Year in Review (…and some plans going forward)

year in review

I wasn’t sure if I was going to still write this considering a week has already past since the start of this new year, but then again, I think I needed to write this for myself. I have made it known in this blog a number of times just how busy work has been the last couple of months. It continued to be up to the very end, even now I have work-related stuff I need to take care of. But if I’m being honest, it’s not the only reason why I  have decreased my blogging presence.

Truth is I’m feeling really discouraged right now and struggling to continue blogging. I know I shouldn’t compare my journey with other bloggers but it’s hard not to. My numbers have gone down – readership, followers – and I continuously questioned myself if it’s even smart to continue doing this if I don’t have an audience.

But I love reading, and writing about books is my way of expressing my love for this precious thing that has saved me countless of times. I have also met and interacted with really amazing people this past year – fellow bloggers, readers, writers and publishers – people I have met because of this blog. I just can’t leave it.

And that’s when it hit me.

The reason I created this blog was, when I look at it more closely, was me. Yes, I write to share my love for books, I write to get these stories I love and enjoyed to more hands so more people will love and enjoy them, but in the end, this blog is for me, my outlet. It may sound selfish, so be it.

2018 has been wonderful for my reading life. I have read a lot of books that made me feel a whole range of emotions – happy, sad, angry. I have beat my Goodreads challenge for the third year in a row, something I’m really happy about.

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I have enjoyed, even loved most of these books. Among those who stood out for me this year were Sadie (Courtney Summers), Darius the Great is Not Okay (Adib Khorram), The Deepest Roots (Miranda Asebedo), and This is What it Feels Like (Rebecca Barrow). I have also started and finished several book series last year: I finally read His Fair Assassin trilogy (Robin LaFevers) which has been on my TBR for the longest time; the Red Queen series (Victoria Aveyard) concluded this year with the publishing of War Storm, which I enjoyed a whole though it was bittersweet [I’m going to miss all those characters, especially Mare and Cal]; The Gilded Wolves (Roshani Chokshi) which is coming out mid-January, is a promising new series I’m really excited for and you can expect me to talk about it nonstop here on the blog and on Twitter.

I also participated in blog tours for the first time, and got the chance to interview some really awesome authors. My interview, though short, with Sarah Bird and writing duo Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz are some of the highlights of my blogging year.

All these may sound small, but these are achievements for me and I’m kind of proud of myself now that I’m seeing them all laid out like this. I’m not yet sure what this year, what 2019 has in store for me. I’m pretty excited to discover it myself, but rest assured I’m staying and will continue to write.

I’m planning to add a few more feature content just as soon as I think up a theme [or something]. I’m also going to put myself out there more, which scares the crap out of me because if you know me in real life you know that I can be awkward as hell. Requesting more author interviews [please let it work and don’t think I’m weird] and requesting books I really want from publishers are also in my agenda this year. Hey, maybe I’ll even go back to bookstragram, if perfecting and editing my shots won’t take to much of my time.

All these plans are still tentative, except the feature content thing because I’m already writing down ideas for that. I don’t know if they’ll pan out, it’s scary and exciting at the same time, but I think my keyword for this year is “Try” and that’s just what I’ll do. No pressure, whatsoever, just try to do what I intend to do because, after all, I wouldn’t know what’ll happen if I don’t and the guessing, the what-ifs will only end up making me more anxious which never does me any good.

So, anyway [because as usual I don’t know how to properly end a post AGAIN!] I’ll leave you with a song I love. It’s something I tell myself whenever I feel like the world’s crashing on me. Dramatic, yes, but that’s just how the last couple of months felt like for me.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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How was 2018 for you? Link up your year-in-review posts in the comment section so I can read them 🙂

 

Review: “All These Beautiful Strangers” by Elizabeth Klehfoth

36381099Title: All These Beautiful People

Author: Elizabeth Klehfoth

Publisher: William Morrow/HarperCollins

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC graciously provided by publisher via Edelweiss)

 

Secrets from both the past and present collide to reveal a terrible truth in this suspenseful debut from Elizabeth Klehfoth.

In the last day of summer, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Allister Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.

Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.

Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.

As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.

Goodreads

All These Beautiful Strangers is a compulsive read sure to make you keep turning the pages.

With three point-of-view characters, Klehfoth weaves a comprehensive story spanning almost three decades. Grace and Allistair’s chapters take readers back to the start of their stories, giving just enough clues to tease. I certainly enjoyed reading both their POVs. Reading their chapters definitely gave me more insight and allowed me to know their characters better. Nevertheless, no matter how interesting their parts were, it is still Charlie, daughter, who is the center of this story.

