Posts By: wordsfor

Nov 08

A Nicola Yoon Double Play

Young Adult Fiction 6

Greetings Bookworms!

I am so far behind on reviews that I actually read a second novel by the same author and decided to group the two together. Because why not? It’s not like I have rules here or anything. It also just shows you how lovely Nicola Yoon is, since I jumped into a second novel of hers quickly after finishing the first. Of course, I read both of these like 6 months ago. Luckily I left myself some notes so my memory has been jogged sufficiently!

Everything, Everything I have to admit that every time I see this title, the Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off” starts playing in my head, because snippets of songs have become so deeply embedded in my brain they may never escape. Not that I mind, really, because they’re usually delightful songs. But the book! So, it’s about a girl who has the “bubble boy” disease where she has no immune system and has to live in isolation. She doesn’t live in an actual bubble, but she’s confined to her home and has contact with only a few select humans. Then, you know, a boy moves in next door and forbidden love takes on a whole new twist. It’s excellent and heart wrenching and everything I wanted in a love story. But the ending… I have issues with it, for reasons I cannot discuss because spoilers. The issues weren’t enough to ruin the book for me, though, so it still gets a “y’all need to go read this” from me. (I have not seen the movie version yet, but I looooove Amandla Stenberg so I’d bet it’s a solid adaptation. She’s perfect for the part!)

The Sun Is Also a Star– One of my big pet peeves in YA fiction is when the two main characters fall in love instantly. You know, glances across a room, fireworks, they simply MUST be together forever? I don’t know quite HOW she managed it, but Yoon made a book about a pair of teenagers falling in love in a single day seem completely plausible and not at all shallow and lusty. Not that there isn’t lust involved, but it was much deeper than that. It simultaneously tackles complex issues regarding race and immigration, and it’s deftly handled. I’m happy to report that I didn’t have issues with this book’s ending in the slightest. In fact, I think she totally nailed it. This book hit me right in the proverbial feels, and I’ll admit to shedding a few tears.

There we have it. A whole post about books! Look at me, doing what I set out to do 5 years ago. High five, Katie. 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’ll probably spend it on cute stuff for my kid, which really just benefits you too as you’ll be able to see pictures of him in/with said cute stuff. Win-win.*

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Oct 31

The First Halloween is the Penguin Halloween

Holidays 4

Happy Halloween, Bookworms!

I just thought I’d drop in to show you the cutest penguin in all the land. Hope you’re enjoying some costume filled festivities today!

The Saturday before Halloween, our neighborhood has a costume parade. It was cold, but Sammers was a good sport.

And you know I wasn’t about to send him out dressed like a penguin ALONE, right? My years of matching costumes are numbered, I’m going to enjoy them!

Happy Halloween!

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Oct 27

Hello Again!

Personal 10

Long Time No Talk, Bookworms!

I suppose I should explain myself. So, back in June when I last posted, I was getting a bit frantic about getting everything wrapped up at work and preparing everything at home for the Tiny Bookworm’s arrival. I continued reading, but I lacked the time and mental head space to compose coherent thoughts. Truth be told, I played a lot of Candy Crush. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. Being super pregnant and outrageously swollen wasn’t my favorite state of being. Anywho, I have big plans to catch you up on all the things including my bookish baby showers, nursery decor, and YES, books unrelated to baby things. Also books related to baby things because The Pout-Pout Fish is among my favorite things EVER (thank you, Lauren!)

Of course, the Young Sir has arrived (I totally went into labor on eclipse day, but he was born the following morning, August 22.) If you follow me on Instagram or are FB friends with me, you’ll have seen 8 zillion photos, but WHATEVER MY KID IS CUTE.

Bookworms, meet Sam. Sam, meet the Bookworms.

Taken in the hospital. He was all of 2 days old. Note the penguin blanket and the mildly pained expression. He’s embarrassed by me already!

 

Why yes, I’m completely smitten.

Sammers is most pleased to meet you!

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Jun 09

Bite Size Reviews: June 2017

Bite Size Reviews 6

Hello You Beautiful Bookworms!

I have been doing all the reading and none of the blogging. It’s a pattern lately. But, you know. There were flowers to plant and a baby to grow and books to read. But I’m here to talk about some books today. Wahoo! These are going to be quick little Bite Size Reviews, and they were supposed to be published in May. It’s a good thing I’m not accepting many books for review from publishers right now because I have no schedule of any kind. I’m just flying by the seat of my maternity pants.

ONE: At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier- Over the years I’ve enjoyed many a Tracy Chevalier novel. She typically incorporates a historical personage or piece of art at least tangentially in the narrative, and this was no exception. Historical fiction about an apple orchard would be incomplete without mention of John Chapman AKA Johnny Appleseed, no? The fellow himself indeed makes a cameo or two, but the bulk of the narrative focuses on the plight of the Goodenough family. It’s an enjoyable read, if you like melancholy historical fiction sent in log cabin era America.

TWO: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella- Oh Sophie Kinsella. You are just an utter delight. It took me ages to pick up one of her books, but they’re always quirky and fun, if implausible. They’re the perfect “I need to read something adorable” book to cure the “If I read another sad book I’m going to lose my marbles” feeling. Career girl trying to make it in London slowly comes to realize that her rural roots aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Plus love and silliness and glamping. It’s one of her most recent offerings, and one of the best of hers I’ve read.

THREE: The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig- Okay, you guys. TIME TRAVELLING PIRATES: THE SEQUEL. Remember all my squawking about how much I loved The Girl from Everywhere (review)? This is the followup, and I kid you not, it is EVEN BETTER. I love, love, loved it. Do yourself a favor and get them both, okay?

FOUR: Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery- I was running low on Kindle books so I decided to pull up the third installment of Anne of Green Gables (review). Will Anne ever not be a delight? Despite their having a chaperone and, you know, having to do old timey housekeeping, this book reminded me so much of my college days. Specifically, the two years I spent living with roommates in an apartment, playing at being grown ups. Anne and company’s shenanigans were minimal compared with ours, but that cozy feeling of chilling with your besties and putting together a jigsaw puzzle? Palpable in this novel. Plus, you know. The whole Gilbert affair. Swooooooooooon.

I think that’s quite enough for now, don’t you? Tell me, Bookworms, what is on your summer reading list?

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

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May 24

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E Reichert

Contemporary Fiction, Cozy Lady Fiction 9

Greetings Bookworms!

All apologies for my periodic disappearances. Things that have happened since I talked to you last: I passed the glucose tolerance test meaning that I don’t have gestational diabetes! This is particularly excellent news as I’ve several close friends and family members who have found themselves being stuck with needles and counting their carbs during their final trimester of pregnancy. It seemed extremely unpleasant and I consider myself lucky to have dodged that bullet. Also! I became unnecessarily worried at a doctor’s appointment and had them order extra tests, one of which involved me having to collect my own pee in a jug for 24 hours. That’ll teach me to get worked up over nothing. (So gross. BTW, everything was totally fine. I just have a propensity for foot swelling, nothing more sinister. Because I made them check for everything. They keep claiming I’m nowhere near their most neurotic patient, but I have my doubts.)

Also, I’ve been reading books! One of which was Amy E Reichert’s latest offering, The Simplicity of Cider. *I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through the publisher for review consideration. As per usual, I’m still going to tell you what I actually thought, because that’s how I operate. Terrible manners.*

The Simplicity of Cider takes place at an apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. (The Midwest love makes my heart go pitter-pat!) Sanna Lund is single mindedly focused on producing a line of cider from her family’s fifth generation apple orchard. So focused, in fact, that she’s a bit prickly with the rest of the world. Except, perhaps, her elderly father, but that might have something to do with his insistence on having an apple dessert every evening. (It’s hard to be prickly to someone who is willing to make you pie on the regular, you know?) Of course, her father is having a harder and harder time taking care of the orchard, and Sanna’s brother has been pressuring her to consider selling the land.

When Isaac Banks shows up, he is hired to help out with the tasks Sanna’s father finds difficult to do. But, of course, Isaac comes with his own baggage, namely a young son and the specter of the boy’s mother and her troubled past.

I could go on, but this book provided me with everything I wanted. A light read with a little bit of romance and even a tiny dash of Sarah Addison Allen style magical realism. I must admit, I was a little nervous to pick this book up. I loved The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (review) for its light, fun, foodie fiction but wasn’t quite as thrilled with the somewhat more stolid Luck, Love & Lemon Pie (review). I’m so pleased to see that Reichert went in more of a Coconut direction with her latest offering- it was quite the treat. I also ADORED the subtle cameo of a couple of Coconut‘s characters in The Simplicity of Cider. It was the apple dessert to top off this comfort food-esque novel.

