Posted in Books

What?! Less than 2 months left to read in 2018?!

Possibly that title up there is a teensy bit overdramatic but, really, why not? It’s true, isn’t it? It’s November 5 which means there are twenty-five days in November and thirty-one in December. That’s only 56 days! Add in Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday…

So much to read and so little time!

(She says as if she won’t be able to read in 2019, which she will, come hell or high water.)

Anyway, to continue with my slightly manic but very serious panic about less than two months of reading left in 2018, I’ve decided to set some goals for the rest of the year. Why? I don’t know… because I can? Seems like a good enough reason, doesn’t it?

So my goals for these 56 days are…

  1. I’m currently 2 books ahead of my Goodreads goal of 60 books in 2018 so… I’d like to hit 60 by December 31.
  2. I’ve DNF’d a handful of books this year (not as many as usual, go me!) so I’d like to not DNF more than, say, 2 books the rest of the year.
  3. Cassandra Clare’s final book in The Dark Artifices trilogy, Queen of Air and Darkness, comes out on December 4 and I’m making it a goal to NOT read that book in less than 3 days, not matter how bad I want to forget to sleep or eat to read it all.

Three goals is a good thing, I think.

Yep, so that’s that. Another post meant mostly to put myself on record and, maybe somehow, stick to it because I made the goals public?

Wish me luck!

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Posted in Books

Keeping myself honest… plans for a newer, more consistent bookblog

💙💙So… I do this a lot, try to figure out just how to do something better. Eventually, maybe, I’ll hit on something that keeps me happy and that I do with some consistency. Perhaps?

Perhaps not. 😂

Nonetheless, it’s time to figure out how to do something better and newer and all that jazz. So, the keep myself honest, without any threat of punishment whatsoever (because let’s be real, I’ll be figuring it all out again in three months), I’m making my plans public.

You’re probably bored, or gone, already so this is mostly for me. In which case, time to stop rambling and get this done.

***How My Book Reviews Should Look***

DETAILS:  title / author / publication date / publisher / source / tags

RATING SYSTEM:

💙 – did not finish / would not recommend

💙💙 – did not finish or finished but would not recommend

💙💙💙 – read / no rush to re-read or recommend

💙💙💙💙 – read / liked / would recommend to fans of similar books

💙💙💙💙💙 – read / loved / New Favorite status / begging people to read it

STRUCTURE OF THE REVIEW

The first paragraph will be a summary of the story.

The second and third paragraphs will be my thoughts on plot, characters, and setting of the story.

The fourth paragraph will be my final thoughts on the book.

The fifth paragraph will be any extra details or recs of similar books.

The final paragraph will be answers to three questions I asked myself before starting the book.

………

Will any of this work out? Stick around to find out… I know I will!

Posted in book reviews, Books, Catching Up On My ARCs (sorry I'm late!), Reviewed

“Seven Sovereign Queens” by Geoffrey Trease

This book got me out of a reading slump, one filled with ‘meh’ quality books that were making me want to watch Netflix instead of read. That might seem strange, since Seven Sovereign Queens was originally published in 1968 and includes seven brief biographies of seven women who ruled nations no more recently than 1796. I’ll take what I can get.

And Trease’s biographies of these women were just the right length with just enough to make me want to read full length biographies and histories of them all… in large part because I learned things, and I am here for that!

Cleopatra I blame Shakespeare for my mixed up knowledge of the Egyptian Queen, who was actually Greek (I did know that). I didn’t know that she became queen because at least three older siblings died or were defeated, some by herself and Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. I hadn’t known that, at least in her time, Egyptian kingdoms passed to daughters but kings wanted their sons to rule so siblings got married.

Boudicca This was the weakest biography, I think because it is more like one very long battle plan. And perhaps that is because there is some lack of historical record about her? In any case, she lacks the most personality beyond winning fierce, harsh battles.

Galla Placidia I do admit that the Roman Empire history has always confused me. The names are so similar and there are so many, I can’t keep it straight. But this is the first time I’d heard of Galla Placidia, and now I want to know more about her and any other women who ruled the Roman Empire.

Isabella of Spain Isabella was way more awesome than I knew! And also not so awesome, in terms of crushing the Moors and bringing the start of the infamous Spanish Inquisition. But she essentially arranged her own marriage to consolidate power for herself and only agreed if it was completely on her terms, and for that she gets full credit. And she made sure her daughters were educated to be powerful women on their own.

