WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: January 30, 2019

It is COLD here! But, I have my books (and a space heater) to keep me warm. Also, it is time for my favorite meme of them all….WWW Wednesday! Hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, this is the answer to what we have all been reading. Please join in and put your links below or just add your books in the comments!


What Did I Finish Reading?

I finished Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk right after posting last week’s WWW. It was cute, but I did not realize that it was the third in the series. I wondered why the beginning felt so hurried and abrupt – the author assumed I knew the backstory! It was a very light romance and short but cute.

I also finish Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi which is loved and highly recommend. It is also short but packed full of advice on how to live your life full of joy. The full review will be up on Friday for NonFiction Friday.

I tore through Thunderhead and if you enjoyed Scythe you will love Thunderhead. If you have not read them then please do so so you can join me in petitioning for the third book to just come out already! This YA book begins where the first left off and fills the pages with characters known and new and I just loved the pace. I also enjoyed that this book was less about killing and more about living. You can read my full review of this book here.

I finally finish The Gunslinger by Stephen King. It was extremely weird and all I know for sure is that there is Roland (The Gunslinger), the Man in Black (bad guy), and Jake (real boy). There is also a Dark Tower which is the nexus of time and space and…did I mention that this book was weird? Still, I look forward to reading the next one. I don’t know that I loved it, but even Stephen King has said this one was not written well and so I reserve judgement until I have read a few more.

Late last night while driving through the blinding snow I was so pleased to be forced to take my time so I could relish the last few minutes of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. This audiobook was far superior to anything I thought it would be and the review will be up either later today or tomorrow. Loved it!


What am I Currently Reading?

I am about 100 pages into the fun-to-read Springfield Confidential. I have just started all the other books. I am literally on page 4 in all of them. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, Before Tomorrowland come from my own shelves and In Praise of Wasting Time I grabbed from a recent run to the library.


What Will I Read Next

The two books I am certain I will read next are Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, …And Then You Die of Dysentery.  I have vowed to read the whole Harry Potter collection on my 2019 Goals and one of my favorite new blogs, The Perks of Being Noura, has a fantastic read-a-long planned! I will be late finishing the second book but I hope to read #1 and #2 in February and find myself all caught up.

I also found …And Then You Die at the library and I will always grab anything related to The Oregon Trail (game, of course). It’s a life-long obsession.

I also have these three audiobooks cued cued up and ready to go and I am not sure which one will strike my fancy this week. If anyone has any advice, let me know!


Tell me, please!

What’s on your WWW list?


Fantasy · SeriousSeriesLove · YA

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

I didn’t want to read Scythe by Neal Shusterman last year but I not only read it, I deeply enjoyed it. You can check out all of my thoughts here. I immediately bought the second book. Then, as was my tendency, I stuck on my TBR shelf. But, now that I have made my 2019 New Year’s Reading Resolutions I have been making real progress reading the books I actually own. This is how I found myself reading Scythe‘s sequel, Thunderhead. I must say, it absolutely consumed me. I’m not sure if it caused this week’s insomnia but it certainly made for exciting after-midnight reading! If you haven’t read Scythe, there are spoilers below. Just know that I fully recommend this series!


thunderheadThunderhead begins with Rowan illegally donning black voluminous robes and claiming the identity of Scythe Lucifer. He is meting out his own form of justice by targeting Scythes he deems unworthy. Meanwhile, Citra has formed her own style of gleaning, one that has drawn the attention and ire of her peers.

At the conclusion of Scythe we see the Thunderhead, the all knowing brain of the world, speaking directly to Citra. Until that moment, the reader has no idea how involved the Thunderhead is with a typical citizen’s day to day existence. Ponder this issue no longer! In this second book we meet Greyson Tolliver. A lonely young man, Greyson has been raised by the benevolent voice of the Thunderhead all his life. When Citra’s life is in danger, the Thunderhead sends Greyson to save her and forever changing Greyson’s life. Meanwhile, old foes continue to threaten the delicate balance of the world. The real question is what role Rowan, Citra and Greyson will play the ensuing chaos.

As with ScytheThunderhead is crafted to keep you entertained. The shifting narratives begin completely disconnected and as they dodge and weave their way towards intersection – the action climbs. The final pages of this book will leave your heart pounding and, if you are anything like me, you will immediately try to figure out when the third installment is being published (no date yet!!).

Unlike ScytheThunderhead has almost no quiet and reflective moments. This second installment is action packed. Furthermore, the second book spends much less time reflecting on life and death and more on the balance we seek and the role we take to achieve that life. The author is not afraid to take you on an adventure. Honestly, that ending….whew!

