Saturday, March 18, 2017

Book Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Confession: My two favorite themes in literature are time travel and alternative histories. Somehow, this book, Doomsday Book, has completely escaped my notice until now, despite the fact that it won the Best Novel Hugo Award back in 1993. The story is set in 2054 in Oxford, England. Time travel has been invented, but up until now, people were not allowed to go back to the 14th century because it was considered too dangerous for two reasons. First, it was the era of the Hundred Years' War, and second, it was the era of the Black Death that killed almost half of Europe. However, Kivrin Engle, a young post-grad historian, ends up going back to 1320 to study medieval Oxford for a three week period. Unbeknownst to her, she actually ends up in 1348, the year that the Black Death struck Oxford and the surrounding villages. Meanwhile, the characters in 2054 Oxford find themselves also the victims of a mysterious influenza that strikes most of the people who are tasked with pulling Kivrin back into the present.

The book is a bit long, but I enjoyed it anyways. Be warned, it does get very depressing and rife with gross details of what the Bubonic Plague does to a person before death. I would not recommend for the squeamish or those who are unable to read about death. For me, someone who is fascinated by history, I loved it! It took a while for the book to really get going, but once it did, I thought it was great. The parts that dragged were mostly those that occurred in 2054, and the side story of the American bell-tollers. Still, I'd recommend it to those who are not overly sensitive and like to learn more about medieval history. 

This book fulfills the 2017 Monthly Motif Reading Challenge. March was Time Traveling. 

It also fulfills the 2017 Full House Reading Challenge Category: Award Winner

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

This just released book is being put into the same category as Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, and for good reason. I have every reason to believe that this will become a big bestseller in the coming weeks, and it has already been optioned to be made into a movie with Ron Howard directing. I've already read the books I mentioned above, and I think it was FAR BETTER than Girl on the Train, and I might even like it more than Gone Girl, which I think was an amazing book, because the big reveal at the end was such a gut punch - completely unexpected and VERY satisfying! I give the book five stars. Very high praise from me indeed!

The story alternates between two women, Emma and Jane. Jane is in present time. She rents a very austere, modern, smart house in London that is very cheap, but requires a lot of rules to be followed. These rules were put into place by the apartment's architect. Meanwhile, a couple of years before, a woman named Emma moved into that same apartment. Both women are dealing with recent trauma. Emma's old apartment was burglarized and Jane recently suffered a stillbirth. Both become mesmerized by their new house's enigmatic architect. Saying anymore would definitely spoil the book. Check it out as soon as you can!

Used for the following reading challenges:
2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge Category: Book by an author who uses a pseudonym
2017 Full House Reading Challenge Category: UK/European Author

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: West With the Night by Beryl Markham

West With the Night is my book club's book for the month of March. Beryl Markham was a real lady who grew up on a farm/plantation in what is now Kenya back in the first half of the 20th century. She was born in 1902 and wrote her book in 1942. She started out her career as a horse breeder and trainer and moved on to flight in her 30s, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, which is much harder than flying west to east since you're going against the tradewinds. She very nearly became the first human to do so, but was beaten by a man by a matter of a few weeks.

Although I enjoyed the author's descriptions of Africa and definitely felt her love for the continent, I was disappointed with a few things. First, as you can imagine, colonial thinking was pretty blatant through out. There were times Ms. Markham spoke out against certain practices, like the killing of elephants for their ivory, but at the same time, she took a job in which she flew big game hunters to where they could find elephants and shoot them. She spoke of how she used to be friends with a young African boy, and on equal footing with him, but had no problem that once they were both grown, he showed deference by walking behind her. The author also conveniently forgets to mention that she was married three times, her last name, Markham, was her second husband's surname. In fact, she never speaks of any of her relationships throughout the entire book. When she writes of nights in which she is woken up to bring needed medicine to a dying person hundreds of miles away, she never talks about how these midnight calls affected her marriages.

Those things colored my view of the book, and I found myself really wishing I didn't have to finish it. Though she was a very unique woman, especially for her time, I don't find myself admiring her in the least, and so this is a book I just can't recommend.

2017 Read Harder Challenge: Book Written 1900-1950

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Review: Wires and Nerves, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer

Everyone who knows my reading habits knows that I discovered the Lunar Chronicles series last year and absolutely fell in love with Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Iko. I even got to meet Marissa Meyer when she came to MY LIBRARY in October. One of my most treasured possessions now is my autographed copy of Stars Above.

So, to say that I've been eagerly awaiting more from the Lunar Chronicles universe is a huge understatement. This new story, that takes place seven months after the end of Winter, centers on the often forgotten character of Iko, the android who has a mind of her own. She adores romance, beautiful clothes and makeup, and wants the best for her friends, especially Cinder. In this story, told in graphic novel form, Iko takes it upon herself to neutralize the threat of the leftover wolf-hybrid soldiers on Earth. Iko is a great new heroine. She's tough, sarcastic, and just a lot of fun to read.

I only wish that the graphic novel was more colorful instead of two-tone, and that all the men didn't look exactly alike. I hate that I can't tell the difference between Carswell Thorne (my favorite male character) and Lt. Kinney. Though I'm somewhat disappointed over the art, I love the story, and I am excited that it is a multi-volume series. I can't wait for Volume 2!

***PSA*** This is not for people who have yet to read the Lunar Chronicles. Though they try to have a bit of an introduction at the beginning, it's not enough to really comprehend what is going on without having read the books first.

This book fulfills the following challenges:

2017 Full House Reading Challenge: USA/Canadian Author
2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge: Book With Pictures

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

I read this book solely because a friend of mine said it was her favorite book ever. I wasn't sure if our tastes exactly aligned, but it was a wonderful book. I highly recommend it to anyone. It has so many great quotes in it, that I find I want to make some sort of cross stitch pattern and stitch all of my favorite quotes.

The book is about a 39 year old widower, A.J. Fikry, whose wife died in a car accident the year before. He is old and grouchy before his time. He owns the only bookstore on the fictional Alice Island off the coast of Massachusetts, and lives in an apartment above it. One day he finds a 2 year old girl in his bookstore with a note from the girl's mom. The mom can no longer care for her child and wants the girl, Maya, to be raised among books. What A.J. decides to do afterwards changes his life and makes him a better man and a better bookseller.

Here are some quotes from the book that I loved:

Sometimes books don't find us until the right time.” 
"We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. "
We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works.”
They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?”
We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.” 
"Someday, you may think of marrying. Pick someone who thinks you're the only person in the room.”
Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That's basically the highest compliment I can give.”
"And I like talking about books with people who like talking about books."

This book fulfills the following challenges:

2017 Full House Reading Challenge: Book About Books
2017 ReadHarder Challenge: Book About Books
2017 PopSugar Challenge: Eccentric Character
2017 Audiobook Challenge: No Categories

Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Review: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

This was my first Tom Clancy book! I chose The Hunt for Red October because it was the first Jack Ryan book he wrote, and also because it was the one Jack Ryan movie I haven't seen yet. I love Patriot GamesClear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears, so I hoped I'd like the book. The book centers around a Soviet nuclear submarine captain, Marko Ramius, and his crew aboard the Red October, as Captain Ramius hatches a plan to defect to the United States with his more senior officers who want to defect too. Jack Ryan is a CIA analyst living in London. When he sees pictures of the Red October and their "caterpillar" propulsion system which allows the submarine to sail virtually undetected, he hops a flight to Langley, and from there the adventure begins.

I'm of two minds about this book. Certainly the tension is very well written. There's lots of twists and turns that keep your attention. On the other hand, I bored with all of the technical details found throughout the book. It made the book feel very long, longer than it actually is. However, because the story itself was so good, I hope to get my hands on Patriot Games soon. I genuinely think that the only reason why I don't give this book a higher rating is because the technical jargon, and that should be not as prevalent in Patriot Games. I can see why men like Tom Clancy more. That said, I definitely recommend the Jack Ryan series to anyone who likes Brad Thor or WEB Griffin.

This book fulfills GirlXOXO's Monthly Motif Challenge for February. It also fulfills PopSugar's Reading Challenge Category: Espionage Thriller and The Book Date's Full House Reading Challenge Category: Pre-2000 Published