Coraline & The Graveyard Book Mini Reviews

I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading Neil Gaiman. I have a problem, and I’m accepting that it is a problem, but I’m not willing to fix it…I just love this man.

These two books are children’s book, but being a Gaiman book, they are highly entertaining for adults and they are creepily enchanting for kids.

I listened to these on audiobook (thank goodness for my Overdrive App), and I was just as entertained as any child would be.

Coraline

Rating: ★★★

Favorite Line: “It is always easier to be afraid of something you cannot see.”

Review:

This book is seriously creepy. It’s about a girl, Coraline, who lives with her parents in an small apartment building. She finds ther  is nothing to do, and one day wandering through a normally locked door, and she finds her mother on the other side. Only, it’s not really her mother, this is her other mother and she is determined to keep Coraline forever.

This is a perfect road trip story for you and your middle school aged kids to listen to. It’s creepy, but the way Gaiman tells it, the reader feels and believes what Coraline feels and believes, and she is a very brave girl.

My one complaint about this book is not really Gaiman’s fault at all, but it is that he quotes G.K. Chesterton at the beginning of the book when he says:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

-G.K. Chesterton

I really love  that he uses this quote because it’s one of my favorite ones. However, now I always see this quote accredited to Gaiman, not Chesterton, and it really bothers me. In fact, the first quote on GoodReads attributed to this book is this quote. Again, not Gaiman’s fault because he properly quotes Chesterton, but it really bother’s me when Authors get misquoted or misrepresented *end rant*.

The Graveyard Book

Rating: ★★★★ 

Favorite Line: “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”

Review:

The plot of this book is better than Coraline, in my opinion. It also isn’t quite as creepy, yet still hold mystery and suspense.

This book follows a boy called Nobody (nicknamed Bod). Bod was orphaned as a child and adopted by the most unlikely people, mostly because they were not in fact people any longer, but ghosts. Bod grew up in the graveyard. He had the ghosts as companions, teachers, caregivers, and protectors. However, Bod got older and soon he wanted to know more about the world outside the graveyard, and the world outside the graveyard wanted to know more about Bod, and that’s when adventures begin.

The characters in this book are charming and warm, despite most of them being dead, and it shows the length family will go to protect the ones they love. Bod is lovable from the start. He is smart, kind, brave, and thoughtful; he plays a perfect child protagonist. There are, of course, monsters and goblins and bad men, and the ending isn’t necessarily a happy one, but even in the veil of sadness that surrounds the book, there is the hope of a child and that makes the overall story a happy one. This is another good book for middle-aged kids, and for extra effect one should read it around Halloween.

 

Music of the Ghosts

images.jpegMusic of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

Rating: ★★★.5 // A tragedy restored to beauty

Favorite Line: Love….hope…humanity. Intangible, yes, but also the building blocks of self-preservation, renewal : These are the most durable possessions I have.

Review:

Through music and memories, this enchanting book brings you into the lives of those caught in the devastating Cambodian genocide.

Summary (via GoodReads)

Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago.

In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate.

Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end.

A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.

Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about the Cambodian genocide, and I definitely didn’t know how large of a genocide it really was. It is estimated up to 3 million Cambodians were killed and even more were driven from their beloved country, many never to return.

Music of the Ghosts follows Teera, a Cambodian woman who had fled with her mother when she was young and escaped to Thailand and then to the United States. Years later she returns but not as a Cambodian, but as a foreigner. This reunion with her past sparks emotions she never knew existed, and she is forced to remember the story of her past and of her people.

The main story of this book is fantastic. It is just beautiful. If you have ever read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, it is much like that–young girl returns to the land she was born in and is met with new revelations. Unlike The Joy Luck Club we follow Teera’s journey with her and experience these revelations first hand. This part of the book is so wonderful and captivating. If the entire book was focused on only that (and flashbacks to the genocide, of course) this book would be a 5 star book for me.

What bumped it down was all of the side character stories. I understand why they exist and some I like, the back story of the Old Musician, for example, is one I like. But then there are more of other monks and her parents and friends, and I got a little lost in them. Even the Old Musician story lost my interest at times.

