My Top 10 Books Set Outside The US

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books Set Outside The US. While seeing what books I’ve read that are set somewhere other than the US that were not sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia, I discovered that basically all of them were set in Europe. Sounds like something I should probably fix, so please send me recs!

Note: I decided to keep this list limited to classics, contemporary, and historical fiction. I excluded Harry Potter because I consider it fantasy, so don’t think it wouldn’t top this list otherwise. List is in no particular order.

Rebecca

GR-rebecca

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I was hooked on this suspenseful classic from the start. While the narrator references the estate in England where she’ll settle with her husband, the novel starts off in Monte Carlo with the her worldwind romance with Mr. de Winter, then they travel to his home shrouded in mystery.

The Book Thief

GR-bookthief

This book set in WWII Germany gave me a new perspective of those who lived under Hitler’s oppression, not to mention it’s just an amazing read all around.

Code Name Verity

code-name-verity

Another WWII story set in Europe, both France and England, as well as a prison camp. It’s a bit of a slow, layered read, but when everything ties together it’s pretty incredible.

The Distant Hours

distant-hours

Another book full of layers, that alternates between a WWII timeline and a 1990s timeline, all set in England. The WWII storyline focuses on children billeted and living at a castle, creating quite an atmosphere for those of us who don’t live anywhere near castles.

All Fall Down

gr-allfalldown

This feels a bit like a cheat for my criteria of non-fantasy since the location, Adria, is not real, but the story is a contemporary thriller so I decided to keep it on my list. And Adria feels like it could be a real coastal country in Europe, steeped in rich history.

Between Shades of Gray

betweenshades

All the WWII! So this starts in Lithuania, then Lina is forced to leave home and travels by train further north to a work camp, and ultimately, to Siberia. This book also revealed another chapter in WWII history I was unfamiliar with, including an interesting  perspective from the characters who viewed Hitler as a lesser evil than Stalin.

Salt to the Sea

gr-salttothesea

I actually don’t recall where on land the book was set before the characters reach the Wilhelm Gustloff, but again, it’s definitely Europe, and the characters come from different nationalities. In this account of the worst maritime disaster that has been overshadowed by the Titanic, we see yet another glimpse into a largely unknown chapter in WWII’s history.

Crime and Punishment

GR-crime&punishment

Let’s just say Russia sounds like a rough place to live.

Jane Austen books

GR-pride&prejudice

All of Austen’s books take place during the Regency era in England, and we definitely get a very good feel for their society from her writings.

Sherlock Holmes

gr-sherlockholmes

These mysteries set in late 1800s England are a delight to read and a peek into the culture of the time.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

GR-thescarletpimpernel

The plot of this book is largely centered around the politics of the French Revolution. I also love how Sharon Cameron reused these same elements in her retelling Rook.

What’s your favorite book set outside of the US?

Advertisements

One Paragraph Reviews: The Books & Movies Edition

The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

gr-shadowqueen

While I saw there were mixed reviews of The Shadow Queen, I really wanted to check it out, and was thankfully able to do so through my library rather than having to commit to buying it. Now that I’ve read it I am left to wonder why any YA fantasy fan wouldn’t enjoy it! I really enjoyed the characters, the pacing was mostly good, and while it was a retelling there were some pretty interesting and unique concepts. It’s not my new favorite ever, but I did really like it and look forward to the next book in this series!

