How I Write a Fiction Book Review

*this post contains affiliate links

January 12, 2019

How I Write a Fiction Book Review

how i write a book review

Have you written a book review?

Do you write reviews for Goodreads? Instagram? Or occasional blog reviews?

If you’ve never written a review, would you like you to try?

Even if you are an avid reader and are not interested in writing reviews, you might be interested to know how I approach writing a review because it might enhance your reading experience. If you don’t write a review, you might tell a friend what you like about a book or give a video review in Instagram stories, and that involves some of the same thinking and communication skills as a written review. Here’s a behind the scenes look at my process for writing a fiction book review. Usually for a review, I will choose a few of these elements to build my review….it depends on the reading and what impressed me.

My Intent. In sharing my thoughts, I need to stress that I am a definite work in progress. Readers have vastly different opinions on books and reviews, and writing a review feels like walking through a mine field at times. I want to provide honest reviews, but I don’t want to offend anyone either or be overly critical of an author. Even though I rewrite and thoughtfully edit my reviews, I realize they can be improved. It’s also helpful to read and learn from the reviews of others. What I’m offering here are steps to begin your thinking process and to explore the planning stage of writing a review.

1

First…

writie a reading review

Photo by Tracy Adams on Unsplash

…and this is not meant to scare you, but… I usually think about how I’m going to take notes. I’ve found that when a thought strikes me while I’m reading that it’s best to write it down. Otherwise, the book takes my mind in so many different directions that I can’t always remember the specific moments that make the most impact. I also like to note at least one quote for my review. For me, it’s convenient to make notes right in the notes section of my iPad as I’m reading because I complete the majority of my reading in the Kindle app on my iPad. You could keep a small notebook or even a scrap of paper that doubles as a bookmark. It doesn’t matter what the note taking process looks like for you. I find that looking at my notes gives me a great starting point for my review. Recently, I read a physical copy of a book and decided that I would simply flag certain passages with little flag post its. Well….my five year old grandson picked up my book one day and little hands removed a few of my post its! Sometimes there are hazards involved with note taking.

Next is the reading…..and I’m considering the following elements:

2

Setting

Using my five senses, can I envision a place? The time period? The atmosphere? The season? When I close my eyes and stop to think about the story, can I place myself in the story? What do I see, hear, touch, feel, taste, smell? What details do I notice? If I’m having difficulty in answering these questions, this might mean a low rating for this element of the story. How important is the setting to the story? Is the setting an important aspect of the story or could the story have taken place in any location or in any time period? Sometimes the setting can be as important in a story as a character. An example of this is Where the Crawdads Sing.

3

Main Characters/Narrator/Point of View

Are main characters well developed? I’m hoping not to find stereotypes (this lowers my star rating). I’m watching for diversity, point of view, and I’m looking intently for character traits. Sometimes there are too many characters and keeping them straight is confusing. Who’s the narrator of the story? Is the story told from multiple perspectives or only one? Are the characters children, young adults, or adults? Or is this a story of family dynamics? Interestingly, the story in The Book Thief is told by Death. That’s an interesting detail for a review!

4

Plot/Pacing

Do the events of the story move the story forward at a nice pace? Or are there places where the story drags? At the story’s end, are you left with unanswered questions and disappointed with dangling story lines? Is the story predictable? (this is something that readers tend to either like or dislike) Does it bother you if you are able to consistently guess what is going to happen before it happens? Honestly, predictability takes a bit of the enjoyment out of the story for me and I usually give those stories three stars. Is the story engaging? Is it a page turner? Is it a happily ever after (HEA)? Is it unputdownable? Is the story character driven or plot driven? An example of character driven is A Gentleman in Moscow, and an example of plot driven is The Great Alone.

5

Important Themes

Themes are the most enjoyable part of my reading experience and my favorite aspect of writing a review. I love a great theme! A story that doesn’t have a few good themes won’t be earning four or five stars from me. I always include themes in my reviews. Common themes include family dynamics (parent/child, siblings), faith, friendship, loyalty, ambition, bravery, determination, survival, pursuing a dream or goal, loss, achievement, overcoming obstacles, grief, etc., etc.

6

The Writing

Does the writing flow? Or are you confused and find yourself rereading for clarification or understanding? Is it evident that the writer excels at her or his craft? With certain authors like Fredrik Backman, I need to stop often and simply reflect on how beautifully the sentence was constructed or how uniquely the thought was expressed (Beartown).  I notice gorgeous and creative figurative language, descriptive details, and a unique turn of phrase (Virgil Wander). The recent trend of not punctuating dialogue (The Boat People) seriously annoys me and slows down my reading pace. Even though the author has a specific artistic reason for using this style (which I appreciate), it still creates a more difficult than necessary reading experience. Personally, I like short chapters. I have a difficult time stopping mid chapter, so I appreciate having frequent opportunities for taking a pause. In addition, short paragraphs lend itself to easier reading. This might be a good place to note that I love reading books by “own voices” authors (e.g. Inside Out and Back Again or The Hate U Give). This is an interesting fact to point out in a review. Some of what I mention in this section consists of personal preferences and will be a small consideration in your rating.

7

Enjoyability Factor

This is one of the most important elements in a book review. Potential readers want to know if you enjoy the book and why or why not. I ask myself: Would I reread this? Does it earn a place on my “forever shelf”? Am I tempted to carry it with me where ever I go? Do I find myself wanting to pull it out and read at stop signs? Would I save it in a fire? Is it unputdownable? Did I read the entire book in one day or one sitting? (Castle of Water) Did I neglect everything else in my life to read this book? Or did I purposefully stretch it out to savor it? Recently, I lent a book to my mother and her complaint about it was that she wasn’t getting her housework done because she was constantly tempted to pick up the book (The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter) to find out what happened next! Do I recommend this book to everyone I see? How many significant connections with characters and/or circumstances have I made with the story? My favorite read of last year (A Place For Us) earned five stars from me mostly because of the emotional connections I felt with the characters. It outweighed every other element of the story. Ultimately, reading is a subjective and emotional experience and no two people read the same book. Does the book give me a reading hangover? That is, do I still think about the story and the characters days and weeks or even years later? This enjoyability factor sometimes determines the difference between a four and a five star read for me. Five star reads MUST meet many aspects of the enjoyability factor. The enjoyability factor will be evident in your review and your enthusiasm will be the part of your review that causes other readers to pick up the book. It’s a good thing to let your enthusiasm for a book show! If I don’t sense a reviewer’s enthusiasm, I think that she/he must not be recommending it despite all the other wonderful points being made. (Some reviewers do not believe in leaving negative reviews, so I’ve learned to read between the lines!)