These other stories slowed the pace down a lot, and made the book much longer than it needed to be.

The subject matter is one that needs to be written about over and over and over and over again. There are too many genocides that don’t get the coverage they need, and this one is one of them. The people who suffered and died during this time deserve their stories to be told, which is why I would recommend everyone to read this book, because I don’t know of any others written about it.

The writing style is lyrical and musical, and it flows just like you would expect it to based off the name. The contrast of music and genocide is very powerful. The author takes the pure beauty of music and set it against the pure evil of mass murder, and the beauty in her story shines brighter because of it.

Overall, I do recommend this book. It is slow at times, and you will need to pay attention to characters and timeline shifts, but once you get passed those, the beautiful story will find you.

 

You can buy Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner on my BookDepository affiliate page here!

Shades of Magic Series

ShadesMagic-USShades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: ★★★★ // A magical series I can get behind! 

Favorite Line(s):

“Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.” (From A Darker Shade of Magic). 

“We’re all here for a reason, Bard. Some reasons are just bigger than others.” (From A Gathering of Shadows).

“Life isn’t made of choices, it’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.” (From A Conjuring of Light).

Review:

The Shades of Magic Series follows the adventures of Kell, one of the last magicians in London, and Lila, an orphaned girl who wanders into Kell’s path and seems to have some kind of magic of her own.

The setting is London, all four of them (well, technically all three of them, but there are four). Each London is layered on top of each other, Black being the first, White the second, Red the third, and Grey the fourth. In this story we are in the time after a war that had destroyed Black London, left White London in a state of poverty, left Red London basically unscathed, and taken away the magic (and memory of magic) from Grey London. After the war the doors to the London’s were closed and only the magicians could travel between them.

These mini reviews are mostly spoiler free and completely free of crucial spoilers.

A Darker Shade of Magic

This book had a lot of hype around it when I finally picked it up, so I was a little nervous I would be disappointed. Luckily I had avoided reading any reviews that had spoilers, and I really didn’t read too deeply into the plot, so I found myself entranced as it unfolded. I had a lot of fun with this novel, and I think I liked it most because it can easily be read as a stand alone novel (I LOOOVEE it when first books do this). Yes, after reading it you want more of our dark eyed prince and our thieving mystery girl, but the initial story is done, and no major holes remain to be filled.

Oddly for me, I didn’t find many things that I disliked in this book, which is why I’m having a hard time figuring out why I didn’t come away from this book head-over-heels in love with it. I liked it a lot, but it didn’t grab me enough to where I go into my obsessed state, I just can’t figure out why.

The setting is phenomenal, Schwab sets up the different London’s flawlessly and the characters in each fit seamlessly into their assigned London.

The characters are very interesting, yes, I guess each of the main ones, Kell and Lila, did annoy me from time to time, mostly because they are both prone to feeling sorry for themselves while insisting that they are the only ones who don’t feel sorry for themselves…an annoying trait in anyone. Holland is a great evil character, mostly because he’s only mostly evil. Rhy is an o.k. character, but I’m not as in love with him as Kell is and that bothers me a little, because it makes it hard for me to really get invested in his character’s well-being. Oh, and Kell’s coat is the coolest and it’s basically a character of it’s own.

The plot was very good and it keeps the book movie with a satisfying speed. The magic is explained in a way easy to understand, yet there remains some mystery to it, which is important when it comes to magic. My one complaint in the magic department is that Kell insists through the whole book that the words aren’t important, but at the end the words seem to be the most important part, so that kind of confused me. Maybe I didn’t understand the explanation, but that seemed like a semi-major inconsistency for me.

Anyway (this was supposed to be a mini review..yikes), I did really like this book, and the hype was not too over hyped for me.

A Gathering of Shadows

Woah, now that’s some character development, if I do say so myself.

I did not like this one as much as the first, but I will say it grew on me as the book went on. The opening scene was actually really awesome, but the rest of the beginning was kind of bland. Once the plot of the tournament was introduced, the pace picked up, and so did my interest in it.

One new major character is introduced, Alucard Emery, and he is WAY more complex than any character in the first book. This guy has layers upon layers, and his character forces the development of Lila, Kell, and Rhy, which is a key aspect in this book.