The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

gr-thelonggame

Oh Jennifer Lynn Barnes, why do you torture me so?! So I loved this book just as much as its predecessor The Long Game, and it was filled with just as many twists and turns that really floored me. And though I did like Tess, Asher, and Henry in the first book, I grew even more fond of them in this book. And then… ugh, I won’t go there! Major spoiler! Let’s just say I simply need another book for more resolution, yet I don’t see one listed on Goodreads?! I NEED MORE.

kermit-flail

Finding Dory

FINDING_DORY

I love the way Honest Trailers said it best when referring to this movie: the sequel you hope will be more like Toy Story 3 and less like Cars 2. Finding Dory was cute, fun, and yes, emotional. It didn’t have the same magic for me as Finding Nemo, but it was still a good, solid story about Dory where we learn a lot about her and meet a few more fun characters. I will say that there were moments of this movie that felt a little outrageous for Pixar fare and almost more in Dreamworks’ territory (which is not a dis on Dreamworks, they just have a different philosophy for their animated movies), but again, these were minor quibbles I can forgive for the overall enjoyment of the movie.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence-Day-Resurgence-London-poster

I didn’t watch Independence Day in 1996, but at the point where enough years had passed where it seemed more cheesy in our modern age of movies. I have seen it again a few more times since then, and in that time, and especially in this last time I saw it in preparation for the sequel, I have grown fonder of it. In Resurgence, we see Earth has progressed in the 20 years since the aliens attacked, and we get to see many of the same characters and/or their children. There were a few different storylines that were eventually intertwined, much like its predecessor, and several new characters introduced, but I feel this was all well-developed. I especially enjoyed the President’s daughter and her fiance’s good friend Charlie (her fiance was Liam Hemsworth so he was… OK, actually, considering my natural prejudice towards Liam), and the other young, new characters. Overall, it’s not going to win Oscars and I did have a few issues with it, but it was a fun summer flick, and ultimately that was all I wanted from it.

If you’ve read either of these books or seen either of these movies, let me know what you thought of them! What’s been your favorite summer movie so far?

The Top 10 Books I’ve Enjoyed with <2000 Goodreads Ratings

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is  Top Ten Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads. I was a little surprised that some of these had so few ratings, though most of them are a little newer. I also apparently haven’t read much with less than 2000 ratings on GR… other than these listed there were only a few more books plus several novellas. I listed the genre of each book since not all of them are the young adult fiction I generally talk about.

This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes: YA fiction

gr-thelonggame

I just recently devoured this book in three days and there is no way JLB can leave me hanging like this. I NEED MORE! And you need to read these books if you haven’t already so that she’ll write more!

2. Do Over by Jon Acuff: Business non-fiction

gr-doover

Business non-fiction may sound like a snore, but not with Jon Acuff. This book didn’t make the same impact on me as his previous books Quitter and Start, but it’s definitely still full of practical career advice told with humor.

3. Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor: YA fiction

gr-nora&kettle

Another recent read that is definitely underrated. It’s not perfect but it’s a beautiful story with compelling characters.

4. Finding Alice by Melody Carlson: Christian fiction

GR-findingalice

While this is technically Christian fiction, it’s not preachy and can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s an older favorite of mine about a girl in college who gets diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’ve read it twice already but feel I might be due for another reread soon.

5. Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey: YA fiction

gr-loveliesspies

This book has its flaws but it’s a fun read with characters I enjoyed. I’d recommend to fans of Jane Austen who like a dash action and spying as well.

6. Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs: Christian non-fiction

gr-letsallbebrave

The only books that I loved more than this one last year were The Deathly Hallows and The Start of Me and You. Compelling and exactly what I needed.

7. Loop by Karen Akins: YA fiction

gr-loop

This is an underrated sci-fi romp in the YA world (and don’t let the cover fool you, the romance doesn’t dominate). Unfortunately, the sequel disappointed me, so I’d recommend reading just book one and reaching your own conclusions for the few unanswered questions.

8. The Veritas Conflict by Shaunti Feldhahn: Christian fiction

gr-veritasconflict

This is an old favorite of mine about a girl going to Harvard who deals with spiritual warfare, with shades of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters throughout the story.

9. Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson: YA fiction

gr-dont=touch

An underrated YA contemporary about a girl who develops an obsession with not touching others, believing that if she follows these self-imposed rules that her dad will return home.

10. Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs: Christian non-fiction

gr-lookingforlovely

Another memoir from Annie F. Downs that I didn’t love quite as much as Let’s All Still Be Brave, but I still enjoyed quite a bit.

What are some of your favorite underrated books? Have you read any of mine? 

The Top 10 Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a freebie! So as you can see, I am discussing my favorite reads of the year so far. Confession: My top read of the year is my only 5 star of the year (other than my one reread so far, see below note), followed by a few 4.5 stars and then yes, I have 4 star reads on this list. I don’t know if I’m getting stingier with my ratings or not reading the right books this year, but I have read some great stories that I wanted to share. And maybe you can give me suggestions to make the second half of my reading year better!

(Note: I did not include my one reread of the year so far, The Start of Me and You, which is seriously one of my all-time faves.)

10. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

gr-truthwitch

An interesting fantasy that I quite enjoyed. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Merik specifically in Windwitch.

9. Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

gr-loveliesspies

I saw someone on Instagram describe this as Jane Austen meets The Scarlet Pimpernel and I would say that is pretty accurate! I think the story could have been tightened just a bit more, but it was a super fun read, and I adored Spencer!

8. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

gr-theunbound

I first read The Archived early this year and liked it as well, but I enjoyed this follow-up more. I especially became a bigger Wesley fan after this book.

7. The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine

gr-shadowqueen

This was my most recent read, and after seeing mixed reviews, I was so glad to end up really enjoying it! I actually could have taken or left most of the actual story, but I really loved the characters and want more of them!

6. Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

gr-nora&kettle

This book has its flaws, but this story still haunts me. It’s quiet and beautiful and filled with hope.

5. Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

gr-lookingforlovely

An inspirational non-fiction book about looking for the lovely in our everyday lives.

4. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

gr-therithmatist

In true Brandon Sanderson fashion (minus Calamity, sigh), I fell so in love with these characters and their world and got wrapped up in their stakes. It takes a while to really understand why these chalk drawings are such a big deal in Joel’s world, but again, Sanderson makes it work.

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

betweenshades

The book that made me a Ruta Sepetys fan. And tore my heart out in that way that only readers can appreciate.

2. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

gr-thefixer

This book had twists and turns and quips and friendships and I ate it all up.

1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

gr-salttothesea

Seriously. Gutted me. Beautiful and moving and powerful.

What are your favorite reads from this year? Any of yours the same as mine?

Star Trek Deep Space Nine Season Four: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her favorite episodes of DS9 season four.

Holy cow, I did my season 3 recap in February! I can’t believe it took so long to get through season 4, but then again, I was watching Voyager season 2 at the same time, plus live shows (RIP Castle) until recently.

So I was a little disappointed with season 4. I have gone on the record as saying DS9 is my fave show of all time because of all the epic stuff that happens, but so little of this epic stuff is happening in season 4, and doesn’t it seem like it should be by now? And unlike almost every other DS9 fan I’m not a huge fan of the episode “The Visitor,” though I will say I liked it better this time around than the first time I watched it. However, I do have 5 episodes I did enjoy a good bit and want to share my thoughts on…

5. To The Death

ds9-4-tothedeath

Sisko and the crew of the Defiant form an unlikely, temporary alliance with the Jem’Hadar for a common goal. But really all you need to know is we finally meet Weyoun.

4. Our Man Bashir

ds9-4-ourmanbashir

Dr. Bashir’s adventure spy holosuite program turns into a life or death crisis situation for several of the crew members, and he and Garak have to literally save the day. The episode plays into fun spy show/movie tropes, and I’m always a fan of good Bashir episodes.

3. Little Green Men

ds9-4-littlegreenmen

Another fun episode where Quark, Rom, and Nog inadvertently end up going back in time to 1940s Earth. While Rom and Nog simply want to find a way out, Quark doesn’t want to pass up the opportunity to exploit the humans… if only the Ferengi and the humans could communicate pre-Universal Translator.

2. and 1. Homefront/Paradise Lost

ds9-4-homefrontparadiselost

This two-parter takes place on Earth as Sisko goes to Star Fleet to discuss the Changeling issue. And, well, crap hits the fan in these episode as martial law becomes instated on peaceful Earth, paranoia ensues, and Sisko must hunt down the mole in Star Fleet.

If you’ve seen Deep Space Nine, which episodes of season four are your favorite? 

Book Review: Nora & Kettle

I had seen some blogging friends express interest in Nora & Kettle, but when the e-book was on sale and I contemplated buying it, I checked Goodreads and noticed none of them had actually read it. The reviews from others on GR really piqued my interest though, so I bought it and read it not too long after. And I’m glad I did.

gr-nora&kettle

The pacing of the story is very slow, but the writing is beautiful. It also weaves in some elements from Peter Pan, though it is definitely not a retelling or an adaptation.

In the beginning we meet Nora, a girl who, to the outside world, seems to have a good life, but she’s harboring the secret of her father’s abuse. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention the inciting incident, as it happens so quickly, but her mother dies in a freak accident, and suddenly Nora is even more terrified because this means she has to endure her father and shield her sister from him alone.

Meanwhile, Kettle is a poor homeless boy doing his best to take care of other poor homeless kids alongside his friend and “brother” Kin. He takes his life in stride but is haunted by the past he barely remembers – the family who might not have wanted him, his childhood in internment camps, his mysterious mixed heritage. And he deals with the overwhelming burden of trying to provide for himself and others at the young age of 17 and no place to call home.

For more than half of the novel, we go back and forth between these two’s individual lives, with them skimming each others’ paths, but not properly meeting for a while. It’s very drawn-out and not a lot happens, and yet I was invested in these characters. I cared for them and wanted to know what would happen to them and how they would finally meet up.

When Nora and Kettle are finally involved in each others’ lives, it’s interesting to see how they compare and contrast to one another. I will say, however, that this portion of the story was more rushed and didn’t feel fully developed. Nora and Kettle grow interested in each other quickly, which is fine, but it felt more vague than sure, and then suddenly towards the end it seems to get very serious very quickly. However, the climax was really compelling and I think it played out perfectly. I just wanted maybe one more chapter afterwards for more of a final resolution.

Overall, it’s a beautiful story, and I would love to read more about these characters. I know so little about the Japanese internment camps and while this didn’t teach me much more, it did humanize those events for me through Kettle and Kin.

Rating: 4 stars

Trigger warning: domestic violence/abuse

Content advisory: Domestic violence described but not too graphically, some language.

Have you read Nora & Kettle? What did you think? 

Star Trek Voyager Season Two: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her favorite episodes of Voyager season two.

So this is the season that is infamous for Threshold, which was not as painful the second time but is still pretty bad. And then something I never would have imagined but learned from podcast listening is that apparently Tuvix is a fan favorite and there are people who wished the character stayed on the show. Not gonna lie, he makes me uncomfortable as does the entire episode. So needless to say neither of those made my list. On to those that did…

5. Meld

voy2-meld

This episode is kind of hard to watch because (1) psychopath alert and (2) Tuvok mind-melding with said psychopath (terrible idea) and becoming one himself. But it stuck with me and it’s interesting.

4. Persistence of Vision

voy2-persistanceofvision

This one was interesting, with hallucinations popping up all over the ship and the crew has to determine how and why.

3. Resolutions

voy2-resolutions

What I like about this episode is you get to see a new side of Janeway and Chakotay, and I really like their more down-to-earth natures! But darn Kathryn just wouldn’t jump on the Chakotay ship! I mean, the man is building her stuff right and left, being so sweet and thoughtful, and that smile! I’m just saying, you could be stuck on a planet with worse company. Like almost everyone else, this episode kind of makes me ship them a little! No shame.

2. Innocence

voy2-innocence

While the alien people in this episode drive me crazy for not just being straightforward, I absolutely LOVE seeing another side of Tuvok as he deals with the children. “What are your children like, Tuvok?” “Well behaved.” LOL.

