Category Archives: fiction

Sunday Salon: Have I Got a Book for you! #diversiverse

sunday salon

Happy Sunday! Instead of telling you what I’m up to, I decided to do something different. A Diverse Universe event is coming up and I thought I’ll write a list post for anyone who’s thinking about joining the event and don’t know what to read.

Bloggers like Aarti and Nymeth have eloquently written about why more people should read diversely. I’m not going to do it. I’ve realized that exploring works of art based on an author’s race means being open to something different. And either you are open to that or you’re not. Readers love the adventures that books can take them on, like new worlds light-years away or a dystopian version of the world they live in. Looking at race can be a different and harder thing to do. But it doesn’t have to be.

It’s an ongoing process, one that means making a decision book by book. It doesn’t mean suddenly changing the way you read overall. I, myself, have been guilty of not reading many books by people of color over the years. Or, I’ll read them but don’t review them. This year has been fantastic with books by people of color dominating my reviews, but I still have work to do.

Some critics have stated that by purposely choosing to read a book written by a person of color, you’re excluding whites. Well, that’s true. When you’re in the mood to read science fiction or fantasy that means excluding all writers who don’t write in that genre. Race isn’t any different. Nor is it any different when choosing to read books that won certain awards or set in different countries or translated from other languages. I hope everyone who reads this post makes a decision to pick up a book by a person of color. Like I stated earlier, that choice is up to you.

The books on my list were all published this year. I decided to give newly released books more bookish love than those that were published in previous years. By buying, borrowing, or reviewing new releases shows the gatekeepers that books by people of color are desired by readers.

Note: Most of the links to the titles below will take you to Goodreads. Several will take you to my reviews or the reviews of other bloggers.

Looking for a short read?

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I don’t read short stories often enough though I love them. The great thing about them is that you can often find amazing ones online via Tor and other online publications.

Novels

Diverse Collage 1

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Diverse Collage 3

 

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Diverse Collage 5

Nonfiction

Diverse Collage 6

 

Have you read any of these books? What newly released books would you recommend?

Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

rubyRuby
Cynthia Bond
352 pages
Published in April 2014 by Hogarth
Source: Publisher

I didn’t have any interest in reading Cynthia Bond’s Ruby until I read the author’s bio. When I read how the author used to teach writing to homeless and at-risk youth, I knew Bond understood that all stories are important, especially those that usually lie in the margins of society. So when a publicist from Hogarth contacted me about Ruby, I decided to finally give it a try.

Ruby Bell is a woman who’s been through so much from an early age. The product of dire circumstances, Ruby was abandoned by her mother as a baby and life after that didn’t get any easier. The citizens of her small hometown, Liberty Township, “wove Ruby into cautionary tales of the wages of sin and travel. They called her buck-crazy. Howling, half-naked mad.”

All except Ephram Jennings.

Even as a child, Ephram understood that there was something different about Ruby, some secret that was wrapped so tightly around her. Unlike the rest of the town, who enjoyed seeing Ruby’s descent into madness and despair, Ephram wanted nothing more than to protect her. What follows is an emotional and devastating debut about a woman’s emotional journey from madness to hope.

I gave you a little summary about the book. Anything else would ruin the plot for you or just scare you off. That’s definitely not what I want.

It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I read praise comparing Cynthia Bond to Toni Morrison. Like Morrison’s Beloved, Ruby takes the past evils of the South to another dimension, a magical one. Because I didn’t really have any idea what the book was about, the magical elements were unexpected but in the end, it really helps in telling the intertwined stories.

Read Ruby. Then, find a friend to talk about it with because you’re going to want to. My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I can’t wait to read Bond’s future work.

An excerpt:

Marilyn held her daughter. She would be hurt, of that Marilyn was certain. Helpless to protect her, Marilyn felt a wildness in her own chest, like a bird trapped behind a glass door. But when she looked in the girl’s eyes she could see that she was already gone so she gave her words to help her in the dark days:

“Your daddy and me named Otha. It means ‘wealth.’ You were your daddy’s treasure from the time you were born until he died. He used to say there were rubies buried deep inside of you. Remember, baby, don’t never let a man mine you for your riches. Don’t let him take a pickax to that treasure in your soul. Remember, they can’t get it until you give it to them. They might lie and try to trick you out of it, baby, and they’ll try. They might lay a hand on you, or worse, they might break your spirit, but the only way they can get it is to convince you it’s not yours to start with. To convince you there’s nothing there but a lump of coal…”

Review: Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

18668195Losing Touch

Sandra Hunter

224 pages

Published in July 2014 by OneWorld Publication

Source: Publisher

“There is some pain you cannot breathe through.”

When I read Sandra Hunter’s Losing Touch, I found out that it’s a book of small moments. Of parents not understanding their teenage children, of the longing and regret that can exist between a man and woman, and of past hurts fueling future pains. I didn’t expect a debut novel to read so well.

Losing Touch follows Arjun, a man who traveled from India to west London with his family years earlier. His wife is no longer as carefree as she once was, his children are strangers living in his home, and he is slowly losing control of his body. Arjun has no idea how things came to be the way they are but his family know. Arjun is rigid-thinking, always believing himself to be right. His wife, Sunila, whose view is also told, isn’t perfect and can be just as narrow thinking herself. The two dance around their problems as Arjun is forced to stop ignoring his health problems.

This may be Hunter’s first book but she is a master observer of life. I found myself reading sentence after sentence, turning pages to know more about this ordinary couple and their family. The last chapter left me in tears. Losing Touch is a book that I will definitely reread. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: My Real Children by Jo Walton

18490637My Real Children

Jo Walton

320 pages

Published in May 2014 by Tor Books

Source: Public Library

If there were two worlds, then what caused her to slide between them? They weren’t two times as they were for Charlotte. It was the same year, whichever year it was. It was just that things were different, things that shouldn’t have been different. She had four children, or three. . . Had she made a choice that could have gone two ways and thereafter had two lives?

It’s 2015 and an eighty-something year old Patricia Cowan is losing her memory. Not only is she losing her memory, but she’s remembers things that couldn’t have possibly happened. She remembers having a life with Bee and being mom to three kids, but she also never met Bee and instead married Mark and had four living kids. Nuclear bombs were dropped on Miami and in the other life, this never happened. As Patricia looks back on her lives, she wonders why did these two lives come down to one seemingly innocent decision she made in the past. My Real Children is a wonderful exploration about the choices we make in life that can affect not just ourselves but the world.

Jo Walton takes the question of ‘what if?’ and explores it in depth. It’s probably a question many of us have asked ourselves throughout our lives. I found myself fascinated and pulled in to Patricia’s lives from the first few pages. Her lives were vastly different from each other with just a few connecting strands. The two Patricias (Pat in one life, Trish in the other) found love and joy in almost unrecognizable ways.

This book has been compared to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson with My Real Children being the clear winner. Since I haven’t read Life After Life, I can’t tell you which is better. I can say that after reading My Real Children, I need to go and read more books by Jo Walton. My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

2744Anansi Boys

Neil Gaiman

384 pages

First published in 2005 by HarperCollins

Source: Personal library

It begins, as most things begin, with a song.

In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

They were sung.

I first read American Gods years ago and it’s probably in the top three of my favorite books of all-time. Since then, I’ve been meaning to read Anansi Boys and never got to it. Yesterday, I needed something to read while I sat in a waiting room and hastily grabbed Anansi Boys off my shelf. I didn’t put it down until I finished the last page a few hours ago.

“Fat Charlie” Nancy has been called Fat Charlie all his life. It started with his father and when his father names something, it sticks. Mr. Nancy dies and Fat Charlie thinks that’s the end of his father upstaging and embarrassing him. But when an old friend tells Fat Charlie about Spider, the brother he never knew, Fat Charlie’s life changes as he is chased by killer birds, hated by mythical beings, and learned the truth about his powerful father.

Though Anansi Boys features Mr. Nancy, a funny and lovable character from American Gods (AG), this isn’t AG #2. I didn’t know that before I picked this book up. It’s took several chapters for me to realize the fact. While it didn’t bother me, I’m sure readers who are expecting the same characters from AG to appear might end up disappointed.

There are a lot of differences between Anansi Boys and AG. One of the things that stands out is the tone. While AG was a pretty dark book, Anansi Boys is more light and funny. You can’t go wrong taking this light read with you on vacation.

Though Anansi Boys is an enjoyable read, it’s not my favorite Gaiman book. It can’t be because I love AG too much. Readers new to Gaiman’s novels will love this book. For the rest of us, I suspect it’s just another “good” book. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

18166936The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Leslye Walton

320 pages

Published in March 2014 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

“To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did.

I was just a girl. “

I’m not going to lie. I picked up The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender because of its beautiful cover and the fact that it’s magic realism. The book is steeped in the genre and doesn’t have a tinge of magic like other books that are also labeled the same way.

The main character, young Ava Lavender, is a girl who is born with wings. Her wings aren’t the wings of an angel, white and magnificent. Ava’s wings are the wings of a bird: strong brown wings that cannot fly or be cut from her body without killing her. Her twin, Henry, wasn’t born with wings but maintains a silence that most people can’t break. Along with their mother and grandmother, both heartbroken over past loves and loss, the twins live secluded at their family home away from the world and all of its dangers.

I think the best books of magic realism are those whose magical aspects aren’t distracting and also make readers feel at home in a world where anything can happen. Beautiful writing helps too. Luckily, readers of this book won’t have any problems with the things I listed. This is Walton’s first novel and for the most part, the book doesn’t read that way.

Ava’s family, the Roux, have a long history of heartache. From Ava’s great-grandmother losing her husband, to various members dying as the result of love, forbidden or otherwise. As a result, Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne, and mother, Viviane, are closed off to pretty much all types of love.

Love. That’s one of the biggest themes of this book and it’s also the reason why I don’t understand this book being deemed as a young adult read. Walton expertly explores various forms of love: between parent and child, the young love of teenagers, and the love of two friends. It felt more like a book I can recommend to an adult but not a teen.

The one disappointment of this book is that the characters are kept at a distance from not only each other, but from the reader. I didn’t really care about any of them. The only feelings I had for a character was Viviane, whose willingness to ignore the man that truly loved her and her children, infuriated me. I wanted to reach through the book and slap her many times. Because of this distance, I couldn’t give this book a perfect score.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a book that readers of magical realism will enjoy for its imagery and beautiful writing even with its fault. My rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars.

Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

18467818An Untamed State

Roxanne Gay

368 pages

Published: May 2014 by Black Cat, an imprint of Grove Atlantic

Source: Publisher

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

            They held me captive for thirteen days.

            They wanted to break me.

            It was not personal.

            I was not broken.

            This is what I tell myself.

Mireille, a woman visiting her parents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is kidnapped in broad daylight, as her husband and young son looks on helplessly. Her kidnappers, a group of men, demand a ransom of one million dollars, an amount Mireille’s father can afford to pay. When her father refuses to give the kidnappers what they want, it’s Mireille whose life is a stake. For thirteen days, Mireille’s father refuses and the kidnappers do their best to break the young woman in every way possible, repeatedly raping and torturing her. An Untamed State is a book that seizes readers from its beginning and have them going through an abundance of emotions as they journey with Mireille through her ordeal and life after.

I was discussing An Untamed State with Shannon and we both agree that this book is so hard to put into words. There’s so much I could talk about but how?

Before the kidnapping, Mireille’s life was normal. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Mireille grew up in the Midwest before becoming an immigration lawyer in New York. Her father, Sebastien, made as much money as he could in construction before moving back to Haiti with his wife to have his own business. Now a very wealthy man living in a poor country, Sebastien feels as though the world is basically his oyster. Excuse the cliché.

So when Mireille is kidnapped and the ransom announced, Sebastien just knows that he’s going to get his daughter back without a fight. The kidnappers might even give her back for free. As days go by with the kidnappers refusing to budge for the million-dollar ransom, Mirielle’s husband and mother begs Sebastien to pay the ransom. Finally, he pays it.

Damage done, Mirielle will never be the same person again.

The first part of the book deals with Mirielle’s life during her life before and during the thirteen-day ordeal in the form of flashbacks. The second and last part deals with her life afterwards as she tries to heal both mentally and physically and find peace. I found the second part realistic and there were times that I had tears in my eyes.

While the subject matter is dark, readers are left with hope for this character at the book’s end. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Books read in April

April has come and gone. Thank God. It was just a stressful month. My neck is still sprained and I’m starting to understand – really understand that I’m getting older and it’s time for me to start taking better care of this body.

Now on to books.

I read an amazing 20 books last month. The books were in a variety of genres and for the most part, it was a good reading.

PicMonkey Collage2

  • Cress by Marissa Meyer
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (reread)
  • Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
  • Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

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  • Duffy and the Devil by Harve Zemach
  • Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin
  • Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
  • Here I Am by Patti Kim

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  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers by Michael Brian Bendis
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • Saga Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • Delancey : A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

PicMonkey Collage5

  • Dog Loves Counting by Louise Yates
  • Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein
  • Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock
  • The  Fantastic Art of Jacek Yerka

I decided to include the children’s books for those of you who read and enjoy the genre.

An Untamed State was the best book I read last month with the third volume of Saga a close second.

How was your reading in April?

Review: Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

17879710Mr. Loverman

Bernadine Evaristo

320 pages

Published in April 2014 by Akashic Books

Source: Publisher

“If I had more courage, I would hold Morris’s hand for, say, one second. All-a my life I’ve watched couples holding hands, walking arm in arm, ruffling each other’s hair, sitting on each other’s laps, dancing closely, romantically, jazzily, funkily, badly, bawdily.

And never, not once, have I felt able even to link arms with the man I love.”

 Guys, I love it when a book surprises you. You know that book that you had no expectations of, picked up for whatever reasons, and then it takes you and shakes you silly, leaving you stunned? For me, that book is Bernadine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman.

Barrington “Barry” Walker is a transplant from the West Indies. He’s lived in West London for decades with his wife Carmel and daughters. At seventy-four years old, Barry is ready to leave his loveless marriage to Carmel and live with the love of his life. Problem is, the love of his life is his best friend of sixty-plus years, Morris. Barry wants to break the news to his wife and daughters but he doesn’t know how to take that first step. Mr. Loverman is a hilarious, thought-provoking read on a lot of the big themes of life.

Of the many books I’ve read so far this year, Mr. Loverman is one of the best ones. It’s a tie with Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State. Shannon, you know that’s saying a lot.

You would think from the description I gave you that this book would be depressing but it’s not. Because of Evaristo’s talent, readers are able to understand Barry’s reasons for deceiving Carmel all of those years. Growing up in Antigua, Barry knew that if people even thought you were gay, you could end up in jail on trumped-up charges, beaten, or even thrown in a mental institution. Even as young boys, Barry and Morris loved each other but decided to marry women to disguise their love. It wasn’t right and for decades, Carmel believes that Barry has been cheating with women.

When Carmel goes home to Antigua to bury her father, both she and Barry are forced to look back at their years together and figure out what should happen next.

While readers spend a majority of the book through Barry’s eyes, they also come to see this marriage from Carmel’s view and learn why she stayed so long. Carmel has secrets of her own and it makes her more sympathetic.

This book isn’t just about marriage and love, identify – racial and sexual are woven in by the author’s talent. Mr. Loverman is a pleasing and smart read that left me wishing I had someone to discuss it with. How about it, Aarti? My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Short short reviews: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and Cress

13206828Cress

Marissa Meyer

550 pages

Published in February 2014 by Feiwel & Friends

Source: Personal Library

Genre: YA, fantasy and science fiction

I picked up Cress after enjoying the first two books in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. Also in an effort to get Piper reading more chapter books (she prefers manga and graphic novels), we agreed on reading Cress together.

Instead of giving you a plot summary of the book, I rather just tell you what I thought of it. Cress is probably my favorite of the three books. The books in this series are fast paced and use elements of various fairy tales without relying on them. I found the female characters like Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder believable. This book also gives Piper and me a lot to discuss as we wait for book four to be published.

I told you this was going to be a short review. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

 

17910570Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Karen Foxlee

240 pages

Published in 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Source: Public Library

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, fairy tale retellings

A few weeks ago, I was going through a reading rut. I picked Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy up because it was on my tbr list for months.

Ophelia is a girl who doesn’t believe in magic; she believes in science. After the death of her mother, her father throws himself into his work while Ophelia’s older sister becomes selfish and mean. When an offer comes for a new job curating a museum’s collection, Ophelia’s father takes it, moving the girls to a city that never stops snowing. It’s at the museum that Ophelia finds a strange boy locked up in a room, a prisoner of the Snow Queen. His captivity sends Ophelia on adventures through the museum in search of a key that will free him. What happens next is more than the young girl thought was possible.

I found Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy to be the perfect read to get me out of my rut. The book wasn’t perfect as I often found myself preferring the story of the boy and how he became the queen’s prisoner to Ophelia’s story. I think young readers will enjoy this fairy tale retelling. My rating:  3 out of 5 stars.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon: Hour 12 Update

24readathon

We’re now at the halfway point of the readathon!

Mid-event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? I’m about to start Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley
50714342. How many books have you read so far? Just one. I finished Cress by Marissa Meyer. It’s a chunkster and I barely started it before the readathon. I’m so proud of myself.  Piper has finished two books: Otomen #1 and 2 by Aya Kanno. Oliver finished his Lego comic book and is now making rubber band bracelets.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? That’s a good question. It’s probably Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope. My kids know that they either read or find something to do quietly. ;-)
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? No interruptions.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I love the effectiveness of the cheering lists this year along with the ease of cheering. Great job, Heather and Andi. The cheerleaders are doing a fantastic job!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Nothing!
9. Are you getting tired yet? Surprisingly no. It may help that I just made another pot of coffee.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Just have fun.

Ghost Stories: Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel

18167000The Frangipani Hotel: Stories

Violet Kupersmith

248 pages

Set to be released on April 1, 2014 by Spiegel & Grau

Source: Publisher

But as we watched, we realized that the thing approaching us was not a boat after all. I blinked and squinted, not wanting to believe my eyes, hoping that the rain was blurring my vision. Grandpa stopped waving and went silent, his face puzzled at first, then terrified.

Violet Kupersmith’s collection of short stories, The Frangipani Hotel, starts out with a bang. In the collection’s first story, “Boat Story”, a grandmother recalls her first day of fishing with her new husband and meets a mysterious spirit. The imagery was powerful and I found myself spellbound. I wanted to read more and I did.

The stories that followed, while attention-grabbing with simple writing and vivid descriptions, didn’t keep my interest. I found myself reading a story, feeling “meh” about it, and reading the next story only because this book is for a blog tour. After several stories, I decided not to finish the book.

The Frangipani Hotel is described as a collection of ghost stories set in Vietnam. “Boat Story” sets the tone for the book. The past affects the future whether we want it to or not. As the grandmother explains to her grandchild, Vietnam “gives you what you ask for, but never exactly what you want”. The characters in this collection learn that lesson, often the hard way.

While this collection didn’t keep my interest, many of the bloggers on this tour would disagree with me. This just might be a case of a book coming into my life at the wrong time.

Our muddy patch of the world was already shadowy and blood-soaked and spirit-friendly long before the Americans got here. There’s ancient and ugly things waiting to harm you in that darkness. Yes, of course they’re there in daylight, too—they’re just harder to spot. I’m not by any means a small man. I’m not the man you’d pick a fight with if you could help it. But I do get jittery sometimes.

What was the last book you read and didn’t love but everyone else did?

Graphic Novels Review: Fables Vol. 19 Snow White, Tommysaurus Rex, and The Lost Islands

17290285Explorer: The Lost Islands

Edited by Kazu Kibuishi

128 pages

Published in 2013 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams

Source: Public Library

Audience: Middle Grade

Explorer: The Lost Islands is an anthology of graphic shorts (short stories in graphic format) from new artists like Chrystin Garland and old favorites like Raina Telgemeir. Every story explores the theme of island in vastly different ways.

Like many anthologies, some stories were a hit and others a miss. Some of my favorite stories include “Radio Adrift” by Katie and Steven Shanahan about a witch-in-training and a floating radio station was cute and left me wanting more. Out of the seven stories, there were more that I didn’t care for than I did. The majority fell short. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

16100974Tommysaurus Rex

Doug TenNapel

142 pages

Published in 2013 by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic

Source: Public Library

Audience: Middle Grade

I’ve read every one of Doug TenNapel’s books and enjoyed them for the most part. Tommysaurus Rex is no exception. Ely is a young boy whose best friend is his dog Tommy. When Tommy is hit and killed by a car, Ely is sent to his grandfather’s farm to cope. There he discovers a Tyrannosaurus Rex, names it Tommy after his dog, and becomes friends with it. When news stations start covering Ely and his pet, it brings much-needed revenue to the town. As with any strange and ancient creature, not everyone likes the fact that a dinosaur is roaming their town openly. Randy, the town bully, decides he’s going to do everything he can to destroy Ely and his pet.

As an adult reading a book geared toward the elementary and middle school set, I had to suspend my disbelief several times while reading Tommysaurus Rex. Like the fact that Tommy the dinosaur has been alive and buried deep in a cave all these years after dinosaurs became extinct. Randy, the bully, is a child who would have had been in an altercation with any decent parent after what he did to Ely the first time he met him. There would be no story after that. Seriously. Also the fact that no one thought it was crazy that the dinosaur was alive and walking around with everyone. Tommysaurus Rex is a good book but not the author’s best.  My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

17704953Fables Vol. 19: Snow White

Bill Willingham

168 pages

Published in 2013 by Vertigo Comics

Source: Public Library

Audience: Adult

Guys, I want a do-over with this volume. The previous volume, Cubs in Toyland, was a fantastic read, one of the best volumes in the Fables series. It was so good that I gave it a rating of 5 stars.  This volume’s rating is nowhere near 5. I don’t want to buy this. I want the authors to rewrite this. What really kills me is that Kelly heard a rumor that the series is ending next year.

Throughout the series, readers have learned a lot about Snow’s past like her relationship with her sister Red, her mother’s magical powers, and the curse that landed her with the seven dwarves (so tragic). In this volume, the prince that Snow was once promised to as a young girl returns, refusing to accept Snow’s marriage to Bigby. Tragedy ensues and I would have thrown this book across the room, but I needed to know what happens next. Nothing good happens. I’m still trying to figure out what was the purpose of this book. It adds to the story but not in any way that makes sense. I can’t go into detail because it would be nothing but spoilers. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

18079683Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi

320 pages

Being published by Riverhead Books on March 6, 2014

Source: From a blogger friend

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. . . ”

It’s the winter of 1953 and Boy Novak has finally ran away from her abusive father, winding up in a small town far from home. Later on, she marries Arturo Whitman, a widower, and becomes stepmother to his young daughter, Snow. But it’s the birth of Arturo and Boy’s own daughter, Bird, which changes Boy’s happy ending. Their daughter is born with brown skin and exposes Arturo and his immediate family as African Americans passing as white. Bird’s birth changes Boy’s view of Snow, as the girl turning from an innocent child to a more sinister figure. Is Snow really who everyone thinks she is? Are any of us the images we reflect to others? With Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi gives new life to the tale of Snow White; expanding and exploring it through the webs of race, beauty, vanity, and above all, love.

Let’s get the first thing out of the way: Helen Oyeyemi comes up with some kick-ass names for her characters.

As someone who has never read anything by the author before, I went into this book with no expectations. I didn’t know this story had elements of the Snow White fable. A note about that: There are fairy tale retellings and modern-day versions of fairy tales, but I like to think of Oyeyemi’s story as a fairy tale expansion because she takes the Snow White story and turns it into a complex, sometimes heartbreaking, enlightening story.

“It was standard-issue stuff. I wanted a family. But it was just as Arturo said-I didn’t know how to start anything from scratch, and I didn’t want to know. Getting pushed around as a kid had made me realistic about my capabilities. I know some people learn how to take more knocks and keep going. Not me. I’m the other kind. . .See, I’m looking for a role with lines I can say convincingly, something practical. ”

Boy arrives at the small town of Flax Hill, Massachusetts with just the money stolen from her father and no idea on what her next move should be. It’s by luck that she finds her way, making friends and through them, meeting her future husband. While things are okay, Boy isn’t always able to shake the feeling of being an imposter. She’s an outsider with no skills who lives in a town surrounded by people who “make beautiful things.” She always comes from such a dysfunctional life, one that she keeps a secret for the most part.

Pretty much everyone in this story is an imposter of some sort: black passing for white, compassionate masquerading as unkind. Everyone is wearing a mask of some sort but the reflection in the mirror doesn’t lie. (Yes, there’s a mirror in this story.) And that’s one of the themes, the strands from the fable that Oyeyemi tugs on. There’s the image that we hope others see of us, the image they really see, and the image that we see of ourselves.

“Bird adored Snow; everybody adored Snow and her daintiness. Snow’s beauty is all the more precious to Olivia and Agnes because it’s a trick. When whites look at her, they don’t get whatever fleeting, ugly impressions so many of us get when we see a colored girl—we don’t see a colored girl standing there. The joke’s on us. . . From this I can only . . .begin to measure the difference between being seen as colored and being seen as Snow. What can I do for my daughter? One day soon a wall will come up between us, and I won’t be able to follow her behind it.”

That insight leads Boy to make a decision that changes her new family and probably not for the best either. It’s a decision that I didn’t see coming but later understood the logic of it.

From what I’ve read about Oyeyemi, she’s known for writing fantasy and this book is no exception. I want to say it’s magic realism but this magic is hidden. Readers will question if Bird and Snow don’t have reflections in the mirror while Boy’s reflection can make faces back in a Peter Pan-ish kind of way.

I can go on and on about this book. There’s so much that I want to discuss and could. Boy, Snow, Bird is a daring and wonderful story.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Go buy it.

Graphic Novel February, Part One

It’s the middle of the month, so it’s time for posted about the graphic novels I’ve read. Graphic Novel February has been a wonderful idea. If it wasn’t for graphic novels and children’s books, I wouldn’t have any books finished this month.

21326Fables vol. 1 – Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Source: Public Library

Imagine that the fairy tales characters most of us grew up with were not only real but still alive and residing secretly in New York. That’s the basis of Fables but the series creator, Bill Willingham, does so much more. Snow White and Prince Charming have been divorced for centuries now and the Big Bad Wolf (now called Bigby) is the sheriff of Fabletown. Those fables who are human live in Fabletown while their non-human counterparts, like the pig brothers from The Three Little Pigs, live on The Farm.  When Rose Red, Snow White’s little sister, comes up missing, it’s up to Bigby and Snow to find out what happened.

This was a reread for me.  I got the idea to reread the series after talking to Kelly (The Written Word). I haven’t read the first volume in years and it was a delight to be reintroduced to the characters at the very beginning of the series.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

A17591893 Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown

Published in 2013 by Top Shelf

Source: Public Library

I’ve seen this book on many of the GNF participants’ tbr list last month, so I decided to add it to my list too. I went into reading it with no expectations but that didn’t help.  A Matter of Life is a graphic meditation/memoir on Brown’s life growing up as the son of a minister and being a dad. As a high-schooler, Brown comes to the realization that he doesn’t believe in God. Brown experiences pressure from his family as well as members of his father’s church to go back to church to no avail. Instead, he chooses to find wonder and gratitude in other ways. The later end of the book is about Brown’s new roles as father and husband.

I thought the book was okay and fairly interesting. Other participants (Lu and Debi) have talked about the book being disjointed and I have to agree. Sadly, when I finished reading the book, I wondered about its purpose. There was nothing “lasting” about it; no scenes or reflections to really take away from it. My rating: 2-3 stars.

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Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (Olympians Vol. 6) by George O’Connor

Published in 2013 by First Second Books

Source: Public Library

George O’Connor’s The Olympians series is a must-read for anyone who loves mythology. The series covers the Olympians of Greek mythology with one book being dedicated solely to each deity. So far, readers can read the stories of Zeus, Athena, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and the latest one, Aphrodite. I’ve read the whole series and any favorites I have are based on my own biases because all six volumes are wonderful

The book covers the goddess’s first moments of being as a presence to her birth and later her role in the Trojan War. Aphrodite is different from the other Olympians since she’s not a child of Zeus and she’s much older than the rest. Readers see Aphrodite as she influences some of the most well-known characters of Greek mythology like Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with his sculpture of the goddess.  When Eris, goddess of discord, throws a golden apple into a crowd of gods claiming it’s for the most beautiful, a powerful struggle ensues between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. It’s a struggle that will affect later generations.

I love how not only does O’Connor brings these volumes to life by using ancient sources with his writing, but he also makes these stories a little modern. Being the goddess of love, Aphrodite is the most beautiful of the goddesses (though Athena is GORGEOUS to me). O’Connor gives her brown skin which I loved and readers will too. If you haven’t read this series yet, it’s time to start. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Thoughts: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

OsageAugust: Osage County

Tracy Letts

138 pages

Published in 2008 by Theatre Communications Group

Source: Personal Library

Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

A few years ago, I had this wonderful idea to read as many Pulitzer-Prize winning plays as I could. And I did. I read Angels in America, Fences, Topdog Underdog, Wit, and many more, including August: Osage County. I loved this project and enjoyed almost every play I read.

Last month when I was going through a reading slump, I decided to reread this play once again, especially since it’s been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. I wish I could say that I loved it as much this time around but I didn’t.

August: Osage County is the story of the dysfunctional Weston family. When the patriarch, Beverly Weston, goes missing, his daughters and their families come home to be at their mother, Violet’s side. To say Violet is manipulative and selfish isn’t going far enough. Violet loves her pills as much as Beverly loves his liquor. As she likes to tell it, nothing slips past her so the family’s secrets aren’t really secrets. At least not to her. Her husband, Beverly is a famous poet who hasn’t written anything in years. Their house is run-down and closed off to the outside world. Every window in their home is covered in shades and taped down so the inhabitants can’t tell night from day.

Of Beverly and Violet’s three daughters, Barbara and Karen left as fast as they could, while Ivy stayed closed by. To have all three daughters and their families back home spells disaster and it is. Long-held secrets are unearthed and the Weston daughters have to take a deep look inside themselves to see what they’ve become.

When I first read this book back in 2009, I loved it. The play was dark and well-written. It still is. I was shocked at the turn of events in the book as secrets were revealed and family turned against each other. I wouldn’t say Violet is a villain but she sees disaster coming and refuses to speak up. As I reread this play five years later, I wasn’t as shocked by the story’s events. They didn’t have the same impact they did years ago and I wondered about that.

With the boom of reality TV and the fact that “news” isn’t the same anymore: more gossipy, more celebrity based, what was shocking even a few years ago is no longer anything to give attention to. Could that be it?

While August: Osage County is insightful and brilliant, reminding me of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night, I don’t think I’m going to reread it again. I am going to see the movie version.  My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

dubosarskyThe Golden Day

Ursula Dubosarsky

150 pages

Published in August 2013 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

These things were too deep and difficult for the little girls. After all, they knew nothing of wives or armies or desert tribes. At night on the television news they heard gunfire and the sound of helicopter blades and bombs falling. Soldiers were dying in flames far away in a black-and-white land where people wore triangular hats and worked in rice fields and everyone, everyone, was always running away in terror. That was all they knew, all they could know. The little girls hung on to the brink of a hugeness that they knew was there but had no way of discovering.

It’s 1967 and the Vietnam War is raging overseas. But at home in Australia, life is changing in ways that eleven little girls have not yet grasp. The girls make up Miss Renshaw’s class at a small all-girls school. It’s a normal day when the teacher leads her class to the local park for lessons. But something happens and the girls return to school without Miss Renshaw. Their teacher mysteriously disappears, leaving the girls and their small city wondering, what happened to Miss Renshaw?

I picked up The Golden Day after it made a few best of 2013 lists. Before then, I never heard of her and none of my libraries have copies of her books, except this one. That should change.

Dubosarsky performs the hard task of giving each girl a personality of their own, but the one that soars and readers hear the most from is Cubby. Cubby has the perceptiveness of an adult; she knows almost instantly that Miss Renshaw won’t be coming back. That knowledge doesn’t stop her from wishing and hoping for her teacher’s return. Readers are also left wondering about Miss Renshaw and whether she’s still alive or dead as the adults in the story believes. That feeling of uncertainty and loose ends had me turning pages.

With her best friend and fellow classmate, Icara, the pair along with their class, grow up and go their separate ways but never forget their lost teacher. They also gain more insight into Miss Renshaw but it’s still not enough.

The Golden Day is a beautiful meditation on childhood lost after a sudden event. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

But with Cubby, Icara was not far-flung. She was nearby-close-at-hand-a-stone’s-throw-away. They were friends without either of them knowing why. It was as though after that first day, when Icara had taken hold of Cubby’s frightened hand, she had never let it go. Cubby and Icara could sit together in the playground or on the bus or in the library not saying much for hours, just a lovely rhythmic silence, like the sound of breathing when you’re asleep.

Review: The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart

17841897The Visionist

Rachel Urquhart

352 pages

Published in January 2013 by Little, Brown and Co.

Source: Publishers

It had been but a few hours since her father had threatened them. Had he come at Mama with a shovel? Crept in and dropped a fieldstone so close to Ben as he sat on the floor that his fingers had near been crushed? Was this the night he’d swiped at them all with a broken bottle and left a gash the length of a hare’s ear on Mama’s arm? Polly often found it difficult to separate his rages one from the next.

It’s Massachusetts, 1842 and fifteen-year old Polly Kimball accidently sets fire to her family’s farm, killing her father. To escape from whatever fate awaits her, Polly and her younger brother Ben are sent by their mother to live in the Shaker community, City of Hope. It’s not long after Polly’s arrival that she finds a kindred soul in Sister Charity, a young Shaker outsider with mysterious marks covering her body. For the first time ever, Polly thinks that she might find the peace that she has always been looking for. But what the girl doesn’t know is that Simon Pryor, a fire inspector, is searching for her and other survivors of the Kimball farm fire. The Visionist is Rachel Urquhart’s superb debut about love, faith, and hope even after so much has been lost.

Guys, The Visionist came out of nowhere and just made my end-of-the-year reading so much better.

I’m not someone who normally reads historical fiction. And the novel’s beginning was kind of slow, but there was something so authentic about this story that I had to continue reading.

The novel’s title comes from the time period the book is set in. This was a time of change for Shaker communities as many Shaker girls across the Northeast were receiving mystical visions. It’s not long after Polly’s arrival to the City of Hope, that she too has visions. When Polly becomes a Visionist, Sister Charity is willing to sacrifice everything in her belief of Polly’s goodness. But not all believe in Polly’s visions or her goodness. As holy as some Shakers think they are, there are a few who have their own selfish motives.

While reading the novel, I felt as though I was transported back into the 1840s. I heard of Quakers and even of Shaker furniture, but Shakers themselves? Nope. The details that went into this novel were numerous. Readers learned of the Shakers ways which include rules about when girls should start covering their hair, to the separation of males and females, to exactly how one should eat their food. There is a rule for everything.

Though the Shaker ways seem strange to Polly, they’re a welcome change from her previous life. Growing up, fear played a bigger role in her life than love.  Even her mother won’t protect her from her alcoholic father’s rages. Now that he’s gone, memories of Polly’s father still haunts her. It’s almost as though he’s still alive.

I found The Visionist to be an engrossing read. The characters were honest and flawed, the Shaker community was interesting to read about, and the writing had passages that were just beautiful. I hope Urquhart writes a sequel to the book. I would love to learn of Polly’s fate. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

My first read of 2014

first book of the year eventSheila over at A Book Journey asked readers which book will be their first read of the year. Read below to find out what I chose as my first read of 2014.

It’s almost a superstition to believe that the first book of the year can make or break your reading for the year. Almost. Last year, the first book I read was a children’s book. So were the next three or four books. The start of 2013 was a hectic time and I didn’t have the energy or interest to find anything long and/or engaging.

It’s a new year and things are pretty settled for now. So what should I pick? Do I chose something that’s been sitting on my shelves for ages? Maybe I should go with a library book? After a week or two of indecision, I picked up Ursula Dubosarsky’s slim book, The Golden Day, and read the first page,

dubosarsky

The year began with the hanging of one man and ended with the drowning of another. But every year people die and their ghosts roam in the public gardens, hiding behind the gray, dark statues like wild cats, their tiny footprints and secret breathing muffled by the sound of falling water in the fountains and the quiet ponds.

The Golden Day is about a classroom of girls who go on a field trip with their teacher but return without her. The teacher never returns and the girls are left wondering what happened. I’m in the middle of several books but I can’t wait to start reading this.

What is your first read of 2014 going to be?

The Goldfinch Read-along

tarttThings would have turned out better if she had lived. As it was, she died when I was a kid; and though everything that’s happened to me since then is thoroughly my own fault, still when I lost her I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.

Theo’s right; his life probably would have been much better if his mother had lived. So much wouldn’t have happened but yet much of it wasn’t his fault.

I usually don’t read books in which a child has lost their parent and life is drastically changed. As a single mother, it’s one of my worst fears and the story is usually heartbreaking. I forgot that detail (as big as it is), when I agreed to read The Goldfinch.

This post is a few days late and I’m still only halfway through Theo’s absorbing story. For those of you who are reading the book or have finished, what is your opinion of the book? What stands out? What do you love (or hate) about it? 

The Goldfinch Read-along

tartt

The Goldfinch Read-along

December 13, 2013 – December 27, 2013

Athira and I have decided to host a read-along of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. It’s one of the many books we’re hoping to finish before the end of the year, so why not read it together? The Goldfinch seems to be one of those books that everyone has read this year. Most of the reviews have been pretty positive.

The read-along is pretty informal. There won’t be any progress posts to write. There will be some kind of discussion post at the end.

In case you’re a little scared nervous about reading such a big book (784 pages to be exact), read one of my favorite posts from Meredith (Dolce Bellezza) about The Goldfinch.

Want to join us?

DNF: The Color Master by Aimee Bender

benderThe Color Master

Aimee Bender

222 pages

Published in August  2013 by Doubleday

Source: Public Library

 

Andi, Andi, Andi. Remember when I saw The Color Master on NetGalley and had to tell you about it? Then you read it before me but didn’t love it? Yeah, me too.

Here’s the thing, Aimee Bender’s stories are often fantastical and strange and yet beautiful. Her previous novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, about a young girl trying to come to terms with her strange gift in a dysfunctional family, was beautiful and strange but also felt true. So the decision to read The Color Master was a no-brainer.

The Color Master ended up being an uneven collection of stories that I didn’t bother to finish. There were tales that were amazing and only Bender could have wrote. There were others that were regular and didn’t belong at all.

The book’s highlights:

“The Color Master” – This story is so simple and beautiful and just lovely. Bender takes inspiration from the fairy tale “Donkeyskin” to write a story about the color master who was able to make a dress the color of the moon. This story alone is worth the time it takes to put this book on hold at your local library, pick it up, take it home, and read. It’s that amazing. I photocopied this tale just so I can read it again and again and figure out how the author wrote it.

“The Red Ribbon” is the tale of a woman in a loveless marriage. Or rather, she doesn’t love her husband enough. The story doesn’t really fit the collection but it‘s humorous.

“Tiger Mending” – The story of two sisters, one a misfit and the other who does everything perfectly, as they travel to Malaysia to help mend tigers after they have been ripped to shreds.

“The Devouring” – You can also find this in Kate Bernheimer’s awesome short story anthology, XO Orpheus. A human woman marries an ogre who accidentally eats their children. What happens next is a reflective journey that includes a cake that refills itself and an invisibility cloak.

Since I didn’t finish this collection, I’m not going to rate it. Overall, I thought this collection was uneven and disappointing. As magical as the highlighted stories are, they can’t make up for the duds. I still plan on reading anything else Bender publishes.

My favorite line from the story, “The Devouring”:

…Loss did not pass from one person to another like a baton; it just formed a bigger and bigger pool of carriers. And, she thought, scratching the coarseness of the horse’s mane, it did not leave once lodged, did it, simply changed form and asked repeatedly for attention and care, as each year revealed a new knot to cry out and consider-smaller, sure, but never gone.

Short Story Reviews: Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance by Carrie Cuinn and Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

lanagan yellowcakeYellowcake: Stories

Margo Lanagan

232 pages

Published in 2013 by Knopf

Source: Publisher

Yellowcake gathers ten short stories that have been previously published in various publications.  I had to pick this collection up after reading Lanagan’s previous book, The Brides of Rollrock Island. It’s a book that I’ve reread twice so far this year because I love it so much. With Lanagan, you never know what to expect with her stories and novels and that’s a good thing. The stories in Yellowcake are bold and original.

In “The Point of Roses” a group of boys gather to test their friend’s psychic abilities with widely felt results. This is the first story in the collection and it ended up being my favorite. I even asked the author via Twitter will readers see these young boys again. I want to know more about this group of friends and in a good way. Ferryman” is about a young girl whose family ferries the dead over the river Styx. “The Golden Stroud” starts off as a typical Rapunzel retelling but with a twist only Lanagan can pull off. With “Into the Clouds on High,” a mother is “called” by a higher power and tries to get her young son ready for when she can no longer ignore it. “Night of the Firstlings” is a retelling of the night when all first-borns were killed in Biblical Egypt. I found the last image of that story to be haunting.

Unfortunately, the other stories in this collection felt like mere glimpses instead of snapshots. I couldn’t hold on to the imagery or characters enough to get a “feel” for the story. I was lost and felt myself trying to picture the images or figure out the point behind a story. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance”

Carrie Cuinn

Published in 2013

I read “Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” after Carl (Stainless Steel Droppings) lead a small read-along for the story last week. I don’t know about you guys but my kids and I are already planning what we’re going to read and watch for the upcoming R.I.P. Challenge and Halloween in general. We’ve had some gloomy weather so that probably helped us think about fall.

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” starts off with a mangy dog stealing Mr. Liu’s arm from the man’s grave. Mr. Liu has been dead for three years now but refuses to let the dog get away. The man’s pursuit of the stray through town along with the awakening of other members of the cemetery makes the living realize that the dead don’t always stay dead. What ensues is a hilarious yet thoughtful story about the inner workings of a small town and its secrets.

To tell you anything else about this gem would be to give away what makes this story so special. If you’re in the mood for a good short read or something a little spooky, you won’t go wrong with reading this story. It’s available online here. Or bookmark the piece for future R.I.P. reading. The story is one of several that makes up Cuinn’s short story collection, Women and Other Constructs. My rating of the story: 5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

brown cinnamon and gunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder

Eli Brown

318 pages

Published in 2013 by FSG

Source: Public Library

She was lurid and terrible to see, the fallen Lucifer on the water, blind to the pelicans moving like gnats across her bow.  . .

It’s 1819 and highly renowned Chef Owen Wedgewood has been kidnapped and is now a prisoner on the pirate ship, The Flying Rose. The ship’s captain, Mad Hannah Mabbot strikes a deal with the terrified chef: cook a delicious one-of-a-kind meal every Sunday for the captain and she will let him live. Disappoint Mad Hannah and Owen will die. Surrounded by pirates and chased by a genius set on revenge, will Owen survive this crazy adventure?

I don’t think I’ve ever read a pirate story before reading Cinnamon and Gunpowder. I’ve never wanted to until reading Candace’s spotlight post on this book a few months ago. This story is not what I thought a pirate’s tale would be. It’s much more. Themes like slavery, ignorance, and the opium wars going on during this time period are tackled throughout the book, but this is still a light and humorous read and there’s plenty of talk about food.

Since Owen’s a chef, this novel is packed with realistic passages about food and spices. Being on a pirate ship, it’s hard to get the supplies Owen is used to but he often manages without every week. Reading all the descriptions of Owen’s methods and meals makes me wonder how the author was able to pull this off. I know he did plenty of research but did he cook these meals in advance? Whatever way Brown did it, he did a fantastic job.

Not only did the passages about food stand out, so did the characters. Owen is used to working for the rich so he has no idea about the suffering going on around him and in other countries. A judgmental “good Christian”, all Owen first sees the crew of The Flying Rose as a bunch of heathens committing sin and a bloodthirsty captain. But after traveling with the pirates and being caught in several conflicts, Owen’s eyes start to open and he realizes how wrong he’s been.

Mad Hannah Mabbot is now one of my favorite literary characters. She’s a kick-ass pirate who is set on revenge as she searches around the globe for a thief called Red Fox. She can be ruthless at times but also gentle and forgiving of Owen’s ignorance and the plight of those around her. She can get dirty with the rest of her crew but also loves elegant food and music.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling tale for fiction lovers of all kinds. My rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

High Summer Readathon and Just One Paragraph

high summer ratThe High Summer Read-a-thon officially started last night but I decided to wait until this morning to begin my stack of books. My reading isn’t going very well so hopefully this week-long read-a-thon is what I need to make a dent in ARCs and library books before August gets here. August is my birthday month and I want to spend it re-reading some of my favorite books. Below is my stack of potential reads for this week. You can click on the titles to learn more about them.

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Bleeder by Shelby Smoak. I picked this up last week at the library. In Bleeder, Smoak talks about his life as a hemophiliac and getting HIV as a child because of a tainted blood product that saved his life.

ottaviani feynman

Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick. This is a reread of the life of Richard P. Feynman. He’s such a fascinating person to read about.

duprau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I think Carrie (Books and Movies) loved this one.

lanagan yellowcake

Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan. I love Lanagan’s previous works so I can’t wait to read (and finish) this one.

graff

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. I’ve heard whispers about this book as a potential Newbery winner next year, so I’m adding it to my tbr list now.

tamaki

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. I’ve been waiting years for this book. Literally. No library in my area had it and graphic novels are expensive. Now that a local library has it, I can finally read it. I can’t wait.

otsuka

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka. I love The Buddha in the Attic, Otsuka’s last novel, so I can’t wait to read this. I might even add Buddha to my stack too.

babbitt

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. I try to read this book every year in August because it’s a seasonal read and also because of the first sentence, “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.” I love that line. But there’s nothing wrong with reading comfort reads now.

clark

How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark (ARC). I think this book is coming at a perfect time when so many people are writing online.

I doubt I will get this entire stack read but it’s nice to look at.

30Days30Posts1Paragraph_badge

The lovely Bryan (Still Unfinished) told me about an informal 30-day blogging challenge that starts today. It’s called Just One Paragraph and the challenge is just to post a paragraph every day for thirty days. It doesn’t matter what you post. I’m joining the challenge in hopes of getting my blogging mojo back.

So, will you join me for either event? What are you reading this week?

