oceanwriter's reviews
541 reviews

A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King

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emotional informative inspiring reflective slow-paced

4.5

I’m a big fan of Carole King, especially after seeing the touring production of Beautiful. I didn’t realize then that she’d written a memoir so I was super excited when I came across the audiobook. 
 
More than a linear autobiography of Carole King’s life, the book is more of a series of vignettes from different times in her life. Naturally, there is a large focus on her music career. Her narration is wonderful, interspersed with a few musical moments. She seems as genuinely down to earth as she appears in her music. 
 
I certainly have a deeper appreciation for her music now knowing some of the stories behind the songs or the times they were written and recorded. An uplifting read! 

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Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

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challenging dark tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.0

After reading Babel a while back, I had assumed Yellowface would follow a similar style. Though it hadn’t been a book I loved, I liked the writing enough to give this one a go when it was selected for a group read. I was so excited when I realized this book is more of a thriller. 
 
After the death of her friend and rival Athena Liu, June Hayward takes Athena’s first draft of her latest book. With some editing, June claims it as her own. How long can she get away with feigning a heritage that doesn’t belong to her? 
 
While I was taken in by the premise, I spent most of the book feeling uncomfortable. Yes, that is the purpose of the book, but I wasn’t prepared for it and wasn’t in the mood for this type of read. I’d hoped at least for some character growth. The voice of the narrator left me feeling I was on the outside of an inside joke. 

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The Scarlet Stockings Spy by Trinka Hakes Noble, Robert Papp

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emotional hopeful informative sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

Gorgeous illustrations and a touching story. 

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The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

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adventurous dark mysterious sad tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

2.75

Try as I might, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. It was good, yet, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. The pacing was good, the writing was great, the mystery was as expected for the tone of the book, and yet, I was left uninvested. I struggled to keep the characters straight and overall didn’t connect with them. Not for me, I guess. I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a quieter mystery that emphasizes the prose over the thrill. 

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Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson

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informative reflective fast-paced

2.0

This was a former DNF that I wanted to give another go. I chose to listen in audio form this time and didn’t find it any more interesting than I did several years ago. I kept reading as it was a quick listen and I really did want to enjoy it. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my favorite films and I wanted to learn more about how it was made and its cultural impact. Instead, this book reads more like a Hollywood gossip column with very little substance and a lot of speculation. 
 
My biggest takeaway was realizing that the way I’ve interpreted the film has been, evidently, vastly different than the majority of people. I’ve read Truman Capote’s original novella as well, which might have influenced some of my perspectives without my realizing it, but I’ve never thought of the film as a gateway to the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s. Of course, this could also be in part of being born decades later, but for me, the film has always been more about the lost souls of the characters and it being a story of how they try to come into themselves in an overwhelming world. Holly's lifestyle (and Paul's for that matter) has always appeared to me to be a harsh reality, not something that would ever inspire me to take on that lifestyle let alone empower me. She lives a sad life, and it's only when she accepts the honest love of another that she can begin to feel free. (This is all based on the film, not Capote's original work.)

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Nonna Maria and the Case of the Lost Treasure by Lorenzo Carcaterra

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lighthearted mysterious relaxing fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes

4.0

I try to avoid picking up books mid-series but I was drawn to both the cover and description when this book showed up in an email. I’m glad I took the chance. With a lovely cast of characters and a great setting, it was a nice read. 
 
A target of a decades-long revenge plot, Captain Murino turns to Nonna Maria for help. On the other side of the island of Ischia, another person connected to Nonna Maria offers forth an old treasure map. This, too, is brought to Nonna Maira and the book follows both plot lines. 
 
It took some getting used to the dual plot in a cozy mystery, at least how it was presented here. Both were easy to follow, I just can’t recall ever reading a book with this format in this particular genre. There is a great deal of action in the book which helped keep both plots moving along well. 
 
Though third in the series, Nonna Maria and the Case of the Lost Treasure stands well on its own. As with any series, I think you get the best experience reading in over, however, I didn’t find it completely necessary. That said, I would love to go back and read the first two books. 
 
