The Holdout

The HoldoutThe Holdout

By Graham Moore

Source Purchased

Published by Random House
on February 18, 2020

four-stars

In this twisty tale from Moore (The Sherlockian), the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game, young juror Maya Seale is convinced that African American high school teacher Bobby Nock is innocent of killing the wealthy white female student with whom he appears to have been involved and persuades her fellow jurors likewise. Ten years later, a true-crime docuseries reassembles the jurors, and Maya, now a defense attorney, must prove her own innocence when one of them is found dead in Maya’s room.

I’d heard really good things about this book, and I’ve been really into reading mysteries and thrillers lately. It had been a while though since I’ve read what I think of as a courtroom drama, which is partly how I would describe this book.

This book was such a page-turner! I got really into the two storylines being presented (Bobby Nock’s trial and the jury’s deliberations, and the present-day murder of one of the jurors when they reunite). I really enjoyed the way information was revealed in bits and pieces, with a glimpse into the other jurors’ points of view, and I had a lot of fun trying to figure out what happened.

This was a fun, twisty read, and I was pleased to solve part of one mystery but not the other.

four-stars

#2020 Pop Culture Resolutions: March Update

I blogged in January about some books I planned to read and movies I planned to watch in 2020. I updated my progress in February, and now that we’re finally into April, I wanted to post an update on my March progress.

Books:

For my March pick, I read Confessions by Kanae Minato.

I briefly discussed my thoughts in my latest Quick Lit post. This was definitely my favourite of the three books I’ve read as part of this project so far.

Movie:

I’ve actually watched a few movies from my initial list since my February update:

I did end up choosing Memories of Murder as my February pick, since I’ve been unable to find Mother anywhere, so I swapped it out.

Then I watched The Host and The Raid 2, so I’ve actually watched four movies from my list now.

The Host was really good, and The Raid 2 was pretty good as well (although I didn’t love it the way I loved the first movie, but appreciated that a lot of things were kicked up a notch in the sequel).

I haven’t decided yet what I’ll be reading and watching from my lists, but now that we’re all pretty much in self-isolation and my commute to and from work has been eliminated, I’ve got a lot more time on my hands than I used to, so I’m excited to carry on with this project.

We Are The Wildcats

We Are The WildcatsWe Are The Wildcats

By Siobhan Vivian

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
on March 31, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-stars

A toxic coach finds himself outplayed by the high school girls on his team in this deeply suspenseful novel, which unspools over twenty-four hours through six diverse perspectives.

Tomorrow, the Wildcat varsity field hockey squad will play the first game of their new season. But at tonight’s team sleepover, the girls are all about forging the bonds of trust, loyalty, and friendship necessary to win.

Everything hinges on the midnight initiation ceremony—a beloved tradition and the only facet of being a Wildcat that the girls control. Until now.

Coach—a handsome former college player revered and feared in equal measure—changes the plan and spins his team on a new adventure. One where they take a rival team’s mascot for a joyride, crash a party in their pajamas, break into the high school for the perfect picture.

But as the girls slip out of their comfort zone, so do some long-held secrets. And just how far they’re willing to go for their team takes them all—especially Coach—by surprise.

A testament to the strength and resilience of modern teenage girls, We Are the Wildcats will have readers cheering.

I was excited to read this book because I’ve enjoyed all of Siobhan Vivian’s books that I’ve read in the past, and the synopsis grabbed my attention. I was excited to receive an e-ARC from Simon & Schuster Canada!

This was a sort of slow-build, character-focused story, so I don’t know that it will be everyone’s cup of tea. For the first few chapters, I kept waiting for something to happen, some sort of event to incite what I anticipated would be coming, but once I grasped that it was not that kind of book, I settled in and enjoyed this one a lot.

This story is told via multiple different narratives, following six girls from the team. I found that a little confusing at first, and thought maybe six characters was too many, but I got used to it. It also takes place over the course of a single day/night, which was interesting because that can give a sense of urgency to a story, and I did feel the clock ticking down.

