Well, Hello There…

My bad.

I haven’t updated my blog in quite some time. To most people, this hasn’t made a single difference to them, so go about your business! Don’t mind me! I’m just gonna live in my bubble and pretend y’all missed me.

There’s been a lot going on in my personal life. Well, a lot and a little. You know how it is, when life just feels overwhelming enough to crush you, so you do nothing and just watched everything crumble around you.

That’s been me for the last few months. I’ve just sort of… let life happen, while I sit in bed, watching Netflix thinking, “Huh, everything sucks.”

I’m trying to fight it, but it sucks. Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s crippling self-doubt, maybe it’s all three combined, but for whatever reason, I’ve stagnated as a person. I see things in myself that I hate, that I want to change, that I wish for all that is good I could change, but to no avail. At least not yet.

I’m trying to fight the voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough. I want to be better. I want to be healthy, mentally and physically.

Hah, you thought this blog post was gonna be about books.

If you came here disappointed to find another post about mental health, I’m sorry! It’s just that this is the thing that I’m struggling with the most at this point in my life. Reading does help though, so I’ll also continue to post and talk about books.

So this is me, promising to try and be better, and not just about posting on my blog. I want to be a better wife, sister, daughter, friend, person.

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The Wonder of Audiobooks

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Hello, my name is Devyn, and I’m addicted to audiobooks.

I mean, it took long enough, right? Audiobooks are amazing. Everyone has been telling me this for years, yet every time I tried ended in failure. I’m not sure why this was, but I just felt like I wanted to be able to clean the house or do laundry while I listened, and I guess I just have a one-track mind. I couldn’t focus on one or the other.

Maybe I wasn’t listening to the right books, but for whatever reason I didn’t discover the wonder of audiobooks until about a week and a half ago. Something just clicked in my head and all of a sudden I got it.

I was listening to The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli and I was suddenly like, “Hey, this is awesome.” It helps that it was read by Pearl Mackie from Doctor Who, so there was an extra level of interest there.

After that, I was a goner. I’ve been listening to audiobooks nonstop ever since then and it has become a problem. But it’s so relaxing! I can lay in bed next to my husband while he’s playing video games, listening to books and coloring. I don’t understand why it took me so long to discover this, but I’m so glad I have now. I’ve been able to blow through my TBR and I’m killin’ it.

Some have been better than others, that’s for sure; but I have to admit that it’s been doing wonders on my reading times. I can listen to an entire book in less than a day. I can go for a walk and listen. Go to the gym and listen. Clean the house and listen. It’s amazing, okay. 

I know I sound like a broken record and many of you are like, “Um, okay crazy lady. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for years.” Okay, hipster reader person you, that’s awesome but I’m just learning it.

And listen, if you’re someone who has been apprehensive about listening to audiobooks or you’ve tried it already and thought it might not be for you, I beg you to reconsider. It’s possible that the books you were listening to just weren’t good. I listened to at least a dozen before this week that just weren’t for me, and even in the last week I’ve listened to one or two that I wasn’t a fan of. So I put them away. It’s okay to quit if you’re not feeling a certain audiobook; just pick another!

Of course there will be some people that never find the right audiobook and will never get into them. That’s cool, and they’re not for everyone. I just think that readers should know all the resources available to them, and audiobooks are a game-changer. I’ve just been checking them out from the library on the Overdrive app, so there’s a good chance that your library does the same sort of thing.

Just try it! You may find that it’ll change your life.

BOOK REVIEW: Stephanie Garber “Legendary”

9781250095312Title: Legendary

Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

It almost feels pointless to write a non-spoiler review for this book… I can’t give anything away and I can’t rant and rave about what went on. Why am I even here? And who’s going to read a review of Legendary anyway? Anyone who’s planning to read the book will be avoiding spoilers at all costs, and anyone who isn’t planning to read it simply hasn’t read Caraval yet. (While I’m at that, here’s some self-promotion: read my review, then read Caraval. Just do it.)

Legendary was everything I wanted it to be.

