Category: books

Book review: ‘Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency’

(Disclosure: review copy/affiliate links)

Why 'Learn ANY Language' is helping reenergize my lanuage self-study course in 2017!I have always been one of those people who assumed that I am “just not good” at learning foreign languages. I’ve dabbled in a wide range since high school, trying to find something that would “click” for me: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Arabic, and even American Sign Language. I’ve tried text books, language tapes, online programs, flashcards—you name it. And every time, I’ve inevitably been frustrated by my inability to hang on to what I was learning. After a while I kind of put the attempts at language learning on the back burner, because it was too frustrating.

Recently, I decided that I wanted to get back into language study. I still have my instructional CDs in Spanish, German, French, and Italian. There are tons of resources available at the local library and online. And it’s winter now—if I’m going to be stuck inside because of the cold weather, why not take up a learning hobby to pass the time?

Once again, though, there’s that general feeling that I’m “bad” at learning a language. So my interest was definitely piqued when I got an email asking if I’d like to review a copy of Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency. Any language? Any at all? Even if I’m “bad” at languages? I definitely wanted to see what tips and tricks I could glean from this book before tackling a language program again.

Continue reading “Book review: ‘Learn ANY Language: A Practical Guide to Learn Any Language to Any Level of Fluency’”

Book review: ‘Good Behavior’ by Blake Crouch

(Disclosure: Review copy provided by NetGalley/post contains affiliate links)

'Good Behavior' premieres November 15 on TNT. Based on the book by Blake Crouch.It’s no secret that I’m a huge Blake Crouch fan. He’s great at writing high-concept sci-fi and creepy horror thrillers, but he’s equally adept at creating character-driven stories. Naturally, I was psyched when NetGalley sent me a copy of Blake’s latest book, Good Behavior, to tie in with the TV show premiering tonight on TNT.

Good Behavior is actually a collection of three separate novellas that Blake previously published over a course of several years, beginning with “The Pain of Others” in Ellery Queen. Together the stories form a novel-length portrait of Letty Dobesh, a character Crouch has proclaimed one of his favorites. She’s an addict, an ex-con, and a thief, but even she draws the line from time to time…such as when she overhears a man hiring a hit man to kill his wife. Unable to go to the police, Letty decides to take matters into her own hands, putting her on a collision course with a cast of characters as complex as herself.

Letty is one of those shades-of-grey characters that I immediately loved. She’s a complex woman, equal parts virtue and vice (though some days, mostly vice). There’s something incredibly raw and real about her struggles to navigate her world while also trying to get clean so she can someday return to her son. And I loved, loved, loved the plot twists! I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this book, because I just couldn’t put it down without knowing what happened next.

One of the fun things about this book is that it also includes set photos from the TV show and Blake’s notes on taking Letty’s story from the page to the screen. It’s rare for authors to be so closely involved in the screen adaptations of their works so it’s a real treat to know that Crouch is so closely involved with the TNT production of Good Behavior. I really enjoyed reading about Letty and I’m excited to watch Michelle Dockery portray her on the screen!

Good Behavior (paperback, 288 pages) is available now at booksellers like Amazon and Book Depository. And don’t forget to catch Good Behavior Tuesdays at 9/8c on TNT!

What I’ve read lately (August-October 2016)

I have a terrible confession to make: I’ve barely read anything for the past several months. It’s partly because I was busy with other activities, and it’s partly because I ran into a slew of real stinkers of books that I just couldn’t bear to finish. I suppose it doesn’t help that I finished reading Dark Matter back in July and promptly fell into a semi-book-depression because nothing seemed nearly as good in comparison.

But I digress! I did manage to finish five books over the past three months and DNF’d two others. (I’m still struggling to read several other books as well that are just not progressing at all.) Here’s what I’ve read lately, along with mini-reviews. For longer reviews, hop over to my Goodreads page, and don’t forget to friend me while you’re there!

What I've read lately (August-October 2016) Continue reading “What I’ve read lately (August-October 2016)”

Top Ten Tuesday: Character names I’ve used (or would use) for my cats

Top Ten Tuesday: character names I would use for my catsI love good stories. I love cats. If I can combine the two then I am one happy girl! This week for TTT we’re talking character names that we would use for a child or pet, so I am rounding up my fave character names that I have used or would use for my kitties:

Merry and Pippin—I mean, who didn’t love these two hobbits? And The Lord of the Rings continues to be one of my fave stories ever, so obviously I’ll have to pull some kitty names from it at some point. If I ever get kitty siblings I’d love to call them Merry and Pippin.

Guenhwyvar—the magical panther who accompanies Drizzt Do’Urden in the Forgotten Realms books. I always said that if I got a female black cat I would use this name and now I have. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably seen her pop up from time (but let me tell ya, black cats are hard to photograph, and even more so when they’re shy!).

Book character names I've used for my cats: Guenhwyvar

Artemis Entreri—another FG character, this one was an assassin who was kind of a good guy at times. I haven’t used it yet but I will. I’d like to give this name to a black boy cat.

Sherlock Holmes—can’t you see a super-grouchy fluffy cat with this name?

Jaqen H’ghar—I’m reserving this one in case I ever get an orange and white cat. I suppose my Skittles comes close since she has the split coloring on her face and that fits perfectly with the Two-Faced Man but I couldn’t bear to change her name. She is my other super-fluffy girl.

