Posted in book review, books, diverse books, Uncategorized

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My first book read in 2017 (for myself and not my 4 year old) is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I saw this book at the library at the end of last year and decided it would make a good first read of the new year. I checked out a 25th anniversary edition, which made it a bit more attractive and reminded me  I need to read more books that are not new releases.

It is the story of a boy (though young adult or older teen might be better terms, “boy” is how he is referred to throughout the book) who has a dream that leads him on a spiritual and adventurous journey. The book has a big lesson and some smaller ones in this parable. The Alchemist is good and mildly inspirational to me. I think it would have had more personal impact if I was in my late teens or early 20s. I am in my late 30s and married with a young child. So, I am not exactly in the stage of life to pursue my dreams in a big way or even feel excited about an adventure. I mostly want a bit of peace and to settle down.

However, even an old (in spirit probably more than age) and unadventurous person can find things for them in this book. And the beginning of a year did turn out to be an excellent time to read this book, as this is the time for goals and thinking of how a person wants to go forward in the new year (and in life in general). The lessons I took were to be open to what is around me, live in the present (which is harder for me since I am a planner and really want live more in the future), listen to my heart (as the books says or as I think of it “listening to my instincts”), and have courage (which has never been my strong suit).

While I think this is good if you or someone you know is looking for inspiration (like a recent or upcoming high school or college graduate) this is a good one, it is also a fun fantasy novella.

If you are looking to check off categories for a reading challenge, this book is a novella (less than 200 pages), it is a translated book (originally published in Brazil), and it provides a diverse/inclusive perspective since Paulo Coelho is Brazilian.

Posted in book review, books, historical fiction

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

When I found out there was a book written about the first female Pinkerton agent, I had to read it. Girl in Disguise is loosely based on a real woman who was the first female Pinkerton operative. This book doesn’t disappoint. I read it in just a couple of days and I’m a slow reader. It’s a fun historical novel, full of adventure. Kate Warne was hired around 1856 by Allen Pinkerton of the famous Pinkerton detective agency. As expected, a woman at that time and being the very first female agent, she has trouble being taken seriously, but proves herself an excellent agent.

I’d love to see this made into a TV show, especially since it’s a standalone novel and with the many cases Kate Warne would have worked, a series (TV or novels) makes sense (and would be fun to watch or read). I’m not big on nonfiction, especially if we’re not talking about memoirs, but this book makes me quite interested in the real Pinkerton agency, so I’ll be looking for a book about that now.

I received an eARC from NetGalley for an honest review. The book is expected to be published in March 2017.

Posted in book review, books

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish is an interesting woman reflecting on her life as an 84 year old woman living in New York City in the book Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. The life she reflects on includes her move to New York City as a young woman in the 1920s and through the decades to her life as an 84 year old woman at the very end of 1984.

I enjoyed this book. I like historical fiction, as I said Lillian is an interesting character, and it involves the world of advertising. I am a big Mad Men fan. Part of the reason I really like historical fiction is that I find history to be fascinating and this book has little bits of real U.S. history mixed in, not just Lillian’s personal life. I also liked knowing Lillian Boxfish is inspired by a real woman. Though whenever I read or watch fiction based on real events or people, I’m always curious what really happened and what is pure fiction. Regardless, I recommend this book. It was a fascinating look at much of a century in New York City and the life of an ad woman.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The book is scheduled to be published on January 17th, 2017.

 

 

 

Posted in 3 things, books, Uncategorized

3 Things

1

I was sick yesterday, so I’m typing and posting this today/Monday. I was thinking of skipping this week because of that, but with holidays approaching and everyone talking about best books of the year, I thought I’d use this week’s 3 Things for that.

2

I’ve read quite a few good books this year. But there are some that have stood out as something special. Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen was my favorite book of the year. I finished the book feeling so satisfied. My second favorite that I feel like is so buzz worthy, but getting so little to no buzz is Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera. I’ve seen a lot of people request diverse books to read and Juliet Takes a Breath is the one I can’t help, but recommend to everyone. It’s just that good.

