Category Archives: Books

Halfway Through the Reading Year

I risk being chastised at for showing off, but I am having an excellent reading year. We’re halfway through and today I hit…

Guesses?

It is a new record for me.

199 books since January.

200 sounds more rounded by I want to go to bed and don’t feel like pushing myself through a book tonight just for bragging rights. But don’t worry, I’ll hit it tomorrow.


Gravity Is The Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

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3/5 stars

I saw a post on Instagram from @thedtrblog the other day that I feel sums this book up perfectly:

Boss: What are your goals while you work here?
Me: Thriving not surviving
Boss: And how exactly do you plan on doing that?
Me: Live Laugh Love
Boss: Can you give me specifics?
Me: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain
Boss: Are you done?
Me: *whispering* Footprints in the sand.
Boss: *walks out* 

I keep telling myself I do not like these types of books, and yet here I am, reading yet another one.

It is a fun plot. 20 years ago, at age 16, Abigail Sorenson started receiving mysterious chapters from a self-help book in the mail. Through loss of family, college years, marriage, divorce, motherhood, business-ownership, and all the ups and downs of life, the chapters keep coming. The story starts when she gets invited to an all-expense-paid retreat where she is told she will finally learn “the truth” about the chapters and why she has been sent them all these years.

I guess the synopsis made me think more And Then There Were None than Tuesdays with Morrie which maybe explains why I struggled to get into it. The story is much more interested in exploring the meaning of life than keeping things exciting. Which is fine. But it took me a while to find the rhythm.

If you like quirky, loner-female-main-characters novels like Where’d You Go, Bernadette or Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine or The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, this is the book for you. It leaves you with a warm glow, spouts some heart-warming language, and yet contains little more by way of substance than Live. Laugh. Love.

At the same time…it is Jaclyn Moriarty. She is one of my favorite YA authors for a reason. And while her first foray into adult novels didn’t exactly win my heart, there were still many moments that conveyed her genius with human emotion.

But I still prefer her books Feeling Sorry For Celia and The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.


Publishers & False Pretenses (But Reverse)

In my last post I mentioned seemingly innocent looking covers that hid rather explicit content. Today I think it worth mentioning that the problem goes two ways: dreadful covers often make relatively innocent looking books appear terribly inappropriate.

This is particularly true with paranormal/urban fantasy.

Besides recently popular and universally disappointing romance novels, I have recently plunged into the urban fantasy world of Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, and Anne Bishiop. And their covers are just awful!

I mean, really, what is with her hair?

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More seriously, they often look like this:

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, #4)

Or this

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1)

(These being the more modest covers because minors read this blog) And I feel horrendously embarrassed admitting to reading any of them!

But 9 times out of 10, the novels never deliver on their covers. They’re often dark, potentially edgy, and don’t shy away from serious themes. But they’re not the trashy romance novels they appear to be.

In fact, most of the time, these books have incredible world-building, strong characters not in a romantic relationship, and wonderfully loyal fan bases that make reading the books feel like joining a tight-knit community.

But I would never recommend them because of those dang covers!

Do you have a favorite series you can’t admit to reading?


Publishers & False Pretenses

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

Besides adorable covers, charming premises, and a recent explosion of popularity, what do each of these novels have in common? They’re explicit romance novels packaged to look like fluffy chick-flicks. And I fell for every one of them.

I don’t know when romance publishers stopped advertising the content of their novels with heaving bosoms and shirtless men, but I find the change most frustrating.

How am I to know to avoid a book when its cover looks like this?

To Have and to Hoax
Well Met (Well Met, #1)
The Flatshare
Waiting for Tom Hanks

I was lured under false pretenses. They look so innocent. So fun. So not like books that make you want to wash your brain out with bleach.*

I never thought I’d say this but…BRING BACK TRASHY ROMANCE COVERS. Highlanders. Fabio. Conveniently placed bushes. Anything to let you know what you are getting yourself into!

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*Okay, The Flatshare was pretty decent. 4 stars.


Goodwill Books

Peopled asked me frequently what I intended to do once social distancing lifted. Only one thing ever came to mind: visit Goodwill. I missed Goodwill so much during quarantine! I’ve taken advantage of it being open now by visiting at least 5 different Goodwill stores during the last few weeks.