My favourite thing about this book was the girls’ friendship and team spirit, and seeing how important the team was to each of them. Reading about Coach View Spoiler »

I loved seeing the girls become a team, and despite some nitpicks, I quite enjoyed this book.

four-stars

Quick Lit

March 2020

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and not always feeling like I want to write a full review for each book read (or sometimes I just don’t have much to say about a book). So I was inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit posts, as well as Hannah at So Obsessed With‘s monthly Quick Lit posts, and decided to do something similar as a way to briefly discuss the books I read in a month but don’t write full reviews for.

So. March was a weird month. I read a lot, but was not in a mindset to write reviews. I read 14 books in March, and have only reviewed three of them, so I’ll be talking about the rest in this post!

Darling Rose Gold, Stephanie Wrobel (e-ARC) – 3.5⭐

This was a really interesting story that pulled me in right away. I think it made really good use of dual POV and time jumps, and it kept me hooked right up until the end.

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid, Kate Hattemer (library) – 4⭐

I really enjoyed this book, although it seems to be getting mixed reviews on Goodreads. It was a quick enough read, and while Jemima certainly seemed to think she was a feminist and knew what that entailed, she had a lot to learn. I didn’t care for the romance, but the rest of the book really grew on me.

Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Erin Yun (e-ARC) – 4⭐

Really engaging middle-grade story about family, friendship, and fitting in. Pippa was under so much pressure with school and basketball and family stuff on top of being the new kid at a fancy school, and I just wanted good things for her! I liked this one a lot.

The Silence of Bones, June Hur (e-ARC) – 3.5⭐

This was a really interesting, intriguing story. It was a mystery, but that felt like a secondary story to me, compared to Seol’s story about her life and family. I liked this one, but it took me a while to engage and really get into it.

Adulthood Is A Myth, Sarah Andersen (library) – 3⭐

This was a very quick read, and I generally enjoyed it.

Little Weirds, Jenny Slate (library) – 3.5⭐

I loved some of the essays/stories in this book, and thought others were too strange or the prose too purple. This was such an up and down book for me, but Jenny Slate certainly has a unique voice, which I appreciate. I already liked her, but I have a new admiration for her after reading this.

Final Cut, S.J. Watson (e-ARC) – 2⭐

This just didn’t work for me.

Braised Pork, An Yu (e-ARC) – 4⭐

I don’t even know if I could explain what this is about or what happens, but I really liked it. It was a sort of dreamy story, with great writing and managed to pull me in and connect with me even if I wasn’t sure I totally understood everything in the end.

We Ride Upon Sticks, Quan Barry (library) – 2.5⭐

I so wanted to love this, and looking at Goodreads, I’m definitely the odd one out here. But I couldn’t get into this at all.

Confessions, Kanae Minato (library) – 4⭐

This was a really quick read. I think I read this book in one day. It was really compelling, and just kept twisting in on itself. This was my March read for my 2020 Pop Culture Resolutions, and I’m hoping to read more by Kanae Minato in the future!

The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes (owned) – 4⭐

This has been on my bookshelf for years, and it’s one of the books I picked at the beginning of the year when I made a list of books I’ve owned for ages that I’m determined to read this year! I flew through this book, and enjoyed it more than Broken Monsters. It’s dark and gritty and violent, but I loved the resolution and the characters. This is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

What have you been reading lately?

Week In Review

Well, it’s been another strange week. Working from home has been fine – I’m quite enjoying it, actually – and I’m very well-suited to staying home all the time. But it’s a little strange that it’s all because I must, and not because I’ve chosen to.

I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing, doing some reading, and watching a lot of Netflix/Viki. I’m nearly finished the second season of Kingdom and partway through Crash Landing On You via Netflix, and I am quite enjoying both.

New books:

I bought a few more ebooks for my Kobo:

The Missing American, Kwei Quartey;

The Holdout, Graham Moore;

Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader, Vivian Gornick; and

Last Rituals, Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

I also snagged some ebooks from my library:

We Ride Upon Sticks, Quan Barry; and

Confessions, Kanae Minato.