These are the other best books of my reading year: Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, Jam on the Vine LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Leave Me by Gayle Forman, Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Difficult Women by Roxane Gay.

3

I don’t want to leave children’s books out of best books of my reading year. Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk is a sweet book for babies and toddlers. One series that I really enjoy for myself, but my son also likes is Maple and Willow by Lori Nichols. I also personally enjoyed Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke and Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. I asked my son which story book was his favorite and mentioned some titles. His response is, “sharks”. We’ve read several shark books this year. So, I guess my son recommends reading a shark book of your choice.

Posted in book review, books, short story collections

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

I’ve been a fan of Roxane Gay for a few years now. Bad Feminist was the first book I ever pre-ordered and one of the few essay collections I’ve read. So, even though I don’t normally read short story collections, I knew I had to read Difficult Women.

Difficult Women is a short story collection with women obviously being a strong focal point. There is quite a range of stories in the collection. There are stories of the fantasy and science fiction genres, in addition to the literary fiction that I was expecting. I think the fantasy and science fiction stories are among my favorite in the collection, so they were delightful surprises. Some of the stories take place in Upper Pennisula Michigan. I was a little thrilled with each of those stories for personal reasons. I’m from northeastern Wisconsin, so that’s close to where I lived for most of my life.

Roxane Gay is a talented writer and it definitely shows in this collection. All of the stories are well written. It’s an excellent book and it makes me want to seek out more short story collections.

I received this book as an e-galley from NetGalley. (This does not affect my review.) The original release date was listed as January 3rd, 2017, but the book has been released early and is available as of today.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in book review, books, ya

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted is a fantasy book about magic, girls, a forest and a man known as the Dragon. When I first heard of the book, I wasn’t interested. I’m not sure what about the description didn’t appeal to me, but it just didn’t. However, on Litsy, I’ve seen people rave about the book. And when enough people go wild about a book on Litsy, I listen. So when I saw a copy of Uprooted while browsing the new books section at the library, I decided to check it out. I’m very glad I did.

It is an excellent book from start to finish. A solid 4 star read. It involves some of my favorite story elements with the magic, a strong female main character, and special connection to nature. The book ended in a satisfactory way, but I still find myself disappointed that this is a standalone novel. I’d love to read more adventures of Agnieszka.

 

Posted in 3 things, books

3 Things

1

It’s December now and I’m seeing  a lot of best books lists. I used to love these lists because it gave me more books to add to my list and I love hearing about books I wasn’t previously aware of. But this year I’m feeling frustrated and thinking I should stop reading those lists. I now am well aware of all of the hot books because of literary Twitter and reading about books from many other sources. And those lists just talk about the same hyped books that have gotten attention all year. Often, those hyped books aren’t even the best books published that year. Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen and Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera should be getting a lot of love, but I haven’t seen either book on a single list.

2

I’m not sure how many more of these 3 Things posts I’ll be doing this year, since December is a particularly busy month for me with a birthday and anniversary, in addition to Christmas. So, I’ll share at least one of my New Year resolution ideas. I’ve used Goodreads challenges to keep track of what I read for the year, but I’ve decided starting in 2017 I want to record in a special book journal. Right now I only keep track of the books I read for myself and finish. In the 2017 book journal I plan to keep track of the books I begin, even if I bail on them. And I’ll also record the books I read to my son. Plus I’ll do a rating system of some sort, though I’m not sure if I’ll go Goodreads style with stars or Litsy style with pick/so-so/bail symbols. If the book is particularly special or if I just feel like it, I’ll probably also add a short review. I’m not usually creative, but I’ve always liked stickers, so maybe those will make an appearance.

I feel like having a more permanent and easily accessible record of what I read might be important. I think that the books one chooses to read show where their mind and heart are at that time. When I first had my son, I read more books that featured young mothers or non-fiction about motherhood, especially feminist non-fiction analysis about motherhood. This year I decided I need to make more of an effort and a priority to read diversely, which I think is reflected in the 2nd half of the 2016’s reading.

