Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Monday (8)

Music Monday is a weekly event hosted by Lauren over at Always Me.  Every Monday, you share one or two of your favorite songs you've been enjoying that week to help other people discover new music!  Here are my picks for this week:

I've been loving a lot of new music lately so I thought I'd share some with ya'll!  Like I mentioned in my December Wrap-Up, I've been mostly listening to The Greatest Showman, Les Mis, and Beauty and the Beast soundtracks as well as Taylor Swift's new album.  Here are a few of my absolute favorites!

Never Enough - Loren Allred

This is one of my favorite songs from The Greatest Showman soundtrack (the other being Tightrope)!  Loren Allred's vocal range perfectly matches my own and I love singing along with this song.

Javert's Suicide - Russell Crowe

I absolutely love this song.  It's so full of agony and perfectly represents Javert's torn self.  It also helps that Russell Crowe's voice is perfect for it!

How Does a Moment Last Forever - Celine Dion

This is a song from the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack that I've been listening to on repeat (along with Evermore).  Celine Dion's voice is perfect for this song and this message and I love it!

I Did Something Bad - Taylor Swift

This is a song from Taylor Swift's new album, Reputation.  I like a number of the songs on the album, but this is one of my favorites!

Have you heard any of these songs before?  Any favorites?  What have you been listening to recently?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Advance Review Sunday: Wicked Charm by Amber Hart

Standalone to date

Release Date: January 30th, 2018

"Nothing good comes from living in the Devil's swamp.Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn't half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.

Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.

Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwell—the bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.

But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there's something else that draws Willow to him.

When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they're leading to her own death."

This was such a struggle to put a star rating on this.  On one hand, there's a lot of bark but no bite.  On the other, what is there is lovely in it's own right.  Regardless, I have a lot to say about this.

1.  The characters.  Elaborating on what I said above, it's made very clear that Beau Cadwell is this horrible person who uses girls and then dumps them with no warning.  However, this isn't really shown.  From what we see of Beau, he's a genuine human being with some commitment issues (which isn't uncommon at all for anyone).  Aside from one story, this isn't really made apparent.  Therefore it isn't entirely believable.  Conversely, what we do get to know of Beau (both from Willow's interactions with him and from his POV sections) is very real and understandable and relatable.  Moving onto Willow, I really liked her character for the most part.  The way the author wrote her dialogue really transported me into the Southern US.  The supporting characters are also very well done.

2.  The plot.  First and foremost, this is a love story, not a murder mystery.  The murders are used as a vehicle to further Willow and Beau's relationship.  That being said, it is a sweet relationship.  The blurb is slightly misleading in this regard.  Beau is a suspect for all of 4 minutes and then he's cleared and it's quite obvious that he's going to be cleared.  The real mystery is who is actually murdering all these people and to what end.  Because the romance is placed before this, there isn't a whole lot of suspense built in but that doesn't mean it was boring.  This reads more as a casual romance.  You won't be unable to put it down, but it is well-structured all the same.

3.  The romance.  I have one main issue here: instalove (or at least instalust).  It's the whole deal of the main girl looks out the window, sees main boy and instantly is taken under his spell and can't stop staring at him.  And from then on, neither main boy or girl can stop thinking about the other.  Personally, I find this trope a little tiresome.  While the romance is sweet, it also moves pretty fast (nearly reaching third base on their first kiss), especially for two high schoolers.  This is mostly personal preference.

4.  The writing (and it's relation to setting).  This author does such a great job of using aromatic and atmospheric language to describe setting.  I could almost feel the damp air of the swamp and see the constant ebb and flow of water in and out.  I only have one grievance: the prevalence of the word 'wicked'.  I understand it's part of the theme (and the title, obviously), but it got to be a little repetitive.

The Final Verdict:
While this book wasn't all I expected it to be, it's lovely in it's own right.
3.5 stars

Friday, January 19, 2018

50/50 Friday (68): Book With Most Complex/Straightfoward Plot Structure

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Book With Most Complex/Straightforward Plot Structure

I just had to include two books for this category.  The first for being so complex it was generally confusing and the second for being more manageably complex.

