Posted in Month-to-Month

Month-to-Month: February to March

And so ends another month. And begins another month. It’s all about balance, really.

So, to partake of this balance, I’m here to discuss (possibly just with myself… because I’m writing this without knowing you are here… but it’s easiest if I think of it just as myself) how February went and how I hope March will go.

I finished five books in February, which is not to shabby at all. Six would’ve been better, but five will do fine. Four of those books were ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ reads too. Possibly I hand out five stars too freely, but I don’t care. Fluffy chick lit types and books about sparkly vampires can be just as worthy of five stars as some hard-hitting contemporary. For me, as a reviewer and a reader, it’s about how it makes me feel.

As a tiny digression, I’m not sure I’ve laid out clearly how I give out stars so let’s do that now:

  • ⭐ – I didn’t finish the book, I won’t attempt to read it again, and it’s really not worth your time
  • ⭐⭐ – I finished it, don’t ask me how, and I’ll probably forget it by this time next month so don’t read it on my word
  • ⭐⭐⭐ – it was fine, it was a book, I did not hate my time reading it, I probably won’t read it again
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – this was a great book that I just might re-read, I’m happy I read it, and I’ll probably say that you might like it too
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – a definite re-read, right back on the TBR, and people will probably get tired of me badgering them to read this book

And that’s my star-rating system. What’s yours? Let me know in the comments!

On the writing front, I didn’t get much writing done. But I got a lot of planning done, which seems noteworthy because I do not plan. Ever. Maybe this will lead to more writing being done in March. 🙏 (I’m not actually praying with that emoji, I just couldn’t find a ‘fingers crossed’ one.)

And so, goals for March…

I’d like to read six books, but five will do. I only have three March ARCs and I need to read them sometime during the month. But I also want to read Eclipse (from the Twilight series) because I’m trying to read one book from a series a month. Other than that, it’ll be mood reading, I think, and I’m absolutely fine with that.

What are your reading goals and TBR lists for March?

I need to write more, obviously, but that’s all related to mood too. I’ll keep you posted, because keeping you posted keeps me honest and motivated.

And, to wrap up this post probably no one is reading, I’m going to close with the ending narration from an episode of The Twilight Zone that I watched on Netflix (the series being my binge for most of the month). The episode was called “Death’s-Head Revisited” and, in this time of Holocaust denial and mistrust of people not like ‘us’, it seems all the more important. (all credit to Rod Serling)

There is an answer to the doctor’s question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone, but wherever men walk God’s Earth.

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Posted in Reviewed

Reviewed: “Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop” by Rebecca Raisin

I was reading a non-fiction book about the Middle East and, fascinating though it was, it read like the news. And the news, as I’m sure you know, is always treading a thin, terrifying line between depressing and nightmarish. So the morning I woke up grouchy for other reasons and didn’t want to get out of bed to face the day, I reached for my Kindle Fire and decided to read the next ARC I had due to be published.

And so I found myself thoroughly addicted to Rosie and her ‘travelling tea shop.’

I laughed a lot, I teared up a bit, I smiled so much, I furrowed my brow… it was a fantastic book and succeeded fully in lifting my mood.

Rosie, you see, is a Michelin starred chef at a fancy London restaurant. Her husband, Callum, is not quite as successful a chef at a different restaurant. He is also a cheating bastard who leaves her, for the pretty young thing at his restaurant, on her birthday. Rosie had not known that Callum and Khloe were having an affair, though she was the only one. So, after Callum tells her she’s boring and predictable, she decides to be decidedly not that. With the help of alcohol, anyway, and she wakes up the owner of a pink van meant for a life on the road.

Taking this as a sign, Rosie throws herself into exploring the possibilities of ‘van life’ online and begins to realize she might just be brave enough to break away from the kitchens and take to the road. At least for a little while.

So she decides, with the encouragement of a kind man named Oliver on a Van Lifers forum, to create a travelling tea shop and follow festivals, fairs, and events around the United Kingdom.

This is where I got jealous of Rosie, seeing her take this bold step so far out of her comfort zone and seeing the friends she makes along the way. I also found myself happy for her, and that’s not so common in some books… actually being happy for a character.