Reading this book reminded me of how much I miss hard cider. On the upside, Babysaurus will be here by the fall, so I should be able to sip some cider come apple season. Talk to me, Bookworms. What’s your favorite apple-y treat?

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

 

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May 03

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Non Fiction 12

Greetings Bookworms,

I am super stoked to discuss today’s book! *I received a complimentary copy of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore from the publisher for review consideration. All gushing is 100% reflective of my true opinion. I’m just THAT excited about this book.*

A little bit of background: my husband is from a small town in Illinois. It’s not close enough to Chicago to be considered a suburb, but not really part of what’s considered “Central Illinois” either. It’s known to locals as the Illinois Valley, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot to people not from the area. I grew up in a Chicago suburb that had zero history. I mean, the “historical district” is a set of houses built in the 1960s. There are nearby suburbs with more history, but my town had been farmland for a very long time and it is seriously lacking in old time charm. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been so drawn to places with old brick downtown sections and interesting historical tidbits. My husband’s corner of Illinois is chock full of these types of stories, which I’ve been gobbling up since we started dating 14 years ago.

One of the stories he told me took place in the town right next door to his in Ottawa, Illinois. We were driving past the old Westclox factory one day (which is technically in Peru, another nearby town, but I digress) and he told me that back in the day, the dials of the watches made for Westclox were painted with radioactive paint and that it made a lot of employees sick. (To be fair to Westclox, these were third party dial painting operations, though, I’d be surprised if they didn’t have some problems with the radiation too, because it’s friggin’ RADIATION.) The mysterious sickness was due in large part to the fact that the workers were instructed to put the paintbrushes in their mouths. I was SURE my husband had gotten part of the story wrong, because seriously. I don’t put paint in my mouth, let alone radioactive paint. I thought it had to be an urban legend.

It. Was. Not. An. Urban. Legend. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is a fascinating account of what went on in these radium dial factories, both in New Jersey and small town Illinois. Women in the 1910s-1930s were employed in factories painting radium infused glow-in-the-dark material on watch dials and other clock faces. Toward the beginning of this time period, radium, in small amounts, was considered to be safe, and possibly even healthy. Workers were instructed to put those radioactive paint brushes into their mouths in order to get a precise point for the fine detail work. Yes. This is a real thing that happened. I’m still trying to process it.

Of course, a few years into this practice, it became clear that all was not safe and healthy where radium ingestion is concerned. The girls (and I say “girls” because some were as young as 14 and they usually left the company by their early 20s) began coming down with mysterious tooth and jaw ailments, muscle pains, and scores of other symptoms. And, as corporations are wont to do when they’re in jeopardy of losing a crap load of money, they tried to blame anything else (STDs, bad luck, other diseases) for the girls’ ailments rather than take responsibility.

The book covers the processes used in the factories, some rather gruesome details about the effects the women with radium poisoning suffered, and the legal battles that followed in order to get the women some compensation for having bits of jawbone fall out all over the place. It all just hit SO close to home considering that I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Ottawa. I’ve driven past Saint Columba, the church many of the girls attended, oodles of times. In later years, Argonne National Laboratory began doing followup studies on the remains of the women who perished and survivors of Radium Dial. The cancer rate for survivors was something like 80%, and they were cancers so rare that they couldn’t have been caused by anything but the radium poisoning. The remains of early victims have been studied as well and are, to this day, highly radioactive. It’s estimated they will be for another 1500-3000 years.

For the love, you guys, READ THIS BOOK. It was amazing and informative and it never dragged or got too bogged down in the science the way some non-fiction does. The human stories abound. It’ll break your heart. You’ll learn things. It’s amazing. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. All the stars.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Do your hometowns have any tragic and or fascinating stories?

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

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Apr 26

The Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia Butler

Science Fiction 11

Howdy Bookworms,

Can we talk about how brilliant Octavia Butler is for a minute? I refuse to discuss her in the past tense, despite her having shuffled off this mortal coil a little over a decade ago. I have read quite a chunk of her body of work at this point, and I am blown away every time. She never leans on a formula; every topic from time travel to dystopian societies and even vampire lore is fresh and innovative. Which is why I OBVIOUSLY had to dive into her trilogy on aliens. Because ALIENS!