Charlie is a complicated character and her development is one of the things I liked best in this novel. I disliked her at first, but she grew on me. Acerbic and too full of herself at the start of the story, Charlie becomes more self-aware as the book progresses, unraveling what she knows about herself and her family as she detangles clues and details about her mother’s disappearance.

I gave myself a couple of days after finishing this book before writing my review. It’s a hefty one (500+ pages!) but I enjoyed it so much that I just glided my way through it. Great as that sounds though, All These Beautiful Strangers still has flaws.

Charlie is the story’s main mover, and she’ an effective one. Even though she is a conflicted character, Charlie is still likable and she made me care about what happens to her. Add this to combined elements of Gossip Girl, The Secret History and Cruel Intentions, and you have the makings of a really interesting plot. Klehfoth failed to capitalize on it however. The way she was written, Charlie relied too heavily on coincidences, stumbling on clues rather than actually discovering them herself. It’s a plot fail. Instead of moving the story organically, it only forced events to happen more often than not.

Still, Klehfoth’s writing shines through her flawed plotting. Descriptive and sharp in turns, she knows how to create a clear picture for her readers through her words. Her main characters are well developed with their own distinct voices and nuances. The story is very easy to read and follow even as it goes back and forth in time. It might have moved a bit slow during the first part of the book, but the pace speeds up as the mystery unfolds and drama escalates. The ending is an emotional one, but fitting though, it felt a bit rushed.

Despite its flaws, I still recommend All These Beautiful Strangers to readers who love suspense and mystery. While adults may enjoy this engrossing read, I see this appealing more to older teens. This debut is a great introduction for Elizabeth Klehfoth, already this book has been optioned for a small screen adaptation by the same producers behind HBO’s Big Little Lies. I am definitely looking forward to reading more books from her.

Review: Zoje Stage’s “Baby Teeth”

35410511Title: Baby Teeth

Author: Zoje Stage

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: July 17, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

 

A seemingly perfect family is the center of this thriller of a debut from former filmmaker Zoje Stage.

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

Goodreads

Baby Teeth takes the love-hate relationship between a mother and her daughter to a new level and will make you question just how far can a mother stretch her love for a child who keeps pushing her.

Told from the point of view of emotionally-exhausted Suzette and precocious but silent Hanna in interchanging chapters, mother and daughter play protagonist of their own stories, and each other’s antagonist.

Stay-at-home mom Suzette loves her daughter, but Hanna is making it hard for her. Gone is the dark-haired angel she brought to life replaced by an intelligent but devious, cunning and manipulative child with the full intent to harm her. With a husband who is too blind to see that there is something wrong with their child, Suzette is backed into a corner helpless as she fears for her life and watches as her idealized, perfect family falls apart.

Hanna loves her father and she wants him all to herself. With the help of a late 17th century witch as her imaginary friend, she finds her voice and plot ways to get rid of her mother, the only person who stands in the way between her and daddy.

I have to be upfront, Baby Teeth was a tough book to read. There were parts I loved and parts I didn’t. I will try to detail both polar ends as much as possible in this review without spoiling the story starting with the things I liked about this book.

Baby Teeth is a well-written book. Zoje Stage is sure to hook readers, reel them into her story with her snappy, straightforward writing. It’s jarring, but she does not sugarcoat things, neither does she go into unnecessary detail – what you see is what you get no matter if you like it or not.

Another thing that I really love about Baby Teeth are the characters. Stage’s characterization of both Suzette and Hanna is so strong you could just imagine them pop out of the pages. These two characters are the heart and soul of this book, driving the plot and moving the story with every step, every decision they make, which is a testament to just how perfect Stage played Suzette and Hanna against each other.

Now, for the parts that could have been done better.

From start to finish, I had one major problem while reading Baby Teeth – I couldn’t suspend my disbelief – and the reason for this, Hanna. Though she speaks like a 7-year old, the way she thinks is more apt for a 12-year old, which is why I just can’t picture her as she is described in the book. The whole time I was reading the book I found myself asking this question: “Can a 7-year old really make very detailed plans?” And the answer I keep on getting from both a personal and professional viewpoint: “No”. It just stopped me from fully enjoying the story, which takes a big chunk of how I rate books.

Still, Baby Teeth is a worthy read. It’s a strong, controversial debut, and I’m sure other people will love it. I guess, it just wasn’t for me.