Month: November 2016

Nov 30

Bite Size Reviews: November 2016 (And Assorted Nonsense)

Audio Books, Bite Size Reviews 9

Greetings Bookworms!

Nothing like waiting until the last possible moment in the month to post a batch of mini reviews, am I right? I have excuses.

Took a vacation...

I took a vacation! (After the whole Rock City thing we went to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. Because of course we did. I now own an interactive replica of Luna Lovegood’s wand.)

I also successfully cooked a Thanksgiving feast, which is especially impressive given my track record in the kitchen.

I also successfully cooked a Thanksgiving feast, which is especially impressive given my track record in the kitchen. It was delicious, even if the stupid water bottles make the photos unseemly. Hubs is responsible for that. Tisk tisk.

And I started the Christmas decorating process. I promise more close ups of penguin tree as the season progresses.

And I started the Christmas decorating process. I promise more close ups of penguin tree as the season progresses.

Oh yeah, and Gilmore Girls happened. As far as excuses go, this month is among the best. (I’m sparing you my political outrage here, but if you’re interested in the progression of my grief and desperation this month, you’re welcome to scroll through my Twitter feed.) But you know what else I’ve been doing? READING ALL THE THINGS! We should talk about them, no?

1. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: This book was recommended by one of my fave blog readers, Rhian (who is not ONLY my favorite because of the Christmas card she sent me from Australia that one time, but let’s face it. That didn’t hurt.) If you need a heartwarming read for the holiday season, this is your book. It reminded me a lot of Up (you know that Pixar movie with the cranky old dude and the balloon house?) It features a very cranky old Swedish man and his curmudgeonly ways, a devastating origin story, and his eventual thawing through unexpected friendship. I laughed, I cried, I laugh-cried. Feelings. Whew.

2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: I had a number of people (Julz in particular) rave to me about how amazing this book was before I got around to reading it. I had a signed copy from BEA (yet another instance where I was awkward to a brilliant writer) so I decided it was about darn time. I actually tag teamed this one, part audiobook, part eyeball read. It was very charming. A Russian Count is sentenced to house arrest in a posh hotel following his conviction for distributing seditious poetry after the Bolshevik revolution. Count Rostov is a man of impeccable wit and taste, though he manages this feat without being snobby and elitist. I wasn’t quite as swept away with the book as Julz obviously was, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

3. Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson: Y’all remember that super cute little girl from Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire and the Miracle On 34th Street reboot from the mid-90s? Her name is Mara Wilson. She wrote a book. It is excellent, particularly the audiobook version which she narrates. (Her voice is unexpectedly deep, but that might be partly because my frame of reference for her speaking was as a teeny tiny person.) Mara Wilson discusses her career, personal life, family life, mental illness, and all the things I never realized I wanted to know about her. Except for that one Disney Channel boyfriend she had whose name I’m fairly certain was changed to protect the guilty and I am bizarrely nosy about. Anywho. Solid read, better listen. You should check it out.bitesizereviews

4. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue: This was the only book I actually planned in advance to get a copy of from BEA. Because I love Emma Donoghue, of course. The Wonder is told from the perspective of a Florence Nightengale trained nurse who is called to a small town in Ireland to investigate the claims of an eleven year old girl who has allegedly not eaten anything in four months. The little girl is an extraordinarily pious Catholic who believes herself to be living off of manna from heaven. The book is tense and sad, masterfully drawn and ultimately hopeful. Geeze, Emma Donoghue. Are you always this awesome? (Actually she totally is. Because I’ve read most of her stuff. And it’s all amazing.)

5. Wool by Hugh Howey: I believe this post apocalyptic serial was originally self published and subsequently picked up by a traditional publisher. Perhaps that’s where I heard about it originally? I’m unsure, but it’s been on my TBR for ages, and the five part series was on sale (thanks Audible!) Wool is a post apocalyptic serialized novel based on a civilization living in an underground silo. They’re confined to said silo (and have been for generations) because the outside environment is toxic… Or so they’re told. The punishment for discussing what might exist beyond the silo is simple- the offenders are sent outside to find out for themselves. I listened to this book primarily while working out, so I must admit that I felt extremely sympathetic to the characters climbing zillions of flights of stairs as I toiled away on the elliptical. It was an interesting story. Maybe not my super favorite in the genre, but definitely an interesting take on it.