Maximum Ride #8

"Maximum Ride and her faithful friends stand ready to face the two greatest threats that humankind has ever known--now combining forces in an unbeatable plot to destroy life as we know it once and for all. And this time, the enemy truly can't be stopped. The danger mounts just as the boy genetically engineered to be her "perfect match", Dylan, has finally worked his way into Max's heart--and just as her beloved Fang unexpectedly returns to the flock. An explosive confrontation between the two boys with a claim to Max's heart ensues, and the entire world hangs in the balance.

In this powerful and moving latest sequel in James Patterson's epic fantasy series, fans will finally get the answers they've been waiting for--and an ending full of shock, surprises, and the greatest conclusion you never saw coming."

This book was just complex in all of the wrong places.  Honestly, there is so much going on in this book that I got completely lost.  A lot of what happens doesn't address what happened in the previous books and what does happen is really convoluted.  I don't know, maybe I missed some essential piece but I got so turned around while reading this.

Standalone to date

"One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, The Known World is a daring and ambitious work by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones.

The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can't uphold the estate's order, and chaos ensues. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities."

Maybe it's because I read this while analyzing it (for a university course) but this is a much more manageable complexity.  As a reader, you're following like 4 or 5 different full-length, full-strength plot lines along with countless secondary plotlines.  There's a cast of about 20 important characters as well that you have to keep track of.  However, everything relates to everything else very well and there's a unifying theme that's going on.  Still, it's quite a handful and isn't something to be read alongside two other books if that's your style.


Me Before You #1

"Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?"

This novel has one of the more simplistic plotlines I've seen in my day.  It's basically just an exploration of Louisa and Will's relationship with no real other secondary plotlines (significant, anyway, and most of them are related to the primary plotline).  This is far from a bad thing.  The simplicity allows you to really immerse in their feelings for each other and makes it a very aromatic book as opposed to a complex, intellectual book.  The simplicity conveys a more emotional intelligence and feeling.

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  Do you prefer complex or straightforward plot structures?  Make a post and link up down below!

Next Week's Topic: Favorite Book Set in Winter/Summer

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Agatha Christie Review Round Up: Part Five

For my birthday last year, my parents gifted me around 35 Agatha Christie books (mostly from the Hercule Poirot series) and I've made it my mission of January and February to read them all!  There are four previous parts to this series that I've linked below.

Hercule Poirot #22

Rating: 3 stars

"As Elinor Carlisle stands before the Maidensford courts pleading not guilty to murder, her eyes meet those of a total stranger - the only man who believes in her innocence: Hercule Poirot. The case has sparked the interest of the Belgian detective. So have the suspicious events that have doomed Miss Carlisle to an inescapable fate. It began with an anonymous letter, a dying aunt, a handsome inheritance... and poison. Poirot's investigation is about to draw him into the shadows of a deadly family secret, and a mystery that could save a woman's life - or end it... "

This wasn't one of my favorites although it was interesting.  There were a much more limited cast of characters and the clues stood out as extremely obvious to me.  Maybe that's a strange thing to complain about because it made guessing the culprit quite easy, but I love the ones where Poirot picks out seemingly mundane details and is able to explain why they make all the difference.  It was still a very intriguing mystery and it's framed in a different way with the courtroom being the main structure.  This is different than Christie's normal settings and while I can't say that I was overjoyed by it, it did work in a satisfactory manner.  As for the murder itself, I quite liked that as well although it was slightly obvious to me from the beginning the issues with the accused (Elinor's) ability to actually commit the murder.  Again, maybe it's not such a bad thing but I found it to be remarkable obvious.
The Final Verdict:
If you've read fewer detective novels and seen fewer crime shows than I have, you'll enjoy this immensely.  I just couldn't get into it because I knew where it was going.
3 stars

Evil Under the Sun - Agatha Christie

Hercule Poirot #24

Rating: 5 stars

"Set at the Jolly Roger, a posh vacation resort for the rich and famous on the southern coast of England, Evil Under the Sun is one of Agatha Christie’s most intriguing mysteries. When a gorgeous young bride is brutally strangled to death on the beach, only Hercule Poirot can sift through the secrets that shroud each of the guests and unravel the macabre mystery at this playground by the sea."

