Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | A Book Review

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay | A Book Review by iamnotabookworm!

I got this book from Netgalley. Just by the title alone, my attention was already captured. Like all readers, I too am curious and enamored by Jane Austen's works. Who wouldn't, right? I haven't read a lot of Miss Austen's books. So far, I've only read Pride and Prejudice. I have to read more of her books, especially after reading this book. It got me curious about the other characters in her books mentioned here. I would try to include her books in my TBR this year. 

Have you seen the movie of Keri Russel, Austenland? This book is a lot like the movie. The characters here traveled to Bath, England to immerse in all things Austen. Wear costumes, play a character of Austen's in her novels, and get to live in a mansion which is like a set in the time of Austen's stories. This is a different kind of vacation. A getaway from the daily stress and grind and live in Austen's world and characters for a week or so and forget about modern day troubles. 

The main character in this book is Mary Davies. She's a very talented and creative industrial engineer. She works in a company she loves and she loves her job even more. She also enjoys working with the adorable, hilarious, and intelligent consultant at their office, who also seemed to be taken with Mary. Everything seems to be working out with Mary until her pet and most beloved project failed. The costs and the failure of that project is threatening Mary to lose her job. One other thorn in her side is her childhood best friend, Isabel, who had invited her to go on a two-week vacation to Bath, England. This vacation may be what Mary needs in order to relieve some stress at work and probably put some things into perspective.

I really enjoyed the story. Mary Davies is one very lovable character. I think I can relate to Mary in many ways. She's a nerd but a very impressive nerd with her talent in creating gizmos and gadgets. I also love her special talent of creating animals and stuff from electrical wires. She is a modern inventor and she loves what she's doing. Mary reminded me of my frustration of wanting to be an engineer. Deep within, I always wanted to be one. A computer engineer. I am tech-savvy and how I ended up in Accounting is a story which I might have told in one of my posts here. Maybe, in my next life, I could be that or I can still be one. It's never too late for anything, right? Anyway, I love Accounting too. Thinking back, I also couldn't think of not having done that. 

The other important character here is Isabel. I honestly hate her just by the descriptions and the stories Mary has related about her. She has not been a good best friend to Mary but she had her moments too. And once you get a picture of Isabel's life, you will feel sorry for her. The same way Mary's Mom and Dad had taken in Isabel like a real daughter, you too will feel like making allowances for Isabel's very unforgivable flaws. In the end, at least, she found her spot and eventually got out from under her father's claws and was able to live a life of freedom. Freedom to be herself and be happy. By end of the story, I still did not love Isabel but I came to understand her character more. She represents a lot of real persons in my life. Some, I am still friends with to this day and some have been a part of my life and have done me some torment of some kind. Hopefully, like Isabel, they too will find happiness so they would stop making other people as miserable as they are.

Nathan, a.k.a TCG. I just love him. He might just be the guy I want to have in real life. He's sensitive, smart, and caring. The thing I love about him the most is the fact that he wasn't sure if Mary even feels the same way about him. In a way, he's clueless and that is so cute for someone who works as a consultant who's supposed to be so intelligent and smart and should be able to notice nuances about people. I guess, not all nuances because he never read Mary's signals clearly and the same goes for Mary too. Good thing, these two were finally able to get everything cleared out. I think they complement each other. 

There are a lot of very memorable parts in the story. I would never forget the part when Clara said, "Sense and Senseless" instead of Sense and Sensibility. That really cracked me up. Also, the part about Mary pointing out that Austen hated Mary's. "She hated all the Mary's the same way she hated Bath." That was a very smart observation and realization which made me more curious to actually read all of Austen's stories with Mary's in them. I can relate to Austen. I too have a name or names I would associate with a mean person. I did meet a few people with the same name and they proved to be different so, they are exemptions to that. 

The story pointed out a lot of truths about relationships and human nature. I had to nod my  head a lot of times in agreement to a lot of the statements. There were also some that hit like cold water on the face. It hurts to accept but they're true. The same way, Mary felt about a lot of realities and realizations that dawned on her brought about by her stay in Bath. 