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop is as much a story of friendship as it is one of stepping outside your comfort zone. This is because, if you ask me, opening yourself up to be true friends with someone new can be incredibly daunting to people like Rosie, who is like me. There is romance in story, budding romance and some sexy moments, but romance doesn’t drive the story. Max becomes Rosie’s friend, the most adorable, sweet, and funny ways, before he becomes more to her. And I like that, because hopping from cheating Callum to marvelous Max would have taken something away from Rosie.

There are a few parts of the story that make it a bit predictable but that in no way means it isn’t a sweet, adorable, laugh out loud story that I absolutely needed in my life!

I received a copy of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop through NetGalley and HQ Digital in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in book troubles

book troubles: books that come with controversy

I finished an amazing book last week – Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser – but I haven’t written a review here on my blog yet. I want to talk about why, and it’s my blog, so I will.

It actually has very little to do with Prairie Fires. I haven’t seen any controversy around that particular book, the way it was written, the way the subject matter was handled, or the author. The book, in case you don’t know, is a non-fiction biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and history of the time she and her family lived. It is an enlightening book, in terms of a very specific part of American history not often paid attention too and in terms of how the Little House on the Prairie book series came into existence. I think it’s a book that should be read by anyone even a little bit interested in the history of America, because American history is not always pretty.

And here lies the thing that let me to write this thing about about books shrouded in controversy.

Laura Ingalls Wilder has become… controversial.

I don’t really understand it, to be honest. I don’t understand why it’s becoming taboo to read her books, to find something worthwhile and even enjoyable in her books.

She lived from 1867 to 1957 and similar things could be said for many novels, and her books are essentially novelizations of her life, written by authors who lived and wrote then. Especially in terms of racism. To like a book, even simply to read a book in which racist things are said does not mean that a reader is racist or endorses racism. Books like Wilder’s, like Mark Twain’s, have to be seen in the context of the time they were written. People said and did things then that we find wholly unacceptable now, as we should.

Twain’s books, only one example among many, have been banned in schools or been sanitized of offensive language. The ALSC has renamed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award after complaints about how she wrote about Indians.

But is that censorship? Isn’t it trying too hard to say that we are perfect now, just like we always have been?

We aren’t perfect. Even the things Wilder and Twain and the others wrote were not quite perfect in their times. But it was real. And if we ignore that, if we pretend it doesn’t and didn’t exist by wiping things from curriculum and renaming awards, aren’t we missing the point of literature?

That literature is a tool, a way to teach us what we can be, what we are, and what we were.

We can be people who don’t use the n-word, who don’t count Native Americans as lesser people. But we sometimes still are people who use the n-word, who count people who don’t like us as not as good as us. And we were people who used the n-word, who counted ourselves as better than everyone else.

How do we teach children, the audience for Wilder’s books and, to some extent, Twain’s, what was wrong if we pretend it never happened?

There is value in the books that everyone wants to change and ignore, and it’s important to sit with children and teach them to understand, to question, and to learn. Even, maybe especially, in books that don’t quite have the rosy glow they once did.

*book troubles could become a thing here on my blog, as a means of discussing the, yes, troubles of being a Reader. We all know there are problems and troubles along the way so, why not talk about them? Will my opinions be entirely ‘in the moment’ and ‘trendy’? No. I don’t read what everybody else is reading in the moment, never have. I just can’t. But will my book troubles be about books and things that had troubles at some point? You bet!

Posted in Month-to-Month

Month-to-Month: January to February 2019

As it is now 31 days into 2019, it’s time to step back for a second and take stock of things…

January was my first month truly attempting to use a bullet journal 📒 with any regularity (and no, I’m not good enough at it yet to post any pictures… this blog is called “Adventures With Words” so word will have to suffice for now). I feel like this made me a bit more… motivated? Motivated might be a good word, because while I didn’t write a stunning amount, I did read six books – thus achieving my often unreachable goal of reading six books in a month. So maybe the chart I had for a Reading Tracker worked, and maybe I need to figure one out for writing. If you know of an templates for good Writing Trackers, please let me know below?

On a note unrelated to words, strictly speaking, January was a banner month because my router died and I lost WiFi and it was a moment of pure panic in my world. But I got a pep talk and set up a new router, thus ensuring I could continue to do things like blather here about routers.

On notes related to words:

I did read six whole books! There were two five star reads, two four star reads, and two three stars reads… so not a bad time of it at all.

(Empire Falls by Richard Russo and The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker were the ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ reads.)

Things were written but they were not earth shattering, including my continued sporadic attention to this blog.

I finished watching Midsomer Murders and I really hope Netflix gets Series 20 soon! And then, because that was a lot of British countryside crime, I starting watching The Twilight Zone because I couldn’t think of a reason to do anything else.

And so it is now February, the month of 💌 and 💐 and 💕…

My goals for this month are anything but written in stone, because that’s the surest way I’ll never do them.

I have two February ARCs I need to read, I know the titles but I don’t know if they’re about love. It doesn’t matter, the best part of Valentine’s Day is the 50% off candy on February 15!

Reading another six books would be ideal, but five will do just fine.

I’d like to post here or on my instagram (@nilyov if you’d like to follow) at least seven times in February, including this post but book reviews do not.

And I want to make some firm-ish progress on the things I’m writing and trying to create. Maybe even look for someone who might be interested in things I’ve written before.

What about you, then? How was your January? Goals for February?

Posted in Reviewed

Reviewed: “The Girls at 17 Swann Street” by Yara Zgheib

Yara Zgheib’s novel of a young woman struggling with anorexia is not an easy book to read and it is not an easy book to review.

It was not easy to read because the pain of the women, they are all over eighteen and under forty, in treatment at a residential program at 17 Swann Street in St. Louis, Missouri is raw and bare and bleak. That is as it should be, with diseases like anorexia and bulimia. Your heart will break for Emm, for Valerie, for Sarah, for Julie, for Anna… for the unnamed characters and, maybe more importantly, for the real women and girls who struggle with eating disorders.

It was not easy to read and no book about the topic Yara Zgheib chose should be an easy read. I think the reader is supposed to be made uncomfortable, supposed to look at the snacks she eats so easily while reading with a different perspective, supposed to realize that there are things cannot be fully understood without experiencing them.

It was not an easy book to review because there are flaws in the story, things that left me wanting more, wanting better, and I don’t know quite know how to say that about a book with anorexia at it’s core.

But it is still a novel and novels are meant to be read and discussed so… Anna Roux is the focus of The Girls at 17 Swann Street. She was a ballerina in Paris who followed her husband, Matthias, to St. Louis for a job. And she got a job working at a supermarket, which is maybe ironic for someone struggling with anorexia. Anna, though, she’s not the most relatable woman in the story. Maybe because she isn’t developed quite enough? There are many, many, many flashbacks to a happier, more nutritional time of her life but they are very oddly scattered and placed, hardly being clear enough to explain present-day Anna before the story is pulled back to Anna at Swann Street. She seems sometimes to be defined by her anorexia, as a plot, when much of the dialogue centers on the idea that no one is their disease, no one is defined by their disease.

I wanted to read more about Emm, about Valerie and Sarah… about the ‘girls’ at 17 Swann Street, if you will. Anna finds out tidbits about why they all are there, but only tidbits. The other girls don’t exist very well without Anna. In away, I suppose, I feel like I was expecting an ensemble story, about the girls at 17 Swann Street, not just the one girl and her friends.

So my advice is this – don’t read this book if in-depth and often haunting descriptions of eating disorders and their affects are triggers for you but do read this book if you want to better understand a life lived with an eating disorder, don’t read this book if you’re looking for a well-developed ensemble story but do read this book if you want something fairly quick and focused on a single character.

Details
  • The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
  • on sale: February 5, 2019 (published by St. Martin’s Press)
  • my rating: 3 stars
  • categories/genres: fiction / literary fiction / eating disorders / ballerinas / contemporary / hard-hitting contemporary / residential treatment programs / new adult
Disclaimer

I received a copy of The Girls at 17 Swann Street from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Reviewed

Reviewed – “The Dreamers” by Karen Thompson Walker

We live in an age when it almost seems like we’re supposed to be suspicious of everything, of everyone who isn’t quite like us, of all that we don’t, or can’t, understand in the time it takes to read a tweet. It’s so easy, so dangerously easy, to be skeptical and to wonder if what we see is ‘fake news’ and to go about our business as if all the business of other people doesn’t affect us.