8

Recommendation

I typically end my review with a recommendation (e.g. “recommended for readers of historical fiction”). You can recommend the genre, the style of writing, the topic, the author, read-a-likes, etc. This is something I look for in a review because it helps me decide if this story is one for me or if it eliminates me. If I write that a book is recommended for readers who love paranormal, what I’m also saying is you might not want to read this if you don’t like the genre. Bottom line, there are kind ways of saying negative things. I’ve developed a few tricks for writing reviews for books that haven’t been the best reads for me. It’s amazing what can be communicated by creating a recommendation statement.

9

Star Ratings

The Five Star Rating System is a fairly subjective and highly discussed rating system. I happen to love when reviewers give me a star rating….it provides a great deal of information at a glance. However, some reviewers avoid the star rating system completely. Goodreads has a guideline for the 5 star system and you can find my complete explanation of my five star scale here. This is a brief explanation of mine: 5=it’s going on my lifetime favorites list; 4=very good read; 3=OK, satisfactory; 2=didn’t like it for several reasons; 1=DNF, not recommended. If you decide to use the 5 star system, I would encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the categories and developing what the stars mean to you and then apply it consistently. I will warn you that it is rather disconcerting to see that someone has awarded 1 star to your 5 star read!

10

Other Considerations

The Hook: It’s always good writing technique to begin your review with a hook. Three ideas for frequently used hooks: create a question (based on a theme or conflict from the story), consider a bold statement (a fact from the story), or find a quote (from your notes!).

Genre: You want to mention the genre in your review. If you’re not sure, check sites like Amazon (looking to see where it’s been shelved is helpful). Keep the genre in mind when writing your review. Does the story accomplish what the genre typically  sets out to do? I try not to rate the story down for standards I would apply to another genre. For example, a YA selection is likely to include teenage angst, so I take that into consideration even though I might not have enjoyed it. Chic Lit is going to be light, predictable, and perhaps filled with stereotypes. Memoirs are going to be focused on self. Science fiction might need a suspension of belief. I need to remind myself frequently to keep the genre in mind. Let the reader know if the book is a genre that you don’t typically read so that your comments are taken in context. Others that prefer that genre might really enjoy the read.

Triggers: It’s always appropriate and considerate of readers to let them know about possible trigger warnings in a way that allows them to make their own reading decision (offensive language, steamy romance, graphic violence, sensitive subjects, etc.). Often, if I feel a need to include a trigger warning, I will place it as a simple *starred note at the end of my review. Here’s an example.

Be Specific: Do not say “I liked it.” Include specific examples of what you liked (using ideas from your notes). When we were in school, we learned Point + Example for expository writing. This is a good model for writing a review, too.

Tone: Is it suspenseful? Thrilling? Melancholy? Reflective? Humorous? Pedantic? Agenda driven? Heartfelt? Informative? Atmospheric? Romantic? These are examples of descriptive words you can add into your review that gives readers more insight into what to expect from the reading experience.

Summaries/Spoilers: Although it’s common to begin a review with a brief summary, it’s not absolutely necessary (official summaries are readily available on Amazon or Goodreads). I like to start a review with a general summary (in my own words) because it provides context for the remainder of my review. Be careful not to reveal spoilers. Sometimes, I refer to the synopsis on the back cover when writing my summary, but I find that it can also include spoilers. It’s forgivable to reveal small inconsequential spoilers, but please avoid spoiling the main resolution or final outcome. If you know your review will include spoilers, you can warn readers at the beginning that the review includes spoilers (Goodreads has a spoiler alert function as part of writing a review).

Author’s Note: I hope you always read the author’s note (if provided). It can greatly enhance your reading experience and provide an important perspective. I remember when I read We Were the Lucky Ones, I was struck by the author’s note that the story was really her family history, and it made the story even more meaningful for me and I was sure to include that information in my review.

Extra Resources: Sometimes authors will include extra resources like maps, illustrations, links, photos (especially if it’s a fictionalized biography). Specifics like this might be nice to mention in a review. It’s also interesting and helpful to include links to outside sources in your review if available. For example, I recently reviewed a fictionalized biography about Dorothea Lange and I included three links to YouTube video clips about her life.

Length: Reviews can be short or more detailed. For a blog post, I will write a longer review than what I write for Goodreads. You can pick one of the above elements as your focus or select a few elements. Sometimes it helps to develop a template (e.g. one sentence summary+a sentence about characters or plot or theme+a sentence about what you enjoyed most about the story+a sentence about recommending the read).

Proofread: I always read my review several times to proof for spelling, punctuation, word usage, verb tense agreement (I like to write book reviews in present tense), sentence structure, clarity,  clear communication of ideas, etc. I also consider if there is a kinder way to say something if I’m being critical.

Do I Need to Write a Review? First, writing a review is a perfect way to support an author and authors greatly appreciate reviews. If you tag them on Instagram, many of them will respond with a “like” or a comment. Out of consideration, I only tag authors when I write very positive reviews. If you start writing reviews, keep in mind that you are not required to write a review for every book you read! Sometimes I simply give it a Star rating on Goodreads and leave it at that with no explanation. Or if it’s a book that I really dislike, I will shelve it as a DNF on Goodreads with no review or star rating. If I can’t say one good thing about the book, I usually won’t write a review. Although if I do review a book I dislike, I’ll start off with a statement of what I appreciate about the book and then add statements about what “I wish…” would have been different. For an example of one of the most negative reviews I’ve written read here. For an example of a recent book I felt meh about read here. If I can’t give a book a 4 or 5 star rating, I usually won’t feature it on the blog. Occasionally, a 3.5 will be featured. When you see a book review on this blog, I want you to be able to trust that I’m sincerely and wholeheartedly recommending it (even though you may end up with a different opinion).