But today probably wins for Goodwill stories.

I was taking my time, leisurely shopping in the afternoon and going through each aisle, saving the best for last (aka the books), when over the loudspeakers someone announced:

“It is 4:30. Goodwill closes at 5. Please proceed to the check out.”

Panic! I had not looked at books yet!

I hurried over to the well-stocked shelves. Books, books, books. So much stress. I’m a rule follower generally, and the voice over the intercom did say to check out. And here I was…not checking out!

An employee walked over. I braced to be politely told the store was closing and politely bum rushed out the door.

Instead, the employee pointed to one of the books in front of me, “That’s my favorite. I’ve read it three times.”

“Oh,” I responded in surprise. “Okay, I’ll buy it.” (It was 99 cents.)

The employee looked shocked. “Really???”

“Yes,” I said, tossing it into my cart. The employee wandered off.

“It is 4:40,” said the voice over the intecom. “Goodwill is closing. Please check out.”

I could picture my retail working sisters—not present—glaring at me for my tardiness. I hurriedly tossed more books in my cart, desperately trying to glance over everything in the limited amount of time left.

The employee returned. I once again braced.

“I hope you like the book.”

“Oh, I’m looking forward to it!” I assured her.

She looked stunned again. “Really?!

“I like book recommendations!” I said. But the guilt of not checking out ate me inside. Sure, there were still people around. But the store was closing. I needed to check out. I couldn’t be that customer. And also I didn’t think I could stand to shock the Goodwill employee any longer with my willingness to read the book she likes.

Goodwill—quite thoughtfully—has another bookshelf right outside the check out. So I grabbed a few more while waiting for the long line. Probably more than I normally would if I stopped to think about it. But…the store was closing in ten minutes. No time to think!

I left with ten books. I don’t know if that is a success story or a failure. But at least I wasn’t the last person out the door.

(Switching gears, HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all the Dads who read this blog, particularly my own! <3)


Hear This Woman by Ann Pinchot

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Written in 1949, the cryptic plot synopsis on Goodreads states: “Follow Faith Holmes in her journey to bring all American Women together.”

Rather unhelpful, if you ask me. It sounds trite. Like vintage war propoganda. I expected Faith Holmes to unite all American women in buying war bonds or something.

But that is not this story at all.

Published 29 years after women got the vote, this novel is a rallying cry for women to take up the political cudgels, defeat cronyism and corruption, and finally come into their own as political actors.
It is tough, pro-women, and pro-grassroots activism.

But admittedly, it takes a while to get there.

The book reminded me of All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. (Incidentally, a book published only 3 years prior to this one.) In fact, I would go so far as to call this the female version of All the King’s Men. The answer to it, so to speak.

But while All the King’s Men traces the journey of a young ideologue politician becoming part of the corrupt establishment, Hear This Woman takes a more holistic look at its heroine and ends on a more optimistic note.

The book introduces chunks of the heroine’s life through the opposition “dirt” on her. Faith Holmes, ensnared the richest boy in town to escape poverty. Divorced him when the Depression made him poor. Faith Holmes, bright young thing too busy for children. Faith Holmes, abandoned her mother to a nursing home.

It then goes through those same years but with the whole story. The reader sees Faith Holmes’s unhappy home life, her early marriage, her despair when she can’t have children. It is a frustrating, heart-wrenching slog as the Great Depression hits and slowly destroys her marriage. She is dragged into the world of journalism and politics and begins to see more of the injustice in the world.

As the story traces her ups and downs, the same theme continues. Every time she tries for conventionality, her own convictions lead her to break from it.

It makes the first two-thirds of this book hard to get through. Hers is not a happy awakening. Perhaps, I’m making it sound too gloomy. It isn’t all dark. There are themes about work and meaning throughout. Her story has both happy and sad moments. The book is populated with characters–some good, some bad. Each contributes in some way to the woman she becomes.

And finally, in the last third, the reader sees her begin to come into her own…which in turn means helping the American women come into their own and become a force in politics.