A huge thanks to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with a free digital ARC of the book! 
The Brothers Hawthorne by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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adventurous mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.0

The Inheritance Games is my guilty pleasure series. It’s so wild and something I wouldn’t normally enjoy, alas, here I am for the fourth installment. Though this wasn’t my favorite in the series, it was still a fun time by the end. 
 
Brothers Grayson and Jameson are at the forefront of the games this time around with a heavy focus on Grayson and his sisters. We see some over Avery, but this one is ultimately for the boys. 
 
It looks like I’m not alone in feeling like the first half of the book dragged. I was, frankly, so bored that at one point I stopped reading during a commute and opted just to stare out the train window instead. It took a little while to pick back up again. Thankfully, the last third of the book picked up immensely. 
 
Of all the brothers, Grayson and Jameson are the ones I care about the least. I felt like Jameson’s story was summed up decently in The Final Gambit alongside Avery. Grayson? Meh. I’m a Nash girl. (Side note: I think a lot of this book tried to amplify a reader attraction to the brothers and I am not in the age group where I have any interest on that front. So that was weird.) I was disappointed that we didn’t see much of Nash and Xander. 
 
The book left me more confused than pumped for another installment. There are questions left unanswered but without an urgency that was found midway through the first two books. I don’t think this book needed to exist to make the series complete. Will I read a fifth book? Sure. Will I have the same level of excitement I initially had about book four? No. 

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The Royal Librarian by Daisy Wood

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emotional informative reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

3.75

This is the second book by Daisy Wood I’ve read and it had all of the charm I remember from the first. With both an intriguing plot and lovable characters, it’s a lovely read. 
 
After their parents are killed, sisters Hanna and Sophie are separated. Sophie is taken to America while Hanna is sent to Windsor Castle where she is tasked with translating letters. In modern-day Philadelphia, Lacey comes across her grandmother’s papers and sets out to discover her past. 
 
I used to enjoy past and present timelines but lately, I haven’t been enjoying them as much. It was done well here and both parts of the plot flow together well, so it totally comes down to a preference thing for me. I loved the setting and history surrounding King Edward. I’m not well-versed in British Royalty, so this was a new one for me. 
 
A huge thanks to Harper360 for sending me a free ARC of the book! 

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The Wealth of Shadows: A Novel by Graham Moore

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adventurous informative mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No

2.0

I’m going to jump straight into this review and ask the question I’ve been asking myself from page one: Why is a book set in 1939 opening with a quote about Bitcoin? On the one hand, I understand it. The book has a focus on money, knowledge, power, wealth, etc. and that could be an attempt at a modern perspective. On the other, it set a tone of confusion that I didn’t shake, especially with continued quotes that sometimes only slightly correlated with the chapter it was opening. 
 
Ansel Luxford, a tax attorney, fears the worst for Germany at the close of the 1930s. At this point in time, America is neutral in the conflict and in foreign affairs, yet Ansel finds himself being called up to join a Washington underground team to fight the Nazis. Instead of using weapons, they play to the economy, or, ‘economic warfare’. 
 
The concept? Unique and I’m sure intriguing to some. Unfortunately, I discovered while reading that I don’t have much interest in economics. It was a new perspective on the war for me, though, so that was a big takeaway. 
 
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with a free digital ARC of the book! 

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A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein

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adventurous informative inspiring fast-paced

3.0

I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Wein's fiction books and I've been looking forward to reading this nonfiction work of hers. 

The charm I've come to love from this author was surely there, however, for a nonfiction book, I felt like so much was missing and that there was a lack of cohesion. I had trouble keeping up with which woman of the prominent three featured was being discussed as the narration jumped back and forth between them with little rhyme or reason. The book was short, too, and I managed it in one sitting. I would have loved a lengthier dive into such a fascinating area of history.

Elizabeth Wein's passion for the subject is evident and makes for an enjoyable read, but ultimately, I felt like I hadn't learned as much on the topic as I would have from a couple of Google searches. I would love to see her make a novel adaption showing the live of these brave ladies. 

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