Review: The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

baxter the long warThe Long War

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

423 pages

Published in June 2013 by HarperCollins

Source: Public Library

It’s been ten years since Lobsang and Joshua Valienté’s trip through the Long Earth, the millions of parallel Earths next to our own. Since then, humanity has spread out through these new and dangerous worlds, changing the way they see themselves and each other. Not everything has changed though. In these new worlds some humans treat “trolls”, the kind and musical humanoids that have existed in the Long Earth, with contempt and cruelty. As the trolls retreat from the Long Earth, it becomes obvious that something essential is missing. It’s now up to Joshua, along with a few others, to try and bring the trolls back.

In The Long Earth, the previous book in the series, readers were introduced to the concept of stepping: the ability to transport either naturally or with the help of a metal box to parallel worlds. Much of the book was spent with readers getting used to the idea of stepping along with the various situations that this ability could cause.  The Long War continues with that strength but it lacks balance.

There are so many subplots in The Long War from the possibility of war between the old American government and new settlers over taxes and power to the missing trolls to various expeditions through the new worlds. There are still about five other subplots I can talk about. While it’s all interesting, I found it hard to get attached to any one character or subplot.

I think the problem has to do with the plot being so huge and there’s so much to explore. It would certainly take more books to explore it all but I hope the authors let us get to know and follow the characters more in the upcoming books. My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars.

Short Review: Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

vaughanSaga Volume 2

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

153 pages

Published in June 2013 by Image Comics

Source: Publisher

 

In the second volume of Saga, one of my favorite literary couples is back.  Marko and Alana, two lovers from warring territories are still on the run with their infant daughter, Hazel, from assassins. During the last few pages of the first volume, readers were introduced to Marko’s parents who mysteriously appeared on their ship.  Now, readers are learning more about Marko’s childhood, how the young couple met, while meeting even more fantastical creatures in this strange galaxy.

I wasn’t planning on reading the latest volume just yet but once I read the first page, I didn’t want to stop. I’m not going to write anything more about the plot because what makes this series special is the fact that it’s not a typical “star-crossed lovers” situation. It’s better and there’s so much more to this story.  While there is some movement forward for the couple, volume 2 is more of a back story but it’s worth reading.

Fiona Staples is such a talented artist. The creatures featured in both volumes, the look of Alana and Marko . . .all of it. I think she is definitely the perfect artist to illustrate this series. I have an egalley of this book so I can’t show you what I’m talking about but it’s all so original. I have just two problems with this volume and one has to do with the cover. The cover doesn’t fit the story at all. The cover for the first volume was so eye-catching, you wanted to pick it up. This cover is pretty blah. My second problem is that I wish the volume was much longer! Now I have to wait for the next volume.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good read but I still enjoyed the first volume more. My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars.

Library Loot

Library Loot is one of my favorite weekly events hosted by Marg (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) and Claire (The Captive Reader). It’s a meme where bloggers share what they’ve recently checked out from the library. 

Today I went to the library just to pick up my holds, nothing else. But once I got there and let the kids loose, I had to browse the new arrivals. I came home with more books than I planned!

My stack:

brown cinnamon and gunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown. I heard about this book from Candace over at Beth Fish Reads. I pick it up as a “maybe” read: maybe I’ll get to it before the due date, maybe not. I started reading it and I haven’t been able to stop!

It’s 1819 and Owen Wedgewood a.k.a. The King of Sauces has just been kidnapped by Captain Mad Hannah Mabbot. Mabbot wants Owen to cook her own delicious meal every Sunday if he wants to live. The only rules is that he doesn’t serve her anything disappointing. If he does, he’ll be sent home in pieces. I’m loving Mad Hannah already.

baxter the long warThe Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I picked this up because I read the first book in the series, The Long Earth, and loved it. The Long War is set a decade after the first book but with the same characters. I can’t wait to start reading it.

lanagan yellowcake

Yellowcake: Stories by Margo Lanagan. I started reading this book earlier this year but my copy expired. The first book in the collection, “The Point of Roses”, was just so well-written that I had to read it twice. I have high hopes for the rest of the stories.

lambin

An Ecology of Happiness by Eric Lambin. Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. This title makes me think of Deb (Readerbuzz) so I had to pick it up.

loewenGaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands by Sara Loewen. Picked it up because of the cover but I do love essays.

kaufmanUngifted:Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman. I love reading books about creativity, intelligence, and talent so it was easy to add this book to the stack. There has been so many books published about the same subject matter, I hope this book has something to add to the conversation.

What have you picked up from the library lately?

A quick giveaway

Hey guys! I’m currently wrestling with the clutter in my apartment and like most book addicts bloggers, I have a ton of unread books just lying around. So I thought: why not give some away? I have a great summer project going on right now and there’s no way I can read everything that I receive from publishers. I’m offering four ARCs and one finished book (all with July publication dates) to one lucky reader. They are:

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

You can click on each of the titles to find out more about them over at Goodreads. To enter, just leave a comment telling me one good thing about your day. You also have to be a U.S. resident. Sorry but I’m a broke college student. I’ll pick a winner this Friday, June 28th. Good luck!

The contest is now closed!!

Thoughts: Fables Vol. 18 Cubs in Toyland

willingham fables 18Fables Vol. 18: Cubs in Toyland

Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Gene Ha

192 pages

Published in January 2013 by DC Comics

Source: Public Library

Guys, if you haven’t started reading Bill Willingham’s fantastic Fables series, you need to start now. Just when I think that the series can’t get any better, a volume is published that just blows that opinion out the water. Like most Fables readers, I have a few favorite volumes but the last two published volumes of the series, are among the best so far.

In the previous volume, Inherit the Wind, Ozama shared the prophecy of Snow and Bigby’s children.

The first child will be a king.

The second child a pauper.

The third will do an evil thing.

The fourth will die to stop her.

The fifth will be a hero bold.

The sixth will judge the rest.

The seventh lives to ages old, and is by heaven blessed.

Some of that prophecy comes true with Winter becoming the new North Wind after the demise of her grandfather.  In Cubs in Toyland, we see more of the prophecy coming to life.

The toy boat that Therese received in the previous volume speaks to her. It tells her of a wonderful adventure the two can have together. Therese sneaks away and arrives at a new land, Toyland, but it’s not what the young girl thought it would be. At home the wolf pack, lead by oldest child Darien is searching for Therese. But can they find her before too much damage is done?

What a ride. This latest volume is one of the most heartbreaking books of the series. I don’t know where to start with this one. While writing this review, just re-reading it made me cry. So I will make this short. This is a story of sacrifice, of love, of courage, of redemption even when you are not worthy of it. Fables reminds readers that fairy tales aren’t what we see in Disney movies: the hero doesn’t always win, villains aren’t all bad, and these stories were never meant for children. I also like that Willingham intertwines various tales to give us this interconnected story. I usually need to look up new-to-me fairy tales after reading a volume.

If you haven’t read this series, it’s time to start. Take out your library card or call your local bookstore and see if they have this series in stock. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.