I highly recommended Scythe and now I must all but insist on two things. First, please read them both so that we can talk. Second, can we get that third book already Neal?!?


Tell me, please!

Why do we ever read series books when they aren’t all available?


nonfiction

Conan Doyle for the Defense

I will readily admit that while I adore all things Sherlock Holmes, I am more in love with the character and the idea of Sherlock than I am the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Still, when I saw Conan Doyle for the Defense being highlighted during this year’s NonFiction November I was so excited. A nonfiction story of how the creator of the world’s most famous detective interceded on behalf of wrongly convicted individuals….perfect.

conandoyleUnfortunately, this book has me feeling as though I just finished a Sherlock story. I feel as though I am in love with the idea of the book and certainly the hundreds of details I learned but it was, like Conan Doyle’s writing, a little boring to actually read. While this is a positive review (as all are on SilverButtonBooks) this little note needed to be said from the beginning.

One of the struggles the book tries to overcome is the sheer amount of knowledge that you must have in order to comprehend how important Conan Doyle’s intervention was at the time. Author Margarit Fox tries to explain the historic problems with the criminal justice system in Scotland. She also highlights the erroneous and unethical police work of the time. And, she includes the background, training, and ethical rules of the great Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle. Furthermore, Ms. Fox weaves into the book societal issues including, immigration, selectively prevailing Victorian attitudes, and changing views towards Jewish people. Finally, there are a great number of letters written back and forth between the prisoner and his family that are important to read but come abruptly into and out of the narrative. The book could have been broken down into several separate books or edited in a way that more gracefully highlights the pertinent facts but it did not. Still, with all of this, I challenge you to read this book and not be blown away by the experiences of all involved.

Like most stories of wrongly convicted men, this book left me indignant as to the treatment of Oscar Slater, a German Jewish immigrant who is imprisoned for nearly twenty years for a murder he did not commit. I was also surprised by the lack of appeals courts in Scotland during that time, a fact I had never really given much thought. And, of course, the unethical police work was simply shocking. From the very first clue, Oscar should have been taken off the list of suspects. Add to the the prevailing ideals of the day and the prejudices against both immigrants and Jewish people and it is no wonder that Oscar was arrested. How could an immigrant living with a woman of dubious morals who makes money as a card shark expect to receive a fair and impartial trial?

And into all of this mess wades Arthur Conan Doyle. Newly married to his second wife, this was not Conan Doyle’s first foray into righting the wrongs of the criminal justice system but it would be his longest and his most important. His steadfast morals combined with his eye for detail honed through years living inside of Sherlock’s head brought him at the right time to correct this enormous wrong. Still, it wasn’t quick work and Conan Doyle fought, on and off, for years for justice for Oscar.

This book has left me wanting to know so much more about Arthur Conan Doyle and the man on which he based Sherlock, Dr. Bell. Conan Doyle for the Defense also gave me so much new information about a time period I thought I understood. Some times, the best thing a nonfiction book can do is feed your curiosity. This book does that and more even though it was certainly not the easiest book to read.


Tell me, please!

Have you ever loved a character or information from a book even though you didn’t completely enjoy reading the book?


WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: January 23, 2019

After a long weekend full of weird weather and a beginning of the week with even odder inclement weather patterns, I am fully embracing the beauty of Wednesday! Better yet, it is time for WWW Wednesday my favorite meme! Hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words these posts are always full of books sure to swell your TBR lists. Make sure and check out the other participants and feel free to leave your own WWW in the comments below!


What I Finished Reading

I had an interesting collection of books I finished this week. The first, Conan Doyle for the Defense was my nonfiction read for the week. While there were some things I long to edit about the book, overall I really enjoyed it. The review will be up Friday for NonFiction Friday.

I also finished the audiobook version of Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz which was so enjoyable. I loved Odd and the cast of characters in Pico Mundo and I cannot wait to go back and see what mysteries and ghosts Odd will deal with next. I forgot that Dean Koontz is such a fantastic writer! My full review is here.

Yesterday I turned the final page on The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani and immediately shut the book, turned it over, and hugged it. The remarkable story of twelve year old Nisha and her tumultuous experience during the 1947 Partitioning of India will stay with me for a long time. The book is now safely tucked into the special bookshelf I reserve for my favorite books. You can read the full glowing review here.