Alright, this post has gone on long enough, methinks. Whew. Making up for lost time is exhausting. So, tell me, Bookworms. What was your November like? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Actually, if you buy anything from Amazon from either a link or the little sidebar thingie I will get a few cents. Just in case you were planning on doing some holiday shopping. Or toilet paper shopping. I’m not here to judge.*

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Nov 22

Literary Tourism: Rock City

Literary Tourism 6

Howdy Bookworms!

Guess what? I went on a vacation! Hubs and I decided that we were in dire need of a getaway for any number of reasons, and so we decided to take a road trip to Florida. I realize that after our last road trip to Florida I said I would never ever ever do that again, but I am often wrong. This time, though, we planned much more efficiently and things went very smoothly. We even snuck a little bit of literary tourism in along the way. American Gods by Neil Gaiman is one of the first books I reviewed when I started this blog, and after re-reading it a couple of months ago, I was extra jazzed when Hubs suggested that we visit Rock City on our way through Chattanooga. Hubs was motivated by YouTube videos, but I was super stoked because Rock City served as the backdrop for some pivotal scenes in American Gods. Here’s how Neil Gaiman describes it in the novel:

Who needs billboards when you can paint on barns?

Who needs billboards when you can advertise on barns?

Rock City begins as an ornamental garden on a mountainside: its visitors walk a path that takes them through rocks, over rocks, between rocks. They thrown corn into a deer enclosure, cross a hanging bridge and peer out through a quarter-a-throw binoculars at a view that promises them seven states on the rare sunny days when the air is perfectly clear. And from there, like a drop in some strange hell, the path takes the visitors, millions upon millions of them every year, down into caverns, where they stare at black-lit dolls arranged into nursery rhyme and fairy tale dioramas. When they leave, they leave bemused, uncertain of why they came, of what they have seen, of whether they had a good time or not.

Dude is not wrong. The place is equal parts stunning natural beauty and creepy roadside kitsch. Although, I can say without hesitation that I did, in fact, have a great time. I highly recommend you visit should you find yourself in the area.

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Majestic natural beauty…

Super creepy black light dioramas.

Super creepy black light dioramas.

There is one caveat, though. Rock City, being, in large part, a natural rock formation does NOT lend itself well to accessibility. There are some very tight squeezes between rocks which, in addition to being difficult for those with claustrophobia, would be inaccessible for folks of a larger stature. That’s not to mention the rickety bridges, uneven ground, and steep staircases. The good news is that the best part of Rock City, the natural splendor of the view from Lookout Mountain and Lover’s Leap, is easily accessible to all by means of a trail that is both wheelchair friendly and friendly to folks of all shapes and sizes. So while not everyone can enjoy the creepiness of those cave dioramas, the mountain view is freaking gorgeous and worth the trip.

The tight squeeze? Not exaggerating, y'all.

The tight squeeze? Not exaggerating, y’all.

Talk to me bookworms! Have you been to Rock City? Have you done any Literary Tourism of your own? I want to hear all about it!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Nov 18

Faithful by Alice Hoffman

Contemporary Fiction 5

Good Day, Bookworms!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a list of authors whose new work I get awfully excited about. I’ve read a good number of Alice Hoffman’s books over the years and they rarely disappoint. That’s why when I saw she had a new offering, I jumped on Netgalley and made the “pretty please?” face. (Alright, it’s all electronic so no publisher actually saw the face I made when I clicked request, but the face happened and you deserved to know about it.) *I received a complimentary electronic copy of Faithful by Alice Hoffman for review consideration. I’ll still be honest, though, because that’s how I roll.*

faithfulShelby Richmond is an ordinary teenage girl growing up on Long Island until the fateful night when a car she is driving slides on ice and is involved in a horrific wreck. Shelby’s best friend’s future is taken from her, and though Shelby is physically uninjured, she hardly walks away unscathed. What follows is a story of guilt, redemption, and rebuilding.

Shelby attempts to escape her bad memories in Long Island by moving to NYC. She’s a survivor if nothing else, and along the way she inadvertently collects a little family of lost souls.

Oh, my heart. I had so many FEELINGS with this one. Shelby got all up in my psyche. I mean, a broken girl who loves Chinese food and bookstores and rescues dogs? How could I not get emotionally attached? The book started a little on slow side for me, but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up waaaaaaaaaaay too late to finish it. And then I stayed up a little longer crying because FEELINGS. But that’s the reading life, right?