This is not as glorious a novel as All The King’s Men. (I mean, what is, really?) Part of the problem, I think, lies with the fact that it tries to do two things. On the one hand, it is a call to women readers who recently got the vote not to sit on their hands but to actually engage in politics and fight the good fight. On the other hand, it is a novel with all the drama and tension of a novel. And so things fall together too neatly for a rallying cry. The two feel conflicting for either to really shine.

But it is an interesting mix and definitely made me curious to find more by this author. If you are looking for a vintage read and stumble upon it, it is worth picking up.


C.S. Lewis And Reading Early Church Fathers

I picked up On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria (4th century Christian saint) for my devotional this morning. It is excellent and probably will get a review of its own later. But what brought me to the volume in the first place was the 7-page introduction written by C.S. Lewis.

The book is worth reading for the introduction alone. Today I was particularly struck by this quote, which I find quite true in my own life (minus the pipe):

“For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.”


Would You Rather Fictional Grab-Bag Edition

Stealing this wonderful idea from katiescottagebooks (whom you should follow if you don’t already!) who got it from http://rosepetalsandfaeriedust.com/ (whose blog I just followed! How cute!)

I made my sister, Bethany, do it with me for fun.

Would you rather, be a tenant of Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley?
Bethany: Darcy. I just hate Knightley.

Me: Knightley. He seems more hands on with his management style.

Would you rather spend a day in the 100 Acre Wood or Neverland?
Bethany: 100 Acre Woods. Neverland is scary.
Me: 100 Acre Woods, they run around murdering each other in Neverland!

Would you rather attend a tea party with the Mad Hatter and company or meet the Wizard of Oz?
Bethany: Tea party with the Mad Hatter. I’ve always wanted to be in Wonderland.
Me: Maybe Wizard of Oz…I feel Mad Hatter is a little too trippy for me.

Would you rather spend a summer at Netherfield with Jane and Mr. Bingley, or at Hamley Hall with Squire Hamley?
Bethany: Obviously Jane and Bingley. They’d be quite great to visit.
Me: Same. Mostly because I haven’t read Wives and Daughters and don’t know Squire Hamley.

Would you rather be “rescued” by Gilbert Blythe or Colonel Brandon?
Bethany: Probably Gilbert. I don’t know. I’d be fine with either.
Me: Gilbert! Easy. Col Brandon is a little too mopey for my tastes.

Would you rather marry Laurie or John Brooke?
Bethany: John Brooke. Laurie is annoying. John Brooke seems like a nicer guy.
Me: Laurie. I think he has potential.

Would you rather have to participate in a skirmish as a member of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, or as a member of the Musketeers?
Bethany: Robin Hood’s Merry Men. They are just better.
Me:
This is really hard. I did go through a Three Musketeers phase where I read the books and watched like 7 different movie adaptions. But I’d have to go with Robin Hood as well. I do love fighting unjust taxation!

Would you rather have a jolly holiday in a chalk painting or enjoy a tea party on the ceiling with Uncle Albert?
Bethany: Oooh…chalk painting if I get to go on the carousel.
Me: Chalk painting if Burt comes along.

Would you rather have to chaperone, through their entire courting experience, Lydia Bennet or Anne De Bourgh?
Bethany: Anne De Bourgh. I don’t think I could handle Lydia.
Me: I’m not sure I could handle Lydia either, but I feel like Anne would be supremely boring. So I will give Lydia a go.

Would you rather marry Mr. Wickham or Mr. Elton?
Bethany: You see…I don’t know. Probably Wickham. Wickham is at least charming. Mr. Elton has a terrible personality.
Me: Wickham is more charming…but he runs through money too fast. As much as Mr. Elton creeps me out, he does have a nice parish.

Would you rather spend the rest of your life in Middle Earth (starting from the time of the journey of the ring), or Narnia (starting from the time of the Pevensie’s first visit)?
Bethany: Narnia. It is…Narnia. Also Narnia doesn’t have giant, talking spiders. And I’d get to meet the Pevensies! And the Beavers! And Mr. Tumnus!
Me: Yeah, Narnia always wins.

(Then we decided to add one.)
Would you rather visit Sanditon with Charlotte or Bath with Catherine?
Bethany: Catherine!
Me: Catherine as well. I’d try and steal Mr. Tilney from her.