My main complaint for this book is there wasn’t enough of the side plot, and it showed up so infrequently I actually forgot about it until it appeared again. I think more of it would have improved the pace of the book and given it a greater sense of haste.

This book is not a stand alone, which is fine, I just assumed it was so when I got close to the end and realized there was more things that needed to happen than there were pages, I got a little nervous. Furthermore, I was so mad that it ended where it did, not because it was a bad place, but just because it was at such a crucial point.

Again, I can’t figure out why I’m not completely crazy about this series, there’s something about it and I can’t put my finger on it. But regardless, after reading this book, there was no question that I would pick up the third…excellent use of the cliff hanger, Schwab.

A Conjuring of Light

All things yes.

This is definitely a third and final book, meaning there are no major plot points introduced, just the expansion of the plot formed in the second book. That’s not saying it is boring, because it isn’t at all, nor is it saying that there are no twists to the plot, it’s just saying that it is a perfect continuation of the second book…which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.

While I don’t think this was the best book of the series (I still think the first was the best) this book made me like the series much more…I can’t explain it, but it was just the perfect third to bring the other two together.

The one thing that really threw me for a loop had nothing to do with the plot, but more about the main character Kell–he’s like 18 years old!!! (or something like that, I don’t remember the specific age, but I think he’s 18). I don’t know if his age was mentioned his age in the first two, but I was definitely picturing someone  a little older than a teenager, or I just thought he was ageless, or something magical like that. I know it’s a silly thing to get caught up on, but it really threw me for a loop.

Other than that, I really don’t have any complaints about this book. Like I said, it just a great 3rd book. Traditionally, the third book of a series is my least favorite, but Schwab really showed she has pure, raw skill with this book.

I don’t really want to talk about this one because I don’t want to spoil anything. I especially don’t want to tell you if the ending was awesome, tragic, or bland…ok, it wasn’t bland, it was one of the first two. But I will say that it is an ending, it doesn’t leave any strings untied or twists unresolved.

Overview: 

I really can’t get over how much I liked this series. It just got better and better as it went on. The characters continued to grow more complex, yet they are still completely them. The Kell we meet in the beginning of the first book is still the Kell we have at the end, same with Lila…they are just expanded. It’s really wonderful.

The plot is fun and fast. The different view points offer fresh outlooks, and it moves the plot along at a very interesting pace. Usually I’m not the biggest fan of jumping from character to character, but I since the narrater remained 3rd person throughout the book it made it much better than books that jump from 1st person to 1st person.

Overall, awesome series. It is one of the best newer series I have read lately and I highly recommend it.

Mr. Rochester

mr. rochesterMr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

Rating: ★★★ // A classic in a new light

Review:

This review is really only a spoiler if you haven’t read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. If you have read it, read on, if you haven’t read it, you could probably still read this, you just won’t fully understand my rants, so it may be a waste of time to endure my run-on sentences.

Summary (via GoodReads)

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker’s rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward’s eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.

But much as he longs to be accepted-and to return to the home where he was born-his father has made clear that Thornfield is reserved for his older brother, Rowland, and that Edward’s inheritance lies instead on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica. That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and not long after his arrival, Edward finds himself entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town’s ravishing heiress, Antoinetta Bertha Mason.

Eventually, after a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain, young governess who will teach him how to love again.

It is impossible not to watch enthralled as this tender-hearted child grows into the tormented hero Brontë immortalized-and as Jane surprises them both by stealing his heart. Mr. Rochester is a great, sweeping, classic coming-of-age story, and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë’s original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre.
At times this book was a 4 for me, at others it was a 2, but it finished strong at a solid 3.

I have to start by saying that I hated Jane Eyre. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word, but I really really disliked it and I get very angry when I think about it…so maybe hate isn’t too strong of a word. As someone who loves classics more than any other genre, I was so disappointed. The only thing I really liked (or actually loved) about it was the language and writing style–the Bronte’s were truly masters of the English language. I kept telling myself I have to re-read it and give it another chance, but after reading Mr. Rochester, and being reminded about the plot, I really don’t think I do…it’s just not my cup o’ tea.

