The Need to Escape

I definitely feel the need for some escapism at this strange time📚

This is a strange time to be living in. I know I say that a lot these days, and I’m definitely not the only one. And it is a strange time. We are going through something that we’ve never experienced before and that means we are in uncharted waters.

We had no idea exactly how we would react to something like this, and now we’re in the middle of it. I think most of us are trying our very best to do our part to keep people safe and healthy, and trying to stay sane at the same time. The latter can be harder than it sounds at times, and we all have different ways of coping with living through this pandemic.

As strange as I find this time, I also find it incredibly scary as well. I’m lucky and extremely grateful for living in a country where our leaders take the pandemic very seriously and try their best to keep us safe. I know many are not that lucky.
But even though we’re lucky to be here, this virus can take a hold on anyone. We’ve all heard about the healthy and young who gets infected and doesn’t make it through. Those stories stick with you, and they make you think about the risk and possibility of getting sick as well.

So, how do I cope? It varies from day to day, but one thing I’ve found is that I turn to books even more now than usual. It’s my way of escaping the reality that scares me. And let’s face it, we all need some escapism from all of this just to stay somewhat sane.

I’m so grateful for books and stories. For the written words that transport me into other worlds, universes, and lives, whenever I find this one a bit too frightening. And I’m extra grateful for them during this time.
Without the books that whisk me away, I believe I would’ve completely lost it.

So, don’t feel bad about not being super productive or creative all the time at the moment. Allow yourself to just escape through books, games, music, baking, dancing, or whatever gives you a break from all that is going on outside of your doors. We are only human, and now is the time to take care of each other, and our selves.

We will get through this, eventually💛

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi 📖

I read a paperback edition of Old Man’s War.

Genre: Science fiction

Publisher: Pan MacMillan/TOR

Originally published: December, 2005

Pages: 320 (paperback)

Audiobook length: 9 hrs and 55 mins

Synopsis by the publisher:

The universe is a dangerous place in John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, the first in The Old Man’s War series.

At seventy-five years old, John Perry is after a fresh start – so, naturally, he joins the army. Earth’s military machine can transform elderly recruits, restoring their lost youth. But in return, its Colonial Defence Force demands two years of hazardous service in space. This is how Perry finds himself in a new body, crafted from his original DNA. A genetically enhanced and upgraded new body, ready for battle.

But upgrades alone won’t keep Perry safe. He’ll be fighting for his life on the front line as he defends humanity’s colonies from hostile aliens. He’ll pay the price for his choices, and he’ll discover the universe is even more dangerous than he imagined.

My thoughts:

This was such a fun read! I love it when science fiction novels feel effortless to read. When the gap between the reality we live in now and the futuristic setting doesn’t feel like an overwhelming mental leap and needs hundreds of pages of world-building for anything to make sense.
Old Man’s War is a fast and brilliant read without taking away the depth and cleverness.

We get to be inside the head of John Perry when he decides to join the war at the age of 75, leaving everyone and everything he knows behind. With his new body, he’s able to do things he either hadn’t been able to do for years or never been able to at all. But Perry is in no way immortal, and we get to follow him into wars against alien creatures where he questions their missions and their outcome.

I loved Perry as a character and it was an absolute joy to be on his side at the beginning of what could potentially be quite a long and challenging adventure.
I also really enjoyed the original and clever dialogues.
It’s a story with a perfect balance of humor, action, and a tiny bit of romance.

I would highly recommend Old Man’s War if you enjoy science fiction. It’s a fast-paced and brilliant read that can be read as a stand-alone if you want to, but might get you hooked on the universe. You have been warned!

I picked this up while browsing in a bookstore in Oslo, having never heard of this book before, but I had enjoyed some of Scalzi’s other books. I had no idea that picking this one book up would get me hooked on a new series that even has a couple of other series that exists in the same universe. Scalzi, I guess you and I are in this for the long haul!
I can’t wait to get my hands on The Ghost Brigades and find out what happens next!

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The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of The Return of King Lillian by Suzie Plakson 📚

I read a digital edition of The Return of King Lillian that I received for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: Literary fiction, fairy tale, fantasy.

Publisher: Pilmsthistle & Co.