I love the book and I'm sure I'm going to start looking for books of Katherine Reay. I need to read more of her books, the same way I felt I've missed a lot not having read a lot of Austen. With that said, obviously I'm giving this book 5/5 wire animals. In a lot of ways, I can relate to Mary. I felt I could just be her in this story. There are a lot of similarities especially about work. And I felt the same disappointment and sadness when it dawned on Mary that Austen did not like Mary's and what all the Mary's represent to her. Whether, they'd be the characters in her book which are representations of maybe real persons in Austen's life. Knowing that her namesake may have done Austen some injustice or grave ill, somehow affected Mary the same way as if she shares some blame. I had one co-worker who honestly told me that he didn't like my name. He said my name reminds him of someone or some not so nice experience. I appreciated his honesty. It wasn't that he did not like me but I understand what he meant. He's uncomfortable that I remind him of something he doesn't want to be reminded of. I too don't like my name. If I were given the chance, I would have named myself something else. This story also reminded me of the animated story by Disney- Home on the Range. It's about farm animals, cows to be exact, who had banded together to save their farm "Little Patch of Heaven." I really love one of the songs on the OST- "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again." So, this story reminded me of a lot of different things and it's very honest and real, even if a lot of metaphors and things about Austen are used in here. It is a very relevant story which examines a lot about the different relationships we have. Just as Austen's stories are like a study on human behavior and human nature, this story too tackled that subject. I am so fortunate that I found this book and Miss Reay. Thank you again, Netgalley.

No one wants to be third choice, even if they couldn't care less about being any choice.
- Katherine Reay, The Austen Escape - 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dangerous Secrets by Melanie Paige | A Book Review

Dangerous Secrets by Melanie Paige | A Book Review by iamntoabookworm!

Happy New Year everyone! 

It's been about three weeks since my last review. Yes, I too was busy during the holidays and also because I also started a new online job last December. That took a lot of time from my reading and of course, writing reviews. I'm still trying to find the best way, in order to be able to reach my quota and still get to read books after each shift. But nevertheless, I am happy to be busy and earning without having to commute and getting stressed with being caught in traffic, but I also missed talking to people face to face and meeting new friends. 

Anyway, I will continue to keep up with work and at the same time, read and post reviews. My reviews to be written have started to pile up and I hope it doesn't get as high as my TBR. My wish for 2018, since resolutions are so overrated, to continue to meet new authors and be introduced to new characters and stories and discover new worlds. My real life is shaping up better and I am optimistic that great things are in store for me this year. And I guess, a part of the strength to survive 2017 came from the stories that had came my way. Without them, I am not sure where I would be honestly. So, to all the authors, publishers and the book gods, thank you and may a lot more people join our lifestyle.

My first review for 2018 is Dangerous Secrets. I read this last month but as I have said, I had my hands full and was having a hard time trying to squeeze in some reading time, harder still to sit down and write a review. I know you all share the same sentiment. 

I got this book through Instagram in August of last year. Yes, you don't have to state the obvious. It took me 4 months after to get to the book and then another month to review. Yes. I am embarrassed to admit but I am falling way behind on my review requests. That's why, I just try to make it up on my reviews. I make sure that they're as objective and as honest as possible. And here it comes.

This is my first time to read a book of this author. Honestly, I haven't met the author until she sent me a DM on Instagram. Thank the book gods for that. The title would suggest some mysterious story or a thriller plot line. Yes, in a way those elements are in the story but the it has a lot more than that. I think I read the blurb, but when I started reading the book I have forgotten what the book was about. And that often happens to me. I often forgot what the blurb was and that would add to the excitement and the curiosity which helps set the mood for me at the beginning of the story. The same happened for this book. I didn't know that I would meet very interesting characters in here. To be honest, when you realize the type of creatures that are in this book, you will probably think of Twilight. Yes, vampires and werewolves. But, Twilight never once came to mind when I was reading the story. It only came to me now, while drafting this review. The similarities between Twilight and Dangerous Secrets stopped at vampires and werewolves. Just that.

Until now, just reading the title, the first thing that still comes to mind is a mystery and a thriller story. It's the title. It conveys that kind of message but when you read the book, you will be surprised that it's a totally different danger and secrets that it was referring too. I love it. I love that it somehow, not really mislead but it's not obvious also. It's subtle. In truth, the title sums up what the story is about. It fits but it also makes anyone curious. I know, I often talk about how the titles of books appear to me. It has become my thing to scrutinize and judge the title. How it makes me feel? Did it impress me? It's always the first thing that anyone notices aside from the cover. But to me, the title is the biggest thing because in just a few words, it has to convince me or anyone to pick it up and burrow into its contents. And I think, this title did the job.

The story revolves around Jennifer Anderson's life and her sister Hayley. They were just orphaned. Their parents died in a car accident and it was up to Jennifer now to support her sister and herself. Jennifer's life was mostly centered on Hayley and how to make ends meet until the King brothers moved in across the street. From here on, their lives will never ever be the same again. Not ever.