It had heartbreaking romance, magic, mystery, surprise, action. Legendary had everything needed to be the perfect story. I am beyond impressed with Stephanie Garber, and so pleased that she managed to ward off second-book syndrome. There was nothing lacking in this, it didn’t feel like it was a filler novel, and it was perfect.

Donatella was a wonderful main character. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it just based on her character in Caraval, but she was really great. She was strong and independent and funny and so completely human. It was so easy to relate to her and feel for her and did I mention the utterly heart-shattering romance? I adored the love interest in this novel, adored the villain… I have all the love for every aspect of this book.

I think I actually enjoyed Legendary more than the first book, which is saying a lot because I loved Caraval. I can’t wait for the final book in this series, although Garber is welcome to write as many books in this world as she wants to. I will read them all.

 

Stephanie Garber: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Carolyn Gross “Domani”

9780692979419Title: Domani

Author: Carolyn Gross

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

Lulu knew the people of Dalia deserved to live in darkness. The knowledge existed in her bones as surely as she knew that the flames were coming to end their existence.

She stood hidden in the crowd gathered before the steps of the Sanctuary as she did every day to hear the doyen speak. The doyen spoke of hope in a world shrouded in darkness by the enormous gas planet spinning above it. That planet protected Dalia from the raging fires of a sun positioned too close to sustain life. But their protector planet was shifting away from them and the shadow that once sheltered them was disappearing.

The doyen normally told calming sermons to a beleaguered and frightened people, but this time was different. He would tell them that their destruction was assured. Before he could, he would have to survive an assassination attempt.

Lulu was the only one who could see it.

The strength and power Lulu discovers about herself will place her at the head of a massive uprising that will span across an entire galaxy. Will she become the catalyst needed to destroy the empire that created her?

My thoughts:

I struggle sometimes with reading science fiction because it can be so bizarre that it’s difficult to picture the world being described. There are a few that have managed to grab me and suck me in, but generally I find myself lost and confused.

Sadly, this was the same with Domani. Carolyn Gross had an intriguing idea, and I was definitely interested in the story she was trying to tell. Yet from the very first pages, with brows furrowed and brain jumbled, I felt like I was thrown into the story with very little explanation or background. I had so many questions and it was hard to follow, especially since there’s immediate action… and the book just moved on without me.

Gross is a promising author and I would be very interested to see her try either another genre or a more fleshed out science fiction world. However, Domani fell flat for me.

Special thanks to the author and Smith Publicity for sending me a copy for review!

 

Carolyn Gross: Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Thomas V Harris “Three Gorges Dam”

51wtwUNcBWL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Three Gorges Dam

Author: Thomas V Harris

Genre: Fiction

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

CHINA’S WESTERN FRONTIER IS A POWDER KEG.

ITS BUDDHIST AND MUSLIM MINORITIES ARE ABOUT TO LIGHT THE FUSE.

Michael Brannigan and the People’s Republic of China are concluding a triumphant week. The PRC’s top energy consultant has fallen in love with Australian geophysicist Kylie Ryan while traveling in Xinjiang Province. President Lao Ming is in Beijing hosting a game-changing summit with the United States. CNN is broadcasting the new reality: the Communist juggernaut has surpassed the US.

Brannigan’s train is retracing Marco Polo’s historic journey. When the Silk Road Express reaches the Far East’s Far West, his team of engineers will assist the Chinese in developing the world’s richest oil fields. Brannigan is heading deeper into the Taklamakan Desert as President Lao’s motorcade approaches the end of its parade route. In a few hours, Lao will celebrate his victory in the Hall of Purple Light.

All that changes in two blinks of an eye. China’s Young Turks and Fighting Monks rock the country. Caught up in the violence, Brannigan’s love affair meets a tragic end. The Reds and rebels engage in an escalating cycle of provocations and reprisals. In the midst of the turmoil, Brannigan returns to China for a hush-hush assignment at Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric facility. There he overcomes his demons and finds lasting happiness. Everything is coming up aces.

UNTIL THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENS.