Originally published: November 1st, 2012 (as a shorter novella)

Pages: 390 (paperback)

Audiobook length: 11 hrs and 54 mins

Synopsis by the publisher:

A new hero’s journey for dreamers of all ages…

When Lillian, the one-and-only heir to the throne, is cast out of her kingdom by malevolent forces, she accidentally wanders into the Forest of Forgetfullness, where she is rescued by wolves and raised by an eccentric old wise woman. When she comes of age, Lillian is called by Destiny to return Home, but when she steps out of the Forest, she has no memory of who she is or from whence she hails. Undaunted, the spirited, self-reliant young woman sets off into the unknown, determined to rediscover her long-lost self and to reclaim her stolen birthright. Most of the tale is told by Lillian herself as she chronicles her extraordinary adventures.

My thoughts:

Going into this story I was expecting it to be an entertaining fast read meant for children. I was not prepared for the adventure that I set out on.

First off, I want to just mention the brilliant idea of having Lillian mentioned as a girl-king instead of a queen! That was the thing that caught my attention in the first place and made me curious for more.

The Return of King Lillian is a brilliant fairytale that reminded me a lot of stories like “The Wizard of Oz”, “Alice in Wonderland” and “Gulliver’s Travels”. The whole story is written as if we’re reading Lillian’s diary. This made the reading experience very unique and personal, as if Lillian and I were sitting in front of a fireplace while she told me her whole story.

The thing that truly blew me away with this book was the beautiful way it is written. Sometimes it read like the fairytales I remember my parents reading for me when I was a kid, other times, it’s felt like I was reading a whimsical poem.

Lillian is such a wholesome, pure and naive character because of her time isolated in the Forest of Forgetfulness. But she’s also a strong character, and a lot of the challenges she meets throughout her journey can easily be linked to the problems that we meet out here in the real world. She takes them on with a positive and free-minded spirit, and the character development of Lillian is just a pure joy to witness as the pages go by.

Plakson has written a story that can be enjoyed by both kids as well as adults, with colorful characters, adventure, wisdom, and a good dose of wit and humor.

The Return of King Lillian is not a book that I speed read (as I often find myself doing with fairytales), but it was savored and enjoyed over time as the masterpiece that it is!

Click on the Reedsy Discovery logo below to get to know more, maybe get your own copy, and let me know what you think of it💛

Tick Tock by Dean Koontz 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Tick Tock by Dean Koontz 📚

I listened to an audiobook version of Tick Tock on Audible.

Genre: Horror, fiction.

Publisher: Bantam

Originally published: January 1st, 1996

Pages: 340 (paperback)

Audiobook length: 9 hrs and 27 mins

Synopsis by the publisher:

Tommy Phan is a successful detective novelist living the American Dream in southern California. One evening he comes home to find a small rag doll on his doorstep. It’s a simple doll, covered entirely in white cloth, with crossed black stitches for the eyes and mouth, and another pair forming an X over the heart. Curious, he brings it inside.
That night Tommy hears an odd popping sound and looks up to see the stitches breaking over the doll’s heart. And in minutes the fabric of Tommy Phan’s reality will be torn apart. Something terrifying emerges from the pristine white cloth, something that will follow Tommy wherever he goes. Something that he can’t destroy. It wants Tommy’s life, and he doesn’t know why. He has only one ally, a beautiful, strangely intuitive waitress he meets by chance–or by a design far beyond his comprehension. He has too many questions, no answers, and very little time. Because the vicious and demonically clever doll has left this warning on Tommy’s computer screen:
“The deadline is dawn.”
Ticktock
Time is running out.

My thoughts:

Dean Koontz is an author who’s been on my radar for a long time, but for some reason, I haven’t gotten around to give his books a chance. That was until my good friend Alex talked about Tick Tock, and I found the premise to sound very much up my alley.

Wonderfully horrific with its Ragdoll that comes to life with what seems like a mission to kill Tommy Phan.

The whole story kicks into drive pretty quickly, and it didn’t take me long for the story to grab hold and take me along on its journey of horror and wonder. And the story took another interesting turn when the character Del was introduced into the whole mix. I found her to be brilliantly weird, but also the kind of open-minded person that gave depth to the whole story. Kudos to Koontz for introducing an absolutely wonderful female companion character.

I’ve come to find that the horror that I enjoy the most are the ones that focus more on the people in the stories, and what the monsters or the horrific setting makes those people do. Because it’s in the times of despair and fear that our true selves often gets a chance to come out and play, for good or bad.

The other thing that really made this into such an enjoyable read was the humor that’s present throughout the whole book.
It’s hard to review this story in much more detail without spoiling the plot. So, it’s fast-paced, funny, creepy, and stays true to the horror genre.