I loved this book.  It has a largish cast of characters (which is one of my favorite aspects of Agatha Christie books) and the plot kept spinning you in different direction until you finally arrive at the conclusion which, when you arrive, then seems enormously obvious to you.  Another favorite aspect of Agatha Christie's books was also included: the dramatic reveal by Poirot at the end when he gathers all the players together and goes through his case.  Poirot has such a flair for the dramatic and it's really showcased in that moment.  The change of scenery from Poirot's normal crime-solving atmosphere is also interesting and it serves as a little break from all the monotony of inland Europe.
The Final Verdict:
If you've tired of the usual settings of Agatha Christie novels, this is for you.  It has an entirely different feel with the added experience of seeing Poirot relaxing on vacation.
5 stars

Hercule Poirot #25

Rating: 4 stars

"It was an open and shut case. All the evidence said Caroline Crale poisoned her philandering husband, a brilliant painter. She was quickly and easily convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Now, sixteen years later, in a posthumous letter, Mrs. Crale has assured her grown daughter that she was innocent. But instead of setting the young woman's mind at ease, the letter only raises disquieting questions. Did Caroline indeed write the truth? And if she didn't kill her husband, who did?

To find out, the Crale’s daughter asks Hercule Poirot to reopen the case. His investigation takes him deep into the conflicting memories and motivations of the five other people who were with the Crales on the fatal day. With his keen understanding of human psychology, he manages to discover the surprising truth behind the artist's death."

I enjoyed this for several reasons but mainly, it's focus on psychology and how you have to take into consideration the mind of a person before you can affirmatively say they committed murder.  Poirot has each of the players write an account of what happened just before and during the events of the murder and I found what each of the people had to say fascinating.  They each left something out or emphasized something which can tell you a lot about their motivations.  I do wish that Poirot had discussed this more, however, as I ascertained much of it on my own.  And while it's pretty easy to see that Caroline Crale didn't commit the murder (there are several inconsistencies), it's quite the journey to find out what exactly happened and who is responsible.  Poirot did his typical (yet extremely satisfying every time) dramatic unveiling at the end which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Final Verdict:
Once you dig into the psychology and motives, the answer becomes abundantly clear which makes the journey of the book quite lovely indeed.
4 stars

And that's all for now!  Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  Are you a fan of mystery?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review and Release Tuesday: Getting Off: One Woman's Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction by Erica Garza

Standalone to date

"A fiercely courageous account of one woman's unflinching, raw, and ultimately hopeful journey through sex and porn addiction.

For almost two decades, Erica Garza was consumed by a singular, secret, shame-fueled pursuit that threw her life into chaos: orgasm. Back-braced, isolated, and teased in adolescence, and ambivalent about her Catholic upbringing, Garza found a secret solace in masturbation and porn--first by way of the limited softcore viewing offered by late-night cable, and, later, with the booming proliferation of online porn.

In this wrenching, vivid account, Garza explores her sexual fixations and relives the series of disastrous relationships and one-night stands that haunt her as she runs from one side of the world to the other in a futile attempt to break free of her habits―from East Los Angeles to Hawaii and Southeast Asia, through the brothels of Bangkok and the yoga studios of Bali to disappointing stabs at twelve-steps, therapy, and rehab back home.

Garza's terror at digging so deeply into her history to understand her anxieties is palpable, as is her exhilaration when she begins to believe she might just be free of them. And yet there is no false hope or prepackaged sense of redemption. Even her relationship to the man she will ultimately marry is credibly rocky as it finds its legs with several false starts, making her increasing sense of self-acceptance and peace by journey's end feel utterly earned.

In exploring the cultural taboos surrounding sex and porn from a female perspective, Garza offers a brave and necessary voice to our evolving conversations about addiction and the impact that Internet culture has had on young women."

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC review copy.  All opinions expressed are my own.