Due to my dislike of Jane Eyre, I did not have high expectations for this book, yet I tried to keep an open mind because stories from another point of view are usually quite interesting, and I was actually hoping this different perspective would make me like the classic better…at times it did, but overall, nah.

This book starts strong and I loved reading about Rochester’s childhood, and slowly I started to gain more respect for the man I considered a serious creep because before. It goes through his dysfunctional relationship with his father and brother, and his childhood friends and teachers who took him under their wings, and gave him the closet thing he had ever known to be a real family. This is definitely the strongest part of the book, and I flew through it, excited to learn more about this poor, lonely boy, whose one desire was to make his father proud.

Once I got about halfway, however, my enthusiasm died as the book slowed down quite a bit. This is around the time he heads off to Jamaica and all that drama begins to take shape. At times the story would pick up and my interest would rise, but then it would fall again. By the time Jane came into the picture, I was already ready for the book to end, and the plot of “will they or won’t they” just drove me crazy (as it did in Jane Eyre). Like I’ve said before, the book isn’t bad, and the story from his point of view is intriguing, it just moves at a very very slow pace, and I just wanted to get to the wedding drama and then be done.

When it comes to our protagonist (Rochester, not Jane), I do think his character was explained very well in the beginning of the story, and it helped form the background that is lacking in Bronte’s story. However, the excuses and reasons he gave for hiding his wife in the attic and then not telling anyone about it, even the girl you are literally about to marry, still fall short for me and I still see him as practically as crazy (just in a different way) as his attic wife.

Jane’s character is exactly the same, so there is nothing new there. Bertha’s character is, well, interesting, to say the least and I think Shoemaker did a very good job portraying her illness given the information in Jane Eyre. 

 Mr. Rochester is written well, however I think it is very difficult to try and rewrite classics with modern language because it doesn’t flow the way you want it to when you mesh old style with new. Again, not terrible, it just seemed forced at some points.

Unfortunately, I do think my dislike of Jane Eyre tainted my opinion of this book, because I just couldn’t get over how much I disliked Jane and Rochester together.

HOWEVER, I really do think that fans of the Jane Eyre story will like this book and they will be tickled to see the story come back to life.
Lastly, (this is really a spoiler if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, so stop reading if you haven’t) but hands-down the best part of the book was when mirrored the famous line “reader, I married him” and wrote “reader, she married me.” –that was awesome, well done Mrs. Shoemaker.

**I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review! Thank you for the copy!

 

We Were the Lucky Ones

30267929.jpgWe Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Rating: ★★★.5 // A familiar subject told in a new light.

Favorite Line: “What matters, she tells herself, is that even on the hardest days, when the grief is so heavy she can barely breathe, she must carry on. She must get up, get dressed, and go to work. She will take each day as it comes. She will keep moving.”

Review:

Written as a fictional novel, this book relives the horror and pain one family went through as they were separated during World War II.

Summary (Via GoodReads)

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag,We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.

I found this story to be very good. This book is a great example of how many stories are left to be told from WWII. This story of the Kurc family is just one in a million different stories yet to be told, but being that it is based on the real story of this family’s survival it really brings to life the struggles and stories of all the other millions who have yet to be revealed.

I gave this book 4 stars on GoodReads because I do think it is a worthwhile book to read, but my real rating of 3.5 is based off my opinion that, while it is good, I don’t think it ranks in one of my favorite WWII novels.

We Were the Lucky Ones jumps around from family member to family member, so you really have to pay attention to who is where and what their story is at the time. This can be confusing at times, but I tended to remember the details within a paragraph into the new chapter. But be prepared to jump around a lot.

The pacing of the book was interesting, because sometimes it felt like it goes day by day and then all of the sudden it jumps ahead 6 months, and that, along with the many P.O.V.’s, makes following the multiple plots a little more difficult (not impossible but just more difficult than necessary).

I don’t think I say this often, but I think this book could’ve been longer. I may think this because I just finished a WWII book by Ken Follett, who writes super long novels and includes ever detail possible. This may affect my opinion of the length of this book, but I really wanted more details or at least more depth with some of the characters.

