United States of Books: Illinois

Week thirteen of the United States of Books coming your way! Here’s the road map; every Friday I will bring you book recommendations from each of the fifty nifty United States. Anyone else remember that song from elementary school? We’re just going to follow that order.

Good morning, Illinois!


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

27833670.jpg“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

21996.jpgErik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

16131077.jpgHarper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

The Shining Girls is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

139253.jpgAcclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero.

Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous–it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.

 

 

Native Son by Richard Wright

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Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic.

Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright’s powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

It by Stephen King

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Etc, etc, etc…. (Seriously, there are so many good books set in Illinois.)


Next week, Indiana!

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Top Five Wednesday: Double Post

I missed the last T5W. (A sentence you have never heard me say before.) But it was one I didn’t miss on purpose, OKAY? So I’m combining them. Is your body ready? No? Too bad.


Discuss your preferred fancasts for some of your favorite characters. (Fancasts means actors you’d like to play your favorite characters or imagine your favorite characters as)

So…  This is a dilemma. Most of my favorite characters have already been cast into films and TV shows. Some of the castings I loved, and others I very much disagreed with. I’m not going to get into that right now because this post will never end, but JUST KNOW… I have opinions.

Red Queen by Veronica Aveyard

Mare Barrow – Lindsey Morgan (The 100) or Esmeraude Tobia (Shadowhunters)

Mare is described as being of Hispanic and Mediterranean descent, and I think both of these ladies fit the bill. Each of them play kick-ass characters on broadcast television, and I can easily see them filling Mare’s shoes. To be completely honest, I will be happy with the casting as long as they don’t cast a blonde, Caucasian actress to play her.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Tessa Gray – Jenna Louise Coleman (Victoria, Dr. Who)MV5BMTQ2NjAwMTI2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk3MjA3NjE@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_

I already know that I’m going to get some backlash for this. The Clockwork Angel characters are so hard to cast because I really just want the perfect people to play them. When searching for fancasts of Tessa Gray, I noticed Sarah Bolger and Astrid Berges-Frisby were mentioned frequently as favorites. However, I don’t really like either one for the part. Jenna Coleman is fantastic in Victoria, and I think she could play the bookish Tessa fairly well. I also liked Alicia Vikander for this part, but I think I would be happy with anyone relatively unknown playing her. As long as they look the part.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder – Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) or Jessica Yu (Awkward)

I PROMISE THEY ARE BOTH ASIAN. Preferably they would get someone younger to play Cinder, but I don’t know about the unknowns. I’m not an agent, and this isn’t star search. (Do you SEE what I did there?)

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Tally Youngblood – Willa Holland (Arrow)

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Finding an ugly actress in Hollywood is like trying to find a snowball on a beach. I’m not saying Willa Holland is ugly by any means, but I think she could really do Tally some justice. FYI: This film has been “in the works” since ‘nam, and it really doesn’t look like they’re ever going to do anything for it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman – Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) or Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

I imagined Don as Sheldon the entire time while reading this book. But I think Matthew Gray Gubler could do the character justice as well. It’s a toss up, really.


Discuss the books you’ve picked up because you’ve heard of them in the online book community or platform you use

History is all you left me by Adam Silvera

History is all you left me+ Adam Silvera

I can’t remember specifically which booktuber recommended this book, but I think it’s safe to assume that all of them did. I haven’t started it yet, but I just picked it up this week through Amazon Kindle for $1.99. (HINT HINT.)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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This is another book that I recently picked up for $1.99, and don’t remember who I heard about it from. There is so much hype surrounding this book that I’m almost afraid to read it, but I’m sure it will live up to its reputation!

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

the queen of the tearling - erika johansen

I stumbled upon this book through ReadbyZoe’s booktube channel. (I promise I came up with my own blog handle without realizing the resemblance.) I loved the cover, and I found the premise very interesting. Although Emma Watson (my QUEEN) is in talks to play Kelsea, I couldn’t see her as such while reading the book. I imagined Kelsea more curvy, like an America Ferrera type. Side note: how cool would it be to have a plus-sized leading actress in this movie?

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

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This book has been hammered into my brain by the likes of PolandBananasBOOKS, Abookutopia, Peruseproject, Jessethereader, Tashopolis, etc., etc. If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that I just got around to reading this incredible series last year. Because I am the Queen of being late to the party.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

a discovery of witches - deborah harkness
Sasha Alsberg of Abookutopia recommended this book to her followers a while back, and proclaimed it her second favorite book. Sasha and I seem to generally have the same taste in books, so how could I say no? And I wasn’t disappointed.

The Shoes Come First by Janet Leigh

Title: The Shoes Come First25026404
Author: Janet Leigh
Pages: 286
Year: 2015
Publisher: Goodreads
Rating: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis: In Sunnyside, Texas, Jennifer Cloud is an assistant purchasing manager for an upscale shoe store. But after her boss is arrested, she’s forced to find work elsewhere and ends up in her brother’s chiropractic office, where she discovers a hidden passion for helping others.