To preface, I've never reviewed anything like this before.  Normally, I review relatively clean books and I've never reviewed anything that directly confronts sex and porn like this book does.  When a representative from Simon & Schuster approached me for a potential review, however, I felt that it was an important topic to take on.  I'd also like to mention, that if you are someone who suffers from this same addiction, a trigger warning is in order.  I would also suggest 18+.

1.  The content (the journey itself).  The first portion of the blurb is beyond true.  This book offers a good long look through a window into the house of sex addiction and it's probably a house not many have seen unless they've become trapped into the house themselves.  Quite honestly, I found myself crying at one point because what the author has chosen to reveal is heartbreaking.  Personally, I don't know too much about addiction of any kind so the feelings the author expresses are all new to me.  She walks you through her shame and guilt and feelings of worthlessness which is so hard to read.  I think Garza did a fantastic job of illuminating her personal struggle through these feelings and her journey of coming to understand herself and accept herself.

2.  The cultural implications.  One aspect I'd like to mention before I get to far into this review are the cultural implications of a woman addressing her own sex addiction.  As Garza states in the book (and backs up with evidence), sex addiction is often seen as a man's problem and one that isn't really taken too seriously (at least, not as seriously as drug or alcohol addiction) and it isn't as nearly widely publicized for many reasons.  Our culture today is still struggling to break free of the idea that only a man's pleasure counts during sex and sex is predominantly a man's world.  This novel addresses this in several scenes which I found to be particularly relevant.

3.  The big picture.  The only large issue I had with the book was, in fact, the big picture.  The blurb promises a book that will link the struggles of one woman to the larger issue of sex addiction itself and how the Internet plays into this.  While Garza does refer to several studies and mentions these big picture ideas once or twice, I found the supposed connection flimsy and inadequate.  Her personal narrative is compelling, but her connection with the rest of the puzzle wasn't enough for me.

The Final Verdict:
Though this is different from anything else I've read, I'm glad to have experienced it.  The narration is poignant and very near flawless though the focus seemed to be only on a single puzzle piece.
4 stars

Sunday, January 14, 2018

December Wrap-Up

December is finally over and with it, 2017 has also come and gone.  It's kind of strange that a whole year has passed since the dreaded 2016... In any case, I'll be doing a whole year end wrap up in a week or so (when I get my life together enough to pull together ALL the stats).  For this post, I'll be focusing on the lovely month of December.


Number of Pages Read: 4,661

Total Books Read: 16
Rereads: 6
Reviews Posted: 7

Distribution of Ratings:
5 star: 8
4-4.5 star: 5
3-3.5 star: 3
2-2.5 star: 0
1-1.5 star: 0

Numbers of Authors Read: 8
Number of Series Book Read: 12
Number of Stand-Alones: 4

The Books:
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica (4.5) (Review to come)
Artemis - Andy Weir (5 - possibly subject to change) (Review)
The One and Only - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#4.5) (4) (Review to come)
Series Extras - Jennifer L. Armentrout (Covenant series) (4) (Review to come)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz (3.5) (Review)
Rebellion - Molly Patterson (5) (Review to come)
Cards on the Table - Agatha Christie (#15) (4.5) (Review)
Appointment with Death - Agatha Christie (#19) (3) (Review)
A Holiday for Murder - Agatha Christie (#20) (4) (Review)
Sad Cypress - Agatha Christie (#22) (3) (Review to come)