What am I Currently Reading

Oh dear. The four books at once has been working so well for me but five feels like one too many. I am halfway through Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi and really starting to understand how finding joy and purpose will work for me. Since Ikigai and Thunderhead are both physical books from my massive TBR shelf I feel like I am doing well trying to prioritize my owned books. But, then, my magical library comes along and lets me know that both Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and The Gunslinger are ready for me to listen to! The tipping point was finding that Netgalley had approved my request for Romancing his Rival. At least the weird weather has caused it to rain good books over here! I am almost 75% finished with Romancing his Rival and then I will return to my more manageable 4-at-once. Whew!


What do I Plan to Read Next?

These two remained in my future pile from last week and so they are the most likely candidates. I tried listening to Springfield Confidential as an audiobook but the narration wasn’t working for me. I was very pleased to come across a physical copy at my library. And, Un Lun Dun has sat far too long on my TBR. I am excited to read this re-telling of Alice in Wonderland.


Tell me, please!

What is on your WWW list?


historical fiction · Middle Grade

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

I’ll admit, I didn’t know how Pakistan became a country until I saw the latest season of Dr. Who. When Yasmin went into the past to learn a family secret I was, truthfully, a little stunned that I had lived this long unaware of the partitioning of India. How strange it is then that I had The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani waiting for me on my own bookshelf.

nightdiaryThe Night Diary is the journal of twelve year old Nisha. She writes nightly to her Mama who died giving birth to Nisha and her twin brother, Amil. Her entries begin in July, 1947 and describe a childhood in India where Nisha’s daily life consists of going to school with the other girls, helping their cook, Kazi, make dinner, and playing with her brother. She lives a happy life with her physician Father and her Dadi. Nisha has as much trouble speaking her thoughts as her brother does reading his schoolwork. But her eloquent writing showcases a highly observant child who makes the perfect narrator for the dramatic changes to India during this time.

On midnight between the 14th and 15th of August 1947 India was partitioned into two countries, India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslins. If you were living in certain sections of India and Hindu on August 14th you awoke on the 15th in Pakistan and a refugee. One of these refugee is writer Veera Hiranandani’s father who, along with his family, was forced to leave their home after partition.

“My childhood would always have a line drawn through it, the before and the after.”

In creating the character of Nisha and allowing us to see the upheaval of the world through her eyes, Ms. Hiranandani makes it clear that this history may be a half a world away but this experience is still relevant today at home. I thought it especially brilliant of the author to make Nisha’s father a physician with a critical job. Furthermore, her Father is Hindu and her Mother was Muslim. When you you have ties to everywhere how can you not belong? Why is just one part of you suddenly the only thing that matters? As her country redefines its identity, Nisha is struggling to figure out her own.

If you are trying to explain the refugee crisis and immigration issues of today to children, this book will help illuminate this historically complicated but still relevant problems. When a few people make decisions that affect so many others there will always be those who need our protection or our voices. Or, perhaps you just want to read a poignant, beautiful and eventually uplifting story. Either way I highly recommend The Night Diary.


Tell me, please!

Did you know the history of Pakistan?


Audio Book · series

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

oddthomasIn 2013 Anton Yelchin stared as Odd Thomas in the film of the same name. I really enjoyed the movie and, like most great movies, I was unsurprised to find out that it was based on a book. I quickly added it to my Goodreads TBR shelf and forgot about it. But, since I am making a concerted effort to systematically work through my physical and electronic TBR, I borrowed the audiobook from my local library. Truthfully, I had forgotten what a wonderful writer Dean Koontz is and I quickly lost myself in Pico Mundo with Odd Thomas and all his ghosts.

Odd can see dead people. He can also see beings he calls bodachs. Bodachs surround themselves with evil and are present before and during moments of violence while they feed on pain of the victims. With the Chief of Police, his boss Teri, his best friend Little Ozzie and his soulmate Stormy Llewellyn as his psychic secret keepers Odd uses his sixth sense to intercede on behalf of the innocent people of his hometown. “I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it.” Odd says.

In this first book a new man in town dubbed “Fungus Man,” gains Odd’s attention when he appears surrounded by bodachs. Odd has never seen such a collection of these evil entities and, as such, knows that this stranger is planning to bring massive suffering to his town. As he investigates we learn more and more about Odd Thomas, his strange upbringing, and his social circle while we search along with Odd for clues as to what Fungus man is doing.

At times this book was so suspenseful that I found myself standing completely still while listening to it. The whole last two hours I dubbed “not safe for driving” because I kept startling. I was well and truly impressed by the sheer storytelling and character development of the book and, while I knew the basic ending because I had seen the film, I still found myself thrilled by the action sequences right to the very end.