My thoughts:

First of all, my deepest thanks to both the author and Smith Publicity for sending me a copy to review!

Sadly, this didn’t end up being my cup of tea. While I do enjoy political intrigue and stories with interesting settings, this book was too technical for me to enjoy fully. It didn’t feel like a story so much as a news report.

The author wrote well enough until it came to the dialogue, which is where things got dicey. That’s not to say the dialogue was bad, but the way it was formatted was incredibly confusing, making it difficult to know who exactly was speaking at any given moment. We could have an entire page full of dialogue with absolutely no indicators like, Brannigan said, etc.

That’s not to say others who enjoy politically-charged books with cultural infusion won’t find much to love about Three Gorges Dam. You can tell Harris did plenty of research for his story and it shines through. Sadly, it just wasn’t something I could get into.

 

Thomas V Harris: Website | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Josh Malerman “Bird Box”

51bIN6SUb1L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: Bird Box

Author: Josh Malerman

Genre: Thriller/Horror

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.

My thoughts:

This is by far one of the greatest thrillers I have ever read in my life. I have about 1,462 questions and the end did not answer a single one; yet I’m not even disappointed. I loved it so much.

Bird Box was terrifying and thought-provoking and completely fascinating. It made me question what I would do in the situation, it made me fear for our main character Malorie, and it had me questioning every single step of the way: what was out there?

Malorie’s parenting style was questionable to say the least, yet necessary for the situation she had found herself in: alone with two children in a world where opening your eyes could literally kill you. She had to train the children to listen better than they could see, and they were forced to grow up in a world where they weren’t able to see the sun, the sky, anything outside of the house they were born in. Malorie was incredibly resourceful and smart and her survival story was so inspiring!

This book had me on the edge of my seat throughout; never was there I time I could relax. It was thrilling and terrifying and completely genius that the creatures are never described to the reader because no one had ever seen one and lived to tell. We’re forced to imagine ourselves what these creatures may look like, which is somehow even scarier. All we see is the aftermath, which always ends in violence and death.

While I was reading this, I had to talk about it to anyone who would listen. I was visiting family at the time and would rant about it to my mom or my brother who were both basically done with me, but I couldn’t help it. Everyone should honestly be talking about Bird Box. The concept is intriguing, the execution is flawless, and the story is riveting and incredible.

I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys thrillers and stories of survival in post-apocalyptic times (although I think everyone should read it because it’s amazing).

 

Josh Malerman: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Angie Thomas “The Hate U Give”

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fTitle: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My thoughts:

Whatever your thoughts are on police brutality in America, I do recommend reading this. While this is a fictional case, it’s still something that is happening in our country and it’s important for people to talk about it. THUG was in-your-face, blunt and important.

This book made me think about this topic in ways I had never considered. It had a profound voice and a positive, strong family unit at its core. It was well-written and designed to make the reader stop and think about the material and subject matter. The Hate U Give made me cry, it made me laugh, it made me happy, it made me sad.

To review a book like this is difficult, but I felt I was doing the author a disservice by not saying at least something. I think this is an essential read and as a white woman living in America, it allowed me to see this issue from a different perspective. I admired Starr’s strength and her character, and rooting for her and her family was too easy. After reading this, I’m definitely more excited for the movie that will be soon to follow.

 

Angie Thomas: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Christina Lauren “Roomies”

34466910Title: Roomies

Author: Christina Lauren

Genre: Contemporary/ Romance

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

In this adorable read, Holland Bakker is the niece of one of Broadway’s biggest musical directors. While she doesn’t have a talent for music, she works alongside her uncle at his theater doing odd jobs and taking photos, and over the years has developed a love and ear for beautiful music.

Cue Calvin, the gorgeous Irish subway performer who Holland has been crushing on from a distance for the past 6 months. She knows that her uncle has been searching for a replacement musician for his show, and after a chance meet-up with the handsome busker, Holland decides it’s to bring it up with him. Only one problem: Calvin is an illegal immigrant.