Don’t be fooled by the attractive woman’s cleavage on the cover. This book is about aliens full of tentacles.

The Xenogenesis Trilogy (sometimes known as Lilith’s Brood) consists of three installments, Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. The premise of these novels is that humanity has finally gone and done it and destroyed the Earth and themselves in the process. Big giant war, probably nuclear, wipes out all the things, and is horrible. Lilith Iyapo along with the other human survivors plucked from the wreckage of our now uninhabitable planet have been rescued by a mysterious alien race called the Oankali. The Oankali are motivated by two things. First, they feel compelled to heal any suffering they encounter. Second, they have a desperate need to merge with other species on a genetic level. While Lilith and the other survivors are given another chance at life, it’s nothing like the life they used to know.

I really don’t know how someone could NOT be intrigued by that story line. I mean, aliens cast not as aggressors, but rescuers? Complicated morality? SCIENCE? It’s as delicious and complex a series as anything else I’ve read by Butler and it’ll get the old noodle working big time. If you’re in the mood for a truly bizarre and innovative journey, you can’t beat The Xenogenesis Trilogy.

Alright Bookworms, who’s got Alien book recomendations for me?

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

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Apr 19

Bleaker House by Nell Stevens

Memoirs 9

Greetings Bookworms!

When I’m confronted with a book that has a penguin on the cover, it’s almost a given that I will read it. Enter Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World by Nell Stevens. My friend and book-enabler Heather (aka Capricious Reader) sent me a link to this book and I wasted zero time in going to NetGalley to procure a copy. That’s right. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. As always, my integrity is worth more than the price of a digital review copy, so you can trust me to be honest. You can start worrying when people start handing me fistfuls of cash along with my free books. Which will happen exactly never. So. There you go.*

In this book, the author runs away to Falklands (on a school supported fellowship) in order to deprive herself of distractions so she can write her novel. She ends up finding that you can’t force the writing of a novel, even in utter isolation. Also she was bad about packing her food which made me as a reader anxious and hungry. Because her calorie count. So bleak. That was the bleakest bit, really, the lack of food. I wish I could blame this on the fact that I read this while pregnant, but no. I don’t like being hungry under any circumstances. There was a lot of useful self discovery and a bit of indulgent navel gazing (but really, who wouldn’t do that when isolated in such a manner?) I just wish there hadn’t been a penguin on the cover. While the author did see penguins on her frequent walks, they didn’t play a particularly integral role in the story. I mean, the author couldn’t have anticipated the level of penguin enthusiast who would be attracted to her book, but I was a bit disappointed when the penguin related capers and friendships I imagined never materialized.

Bottom line? If you’re interested in one writer’s process, definitely check out Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World. If you are more interested in penguin capers, email me and I’ll supply you with a reading list to suit your fancy.

Bookworms, I must know. Have any of you been hoodwinked by the cover art on a book?

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

 

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Apr 11

Bite Size Reviews: April 2017

Bite Size Reviews 9

Greetings Bookworms!

I meant for this recap to post in March, but Hubs and I were felled by the plague. Poor dude got strep throat and pink eye, and while I only had a cold, I couldn’t take much of anything to relieve my symptoms because I’m incubating a human. So I mostly just drank a lot of tea (caffeine free) and whined. Oh. And used those nose strip thingies for snoring. Those are pretty great. But I digress. I’ve been reading so much! And I’m so terribly far behind! Here are some of the things, not in any particular order.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher- Oh Carrie, my darling. You are so missed. And not just by your impossibly cute dog. I listened to the audio version of this, narrated by Carrie Fisher. It was an excellent choice. And hearing passages read out of 19-year-old Carrie’s diary by her actual real-life daughter? So good. I’m so glad that in addition to her film work, Carrie left behind such delightful, witty, heartfelt commentary in her written works. Although, on a side note, this is the book in wish Fisher details her affair with Harrison Ford. Which is fine except that I’ve never found Harrison Ford particularly attractive because he reminds me of a neighbor/family friend from childhood with whom I always had a very sibling-y relationship. This book definitely didn’t change that perspective.

