Currently Reading - Week 12

Hello, my darlings! I know what you are thinking... that I have abandoned you. I am sorry for that. It has been quite a bit since I last posted anything, especially anything pertaining to books. My absence is in part due to personal situations; however, during that time I also wasn't reading very much at all. This past week, I started getting back into reading and managed to finish a few. I am hoping to get back to a more regularly scheduled posting soon. 

This year, I have decided to participate in the 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. In 2015, I completed and loved the challenge; however, last year I fell off the wagon a little bit and never finished. This year there are 40 regular prompts and 12 advanced prompts. For the last few weeks of December, I spent a lot of time on a spreadsheet compiling ideas and purchasing books to fill out this list to ensure success. Moving into the new year, I decided to change the format of my reviews from monthly to weekly as well as the content included. I want to really improve my reviews and there structure throughout. With that, I will not be able to hold back as much information as usual; therefore, I want to warn you that after the overview section (it will be marked) you may encounter spoilers.

Completed Books:

Nonfiction, Autobiography, Science, Death, Memoir
PSRC - A book with a subtitle
Rating - 5/5

Overview -  In a macabre coming of age story, Doughty walks use through her time at a crematory. Having experienced death at a young age, Caitlin went on to study medieval history. Caring for the dead leads her to dive into the world of death culture, everything from how we care for our dead to how embalming came to be. Doughty doesn't shy away from the truth she finds in the industry and how it relates to how we deal with her dead. She makes the topic of death approachable and even comic as she details her time working in the industry.
Death drives every creative and destructive impulse we have as human beings.
Everything—the false stretcher, the secret morgue in the basement—was artfully designed to mask death, to distance it from the public. Death represented a failure of the medical system; it would not be permitted to upset the patients or their families.
Today, not being forced to see corpses is a privilege of the developed world.
Plot - Doughty's humor and wit really make for a fast paced read. Although death is a very heavy topic, she approaches it in a way that is informative and easy to consider. She talks about many of the practices throughout cultures and how they handle their dead. 

Characters - Although I wouldn't call them characters, the people within the book show a timeline of the progression and development of culture in relation to death. I enjoyed her coworkers and even some of the dead that she encounters throughout her time at the crematory.

Conclusion - I have never been someone that claims to be normal, so I am going, to be honest here: I loved this book. It is a book that had been on my radar for some time. During that rough time when I wasn't reading, I was watching her YouTube channel, Ask A Mortician. Her humor shows through and although it may not be for everyone, I really enjoyed it. That same humor is sprinkled throughout her book. Death has not been absent from my life, nor will it ever be; however, I am viewing it differently now. Reading this gave me a new way of viewing death and mortality, especially in regards to how I want to care for my loved ones as they die. It has encouraged me to dig deeper and really consider how I want my death and burial to be like. It is a very interesting look into the death industry within our culture and how it has progressed throughout history. Caitlin gives a unique voice that invites everyone into something that is kept behind closed doors in our culture. She also answers a lot of questions surrounding the death practices of today. If you are even a tiny bit curious, I recommend picking it up.

Historical Fiction, Romance, War, Mystery, Cultural
PSRC - A book set in two different time periods
Rating - 5/5

Overview - London 2016, Kitty's life has just been turned upside down. The only thing she can think to do is to get away and clear her head. Throwing herself into fixing up her great grandfather's cabin, she separates herself from her life back at home. She soon discovers a pendant hidden out of view. As she starts to uncover more about him, she wonders why no one ever mentioned him.
Russia 1914, war is raging and Dmitri has been wounded. He finds himself in the hands of a beautiful nurse, the Grand Duchess Tatiana. As the war escalates and he is called out on duty again, he keeps in touch through letters, but his time at the front lines is proving to be difficult. The tides are turning against the royal family and a rebellion is forming. Dmitri vows that he will do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
The words of poets through the generations, words he had previously thought trite and clichéd, suddenly made sense to him. He felt deliriously happy and wildly anxious at the same time.
This was one of the extraordinary things about a close relationship: it was possible for your partner to know you better than you knew yourself.
Why was life so relentlessly brutal, just one challenge after another? Why did evil so frequently triumph?
Plot -  The premise of the story is steeped in history. A 'what if' if you will. Set in past and present time, as the story continues the two story lines begin to come together to create the overall arch of the story as a whole. Each different place and times are given its own unique feel and description. The writing style within each timeline is even different, lending itself to the story well. Sometimes I found myself hurrying along in one or the other time period in order to get back to the other; however, the pace overall was well balanced.