Christina of Sweden Christina of Sweden’s struggles with identity (faith, gender, sex, and even simply desire) are so fascinating. That she was crowned ‘king’ instead of ‘queen’ in order to leave no doubt as to who was meant to rule Sweden was something not even England’s Elizabeth I thought to do. And then she had the bravery to abdicate and follow her own heart.

Maria Theresa I thought I knew more about Maria Theresa than I apparently did. The way Trease describes her, she is even more impressive as a queen first, a mother second, and a traditional woman willing to follow third. She truly did reshape world history during her long reign over the Habsburg empire.

Catherine the Great This was the sovereign queen I knew most about so the only thing I really found in terms of new information or new ways of thinking is that the Potemkin villages story is most likely fabricated, probably by those who wished to criticize her.

I received a copy of Seven Sovereign Queens from NetGalley and Endeavor Press in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Books, Reviewed

“Baby Teeth” by Zoje Stage

Why did I finish this book?

I suppose it counts for something that I did, though the most motivation came from it being an ARC that I felt obliged to finish, but…

Baby Teeth is a novel written to be a psychological thriller with lots of shock value. That is abundantly clear as the narrative moves from Hanna being more or less normal, stubborn seven year old to being a deliberate, calculating, evil seven year old. It is not a good representation of mental illness in children, though it does try to be. In spurts. This book is one of extremes, both from Hanna and her mental illness and Suzette and her physical illness.

It’s a twisted story, that’s clear from page three if not earlier. It feels like it has all the makings of a demonic possession story, and I admit to hoping that it would not follow that route. This meant I was hoping that a severely ill seven year old be manipulated for a plot device, which is a bit disturbing to think about, but these things happen.

It is an intense story, I’ll give it that. Very hard to stop reading.

And it’s often easy to feel like Hanna’s mother, Suzette, is just as twisted as her daughter. And this is painted as somehow more… normal and acceptable because Suzette suffers from severe Crohn’s Disease and that has to have a psychological impact on a person. It shouldn’t be more normal and acceptable, because using disturbed children for shock value will never be okay with me.

Twisted psychological thrillers are fine, but Hanna’s attacks on her mother do little to advance the overall plot of the story beyond making her more twisted. This has never been my book or movie genre of choice and I doubt it ever will be. But that’s just my humble opinion.

Alex, the father-husband to Suzette-Hanna is almost unbelievably naive but then I realized that his reactions to his daughter, Suzette’s reactions to her daughter are probably both very similar to how normal, loving set of parents would react if their child started acting out so violently and viciously.

That being said, I still don’t know if that makes a good book.

I do hope you like it though!

(I received my copy of Baby Teeth through NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

 

READING PROGRESS

Posted in Books, Reviewed

Do you know how to remove a brain?

I don’t, because I’m not a brain surgeon. And David Haviland didn’t exactly teach me how to remove a brain in his book HOW TO REMOVE A BRAIN AND OTHER BIZARRE MEDICAL PRACTICES.

(I say not exactly because he discussed how the Ancient Egyptians would yank out pharaohs brains through the nose before mummification, but I already knew that.)

23217984I forgive Mr. Haviland, though, because the “other bizarre medical practices” included in his collection of super bizarre medical stories. I yammered on and on and on, to the point of possibly annoying friends and family, while I was reading this book. And I have no regrets.

No regrets because I did not know things like the fact that people used to grind up mice into a paste as a cure for a toothache. That the French nearly drove leeches to extinction with their intense devotion to bleeding and bloodletting, and actually imported leeches from other places in Europe. (I’m writing this review unfortunately late so I don’t remember a lot of specifics… or maybe I’m just really trying to get you, Unknown Blog Reader, to read this book. It works either way.)

I loved this book. I love this book. I’m going to read it again one day. Why? Because I forgot some things, because it is history (and I LOVE all things history), and because it makes for a great conversation starter. Even if people might look at you a little bit sideways!

Posted in Books, Reviewed

“After the Parade” by Lori Ostlund

23492669It’s some kind of masterful when you spend the first quarter of a book thinking that the main character is a self-absorbed, ambivalent, almost blissfully ignorant fool but then you read the middle half of the book, getting ever more caught up in his story, and the final quarter of the book realizing that none of those things that made him unlikable and unrelatable at first were his fault and he did grow from them, whether by choice or by force. Sometimes life isn’t anyone’s fault. To alter the title a bit, sometimes life is just a parade it’s hard to see the end of.