So on a well-intentioned but spontaneous whim, Holland proposes an arrangement with Calvin. No, literally, she proposes to him. This way, Calvin can stay in America and her uncle gets a new star.

Soon though, the line is blurred between Calvin and Holland about what is friendship and what is arrangement, and soon it’s obvious that this has become more than just a marriage of convenience.

My thoughts:

There was a lot to love about this sweet, huggable little book. Before starting this, I worried that Roomies would be boring and flat since the “married first, fall in love later” trope is so worn out. However I will say that the authors have managed to keep it fresh and unique and oh so adorable.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Christina Lauren (Christina and Lauren, respectively), and I was very impressed by the readability and the easiness of the writing. I flew through Roomies and never did it feel like a chore to read. Holland, our narrator, was funny, sweet and most importantly, relatable. At first you question the unrealistic nature of the plot and the motives of a woman who would willingly marry a stranger, yet these authors made me believe in it. Before you know it, you’re thinking, of course Holland would offer to marry Calvin.

I loved the relationship between Holland and Calvin, of course, but I also really enjoyed the non-romantic relationships in this book, both positive and negative. The relationship that Holland had with her uncles and her brother was very sweet and authentic. I also especially liked the representation of Holland’s toxic friendship with her “best friend”. It shows the very realistic truth that not all friendships are meant to last and sometimes you outgrow people, and that’s okay.

Holland is a college graduate who has no idea what she wants to do with her life. Obviously, she’d love to write her great American novel but so far feels stuck and uninspired. I relate to this as well, even though I’m not a college graduate exactly but I can definitely feel the pain of being so unsure and aimless in this adult life.

Altogether, as mentioned before, Holland was an all-around extremely sympathetic and engaging character to read.

Warning: this book does contain some mature content. This is basically one of the only reasons I knocked a star. I realize that this isn’t an issue for many people, but I rate my books based on enjoyment and I personally am not a fan of that sort of content. Otherwise, the story is very entertaining and the characters very lovable. Very excited to read more from these authors!

 

Christina Lauren: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Devri Walls “Magic Unleashed: Venators”

36192231Title: Magic Unleashed: Venators

Author: Devri Walls

Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Six years ago, Grey Malteer was attacked by creatures he thought couldn’t possibly exist. They repeated a word, calling him a name he’d never heard before…Venator. Since then, his life has been a hellhole of secrecy—hiding old pain alongside strange new abilities.

Rune Jenkins has an itch, as she calls it, but it’s more than that. It’s an anger that builds up like the inside of a boiler whenever she’s around anything remotely supernatural. The pressure is growing steadily worse and she can’t understand why. All she knows is—her control is slipping.

By order of an unknown council Grey and Rune are pulled through a portal in the St. Louis arch, landing them in an alternate dimension where creatures of myth and legend exist. A realm that calls them, Venators.

Made up of centuries old fae, vampires, werewolves, elves and succubi the council’s corrupt nature becomes obvious as they seek to wield the newly returned Venators as weapons. Wedged in an impossible position, Grey and Rune must decide their fate—do they go against the council’s wishes and help the innocents of this unforgiving land, or face the possibility of execution by the council.

This book was given to me by Brown Books Publishing and author Devri Walls in exchange for an honest review; thank you!

Venators was such a fun ride, especially since I have very much been on a paranormal kick lately; I’ve been binge-watching The Vampire Diaries for the last two weeks. This book, however, weaves so many different kinds of folklore and creatures and mythological races, all coming together to make this awesome fantasy mash-up. We’ve got vampires, werewolves, wizards, faeries and even some creatures of Devri Walls‘ own creation.

Walls has done some serious world-building here in Venators and it’s definitely something to take note. While our main characters are originally from our world, they’re taken through a gate into another dimension filled with new and interesting creatures and places.

I enjoyed Grey’s character quite a bit: self-proclaimed loner who has dedicated his life to studying folklore after his run-in with goblins when he was 13. Now he’s sucked into this world that he could only dream of and it’s confirmed for him: that everything he’s been studying for the last 6 years was real.