3

My son is still in love with non-fiction books about bugs and sharks, but he’s more happily reading story books. I was wondering if it was wrong to force him to choose 2 story books and not let him just check out non-fiction from the library, but now I feel better about my decision. Non-fiction is good to read, but story books can teach things that non-fiction books can’t. My story book pick for this coming week is Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. I really like it, though it’s a little too long for my son, so we read it together half of the book at a time. (I’ve also read it completely by myself once.)

Posted in book review, books, historical fiction

The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

When I was browsing titles on NetGalley’s website, I got excited when I saw a Fannie Flagg book was open for requests. She’s written some excellent books. This one was good, as she’s a good writer, but it’s not one of her best. I gave it a solid 3 stars on Goodreads. The book is entertaining and funny, but also flawed. The Whole Town’s Talking is about a town and its people over 100 years. And it imagines what might happen to us after we die.

The book would have been better with a tighter focus. It’s difficult to become emotionally invested in characters or their stories when they are rushed through. The stories and characters that were given more time and more pages were interesting and I enjoyed reading them. This probably would have been better for me if it had been made into a series or just focused on a much shorter time period. If you’re a fan of Fannie Flagg (as I am) or just like a book with a big cast of small town characters, then this is a good book for you.

Posted in book review, books

The Graces by Laure Eve

The Graces is the kind of YA novel I would have loved as a teen because the MC feels like she’s all alone in the world and there’s magic. I did enjoy it as an adult, but I think teens probably like it even more than me. I gave it a solid 3 stars on Goodreads. It’s a novel about a mysterious family who appear to be witches. In comes a new girl from out of town who desperately wants to be a part of the Grace teens’ circle. But it isn’t just because the three Grace teenagers are the most popular kids in high school. The new girl has a dark secret that she is hoping the Graces can help her with. One thing I really liked about River (the new girl) is that she’s not a perfect character. There are things about her that make River relatable (such as the outsider aspect), but she’s also flawed, which I think makes for a better story. It’s the first half of a duology and I plan to read the 2nd book when it’s published in 2017.

Posted in 3 things, books

3 Things

1

This election has left me sad and wanting to do what I can to make the world a better place. I’m not the only one and Book Riot has had some good essays on what book lovers can do or where they can donate money. I found them helpful, so I’m going to share them here.

Bookish Ways to Fight the Good Fight “Since Tuesday, many of us are looking for more ways we can stand against racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, ableism, and any other form of bigotry or lack of compassion…You can vote, write letters, volunteer for or donate to civil/human rights organizations, and much more, but if you also want to take a page out of Emma Watson’s playbook and fight back in a bookish way, here are some suggestions.”

What You Can Do: Bookish Charities You Can Donate to Right Now

“It’s been a long and ugly election. No matter who you voted for, or didn’t vote for, or voted against, the election was excruciating. The days after have been particularly miserable, and for many, it seems as though we’re descending into an age of willful ignorance. But we can do something to help. There are lots of good people out there who are putting books into the hands of children, teaching grown-ups to read, getting literature into prisons and helping deployed military personnel read to their children from overseas. We can help them do that.”

What You Can Do: 6 Volunteer Ideas for Bookish Citizens

2

I mentioned in the last 3 Things post that I need to read the books I own before I buy new ones or check out more books from the library. I plan to start doing that after I finish my current library book (The Graces by Laure Eve) and continue with it at least for the rest of this year. We’ll see how good I am at that goal, though. I’m counting current egalleys from NetGalley in “books I own” to read. Out of 3 books, I need to read at least one of those before the end of the year.

3

This week’s personal picture book pick is Red Wagon by Renata Liwska. The boy picked a lot of non-fiction animal books again. My favorite non-fiction books that he tends to pick are National Geographic books. The pictures are high quality and writing is interesting, even for adults.