I highly recommend Tick Tock to the horror lovers out there!

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Cake by Nicole Brooks 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Cake by Nicole Brooks📚

I read a digital edition of Cake that I received for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review. 

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Publisher: Erid Press Inc. 

Originally published: May 22nd, 2019

Pages: 263 (paperback)

Blurb by the publisher:

Would you give to someone who desperately needed it, that which you could live without?

Keely is the epitome of a self-made woman, her ability to make the right choices her superpower. She doesn’t believe in looking back and has the drive, ambition, and financial means to create the exact life she wants to live–regardless of what her kids and her husband, Andrew, want or need. Michelle lives in stark contrast to Keely’s life. She believes she was doomed from the start with a heartbreaking, poverty-stricken childhood. A string of bad choices in adulthood only intensifies her lack of faith in herself. With her daughter safely away at college, she is left alone with her abusive husband, Ray. As the days drag on, she struggles to find a reason to continue. Until she meets Andrew. 

The two women’s worlds eventually collide, courtesy of their daughters, and both are forced to contemplate a time-worn question: is the comfort of a familiar self-constructed prison safer than the risk of trying to live a life of true freedom and potentially failing?

Cake asks how much the world has really changed for women–and for which women–by evaluating the progress of modern feminism. This novel examines privilege, the haves and have-nots, the ideals we choose to embrace, and the facts we forcefully decide to not see. This story entices the reader to contemplate whether our material and emotional conditions arise from childhood environments, personal choice, systemic inequality, or a combination of them all.

My thoughts:

I was drawn to Cake because of the absolutely beautiful cover. Stunning! 

Then I read the synopsis of the story, and it had every ingredient from the looks of it, to serve an emotional and powerful piece of story. And that’s exactly what it did. 

We follow two women who live incredibly different lives but are both constricted because of the daily abuse they experience. 

Michelle has a mentally and physically abusive husband. Keeley is putting herself under the amount of unhealthy pressure to live the perfect life and the perfect look that she herself inflicts pain on herself and her family.

It is two very different stories of pain, love and mental health, but both are equally as powerful and important. 

I loved reading about how these two people, and those who were closest to them, lives intertwined throughout the story. I was a bit worried when more and more characters were introduced with their own chapters and perspective, that it would get confusing and overwhelming. But because all the stories are as tightly connected as they are, it just added depth to the story and made it even more powerful. 

I got very invested in the two main characters. Michelle as the one I wanted to hold, rescue and comfort. Keeley as the one I wanted to shake and talk sense into. Keeley to me started out as a character I just disliked so much, but when we started to reach the ending of the book, I definitely felt a whole lot more sympathy towards her and her situation.

I think Cake is a beautifully written story and a very important one. It shines the light on different kind of abuse that is everyday life for so many women AND men. It’s a good addition to the mental health issues that can go too far, and a reminder to be kind and not judge people too quickly. 

We really have no idea what goes on in other people’s lives when they are behind closed doors, or alone with their own thoughts. And I thought Nicole Brooks did an amazing job of telling a story that reminds us of that fact. 

I thought the whole story wrapped up incredibly quick at the end and I kind of wish that we’d gotten to know a little bit more of the story from between the big climax and the wrap up at the end of it all. But other than that, I thought it was a brilliant book with an incredibly important message. 

I felt for these characters, but even more so, it made me emotional and heartbroken for the people out there who deal with abuse on a regular basis in their real lives. 

Highly recommend!

Click on the Reedsy Discovery logo below to get to know more, maybe get your own copy, and let me know what you think of it💛

3 Books that Shaped Me as a Reader

Here are three books that have shaped me as a reader through the years 📚

I’m pretty sure that all of us bookworms have certain books that shape us as readers, both as kids and later on in our adult lives as well. We change, our preferences too, and sometimes a book can surprise us into a whole new genre we never even considered being our thing.

I thought I would share some of the books that has shaped me as a reader over the years.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

My dad was the one that introduced me to Anne Frank. I was about 8 years old and I already knew quite a bit about World War II as my fathers side of the family has Jewish heritage, and actually had to get away from the Nazis by moving to Sweden at that time. So the interest in WWII came at a pretty early age for me, and The Diary of a Young Girl definitely shaped my reading a lot. It was where I truly discovered how horrific, but also interesting and fascinating that time of history was, and still is. I’m still a WWII fanatic, just like my dad. I love reading non-fiction and historical fiction, and the well-written ones (especially those who are based on true stories) always breaks my heart and fill my eyes with tears. Reading Anne Frank’s diary was also what made me start journaling back in the days, which is something that I still do.