Characters - The characters throughout this story are wonderfully detailed. The characters from the past, real people, remain relatively like their historical counterpart. The development of each character was beautifully written. Rosa was one of my favorites even though throughout the book I wasn't too keen on her place in the story line. I really enjoyed that the characters were flawed. They made mistakes and moved on from them learning as they went. The interaction throughout the book is something that I loved as well.

Conclusion - If you couldn't already tell by my usage of the words love, enjoy, etc, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Reading it with The Girl From Alabama, really increased the feelings for me. Having her to talk to as I read it, and to gush over after we finished, really made for a wonderful reading experience. I will never forget this experience with her. I cannot say enough good things about this story. The 'what if' spin on something that happened in history hooked me. I eventually had to force myself to stop googling things and just let the story overtake me. I had heard of the Romanovs; however, it wasn't something I knew a lot about. This was also a book that I shared with my mother. Since Ukranian history is something she is interested in now, I detailed the recap of the book to her while we waited for the tires to be changed. Once finished, she had tears in her eyes and we shared a rare bonding moment over a book. If you haven't read this book, you really should. It will now be a book that I cherish and it might even make the favorites list for me.

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)
Gail Carriger
Science Fiction, Steampunk, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal
PSRC - A book involving a mythical creature
Rating - 5/5

Overview - Alexia is revered as a tribulation among society. Her skin is dark, thanks to her Italian father who is now dead, her nose is too long, and her mouth often gets away from herself. Much to the ignorance of many, she does not have a soul. A spinster of her age isn't likely to be wed, so it is best she stays out of the limelight and let her half sisters have a chance at a decent marriage proposal; however, things go from bad to worse when a rove vampire attack during an afternoon party turns tragic. With her identity threatened, Lord Maccon does all that he can to keep her identity hidden. Having accidentally killed the vampire, there are now many in the supernatural community that are looking for her.

If she had no soul, she also had no morals, so she reckoned she had best develop some kind of alternative.
She was not certain what it said about her lifestyle that she found it immensely comforting to see an enormous wolf, his brown coat brindled gold and gray, pacing the back alley below her room.
Plot - Set in Victorian London, I immediately fell in love with the setting. Adding in the mystical elements of werewolves, vampires, and ghosts just made it even better. It is often difficult to meld them all into the same book; however, I feel like Carriger really balanced them appropriately. The pacing of the book was quick and full of action. It was difficult to put it down.

Characters - I loved the unique and flawed attributes of the characters. Each one had it owns quirky and spirit. With an appearance from the queen herself, the cast of characters was well rounded. Although the communication between Alexia and Lord Maccon can be a bit frustrating, especially their lack of proper communication, it really lends itself to the overall storyline. I must say, she did a good job of making the wax man feel real and the fear palpable.

Conclusion - Victorian London, Tea, Paranormal, Romance... how could I not like it?! Throw in a touch of steampunk and a strong-willed female character with a mind and mouth of her own and I couldn't put it down. After Louise from Big Haired Bookworm reviewed this, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. She was right, there is a lot of nibbling going on in this book, so maybe not for the younger audience; however, the overall storyline was well developed and interesting. The supernatural aspect was well defined with its own sets of rules and regulations. It wasn't very far-fetched or hard to believe. My expectations going in were rather high and I wasn't looking to enjoy it as much as I did. Even though it took me a little bit to get used to the diction and tone, once I settled in I couldn't look away. I cannot wait for my best friend to read this as well. I am looking forward to getting and reading the next four in the series.

As you can see the last ten or so days were very productive with reading. I would love to know if you have read any of these or if you are planning to read them. What are you currently reading this week? I would love to know in the comments below.