1. Deadlock

voy2-deadlock

I decided to list this one as my top episode of the season because I think it held my interest the most, even though I remembered the outcome from my previous watch. I have to say though, poor Ensign Wildman! This episode also feels a little bit like a prelude to Year of Hell, AKA the best thing Voyager ever did.

If you’ve seen Voyager, what are your favorite episodes of season two?

The Top 5 Books on my Summer TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For The Second Half Of The Year. Well I say where’s the Summer TBR week?! This happened last winter too. What gives? I need my seasonal TBRs! There’s a freebie week coming up but I didn’t want to wait until then as the official start of summer is next Monday. On to my rebel ways yet again…

1. The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

gr-thelonggame

I really, really enjoyed The Fixer and need this sequel in my life ASAP.

2. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

gr-passenger

The mixed reviews have kept me from buying this book, but the pretty cover keeps tempting me. Now that it’s my next book club read, I’ll be giving into the temptation!

3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

gr-sense&sensibility

Carry-over from my spring TBR that I want to get to soon.

4. The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

gr-shadowqueen

I’ve got this one on hold with the library and I’m curious about it. I saw C.J. Redwine at SE YA Fest and look forward to reading her work.

5. Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

gr-dontjudge

I’m slowly making my way through the Gallagher Girls books and this my next one to read.

I stopped at five because that’s all I can think of at the moment! Weird, right? What happened to my mountain-high TBR? I don’t know, I’m just kind of winging it these days, seeing what calls to me (or is available from the library).

What’s on your summer TBR?

Greetings From The Other Side! And The Things I’ve Read…

Hello everyone! Yes, I am still alive, and now I have wi-fi again after moving into my new home and not having it for a while. Sorry I have been unable to comment on everyone else’s blogs lately; I hope I get to remedy that soon. I just wanted to do a brief post where I share a few things I’ve read lately and some quick thoughts on them.

Books I read in April and May any my brief thoughts on each:

  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard: Interesting fantasy with complex characters and relationships. Wish there had been a glossary, though I think I mostly kept up with/figured out the terms.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord: An incredibly hard read in terms of content. NOT a love story like I was expecting, not really. But it is well-written.
  • On The Loose by Jenny B. Jones: A cute follow-up to In-Between, though the romance was a little weak considering the guy she ends up with in the end spends most of the book dating someone else but obviously somewhat interested in her. Also, the next books in the series don’t seem to go in the direction I want the story to go so I’m afraid I’m stopping here.
  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter: Cute and fun, and a little stronger than the first Gallagher Girl book, I felt. I’m looking forward to reading book three.
  • The Unbound by Victoria Schwab: This was a solid follow-up to The Archived, with enough closure for satisfaction, but a definite possibility for more. I appreciated Wesley more in this book, though I also really liked Cash.
  • The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh: A pretty good conclusion to the duology. What happened at the end really surprised me, and it resolved in a clever way. However, for some reason the epilogue made the ending a little weaker for me. It would have been fine without.
  • Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs: This one didn’t capture my heart quite as much as her book Let’s All Be Brave that I read last year, but still a great and very worthwhile read. I’m very glad I got to devour this one while on vacation.
  • Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey: This one was cute and fun, but the writing could have been a little stronger. Another round of revisions or two could have made this one really great, because I loved the potential of a Jane Austen-esque story with spies. Spencer was fabulous.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: This was a reread of one of my favorite books last year, and seriously, nothing has lived up to it yet this year. I just adore it from beginning to end. Such a me book.

aprilmayfaves

What have you been reading lately?

 

May Hiatus

hiatus

I know I’m already down to posting about once a week these days, but this month is shaping up to be a crazy busy one, so I don’t even want to feel like I need to attempt any posts (save for this one, obviously). I’m moving from one house to another and going on vacation, so things are going well, but again, just crazy busy! Packing is truly the pits. Thanks for hanging in there with me, friends. I look forward to talking books again in June!