A Wrap-UP: The RIP X Challenge with Mini Reviews

My post is a couple days late, but I wanted to share the fact that I failed to meet my goal for the first time in the five years I've participated in this challenge!! Heartbreaking, guys. I'm trying to not be too hard on myself because there were very necessary reasons for not having the time to read as much as I wanted, but I still can't help but be a little sad about missing the mark. I managed to fall one book short of my Peril the First pledge, finishing the challenge out with three spooky reads. I'm currently 75% done with my fourth title, so I've got that at least. 


I took my RIPX TBR list and ripped it into a million shreds and stuck it in a trashcan and lit that thing on fire. I didn't actually do any of those things but when you take a look at my TBR and then what I read it's essentially the same thing. 

I found The Secret History far too much of a commitment to finish (I still plan on reading it someday). I found The Uninvited boring and tossed it. I forgot about Wuthering Heights even though I just ordered a beautiful, vintage Penguin paperback version. I couldn't get The Ghost Hunters because it hasn't been published outside of the UK. I was too lazy to check out The Asylum from the library. And then left The Big Book of Ghost Stories languishing on my coffee table. I was TERRIBLE, people.

So what did I read??

Well, I listened to The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie Eatwell. I liked it well enough. I didn't think it was the book of the year but it was full of tidbits about Edwardian England and the legal process at this time. I found it a bit lackluster as the motive that put the whole thing in motion was never fleshed out. It's nice for long hours of editing or car rides because the reader for the audio does a great job voicing the many characters. 

I checked out a physical copy of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, which was pretty underwhelming considering I nailed the bad guy about 20 pages in. I thought the characters were one dimensional and felt their thoughts and feelings didn't really seem accurate for a person of 26 or 28. Honestly, I thought they were like 2 at most?? Anyway, it was a fairly fast paced read that got me one book in a weekend. I'd say go for it if you're looking for some quick entertainment, but not expecting much else.

Finally, I finished The Strangler Vine by M. J. Carter. This was my favorite of all my RIP reads, aside from In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (which I'm finishing now). The novel takes place in the early years of British imperialism in India. The author uses the language from the time period, which I thought was an interesting and authentic touch, in dialogue and in explanations of the atmosphere. The novel, longlisted for the Bailey's Prize, includes passages that immerse the reader in a rich, vivid landscape. There were momentary lulls in action and the dynamic between Avery and Blake, the novel's protagonists, was somewhat cliche. I would recommend for the atmosphere M.J. Carter is able to build alone. It gives an interesting look at greed and corruption during this very muddled time in British and Indian history. 

I'm currently finishing up In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and already know it's a 5-star on Goodreads. So gruesome, yet so beautifully written. I can honestly say I have never been more troubled by a book but also captivated to continue reading. It's definitely produced some WTF moments. Perfect fall spread pictured below--->

Headed over to now to see how others did in their RIPX Challenge!

Just a note:

I recently had the opportunity to photograph a number of writers and speakers while they toured Chicago, so stay tuned for posts on Jenny Lawson, Geraldine Brooks, Gloria Steinem, and Roxane Gay. You're going to love them!! 

What are you currently reading??!


River City Reading's Library Checkout: October

I couldn't resist participating in Shannon at River City Reading's Library Checkout, a monthly feature encouraging readers to share their library haul (or hold addiction), for October because I actually finished a couple (or am so very close to) and needed to celebrate! This was, of course, prior to receiving a notification that every hold I have ever made was ready for me to pick up. AHHHH! At least November is looking a little less hectic than October and I can put a dent in it. Wishful thinking.

Read This Month

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Listened This Month

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (75% finished)

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (35%)

Returned, Unread

Mecca: The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar

Fairytales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Phillip Pullman

Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall by Andrew Meier

An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

**Only one fine (haha) for late return: Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese (I didn't even make one dish from this book!! The horror!)

Checked Out/ To Be Read

TOO MANY TO LIST! AHHH. I'm drowning in books. Seriously.

On Hold

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Audio Holds

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read any of these? Which one should I choose next?! :)


A Review: Liar Temptress Soldier Spy (I Met the Author!)

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Karen Abbott tells the spellbinding true story of four women who risked everything during the Civil War. Seventeen-year-old Belle Boyd, an avowed rebel with a dangerous temper, shot a Union soldier in her home and became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her considerable charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to enlist as a Union private named Frank Thompson, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the war and infiltrating enemy lines. The beautiful widow Rose O'Neal Greenhow engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring—even placing a former slave inside the Confederate White House—right under the noses of increasingly suspicious rebel detectives. With a cast of real-life characters, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, General Stonewall Jackson, Detective Allan Pinkerto,n, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, and Emperor NapolĂ©on III, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy shines a dramatic new light on these daring—and, until now, unsung—heroines.