Criticism: Your reviews are public so be prepared for a variety of responses. Most commenters are kind and will make comments like “I enjoyed it.” Very rarely you might receive a negative comment such as “I do not agree at all.” If I disagree with a reviewer, I usually do not write a comment. If I comment, I relate it to something positive she/he said in their review. (practice “eye roll and scroll” and “let it be” as the kind response)



Let’s Discuss!

I hope this gives you some ideas and encouragement for writing reviews! If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to address them in comments.
*TIP: Start in Goodreads with giving a Star rating and writing a one sentence review!
Which of these elements is easiest or most difficult for you to address in a review?
If you’ve never written a review, I hope this information is an encouragement for you.
If you’re an experienced reviewer, what tips or ideas can you add?


#writeareviewandsupportanauthor


 

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Learning To See: A Review

*this post contains affiliate links

January 11, 2019

Learning To See by Elise Hooper

learning to see 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Fictionalized Biography, Photography, Internment Camps

Thanks to #WilliamMorrowPB #WilliamMorrowBooks #HarperCollins for my free copy of #LearningtoSee by Elise Hooper in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

“It takes a lot of practice to see things are they are, not as you want them to be.”
(P 121)

Summary:

Learning to See is a fictionalized biography inspired by real life photographer, Dorothea Lange. We first meet twenty-two year old Dorothea Nutzhorn in 1918 as she arrives in San Francisco with her best friend. Through wit and a determination to create her own life far from her home in the Northeast, Dorothea changes her name to Dorothea Lange, takes a risk in opening a portrait studio, and marries an older established artist, Maynard Dixon. Dorothea’s portrait studio enjoys success and it provides a steady and dependable income for their growing family of two children. When the economy collapses in the 1930s, economic troubles place tremendous strain on an already fragile marriage and Dorothea desperately seeks out ways to support her two young sons and a drunken, disillusioned, and out-of-work husband. As Dorothea’s portrait business declines in the economy, she begins to take pictures of the poor and desperate people on the streets of San Francisco. In addition, she travels throughout California and the Southwest documenting labor conditions on farms, gradually realizing that these pictures are more meaningful than what she produces in her portrait studio because her pictures from the streets and fields tell a true story of the economic hardships that people are facing. Later, the United States enters WW11 and Dorothea accepts a government job photographing the internment camps into which the Japanese have been placed. Not everyone appreciates seeing the truth of these pictures and she is censored, threatened, and discouraged. This doesn’t deter Dorothea from her travels, her photographs, or her purpose. There’s a dual timeline running through the story which allows the reader to know Dorothea at the end of her life.

My Thoughts:

Writing. Historical fiction fans will be eager to read Elise Hooper’s new work exploring the life of photographer, Dorothea Lange. The extensive research that went into the telling of this story is evident (the author also includes a few of Lange’s photographs at the end of the book). Not only is there an abundance of historical facts and descriptive details which enable readers to feel like they are experiencing life in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, but the author also puts a great deal of effort and thought into building a case for the possible motives that inspire Dorothea to take certain actions. I had a difficult time accepting the decision Dorothea made for the care of her children, but the details in the story left me with a reasonable ability to understand Dorothea’s choices.

Themes. Certainly, some important themes include the plight of working mothers in that time, the hardships of the depression, marriage to someone who is not a full or dependable partner, loyal friendship and support from other women, making difficult decisions to follow your dreams/passions and accepting the consequences of that decision, taking risks, the effects of childhood experiences on adults, and character traits of pioneers.

More Than an Artist. Dorothea Lange is remembered today for her photography work and her indomitable spirit and determination. I think you’ll enjoy the historical setting and this imagined story of her life behind the facts. Throughout the story, the title of Learning to See takes on multiple meanings. As an artist, Dorothea is not afraid to photograph what she actually sees and not what others want or expect to see. As a mother and wife, Dorothea sees (or intuits) the emotional help her troubled son needs, and she also sees the truth of her marriage to Maynard. Dorothea sees injustice and has a vision for meaningful work, and she is willing to take the risks to follow her passion despite the sacrifices. She is not afraid of hard work or activism, and perseveres in spite of obstacles.

“I was a photographer of people–men, women, and children who worked, suffered, rested, and loved. …. I lived for the moment when time slowed, when I could capture an expression or gesture that communicated everything. I needed more of those moments. If I was going to give up my family, every second needed to count. The sacrifice had to be worth something bigger than me.” (p 179)

Recommended. I love stories of real women, and even though Dorothea might not be the most well liked person, I’m highly recommending Learning to See for fans of well written and extensively researched historical fiction, for readers who are looking for a story of a strong, independent, and pioneering woman, and for those who want an engaging page turner. Learning to See is nicely paced with well drawn characters, and some readers might want to know that it includes some romantic details. It would make a good book club selection because of interesting discussion topics.

If you might enjoy reading more histfic about Japanese Internment Camps, I suggest The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

Additional Information. The following links are a sampling of what’s available about Dorothea Lange on YouTube:

Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life

American Masters: Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange Biography

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded to 5 stars on Goodreads)

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Learning to See

Learning to See

Pub Date: January 22, 2019

For my review of Elise Hooper’s first book, The Other Alcott, click here.

Meet the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper

Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom making American history and literature interesting for high school students.

She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told.