I think every kid should read this book. It’s so important and captivating. My dad also took me to Anne Frank’s house later on, which was a really interesting but also intense experience. If I remember correctly, I believe my dad has told me that I didn’t speak for a good while after we got out of there, and it is something I will never forget. I also would highly recommend going there if you ever get the chance to.

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Bag of Bones is not my favorite King novel, but it was my very first. I remember browsing one of my local bookstores as a teenager and coming across this particular book. I can’t remember exactly what it was about Bag of Bones that compelled me to buy it, but buy it I did, and it has been quite the journey ever since.

I remember bringing it with me on a family vacation (but can’t for the life of me remember where we went), and was so captivated by this story that I was unable at times to put it down. It’s one of those stories that just made such a lasting impression on me that I actually remember quite a lot of what happened even though it has been years, and I’m pretty sure I would be surprised to find out how much I’ve probably forgotten if I tried re-reading it today (which is something I’m considering doing).

Let’s call it love at first sight, and King’s writing and I have been in a happy relationship (for the most part) for many years now, and it will continue to be that way for two reasons.

1 – The man has written so many books that I hardly doubt I will get through them all.

2 – It’s first book love, and that lasts a lifetime. Everybody knows that, right?!

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Did you just roll your eyes at the screen?! Well, if you did, I don’t blame you. Twilight is not great. It’s not even really good, but never the less, it is a book that played a pretty big role in my reading life. At the age of about 20, I found myself not having really read much in a few years. I don’t know what started that massive reading slump, but I do know that the easy entertainment that Twilight offered was what got me back into reading, and with a whole new love of fantasy and paranormal fiction. And because of that, I got to discover so many great books! So, even though I fully agree with the eye roll (and I have tried re-reading it some years later and wish that I hadn’t) it still deserves a spot on this list, and it will always hold a special place in this book lover heart of mine.

These three books are not my top three of all time, but they are all very special to me. If I hadn’t crossed paths with them, I probably would’ve had a very different reading journey than I’ve had so far.

Do you have a book that defined you more as a reader than any other? I would love to hear about it💛

The Humans by Matt Haig 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My thoughts on The Humans by Matt Haig 📚

I read a paperback version of The Humans.

Matt Haig

Genre: Science fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd.

Originally published: May 9th, 2013

Pages: 320 (paperback)

Audiobook length: 8 Hours 10 Minutes

Blurb by the publisher:

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME. OR IS THERE? 

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where he is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, Professor Andrew Martin is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst an alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog. 

Who is he really? And what could make someone change their mind about the human race . . . ? 

My thoughts:

The first time I got to enjoy Matt Haig’s writing was when I found How to Stop Time at an airport while traveling, and that one was told so brilliantly that I knew that Matt Haig would potentially be another author to add to my favorites list. But before he could end up on that list, I had to find out if it was just the one book that I enjoyed, or if it was his writing and storytelling that would captivate me more than once.

So, when I saw The Humans while I was on another trip (maybe Matt’s books and I are destined to be travel buddies?), I had to give it a go.

The Humans is one of those books that got my attention not just because of the author, but also because it just sounded magically quirky and just up my alley. What can I say? I love weird books!

Little did I know just how weird and wonderful it would turn out to be, and what a special place in my reader’s heart it would find.

In the very beginning of the story, we find out that Andrew Martin’s body has been occupied by an alien (so not really a spoiler), and what I thought would be a big mystery of why Martin had changed, was more a wonderful story of an alien trying to navigate itself on earth.

The best thing about this story is definitely how the alien experience and reacts to the utterly weird things that we humans do. I laughed out loud and almost felt a little embarrassed when recognizing some of the human actions for just how weird they are.

There were so many moments where I thought to myself: “Yep. We do that and it’s so stupid!”.

Matt Haig touches on a lot of the ways we humans seem to be unable to change, how we can be way too self-destructive, but also the wonderful little things that make us the weird humans that we are.

This is the true magic of The Humans and what made it such a unique and wonderful read.

There are other elements to the plotline that makes this story a quick and exciting read. The alien’s mission is definitely one that makes it into a pageturner.

So, the big question is: did Matt Haig make it to the favorite authors list?

Absolutely!!

If you’re looking for a different kind of science fiction read, I would highly recommend The Humans.

