Great Reads

The Jane Austen Society – ARC Out Tomorrow! May 26

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Publish Date:
5
/26/2020
Author: 
Natalie Jenner
Started:
5/12/20
Finished:
5/13/20
Pages:
220
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:
Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

My Review:

Oh my heart! First things first, as an English Literature major, you’d think I would have read Jane Austen in my time. When I was a kid, I attempted Pride and Prejudice and just didn’t continue. I have yet to read any Jane Austen even though I am well aware of her literary accomplishments. That didn’t take away from this book. There were some points where I didn’t necessarily know the character or quotation from one of her works but I was still able to understand it.

Let me just say, I really struggled at first to get through this. I was struggling, felt defeated, and didn’t want to push through but with most of my reads, I usually do not abandon a book! I loved reading about Mimi as a character and her chapters but they were few and far between. About 130 pages in, it was just BAM I LOVE THIS. I needed to know all the details and wanted so much for everything to work out for our characters. I think that’s around when Mimi becomes a main staple in the book and she really did it for me.

The book is really cute and I think if you love Jane Austen, you will LOVE this book. If you aren’t a Jane Austen fan, you will still appreciate and love the book! It’s a slow burn (at least it was for me) so be ready to take some time to get into it. This isn’t necessarily a life-changing or fast read but it was a great palette cleanser.

By the end of the book, I felt connected to each of the characters. They each were deserving of what they longed for and I felt like their goodness shined through so bright. They were wonderful and quaint. The small-town relationships left me longing for a simpler life (not quarantine simple) and I felt like this book showcased those times wonderfully even a different country.

I recommend this read! This has made me want to go back and discover Jane Austen. The characters’ love for her is so convincing and beautiful!

Great Reads

May Wrap-Up

I’m still deciding not to set a June TBR. May’s freestyle worked out rather well. I tried out audiobooks for the first time this month! They worked out really well for my long commutes to and from work, having something to listen to while making dinner, and sitting in the tanning bed! I’ll keep to them during those times; however, I think I’ll only stick to nonfiction. I tried two fictions on audiobook. One I put down and one I completely hated the narrator’s voice and expression that it ruined the book for me! Here’s what I finished in the month of May:

Normal People – Review found here

Drowning Lessons (Red Frog Beach Mystery #1) – Review coming soon!

The Grownup

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Review coming soon!

Dear Mrs. Bird – Review coming soon!

Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Review coming soon!

Queen of Hearts – Review coming soon!

Food: A Love Story – Review coming soon!

Staying Up with Hugo Best – Review coming soon!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Review coming soon!

The Mister – Review coming soon!

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things! – Review coming soon!

Flowers for Algernon – Review coming soon!

The Proposal – Review coming soon!

Josh and Hazel’s gGuide to Not Dating – Review Coming soon!

I have so many of these reviews written and scheduled but with 14 books read this month and 12 last month, it’s becoming crazy to schedule them!  There would be a review almost every day which is awesome but I’m seriously looking for time just to write them, lol! I promise, you’ll see them!

Great Reads

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

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Publish Date: 01/29/19 
Author:
Alan Brennert
Started:
3/7/19
Finished:
3/13/19
Pages:
405
Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

My Review: 

This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

My Review:

I wanted to pick this up off my shelf for some time but never did. After being sent the sequel to review, Daughter of Moloka’i , I knew I had to get around to reading this ASAP. This book took me longer than I anticipated. It had a little bit of a slow start for me but I did enjoy it. I think the seriousness and sadness left me reading slowly and only small portions at a time. With that being said, I really did like it. It is more character driven which isn’t always my favorite but the Leprosy storyline showcases throughout all of Rachel’s life obviously.

I enjoyed how the book brought up some pretty controversial topics not only for the time period but even for today’s standards. Although I liked this, I sometimes felt like they were being thrown in randomly without much substance or reasoning for it. Each character had such a tragic story and it was heartbreaking. The taboo of Leprosy is so sad and I felt so sympathetic for each character that Rachel conversated with in her life. I also felt such a strong passion for Sister Catherine and Rachel’s father. These characters led such tragic lives even without Leprosy. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to be exiled and stigmatized for all what our characters have zero control over.

The religious aspect was thought-provoking and I loved Sister Catherine and her struggles/transformation throughout the novel. It was inspiring to see a nun portrayed in such a “normal” light who struggled with her own faith. It gives a more realistic light to humanity and religion and less of a stigma for the more conservative beliefs we sometimes hold against religion and Catholicism. I myself am not Catholic but my father is. I often struggled with my own faith and always had some questions to grapple with regarding religion and the Catholic faith and Sister Catherine was a joy to read for these reasons for me.

