Winter 2016-2017 Reading Wrap-up

Hello!

Here is my reading wrap-up from December to February. In total I read 12 books. Here they are:
December:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath

January:

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (reread)

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (Audiobook) reread

February:

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance (Audiobook)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Stats: 

Genre: 2 Fantasy, 1 Classic, 3 Non-fiction,  2 Supernatural/Historical, 1 Mystery, 3 Literary Fiction

Type: 2 Audiobooks, 10 physical books

Age Range: 1 YA/Children, 11 adult

2 rereads, 10 new

Favorite: Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. This book concluded the Farseer Trilogy perfectly. I loved the detail Hobb put into the story and the secrets of her world that she is only starting to reveal. Fans of fantasy should definitely check this out.

Least Favorite: If I had to pick, I’d say A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines. But honestly, it isn’t a bad book. In fact, it is quite a good book. The subject matter is just so tragic so I can’t really say that I “enjoyed” reading it. I am glad I read it but it wasn’t an easy read for sure.

I had a pretty good winter of reading overall. There wasn’t one book that I regret reading or that I just flat out didn’t like. Another favorite is definitely Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I was able to read some new books and some books I’d had on my shelves for too long. I also read quite a variety of genres and am quite happy with this list! Let me know what you’ve been reading!

Bye!

 

Black History Month

Hello!

February is Black History Month in the US and Canada and it seems this year we may need it more than ever. There certainly have been some concerning developments within US politics (to say the least) and the importance of this month that celebrates diversity in our history is very apparent. So here are some recommendations as well as a few books I am planning to read this month:

Kindred by Octavia Butler: This book tells the story of Dana, a modern African-American woman who finds herself being pulled back into the past during the time of slavery in the US. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I read it last year and it has become one of my favorite reads. It definitely is brutal and harrowing but I think it’s an important look at how accustomed we can become to the status quo.

Men We Reaped by Jessmyn Ward: This memoir looks at Ward’s life growing up in a poor household in the South. She recounts the lives of several young African-American men in her community who each died tragically at a young age. It looks at how race and class come together to influence how people view their own worth and how society deems some individuals expendable.

Now for what I’m planning to read:

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines: Set in the 1940s, this tells the story of a young man involved in a crime that leaves him the only survivor and is consequently sentenced to death. It promises to examine race and injustice and what it means to die “like a man.”

And

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This book has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of months and I hope it lives up to the hype. It follows two families, descended from sisters whose lives diverged in Ghana, and progresses through 300 years of history looking at slavery and war.

Let me know what you will be reading for Black History month in the comments below. I also hope to get to The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou but I don’t think it will be this month. You never know though! Any recommendations are also much appreciated.

Bye!

Five Books About Immigrants/Refugees

Hello!

Maybe you’ve heard about the state of politics in the United States. Over the past couple of days, the current administration has taken action to ban refugees and immigrants from predominately Muslim countries from entering the US. There also have been executive orders made that give preference to religious minorities from these countries (mainly Christians) and would allow those individuals into this country before anyone who follows the majority religion (Muslims). This is all scary and frankly unconstitutional so I thought I would share some books that might give some insight into the immigrant experience.

  1. The Golem and Jinni by Helene Wecker: No, I will not shut up about this book. It is excellent. What Wecker does brilliantly is give the reader a glimpse into what being an immigrant is like by looking through the eyes of two mythical creatures in late 19th century New York. Not only must the Golem and the Jinni adapt to life in the US, but they also discover what it means to be human along the way.
  2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This follows a young couple who are forced to part ways when one immigrates to the US from Nigeria. It looks at life as both a legal immigrant and an illegal immigrant and examines identity when a person is stripped of their community.
  3. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian: Set in Syria, this historical novel looks at the Armenian genocide in which the Ottoman Empire killed over 1.5 million Armenians in the early 1900s. It looks at life as a refugee and what it is like to be unwelcome while fleeing almost certain death, a situation facing many refugees today.
  4. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: This graphic memoir looks at the the Islamic revolution in Iran during the late 1970s. Marjane discusses what life was like before the extremists took over and how her life was forced to change because of their new laws. It gives insight into the life of the average person in Iran and why the country is in its current state today.
  5. The Constitution of the United States of America: I know this isn’t strictly about immigrants, but as a nation of immigrants, you’d think we’d be a little less hostile towards those trying to find a better life. Also, I think it’s important to understand exactly what is unconstitutional so that we are able to speak out when things like this immigration ban are put in place.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you have any recommendations as well!

Bye!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books I’ve Read Recently

TTT

The Top Ten Tuesday was started by The Broke and the Bookish in order to connect bloggers and readers together with a shared weekly post. Each week has a specific theme and this week’s is ten underrated books I’ve read in the last year. Here they are:

  1. The Fall by Bethany Griffin: I’ve never heard anyone mention this book before. Super atmospheric and gothic, plus American Literature fans will enjoy this take on an old classic.
  2. Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, Illustrated by Emily Carroll: Everyone talks about Through the Woods by Carroll, but these illustrations are just as interesting. Plus the story is funny and sweet.
  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner is really well known but I really loved this look into the lives of two women caught in the midst of war in Afghanistan.
  4. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath: This book is full of amazing women throughout history who refused to play by the rules. Each woman is also drawn to mimic the style of a Disney princess. I learned a lot from this and laughed a lot too.
  5. The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde: I haven’t seen anything about this novela either. I didn’t find it that impressive when I read it but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It definitely made a bigger impact than I realized. I also found it interesting to read fantasy is such a small package. The use of the jewels as a source of magic was done quite well also.