However, when she receives an unexpected birthday gift from her aunt that transports her back in time to 1568 Scotland, she meets a dashing Scottish outlaw who introduces her to a world of time-traveling keys. But on a return trip to the past, Jennifer’s key is stolen by a villainous band of time travelers who will stop at nothing to collect all of the keys for themselves. When Jennifer attempts to retrieve the key and sees her cousin kidnapped, she enlists a dysfunctional cast of characters—including a few interested suitors—to help her find the key and rescue her cousin.

Oh man… Where do I begin? I picked this book based solely on the fact that it was free via Kindle, and I am so glad of that fact. I really hate to say that I hated this book, but it was pretty bad… I’ve read better Twilight fan fiction… (*Cough* Fifty Shades of Grey *Cough*)

Ditzy (and virtually helpless) Jennifer Cloud’s obsession with shoes outweighs most other pressing matters in her life, until she accidentally stumbles upon a time traveling outhouse that takes her back in time to the 16th century. There, she meets a Scottish hunk, for whom she abandons all morals. (Context: At the time, she’s a 16 year old virgin who sleeps with a stranger she just met.) After a big time jump to the future, Jenn is yet again whisked away to the past via outhouse. Only this time, her redneck cousin Gertie goes along for the ride. From there, a series of shenanigans transpire, as well as Jenn being fought over by at least 3 different men. All of whom, I should mention, are massive fuckboys that Jennifer shouldn’t be wasting her time on anyway.

Positives:

  • There were a few funny moments that I couldn’t help snorting at.
  • Jennifer Cloud is written as a kindhearted, passionate person, who can’t help but inspire those around her to be better.
  • Time travel

Negatives:

  • Jennifer Cloud is written as a woman with no self control. She sleeps with a man she has just met, who abandons her in a foreign land/foreign time. She is indecisive, ditzy, and helpless. She has to rely on others to save her, and frequently wishes for the men in her life to save her from predicaments instead of looking for a solution herself. She’s described as gorgeous, but doesn’t buy that all these men are interested in her. In summary: Jennifer Cloud is a Disney Princess.
  • All of Jennifer’s love interests are serial daters, and are well known for sleeping around. None are immune to Jenn’s charms.

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    Me

  • Many, many, MANY plot cliches.
  • Cheesy villains

If you want a LIGHT, romantic, cheesy read, this is the book for you. Personally, I found it a little hard to get through, but someone else may enjoy it immensely. This book received a *chokes on coffee* 3.71 rating on Goodreads.

Top Five Wednesday: Books to Read Without the Synopsis

We all know that some synopsis writers spoil events that happen halfway through the book or have heard reviewers say “its best to go into this one blind.” Discuss those books.

A.K.A. Books to read solely based on the cover… Books that I’ve read solely based on the cover… Books whose synopsis’ suck so just read the damn book before I smack you…. etc. etc.

Books I’ve Read Solely Based on the Cover Without Reading the Synopsis: 

With Malice by Eileen Cook

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I had no idea what this book was going to be about before I read it. All I knew was Italy and malice, which sounded a little like a Jersey Shore episode. (It’s not, FYI.) Your cab is hea-ah, read this book.

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

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I’m not normally a fan of actual humans on covers of books. But I am a fan of this cover. Doesn’t it look so mysterious and Mona Lisa like “IDK what this bitch is thinking, but I need to know now?”

Books I Want to Read Based on Their Covers and Nothing Else Because I Haven’t Read the Synopsis: 

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

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This is one of my favorite covers in the history of covers. Honestly, I don’t even remember what this is about. But if the story is as amazing as its cover, I’ll gladly sign on the dotted line.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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I assume that the title gives the setting away, but I’m HERE for this cover. If Oprah endorses it, then it must be good. Right? RIGHT??!!

The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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This. Cover. Is. So. Cool. I’ve seen other editions of this book with a completely different cover, but this is the cover I’m here for. (These last three all have red in them… not sure what that says about me.)

The One Where Everyone Loses Their Chill

As a Floridian, I’m no stranger to bad weather. Tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, lightning, extreme heat, swarms of mosquitoes, raining alligators… you name it. Hurricanes are as routine to me as blizzards are to people up north. It’s like, okay… another one? Board up the windows and pass the margarita mix.

While this may be the case, we’ve also never had a hurricane this big hit the U.S. before. For perspective, Hurricane Katrina was a category 3 when it devastated Louisiana. Hurricane Sandy was a category 1. Now, Hurricane Andrew was a category 5, but here’s a side by side comparison of Andrew to Irma:

andrew-vs-irma

Casual.

Literally me when I saw this pic:

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The good news is that Irma will have weakened to a category 4 by the time it hits Florida. The bad news is that I probably won’t have any humorous posts for y’all for a while. We already know that the power will be knocked out, we just don’t know for how long. My family has been busy trying to get as ready as we can with the shortage of supplies in my area, so I haven’t had time to queue anything.

All we can do now is hope for the best, and hope that my home is still here on Monday. I hope everyone has a good week. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated!