Things I’m Obsessed With

Welcome to the latest Things I’m Obsessed With!

Books:

I feel like I have so many amazing books coming up to read.  Do you ever feel like that? It’s like every book I have in the stack is just amazing and I cannot wait.  (Upcoming books include the new Jandy Nelson, the new Meg Wolitzer, Famous Last Words, Girl Defective, Tell Me, Anatomy of a Misfit and Falling Into Place.)

Movies:

We’re slowly heading into two of my favorite movie seasons: Oscar season and horror movie season! The two converge on October 3, when two movies that I am very excited to see both come out.  One is, of course, Gone Girl.  I’m very excited for it in and in a world where The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gets some nominations, I’m willing to bet Gone Girl could get nods for Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Adapted Screenplay.

And the other? Annabelle.  It’s the prequel of sorts to The Conjuring which had a subplot featuring the world’s creepiest doll.  This movie is all about Annabelle and could be awesome (it’s produced by James Wan—who is doing great things with horror movies—and has Alfre Woodard in the cast) and could be horrible (it’s about a doll; it’s very, very hard to do a movie that centers around a doll and have it be scary. Doll as partial scare—see Poltergeist and The Conjuring—can be done very well; doll as entire scare is generally not good at all).  But I am going to see it anyway, hopefully with my friend Janie.

So what are you obsessed with this week?

Excited For Fall TV!

We’re getting ever closer to the start of fall, which means only one thing: my shows are coming back!

Here’s what I’m planning on watching:

SUNDAY:

I’m going to give Madam Secretary a chance.  I don’t expect to love it, but there is literally nothing on TV.  It’s on at 8 but on CBS, which means it’ll go on late because of football. This will end up being a reading night, I can tell.

MONDAY:

The Big Bang Theory and Gotham (both on at 8).  I will watch BBT at work and enjoy Gotham at home on Tuesday morning.  I might try Jane the Virgin (9-10) depending on what Entertainment Weekly says about it.

TUESDAY:

The Mindy Project (9:30).

WEDNESDAY:

My first big TV night of the week! I have Red Band Society (9-10) and Nashville and Stalker (both 10-11).

THURSDAY:

My biggest TV night of the week.  I have Grey’s Anatomy (9-10), Scandal, Bad Judge and A-Z (9-10; Bad Judge is 9-9:30 and A-Z is from 9:30-10) and How to Get Away With Murder.  I’m not sure how great Bad Judge is but I do love Kate Walsh so I’ll try it.

FRIDAY:

I have The Amazing Race at 8 and that’s it.

After The Funeral

Finished After the Funeral by Agatha Christie.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Amazon):

The master of a Victorian mansion dies suddenly – and his sister is convinced it was murder…When Cora is savagely murdered with a hatchet, the extraordinary remark she made the previous day at her brother Richard’s funeral suddenly takes on a chilling significance. At the reading of Richard’s will, Cora was clearly heard to say: ‘It’s been hushed up very nicely, hasn’t it…But he was murdered, wasn’t he?’ In desperation, the family solicitor turns to Hercule Poirot to unravel the mystery.

This is the third (of four) books in Harper Collins’ readalong of Agatha Christie’s novels.  (The next and last one is The Monogram Murders, a new Hercule Poirot novel written by Sophie Hannah.)

This is easily my favorite of the ones we’ve read so far.  I loved the concept and the fact that pretty much every single person was a suspect for one reason or another.  (No, I did not guess the killer—I’ve not guessed the killer in any of the three so far, which makes me cranky.)

These books are so fun and I’m just incredibly grateful for Harper Collins for doing this so that I could finally read some of Agatha Christie’s books.  I’ve gotten a few others (including Murder on the Orient Express) and I plan on getting The Body in the Library so that I can meet Miss Marple.

Note: this new edition has an introduction by Sophie Hannah.

Highly recommended.

And now to the questions! :)

1)   From the beginning, there is tension among the surviving Abernethie family. Despite being bound together by name and blood, there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection amongst the different generations. Did you sense a motive for murder or suspect someone in the group early on?

