BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wolves At The Door – by Gunnar Staalesen #blogtour #RandomThingsTours #WolvesAtTheDoor #VargVeum #NordicNoir @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wolves At The Door Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to plan a meeting with Varg Veum for a long time now, and when I was invited to the blog tour I saw it as a sign I should no longer pospone it. I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to meet him now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Wolves At The Door.

Title: Wolves At The Door
(Varg Veum #21)
Author: Gunnar Staalesen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: June 10th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian:’Utenfor er hundene’)

“Someone was lying to me, and one thing was sure: in such cases as this I seldom gave up until I found out who it was. And why.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I think one problem all of us book bloggers have to face is the fact that there are so many fantastic sounding series and books out there and hardly enough time to even make a dent into the pile of unread priority titles. Meeting Varg Veum has been on my to-do list for a long long time now, but somehow other books always got in the way… I think the first time this Nordic Noir series appeared on my radar was with the publication of book number eighteen, Where Roses Never Die, back in 2017. While I prefer reading a series in order, with each publication fellow book bloggers kept promising the books can be read quite satisfactory as a standalone as well. So when I was invited for the blog tour for Wolves At The Door, I decided to jump in the deep end and finally meet Varg Veum without further excuses. (And let’s face it, there was no way I would be able to find time to read the first twenty books and catch up in the first place.)

Wolves At The Door is already the twenty first installment of the Varg Veum series, but as I was promised with the previous books, the story works really well as a standalone as well. The only thing that is bound to happen is that you, like myself, will be left wanting to spend more time with a new favorite character and end up reading the previous books anyway as soon as you can find time for them… Because such is the power of Varg Veum. I can understand why this series has been going on for as long as it has, because Varg Veum is a force to reckon with. He is one of those characters that I connected to immediately and profoundly. As soon as you read the first chapter, he feels familiar and it’s as if you have known him for ages already. His description, his way of seeing the world, his attitude, the way he speaks, reacts and deducts information from what he learns along the way, his humor… Meeting Varg Veum was like seeing an old friend again after a long time apart, knowing you won’t let him slip this easily from your life again now he’s back in the picture. I don’t often feel a connection this strong to a character after such a short time, but consider me officially on #TeamVargVeum from now on.

Varg Veum is not the only thing that makes Wolves At The Door into such a success for me. A lot of it had to do with both the writing style itself and the many detailed descriptions making the cold Nordic setting truly come alive. I haven’t had the chance to visit Norway yet, but I feel like I really got to know Bergen and its surroundings while reading Wolves At The Door. The detailed descriptions of not only the setting, but also the characters added a lot of dept to what was already an intriguing plot and gave the story a ominous and sinister atmosphere. The writing itself is excellent; we have the wonderful translation by Don Bartlett to thank for that, because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this Nordic Noir gem otherwise. While the pace is slower in especially the first half of the story, it never really slowed me down as I saw it as an opportunity to get to know Varg Veum and other key characters better. The writing style and humor was spot on for me and I’ve become an instant fan of Gunnar Staalesen‘s work. As things are getting more heated for Varg Veum, the pace as well as the suspense pick up… Making you move towards the edge of your seat while you keep your fingers crossed everything will work out in the end.

Wolves At The Door deals with a very difficult topic, one that is trigger warning worthy: child abuse. An emotionally harrowing topic and very hard to write or read about, but I feel that Gunnar Staalesen has tackled the subject in an honorable and realistic way. It doesn’t make it easier to read about both the past case (I imagine has been discussed in the previous book I can’t wait to read now) and the new discoveries our main character Varg Veum makes as he follows his intuition… But it justifies going down that road and explore such a sensitive theme. The story will probably provoke strong emotions though, and you will definitely feel anger towards certain characters and events before you reach the final page. Of course, it’s always a good sign a story is able to make you feel such strong emotions in the first place… And there is no doubt whatsoever that Wolves At The Door is a brilliant piece of Nordic Noir and a harrowing story that will touch even those with the coldest heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Gunnar Staalesen was born in
Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with
Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg
Veum series. He is the author of over twenty-three titles, which have been
published in twenty-six countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film
adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring
the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is
currently being filmed. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including
the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA
Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #105 – We Are Never Meeting In Real Life (DNF) & The Confectioner’s Guild

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around I was less lucky with my reading choices… The first, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby, ended up being a DNF for me as we definitely didn’t get along. The second, The Confectioner’s Guild by Claire Luana, started out good enough, but things soon fizzled out and the story failed to impress me in the end.