Please learn more: http://www.elisehooper.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisehooperauthor/
Instagram: elisehooper
Twitter: @elisehooper



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll post a review of Meet Me At the Museum by Anne Youngson.

meet me at the museum

I’m also reading Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (a work in progress and review date TBD)

leadership in turbulent times



Links

Check out Hillsdale College Free Online Courses

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!

Don’t miss my Most Memorable Reads of 2018 post here.



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Tell me about your reading preference. Do you appreciate a fictionalized biography or would you rather read a narrative non fiction account of a person’s life?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

The Last Year of the War: A Review

*this post contains affiliate links

January 4, 2019

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Last Year of the War 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Internment Camps, Germany

Thanks #NetGalley and #BerkleyPublishing for a free copy of #TheLastYearoftheWar by @susanmeissner in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary:

The Last Year of the War is a WW11 story told from a unique perspective, and is a heartfelt story about two typical teenage girls in America whose parents are immigrants from Germany and Japan. When WW11 breaks out, their families are sent to an internment camp in Texas and from there repatriated back to their home countries. The girls, Elise and Mariko, meet at the camp and in a short time become best friends. The cruelties of war separate them, cause great hardships for their families, and threaten their friendship.

My Thoughts:

Well Written. Susan Meissner, author of As Bright as Heaven, offers readers solid, well written historical fiction stories, and The Last Year of the War follows in that tradition. The writing style in this story is similar to narrative non fiction. In fact, I stopped reading at one point to check the author’s note to see if this was a story of a real person. Historical fictions fans will be thrilled with this well researched, fictionalized story that includes an abundance of historical facts and vivid, detailed descriptions.

Themes. In addition to the historical setting and events, the story includes thoughtful themes of family, friendship, loyalty, bravery, determination, sacrifice, commitment, and the cruelties of war. Especially poignant for me is the story of Elise’s father and his ongoing and determined struggle to do the right thing for his family and to make the best decisions to keep them safe. Who could have predicted the dire and heart breaking outcomes to his best intentions. I think this resonates with every parent….we hope we’re making the right decisions for our family but only the future reveals the truth.

Issues of war, immigration, racism, deportation, and wrongful treatment are prevalent in the story and we are aware of the author’s viewpoints as the story unfolds.

Favorite Quote:

“We decide who and what we will love and who and what we will hate. We decide what we will do with the love and hate. Every day we decide. It was this that revealed who we were, not the color of our flesh or the shape of our eyes or the language we spoke.”

Protagonist. Elise is our feisty and independent main character and we follow her life from a young girl to her senior adult years. We learn how she survives the last year of the war and holds tight to dreams for a bright future. She becomes real to us as we root for her and feels like a friend by story’s end.

Discussion. Sometimes it’s interesting when girls in the 40s reflect modern thinking of girls in 2018. There is one instance in the story of this when the young girls decide that the heroine in their pretend story doesn’t need to be rescued by anyone…she can rescue herself. Even though the girls were able to articulate this idea, they found themselves in some situations throughout their actual lives where they didn’t rescue themselves. This would be an interesting book club discussion.

Recommended. The Last Year of the War is highly recommended for fans of Susan Meissner’s work, for readers who appreciate well written historical fiction, and for those who enjoy a compelling story of a strong and independent girl. It’s also a book that would be suitable for YA readers. In addition, I think this would make an excellent selection for book club because of many discussion possibilities. For readers who are concerned about reading stories that include the horrors of WW11, I can reassure you that this is a mild read. I hope you pick it up when it releases March 19, 2019 and enjoy it as much as I did! It might make a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift for mothers who love to read in this genre.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads)

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Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner

 

I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I’ve a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll post a review of the ARC Learning to See by Elise Hooper.
(Pub Date: January 22, 2019)

Learning to See



Links

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!

Don’t miss my Most Memorable Reads of 2018 post here.

I attended an Author Brunch once where Susan Meissner was a panelist!
Have you met an author? (share in comments) It’s thrilling to hear authors speak about their work, and I encourage you to take the opportunity!



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What is your first read of 2019?

Susan Meissner can be counted on for solid, well written, non offensive historical fiction stories. Are you a Susan Meissner fan?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Most Memorable Reads of 2018

December 31, 2018

Top Ten Memorable Reads: The List and The Categories

I love top ten lists! Making them, however, is a daunting task! First, let me remind you that this list is subjective. It’s compiled of books I’ve read this year (there are always so many more great ones that I didn’t get to), and each one has made it onto this list because reading it was a memorable, emotional experience and gave me a “book hangover.” I’m presenting my list this year in two formats: in list form and in categories. the categories part is a bit more comprehensive because I provided some runners up. Titles are links to my reviews.

Memorable Reads of 2018

Top Ten Memorable Reads of 2018: The List

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

From Sand and Ash by Any Harmon

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Educated by Tara Westover

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens



Top Ten List: The Categories

It’s difficult to rank books in order from 1-10 because they are each special in their own way, so I’ve sorted them into categories (similar to last year) and included some runners up (because who can choose just ten?). Even though not all of them are 5 star reads, these are the books that were the most memorable for me….the ones that I still think about….the ones I recommend the most often.

Most Memorable Overall (and my BEST read of the year)

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
5 Emotional Stars
Genre: Family Drama


Most Memorable WW11 Historical Fiction

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
5 Stars
Genre: HistFic (WW11)
We Were the Lucky Ones author interview podcast link

Runner Up: From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon


Most Memorable Non WW Historical Fiction

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
4.5 Stars
Genre: HistFic

Runner Up: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor


Most Memorable Light Historical Fiction

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
5 Stars
Genre: HistFic (WW1)


Most Memorable Biographical Historical Fiction

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
5 Stars
Genre: Histfic (biographical)


Most Memorable Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
4.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade Fiction

Runners Up: Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo (2nd review on page) and The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker


Most Memorable Dysfunctional Family

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
5 Stars
Genre: Women’s Fiction (also coming of age), Southern, Nature

Runner Up: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


Most Memorable Quirky Character

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
4.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Allegorical)

Runners Up: Harold from The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, Virgil from Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, and Keiko from Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata


Most Memorable Light Reading for Women

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
4..5 Stars
Genre: Light Women’s Fiction


Most Memorable in Contemporary Issues (Nonfiction and Fiction)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
4 Stars
Genre: NON FICTION (memoir, true crime, social justice)

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
4.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary FICTION


Most Memorable Memoir

Educated by Tara Westover
4 Stars
Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir


Most Memorable True Crime

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
4 Stars
Genre: Non Fiction, True Crime


Most Memorable Young Adult

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
4.5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction (contains Myth), Coming of Age
Although not marketed specifically for YA, this could fit the genre nicely and is the closest to YA I read this year.