I liked Rune’s character a bit less. She was stubborn and temperamental and sometimes bordered on annoying. I was also confused by the contradictions in her emotions: the new world they were in supposedly made her calmer because of her Venator nature, yet she still felt fear and panic and frustration, which are all emotions far from calm.

All in all, if you’re interested in paranormal or fantasy, featuring alternate dimensions and interesting world-building, definitely give The Venators Series a try!

 

Devri Walls: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Charles Martin “Send Down the Rain”

35554138Title: Send Down the Rain

Author: Charles Martin

Genre: Fiction

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Allie’s second husband is killed tragically when his 18-wheeler crashes into the rocks near their home in Cape San Blas–the tanker was full of fuel and the explosion could be seen on overhead satellites. She’d already lost the beloved waterfront restaurant her parents started and now losing her husband, no matter how unfulfilling their marriage was, might just push her over the edge.

Joseph’s time in Vietnam left him with scars that never seemed to heal. No matter how he’s tried to love or what he’s tried to do since then, he can’t pull himself out of the wreckage of his former life. His trust and security shaken, he isolates himself in a cabin. But every morning, he faithfully pours two cups of coffee, drinking his while he sits with the second, and then pouring out the full cup.

It’s no small coincidence that Joseph found a mother and her two young children lost in the woods near his cabin. Or that when he helps them return to family in Florida, he’s near enough to see that explosion. Near enough to know it’s close to home. Near enough to know that his childhood sweetheart needs him.

The years have built so much distance between them, but it’s the secrets that may be their final undoing. Send Down the Rain reminds us of the beauty of truth . . . and the power of love to wash away the past.

My thoughts:

This book took me on a dang roller coaster ride and I loved it.

I had no idea what to expect from this since this is my first time reading anything by Charles Martin; also, I can tell you now that the synopsis does not provide nearly enough information to prepare you for the flurry of emotions that you’re going to end up feeling. There are so many layers and different story-arcs in this book that no one would be able to fit the essence if this in a short summary.

Send Down the Rain follows Joseph, a veteran in his 60’s who daily fights demons and the memories of his time at war. In no particular order, Jo-jo’s past begins to unfold for the reader in surprising twists and heartwarming turns, and you grow to truly love his kind, giving, broken soul.

Each of the secondary characters have either been directly or indirectly affected by the selfless acts of Joseph: Catalina and her two children, who he rescues from Juan Pedro and 5+ years of captivity; Allie, Joseph’s high school sweet heart who he saves both physically and emotionally on numerable occasions; Bobby, his brother whose status is all thanks to him; Suzy, a radio host at a station that Joseph calls into frequently to relay war stories. Ultimately, he manages to touch the lives of thousands of people by the end of this book through his testimony and heroic actions.

This book snuck up on me in a way I never expected. Of course, you never open a book thinking you’re not going to love it, but I had no expectations going into Send Down the Rain. Yet by the time I was finished, I had shamelessly added every book Charles Martin has ever written to my reading list.

Some of the subject matter is a little heavy but it never feels overwhelming. The writing is lovely and easy and smooth, and by the halfway mark there was no stopping me: I was hooked. All of the characters were believable and likable, and truly there was little to hinder my enjoyment of this.

Later in the book, Joseph recounts to Allie how he had returned to their hometown on several occasions to check and see how she was doing. He never actually revealed himself to Allie any of these times; always watching and observing from a distance. Even though Jo-jo’s nearness ended up saving Allie’s life a few times, I can’t help but think that his behavior is a little creepy and stalker-ish.

Also, without revealing any spoilers: there’s a part towards the end of the book where some distasteful information comes out about Joseph, and his friends all feel rightly betrayed. However, I feel they were unnecessarily cruel to him in the events that followed this reveal, especially considering all the kindness and generosity he had showed them throughout this entire book.

Overall, this was such a sweet, heartfelt story, and I truly hope to read more by this author soon. Thank you to Smith Publicity for sending me a copy for review!

 

Charles Martin: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads