books · reading

Reading Life

Happy New Year everyone!!!!

I don’t have any reviews just yet but I have been thinking about my reading life. As usual, I begin thinking about what changes I want to make in my reading life as the new year begins. There are so many options and ways to improve your reading life, or just make enough changes to tweak it a bit. I will be discussing some of them in this post.

 

Reading Challenges

At the end of every year you begin to see reading challenges for the new year pop up. You start thinking to yourself, “new year, new me?’ or “let me stick to what I know?’ I thought long and hard about each of the challenges I was seeing that were available to take part in. The Unread Shelf Project, The Read Harder Challenge, The Reading Women Challenge and countless others. There are so many options to either strengthen your reading life or diversify it. Also, there is the good ole Goodreads Challenge to just track how much you have read.

Reading Journals

I started keeping a reading journal a couple of years ago and I am so glad that I did. However, the only problem about keeping a reading journal and having an ever reading life, finding a journal that will accommodate it is very difficult. I read over 60 books last year and the journal I had been using did not have enough spaces for me to write about the books that I read. I begin the search for a reading journal but just couldn’t find what I was looking for to suit my needs and wants. As the year was coming to a close I began to panic because I had not been able to find a journal that I wanted to use for the new year. I ended up making my own and so far I have been very pleased with myself.

Buddy Reads

Buddy Reads was something I was introduced to in the Bookstagram world and the end of 2018.  I don’t know where these have been all my reading life but I love participating in them. They help me read books that have been sitting on my shelves forever as well as get some good conversation in with people who have the same interests that I have. This especially comes in handy since my real life book club just doesn’t seem to have it together and that can be very frustrating at times. Now buddy reads can get overwhelming if you try to take on too many for the month.  I am trying to discipline myself to only participate in one or two per month. I have even decided to host my own Buddy Read on Bookstagram called the Backlist Buddy Read.

Reading Goals

Usually I make my reading goal focused mainly on the number of books I want to read each year. This year I decided to go a different route and not be as focused on the number of books I want to read but on the types of books I want to read. I did still make a numerical goal on Goodreads that I hope to exceed but I will be concentrating more on my other goals this year. I want to read more of the books that I already own, diversify my reading, engage more on my Bookstagram account, improve my reviews and work more on my blog(even though it seems like the old fashioned blogging is slowly going away). With all that being said, my top priority will be remembering that reading is my PASSION first because there were times I became a bit overwhelmed last year and almost lost sight of that.

Happy Reading to you all! Let’s get some reading done and have fun while doing it!

What are your reading goals?

 

 

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book review · books · dedication · reading · secrets · World War 2

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly {ARC Review}

Blurb:

This poignant women’s fiction novel tells the present-day story of Cara, an antiques dealer who would rather bury herself in the past than confront the dilemmas of her present. So when she finds an World War II diary from 1941, she delves into the life of Louise Keene- a small town girl on the outskirts of the war, uninterested with the mundanity of her days.  Desperate from a larger life, Louise defied her parents and joined the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit.  As Cara, journeys through Louise’s life on the page and tries to figure out what happened to her, Cara just might uncover some truths about herself as well.

Review:

Historical fiction is probably one of my favorite types of genre so when I am able to get my hands on an advanced reader’s copy of historical fiction, I jump at the chance. This book is compared The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah(I read and loved) and Lilac Girls (I have not read but plan to do so soon). I did not allow those comparisons to build my expectations because I was afraid of being disappointed and I also wanted this book to make it’s own impression on my reading experience. I am so glad that I went into reading it with that mindset.

This story weaves Cara’s present day story with Louise’s past day story thru a diary that Cara finds while on a job assignment. Cara has gone thru some emotionally trying events in her life events in her life and all she has left on this earth in her loving, but strongly spirited grandmother who has a secret of her own. Cara’s devotion to finding the owner of the diary gives her the strength to ask her grandmother about her military past, but nevertheless, Iris shuts Cara out. Cara doesn’t allow this to deter her away from her mission.

Throughout the story, you see how Cara develops a more independent mindset and you see her confidence build. At the same time, thru diary entries and an alternate point of view, you see Louise’s growth as a woman during a time of war and during a time when women were expected to not have confidence or a mind of their own.

While reading the story, I began making my own assumptions about who the owner of the diary was and how it could possibly relate to whatever secret Iris was hiding from her granddaughter. Needless to say, my assumptions proved to be incorrect and I am okay with that.

Of course, what would this type of story be without a bit of romance? I appreciated how Julia Kelly intertwines the romance of the story into the plot without making it a hardcore historical romance novel. The romance in the story is not your run of the mill everyone lives happily ever after. The romance in both Louise’s and  Cara’s lives are the types that are seen every day and are relatable instead of far fetched.

What made this novel stand out for me is that I learned about a part of World War II that I was not familiar with. Learning about the women in the anti aircraft gun unit made me want to do more research about it.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, but you don’t want to read one that will completely weigh you down emotionally, I highly recommend checking this novel out.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

January 8, 2019 in hardcover, ebook and audio.

I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

book review · books · diversity · middle grade · reading

Ghosters 2: Revenge of the Library Ghost by Diana Corbitt {Review}

Blurb:

It’s been a year since Theresa and her English friend, Kerry, won the Ghosters contest. Now her little brother, Joey, has stumbled on a mystery in the school library. Blasts of cold air, lights that flicker, and books flying off the shelves start Joey and his friend, Elbie, searching for the reason. Elbie lives above his family’s mortuary and is very comfortable around the ghosts that troop through its halls.  He’s a prankster and doesn’t mind Joey’s Asperger’s behaviors.  When the boys discover a ghost holding Joey’s bug book hostage, they team up with Theresa and Kelly to decode the ghostly messages found in the titles of the books thrown by the library ghost.

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! You can’t help but love the friendship between Joey and Elbie. They don’t let Joey’s Asperger’s get in the way of them having fun or getting into a bit of mischief while solving the mystery of their school library and principal. The comfort level they have around the ghosts is admirable as well. I know for myself  I wouldn’t have been that great at handling the special ability to see and communicate with ghosts at their age. This story also involved my love of books and the library. It was refreshing to see Diana incorporate the importance of libraries, books, and reading into her story while keeping it light and fun. You also learn about acceptance and treating people with respect even if they do have a developmental disorder or any other disability for that matter. Elbie’s family living above the mortuary took me back to Vada in My Girl. In fact the friendship between Joey and Elbie reminded me quite a bit of the friendship between Vada and Thomas J.

Although this is a sequel and I had not read the first book, I was still able to follow along and enjoy the story. So you are able to read it as a standalone. Also, the style of writing is perfect for younger readers but not so juvenile that adults can’t enjoy the story.  Now that I have finished it I definitely want to go back and read the first book, Ghosters. I also think that if another book is published for this series, I will have to check it out.

Rating:

4 Stars

Availability:

Available in paperback and ebook

Extra:

I was actually contacted by Diana Corbitt, the author of this book, to see if I would be interested in reading and reviewing it for my blog. I said yes after reading what the book was about and because I have not featured any middle grade books on my blog before.

I will admit that I was very nervous once the book actually arrived because that meant I needed to read it and I haven’t read a middle grade book on my own in I don’t know how long. I usually read middle grade or YA to my children. I was also nervous too because I have never had an author reach out to me directly to review their work. Let me tell you, the pressure was on! After finishing this book, my youngest was excited to get his hands on it, lol. He’d been eyeing it ever since it came in the mail.

Thank you Diana Corbitt for reaching out to me and sending me this awesome story!

abuse · book review · books · Family · secrets · suspense

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

Blurb:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Review:

I bought this book during one of my impulse book buying sprees back in August and had been itching to read it because the storyline caught my attention. Needless to say I was pretty excited that my local book club decided to read it for our October book.

 The first thing that caught my attention with this novel was the style of writing. I loved the prose and how the story just flowed on the pages. Delia’s style of writing is lovely on its own, but the added poetry throughout made it even better. This is one of those stories that you just can’t help but fall in love with because you can feel what the characters are going thru and you want everything to work out for them.

 Kya experiences so much heartache at a young age. She witnesses and experiences the abuse of her father and she is slowly abandoned by each of her family members. When she tries to go to school she is bullied by the children and in town she is treated unfairly by the adults who assume she is nothing more than swamp trash instead of trying to help her. Kya has to learn how to fend for herself. She has to cook, clean, shop, and grow into her womanhood.

 As Kya grows older, she develops a fascination with nature that is hard to describe. She starts a collection of items that eventually helps her survive. Kya seems to be alone but she isn’t. She develops a friendship with Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel. She also develops a beautiful friendship with Tate. I loved the relationship that Kya and Tate have even though things don’t play out the way that they would have if Kya wasn’t considered swamp trash.

 After Kya learns to open up and trust, she is hurt again. Unfortunately this hurt makes her a vulnerable target for local heartthrob, football star Chase Andrews. I did not like anything about Chase from the beginning and hate to say that he deserved what became of him. He was a pretentious jerk.

 This is a story about abandonment, abuse, racial and class prejudice, and love. All of these tie together as a child grows up and a murder has to be solved.

 Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook

books · reading

Reading Blues (Someone send help!!!)

Well, I know that I haven’t posted any reviews yet this month but I had to check in with my audience and let you guys know that I am in fact reading, I just haven’t been able to finish anything until yesterday when I finished The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I am still trying to figure out if I am going to do a review on it or not.

I guess you could say that I am in a bit of a reading slump. I blame it on the fact that I have so many books that I want to be reading right now. My current TBR (Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, Family Trust by Kathy Wang, November Road by Lou Berney and some others) is so ridiculous and I am already making a prospective TBR for next year. I can’t believe that October is already halfway over!

I have faith that I will get out of this slump and have some reviews for you guys. So many awesome books have been published recently that I have copies of and want to get read before the year is over.

Another thing that I have been up to is doing reviews for The Girly Book Club. I sent my first review to them last month. I have a couple more books lined up to review for them and they are books that I have been wanting to get my hands on. Unfortunately, I am unable to share my reviews here but I will occasionally let you guys know what I have read for them and give you a simple short insight of my thoughts. I also will be posting pics of those books on my Bookstagram (www.instagram.com/ReaderthenBlogger) because who doesn’t love pictures of books?

This weekend I am attending the Oklahoma Book Festival in Oklahoma City with my awesome book loving friends, 3 Book Girls (www.3bookgirls.com) and I will be joining them to review a “horror” story. I am a wimp so I will let you know in advance that I did NOT read anything creepy, lol. I was going to try to read The Shining by Stephen King but I just couldn’t stomach the thought. I had almost convinced myself to go ahead and try it then I watched the trailer for the Pet Semetary remake and quickly changed my mind. It instantly reminded me of how much of a chicken I am, lol.

I want to thank each of you for your continued support and let you know that I am not gone, just trying to find my footing again. Sometimes these things happen.

Let me know what you guys are reading in the comments below.

Current Reads:

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, American Pop by Snowden Wright, and Night Road by Kristin Hannah.

book review · books · dedication · Family · hockey · reading

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman {Review}

Blurb:

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Review:

Once again Backman strings your emotions along as we return to the beloved Beartown and hockey. Okay, if you haven’t read Beartown, I suggest that you add it to your TBR soon. I did a review of it earlier this year and even if sports stories aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy the story. Okay back to the book at hand, I didn’t think that Beartown needed a sequel but none the less, I was excited to learn that there was going to be one. I didn’t know where Backman could take the story considering the first book looked into the future of some of the characters, but he managed to pull it off. I didn’t enjoy this novel quite as much as I enjoyed Beartown, but it was still a good story. I felt that the style of writing changed some with this novel, but I could be alone with that opinion. It is still a well written story. I have to say that even though this is a sequel, it could be read by itself.

Although I appreciated a look into some of the minor characters from Beartown, there were moments I felt the story was too drawn out. Once again, I fell in love with Benji and Amat and wanted to protect them as best as I could. With this story we are given more information on “The Pack” and given another character to fall in love with, Vidir. Who doesn’t love the outcast or the underdog? Alongside with characters that you fall in love with, you seem to always have those who make you want to shake them. Mostly it was the adults who made me want to shake them.

