandy | Barbara Cartland
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Panpan

Well, that happened. I liked the writing, the research & the attention to detail. The characters? Awful. Dorrington is the hero & amusing at first. Then he becomes this controlling figure who tells the heroine what to wear & how to do her hair, etc. Heroine Alyna is a winsome 17-year-old kid who is just a damsel with a greedy mom. Villain Prince Ahmadi is the oversexualized, exotic Easterner who ravishes white girls. Not much romance either!! Bah!

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Anna from Gustine
The Color of Magic | Terry Pratchett
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Pickpick

Terry Pratchett's riff on the traditional fantasy tropes is just a lot of fun. The world is mind-bending and not always logical, but, that's okay. Too much logic is rather depressing. My one quibble is that I found Rincewind to be so cowardly and smarmy. He annoyed me a lot, but he was more than offset by Twoflower the tourist and his adventuresome spirit. A nice way to finish this god-awful year.

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Anna from Gustine
The Old Nurse's Story | Elizabeth Gaskell
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Pickpick

Creepy Victorian story about sisters behaving badly. I read this a second time just a few days ago and it was more even more effective. It has all the elements of a great ghost story, but I am always especially disturbed when there is a child ghost. It was a story of great cruelty, in fact. As it took place mostly over Christmas and New Year's, it's also perfect for a holiday read! 😃

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Anna from Gustine
Hyperion | Dan Simmons
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Pickpick

Both moving and disturbing almost from the very beginning. The concept of the shrike scared the hell out of me and still does, but the characters were the most compelling. I was moved to tears a few times, although, strangely, the story I thought would be most interesting turned out to be the most boring. Although this is science fiction, Dan Simmons also writes horror and you can see that influence throughout the whole story.

The_Penniless_Author Definitely check out The Fall of Hyperion. It ties up the story nicely and might be even better than the first book. 2y
10 likes2 comments
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Anna from Gustine
Redwall (Redwall, #1) | Brian Jacques
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Pickpick

🐭 While I love the world, there were a few stereotypes (looking at you, Basil Stag Hare, what, what!) Hero characters were rather bland too. But the villains? Loved them! Cluny the Scourge! Asmodeus Poisonteeth! Old Sela the Fox and her son Chickenhound! And what about these great names like Darkclaw, Scumnose, and, my personal favorite, Cheesethief! More deaths and cruelty here than I expected, but this is no Watership Down, thank god! 🐭

ozma.of.oz The entire series is kind of like that. Black and white, Good vs Evil. I still love them. 😆❤️❤️ 2y
Anna from Gustine @ozma.of.oz Book two awaits! Simple and clearcut good vs evil can be so soothing at times!! 2y
8 likes2 comments
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Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

The Princess de Lamballe is the friend of Marie Antoinette who died for her loyalty to the queen, killed by a revolutionary mob. She only becomes compelling as a biographical subject once her life is endangered. I'm not sure if it's because she was pretty dull in real life. I didn't feel like I got to know her thoughts or motivations. She is also overshadowed here by the story of Marie Antoinette, a figure that steals the spotlight of any tale.

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Anna from Gustine
The Twisted Ones | T. Kingfisher
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Pickpick

This folk horror novel unnerved me to the point where I lay awake at night, unable to get some of the visuals out of my mind. This book's effect on me is remarkable because it is almost gore-less. The fear for me lay in the palatable sense of impending threat, the mystery, and the atmosphere. I also cared deeply about the characters. Tough, smart women who take care of themselves and a dog whom we know from the beginning makes it out alive!! YAY!

11 likes2 stack adds
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Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

A number of reviewers did not like this story and I can see why. It's about a sleepover in which the kids' imaginations go off into some scary terrain. What you think you see is really what you end up getting. I have to admit that I doubted that conclusion about half-way through the story, so there was suspense for me, at least for a while. Overall, though, it's a weak candidate in the Amazon Dark Corners series.

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Anna from Gustine
The Black Lyon | Jude Deveraux
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Panpan

I was disappointed that I bailed on this book, but I just couldn't justify the investment. I was impressed by the research and attention to detail, but the book moved way too slowly for me. There were a number of meet-cute scenes, but no tension or suspense. I was just bored. :-(

(Bail button doesn't work for me either.)

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

Pretty dark for its audience. I appreciated how the author does not sugarcoat how cruel kids can be to each other. I loved the new sidekick Rose Rita, Lewis' best friend. She's smart, tough, and just a great portrayal of a young girl. She and Lewis care deeply for each other....AS FRIENDS! How refreshing! Much like how Lewis' Uncle Jonathan is best friends with his neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman. I'm not used to male/female relationships being so simple!

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Anna from Gustine
The Dancer from Atlantis | Poul Anderson
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Panpan

Where to begin? It's about time travel. Four main characters fade to two pretty fast. The heroine fawns all over the hero even though she's an adult woman who should know better. (Cover says it all!) He is bland, bland, bland. I felt nothing for the characters. I didn't hate anyone, but I didn't like anyone either. I just felt “meh.“ If any book falls into the “idea over character“ bucket, it's this one. Interesting idea, but soulless execution.

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Anna from Gustine
There There: A novel | Tommy Orange
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Pickpick

What an incredible, intense reading experience! I appreciated that this book was nontraditional. The stories are about the oft-neglected urban Indians, the ones who are making their lives off the reservation in cities. These are also stories about ordinary people with challenges that are fundamentally human and relatable by non-Indians. I really think this book earns its place in the canon of Native American literature.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

A surprising murder mystery instead of a spy novel. I enjoyed this book because I just love George Smiley. The mystery was interesting too, but it fell apart at the end. There was a twist that I didn't see coming and, to be honest, left the distinct taste of misogyny in its wake. It seemed to come out of nowhere, like I had been reading a different book before. I was like, huh? So, yeah, serviceable mystery but with a weird and uncomfortable end.

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Anna from Gustine
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Pickpick

An important book with meticulous research. It juxtaposes a tale of meth and economic downturn in Oelwein, Iowa, with the meth epidemic in America and the role of pharmaceutical companies. It is grim, despite an upswing at the end. I'm from a rural, economically depressed area myself, but on the West Coast. I had a hard time relating to the Midwest culture, but I keep referring to it in conversations which means the book succeeded nevertheless.

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Anna from Gustine
Bittersweet: A Novel | Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
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Panpan

While well-written, the story drags. I stopped at about 30 percent because I felt like so little was happening. I also didn't connect with the main characters. I didn't care what happened to them and I just didn't find them interesting. Admittedly, I find wealthy people to be pretty boring in general. This novel was probably a lot more nuanced than this review, but I just couldn't stick around to find out. (Bail button not working. 🤔)

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Anna from Gustine
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Mehso-so

I didn't like it that much, although I was entertained enough to finish. The plot was convoluted and over the top. Christie's works sometimes challenge reality, but this one was just too much. Too many coincidences, few compelling characters, and a weak reveal. Poirot is always charming though, but I don't think this will be a re-read for me.