This was an interesting month.  I've finally been able to get back into reading some non-rereads which is lovely but I still haven't entirely gotten out of my review slump.  Hence the many 'review to come's.  The Good Girl was a very good thriller.  It seem like something else entirely as you're going through the book, but then, once you get to the end, there's this major twist that turns everything you think you know on it's head.  It's gorgeous, really.  I have mixed feelings about Artemis.  When I first read it, I was blown away by the science (like in The Martian) but then, as I reread sections and read other reviews, I noticed that I had almost entirely ignored the fact of genuine character development.  There will be a new review out soon with a revised ratings and more of an explanation.  I came upon The One and Only and Series Extras almost entirely by accident.  I've been rereading the Covenant series by JLA and when I was going back and looking at the series on Goodreads, I found those two short stories!  They're both great additions to the series for any fan although they're necessary to the plot.  If you're looking for more of Aiden's POV, that's where you'll get it!  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was interesting, I'll give it that.  However, I found the whole point of it to be rather obscure and ambiguous.  It did give me a chance to practice my Spanish, though, and the cultural immersion is really poignant.  I read Rebellion after I heard the author would be having an event in my area and I'm so glad I did!  It weaves together four different stories that are connected by both theme and literal biological connections which I found was very interesting and fun to figure out as the novel progressed.  Cards on the Table is the first Agatha Christie book I read for winter break and it was an interesting one to start out with.  It isn't Christie's usual set-up but I found I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I followed that up with Appointment with Death which, admittedly, wasn't one of my favorite Christie novels.  It just wasn't very memorable for me and the ending was slightly disappointing.  A Holiday for Murder was slightly better.  There's a great twist at the end and even though it was slightly out of left field, it wasn't entirely inconceivable.  Sad Cypress was my last read of the month and again, it was just okay.  This one I didn't enjoy as much merely because everything seemed incredibly obvious to me which kind of took away a lot of enjoyment I normally get from Christie's books.

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers  (#1) (5) (Review)
Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas (#1) (5) (Review)
Half-Blood - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#1) (5) (Review)

Pure - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#2) (5) (Review to come)
Deity - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#3) (5) (Review to come)
Elixir - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#3.5) (5) (Review to come)

It was also an excellent month for rereads.  These are all some of my favorite books to reread.  Currently, I'm still rereading Apollyon (#4 in the Covenant series) but I'm hoping to finish rereading the series soon.  Of course, like HP, the ending is the saddest part.  I'm also rereading the Throne of Glass series right now.  I still haven't decided whether I'm going to adjust my ratings for any of the Covenant books but I don't think I will just yet.  I still enjoyed them and they have their own place in my heart.  Do take note, if you read these reviews, that I wrote them a very long time ago so they're a little less than eloquent!

Currently Reading:
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie (#35)

I'm currently on an Agatha Christie binge and I've been posting review round ups with three books each .  I don't know what it is about them but they're very addicting!  I've literally just picked this one up (I'm on the first page) so I have no impressions so far.

Christmas in Evergreen
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song
Get Smart
Safe Haven
Roman Holiday
Marry Me At Christmas
A December Bride
The Hunt for Red October
Mulan 2
Clear and Present Danger
A Christmas Prince
Bridget Jones's Diary
American Made
American Assassin
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
2 Guns
The Greatest Showman

As you can probably tell, this month was a great month for movies.  A couple of these are rewatches (Mulan, Mulan 2, Safe Haven, Christmas Vacation, The Hunt for Red October, and Clear and Present Danger) but the rest were my first time seeing them.  I'm not going to go into too much detail, but my favorite movie this month has to be The Greatest Showman.  If you haven't seen it yet, it's completely worth it to see it in theaters with the big screen and surround sound.  The visuals and the soundtrack are beautiful.  Another favorite was Arrival.  Again, the visuals and the soundtrack are wonderful and the cinematography is gorgeous.  Roman Holiday is a nice, cutesy old black and white movie.  Bridget Jones's Diary is hilarious and it's perfect for a girl's night in!  The two Hallmark movies were equally cutesy and perfect for the Christmas season.  A Christmas Prince is as laughable as you've been hearing.  There are some seriously questionable practices going on but it actually makes it kind of ridiculously hilarious.  American Made, American Assassin, and 2 Guns were all adequate action movies.  My favorite out of the three would have to be American Made.  I didn't love them, but they were pretty good.  Get Smart was pretty funny and the cast is an interesting combination.