***This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info.



Link to last year’s post…most recommended reads of 2017



journey of a lifetime reading meme



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Friday, I’ll be back with a review of The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner (author of As Bright as Heaven). This is an ARC and won’t be available until March.

Last Year of the War



Links

A treat for you in 2019: If you’re looking for an inspiring lifestyle blog, check out my new (in 2018) blogging friend Kendra Nicole for honest, inspirational, and reflective posts about motherhood, reading, self care, and living intentionally.

kendra nicole

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Read in 2018.

top ten tuesday

I’m also linking up today with Traveling With T, Estella’s Revenge and Girlxoxo for A Month of Favorites:  Fave Books of 2018.

If you’re stopping in from these links, welcome! I hope you enjoy looking around!

A Month of Favorites TwithT



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Please share your best read of the year in comments! Please?! I’d love to hear!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

December Wrap Up

December 30, 2018

December Wrap Up

December Wrap Up

Because of December activities, I didn’t read my usual number of books. Plus, I abandoned two so that was discouraging. I did accomplish reading five books. Two of them were Middle Grade selections…..heartfelt and inspirational Middle Grade Literature is a perfect genre for busy seasons!

Listed in order of my Star Ratings (click titles for my blog or Goodreads reviews or affiliate Amazon link):

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

4.5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

(ARC: Pub Date: March 19, 2019: thanks #NetGalley and #BerkleyPublishing for a free copy of #TheLastYearoftheWar in exchange for my honest opinion)
4.5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

(ARC: Pub Date: January 15, 2019: thanks #NetGalley and #RandomHouse for a free copy of #TheDreamers in exchange for my honest opinion)
4 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
(not my usual genre but an engaging and easy-to-read December selection)

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

4 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade (delightful and heartfelt family drama)

Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce

3.5 Stars
Genre: Light Historical Fiction



compelling character

The Most Compelling Character from my December reading is brave and determined Amal from Amal Unbound. Please see my review here to find out more about her!



What did you read in December?



Come back tomorrow for my Best of the Year List!



Happy New Year Book Buddies!

2019Happy-New-Year-Images-2019

2018 Reading Stats and 2019 Goals

December 28, 2018

goal make things happen

2018 Reading Stats and 2019 Goals

Brace yourself for a nerdy post, bookaholics!

Have you ever set a reading goal or considered a reading challenge?

First, let’s look at Reading in 2018.

I’d love to hear from you if you analyze reading data at year’s end. Although I’ve always been analytical, I think my appreciation for using data to inform the future was heightened during my tenure as a teacher when I poured over student data to inform my teaching. Now, instead of looking at student achievement, I’m paying attention to my own numbers as it relates to reading achievement. I realize that while numbers are not that important in a rewarding reading life, they do reveal some trends and inform future reading choices. It’s important to me that I’m reading diversely, supporting women authors, and increasing my non fiction percentage. While this post about the numbers is mostly for me, I hope you find it interesting and possibly motivating toward considering your own reading achievement during the past year and setting some goals for 2019.

If you’ve read ONE book this year, you’re a reader and I encourage you to celebrate that read and accomplishment!

Blog Feedback

I’d also like to know (in comments) what you’d like to see more of or less of on the blog for 2019. Has the variety this year been satisfactory for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts! In fact, I may put together a survey in January.

Best of 2018

Also, start thinking about the best book you’ve read in 2018, and I’ll be back in a few days to discuss and share my list.



Let’s Talk Numbers!

Total Books Read: 107

This is the highest number of books I’ve read since starting a reading log and retiring….I averaged 25-30 books a year when I was teaching full time and the majority of those were read during the summer. For me in this season of life, 100 books is a comfortable number. I average two books per week and the weeks when I can only read one dense nonfiction are balanced out later when I can read 3 lighter, shorter books in one week.



Total Books Abandoned (DNF): 10

I’m getting better at abandoning books that aren’t working for me. There are too many great books waiting to be read to make myself finish something that isn’t right for me at the time. Are you a fearless abandoner or a committed finisher?



Women Authors: 90 

One of my goals in starting this blog is to support women authors writing about strong women and I feel like I’ve had success in this area.



Diverse Reads: 22

I’m defining diverse books as ones that take place in a culture other than my own and whose characters are ethnically different from me….. some historical fiction could fit this definition but I didn’t include them in the diversity count. The diverse titles I’ve read this year are among my most memorable reads of the year.



Fiction: (Broken Down by Sub Genre): 92

The sub genres add up to more than 92 because a few books fall into more than one category.

Historical Fiction: 38
This is obviously a favorite sub genre!

Literary Fiction: 8
This is a category which brings about debate among readers….the most agreed upon definition is that literary fiction is not genre fiction. Also, it’s known as literature written to explore the meaning of life and its issues….for example, most prestigious award recipients and national prize winners are categorized as literary fiction.

Women’s Fiction: 38
Again, a reader’s definition may vary….for me they are books in which most characters are women and the plot centers around women’s concerns and issues….some in this category are lighter reads that readers refer to as “beach reads” or “vacation reads.”

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense: 6
Clearly, I don’t read too much in this category because real life is scary enough….mainly, the books I read in this category are best sellers that I want to form my own opinion about. However, one of my favorite mystery series that I’ve deemed “just right” is the Inspector Armand Gamache Series set in Three Pines by Louise Penny.