I thought it was Gregory.  I would have placed a lot of money on that.

2)  It was noted early on that Helen Abernethie felt something was strange during the will reading. Were you ever able to guess what it was she sensed? Once the murder plot is revealed, it becomes clear that the answer was there from the beginning.

Nope.  It wasn’t even one of those cases where it dawned on me right before we were told.  I can never guess the outcome of a Christie mystery.

3)  Name some of your favorite red herrings, as there are quite a few. To get you going, I enjoyed the reoccurrence of nuns. I knew they had to have some significance, as nothing can just be a coincidence.

The nuns! I was pretty sure that they weren’t really nuns (because how hard would it be to dress like a nun?).    That was by far my favorite.

4)  The will was split fairly across Richard’s relatives and each had their own reason for needing the money. Did you ever once consider Cora’s murder to be separate from Richard’s?

No. I thought they were obviously connected, even if only because she knew that Richard was murdered and the murderer got twitchy.

5)  Some of the family members (by blood or marriage) acted truly deplorably—there was the house-bound Timothy, the beautiful but vapid Rosamund and her cheating husband Michael, and Susan’s husband, Gregory who was outed as a mental patient. I half expected Helen to have her own dirty secret (which really wasn’t all that bad once revealed). Did you consider any of them for the murderer?

Gregory.  I hated that guy and was sure that he would do it.  (I never really liked any of the people, but I was so confident in Gregory.  I should’ve known better because I think he was the obvious choice.)

6)  In Sophie Hannah’s introduction to After the Funeral, she discusses the Christie-concept of “nontransferable motive,” meaning a motive that no other murderer in any other crime novel has had or will have.  Do you think that applies to After the Funeral? What do you make of a “nontransferable motive?” Does this apply to other Christie mysteries?

I like the idea, but I could see a lot of the people killing for the same reason (namely money).  I think it applies to other Christie mysteries ( and really to mysteries in general).  I loved that we got an introduction from Sophie Hannah and I’m very eager to see her take on Poirot.

7)  This was my first time reading After the Funeral, and I couldn’t help but think this had all the components of a classic Christie mystery.  What are some of those elements?

Red herrings and people being much more than they appear to be.  (Although Rosamund was about as dumb as I thought, unlike the wife in Dead Man’s Folly.)

The Girl from the Well

Finished The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.”

I had incredibly high expectations going into this story and, while they weren’t exactly met, there’s a lot to enjoy here.

While Okiku (the girl in white) is clearly meant to be based on Samara (the murderous girl from The Ring), I think she has a lot more in common with Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.  The other vengeful spirit (Chiyo, the girl in black) is a lot more like Samara in terms of behavior.

This book is intense and creepy, but I feel like it isn’t anywhere near as creepy as it could/should have been.  It also felt like it was a little bit rushed in parts.

Still, this is an incredibly fun book and if you’re in the mood to get goosebumps but still be able to sleep at night (no matter how late you’re reading), absolutely consider this book.

My Real Children

Finished My Real Children by Jo Walton.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don’t seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history. Each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives…and of how every life means the entire world.”

This book was not even on my radar when it was handsold to me (in a manner of speaking) on the afternoon of the last day of BEA.  I wish I had gotten the name of the lady at the Tor booth because I would send her the world’s nicest email.  (If she sees this somehow,  THANK YOU.)

First, a caveat: this book does not have a tidy ending.  Instead, you will have to decide what you think happens.  This makes me love the book more; you may have a completely different feeling about it.

But here’s what we know for sure: Patricia has lived two lives. In one, she married a man and had four children; in another, she had one of the world’s best love stories and three children.  In the first life, her personal life is not great but the world is pretty fantastic; in the second life, the opposite is true.

This book is absolute perfection and thought-provoking.  I do think that choices we make can impact the world and I find it oddly comforting to think that maybe there are alternate worlds where things are a little bit different (and, hopefully, better).

Yes, this review is vague; discover this book on your own.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Highly, highly recommended.

Magnolia

Finished Magnolia by Kristi Cook.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.”

I absolutely loved the concept behind this book.  I feel like I’ve read about 50,000 books where people who shouldn’t be in love are and it was very refreshing to read about people who should be in love but aren’t.  (Well, until they are.)

I liked Ryder and I loved Jemma’s friends, although we didn’t spend very much time with them.

The person we spent the most time with was Jemma (the book is told from her perspective) and that’s unfortunate because I really didn’t like Jemma.  I thought she was incredibly selfish and thoughtless and prone to letting down other people instead of inconveniencing herself.  At the same time, she was also pretty passive and had a tendency to go along with things instead of actually saying how she felt.  (For example, she went out on a couple dates with Patrick, who she liked but didn’t LIKE. Most teenage girls would get the difference.)

Still, this is an incredibly unique book and I loved the way the plot unfolded.  This is my first Kristi Cook book and I’m very interested in seeing what else she’s done.

Counting By 7s

Finished Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (by Goodreads):

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life… until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.“

Okay, first, it took me forever to read this book.  (Don’t make the same mistake I did; this book is amazing.)

This book sounds like it could absolutely break your heart, but the weird thing is, it doesn’t.  Instead, Willow manages to find a way to go on and to create a new family. It’s not that she replaces her parents—she doesn’t, and she knows that she can’t and even beyond that, she doesn’t want to.  She loved her parents and they’re gone.  But she isn’t, and that means that she needs to find people to live with until she’s 18 and, hopefully, people who will be okay with the fact that she sees things differently than most people.

And oh, you guys, I love Willow.  I can see how she’d be hard to live with sometimes but she’s also this amazing, sweet girl.  (I am guessing she’s somewhere on the autism spectrum although we’re never told this.)

This is one of those books that you will absolutely fall in love with.

Highly recommended.

Books I’m Excited For

I feel like one of the best and worst things about being a book blogger is the fact that there are always new books coming out.  It’s awesome because there’s always something exciting to read.  And it’s horrible because no matter how much time you have, you’re never going to be able to read everything.

So here are some books that have been out for a while that I haven’t read that I sincerely hope to get to soon.

1)  Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau (I loved the first two books and am really excited to get to this).

2)  Carsick by John Waters (a Baltimore must!)

3)  The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (the only book of hers I haven’t read)

4) Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (so many people have loved it and I’ve even met the author)

5) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (I feel like it’s obligatory and I haven’t read it)

This is by no means a complete list.  My TBR stacks are actually so out of control that I’ve decided to not preorder books unless I’m going to read them right away.  (Because I tend to buy books when they first come out and then not read them.  For example, I bought The Storyteller when it first came out for $15 on my Kindle.  It’s currently on sale for $5. So.)

Five Days Left

Finished Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

For the most part, I absolutely loved this book.  I thought it was incredibly well-written and I loved the plot (with its questions of what I would do if I had a terminal illness and knew the decline was starting to get faster and what I would do if I thought I was going to have to lose someone that I had raised for a year).  This is a fantastic book, one that I genuinely think people should read.  (And it’s ideal for book clubs.)

And then there was this: Mara says she believes that, because her daughter is adopted, she won’t be completely devastated when she’s gone.  She believes that she is essentially just a replacement for her daughter’s biological mom and that means that when her husband eventually remarries, her daughter will probably be fine with it because the stepmom will be a replacement for the replacement.

I obviously get that Mara is saying that because it’s what she wants to believe.  She wants to believe that her daughter will be okay, so that she can kill herself with as little guilt as possible.  She doesn’t really mean it; she’s just saying it because it’s the only way she can justify it.

And yet.

I’m adopted and my dad died when I was in high school.  There was no part of me that thought, “Well, at least I still have my real dad, somewhere out in the world.”  My real dad is the guy that raised me, and I don’t care that we aren’t related by blood.  I love my maternal biological family and I treasure my relationship with them, but it’s not the same as the relationship I had with my dad or that I have with my mom and the rest of my family.  And even though I get that Mara was just trying to tell all the lies she had to tell to be able to continue on, I resent everything that she said.

But that’s one paragraph in an otherwise amazing story.  I still recommend it.