Books read:

I only finished two books this week (both e-ARCs), bringing my total for the year up to 45:

Final Cut, S.J. Watson; and

Braised Pork, An Yu.

Current reads:

I’m still reading House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, although I don’t think I’ve picked it up once this week, and I’m reading We Ride Upon Sticks.

Reviews:

It’s taken me some time to get in the reading zone, and I have sort of lost the ability to write reviews for now. But I’m hoping to get back at it this week.

I did post my reviews of two recent reads I loved:

The Shadows Between Us, Tricia Levenseller; and

The Return, Rachel Harrison.

Time to tune out the outside world and lose myself in some books. Happy Sunday, hope everyone is staying inside!

The Return

The ReturnThe Return

By Rachel Harrison

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Berkley
on March 24, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-half-stars

An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don’t often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she’ll come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

This was one of my highly-anticipated 2020 reads! That eye-catching cover and intriguing synopsis grabbed me as soon as I first heard of this book. I was beyond excited to receive an e-ARC from the publisher and couldn’t wait to dive into this one.

I loved this book! It was such an interesting look at friendship and shared history, and I loved the dynamic among the group of four. The mystery itself behind Julie’s disappearance and then reappearance had a twist that I hadn’t anticipated from the synopsis, and I think readers are split on whether they liked that element of the story or not, but I was definitely the target reader for this kind of book!

This was a really quick read for me because I was pulled in by the strangeness of everything, from the hotel to its staff to Julie’s behaviour, and everything seemed just ‘off’ enough to create an unsettling atmosphere that only became more pronounced as I read. I didn’t want to put this book down as soon as I started. And while I do feel like things were a bit rushed in the end, given all the buildup, I truly enjoyed this book.

It was one of the few things I’ve been able to read and properly lose myself in and forget, temporarily, about what’s going on in the world right now. The Return is one of my favourite reads so far this year – highly recommended!

four-half-stars

The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between UsThe Shadows Between Us

By Tricia Levenseller

Source Received from the publisher

Published by Feiwel and Friends
on February 25, 2020

Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

four-half-stars

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

I knew I was going to love this book from the first sentence! This was such a fantastically fun, somewhat dark story, and I loved that Alessandra was strong-willed and knew what she wanted, and went for it. She was not ashamed of her desires or her body or her mind, and that was really refreshing to read!

I loved the romance, and although this story felt like it wrapped up a bit too quickly right at the end for me, I also appreciated that this was a stand alone. I thought this was a pretty satisfying read, and one of my favourites of the year so far. Recommended!

four-half-stars

Week In Review

It’s been a strange week! After this past week’s vacation, I’ll be going back to work tomorrow, but from home. I’m looking forward to not having to take the bus for the next while, but it will definitely be a change.

I wound up reading a bit, watching a lot of K dramas, and playing a fair amount of Animal Crossing. I am quite adaptable to self-isolation!

New books:

I did snag some e-ARCs from Edelweiss and Netgalley:

Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi;

The Return, Rachel Harrison; and

Final Cut, SJ Watson.

Books read:

I finished four books this week:

The Silence of Bones, June Hur;

Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Andersen;

Little Weirds, Jenny Slate; and

The Return, Rachel Harrison.

Current reads:

I’m reading  House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, and I will probably pick a book from my 2020 Pop Culture Resolutions list to start.

Posts:

I’ve obviously not been writing any reviews lately, although I have been reading. I’m going to try and get some written this week, if I can get my brain to focus.

The only thing I posted this week was about the shows I’ve been watching this past week to stay sane in these strange times!

Time to try and get some more reading done, play some Animal Crossing, and watch some more Netflix.

What I’m Watching

This has been a strange week! I’ve been on vacation, but social distancing which means I finally have a legitimate reason to stay inside all day, read, avoid people, and never leave the house.

For the first few days, though, it was really hard to focus on reading or TV or anything other than endless scrolling through my Twitter feed and watching the news nonstop.

Eventually I was able to read, but (as you may have noticed) had zero motivation to write any book blog/review posts. My brain just wasn’t there.