As with most series books the first one includes tremendous set up. There were times when this book felt too long and too full of characters. But, for a series and for a storyteller like Dean Koontz this is all intended for future books. There are six Odd Thomas books and three graphic novels. If the subsequent stories are anything like this one I cannot wait to read more. However, I think I will read them myself, the audiobook proved to be excellent but too intense for me.


Tell me, please!

Have you ever found a new friend in an old series?


nonfiction

NonFiction Friday: Atomic Habits by James Clear

When I started graduate school I put on unwanted weight for the first time in my life. I didn’t own a scale and I lived in an apartment with no full length mirror. As such, I didn’t even realize the weight was there until the fateful day I went swim suit shopping. This is the major downside to always buying clothes that are comfortable, they fail to send you early warning signs before you try on a bikini. I needed to work out but I didn’t know how to start or what to do. I joined a gym and I figured that going and doing something – anything – was better than sitting in my comfy clothes feeling gross about my health. Little did I know that I was employing what James Clear has labelled an, “atomic habit.” I made it a habit of showing up at the gym four to five times a week until I felt great about my fitness level for the first time in my life.

atomichabitsJames Clear began by writing articles on his website in 2012. He had been experimenting with habits for years and started publicly sharing his ideas and in a little over a year found himself with 100,000 subscribers (color me jealous). After reading his simple strategies for changing your life one habit at a time I can see why he has become the habit guru he is today. If I had an extra $300 I would be tempted to enroll in his Habits Academy.

Mr. Clear argues that, “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” And by improving yourself just 1% at a time you’re changing yourself on an atomic level. Perhaps the change isn’t detectable but eventually the fruits of your habitual labor will be tangible or visible. He backs up his theories with powerful anecdotes and lays out a clear four step method to either build up a good habit or break down a bad one. I thought the following paragraph summed up his ideology perfectly.

We rarely think about change… (in terms of the smallest action) because everyone is consumed by the end goal. But one push-up is better than not exercising. One minute of guitar practice is better than none at all. One minute of reading is better than never picking up a book. It is better to do less than you hoped than to do nothing at all.

After being inspired by Badass I wanted to work towards my awesome life. Atomic Habits lays down the foundation for me to make small changes that will bring that new amazing life 1% closer everyday. Or, as Mr. Clear says, “Tiny changes. Remarkable results.”


Tell me, please!

Do you think changing your habits can change your life?


fiction · funny · SeriousSeriesLove

Serious Series Love: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

 

How much fun can you have seeing how the unimaginably rich live? The answer: A LOT.

I read Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians more than a year ago and adored it. The story of Nick Young bringing his American-born Chinese girlfriend, Rachel, back to Singapore to meet his, ahem, “comfortably,” rich family introduced me to the multifaceted glory of insanely rich people. The end of the first book wrapped the story up so nicely the next two books didn’t really register with me. What is wrong with me?! If anything, the second and third book are even more fun to read than the first!

I picked up China Rich Girlfriend happy to find that nearly all of the characters were already old friends from Crazy Rich Asians. The second story opens with Rachel and Nick getting married. Even though Nick and his family are estranged, his mother is working to reconnect by finding Rachel’s long-lost (and long thought dead) father. When she discovers his identity she flies to interrupt the wedding and disclose his identity! And, for fans of Crazy Rich Asians, it will come as no surprise that all of this action happens in the first few chapters. The real quandary is how Rachel, her father, and his family will blend together. And, of course, there are all the other characters’ stories (Kitty and Astrid are back!) that keep the book at a wonderfully quick pace.

The third book opens with the news that Nick’s grandmother Ah Ma is on her deathbed. Nick is not alone in rushing home for a final goodbye. The whole family descends on Su Yi’s home. Some are them are there to see their beloved matriarch. Others are there to lay claim to the massive fortune. But there are more surprises in Su Yi’s story than yachts in the Singapore marina.

The three books work so well together because Kevin Kwan has invested us in these characters. If you read the first book and enjoyed the adventures of the rich and not-at-all famous, you will enjoy the next two books. The magic of these books is how the author makes you care about almost all of these people even as they spend ten million dollars shopping in Paris. By providing us backstories, shifting perspective, and a healthy dose of cultural understanding, the author helps us understand these characters as people. It doesn’t make you feel sorry for them and their insane bank balances, but it does save you from feeling dirty or seedy watching their stories unfold. I know, I know! These aren’t real people. But, I don’t enjoy stories that focus on mocking or diminishing people to stereotypes. These books do neither. Also, I relished all of the footnotes that will simultaneously explain things to the reader and remind you that the author himself spent most of his childhood living among all of this craziness.