Title: We Are Never Meeting In Real Life
Author: Samantha Irby

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir
First published: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Vintage
Finished reading: June 4th 2019
Pages: 272
DNF at 42% (114 pages)

“And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just tell some more stupid jokes. Good thing I’m hilarious.”


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Give me a cat on a cover and I’m immediately intrigued, and give me a promise of a potentially funny memoir and consider me signed up for the challenge. I’ve been looking forward to pick up We Are Never Meeting In Real Life despite the mixed reviews and despite the fact I hadn’t heard of the author before. Maybe I should have checked out her blog to see if her writing style would be for me, because there is one thing for sure: her writing and me definitely didn’t get along. I love my snarky humor, but we are most definitely NOT going to be meeting in real life or getting along for that matter… I’m going to be honest here and say I just felt the author was too full of herself (see quote above) and trying way too hard to be funny and it had the complete opposite effect on me. Add an overdose of sex references to the whole self-centeredness and I had no other option than to simply throw in the towel at 42%. I never like making the decision to DNF a story, but sadly the writing style and content was such a struggle for me that I just couldn’t force myself to read the other 58% of the essays. Hereby I declare We Are Never Meeting In Real Life officially my fourth DNF of the year and it’s easy to say it wasn’t the reading experience I was hoping for. Note to self: next time, don’t get distracted by a cute cat on the cover and investigate first before deciding to read another ‘funny’ memoir. If you are able to connect to her humor and don’t mind a lot of sex-centered comments, you will probably have a better time reading We Are Never Meeting In Real Life though.


Title: The Confectioner’s Guild
(The Confectioner’s Chronicles #1)
Author: Claire Luana

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: October 23rd 2018
Publisher: Live Edge Publishing
Finished reading: June 5th 2019
Pages: 327

“Small things change the course of history.”

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I stumbled upon this series while browsing for books with a food element for a challenge, and both cover and blurb sounded positively delicious. I’ve been looking forward to bite into The Confectioner’s Guild ever since (did I mention before I love baking?), and when I started reading I really liked what I was tasting. The fantasy world, the many many baking references, the mystery around Kasper’s death and Wren’s past, the existence of the Gifted… Oh yes, there were a lot of interesting ingredients in play. The Confectioner’s Guild reads quite fast at first and part of this has to do with the writing, which starts out engaging and interactive. It’s true though that things start slowing down a bit after a while and the initial flame peeters out mostly… I think a lot of it has to do with the introduction of sappy romance in the plot, which distracts from the murder conspiracy and delicious baking elements. It also had to do with Wren, who started to get on my nerves with the whole ‘I can’t trust anyone’ and then ‘I’m trusting them anyway’ repeating over and over again. The romance itself mostly felt forced and unnatural for me, but at least we don’t have a love triangle (or at least for now). I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Confectioner’s Guild, because while I loved certain elements, there were others that failed to convince me including the ending. But there is one thing for sure: you will crave lots of baked goods before you reach the final page! I’m really tempted to make another batch of these rose buttercream cupcakes I prepared two weeks ago for a birthday party just because they match the cupcake that changed Wren’s fate so well. 😉


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YVO’S SHORTIES #104 – And The Ocean Was Our Sky & The Thirteenth Tale

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories belonging to completely different genres, but both were excellent reads. And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness has the most beautiful illustrations and a very interesting retelling of the Moby Dick classic. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield might have a slow pace, but the story itself is one that will stay with me for quite some time.


Title: And The Ocean Was Our Sky
Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Retelling
First published: September 4th 2018
Publisher: Walker Books
Finished reading: May 30th 2019
Pages: 160

“Here is the truth behind the myth: all men are Toby Wick. For who needs devils when you have men?”


