Saturday, April 30, 2016

Review: The Golem and the Jinni

Chava is a golem, created in 1899 by a rabbi who dabbles in old magic. Her new husband takes her across the ocean to America, but doesn't make it through the trip. Chava arrives in New York City, without anywhere to go or anyone to turn to. She is not the only new arrival to the city. A tinsmith receives a flask to repair and inadvertently releases a jinni. Ahmad hides his true identity and begins working alongside Arbeely in his shop. When Chava and Ahmad meet, Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods collide and their relationship will either destroy the golem and jinni or give them a sense of belonging they have never before experienced.

The Golem and the Jinni is part historical fiction and part fantasy. The reader gets to travel the streets of Little Syria as well as live side by side with a rabbi and in a home for recently arrived Jewish immigrants.

While Chava and Ahmad are distinctly unique characters, this story is essentially about being an immigrant, an outsider, someone who doesn't fit in. As the two try to acclimate to their new lives, they search for the things that make someone human. In many ways, they are opposites--Chava is made of clay and struggles to express emotion, while Ahmad is full of fire and ready to woo women or confront enemies. But when they are together, they learn things they never would have grasped on their own.

This was a book that I didn't want to end. I would have been happy to dive deeper into Ahmad's past, or wander the early morning streets with Chava. The good news is that Helene Wecker is continuing their story with a sequel, which will tentatively be published in 2018.

The Golem and the Jinni
By Helene Wecker
Harper April 2013
486 pages
From my shelves

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mini-reviews, Detective Edition: Maisie Dobbs and Countdown City

Maisie Dobbs is a woman on the verge of new things. She has returned home from nursing soldiers during WWI and now she is ready to open her own detective agency. Her first case seems rather cut and dry, when a wealthy man asks her to find out if his wife is unfaithful. But what Maisie uncovers about her first case will force her to confront her own experiences during the war and race against the clock to protect veterans whose lives are in danger at home.

I have to confess that I started this book a few times, and put it down again. I'm so glad it stuck this time. At the moment I am writing this, I've already read the second book and am looking forward to more. This first book combines Maisie's first case with her past, as we learn how the poor daughter of a man who drives a vegetable cart was able to go to college and become a detective. While this is a mystery, it is also about the horrors of war as experienced by Maisie, her assistant Billy, and many other characters. Maisie and Ms. Winspear have definitely earned a place on my bookshelves along with other fictional detectives.

Maisie Dobbs
By Jacqueline Winspear
Penguin May 2004
309 pages
From my shelves

Former detective Hank Palace should be following most other people and spending time with loved ones or lying out on the beach with a drink in hand. After all, there are only about two months left before an asteroid crashes into the earth and destroys the world as we know it. But Hank lives life as normally as possible--helping out the neighborhood kids and meeting his former colleagues for breakfast at the local diner. When his childhood babysitter asks him for help, he accepts the job even with the knowledge that he probably will not be able to find her husband. His search will take him to an anarchist camp on a college campus and a deserted historical landmark where the fates of hundreds of people will be decided.

Countdown City is indeed a mystery, but it's a bit more complicated than your usual case. Hank knows that in the current situation, some people just don't want to be found. Is it more important for him to find the missing husband or try to keep himself safe? Mr. Winter's imagined world on the brink is fascinating and terrifyingly plausible. Hank is a wonderful guide to the end of the world, and I am excited to find out what Winters does in the last book of the series.

Countdown City (The Last Policeman #2)
By Ben Winters
Quirk Books July 2013
316 pages
From my shelves

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Monday and we are in Readathon recovery mode!

Good morning! How is everyone doing?

For me, this past week was mostly about getting ready for the Readathon! You can read all about my adventures here, but it was fun to have my mom along for the ride this time around. I did post reviews of Why We Came to the City, Drama High, and The Snow Child. Other than that, it was lots of usual work, taking care of the kids, and making sure some sleep happened once in a while! I am pretty excited because my birthday is tomorrow, so I am looking forward to being spoiled a bit by my family.

This week, I read Excellent Daughters. During the Readathon, I tackled Yes, Please, Birds of a Feather, and French Milk. I started Tales of Accidental Genius and finished it up on Sunday night before collapsing into sleep at 10 p.m. like the old lady I aspire to be.

        Tales of Accidental Genius    Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World

        Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2)     French Milk 

So what am I going to read this week? Honestly, I have no idea. I made up my book list through Readathon and now I have to take a look at my books and see what is up next!

What are you reading this week?


Saturday, April 23, 2016

24 Hour Readathon: The Second Twelve

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Daunting sounds so dramatic! I think the early hours were tough, because my husband wasn't awake yet and those kiddos of mine wanted some attention! 
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? This time around, I will make an argument for celebrity memoirs. The way they are set up in little vignettes works really well and it's fun to learn more about someone whose music or tv show you love! 
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? I don't think so. Rock on, Readathon organizers, rock on.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? It seemed like all of the platforms were covered really well and someone was always around to answer questions.
  5. How many books did you read? I finished three and made progress on a fourth. 
  6. What were the names of the books you read? I finished French Milk by Lucy Knisley, Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear, and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I started Tales of Accidental Genius by Simon van Booy, although I didn't finish that one until Sunday night. 
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? I think Birds of A Feather, although Tales of Accidental Genius will be a close second. 
  8. Which did you enjoy least? I think I'm going to start a fight when I admit I didn't enjoy French Milk quite as much as I enjoyed reading Knisley's Relish. But it certainly doesn't mean I won't pick up her other books! 
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I always try to participate in Readathon, no matter how busy my schedule is on that day. I think I will try to do more to help out in the fall--I tend to just read in April as a little birthday present to myself. 

Hour 17 Update

The day so far:
Food: donuts, egg salad sandwich, chips, chipwich from the local ice cream truck, dijon marsala pork with smashed rosemary potatoes
Books: 3 completed; 1 more started
Pages read: 861

This reader is hitting the hay. Kudos to all of you reading for the full 24. You are amazing!

Hour 12

Let's kick this off with the mid-event survey, shall we?

1. What are you reading right now?
Yes. Please by Amy Poehler
2. How many books have you read so far?

I finished two.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I think I'm going to dip into Tales of Accidental Genius, and save the funny Amy Poehler for the hours when I need to laugh to keep my eyes open!
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Two, to be exact. They are eight and two years old. Husband helped a lot, one of them napped, the other played outside for a while, and you just wait until bath time is over and they are in bed!
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I don't think I'm surprised about anything. I'm happy to be readathoning! 

24 Hour Readathon Spring 2016: The First Twelve

Hour 10:
Hello again! How is your readathon going? 

I finished Birds of a Feather, and really enjoyed it. I've started Yes, Please although I may intersperse with some short stories from Simon Van Booy.

The kids are building a pillow port and husband is starting dinner (hooray!). What are you reading right now? 

Hour 6:
It's update time!
I finished French Milk, a graphic novel by Lucy Knisley. I have about 100 pages to go in Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2). Then it will be time to decide between short stories or Amy Poehler...

        Yes Please      Tales of Accidental Genius

It's about 2:30 p.m. here. I sent hubby and the kids to pick up lunch from the deli around the corner and now my mom and I are reading, the little girl is napping (I hope), the big boy is playing video games, and husband is on a Skype call for work. Keep on reading, kids!! 

Mini-challenge for Hour 2 (hosted at Readage)

My picks for childhood reads:
Amanda's First Day of School because it helped me be brave about school. 
Minnie Mouse's Sleepover because my mom got it for me and wrote a dedication in it. I still read it to my kids. 
Who's Who In the Bible because my beloved Great Grandma Grace bought it for me shortly before she passed away. I was seven. She believed that even small children could read big books, and so I did!
A Wrinkle in Time because Meg is one of my favorite heroines ever and I loved the imagination of Madeleine L'Engle!
Tuck Everlasting because I was in an advanced reading class at school, Our teacher challenged us, made us think, and showed us that it was cool to love reading!