I have Serious Series Love for Crazy Rich Asians.


Tell me, please!

Have you read the books / seen the movie? What are your thoughts?


WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: January 16, 2019

This week feel exceptionally long for some reason and so I am more glad than usual to be writing the answers to my WWW post: What did I just finish? What am I currently reading? And, of course, What will read next? As always, thanks to Sam at Taking on a World of Words for hosting this weekly roundup and to all who participate. You keep me organized while ensuring that my TBR never stops growing!


What did I just finish reading?

I finished the fabulous Atomic Habits by James Clear and I am obsessed with his simple and proven habit building technique. The full review will be featured here for NonFiction Friday but if you want more information now you can head over to his website. I loved it and I have already seen huge improvements in my habit formation in the two weeks I have been following his advice.

I also finished listening to the audiobook version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. The adventures and mysteries of 15 year old Christopher made me so happy. I highly recommend it. If you want more information, my full review is here.

I also finished Kevin Kwan’s fun Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. All three of these books are pure undiluted fun and give you have the opportunity to see how the insanely rich live. I highly recommend them and I will have a series review up soon.

I also started and finished The Similars by Rebecca Hanover this weekend.


What am I currently reading?

I just started reading Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Hogi yesterday and I am only one chapter into the book. I am excited by the idea of waking up each day to joy and purpose without having to fold my socks a la Marie Kondo.

I am more than half way through listening to the audiobook version of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas. I watched the movie years ago without realizing it was a book and the series has been languishing on my TBR for far too long. So far, I am really enjoying it.

In a rare double nonfiction week I am also reading Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox. This is a book I discovered during nonfiction November that came highly recommended by a number of bloggers and I was excited to be able to borrow it from my library. In this book a man is aided by the real Arthur Conan Doyle in his murder defense. The first few chapters were a little too tightly packed full of information on the murder and involvement of Conan Doyle but at about 20% in, the story has started rolling along nicely.


What will I read next?

I already have Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss cued up on my library app, ready to listen to when I am finished with Odd Thomas. I really need to get back to working through my huge physical TBR and so I have randomly selected Before TomorrowlandThe Night Diary, and Un Lun Dun off my shelf. If you have read any of these and have a recommendation on where to start – let me know!


Tell me, please!

What are you reading this week?


 

Audio Book · fiction

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I don’t remember adding this book to my to be read shelf and, honestly, I couldn’t have told you what it was about at all. And so, it languished for years in TBR purgatory. But, since I am still deeply into my New Years resolutions I delved into it when I saw, by chance, that it was immediately available to borrow from my library

curiouscaseAnd I loved it. Many have labelled this a coming of age story and, while that is accurate, it is also a story of metamorphosis. That enormous moment in time between being a child and becoming an adult when you suddenly understand that your parents are people (not simply your parents) and there is far more grey in the world than there is black and white.

Except, for main character Christopher, it would be more accurate to say that there are more colors than red and yellow and brown. Fifteen year old Christopher is clearly highly intelligent but struggles daily with an exceptionality that is not labelled in the story. He attends a school with other children with exceptionalities but he is planning to sit for his A level Maths.

Christopher’s world falls crisply into two timelines. Before the dog Wellington is murdered and after. Before Wellington’s murder Christopher knows that seeing five red cars in a row on the way to school makes it a very good day but seeing yellow cars in a row makes it a bad day. Before Wellington’s murder Christopher knows that his mother is dead and he loves math and dreams of being an astronaut. After Wellington’s murder Christopher is still those things but now he is also a detective. And once he begins to investigate Wellington’s murder he finds mystery after mystery in the world around him. Will he be brave enough to figure out what is happening?

I loved Christopher, his Dad and all of the other characters because they were interesting and unique without being cliche. The author seemed to both embrace the positives to being an individual with exceptionalities and the strain that being different puts on a person and his family. Also, I really appreciated that the story allows us to see how having a child like Christopher can radically change you as a person and as a parent. I laughed, I sighed (but never cried) and I listened anxiously while Christopher solved the numerous mysterious of his world.

If you have read this book, please come over for a cup of anything so that we can talk in detail about all the best parts. If you haven’t yet, do read it and let me know what you think!


Tell me, please!

Do you enjoy stories featuring unique characters like Christopher?