Issue Centered: 21
The main purpose of these stories is to focus on a social or health issue. I usually enjoy these books unless they are heavily agenda driven by the author.

Middle Grade: 11
I love a great Middle Grade read! There’s some enjoyable and engaging literature in this category for adults! In fact, one of these Middle Grade reads will make it on my best of the year list.

Young Adult: 4
Usually I read more YA, so this is a surprisingly low number for me this year.



Nonfiction (broken down into sub genres): 15

This is a definite area for improvement for me in 2019!

Memoir: 9
Memoir is a clear favorite form of non fiction.

Biography: 2

Narrative Non Fiction: 2
Biographies written in story format.

Essay: 2

True Crime: 3
Two of these could also be categorized as Memoir and Narrative N F



2019

Let’s Consider 2019 Goals

Here are my goals for 2019 (please share yours in comments):

Goal 1:

Goodreads Reading Challenge (determine how many books you’d like to read and track them through the Goodreads app). This is the easiest of the goals/challenges as it simply involves setting a number. This number can be adjusted throughout the year if you are reading above or below your goal. I recommend setting a reasonable goal and then raising it if necessary. My goal is 100 books. I met this goal in 2018 and it’s reasonable that I will meet it again. Retirement helps tremendously! The 2019 Goodreads challenge will be available at the first of the year. Are we friends on Goodreads?

Goal 2:

Modern Mrs Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge (very broad, doable categories that might provide some stretch in your reading life). With the number of books I read, this goal is fairly easy for me to achieve. It doesn’t require a sign up (unless you want to receive emails from the site).

The next two goals are blog related goals because they provide opportunities for me to link up and connect with other bloggers.

Goal 3:

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (especially great for bloggers and reviewers who want monthly link up opportunities). Because I read a majority of historical fiction, I look forward to my first year of participation in this challenge. However, I do have other commitments to NetGalley and various authors, so I’m setting this goal at the Medieval Level of 15 books for the first year to see how it goes. This means I’ll be linking at least one review per month to meet this challenge. I’ll need to link up 3 more reviews during the year to meet my 15 book goal for the year.

Goal 4:

NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge (link up opportunities for members of NetGalley and Edelweiss). I’m new to NetGalley this year, so I’ll also set a low goal for this the first year. I’m going for Silver which is 10 books this year from NetGalley. This goal will allow me to link up once a month, but I know I can post more if I exceed my goal. For those of you who desire to know, NetGalley is a website where reviewers can request books from publishers (free books called an Advanced Reader Copy) in exchange for an honest review.

Goal 5:

Based on my 2018 reading, I know I want to increase my non fiction reading. Out of 107 books read, 15 were non fiction. I’d like to increase that to 20 books for 2019.



What reading goals do you have for 2019?



Happy New Year! I hope you’ve experienced some pleasurable and challenging reading in 2018 and are eagerly anticipating the reading year ahead!



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

To finish out 2018, I’ll be posting a December Wrap Up and My Best Reads of 2018.



Links

I’m linking up today with Traveling With T, Estella’s Revenge and Girlxoxo for A Month of Favorites.

A Month of Favorites TwithT



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Did you meet your reading goal for 2019?

What is your 2019 Reading Goal?

Do you use a method for tracking your reads during the year?

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: Amal Unbound

December 21, 2018

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal Unbound 2

Genre/Categories: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction, Pakistan

Summary:

Amal, living with her loving family in a quiet Pakistani village, dreams of becoming a teacher. Her educational goals are temporarily disrupted when her parents require Amal to stay home to care for her siblings while Mom recovers from childbirth. Amal is determined to keep learning despite the setback. However, events spiral out of control when Amal must work as a family servant for a corrupt landlord to pay off the family debt. Although Amal faces difficult challenges in her new and restricted life, she learns to work with others and is brave enough to take risks to affect change.

Amazon Early Rating (December): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Part of the purpose of this blog is to read diversely and to support women authors, so I’m thrilled to bring you this review.

Themes. This riveting story of a brave girl adapting to and affecting change in her circumstances is an inspiring story for all middle grade students and adults alike, and it serves as an introduction to the topic of indentured servitude as we experience forced labor through Amal’s circumstances. Nothing accomplishes building compassion and promoting understanding better than quality literature. Other themes include class structure, sexism, poverty, and the limitations that come from being born female.

Education. One reason this is an important book is for children to realize how important education is in a girl’s life and that not every girl in the world has this access. Even during Amal’s time working as an indentured servant, she didn’t give up hope of an education. In fact, the meaning of Amal in Arabic is “hope.” The author points out that millions of young girls fight for their right to an education. We may be most familiar with the popular and well-known Malala, and Amal represents all the lesser known brave girls everywhere.

Why read children’s literature? The story may seem idealistic and simplistic to an adult, but reading it as if you were the target audience (4th grade and up) will enable you to appreciate the introduction of a difficult and troubling topic to a young audience. In addition, I feel it’s important that children from every culture are able to find themselves in stories (realizing that Amal is only an example of one girl, from one family, and she is not a stereotypical representation of all girls from Pakistan culture). If we are buying these stories, publishers will take notice and more diverse literature will find its way into bookstores and classrooms. Finally, adult readers might want to make recommendations or buy gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Great literature can be enjoyed by every age, and this is a great example of a book to read with your children to generate important discussions.

Amal. Our strong-willed protagonist is a likeable and memorable character who is brave, smart, realistic, determined, smart, kind, inspirational, and a fighter. We read about her in honor of brave girls everywhere. A great companion read for this would be I Am Malala.

Recommended. I’m highly recommending this book for readers 4th grade and up, for readers who appreciate compelling stories, for fans of diverse reads, and for those looking for a strong female heroine. It will be on my best of 2018 list and it’s one I will widely and enthusiastically recommend.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Amal Unbound

(Isn’t this a striking cover?!)