The characters are very beautiful, and written very well. It is very easy to have empathy for this family and I immediately became emotionally invested in their survival. There weren’t really any characters who I disliked, which is very interesting in a WWII book. There were obviously some jerks in the book, but they were not substantial enough characters for me to really dislike them. I think this really shows that this wasn’t really a WWII book–the setting was primarily WWII Europe and the plot was driven by the actions of WWII, but this book wasn’t about the good and the bad of WWII, but rather it was about the Kurcs an their means for survival. This book is much more character driven than most WWII novels and it is a nice change. Yes, WWII plays a HUGE part of the book–it’s the reason the family had to survive, for goodness sake, but it is much much more than that, and I really appreciated this aspect of the book.

Upon finishing the book I was satisfied with the ending, but it wasn’t until I read that this is heavily based off the true lives of the author’s family, that the book really took a hold of me. I definitely look on it more favorably knowing that it is real, which is why I gave it 4 instead of 3 stars on GoodReads, however even before knowing that I would have recommended this book to WWII book fans.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently added to the TBR list

Today the gals at The Broke and Bookish Blog asked us to make our Top Ten Tuesday about books from a specific genre that we have added to our TBR! This is a really fun challenge because there are so many genre’s out there that all the lists will be incredibly unique. My TBR is all over the place so I decided to do this week’s challenge about Foreign Translated Books on my TBR. 

I’m a sucker for a good translated book, and recently I’ve been eyeing them like crazy–there is something truly magical about reading a book that was written in a different language. The real beauty here is that books are so unique and yet so universal that even when they jump from language to language the ideas and the philosophies can be understood and discussed–ah, the beauty of words. 


1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

Every time I look at the beautiful turquoise copy of War and Peace on my bookshelves, my desire to read it grows stronger–what’s stopping me? Well, it’s over 1,000 pages long, that’s what. However, I’ve recently become addicted to the new broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” which is about one of the love stories woven within this massive book. It has made me determined now to pick it up and read it! 

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 

I don’t know much about this book aside from the glowing reviews and the amazing cover. I’m really looking forward to reading it! 

3. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

When I heard this book and it’s sequels were similar to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was sold! I just got it on Audiobook for my trip this weekend, and I’m so excited! 

4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco 

I have read very few books translated from Italian, and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference in styles, especially compared to old French writers.

5. Laurus by Evgenji Vodolazkin

This is probably my most anticipated read of this year. This is a newer book, but is said to resemble Russian classics in style, philosophy, and complexity. 

6. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

This one also had some amazing reviews, plus the description looks so intriguing! 

7. The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo

I’ve been meaning to read more Victor Hugo, and I added this one to the list mainly because I had never heard of it before. It looks beautiful. 

8. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

This is apparently a book everyone needs to read, and I’ve heard it’s a literary beauty.

9. The Emigrants by Vilhem Moberg

This is a story of a Scandinavian family who immigrants to Canada. I love these types of stories and I’m interested in reading this series and hear their story! 

10. The Big Green Tent by Lyudmilla Ulitskaya

Surprise! Another Russian novel! I have a problem, but it’s definitely a good problem to have! This book, I heard, is terribly sad, yet very good. It is about post-Stalin Russia, which isn’t as common in novels as other time periods in Russia. 

There you have it! My top ten most anticipated translated books! Should I add any others to the list? Let me know! 

Around the World in 80 Posts: London

I’ve started this series to highlight my favorite real world settings for books and what makes them so good! Feel free to join in on the fun and explore the world through your books! 

London

11011105_10206209600657252_6467593372348951680_n.jpg

London, London, London. My time with you was much too short. We will meet again, but until then, books.

 

1.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This may be one of the first classic that I really loved, and it was also the first book that helped me realize how awesome creepy books can be. The setting plays a pretty significant role in this book, as it helps visualize the different social parties Dorian associated with, and how the city changed while Dorian stayed the same.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

If you have read A Darker Shade of Magic you know that the setting an absolute key component, if not the most important component, of the story. Whether you are a fan of Red London, White London, or Grey London, you surly agree that London is the perfect setting for this book.