I think the most interesting point for me is that at first I liked it but was a bit bored. The character driven aspect wasn’t floating my boat. I was ready to give the book a four star review and then BAM. The last 30% or so became entirely plot driven and I found myself flipping through the pages so quickly. It’s what turned what was going to be a four star review for acknowledging of how unique and well-written it was (despite my love of character-driven stories) into a five star review. It even evoked some tears from me. I ended up really loving it and I can’t wait to dive into Daughter of Moloka’i now.

Great Reads

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Publish Date:
04/02/13 
Author:
Christina Baker Kline
Started:
2/11/19
Finished: 
2/20/19
Pages:
278
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

My Review:

Orphan Train  was a great historical fiction novel based on a time period that is extremely overlooked in United States history. It really pulled at my heart strings and I felt awful for the orphans who experienced this horrific trauma. I am aware of the hardships of adopting out orphans even in today’s time but I never thought of it in the ways that were delivered in this book. I was flabbergasted that an orphan train was even something that was legal. It really shows how far society has come in all actuallity, a relitively short time.

Tying in a modern foster experience made me feel even more bad. Molly’s experiences in the foster system are upsetting even in today’s system. I know it is impossible to match foster children 100% with families willing to foster but I felt so awful for what Molly was experiencing. Her family match saddened me and it saddened me further to imagine the perspective or reasonings behind some people fostering a child. Monetary value should not be a deciding factor especially when you are not interested in bettering a child’s life.

Molly’s connection to Vivian was inspiring and shows that age can be just a number. Sharing experiences really brings people of all walks of life together. Molly’s empathy towards Vivan really drew her in because even though her experience was vastly different, it was similar in ways that allowed Molly to feel safe and part of a community and that aspect of the story was beautiful.

Not only is this a historical fiction novel about the horrors of orphanges in during the early 20th centrury but also a story of friendship and trust. It was beautifully written and I’m glad that I finally got around to it.

Great Reads

February Wrap-Up and March TBR

In February, I set myself up for more reads than I knew was physically possible for me. Overall, I am still satisfied with what I finished. I have to talk about my disappointment, I was super excited to read The Silence of the Girls and was then unpleasently surprised noticing that I don’t have the book like I thought I did! This will be one that I hope to get my hands on soon. With all of the Greek Mythology I’ve been loving, I was very excited to read it. Bummer! I also meant to pick up Under My Skin but accidently picked up Lisa Gardner’s Never Tell instead. No big deal but not what I was planning! I’m happy I did get through nine though especially with being so deadly sick during the last week. Here’s what I did finish!:

Fever 1793 – Review found here.

Station Eleven – Review found here.

No Exit – Review found here.

All Your Perfects – Review found here.

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel – Review found here.

The Havana Game – Review found here.

Never Tell – Review will be posted soon.

Orphan Train – Review will be posted soon.

The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico – Review will be posted soon.

In March, I plan to try and read some of my Netgalley reads that have been sitting around for a while as well as some books on my shelf that I really need to get through.

I’ll be honest and tell you again that this may be too much for me to actually get to. My life has been hit or miss with books and although I am finishing a bunch, I sometimes just find myself wanting to watch some junk t.v when I am at home relaxing! I plan to read:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – I am hosting my very first  buddy read for this book! You can find my original post here on my Instagram which was a giveaway. If you’re interested in reading with us, let me know and I can add you to the group!

The Silent Patient  – This was a Book of the Month book that I’ve been hearing such amazing things about. I can’t wait to get to it.

Moloka’i – This has been sitting on my shelf for some time and I also have The Daughter of Moloka’i sitting in my Netgalley que so I must read this one first.

Come Find Me – I’ve enjoyed other Miranda books so I’m looking forward to getting through this. It’s been on my Netgalley shelf for a bit and it was published already.

The Last House Guest – Ditto from above! Lol

The Unhoneymooners – I am going to read this and push it way up my TBR list because I keep hearing such amazing things about it!

You’d be Mine – I don’t usually go for books like this but the reviews are fairly high and it’s been sitting in my que for a while too. I’d like to get this finished before it’s published.

If I succeed and finish these, I may read Jane Harper’s The Dry. I first need to locate it in my unorganized TBR piles at home! I’m almost 99% positive that I have it but we see what happened when I thought I had The Silence of the Girls lol. I also may try to read Under My Skin again since that didn’t work out as planned in February!

What are you reading this month?