                      Mrs. Mike (Mrs. Mike, #1)

My mom's picks: 
Mrs. Mike because it's Mrs. Mike. What more do I need to say?
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle because I loved the whimsy.
Little Swimmers  because I loved the colored pictures and I wanted to be Julie.
Mary Poppins because my mom read them to me.
Sleeping Beauty (Disney version) because I loved the three fairies.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Good morning! We are coming to you from the (somewhat rainy) state of New Jersey!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I am excited to read the second Maisie Dobbs book. And Yes, Please. Really all of them!!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

My mom is supposed to be showing up with donuts soon. Yum.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm terrible at writing about myself? I recently discovered I am an INFP and some things make a lot of sense. I love to sing and am hoping to get back to voice lessons and/or a show this year. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

The thing I will do differently is read with my mom for the first time! Our schedules finally work to read together. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Twas the Night Before Readathon (Spring 2016)

It's that time again!

Tomorrow morning, thousands of readers will grab a stack of books and get to reading. It's the 24 Hour Readathon and if you haven't signed up yet, there is still time!  You don't have to read for the full 24 hours. You don't need to be a book blogger. You don't need to have a blog at all. The readathon will be in full swing on goodreads, twitter, instagram, and facebook. You just need a few good books and a commitment to spend some time reading on Saturday.

I'm going to have a nice full house of readers here. I took the kids to the library yesterday (since I work late today), so they are ready. My mom is going to join us too (although the kids don't know she is coming yet - surprise!). As for food, donuts are promised upon my mom's arrival. I think we are going to order lunch in and my wonderful hubby has promised to make dinner (score!). Tonight I will probably run to the store and pick up a few snacks. One cannot readathon without snacks.

Last, but most importantly, here are the books I have picked out for this time around. Where should I start?

Tales of Accidental Genius (short stories) by Simon Van Booy
French Milk (graphic novel) by Lucy Knisley
Birds of a Feather (mystery) by Jacqueline Winspear
Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
Yes, Please (essays/memoir) by Amy Poehler

Your turn. What are your plans? What do you hope to read? Do you have a quiet house or have you invited some friends for a read-in? What will you eat?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mini-reviews: Drama High and The Snow Child

Levittown, Pennsylvania is a poor town that most residents never leave. But the town sometimes comes together for a theatre production by the local high school. Lou Volpe is a teacher who stretches his students and guides them to wining national competitions. In fact, the department is so admired that they are the first high school to stage shows such as Rent, Les Miserables, and Spring Awakening. 

Drama High follows a small group of students as they stage a show and their teacher/director as he approaches retirement. The author is a former student of Volpe and his admiration for the man is evident on every page. The book is part biography of Volpe, part insight into what it is like to be in high school, and part exploration of just what makes this drama department so special.

While I enjoyed reading this book and certainly appreciate the effect that an amazing teacher has on his students, I was never convinced that this needed to be an entire book. Mr. Sokolove is a newspaper writer and I found myself thinking that the story of Lou Volpe and Truman High School would have been better told as a series of articles.

Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater
By Michael Sokolove
Riverhead Books September 2013
352 pages
From my shelves

Jack and Mabel are almost at the end of their ropes. They are not young anymore and the Alaskan winter is bitter and lonely. Although they love each other, their relationship is strained by their inability to have children. One snowy night, they make a child out of snow. The next day, their creation is gone but they catch glimpses of someone in the woods wearing the snow child's red mittens. Could their desire have been strong enough to actually bring a child to life?

 The Snow Queen was a really unique read for me. Ivey does an incredible job of portraying the intense loneliness of living in the middle of nowhere through a bleak, freezing winter. Jack and Mabel are both stubborn and unwilling to saddle their loved one with their worries. The story seems both incredibly realistic and wonderfully fanciful. Once the little girl comes into the story, the magical seems close enough to touch and you might wonder what you will see if you go out into the woods on a snowy night. The bonds formed throughout this book are strong - Jack and Mabel's attachment to this land that they work, their love for each other, their care for their neighbors, and the worry they have for the strange little girl who appears on their doorstep and then disappears out into the wild. Is the magic real? Maybe. But the dexterity with which Ivey moves from deep grief and loneliness to love and wonder is magical to experience. 