I just have five picks for this week. Let me know if you’ve heard of any of these and what is on your lists.

Bye!

Fantastical Fiction: The Farseer Trilogy

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Hello!

One of my reading resolutions in 2016 was to finish the first of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series’, The Farseer Trilogy, and I am happy to say that I accomplished this task. Now that I’ve read the trilogy, I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts on the series as a whole. If you want to know specifics about the first book, Assassin’s Apprentice, you can check out my first impressions here. Just as a warning, this post may be slightly spoilery so if you are new to these books, proceed with caution.

Going in, I admit to having quite high expectations for this series. I’d heard only good things and as a Fantasy fan, I was quite excited to start an author with such an extensive catalogue. But I was slightly underwhelmed by Assassin’s Apprentice and didn’t find myself compelled to continue with the series right away. After a couple of months I picked up the second novel, Royal Assassin, during a long plane trip and found myself enjoying the story much more than I had the with the first book. The last line of the second novel in particular gave me chills and made me really look forward to the final novel. And Assassin’s Quest just blew me away. It had been awhile since a book had grabbed me like that and it became my favorite novel of last year.

So. What changed? I don’t think Assassin’s Apprentice is a weaker novel or that Assassin’s Quest is all that different from it. The tone and style of the story remain consistent throughout the trilogy. But I think the first novel has the harder job of introducing an entire world and a vast array of characters. To begin with, it comes across as a generic fantasy story of a young, seemingly unimportant, boy who is somehow destined for greatness and discovers his magic along the way. And while that does describe this trilogy, Hobb’s work is so much richer than that, as she proves over the next two books. The main character, Fitz, begins the series as a child and grows into a man over its course. As he grows and learns about his world, so does the reader, but Hobb doesn’t make it easy for him, nor does she allow the reader to skip over Fitz’s hard work. She isn’t an author that rushes from plot point to plot point and I wouldn’t say her novels are fast paced, (although I flew through the final novel), but she uses every moment to develop her characters. The characters are the most important aspect of the novels and Hobb makes the reader watch them struggle. Everything has to be earned, there are no shortcuts. The characters are flawed and fallible and there are consequences to their actions, particularly for Fitz. No one is perfect and much of the drama within the plot comes from a place of character rather than Hobb wanting to throw in a bit of action just for action’s sake.

Another wonderful aspect to Hobb’s writing is the fact that she assumes the reader is paying attention. She is in no hurry to reveal all she knows and relies on the reader to be picking up clues along the way. I love that in a novel and seeing the payoff in book three made me appreciate the first two novels all the more. Mentions of important events and characters disappear for chapters or books at a time, only to reappear in ways that entirely make sense in the narrative and it’s clear that Hobb is in complete control of her world. She takes her time with everything, trusting that the reader is along for the ride. Because of this, I can’t wait to see how the events in this trilogy ripple out though the subsequent series’.

All in all, read these books. Hobb is a master of character work and she examines some pretty heavy themes like war, PTSD, loss, and revenge throughout this series. But even though the books are dark at times, they are also so much fun to read. She’s built a world you can disappear into with characters who feel like real people. This year I’ll be reading the Mad Ship trilogy and can’t wait to meet a new cast of characters making their way through this world. I’ll report back my thoughts on that series soon.

Let me know if you are a Robin Hobb fan or if you’d like to give her work a go. And remember, “wolves have no kings.”

Bye!

 

2016 Wrap-UP

Hello and happy new year! The end of 2016 got a little bit hectic for me and I wasn’t able to post as much as I would have liked, so this post is going to be a bit of a mix of a couple different posts I was planning on doing. Efficient, right? First, I’ll start with my favorite books of last year. The top ten are:

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb: Immersive, Fantastical, Satisfying

Kindred by Octavia Butler: Enlightening, Harrowing, Important

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: Imaginative, Adventurous, Charming

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman: Heartwarming, Funny, Bittersweet

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson: Fascinating, Devastating, Page-turner

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes: Motivational, Wise, Hilarious

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: Romantic, Dramatic, Pastoral

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: Witty, Absorbing, Optimistic

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Illustrated by Nate Taylor: Quiet, Beautiful, Gentle

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath: Captivating, Clever, Educational

Next, on to the books I am looking forward to for 2017:

  • The Old King in his Exile by Arno Geiger, Jan. 17
  • Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia 1917, A World on the Edge by Helen Rappaport, Feb 7
  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, Feb 7
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers,  March 17
  • Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor,  March 28
  • Beren and Luthien by JRR Tolkien, May
  • Untitled Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith, ? 2017

And now for an update on the 16 books I wanted to read in 2016. I managed to check off 14 of the 16 categories. The two I didn’t get to are Inda by Sherwood Smith and The Golem and the Jinni reread by Helene Wecker. I am actually part way through The Golem and the Jinni right now but just wasn’t able to finish it by the end of the year. And Inda is the start of a new fantasy series for me and I wasn’t ready to commit to it yet. But this year I will!

I don’t have many reading resolutions for this year as I will be starting school again and might not have a lot of extra time. But I will keep up my Fantastical Fiction series since I had a lot of fun with it last year. Look out for a series review of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy coming soon and I will do my best to post a little more regularly in the coming months. Once again, Happy New Year!

Bye!