I can’t say if Karen Thompson Walker meant any of that to be a message in her new novel The Dreamers but it seems to me, a reader of that novel, to where she might have started from. It’s a terrifying thought, really, to be confronted with how purposefully ignorant we humans can be when we choose to be.

But then, terrifying thoughts often make the best novels.

The Dreamers is the story of a small college town in Southern California where students on one floor of a dormitory start falling asleep and not waking up. It isn’t death, it’s sleep. And no one knows why. Much like the proverbial Patient Zero from the news coverage we’ve all seen of ebola outbreaks in Africa, the story blooms out from the floor of the dorm. More people fall asleep every day, at a rate that seems to increase far faster than all the CDC and infectious disease experts could hope to figure out a cause, much less a cure. The story blooms and jumps around the town – from once carefree college students to suspicious doomsday preppers to already nervous new parents and to a few authority figures who like to pretend they’ve got a handle on things.

It’s intense on levels that are eye-opening, in an age when Ebola outbreaks are generally ignored in America unless pretty young white Americans are infected while helping those who are not pretty, young, or white. The story is fiction, of course, but it could be real. Small Town, America could fall under a quarantine when something we don’t understand quite fast enough infects us. Probably something we could’ve avoided if we’d tried just a little harder to be just a little vigilant, in my skeptical worldview. It will happen, sooner or later, and Karen Thompson Walker seems to have grasped pretty much what it will be like.

The narrative of The Dreamers is succinct in that might count as second person, which is the best way I can describe it, because it takes the reader from one place to the next, always seeming to ‘look in’ on what’s going on. Lines like “Here’s Annie with the baby in her arms…” and “Rebecca lies in her hospital bed…” give the story a flow that seems unique and important. It’s almost like getting to look Here, at This before something grabs your hand and pulls you to look There, at That instead. It doesn’t seem like it would make a cohesive plot, but it does. Because The Dreamers is the story of an entire town of dreamers, and the reader needs to know them all.

The plot, the narrative, the creation of a town full of unique individuals… those are only some of things, albeit the major things, that Karen Thompson Walker gets right with The Dreamers. The novel is diverse (who might count as the Main Character is Mei, a Chinese American girl who is painfully shy and yet incredibly strong and what might count as the purest romance in the novel are Nathaniel and Henry, men who found love after Nathaniel’s wife died and now struggle with Henry’s dementia). The novel tells the story of crisis without being weighed down with logistics and detailed analysis, it is humanity at it’s core. The novel leaves questions unanswered, just as they are in life. And the novel is one that will carry you away and make you think, about yourself and about the world around you.

Details

  • The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
  • on sale: January 15, 2019 (published by Random House)
  • my rating: 5 stars
  • categories/genres: fiction / medical fiction / small town fiction / medical mystery / contemporary / literary fiction

Disclaimer

I received an advanced copy of The Dreamers from Random House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Bookish Details

Bookish Details: Part 1 – Childhood

I don’t remember the first book I ever read. I know I had a set of Disney books. And I know I loved, loved, loved my Berenstain Bears books – and still harbor some resentment over them having been given to my cousin, who still loves reading so perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much.

I do remember the first chapter books I read, or rather was read – Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. My mom read them to me while I followed along with the intense desire to read them for myself. I ended up with pneumonia five times during third grade and the upside of being so sick so long was that every time I had to miss more school, my parents bought me another new book from the series. I had to fight hard to get Farmer Boy. I don’t remember exactly why but I do remember being absolutely convinced that Almanzo’s childhood was just as important as Laura’s if they were going to end up together, which I knew they were.

(I’m realizing now that maybe Almanzo’s story was the first time I ever saw the true value in spin-offs and that sort of thing, despite not knowing just what they were.)

I still have those very same books and I still re-read them. My set doesn’t match, not even close, and there are spots and stains of mysterious origins on them but none of that matters. Until they crumble into dust or otherwise escape my ownership, against my will, they will be the only set of Little House on the Prairie I own. For sentimental reasons above all else.

I learned that I loved to read when my mom read me books she’d loved as a child. I learned that there are worlds of adventure in the pages of books. I learned that, with a little work, I could explore and exist in those worlds with help, with companionship, or on my own.

And I haven’t looked back since.