Great Reads

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Publish Date:
9/1/2000
Author:
Laurie Halse Anderson
Started:
2/1/19
Finished:
2/2/19
Pages:
252
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

It’s late summer 1793, and the streets of Philadelphia are abuzz with mosquitoes and rumors of fever. Down near the docks, many have taken ill, and the fatalities are mounting. Now they include Polly, the serving girl at the Cook Coffeehouse. But fourteen-year-old Mattie Cook doesn’t get a moment to mourn the passing of her childhood playmate. New customers have overrun her family’s coffee shop, located far from the mosquito-infested river, and Mattie’s concerns of fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of growing her family’s small business into a thriving enterprise. But when the fever begins to strike closer to home, Mattie’s struggle to build a new life must give way to a new fight—the fight to stay alive.

My Review:

There were three four reasons why I was intrigued with reading this.
1. I really like historical fiction.
2. This is set in Philadelphia (I work in Philadelphia)
3. Most of my students have already read this.
4. I am reading Station Eleven this month and wanted to see if I could draw any comparisons.

With those four reasons, I’m glad that I read it. I really didn’t even know that Philadelphia had such a severe outbreak of yellow fever back in the 1700’s. Reading this gave me the chills because I was familiar with so many of the streets and places that were brought up. I can envision these places today and it’s horrific imagining them plagued with yellow fever and bodies. I was even super disgruntled to learn that the burial dumping ground is one of Philadelphia’s most famous tourist park.

I enjoyed the read and felt like it was super informative. I enjoyed watching Mattie as such a dynamic character.  This is a great read full of inspiration, strength, and character and it is a wonderful YA novel.

Great Reads

The Only Woman in the Room – by Marie Benedict

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Publish Date: 01/08/19
Author:
Marie Benedict
Started:
1/26/19
Finished:
1/29/19
Pages: 272

Rating:
⭐⭐⭐⭐

I want to thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for a copy of this to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:

She was beautiful. She was a genius. Could the world handle both? A powerful, illuminating novel about Hedy Lamarr. 

Hedy Kiesler is lucky. Her beauty leads to a starring role in a controversial film and marriage to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, allowing her to evade Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But Hedy is also intelligent. At lavish Vienna dinner parties, she overhears the Third Reich’s plans. One night in 1937, desperate to escape her controlling husband and the rise of the Nazis, she disguises herself and flees her husband’s castle.

She lands in Hollywood, where she becomes Hedy Lamarr, screen star. But Hedy is keeping a secret even more shocking than her Jewish heritage: she is a scientist. She has an idea that might help the country and that might ease her guilt for escaping alone — if anyone will listen to her. A powerful novel based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this read. I had to take off a star though for one reason. This is a historical fiction novel and I felt like it lacked in some of the history needed to help make more sense of what was going in during the first part of the book. I always find myself googling and looking into things that historical fiction but I found that I did not know enough about Pre-war Austria to really understand what was going on automatically. I felt like the book could have had a little more explanation as to what was going on to make it more understandable for people. I have to say, I’m not ignorant in WWII matters at all but I guess I was more ignorant in the Austrian pre-war happenings beforehand.

I did a bit of research on Hedy herself while reading and noticed how many divorces she went through! In the novel, it discusses some of her ever-changing relatioships with men and some of her mariages. I can’t help but to comment on it. It’s ironic on my behalf as I just finished VanderbiltA Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbiltsbefore this read and it was all about marrying into money to succeed in life or to fix an issue which is exactly what we see Hedy doing. Although their issues vary greatly and I sympathize with Hedy’s first mariage decision quite a bit more due to the circumstances, I can’t help to think how different the times were. Like girls, stop marrying for anything other than love. Is this so hard to understand? And Hedy, did you not learn your lesson the first time?!

The story was awesome but it ended rather abruptly. I felt like there could have been so much more substance in the final section of the book. I finished and literally stopped and said to myself, “wait, it’s done? There is nothing more?” It felt incomplete to me and for that as well as the lack of important historical information, I took one star. HOWEVER, I actually really enjoyed the read! I was intrigued the entire time and really felt for Hedy and how different her life could have been during our more understand (yet still not equal) world regarding females.

I think it’s a great book to read still and I even jotted down a few page numbers for my students to read to help understand some WWII and Nazi-era  issues.

Great Reads

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler

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Publish Date:
 10/16/18
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Started:
1/21/19
Finished:
1/26/19
Pages:
400
Rating:
⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Summary:

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.

In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt’s Fifth Ave. costume ball–a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family’s good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva’s bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths–and elevated the Vanderbilts.

From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball–no mere amusement–wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long.

But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? –There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully.

And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who’s hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net?

Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England’s most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There’s only one way to know for certain…

My Review:

I wanted to like this more than I did but it was a little contradictory for me. Alva, a supported of women’s sufferage, is a little hypocritical for me throughout the book. She wants to be in charge of her destiny but so heavily relies on her husband and his family to push her movement. Without the Vanderbilt family, she would not be able to push her views. With that being said, she does stand up to the family and make movements towards the sufferage movement but I feel like it is a little ironic that she is able to only after she is tied to her husband and his family. This could be what the author wanted to show for the time period.

The writing felt a little sporadic and jumpy for me. It moved quickly through time which is expected for a book that is spanning throughout so many years but it felt choppy and unnatural in moving forward for me. I fam sure that Fowler wanted to stay as true to the story and time periods as possible but I just felt like there could be more in certain chapters without jumping years ahead at the drop of a dime.

As historical fiction is a perferred genre for me, I was hoping for a little more. I was left bored in some parts and for the first 30% of the book, I wasn’t really sure if there would ever be a point to the read. I don’t enjoy books as much that are driven more by the characters than the plot and I felt like this was going in more of a character study (which is okay for many and I should have picked up on before tackling) than more of a plot that Alva was a part of.

This may have been an issue from me because I was uninterested in much of the book but I had a hard time remembering the characters as they were all relitively uninspiring.  My feelings for chapters fluctuated because things would get interesting but end fairly quickly and the next second, a new occurance would be happening that had nothing to do what was previously interesting and I again would lost interest for pages at a time.

I liked the end much more than the majority of the book. I felt compelled to finish and was excited to see what Alma was doing in the last 25% of the book. This is what seemed to be more plot driven and exciting for me but I can’t give the book anymore stars for the lack of intrigue prior to the last 25%. The book was fairly unremarkable for me. All in all I just had a really hard time enjoying this. I have seen so many rave reviews however so it could be for you!

Great Reads

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

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Publish Date :1989
Author: 
 Lois Lowry
Started:
1/19/19
Finished: 
1/20/19
Pages:
137
Rating :
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary:

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.

My Review:

Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27th. This month, I designed my language arts class to dive into some Holocaust material. We have been reading survivor stories and hero stories all month so far. I wanted to steer away from the books by students normally read, like Night or The Book Theif, because they really are, but I wanted to focus on some inspiring non-fiction information. My students are loving it and although it has taken me much more time to research and create lessons for, I’m loving it as well. With that being said, many of my students in the past had read Number the Stars and I just never got around to it. I found it in my classroom library, grabbed it for the weekend on Friday, and started it as soon as I was done my previous read.

This book is great for younger grades. It introduces the Holocaust and although it could be much more graphic or realistically scary, it does a good job for younger students to get a small dose of what the Holocaust was about. Our protagonist, Annemarie does amazing things and is a good choice for our main character because she is young enough to know that there are wrongdoings going on in the country but still too young to understand it in its entirity which is why this is a good introduction to later Holocaust topics.

The themes of doing the right thing and bravery is awe-inspiring and thoought-provoking and although a really short book, it has a really strong message. If this book was geared to older readers, it could have had so much more but as a middle-grade book, this was just perfect.

I am glad that I finally got around to reading it.

Great Reads

ARC – The Wartime Sisters – OUT TODAY!

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Publish Date :
 1/22/2019
Author: 
 Lynda Cohen Loigman
Started:
11/9/18
Finished: 
11/11/18
Pages:
304
Rating :
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you so much to Netgalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for a free copy of this advanced reader’s edition to review. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads Summary:

Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

My Review:

It’s no secret how much I love WWII historical fiction. Actually, if I look back in my blog, that is mostly what I’ve reviewed and when I look back at my books I’ve rated 5 stars, so many of them are historical fiction with a setting of WWII. This book was no different for me. Ironically, I was pulled in right away without even being in the WWII time period. I wanted to see immediately how Ruth would fare in life. I was less interested in Millie. The tables turned quickly though as it seemed as Ruth took her rough childhood and became snobby whereas Millie’s more welcoming childhood went dark. My sympathies changed quite quickly; but even with these personal characteristics, both girls were likable and their personalities were understandable based on childhood events. 

This is a fresh take on WWII for me as not only is it set in America, it’s a woman’s perspective here in America. So often we get perspectives from characters in Europe and for good reasons as Europe was center stage; however, the females in America also have a story to tell. Working for an armory factory while many of their husbands were overseas fighting was a perspective I enjoyed reading. So, not only does this book center around sisters’ struggling relationships but the battles of living as a wife, mother, businesswoman, factory worker, widow, etc. during the war. 

I enjoyed the book as a whole and I’m so happy to have read this. I just ordered Loigman’s other novel and am looking forward to jumping in! I highly recommend this fresh perspective of WWII that centers on broken yet bounding relationships.