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Aisha Saeed

Aisha SaeedAisha Saeed (aishasaeed.com) is a Pakistani American writer, teacher, and attorney. Her writings have appeared in publications including The Orlando Sentinel, Muslim Girl magazine, and BlogHer. As one of the founding members of the much talked about We Need Diverse Books Campaign, she is helping to change the conversation about diversity in literature. She is also a contributing author to the highly acclaimed Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, which features the story of her own (happily) arranged marriage. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

To finish out 2018, the last posts I’m planning include one focusing on goals and challenges, one analyzing end of year numbers, a December Wrap up, and one featuring my best reads of 2018.



Links

Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

Books are wonderful last minute gifts.

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books



In Movie News….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might want to put these three books on your winter to read list in preparation!)



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you read Middle Grade or Young Adult literature?

Do you enjoy reading diversely about other cultures?

Are you finding time to read in December?!

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

 

Winter Reading Season

December 18, 2018

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl: Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR and…

A Month of Favorites TwithTand with Traveling With T (and Girlxoxo and Estella’s Revenge) for A Month Of Faves: Winter Reading.  If you’ve clicked over from Artsy Reader Girl or Traveling With T, Welcome! I hope you enjoy your visit.

winter reading 2

Winter TBR

snowmen

(The last five are ARCs)

leadership in turbulent times

Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s the selection for my IRL book club and my hubs wants to read it too.
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography, History, U.S. Presidents

snowmen

84 Charing Cross Road

Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

84, Charing Cross Road and its sequel The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff (I’m committed to following through with 84, Charing Cross Road so I don’t embarrass myself by putting it on yet another TBR).
Genre: Non Fiction, Books About Books, Memoir

snowmen

Front Desk

Front Desk by Kelly Yang is a Middle Grade Selection and is a diverse read. (I love great MG fiction for a nice change of pace!)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade
UPDATE: 3.5 Stars. GoodReads Review Here.

snowmen

Lost Man

The Lost Man by Jane Harper (author of The Dry and Force of Nature. I’m counting on this being a solid mystery read.
Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery

snowmen

The following are all ARCS (advanced readers copies) that I’ll be reading during the winter….listed in order of release date…..only one releases in winter….three release in spring and one in the summer. Reviews will be written close to publication dates. Titles are affiliate Amazon links where you can find more information.

Learning to See

Learning to See by Elise Hooper (author of The Other Alcott)
Publication Date: January 22, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Photography

snowmen

The Beautiful Strangers

The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio (author of The Way of Beauty)
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction

snowmen

Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner (author of As Bright as Heaven)
Publication Date: March 19, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
UPDATE: 4.5 Stars. Full Review Here.

snowmen

Lost Roses

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly (author of Lilac Girls) …. prequel to the Lilac Girls and is the story of Caroline’s mother
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction

snowmen

Things You Save In a Fire

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (author of How to Walk Away)
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Genre: Fiction, Chick Lit (we’ll see how this goes!), Romance

winter reading
That’s TEN. Of course I’ll get distracted by other reads, too!


Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Friday, I’ll post my review of Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. Isn’t the cover striking?! This is a Middle Grade historical fiction selection and a diverse read.



Links

Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books

In movie news….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing”!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Reading Challenges: Thinking Ahead to 2019

Have you ever considered a reading challenge? Here are the reading challenges I’m considering for the 2019 reading year. The first three are wonderful challenges for any reader. The last one is geared toward reviewers who are members of NetGalley or Edelweiss.

Modern Mrs Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge (very broad, doable categories that might provide some stretch in your reading life)

Goodreads Reading Challenge (determine how many books you’d like to read and track them through the Goodreads app)….the 2019 challenge will be available at the first of the year. Are we friends on Goodreads?

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (especially great for bloggers and reviewers who want monthly link up opportunities)

NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge (link up opportunities for members of NetGalley and Edelweiss)



 Let’s Discuss

Please share what’s at the top of your winter TBR in comments!

Are you finding time to read in December?!

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: The Dreamers

December 14, 2018

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

the Dreamers 2

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopian, YA

The Dreamers Summary:

Virus. A remote college town in the hills of drought stricken California sets the scene for this story and a strange illness/virus that causes its victims to fall asleep and experience vivid dreams. No one can wake the first college age victims and soon the virus spreads throughout the town, randomly affecting young and old alike. The town is quarantined and the National Guard is called in to enforce the quarantine and monitor supplies. The Dreamers is a story about the people affected and their reactions and actions.

My Thoughts:

Thanks #netgalley and #randomhouse for my free copy of #thedreamers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Dreams. Have you ever had a dream that was so real that you had difficulty orienting yourself to a wakeful state? Have you ever pondered the meaning of your dreams? Have you attempted to make sense of your dreams? Do you think dreams can predict the future? Or have you wondered about the passage of time while you sleep? Have you even been asleep briefly but had a dream that seemed to last a long time? Have you experienced dreams about people who are no longer alive?

Unique. The Dreamers came to me at exactly the right time. Usually science fiction is a genre I’m tempted to pass over. Yet, I’m thrilled I took a chance on reading The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker. Even though I don’t read a lot of science fiction, I became intrigued by several reviews of The Dreamers from respected reviewers on Instagram, Goodreads, and in blog posts and I was very much in the mood for something different. Once I noticed this title, I knew I had to see for myself! I hope you, too, will give this unique story a chance.

Not Too Weird. Because I don’t typically read science fiction, I truly appreciate the mild nature of this character driven story. There’s nothing too weird, grotesque, or frightening. The strange illness that causes victims to suddenly fall into a deep sleep from which they cannot be awakened strikes young and old alike and at random. Some victims sleep longer than others and as the epidemic spreads from the college students and throughout the town, it’s a challenge to keep all the patients alive under quarantine conditions. As victims wake up, they report having vivid and realistic dreams and a few struggle with the meaning of the dreams and have difficulty adjusting to life outside of the dream state. The virus disappears as mysteriously as it appears. the prose is lovely, and the story told from multiple points of view is a quick read, engaging, bittersweet, and thought provoking.