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”

“Seen what?”

Her smile widened. “Everything.”

3. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton

Most of G.K. Chesterton’s work takes place in London, so the setting here is no surprise, but this book happens to be my favorite Chesterton story and it deals with undercover agents in the heart of London. It’s a fantastic story.

“The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, The Odyssey because all life is a journey, The Book of Job because all life is a riddle.”

4. 1984 by George Orwell

Is this techically in London? I mean it’s supposed to be London but it’s a rather disturbed version of the city…however, I’m counting it! This version of London is one we hope we never see, yet it shows hows easily and blindly people and cultures can be corrupted.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

5. The Girl of the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book really takes place outside of London, but when she’s on the train she is headed to London, so in that sense the city is influential to the story. This book surprised me because I thought it lived up to the hype and that doesn’t always happen.

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.”

6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I mean, I don’t really have to explain this one. One could easily argue that these stories are the most influential/popular stories based primarily in London. They were popular when Doyle was alive, and they remain just as popular, if not more, to this day. These stories prove that no matter how hard people try, Sherlock will truly never die.

“I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee.”

 

And that’s a wrap for London! There are so many others that could be added to my list, but as I’m trying to keep these posts shorter, I’m limited myself to only six. If you have any suggestions of London books for me, please let me know, I love revisiting this city, even if only in books!

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book

51QR3OUXC+L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEverything I Need to Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow

When I was little, my mom used to take me grocery shopping with her, as most mothers do, but instead of dragging me along with her other 4 kids, she would drop me off in front of The Little Golden Book display, and I would sit there and look through book after book until she was done shopping. I would then beg her to get one (or all) of the books, but as we were a large, one-income family, I almost never got my wish. However, my mom would console me by assuring me the books would be waiting for me the next time we came to the store.

These days, mother’s would cringe (as do I and my mom when we think back on it) and probably call my mom out on every form of social media for leaving her child unattended in a grocery store, but we all know back in the early 90’s, this was completely acceptable. While I wouldn’t dream of doing that now, I have to say those trips I spent sitting on a cold grocery store floor are some of my fondest memories of books as a child.

I was a very slow reader (thanks a lot, dyslexia), so reading was very very frustrating for me. I really thought I would never be able to read. I know for a lot of kids like me, the frustration turns into an indifference or even a hatred of reading, but my love of books stayed and when my ability to read finally clicked in my brain, I took off in turbo mode and soon I was reading everything I could get my hands on. As silly as it sounds, I give quite a lot of credit to the Little Golden Books.

These books are fun, uplifting, beautifully illustrated, and highly appealing to kids. I never thought, however, that those books had real life lessons in them until this weekend when my mom gave me Everything I Need to Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, the editorial director at Golden Books. This book takes the themes from the books and shows us just how they formed us as children.

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For example, do you have money problems? Well you should read 5 Pennies to Spend, which teaches you how to budget properly. Do you feel stuck in one place? Read Open Up My Suitcase and plan that dream vacation. Stressed out? Take a page out of The Little Red Hen and take a day off when you need it.

This book is so cute and it really took me back to my childhood. Pick it up for your kids, your little siblings, as a graduation present, or just for you!

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A Star Wars Book Tag

Today is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, so I’m reposting the tag I made for May the 4th Be With You day.

There aren’t really any rules of you want to do this tag, just tag me so I can read your answers!
So, without further ado:

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away….


I. The Phantom Menance: A book (or series) you pretend not to like but secretly do (guilty pleasure). 

Percy Jackson and The Olympians by Rick Riodan. I’m an adult, these book are for children, I’m an adult, these books are for children…maybe if I keep telling myself that, I’ll one day believe it 😉

II. The Clone Wars: An emotionally powered YA novel.

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler. I read this series in high school, and I finished it in 3 days, which is shocking for me because it’s close to 700 pages–I was totally captivated! I reread some of it a few years ago and I was cracking up because it was so emotional and drama filled, not at all like something I would like now.

III. The Revenge of the Sith: A Trilogy with a tragic end.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really had a hard time with Mockingjay and the ending just devastated me.