Then I discovered that watching subtitled shows was a fantastic way to get through this strange time: I could watch something I was enjoying, but having to keep my eyes glued to the screen to read subtitles meant I couldn’t look at my phone/Twitter/news at the same time. How convenient!

So I wanted to talk about the Korean dramas that I’ve watched recently, in case anyone else would like to try this method for staying sane.

Strong Girl Bong-soon

(Watched via the Viki app)

My first K drama! I will always have a special place in my heart for this show. It stars Park Bo-young, Park Hyung-sik, and Ji Soo. I described it on a previous blog post like this:

Bong Soon is a girl with superhuman strength, but she wants to make video games and has a crush on her childhood friend. She gets a job as a bodyguard to a video game CEO, and then there’s a creepy kidnapper in her neighbourhood, and gangsters, and family drama. There was definitely a lot going on, but it was fantastic. And the soundtrack is excellent!

This show is A Lot, but in the best way. It made me laugh out loud several times, and I really liked that there was a bit of a creepy element to it! I also loved the romance, and the soundtrack is A+.

Touch Your Heart

(Watched via the Viki app)

This was a very fun, fluffy romcom starring Yoo In-na and Lee Dong-wook. She’s an actress trying to make a comeback following a scandal, and he’s an uptight lawyer, and she takes a job as his legal secretary as research for a movie role she’s hoping to get, but sparks fly and it’s so fun! It’s very cute, funny, and I loved the subplots with the supporting cast.

Strangers From Hell / Hell Is Other People

(Streamed via OnDemandKorea website)

This is a very different show from the first two! It stars Im Si-wan and Lee Dong-wook, and is a really strange, creepy psychological horror about a young man who moves into a rooming house and everyone there is weird, and people go missing, and I binged this one pretty quickly.

This was very much my kind of show, but definitely not for everyone!

Kingdom

(Streaming on Netflix)

I’ve only seen the first few episodes, but this show has zombies, so I’m definitely into it! It’s a historical drama staring Ju Ji-hoon, Bae Doo-na, Kim Sung-kyu, and Kim Sang-ho.

There’s palace intrigue, sword fighting, great scenery, and of course zombies! Season two is on Netflix now so I have more of this show to look forward to!

Crash Landing On You

(Streaming on Netflix)

I’ve only seen the first two episodes of this show, but I am into it! It stars Hyun Bin and Son Ye-jin. He plays a North Korean army officer and she plays a South Korean heiress who accidentally ends up in North Korea. He discovers her in the DMZ, and shelters her while they figure out how to get her back to South Korea. I am waiting for them to fall in love!

Guardian: The Lonely and Great God / Goblin

(Watching via the Viki app)

I’m only three episodes into this show, but I can already tell that I’m going to love it. It stars my two favourites, Gong Yoo and Lee Dong-wook, and Kim Go-eun. Gong Yoo plays a man who is immortal and cursed, Kim Go-eun plays a girl who might be able to save him from the curse, and Lee Dong-wook is a grim reaper and also his roommate. It’s so so good already!

I have several more K dramas on my To Watch list, and I can’t wait to see them!

Week In Review

I’m on vacation this week coming up, which looks like good timing in terms of Covid 19 happenings. I will happily self-isolate and stay home with my books, Netflix, TTMIK lessons, and Nintendo. I hope everyone is staying smart and safe out there!

New books:

Not that I need an excuse to buy books, but with vacation and self-isolation on the horizon, I stocked up on some ebooks:

Magic for Liars, Sarah Gailey;

When We Were Magic, Sarah Gailey;

Saint X, Alexis Schaitkin;

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, K.J. Parker; and

Tash Hearts Tolstoy, Kathryn Ormsbee.

Books read:

I only finished two books this past week, bringing my total for the year to 39:

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid, Kate Hattemer; and

Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Erin Yun (e-ARC).

Current reads:

I’ve just started to read an e-ARC of The Silence of Bones by June Hur, and I’m planning to start reading my library copy of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas later today.

Posts:

I shared two reviews this past week: The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen, and In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.

Time for some books, coffee and K dramas (currently watching Touch Your Heart and Crash Landing On You!). Happy Sunday!

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