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen– This was the final installment of the trilogy which I reviewed HERE and HERE. YA Science Fiction/Fantasy is a hit or miss genre for me, particularly when it comes to trilogies. This one, for example, had me super stoked for the final installment, only to have a last minute plot twist kind of wreck the whole thing for me. This isn’t strictly a time travel series, but there’s some consciousness sharing that goes on which definitely gives it that time travel flavor. And all the potential pitfalls that go with the manipulation of the time/space continuum. I’d be happy to discuss my issues with anyone who has finished the series. In fact, I kind of need to hash it out. Help?

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman– I read this for my IRL book club. It takes place during WWII in Warsaw, Poland, and if you know even the tiniest bit about the Holocaust, you’ll know that Poland was not a particularly pleasant place to be. It focused on a Polish family who had once run the zoo (most of the zoo animals were lost to combat and/or theft by the Nazis) who did what they could during the war to keep Jewish folks safe. It was the WWII equivalent of being a stop on the Underground Railroad. It was a very interesting true story, but going into the book, I was totally expecting a novel and it turned out to be non-fiction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was expecting more emotion and fewer facts about insect collections. I also kind of wish I could un-learn some of the insights into the Nazi mindset that this book taught me. Knowing it in an abstract way is one thing, but having the details spelled out in pseudo-scientific language? Troubling, to say the least. If you’re Jewish and have a hard time reading about this period in history? Skip it.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson– Who doesn’t love a story about a quirky kid? In this novel, a young woman working in publishing is sent to play nanny to a reclusive writer’s eccentric son. Frank is a dapper little gent, dressing more like Charlie Chaplin than your average 9 year old. What starts off seeming like it might be a simple caper in the antics of an unusually artsy kid takes some unexpectedly emotional twists and turns. Overall, a charming story.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich– Get your tissues ready for rage-tears. An adolescent boy’s mother is sexually assaulted. Dealing with the emotional trauma is tough enough on the family, but since the assault took place on Native American tribal lands, the seeking of justice becomes extremely complicated. RAGE TEARS. Like, if you thought that all the crap perpetrated on Native Americans ended back in the day, you’d be really, really wrong. Intense, excellent read, but if sexual assault is a particularly difficult issue for you, you might want to skip this one.

Alright y’all. There’s the quick and dirty of some books I read a while ago. What have you been reading?

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

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Mar 21

The Impossible Fortress

Young Adult Fiction 6

Greetings Bookworms!

I know I’ve been slacking in my book reviewing and I’m trying to catch up. Today I thought it would be a good time to take a trip into the not so distant past with all the glory of the 1980s and Jason Rekulak’s The Impossible Fortress. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. That said, a free book does not buy my integrity and I’ll give you my honest opinion. I have no manners. Every once in a while, that’s a useful trait.*

Who doesn’t love a super nerdy teen not quite romance featuring troubled youth in the 80s? I mean, there’s computer programming involved, yo! (I don’t necessarily find computer programming sexy, but shared nerdy interests as a possible romantic foundation is totally my jam.)

Let me rewind. It’s 1987, and a crew of 14 year old boys have set their obsessive teenage eyes upon acquiring a copy of the Playboy magazine that features Vanna White’s scandalous nude photos. They go to great lengths to attempt to procure a copy (or several) of said magazine, and their elaborate heist includes one of the boys pretending to seduce the daughter of a local merchant in order to gain access to the store’s security code. Needless to say, Billy, our unlikely Casanova, soon develops real feelings for one Mary Zelinsky as they program computer games together. Predictably, mayhem ensues.

The Impossible Fortress had some serious marketing push behind it, all the publicity dropping comparisons to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One right and left (review). And, while I found it enjoyable (and I really did, it was a fun read) this book appeared to get way more attention than many of the other debut novels I’ve seen of late, particularly for a novel that’s based in nostalgia and not a literary heavy hitter. I think this led to me expecting more from it than it could realistically deliver. It also left me feeling a bit squidgy seeing how many female and minority authors have to hustle hardcore to promote their debut novels while this white dude seemed to get a ginormous budget. Like I said, The Impossible Fortress was good, it just didn’t seem SO AMAZING that it deserved all the dollars.

Alright Bookworms, talk to me. What time period is your personal nostalgia favorite? 

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

 

 

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