The Snow Child
By Eowyn Ivey
Reagan Arthur Books February 2012
386 pages
From the library

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: Why We Came To The City

Why We Came to the City is one of those books about a group of friends navigating life in their twenties and thirties. This story centers around vivacious Sara Sherman, who works as an editor, and her awkward astronomer boyfriend George Murphy. They hold on tightly to their two best friends-artist Irene Richmond and poet Jacob Blaumann. The four friends expect the usual ups and downs of relationships and careers, but they are forced to reevaluate everything when one of them becomes seriously ill.

The novel is based around the title. The book opens by noting the slightly stubborn persistence of college graduates who live in a city where you pay too much for rent, and make too little in your paycheck, and try to find friends while simultaneously missing home and vowing to never return. Kristopher Jansma perfectly captures the feeling of throwing all of yourself into a new life in a new place and then discovering just how much you get in return. As you read, you can feel as the characters are slowly and surely weighed down by the harsh realities of life instead of experiencing the happiness and opportunities they were sure would come to them.

This book probably can't escape from comparisons to A Little Life and The Interestings, but this book succeeds in being less soul crushing than the first and, dare we say, more interesting than the second. Of the three books, it tackles the question of "being special" head on. Many of us grow up as big fish in small ponds and then we move to the big city and find that what made us shine in a class of 100 or get the lead role in a drama department of 40 doesn't get us a job at all. Each of the characters here are explicitly told that they are not special and it is that moment, as they are each doing their best to do good work, care for their loved ones, and still get a few hours of sleep, that each of them grasps an important and terrible lesson.

"...those three words stuck in Sara's side like tiny prickers. For she was special, and had always believed it. She was more punctual, and she was better prepared. Driven harder and by purer purpose. Kinder to others and more loyal...And yet she couldn't save Irene by trying hardest or being best. Because no one was immune to tragedy. No matter how respectfully Sara lived, death could not respect her in return. She, Irene, all of them were susceptible to collapse, regardless of preparations or punctuality or propriety. None of them were special."

Why We Came to the City bounces from viewpoint to viewpoint as we discover what is really going on in the heads and hearts of each character. The writing is insightful and lovely, to the point that you may find yourself wondering if Jansma has been eavesdropping on your conversations about the frustration of your job or the evolution of a friendship. This is a book for the reader who loves great writing, for the man setting off for a big adventure in the city, and for the woman wondering why she went to the city in the first place.

My review of Jansma's The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards 

Why We Came to the City
By Kristopher Jansma
Viking February 2016
418 pages
From the library

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Monday and what a weekend it has been!

Hey there, fellow readers. How are you? It's been quite the eventful weekend around here.

Saturday morning, we woke up to a crash and hysterical crying as a certain two year old decided to try to exit her crib by herself. Long story short, she was showing some signs of a concussion so we went to our pediatrician and then on to the ER so they could observe her for a while. When we finally got home, we converted little girl's crib to a bed and the kids slept really well that night. Then the husband and I got to cleaning because we were having company on Sunday.

Sunday morning was the usual blur of practicing music for the service, getting kids ready and out the door, and making sure everything went well during worship. The kids in our church performed a song they had been working on where they memorized all the books of the Bible. They did a great job, and a certain child of mine may have added a dance component. Then it was back home to prep lunch. We had two families over and it was a lot of fun, even for this introvert. The funniest part was that we spent a lot of time cleaning out house but it was so beautiful out that everyone spent the afternoon outside!

Fear not, there was still reading this week. I visited the 19th century with Hanging Mary and then imagined an impending apocalypse with Countdown City. I snuck in Be Safe, I Love You somewhere amid the craziness of the weekend and finished it Sunday night when I was too tired to do anything other than read in bed. It's a novel about a woman coming home after serving in Iraq.

            Countdown City (The Last Policeman, #2)   Be Safe I Love You

I wrote reviews for Night Driving and The Bluest Eye. I also talked about the difficulty of DNFing a book by an author you love.

Next up is Excellent Daughters, a nonfiction book about the lives of women in the Middle Easter today.The readathon is on Saturday, so I'm not sure I will start another book this week. I guess we will have to see how long it takes me to read this one!