This is a classic example of curiosity killed the cat. Here, it almost went that way. Hayley's weird curiosity and suspicion about the new neighbors brought about the unexpected change in her and Jennifer's life. And those changes were really overwhelming. Literally, life-changing at it's best. Jennifer is literally and figuratively, the epicenter of this whole influx of new information and truths about her family and her parents. If I were Jennifer it would have been amazing to find out that there's more to me and that I still have family out there. That they were not alone. They still have relatives alive but with way the truths were revealed, was just not the best timing. And same with anyone else's normal reaction when confronted with the truth, Jen was more confused and overwhelmed. Good thing, we have Aidan to the rescue. 

The revelations in the story came in stages. Not everything was revealed at once in one go which is what I liked. I never thought installments would be good but it was so done nicely here that you can't help but kept being surprised every time a new revelation is dished out. I never expected each one. Honestly, nothing is obvious at all in this story, except, the thing about Jen and Aidan. Other than that, I could not anticipate any of the next scenes or chapters. I lived the story page after page. I was drawn in chapter by chapter as the whole story was given to me in piecemeal. And I enjoyed every second of it. It was not done in a one-time-big-time-grand-explosion-kind-of-thing but it was done with great care, precision and absolute unexpected suspense. I had no idea how the story will turn out but I was just happy where it took me. I enjoyed the ride.

Each character had a mystery to them. As the story unravels, the characters are bared out little by little. Each one has a hidden secret but you will never suspect it. Each character is introduced with mystery surrounding them but very subtle that it seems not there at all. It was definitely a surprise when that mystery was uncovered. It was just like that for me. I was astounded to find the hidden connections of one character to the other. Each character, no matter how small,  was given a scene where s/he was the center, which doesn't really happen in a lot of books. Each character was given her/his moment, although, moment could mean not really something grand but rather a chance to be able to get a better understanding of that character. I liked that part of the book too.

Because I really enjoyed the story, I give it 4/5 bags of animal blood. I'm not trying to be disgusting but the whole story jumped off from this thing, so I feel it's just fitting. I look forward to reading the next book and the other stories from the same author. I am pleased to meet you Miss Melanie Paige and I am so thankful for you for reaching out to me in Instagram and be given the opportunity to read your book. I am all in this with Jen and the King Brothers, I want to take down the hunters too. Disband them and destroy them all. I also love the historical background of the story. How this war between hunters and the supernatural beings started is a very solid and well-thought out foundation for the story. Good job on that one! I am looking forward to get to know more of the King brothers. I am not sure yet if I liked Aidan the most or Elliot. I like brooding, responsible, and dependable guys but I also like smart IT and creative techie guys. I hope the next book will help me with that.

I have lived a very long time, seen wars begin and end throughout history, both supernatural and human. The thing is, it doesn't matter who the last one standing is, because in the end, no one truly wins a war.
- Melanie Paige, Dangerous Secrets -

Thank you again, Melanie Paige for the copy.

Monday, January 8, 2018

2017 Reading Challenges Summary - Success or Fail

Last year, I decided to put some spice into my reading and joined a few book reading challenges and see if I were up to them. 

Here are the 7 challenges that I participated in and the results and of course the excuses for not having completed some of the challenges. Whether valid or not, it's up to you to decide. I won't mind. 

First off, I am proud to say that I have finished, completed and surpassed the number of books I set to read in the Goodreads Reading Challenge again this year. I set up 100 books and I finished the year with...
Drum roll please....

219! Yey! This is a great improvement also from last year's 146/70 books.

Next is the POP Sugar Reading Challenge. This is my first time to join this challenge. The challenge is to read books per each category. For example, a book recommended by a librarian. There were 52 categories and I actually checked off 31. That's 60% completion which is more than half, but I think is still a fail. Generally, especially in school, the passing rate is 75% and if that were the same benchmark for this then, I failed and I am bound to repeat this challenge to move on. But instead of doing the challenge over again, like listing down new set of books to read. I decided to just continue the challenge this year and read those on the list that I was not able to read. That way, I could still say I finished the challenge but just not within a year.

This is also my first to participate in this challenge. Like the Pop Sugar, this challenge also have categories and you have to list the books of your choices for each category. There were 7 categories and I wrote almost 2 books for each. In total, I listed 12 books and read 11 of them. Yes! I finished 92% of the Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge which is really great. Unfortunately, I missed one book which is Quack by TJ Slee. Again, just like the Pop Sugar, I'll make sure to prioritize this book in my TBR this 2018.