 Click on the Bookdepository banner below to get your own copy with free shipping, make up your own mind, and let me know what you think of it💛

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach 📚 BOOK REVIEW

My review of Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

I read a Kindle edition of Penpal.

Dathan Auerbach

Genre: Horror

Publisher: 1000vultures

Originally published: June, 2012

Pages: 252 (paperback)

Blurb by the publisher:

In an attempt to make sense of his own mysterious and unsettling childhood memories, a man begins to reconstruct his past. As the games and adventures of his youth become engulfed by a larger story, he finds that it forms a tapestry of unbelievable horror that he never could have expected. Each chapter completes a different piece of the puzzle for both you and the narrator, and by the end of it all, you will wish that you could forget what he never knew. 

My thoughts:

Penpal is a book that I’ve seen pop up from time to time as a recommended horror novel, and I downloaded it to my kindle years ago, and then I kind of forgot about it. Then when I was traveling to Bucharest, I packed my Kindle with me, and I was scrolling through my library. There it was, and I was intrigued once again.

We meet our protagonist (who remains nameless throughout the book) when he’s grown up and is looking back on certain mysterious and creepy events that happened to him, his family and friends while growing up.

Every chapter of this book really does feel like a puzzle piece that slowly but surely makes a complete and horrific picture.

We get the sense of the protagonist being stalked very early on in the book, but it’s not until the final pieces of the puzzle is put into place that the reader is actually able to paint the whole picture, and understand just how creepy and sad this story actually is.

I found Penpal to be horror perfection for my taste, and I really liked the fact that the protagonist remains unnamed throughout the whole story. It kind of adds to the mystery of it all.

The voice of the character portraits the mind of a young boy as well as an adult man looking back on his life. It’s an interesting concept to look at events like the ones in this story through the eyes of a child. One that the world has yet to be tainted by all the evil that is happening in the world.

Auerbach has built up a great story with a good pace that instantly grabbed a hold of me as a reader and took me on a journey of stalker creepiness where I thought I had an idea of what was going on, but it was hard to know for sure.

It’s hard to say much more about this story without spoiling it, so I won’t.

I loved this story, and I highly recommend it to the horror lovers out there who haven’t read it yet!

 Click on the Bookdepository banner below to get your own copy with free shipping, make up your own mind, and let me know what you think of it💛

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle 📚 BOOK REVIEW

I read a paperback version of The Black Cloud.

Fred Hoyle

Genre: Science fiction

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd.

Originally published: 1957

Pages: 209 (paperback)

Audiobook length: 8 Hours 23 Minutes

Blurb by the publisher:

Astronomers in England and America have made a terrifying discovery: an ominous black cloud the size of Jupiter is travelling straight towards our solar system. If their calculations are correct, the cloud’s path will bring it between the Earth and the Sun, blocking out the Sun’s rays and threatening unimaginable consequences for our planet. With the fate of every living thing on Earth in the balance, world leaders assemble a team of brilliant scientists to figure out a way to stop the cloud. But when they uncover the truth behind its origins, they will be forced to reconsider everything they think they know about the nature of life in the universe . . . 

My Thoughts:

I found The Black Cloud on a recommended table in a Waterstones in London, and was intrigued by the Richard Dawkins quote printed on the cover that said;

“One of the greatest works of science fiction ever written.”

That’s a pretty bold statement! So, let’s see if I agree with Dawkins…

The Black Cloud paints a pretty scary picture of something unknown and feared to become a reality. I loved the fact that Hoyle is an astronomer, and that the actual storyline and happenings of the book actually might be quite realistic according to Dawkins. That made it even more interesting, and scarier at the same time.

This book has a good collection of interesting (and some not so likable) characters, that we briefly get to know. I would have loved to have gotten to know them a little bit more, but I also really appreciated that the book was quite short.

Some of the science in the book did pass over my head a little, but not so much that I lost interest in the story or got bored.

The politics that comes to play in The Black Cloud seem just as relevant today as it was in the times that it was written, and might be even scarier than the idea of the actual black cloud.

I found The Black Cloud to be a quick and interesting read that I really enjoyed. The greatest work of science fiction ever written? Not sure I agree with that, although I will say that Hoyle wrote a story that is very entertaining and thought-provoking.

If you are a fan of science fiction and haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend you do so. If you’re new to the genre, this book might not be the best place to start.

Click on the Bookdepository link below to get your own copy with free shipping, and let me know what you think of the book!

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