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I’ve been excited about this title ever since it was published last year, especially since I kept seeing photos of the illustrations and they looked absolutely gorgeous. Now I’ve had the chance to read And The Ocean Was Our Sky, I still believe the illustrations are the true power behind the story. They really take the writing to the next level and turn this story into something special; it wouldn’t have been the same without them. As for the story itself: I admit things can get a bit confusing and sometimes it felt more magical realism than a fantasy retelling, but overall I really liked how Patrick Ness turned the original Moby Dick story into something completely new and original. The idea of the whales and men both roaming the seas and hunting each other is fascinating. Even more intriguing is that the main focus is on the whales, and their world is basically upside down. Bathsheba is a very interesting character and basically the one to challenge the world as they know it and also the one trying to understand men instead of just trying to fight them. Not much is told about Toby Wick, adding to his mystery and myth while also adding intrigue to the story. And The Ocean Was Our Sky is without doubt a story you won’t come across every day and it might not be for everyone, but there is one thing for sure: the illustrations are absolutely wonderful.


Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 12th 2006
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 31st 2019
Pages: 416

“A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else’s story.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Thirteenth Tale for years now, but it was simply one of those titles that kept slipping between the cracks of my enormous TBR mountain… I’m glad I was finally able to dig it out and read it though. It was my first experience with Diane Setterfield‘s work and I already know it won’t be my last. What a wonderful and atmospheric way of describing the setting and characters! The Thirteenth Tale has that gothic feel and the fact that you don’t know exactly when the story is set makes it all the more intriguing. A lot of speculation about the time period can be found on the internet, but there seems to be no clear winner and I like how it leaves the answer wide open for each reader to decide on their own. It’s true that the pace can be considerably slow at points and there are parts where nothing much is happening, but the power of The Thirteenth Tale is in the different characters, their development and their role in the story of famous author Vida Winter. Both the Angelfield house and family give off that creepy and gothic vibe and there are some moments that will make your hair stand on end. I like how Margaret not just believes everything Vida Winter tells her (especially with her history of lying), but instead starts her own investigation as well. Past and present are mixed and fully intertwined in such a way that the separation becomes liquid and all characters fully come alive. The Thirteenth Tale has secrets, twists and turns to reveal and some you definitely won’t see coming. But like I said before, the power behind this story is in the characters and fantastic descriptions, and fans of slower, atmospheric and character-driven historical fiction will love The Thirteenth Tale. Bonus: there are a lot of bookish references to be found including classics like Jane Eyre!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #102 – The Sleep Tight Motel & The Last Of August

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a thriller novella and a YA contemporary read… The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger turned out to be short, but very entertaining, while The Last Of August by Brittany Cavallaro ended up being mostly a disappointment. Find out more about the why below.


Title: The Sleep Tight Motel
(Dark Corners Collection #2)
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 48

“Why do we celebrate the monsters, the destroyers, the killers among us? Me, I prefer to run away. As fast and as far as I can get.”


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I know I don’t read a lot of short stories, but I’ve enjoyed Lisa Unger‘s writing in the past and The Sleep Tight Motel fitted a couple of challenge prompts… Making it easy to make an exception and give it a go. Between the cover and blurb I knew I was in for a creepy read, and I can say this short story would have been a perfect fit for the Halloween month. What starts out as a simple crime thriller with the main character on the run and hiding from someone, turns out to be so much more by the time you reach the final page… I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say you won’t see the final twists coming at all. The Sleep Tight Motel is well written and has a lot of different elements included successfully for such a short story. If you enjoy creepy reads with an eery setting and a surprising twist, The Sleep Tight Motel reads like a nice little snack in between other books.


Title: The Last Of August
(Charlotte Holmes #2)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Finished reading: May 21st 2019
Pages: 326

“I’ve always wanted to be invisible, and because I want to be, it’s impossible.”