Sleep. The Dreamers causes you to think about your own crazy dreams and about how you and your city would react in any crisis. Considering the dire circumstances, it’s a fairly gentle read as the college students and the town’s residents succumb to the most routine and ordinary part of a typical day….falling asleep. The eerie part is that they might fall asleep while mowing the lawn, making dinner, or walking the dog. For a few nights after finishing the story, I certainly thought about closing my eyes as I lay on the sofa or as I fell asleep for the night. If you have difficulty sleeping or experience troubling dreams, this might need a trigger warning. The story is like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Recommended. The Dreamers is a heartwarming story of community, individual survival, and neighbor helping neighbor. I highly recommend this story for readers who are looking for something a little different, for those who enjoy a mild science fiction selection with a touch of psychology and philosophy, and for fans of beautiful writing and a compelling story line. It would make a great vacation read, buddy read, or book club selection. I was left with a few unanswered questions though as the cause of the virus and the recovery are never fully explained.

Pub Date: 1/15/2019

My Rating: 4 Stars

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The Dreamers

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson WalkerKaren Thompson Walker is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Age of Miracles, which has been translated into twenty-seven languages and named one of the best books of the year by Amazon, People, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Financial Times, among others. Born and raised in San Diego, Walker is a graduate of UCLA and the Columbia MFA program. She lives with her husband, the novelist Casey Walker, and their two daughters in Portland. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon. Her second novel, The Dreamers, will be published in January 2019.



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll post my review of Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. Isn’t the cover striking?! This is a Middle Grade historical fiction selection and a diverse read.



My Fall TBR

I FINISHED ALL the books on my Fall TBR list! Usually I can’t get to every book on my list, so I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment. My winter TBR will post on December 21.



Links

Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books

In movie news….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing”!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Reading Challenges: Thinking Ahead to 2019

Have you ever considered a reading challenge? Here are the reading challenges I’m considering for the 2019 reading year. The first three are wonderful challenges for any reader. The last one is geared toward reviewers who are members of NetGalley or Edelweiss.

Modern Mrs Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge (very broad, doable categories that might provide some stretch in your reading life)

Goodreads Reading Challenge (determine how many books you’d like to read and track them through the Goodreads app)….the link is to my 2018 challenge….the 2019 challenge will be available at the first of the year.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (especially great for bloggers and reviewers who want monthly link up opportunities)

NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge (link up opportunities for members of NetGalley and Edelweiss)



 Let’s Discuss

Do you like books that are outside your typical genres? Do you enjoy science fiction?

Are you finding time to read in December?!

It’s time to start thinking about your best read of the year!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: Dear Mrs. Bird

December 8, 2018

Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11

Summary:

Emmy Lake has two goals: to be useful in the war and to become a war correspondent.

Quite a Character. Emmy Lake is an adventurous and highly spirited young woman who accidentally becomes an assistant to Mrs. Bird, a well-known advice columnist for a women’s magazine. Emmy is also helping the war effort by volunteering three evenings a week as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. Her greatest dream is to become a war correspondent, and she hopes that her day job at the magazine will lead to an opportunity with the newspaper. As she devotes all her effort to writing and answering phones and helping to plan her best friend’s wedding, the bombs continue to fall and cause damage in their neighborhood. Emmy faces ethical dilemmas at work and after one especially devastating bomb drop, her friendship with her dear best friend, Bunty, also seems beyond repair. Will Emmy’s strengths and her impulsiveness be the cause of her greatest failures?

Early Amazon rating (December): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

Light Hearted. Dear Mrs. Bird is a quick read and has quite a lighthearted tone for WW11 historical fiction. It has an old-fashioned vibe and uses the language of the time period effectively to enhance sense of place. Even though the tone is light, the realities of war are not avoided. Emmy is a delightful and capable young woman filled with spunk and an enthusiastic spirit. She approaches every problem and dilemma with a great deal of optimism and impulsiveness. In fact, she comes across as too cavalier sometimes and it kept me from forming a strong connection with the character. Emmy, though, has the best intentions, is willing to take risks to do the right thing, is a hard worker, idealistic, and a loyal, encouraging, and supportive friend.

Editing Choices. This falls under personal preference….one aspect of the book that is bothersome to me is the frequent use of capitalization to emphasize Certain Words or Phrases and inconsistent punctuation of dialogue. Once I notice strong stylistic elements like this, I can’t overlook it and it begins to affect my reading experience. It’s not necessarily negative, just distracting.

Plot. Dear Mrs. Bird is a page turner, and I was engaged by wondering what Emmy would do next, if they would be safe, how her actions at work would play out, and if the friendship could be saved. Although not necessarily a HEA (happily ever after) which for me saves it from the chick lit category, problems are neatly resolved and it’s inferred that the future might be bright.

Recommended for historical fiction fans that are looking for a ‘lighter’ read featuring a spunky, persistent, and independent woman. This would be an interesting book club selection and could be an appropriate gift for a woman on your holiday shopping list: a mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, or best friend. I think it’s an overall enjoyable and solid read.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Dear Mrs Bird

Buy Here

Meet the Author, A J Pearce

A J Pearce

 

AJ Pearce grew up in Hampshire and studied at the University of Sussex. A chance discovery of a 1939 woman’s magazine became the inspiration for her ever-growing collection and her first novel Dear Mrs Bird. She now lives in the south of England.

 



Happy Reading Book Worms

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll post my review of The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (releasing in January). Very different from my usual reads!



My Fall TBR

I FINISHED ALL the books on my Fall TBR list! Usually I can’t get to every book on my list, so I’m feeling a sense of accomplishment. My winter TBR will post on December 21.



Links

Check Out My Gift Ideas For the Readers on Your Holiday Shopping List!

“Everyone Gets a Book!”

gift stack of books

In movie news….

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing”!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you like books that are written with a lighter tone for a change of pace?

Are you finding time to read in December?!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.