The 4th reading challenge I signed up for was the Retellings Reading Challenge. As the title of the challenge suggests, this involved reading retellings of a classic stories, fairy tales or whatever. To be able to come up with my list, I search for the book titles in Goodreads and came up with 14 titles. The challenge has 4 levels. Each level contains the number of books that you finished. So, as you finished more books, you get to progress to the next level. I only finished 4 books, which is 25% and which just puts in the Easy level. Well, this is my first time so maybe, I'll be more fortunate this year and strive to read the rest on my list. 

Like the Retellings Challenge, the Banned/Challenged Books Reading Challenge also have 4 levels. This challenge involved reading books that have been removed from circulation or tagged as banned or being challenge because of the content of the book such as racial discrimination, sensitive themes and other things. You can click on the picture and it will bring you to the challenge and explain it throughly. I would admit that I am, in a way a rebel. I would be more curious to read a book if it was listed as a banned or challenge book. To site an example, I will tell you about a story when I was back in college about one book, which according to our Theology teacher is not fit for reading yet for our young minds and with fragile faith. This book is the Hiram Key. It talks about Jesus Christ and some revelations about him, like he was a hunchback and other stuff. This book was supposed to be born out of years of research by the authors. Well, I did not head the warning of my professor. I actually bought the book years after when I already started working. I read the book and it didn't change or affected my faith in any way. I also did not believe all the things the books said. It was a curious book but then, it's up to the reader to also challenge and question the things that the book purports to be. For me, I filed the book as historical fiction. It did not any way change my image of Jesus Christ, much less my belief in someone more powerful and in control of all these things going on in the universe. I realized that this book would be the first of many other books I would like to read because I was told not to. I actually read the sequel of this book which is The Book of Hiram and I haven't finished it to this day, because it was getting a bit boring. It was more of enumerating some facts and names and not done like the first one which was a in story form. The second book was a bit like reading a research or term paper. 

Anyway, back to the challenge. I listed 20 books that were banned or challenged according to The American Library Association. I finished 8 and to be honest, I didn't read any of them in 2017. I've read them years before. I don't know if that still counts because this was supposed to be a challenge for the year 2017. But anyway, this is my blog so I think I can just ignore that technicality. So, I finished 67% of this challenge and 8 books put me on the 3rd level for this challenge, which is:

  • Read 7-12 books. You are a Blow-up fire. Sudden increase in fire intensity strong enough to upset control plans.
We'll see if I can finish the rest of the list in 2018.

The next challenge is the 24in48 Readathon. This is done twice in year. I joined 2016's challenge and read 7 books in 24 within a 48 hour period. And that's exactly what the challenge is--to read as many books as you can in 24 hours but you have 2 days to do that. So, it's up to you how you pace yourself within the two days to be able to read in 24 hours. So, in the 2017 Winter Readathon, which was in the January 22-23, I was able to read 3 books. Yes, only 3 which is just so-so and way below my performance in 2016 if I have to compare the two. And since it's January already, I think this challenge will again happen and I haven't decided if I want to join or not since I jut got a new job. I haven't done a lot of reading and reviewing lately and allotting 24 hours to just read is way too much for me right now. I might pass on this challenge for now.

The last challenge is the Back to the Classics Challenge. Just to tell you, I love the classics. In fact, I have bought a few books of Shakespeare and some other classic writers but unfortunately, some of them are still unread up to this moment. I bought most of them from a second-hand bookstore. And since these are already old stories, I think they can wait a few more for me to get to them. With that said, I did not read any of the 19 books I listed which are I think what I have on my shelf. Yes, it is an EPIC FAIL and I am too ashamed to admit that. I did start Wuthering Heights but I did not finish it. Hopefully, as I have said, I will be able to read and check off the list this year.

So, that was how challenged I was in my reading in 2017, not to mention the list of authors who have requested me to review their books. I still owe some of them and hopefully, before the first quarter ends, I will be able to email them back of the good news that I have read and posted a review of their books. I was way behind last December and of course, that will carry over this January and add more to my already towering TBR pile. But then again, this is reading we are talking about. This is my favorite thing in the world, so this won't be a challenge at all. More like I need a longer day or year.

Happy New Year everyone and may this 2018 bring us more opportunities to improve and challenge ourselves. Whether they'd be books, movies, or situations. May we be like the heroes and heroines in the stories that we have read, who rose up to the challenges and proved everyone wrong. I am very very positive that this year is a great year for me. The sort of fog that has enveloped me for the past 3 years or longer, has slowly dissipated. Last December was one of the clearest days I ever had and I will continue to have those kind of days. To finally wake up each day with a purpose and to actually feel empowered to make things better and work toward my goals. So, to all of us, best of luck and have a great year this 2018. I am sure I am going to have it. You should too! Picture it and claim it!

Be sure to click each picture to visit the individual links for each challenge and see more details.