Whatcha Reading…? 5/23/2020 Book Update

It has been a while since I last did a book update! And as I am currently in quite a few of them….I thought it might be fun. I read a lot. In fact, I have so far read 145 books this year alone. I also really like reading multiple books at once. So, when the number get particularly unwieldy, I do a post on here about what I am currently reading.

At the moment, I am reading: Symposium by Plato, A Hero of Our Times by Mikhail Lermontov, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, The Prospering by Elizabeth George Speare, Hear This Woman by Ben and Ann Pinchot, The Surrogate Proletariat by Gregory Massell, Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop, and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. Plus, kind of sort of The Great Debate by Yuval Levin but my hold is about to expire and I’m not sure I will renew it.

The TA I worked with last semester frequently recommended Plato’s Symposium. It is probably one of Plato’s more famous Socratic dialogues. So far I am finding it quite interesting, though I do not think it will be my new favorite. Too many statements like: “Then he and every one who desires, desire that which he has not already, and which is future and not present, and which he has not, and is not, and of which he is in want;–these are the sort of things which love and desire seek?” (Took me six tries to figure out what Socrates was saying. And I still probably am missing something.) Reading on Kindle.

I actually loved A Hero of Our Times by Mikhail Lermontov when I first started reading it. Then about 2/3rds of the way through, it switches from a narrative to a journal and almost completely lost my attention. I think I am going to just force myself to finish today. Reading on Gutenberg.org.

I’ve been eyeing The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim for quite some time. I even own a copy of it. But it is taking more effort to get through than I expected. There are lovely descriptions and delightful characters but I feel like I’m perpetually waiting for the plot to start. The synopsis promises a bit more comedy of manners, so maybe that will start soon. Reading a soft cover copy I own.

My brother lent me his copy of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. I’m enjoying it so far, though not finding it particularity applicable. Or maybe applicable is the wrong word. There is lots of good content about leadership, but as I am not in a position of leadership at the moment, I am not precisely jotting down notes. Reading a hardcover copy owned by my brother.

The Prospering by Elizabeth George Speare is proving surprisingly…challenging to get through. Initially I was delighted by it. I love Elizabeth George Speare and have read every other fictional book written by her at least twice. But I think there is a reason this one did not take off. It takes a darker, more mature tone, and yet the narrator is a child which feels awkward. It will be interesting to see where it goes. Reading a hardcover copy I got through an inter-library loan.

Hear This Woman by Ben and Ann Pinchot has been on my to-read list for years and I honestly can’t remember what inspired me to read it originally. It is certainly nothing like I expected. Written in 1949, the synopsis merely reads, “Follow Faith Holmes in her journey to bring all American Women together.” The story so far is more complex, surprisingly feminist, and actually quite heavy and political. Reading a hardcover copy I got through an inter-library loan.

Speaking of weird books on my to read list…The Surrogate Proletariat by Gregory Massell spends almost 500 pages describing how the Soviet Union tried to target Muslim women and spread communism from 1919 to 1929. I haven’t gotten particularly far but I’m intrigued. (File under ‘things I did not learn about in history class.’) Reading a hardcover copy I got through an inter-library loan.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop is an urban fantasy novel and book 3 in The Others series. Mixed feelings all around about the series so far but I’m sufficiently intrigued to keep reading. I keep telling myself I can drop it at any time, but also…? Reading via my library’s Libby app.

I have purposefully and quite successfully avoided The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King for years now, but enough friends have recommended it that I am giving it a try. The book kicks off the popular Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, which, just like it sounds, involves a retired Sherlock Holmes and his equally intelligent female apprentice. I am not precisely a Sherlock purist but still…that description…we’ll see. Reading via my library’s Libby app.

What are you currently reading? Anything good?


Can’t Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

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TitleEmerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Publishing Date: August 25th 2020

This is book 5 in the series so I will skip the synopsis. Think magic, action, sisterly awesomeness. Maybe guys without shirts on. 

And man, that is one hideous cover. And it is actually one of the better covers in this series. BUT I AM JUST REALLY, REALLY EXCITED FOR IT TO COME OUT

My old roommate got me hooked on this series and I blew through the first 4 books (and the two extra short stories) in under a week. And now I have to wait till August! Ahhhhhhhhhhh.