IV. A New Hope: Your favorite classic.

I have so many favorite classics it’s really hard to choose, but for this one I’m going to say A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

V. The Empire Stikes Back: An action packed adventure.

The Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab. I haven’t yet read the third one, so this might be premature, but the first two are non-stop action!

VI. The Return of the Jedi: A trilogy with a wonderfully satisfying ending. 
I’m gunna have to go with my favorite trilogy, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This ending just feels right. You’ve gone on a long, hard journey full of suffering and doubt, but at the end there is peace.

VII. The Force Awakins: A new book that feels like an old friend. 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Oh this book warmed my soul. It really felt like I was sitting down with a friend and having a nice long chat.

VIII. The Last Jedi: A sequel you can’t wait to read.

I don’t think she has a title for it yet, but I can’t wait to read the next book in the Ember in the Ashes series. I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this series.

Bonus: Rogue One: your favorite spinoff

I don’t read a lot of spinoffs, but I did read Finn by Jon Clinch, and I really enjoyed it. It is about Huckleberry Finn’s father and it is very interesting.
There you have it, kids, my first ever book tag!  If you love Star Wars and love books, I would love for you to do this tag! Just remember to pingback to me or this post so I can see your answers!!
I tag all you Star Wars fans out there! 


The Boys in the Boat

16158542.jpgThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1939 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Rating: ★★★★★ // History lesson that reads like fiction

Favorite Line: “All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”

Review:

During the years which stood on the eve of WWII, a group of young men thought not of going off to war, or even of making their everlasting mark on history, instead their thoughts were on a narrow long boat in the cold waters at Washington University. This boat became an extension of their bodies,  their most treasured possession, and before they knew it, their ticket to the 1939 Olympic Games to represent their country in Berlin.

GoodReads Summary 

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

I would have never thought a book about a rowing team could be so amazing. While the story is very different, this book feels like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. This story is non-fiction, yet it reads like a historical fiction novel…a very detailed and well written historical fiction. By the middle I was soaking up all the information about the rowing team, and by the end I felt like the biggest rowing team in the world, and felt very invested in the collegiate rowing rivalries.

The best parts of the story follow Joe Rantz, a hard-working boy who had fallen on the wrong side of luck many times. He was an unlikely hero of the rowing team, but the amazing thing is that his crew mates were all untraditional rowers. They were all blue collar kids, barely making it into college, barely staying in college, but yet somehow made it on the country’s best rowing team.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”

This story is very detailed and precise, which makes it seem like you are watching it as a movie and not reading it. The narrative is beautiful and it fills you with pride for these boys. The characters are so real and alive, you feel as if you were one of the fans watching their races in live time, or the ones all over the country listening to their races on the radio. You feel pain with them, you struggle with their doubts and their anxieties, and you feel elevated with their triumphs and joys.

It’s hard to pinpoint who is really the most important character of the story, because, like rowing, the book relies on so many different characters to make the story work. Any one character could not impact the end as they did without any of the others. They boys work off each other, and they thrive from their mentors, coaches, loved ones, and countrymen.

“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body.

—George Yeoman Pocock”

This is not like many WWII books, because it really does not speak much of the upcoming war. It addresses it, and of course the Olympic games take place at the beginning of the Nazi era, but the lack of the war was so important to the message of the book. These boys were normal, everyday kids. They had pains and troubles, joys and amazements. They had dreams like any other, and like many boys of that age, they had the small bit of dread in their stomach that all their hopes and dreams could be crushed with the impending war.

“The wood…taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here.”

This reality was worldwide. Millions of people were impacted by the war, but first, before it all began, 9 boys in a boat, backed by their entire country, were able to grasp their dreams and ensure their spot in history.

“Standing there, watching them, it occurred to me that when Hitler watched Joe and the boys fight their way back from the rear of the field to sweep ahead of Italy and Germany seventy-five years ago, he saw, but did not recognize, heralds of his doom. He could not have known that one day hundreds of thousands of boys just like them, boys who shared their essential natures—decent and unassuming, not privileged or favored by anything in particular, just loyal, committed, and perseverant—would return to Germany dressed in olive drab, hunting him down.”