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I admit it’s been a long time since I read the first book (almost three years; oops?), but I still remember I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to spend time with this Sherlock Holmes retelling sequel. What I definitely didn’t expect is that I almost ended up DNFing The Last Of August. Oh yes, sadly this Charlotte Holmes sequel turned out to be a huge disappointment for me. Why? Well, the first mayor obstacle is that about 90% of the story is filled with a frustrating love triangle, a whole lot of ‘does he/she love me?’ and ‘I don’t know what to do with my feelings’ and basically an overdose of teen angst in general. This is a huge turn off for me any day, but even more so when you expect an entertaining Sherlock Holmes retelling filled with the well known bantering between Holmes and Watson. Instead of this, the whole investigation angle of the story has been mostly pushed in to the background, the story then focusing on the petty feelings of Holmes, Watson and August. Definitely not what I signed up for! The only thing that stopped me from just DNFing The Last Of August  was the promise of Berlin and Prague descriptions, cities I was lucky enough to visit myself last year and was hoping to revisit with the help of this story. Sadly, even those descriptions were not as present as I hoped… All in all I can’t exactly say I enjoyed my second meeting with Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, and I think I’m going to just give up on this series for now.


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ARC REVIEW: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes – by Ruth Hogan

Title: The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes
Author: Ruth Hogan
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 3rd 2018
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: May 16th 2019
Pages: 320

“When the music ends for someone you love you don’t stop dancing. You dance for them as well.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to try Ruth Hogan‘s work so I was really excited to receive a copy of The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes on my kindle. And while my reading experience turned out to be different than what I was expecting and it ended up being not exactly my cup of tea, I also understand the love for this story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes is by no means a bad read (quite the contrary in fact) and the three star rating reflects my personal experience with the story rather than the quality itself. Every book has its target group and while the story sadly wasn’t a right fit for me, I could also really appreciate it for what it was. Let’s make it clear from the start that The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes has a considerably slow pace and is mainly a character-driven story. The power behind this read is Ruth Hogan‘s ability to create quirky, flawed and unique characters that will most likely stay with you for quite some time. A lot of time is invested in the description and development of the different characters. While I could really appreciate that and I do love my quirky and unique characters, for me personally it slowed down the pace too much and I struggled to connect and stay invested in the story. The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes uses a dual POV and follows two ‘broken’ women each with their own past and problems. Sadly, I failed to connect fully to Alice and Masha, but what was even worse is that I guessed the mayor final plot twist right from the beginning. I kept hoping I was wrong… And it was quite a disappointment to discover I was right all along. I really liked Edward, Sally and Kitty though and I loved the hidden meaning behind Haizum’s name (and the fact a dog plays a considerable role in the story). Masha’s romance was too cliche for me, but I did enjoy seeing her character evolve over time and slowly learn how to deal with the death of her son. I’m having a feeling fans of slower and mostly character-driven contemporary dramas and those who love quirky and unique characters will have a wonderful time with The Wisdom Of Sally Red Shoes.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #100 – The Death Of Mrs. Westaway & Circe

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Already shorties post number one hundred! and what better way to celebrate than with two fantastic backlist titles I both loved. The Death Of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware is probably my new favorite by the author and I absolutely loved my time with Circe by Madeline Miller. I love mythology stories in general and this one was brilliant.


Title: The Death Of Mrs Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: May 29th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Finished reading: May 7th 2019
Pages: 384

“You can’t influence fate, or change what’s out of your control. But you can choose what you yourself do with the cards you’re dealt.”


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I’ve been meaning to read another Ruth Ware book for a while now… While I was tempted to finally pick up The Woman In Cabin 10, I decided to stick to my 2019 priority title list and read The Death Of Mrs. Westaway instead. I can’t say I’m complaining, because after a few disappointing reads I finally found something that managed to blow me away again. This might just be my new favorite Ruth Ware title… What a creepy and suspenseful read! The house in Cornwall is such an excellent setting for this story filled with secrets and lies, and gives The Death Of Mrs. Westaway that gothic atmosphere. It definitely sets the right tone for this story! The story starts out in Brighton where we get to know the main character of this story and her desperate situation. I was intrigued by Hal’s situation from the start and while she is without doubt a flawed character and sometimes difficult to like, you will find yourself rooting for her soon enough. The writing is engaging and beautifully crafted and the descriptions gave off that creepy and eerie vibe. There are a lot of secrets and lies involved in the Westaway family and its past, and while I admit I saw part of them coming, I never guessed the full truth. In short, The Death Of Mrs. Westaway was a delightfully twisty and eerie psychological thriller packed with secrets and a dangerous side. If you are a fan of the genre, you will most likely have a great time with this one.


Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology
First published: April 10th 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: May 9th 2019
Pages: 336

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”


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I admit it was a pretty safe bet I was going to enjoy reading Circe, considering my love for Greek mythology stories in general and the fact that I loved her previous book The Song Of Achilles. My instincts turned out to be right, because I loved this story just as much as the gorgeous and shiny cover! If you enjoy (Greek) mythology retellings, Circe definitely is a must-read. Madeline Miller uses Circe’s immortal character to weave in a variety of different myths and stories about Gods and famous mortals alike. This is done exceptionally well and in a way that makes the story flow naturally. It’s true that time passes slower or more quickly at times and sometimes decades or centuries pass in a blink of the eye. But for me it only demonstrated the immortality of Circe and the way passes differently for her. The pace is slower at times, but I personally didn’t mind as it gave me more time to truly savour this little gem. I loved reading about Circe’s time living in the house of her father Helios and all the events that followed. You will find references to for example Daedalus, the Minotaur and the famous labyrinth, Icarus and his wings, Achilles and the Troyan war… The main secondary role is left for Odysseus though, as both him and his sons play a role during a big part of the story. We learn more about his adventures, his past and the influence he has had on Circe’s life. Witchcraft also plays a big role throughout the story, and I really enjoyed learning more about Circe’s gift. I can see why Circe wouldn’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy Greek mythology retellings and don’t mind a slower pace at times, you will most likely enjoy it as much as I did.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #98 – Fun Home & Five Feet Apart

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a graphic novel memoir and a YA contemporary romance read; one I almost wish I had DNFed and another I enjoyed despite a few issues. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott.


Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
First published: June 8th 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 232

“It could be argued that death is inherently absurd, and that grinning is not necessarily an inappropriate response. I mean absurd in the sense of ridiculous, unreasonable. One second a person is there, the next they’re not.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead!

I’m keeping these rambles short, because honestly I don’t feel I have a lot to say about this graphic novel. It’s true I wasn’t sure if Fun Home would be for me even before I started reading it, but I needed a graphic novel for my BTB Bingo challenge and my TBR choices were limited. I enjoy reading memoirs and the idea of reading a memoir in graphic novel form intrigued me. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the tone or writing style of the author. The many many references to classic literature for me were, instead of an unexpected bonus, rather a hint to feelings of self-importance and superiority. I wasn’t a fan of how the whole lgbt element was handled nor how characters were portrayed. I honestly wish I would have just taken the decision to DNF, because I had a really hard time reaching that final page. This definitely wasn’t a story for me, although I should note others have highly enjoyed it and it has a high overall rating on Goodreads, so it might have been just me. Still, the fact is I had a really hard time reaching that final page of Fun Home and I can’t say I had ‘fun’ while I was trying to get there. If you are looking for an original memoir, enjoy reading in graphic novel form and don’t mind classic literature references in abundance, you will probably be a better match for this story though.


Title: Five Feet Apart
Author: Rachael Lippincott

Genre: YA, Fiction, Romance
First published: November 20th 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster For Young Readers
Finished reading: April 30th 2019
Pages: 288

“Everyone in this world is breathing borrowed air.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while… Especially since I’ve been hoping to watch the movie adaptation some time soon. The first thing that stood out for me was that this story has that The Fault In Our Stars and Everything, Everything vibe down to the terminal illness and cheesy romance. I’m still deciding whether that is a good or a bad thing, but there is one thing for sure: you will find yourself flying through this story. I literally finished it in less than a day, and a lot of this has to do with the writing style. I appreciated the focus and insight in CF and how the story shows the impact of this disease on someone’s life (once it is in an advanced stage). BUT. I’m not sure up to what point some aspects of the plot are exactly credible. I don’t want to end up including spoilers, but let’s just say part of it has to do with the unnecessary risk taking (something similar happened in Everything Everything). I don’t think it’s encourageable to have main characters who are that ill taking significant risks that basically endanger their lives. It gives a bad example and it is simply not credible. The same goes for the sudden change in attitude towards safety of Stella. The romance itself was cheesy, but somehow I found myself liking it anyway. Five Feet Apart is a story that will both make you smile and make your eyes water… Perfect if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind a considerable amount of cliches and some inconsistencies.


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