                                        Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World 

What are you reading this week?


Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: Night Driving

As a teen, Addie Zierman was taught to always be excited about her faith. But as a mom in her thirties, she thinks about God and feels nothing. The darkness of a Minnesotan winter is closing in and depression is threatening to sink her. So she loads up her minivan with her two small sons and drives toward the light, hoping that the Florida sunlight will reveal God's presence to her again.

This is the book I want to push into the hands of every person who works in a church, especially those who work with teens. So often, our faith is presented as an endless mountaintop experience--we will always feel God's presence and always be blessed with good things. But that's not how life works. Addie, like many of us, realized that no one had ever discussed how to proceed with faith when you feel like your prayers are only being answered with silence.

“I wish someone had told me then that eventually the fire would go out and that it would be okay. That it didn’t mean my faith was dying. I wish someone had told me that the fire doesn’t make me whole; that I am whole because of Jesus, whether I feel him or not.”

One of my favorite things about the story of Addie's trip is meeting the people along the way. Addie and her children stay with friends, family and, at least once, someone Addie only knows from her blog. It is beautiful to see people accept them exactly as they are - tired, cranky, and unsure of the sanity of their trip. These people open up their homes and feed the weary travelers without judgement. They offer whatever they have before sending them on to the next part of their journey. Wouldn't it be beautiful if that was the way we treated others all the time?

Her trip doesn't go quite the way she anticipates. When she finally reaches Florida, it rains torrentially for most of their time there. And then the second half of the book chronicles her journey home, with no more of an answer than she had when she left. It's only when she returns home that the pieces start to fall into place. "I hadn't understood, then, that love doesn't always look like romance and faith doesn't look like fire and light doesn't always look like the sun--and that this matters."

We need to hear more stories like Addie's. I am thankful that she has written this beautiful book and I hope she continues to share with readers the journey in both light and darkness.

My review of Addie's first book When We Were On Fire

Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark
By Addie Zierman
Convergent Books March 2016
240 pages
Read via Netgalley 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Literary Life: You've Lost that Loving Feeling

I had a really tough reading experience recently. There is an author who has a series of books that I loved very intensely as a teen. I have read them multiple times, I own each book in the series, and I have shared them with several people.

The series is finished, but the author has recently written some new books. I picked up the most recent book and I was excited to meet some new characters and go on some new adventures.

But I hated it.

I tried, for 200 pages or so. Surely it would get better. I loved this author. I loved her previous series. Didn't I owe her some form of allegiance?

But I reached a point where I couldn't do it anymore. I knew how the story was going to end. The dynamic between the protagonists was terribly frustrating. I knew that there was going to be 300 more pages of me not really caring about these characters or what happened to them.

So I stopped reading. I put the book in the donation pile instead of adding it to the bookshelf next to the other books by the same author.

Where do you draw the line? What does it take for you to DNF a beloved author?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Review: The Bluest Eye

Pecola Breedlove is an 11 year old black girl living in a small town in Ohio. Her family is poor and life is tough, but Pecola still has a dream. She dreams of one day having blue eyes, so she can be seen as beautiful and have all of the advantages she knows blue eyed little girls have.

This is my first time reading a book by Toni Morrison. It's difficult to read about the horrible things, both subtle and overt, that happen to these young girls. But it also makes me understand why Morrison is a legendary writer.

While the writing is excellent, the genius in this story is the point of view. At first it seems strange that we get this story from multiple narratives, instead of from Pecola herself. But while this book is brutal in many places, it would be crueler still to sit in the midst of every bad thing that happens to her and the pain that follows. Starting and ending the book with the perspective of Pecola's peers shows us just how damaging it is when children aren't given the full story and their stories are ignored.

Ms. Morrison manages to do something incredible. When adults do terrible things to children, our natural instinct is to call them evil. And perhaps they are. But in this book, everyone's stories are told so the reader understands that abuse is cyclical and that people who are wounded are most likely to wound others.

This book is dark and painful and incredibly difficult to read, but I'm glad that I did.