The story moves along at a decent pace but there were some parts I wanted to move a bit faster, especially toward the end of the book. Once I got to the end however, I could see that the rest of the story was just a build up for the climax. Let me tell you, I could hardly make it thru because my emotions were going all over the place. The end of the novel is probably my least favorite out of all Backman’s novels.

With that being said, am I disappointed that I read it? No, I am not and yes, I would still recommend it to those who enjoyed Beartown.

This is the type of story that makes you think about growing up, the difficulties that children face, and the moments of doubt that parents may have, and sacrifice. In the end, we see how important family is and how loyalty plays a role in life on and off the ice.

Rating:

3 stars

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

abuse · book review · books · Family · secrets

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden {Review}

Goodreads Blurb:

Abeo Kata lives a comfortable, happy life in West Africa as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Katas’ idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo’s father, following his mother’s advice, places her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is enslaved within the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again.

In the tradition of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a contemporary story that offers an educational, eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break and heal your heart.

Review:

I requested this novel after reading about it in an article on Facebook mentioning books to look forward to. Once I read the plot, I knew I would like it. I didn’t know how much it would intrigue me and keep me glued to its pages. This was a one sitting read for myself and I’m glad that I picked a long weekend to read it even if it only took me 2 hours to read it.

The opening of the story is so intense, but it does not prepare you for what is to come for the rest of the story. This is a story about love, abuse, sacrifice, and pain, and the path to healing.

Abeo is a young happy girl in Africa living what seems to be the perfect life with her family. They are wealthy, and they don’t need for much. Abeo’s family is visited by her Aunt Serafine who lives in the United States. Abeo’s life is easy even when her father is suspended from work. When Abeo’s grandfather dies and her grandmother comes to live with them, Abeo’s life begins to change in a way she does not see coming. Abeo’s grandmother believes and convinces her son to believe that Abeo is the reason for all their misfortune. She convinces him to basically give his daughter up to slavery to make his life better. This is not something he discusses with his wife. He just takes his child and leaves her in the hands of the devil himself and never looks back. Abeo was 9 years old.

At first Abeo’s mother is overcome with rage but she eventually comes around because she believes that it is her duty to follow behind the decision of her husband. For a while, life without Abeo starts to get better and her parents are convinced that the right decision was made. Soon enough, the luck runs out. Abeo’s mother dies. She dies before she ever sees her daughter again.

While the Kata’s are living their newly enhanced life, Abeo is living a life of hell. A life that she was thrown into without ever knowing why. She is a slave along with other young girls whose families have thrown them into the life of being a trokosi. They are beaten, fed enough to keep them alive and raped. Abeo must endure this for much of her childhood and the early part of her adult life. She doesn’t know anything about her family or their whereabouts. She just knows that this is the life her father has left her to. Abeo does try to escape but fails to no end. She takes beatings and soon must endure a constant stream of rape.

Finally, a woman name Taylor moves to Africa and opens a sanctuary and begins rescuing girls from the life of being a trokosi. Abeo is one of the women who is rescued but not after enduring the death of her son.

After Abeo is rescued, she must learn to love again and to function again in the real world. She is also reunited with who is left of her family. She learns of her mother’s death and she also learn her family’s other secret which will have a significant impact on her life.

Although this is a story of fiction, it is a story that needs to be told and put out into the world because this is happening everyday just like human trafficking. This story had me feeling so many emotions all at one time. I could not even keep up. I was angry, sad, happy, hurt, devastated. All of those within the two-hour time it took me to read it. I am still feeling those emotions even the next day. This story is going to stick with me for quite some time and I would actually want to look further into this heinous practice and see what it is I may be able to do to become more educated about it and lend my help.

I really loved the significance of the butterflies. You will have to read the book to see what I am talking about.

There are definitely some trigger warnings that come with this novel. It is not for the faint of heart.

I received this book in exchange of an honest review.

Rating:

5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, hardcover, ebook and audiobook