On the Blog:

50/50 Friday:
50/50 Friday (61): Favorite/Least Favorite Book Read in November
50/50 Friday (62): Newest/Oldest Book You Own
50/50 Friday (63): Favorite/Least Favorite Sidekick
50/50 Friday (64): Favorite/Least Favorite Christmas-Themed Book
50/50 Friday (65): Favorite/Least Favorite Christmas/Winter-Related Trope

Wrap Ups:
November Wrap-Up

Music Mondays:
Music Monday (7)

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir
English Course Mini Review Round Up: Part 1
English Course Review Round Up: Part 2
English Course Review Round Up: Part 3

A Guide:
A Guide: The Wonders of Images

Life Updates:
As for TV shows that I've been loving, I've mostly been sticking to Criminal Minds and Pretty Little Liars.  Because of all this reading and movie watching, there hasn't been too much time for TV watching.  I'm currently starting season 6 of Pretty Little Liars and I'm in the middle of season 8 of Criminal Minds.

I officially finished my third semester of college right at the end of December and my final exams went better than I could have hoped!  I ended up with a 4.0 (the highest you can get) for the semester which is excellent and exactly what I needed.  Now, I just need to worry about scholarships and such so I can pay for my next year of university.  I'm not able to work over winter break (where I worked in the summer didn't want me back for the month so I'll be dallying about the house, seeing friends, knitting, sewing, reading, and watching Netflix.

I've been listening to so much new music I'm going to just do another Music Monday this Monday!  As an overview, though, I've been loving The Greatest Showman's soundtrack, the Les Mis soundtrack, the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack, and Taylor Swift's new album, Reputation.

Mostly, I spent the month studying and spending time with family for the holiday's!

I hope your December was just as great as mine!  Have you read any of these books or seen any of these movies?  What did you think of them?  Do you have a preference between watching movies or TV shows?  I hope you all have a lovely January!

Friday, January 12, 2018

50/50 Friday (67): Best/Worst Book Read in 2017

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst Book Read in 2017

Since there are so many books I loved this year, I picked the one book that I'll be the most likely to reach for a reread first in 2018.  I'll be compiling a more complete list in my yearly wrap up!

Robert Langdon #2

Review to come!

"A fascinating and absorbing thriller -- perfect for history buffs, conspiracy nuts, puzzle lovers or anyone who appreciates a great, riveting story.

While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci -- clues visible for all to see -- yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion -- an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci, among others.

In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate their every move. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory's ancient secret -- and an explosive historical truth -- will be lost forever.

The Da Vinci Code heralds the arrival of a new breed of lightning-paced, intelligent thriller utterly unpredictable right up to its stunning conclusion."

This was a close tie between this and Caraval but I think I'll end up reaching for this one first.  I loved Caraval, but I think I'll want to savor my initial read and only reread it right before the sequel is released.  As for this book, I loved the chase and the puzzle solving concept.  The actual solution is something I would have never thought of.  Hopefully I'll be able to read the rest of this series soon!

I had a few 2 star ratings this year but again, I'm going to pick the book that I feel was the weakest and I wouldn't really want to reread.

Standalone to date

"The United States is under siege! 
A devastating new bacterial disease sweeps across the states on the west coast and saps its victims of their own free will. Four strangers must work together to survive a mad dash across the United States to find safety in the nation’s capital. The outbreak chases them from their homes on the west coast, and they struggle to reach the capital before the disease does. When they arrive, danger rears its ugly head again, and the four must race against time to save not only themselves, but the entire country from destruction. The Departed is a story filled with the unlikeliest of heroes, who must find hope even when things look hopeless."

I just mainly had two issues with this book.  For one, I just couldn't get into the writing style.  It may be great for someone else, but I just couldn't get into it.  It's kind of like the text that used to be on Nintendo SP or Advance games (those 'real' life role play games).  I just prefer more lyrical writing.  Additionally, the geographic path the characters took was a little skewed.  The concept is really cool, but I just couldn't bring myself to give it any more than 2 stars.

Have you read either of these?  What did you think of them?  Are you a fan of books with puzzles and ciphers?  Were you a 90s kid with a Nintendo and if so, what was your favorite game?  What were the best and worst books that you read in 2017?  Make a post and link up down below!

Next Week's Topic: Book With Most Complex/Straightforward Plot Structure

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