AFTER THE PARADE is Lori Ostlund’s tale of a forty-one year old man name Aaron Englund. An ESL teacher, the story begins with him packing up a U-Haul in Albuquerque and leaving for San Francisco. He’s leaving behind eighty-two year old Walter, the man he’s been with for twenty-three years – and known a few years longer. The math works out to mean that Aaron was eighteen and Walter thirty-six when they first became a couple. That fact lands somewhere between unnerving and sad. As a reader, it’s easy to feel bad for Walter at the start. The man he loves leaves on Christmas Eve after nearly a quarter century. He’s elderly.

But then it becomes so much more complicated than that.

As Aaron travels – literally to San Francisco and figuratively to figuring out who he is – his story is told. His memories of an abusive father and a distant mother, who was more distant because of her abusive husband. His memories of never quite fitting in to normal groups at school. His tendency to gravitate toward the outcasts of society, almost as though he is searching for himself in them more than he is searching for a true friend. And so it comes that by the time he meets Walter as a teenager, his father is dead and his mother is gone.

Aaron is inherently a boy in need of something he never had. That he would find comfort in a stable older man when most boys his age would be doing anything but settling down, makes perfect sense. As in all things, defining love and the existence of love is tricky and almost impossible.

In time, woven into a rich story with so many threads, it becomes clear that Aaron teaches English to immigrants because he sees himself as one of them, in a way. He is an observer too, trying to figure out just how to make it through an uncomfortable, unfamiliar world without getting hurt. And maybe get through it with someone to love. The questions his students ask, the stories they tell him… they help Aaron to find himself.

Ostlund’s novel is harsh and sometimes breathtaking in it’s sadness but it is beautiful. Everything makes sense in the end, especially the most perfect of endings.

(I received a copy of AFTER THE PARADE through NetGalley and Scribner in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Posted in Books, Reviewed

“A Want of Kindness” by Joanne Limburg

33271065If I have a weakness when it comes to books, a fail-safe fallback genre, it is historical fiction. Specifically historical fiction based on queens and kings. Specifically based on queens and kings of England. Show me a queen on a cover or in a blurb and I will read that book.

It is not, therefore, at all surprising that I was excited to read Joanne Limburg’s A WANT OF KINDNESS.

To make it even more appealing, her story is centered on Queen Anne of England. Queen Anne, if you don’t know, is not like either Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, Queen Mary, or the wives of Henry VIII who were queens who did not rule. Queen for only five years, her reign was neither glamorous nor marked by controversy nor long enough to qualify for Hollywood films. She was the second oldest daughter of King James II and she succeeded the William III, who had ruled jointly with her sister, Mary. She was the last monarch from the House of Stuart, as she died childless. Childless despite at least seventeen pregnancies and only one child, a son, surviving as far as age 11. She was married from 1677 until her husband’s death in 1708. So her story is one of tragedy, on the whole, and yet the beauty of a reportedly loving marriage despite so much tragedy.

This, perhaps not surprisingly, does not make the sort of thing Hollywood believes it can make money on. And, to be honest, it probably can’t.

It’s really too bad.

I first learned about Queen Anne in my college English history class, and even the professor talked about seventeen pregnancies and no children. And then we moved quickly on, because Queen Victoria was coming after some Georges. I have thought about her sometimes since, wanting to know more but never wanting it badly enough to search out a biography. I’m a terrible history buff sometimes!

But this book, this fictionalized account of Queen Anne’s life from her childhood to her ascension, is really quite incredible. Possibly because, despite not having the glitz, glamour, intrigue, and longevity of the more famous queens, she lived in an incredible time. She was at the center of religious upheaval. She had seen her father, her uncle, and her grandfather struggle in their reigns. She witnessed wars with France and Spain and the Netherlands.

So Limburg’s fictionalized account Anne’s life is not what can usually be read about queens and kings. The intrigue is not romantic. She never had affairs, though it could be argued from her letters – actual things Anne wrote that Limburg uses to illustrate the story – that she had something bordering on romantic love for Sarah Churchill. She tried to do good, for herself and her family, for her country, and for all. And she succeeded, most of the time, even if it never really seems like it. And the reason it never really seems like it is because she never gets her happy ending. Never gets the things she wants more than any other.

Queen Anne deserves more recognition as an important part of British history. She truly is one of the most tragic, yet interesting rulers of England I have read about. And Limburg’s portrayal makes her all the more fascinating and charismatic.

If you have a weakness for this genre, and don’t mind a distinct lack of bursting corsets and illicit rendezvous in shadowy corners, this book is a definite Must Read.

(I received a copy of A WANT OF KINDNESS through NetGalley and Pegasus Books in exchange for an honest & original review. All thoughts are my own.)