Captain Jack Sparrow—the fluffiest of fluffies! She got this name because a) I found her while jogging to some music by Bring Me the Horizon, so fate; and b) she had bad mats in her fur from neglect, so she looked like she had black dreadlocks. I know this doesn’t really count as a bookish name, but I had to include it.

Book character names I've used for my cats: Captain Jack Sparrow

Daryl Dixon—if I ever get another cat who’s absolutely wild he or she will be Dixon after everyone’s favorite zombie slayer. If it’s a girl I could just call her Dixie for short.

HobbesCalvin and Hobbes was one of my favorite comic strips growing up, and still is. I used this name for the shy, slightly grumpy orange cat that comes by my porch each day for food. S/he is feral and won’t accept pets but is slowly getting more used to me. (I’m not sure if it’s a girl or a boy but I call it “Mr. Hobbes” all the same.)

Al Sa-Her (The Magician)-–if you watch Arrow on TV or read the DC comic books, you know this is Malcolm Merlyn’s name as a member of the League of Assassins. A little black and white cat showed up on my doorstep and charmed even Hobbes into accepting her, so “The Magician” seems to fit. And I do think a black and white cat needs a regal name, don’t you? (BTW, that ghost cat in the background is the neighbor’s, “Sweetie”–but I call her Mouse!)

Book character names I've used for my cats: Hobbes and Al Sa-Her

Those are the best ones I can think of for now! So what character names would you use (or have used) for your kids and pets? Do you think it’s a silly idea or not? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Book review: ‘Dark Matter’

(Post contains affiliate links. Thank you to NetGalley for providing a review copy!)

If there ever comes a day when a new Blake Crouch novel is announced and I don’t immediately start fangirling, check my pulse, because I’m probably dead.

To understand why, you have to flash back a year or so to when I first got a copy of Abandon from NetGalley. I sat down to read it thinking I had it totally pegged, and the deeper I got into the book, the more I realized just how wrong I was. Every time I thought I had a good handle on what the hell was happening and what might happen next, Crouch threw something at me so shocking that I could barely turn the next pages fast enough.

When I first saw the cover for Dark Matter pop up on NetGalley, I requested a copy without really reading the description. I mean, it’s Blake Crouch. From reading through his previous books, I can see a clear pattern: the man just gets better with each new book. Rumor has it the movie rights to Dark Matter were optioned before he even completed the manuscript, so I’m clearly not the only person with this mindset. If I had to guess at how he comes up with new story ideas, I would say he clicks around on the Internet until he finds a topic that interests him, and then proceeds to research the hell out of it until he can write the most compulsive book about it that exists. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working pretty damn good.

Now, the thing about Dark Matter is that it’s one of those books where the less you know, the better off you are. I rolled my eyes at a lot of very hype-y reviews that said the same thing about Gone Girl and once I read that book, I realized that the reviewers were not lying. So when Goodreads was flooded with warnings essentially saying the same thing about this book, I took heed. You should too. I will give you the most spoiler-free review that I can, and I will warn you that it’s a good idea to make sure you have no pressing commitments that will interrupt the reading of this book, because it’s damn near impossible to put down. Get your snacks ready and snuggle in!

The basic premise of Dark Matter is this: one cold night in Chicago, Jason Dessen is having an ordinary family meal with his wife and teenage son. When he leaves for a short time, he is followed and kidnapped by a man in a mask who asks him, “Are you happy with your life?” Shortly thereafter he wakes up strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits who tell him, “Welcome back.”

What follows is such a crazy ride that I’m not even sure I can compare it to many other sci-fi or spec-fic novels. I have no idea what the below GIF is pulled from, but it’s a pretty good summary of my feels about this book.

From reading books across the spectrum of his career, I would say that Crouch has definitely matured as a writer. He isn’t afraid to cut characters loose or to show you things that are deeply uncomfortable, even if they don’t offer the happiest of endings for the characters involved. This is actually a pretty dark book once you start to think about it. A lot of themes come into play here: choice, second chances, and the long-reaching consequences of seemingly small choices. It definitely makes you think about all the events that have shaped who you are today, and how those little “what ifs” that linger at the back of everyone’s minds are actually not so little.

I’ve also heard this book described as a love story, and after a pause, I would agree. You can’t really ever make a choice about your own life without affecting the lives of the people you love. If you trade your dream for a life with someone else, is that trade worth it? If you had a second chance to do it all over again or take a different path, what would you do? It definitely makes your mind wander.

One last note: if you’re not a big science fiction fan, don’t let the “sci-fi” designation scare you off. This book is weird and twisty and at times it will make you think hard, but it never got so far out there that I couldn’t follow along. It’s nowhere near on the level of books like The Martian, which is definitely written by and for geeks. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but it can be intimidating to general readers!)

So in short: go read this book. Buy it, so you can read it multiple times. I promise you’ll be blown away.

If there ever comes a day when a new Blake Crouch novel is announced and I don't immediately start fangirling, check my pulse, because I'm probably dead. (Book review of 'Dark Matter')Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch (hardcover, 352 pages). Published July 2016 by Crown. Genres: science fiction, speculative fiction, thriller, mystery, suspense, fantasy. Five out of five stars. Find it on Goodreads, Amazon,, or the Book Depository. Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads while you’re there—I love making new bookish friends!