Thoughts: I LOVED this book! Even though a reader's copy was provided, I ended up purchasing it through Audible as well so I could listen when I was editing photos and cooking dinner and reaching my 10,000 steps. I needed to know what was going to happen next! I'd heard of Belle Boyd from one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and had been interested in hearing more about women involved in the Civil War after reading Erin Lindsay McCabe's I Shall Be Near to You (which is FANTASTIC), so this seemed like it would fit the bill. Abbott doesn't disappoint-- she really brings each of these women to life with beautiful prose and her attention to detail. If you're into fast-paced nonfiction about incredible women in America's history go grab a copy NOW!

Oh, and don't be jealous, but Karen Abbott just happened to be in Chicago this week so I also got to meet her and get my book signed!!! Yep, so cool. Here's some photos from the event at Women and Children First in Andersonville (these were taken on a Nikon and edited on an iPhone-- be nice!):

The Author: Karen Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and, most recently, Liar Temptress Soldier Spy, which was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, Amazon, and Flavorwire, and which was optioned by Sony for a miniseries. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives in New York City, where she's at work on her next book.

*I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, TLC!


RIP X Challenge: The List

Fall is around the corner. Pumpkin spice is about to be added to every known culinary dish. AND the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X Challenge is kicking off!! Did I mention it's my absolute favorite reading event?!? The fact that The Estella Society is hosting this year is also pretty freaking awesome. You go ladies! And of course, we can't mention the event without a very BIG thanks to Carl V. Anderson of Stainless Steel Droppings who created it ten years ago. 

The Deal:

Read novels that fit any of the following genres from Sept 1st to October 31st:

Dark Fantasy.

Without further ado, here's my RIP X Challenge pledge (I'm going all in):

(read ANY four books that fit the RIP genre outline above)


(celebrate and read short stories)

The Books:

*Note: My husband is participating this year and has chosen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for Peril the Third. Yay, Justin!!

I have about three or four more on my Kindle that I haven't added here, but they'll probably be read while I'm touring Iceland later this month!! Can't think of a better place for a brooding atmosphere.

What are you guys reading this year?!? 


A Review: Again and Again by Ellen Bravo

Summary (from the book jacket):
If sexual shenanigans disqualified candidates for Congress, the U.S. would have no goverment. But what if the candidate was a pro-choice Republican support by feminist groups-- and a college rapist whose secret could be exposed by a leading women's rights advocate?

Again and Again tells the story of Deborah Borenstein-- as an established women's rights leader in 2010 Washington, DC, and as a college student, thirty years earlier, whose roommate is raped by a fellow student. The perpetrator is now a Senate candidate who has the backing of the major feminist groups...which puts Deborah in a difficult position. Torn between her past and present, as the race goes on, Deborah finds herself tested as a wife, a mother, a feminist, and a friend.
Thoughts: Despite the disturbing content, I was interested in the concept of this book as I've actually never read a fiction title that explored sexual assault in the political realm. I found it informative, in the sense that there's much to research after reading, and enjoyed getting into something that was focused on women's issues in such a direct way. It definitely stirred emotions as the reader realizes its meant to emphasize how far society still has to go on this issue. Is it true that women face the same scrutiny and disbelief when reporting date rape now that they did in the 1970s?

This was very much a first novel for the author, but could still be a great learning tool for young men and women. I was impressed with Bravo's representation of Deborah and Liddie's relationship, but less so with Deborah and her daughter, and even less so with Deborah and her husband as they felt one dimensional and relied on the snotty teenager/inattentive husband stereotypes. The storyline had much to offer, but was somewhat dulled down by the technical language of Deborah's daily life and the tidbits clumsily added to modernize the story. I don't want to share too much as the summary has already provided enough, but I would recommend the novel based on the importance of the content and can definitely say I can't wait to see more from Bravo in  the future.

*Please note that those who have suffered from similar encounters may want to refrain from reading as the defining scene is graphic.

I received a copy of this novel from TLC Book Tours and She Writes Press in exchange for an honest review.

*Ellen Bravo is the head of Family Values @ Work, a network of state coalitions advocating family-friendly policies, and an award-winning writer. Her award-winning nonfiction books include Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism Is Good for Families, Business and the Nation. A Cleveland native, she makes her home in Wisconsin.

Take a look at what other bloggers are saying on the tour here.

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