The Bluest Eye
By Toni Morrison
Knopf December 1993; originally published in 1970
216 pages
From the library

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's Monday, So We Are Reading (obviously)

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome to Ham for Ham.

Just kidding. You're here at "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" instead. Sorry.

It's been a pretty good week for us. I managed to sneak in a breakfast at Panera with the husband and little girl one morning and I am really making an effort to get in a few days of exercise each week. Because I heard so many of you rave about it, I gave Yoga with Adriene a try and I think it will be a weekly staple for me.

Reading-wise, I finished Dexter Palmer's Version Control, which is a book I'm having difficulty fitting neatly into one genre. Now I'm planning to get a good historical fiction fix and read Hanging Mary

         Version Control  

It was a busy week on the blog! I reviewed Mr. Splitfoot and The Edge of Lost. I also talked about what makes a book get that much-coveted five star review from me.

What are you reading this week?


Friday, April 8, 2016

The Difference Between Four and Five Stars

You've just finished a great book. Most of us head over to our blogs, or a website like Goodreads or Amazon to write down our thoughts and rate the book. But how do we differentiate between the book that gets four stars and the one that gets the coveted five star rating?

Sometimes I have to take a moment and think about the rating I am about to give a book. But I find, for me, that the difference between four and five stars is the desire to keep, re-read, and lend a book. When I give a book four stars, it means that I enjoyed reading it. The writing, story, and characters were great and I would probably recommend it to other readers.

But the five star read is something even better. It's the kind of story I compulsively read while making dinner or stayed up much too late to finish. It made me think about the story and the characters, even when I wasn't reading. It's the reason I interrupt conversations to ask, "Oh, but have you read this one?"

It's the book I will go out and buy, because I want it to live on my shelves. And one of my favorite things about owning books is the ability to lend them out to my friends and family. I can give the Flavia De Luce series to my mystery-loving mom or mail a spiritual memoir to my sister on the other side of the country.

At the end of the day, there is something wonderful about being surrounded by the books you have read and loved. Those are my five star reads.
image source

How do you differentiate between a book that you really liked and one you loved?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Review: The Edge of Lost

The notorious island prison of Alcatraz has plenty of reasons for the people who work there to be afraid. But perhaps nothing strikes fear into people's heart like a missing child. When the young daughter of a prison guard disappears, all of the employees and their families race to find her. But the only one who knows the truth of what has happened to the girl is Tommy Cappelo, a prisoner serving time for a bank robbery. And he is hoping that Sadie is never found.

The Edge of Lost is set up beautifully. As soon as the reader is good and scared for Sadie, the author throws you back in time to twenty years earlier. We meet a boy named Shanley Egan, who ventures across the ocean from Ireland with his uncle. But something terrible happens and Shan is left to fend for himself in New York City.

While the book is structured around the missing girl at Alcatraz, most of the story is about Shan as a boy and then a young man. We follow him as he tries to find a family in a strange new land, and learn what it means to commit to people even if they aren't your blood relatives. Each character in this story is so interestingly written that you almost wish the narrative wouldn't jump ahead, because it would give you more time with them.

This is the best kind of historical fiction; the story moves effortlessly from Ireland to the Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, from the prison cells of Alcatraz to swanky secret clubs during prohibition. The reader stays on their toes as situations change and secrets are revealed. But the heart of this book is Shan himself, a boy and then a man who tries to make it through tough times, do the right thing, and protect the people who he loves.

This is my first time reading a book by Kristina McMorris, but it will certainly not be the last!

The Edge of Lost
By Kristina McMorris
Kensington November 2015
340 pages
From publisher for She Reads Book Club

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Mr. Splitfoot

Ruth and Nat are the closest of friends. They have spent their teen years as foster children under the dubious care of Father Arthur, along with other unwanted kids. But now emancipation is just around the bend. As awful as foster care has been, the unknown future seems scarier. Nat has a gift for speaking to the dead and what started out as a way to comfort kids who miss their parents soon becomes a thriving business led by the mysterious Mr. Bell. Many years later, Ruth visits her pregnant niece Cora. Ruth refuses to speak, but she does take Cora along with her on a journey. Where has Ruth been all of these years and where is she leading Cora?