You want a book that gets into your guts? Faithful by Alice Hoffman will not disappoint.

Alright Bookworms. What was the last book that gut punched you in the feelings? I think I need more of this. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Nov 08

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Historical Fiction 6

Howdy Bookworms!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the buzz surrounding The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I’d like to say it’s because the world found my anecdote about meeting and making a fool of myself in from of Colson Whitehead at BEA was the catalyst, but it’s all Oprah. That’s right. The power of Oprah even managed to push the publication date of this novel up a month. I don’t have that kind of influence. Actually, I don’t want that kind of influence, so I take it all back. Let’s stick to the book, shall we?

undergrown-railroadCora is a slave living on a southern plantation. Slavery is heartbreaking, soul-sucking, and hellish, because how could it not be? But Cora’s got it especially rough. Not only is she enslaved, but she’s been outcasted by her fellow slaves. She’s on the cusp of womanhood and things aren’t looking too bright when she’s approached by a new arrival to the plantation with a plan to escape. That’s where Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad begins to diverge from the typical narrative. He re imagines the historical Underground Railroad as an ACTUAL RAILROAD. I can’t express how much I love this particular bit of literal translation because I totally imagined the Underground Railroad as involving actual trains when I first heard about it as a kid. Who didn’t?

Cora’s journey isn’t an express train into freedom, unfortunately. She’s being tracked by a legendary slave catcher named Ridgeway. Every time she thinks she’s found a safe haven, Cora is forced to run again. The book is harrowing and intense. The blending of history and invention was so seamless I found myself googling certain elements of the story to see if they were things that actually occurred. I know it sounds a little silly, I mean, obviously I knew that the train thing wasn’t real. However, there are so many horrifying elements of slavery that simply aren’t covered in school that I’m very conscious that there’s a lot I don’t know. Which is why I kept googling stuff… Even things that seemed outlandish. Maybe that was a plus, though. Whitehead’s brilliance got me to do more research on the subject simply by fact checking. Mind = Blown.

Because my mind is all discombobulated regarding truth, fiction, and history, let’s chat. What’s the most insane historical fact that you’ve ever heard, Bookworms? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Nov 02

YA State of Mind

Young Adult Fiction 2

Greetings Bookworms!

I don’t typically read a ton of YA literature, but I’ve been on something of a kick lately. When things in life don’t go the way I’d like them to, sometimes I like to remind myself that at least I’m not in high school anymore. So, without further ado, let’s talk about some great YA fiction, shall we?

ya-state-of-mind

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: This book is about a set of teenage twins going through some major teen drama… And then some. Half the story is told from Noah’s perspective and half from his sister Jude’s. Noah is a brilliant young artist, though isolated and grappling with his feelings as he falls in love with the boy next door. Jude is a bit of a daredevil running with the popular crowd. Though the twins are as different as can be, they’re close. Which is why it comes as something of a shock to the reader to find that three years hence, the two are barely speaking. I’ll admit to taking sides in a big way, and not just because of the conflict. I just liked Noah’s whole story line better and his circumstances rang more true to me than Jude’s. Still though, it was a good read and smacked me in the feelings in a big way.

The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger: Girl meets boy. Boy calls girl the DUFF (designated ugly fat friend) of her group of friends. Girl decides to use said boy as distraction from her rapidly-going-off-the-rails home life as a frenemy with benefits. As one does. While I loved most of what the book had to say about self image and romance and intimacy and life, I’m still on the fence about our dreamy jerkface turned nice guy. Ah well. It’s not like they got married at the end or anything. That would be ridiculous for a pair of teenagers in the here and now (side eyes Edward and Bella…)

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina: Piddy Sanchez flew under the radar at her old school, but when her mother moves them from their crumbling apartment to a new place, Piddy’s new school leaves something to be desired. That something being one Yacqui Delgado, who, for reasons unbeknownst to Piddy, has chosen to harass and threaten her. Because keeping up her grades, working a part time job, and working up the courage to confront her mother about her absent father isn’t enough to deal with. SUCH A POWERFUL BOOK. GAH! Bullying is the worst.

So yeah. YA books. I’m gobbling them up at the moment. It’ll pass, I’m sure, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy being reminded that I’m not 16. Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite thing about being a grown up? (If you’re a teenager, my condolences. I am giving you the Hunger Games salute right now. You’ll make it, I promise.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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