I have to confess that I read the first several chapters of this book with an intense feeling of discomfort. As a mom, my heart broke for these kids who were abandoned and abused and so desperate. I felt actual fear as grown-up Ruth led Cora on a journey of unknown length with an unknown destination. The book progressed and I found my fear changing into fascination as I followed Ruth and Nat and then Ruth and Cora.

This is a gothic novel with magic and mystery and wonderfully delicious "oh, now that makes sense" moments. Each storyline is fascinating in itself and they converge in the most unexpected ways. Mr. Splitfoot is unlike anything I have ever read, and I am so happy that I picked it up. It left me believing in both the creepy feeling when you are alone at night and the possibility of true magic.

Mr. Splitfoot
By Samantha Hunt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt January 2016
336 pages
From the library

Monday, April 4, 2016

It's Monday and I have a book nook!

Good morning, boys and girls. How are things in your corner of the world?

I fully intended to do this post last night but after I put the kids to bed, I just sat on my couch and happily vegged out to HGtv instead. But I'm here now and ready to talk books!

First, I have to brag about my husband just a little bit. We have this little bit of space at the end of our upstairs hallway that wasn't doing anything in particular. My husband decided that we needed a book nook (he was totally right, of course). Although my toddler claims that it is "her bed," I have already had some nice reading time here and I am looking forward to many more hours of reading here.

Now for the books I actually read this week! Why We Came To The City was excellent and I'm excited to see that Kristopher Jansma is continuing his streak of great books. The Girl From Everywhere was just ok for me and I have to confess that this is the first time I'm seeing the face on the cover! How did I miss that before?

               Why We Came to the City       The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)

This week, I actually got some things posted. Feel free to wander over to my reviews of Making It Home, Felicity, and Nimona. I also did my March wrap-up post.

Now I'm reading Undetected by Dee Henderson, although I might put it aside for a while to read Version Control first. We will have to see how the week goes!

              Undetected by Dee Henderson      Version Control

What are you reading this week?


Friday, April 1, 2016

March Wrap-Up and What I'm Into

So March is over?

Alright. I'm ready to move onto April. It's my birthday month. I tend to get pretty excited about it, even if I have to wait until the end to have my bday celebration.

The weeks leading up to Easter tend to be a bit hectic for a pastors' family. And of course, the way to ensure that you never ever catch up on anything is to have spring break the week after Easter. We didn't go anywhere exotic, but D had a few playdates and we spent a lot of time relaxing.

What I Read/Reviewed:
I reviewed eight books this month. 1 was a memoir, 1 was a poetry collection, and the rest were fiction. Two were library books, five were for review, and one was calling to me from my own bookshelves. 


              The Only Ones       Flight of Dreams      The Tsar of Love and Techno 
                       The Hours Count       The Gone-Away World     Nimona
                                             Felicity           Making It Home

A favorite for this month? Honestly, it was an embarrassment of riches. Read The Only Ones. And Flight of Dreams and The Tsar of Love and Techno. Also The Gone-Away World. And add Making It Home if you are one of the humans with little people running around at your house.

Favorite posts from this month:
I had a blast writing a "Day in the Life" post for Trish's event.  Some people wrote about their days at work, others wrote about retirement or being home with kids, but it was so much fun to read each one and get a little glimpse into the days of other bloggers.

What I've Been Watching:
We have a lot of tv shows in rotation - Quantico, Jane the Virgin, The Good Wife, New Girl, Sleepy Hollow, Agents of Shield. I'm probably forgetting a few.

I also watched The Last Five Years a few weeks ago and really liked it. I wasn't sure I would enjoy it because I am a big fan of the original cast album with Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott. But Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick did a great job and I think the movie format was able to make some scenes fuller than they could be onstage with a cast of two. 

What I've Been Listening To:
The Last Five Years, because I watched the movie. A fair amount of Hamilton, as usual. Also some Into the Woods. Gungor and Audrey Assad are frequent visitors to my phone or computer as well.

What were you into during the month of March?

Grab button for What I'm Into