Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
Writing
This is my first book by Joe Hill and I'm quite pleased with the quality of his writing here.  I have a few quibbles, but overall I found the book to be well done.  I loved the characters, particularly Harper, who has a Mary Poppins obsession.  I also thought the world building was very well done.  The worldwide reaction to the pandemic is believable and fascinating and everything I wanted it to be.  My biggest problem with the writing is that I felt like the story built to something major and then ended quickly without quite living up to the level of tension created in the rest of the book.

Entertainment Value
I couldn't get enough of this one.  It was another car trip audiobook and kept me fully entertained while driving.  It's quite long, so listeners should be prepared for a bit of a commitment but know that the story won't let you down.  Again, the ending had me a bit disappointed, but not enough that I regretted any part of the experience.

Narration
I thought this part was just ok.  It wasn't my favorite narrator and I definitely didn't love the accents she used.  It could have been worse, but I've heard better.

Overall
The book itself is a must read for fans of dystopias or pandemic novels, although I think whether your read it in print or listen is just a matter of preference.  The narration isn't great enough to make it specifically preferable on audio.

I listened to this one via Hoopla, provided by my local public library!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges

The Blessing of Humility
We all admire humility when we see it. But how do we practice it? How does humility--the foundational virtue of the normal Christian life--become a normal part of our everyday lives?

Jerry Bridges sees in the Beatitudes a series of blessings from Jesus, a pattern for humility in action. Starting with poverty in spirit--an acknowledgment that in and of ourselves we are incapable of living holy lives pleasing to God--and proceeding through our mourning over personal sin, our hunger and thirst for righteousness, our experience of persecutions large and small, and more, we discover that humility is itself a blessing: At every turn, God is present to us, giving grace to the humble and lifting us up to blessing.
Writing
There's a reason Bridges is a bestselling Christian author.  His writing is easy to understand and he presents difficult concepts clearly and concisely for a general audience.  That said, there is a simplicity to his writing that can also feel a bit shallow at times.  This book on the beatitudes for example, is more of a brief meditation than an in depth look.  At just 106 pages, you aren't going to go too deeply into any concept and still manage to cover each of the beatitudes.  That doesn't mean that there was nothing to learn, just that it was limited in scope and depth.

Entertainment Value
As I mentioned above, this is quite easy to read.  Being a shorter book, it moves along quickly and makes for a great devotional book, with short chapters and discussion or meditation questions at the end of the book for further reflection on each chapter.  I read a chapter each night and found that to be a good way to move through the book, although it certainly would have been fine to read in one sitting as well.

Overall
I enjoyed the read, although I did wish for more depth.  I was pleased to learn new things about the beatitudes that I hadn't known before.  One of my favorite new pieces of information was that "blessed are those who mourn" refers not to those who mourn in terms of sadness or grief for something sad that has happened to them but those who are grieved by their own sin.  I love finding new things to consider in Scripture and was pleased to find an entire chapter devoted to this in the book.

Thank you to Tyndale for providing me with a copy to review!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward by Mark Lukach

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir
A heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love.

Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.

Eventually, Giulia fully recovered, and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.

A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.
Writing
It's a heartbreaking story, and I think Lukach does a great job of capturing the vast range of emotions he experiences as he and his wife spend years going through the roller coaster of mental illness.  I felt like he really went deep with his emotions and didn't keep much back from the reader - he was raw and honest, even when his emotions were hard to understand or explain.  He does a wonderful job of putting the reader in his position.

Entertainment Value
While it's hard to say you're entertained by such a raw view of another person's distress and suffering, this book is engrossing and does keep the reader involved in the story from the first page.  You want to see Guilia recover and reunite with her family as a mentally whole person.  The reader is firmly invested in the outcome, which means that the book is certainly gripping.

Overall
This is definitely a must-read for fans of mental illness memoirs, which sounds like a crazy genre unless you're a fan of the genre, in which case you know it is its own entire genre.  It's also a great read for anyway who has an interest in enduring love stories and memoirs about overcoming insurmountable obstacles as a couple.

Thanks to TLC for providing me with a copy to review!  You can click here to see the other stops on the tour!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Graphic Novel/Comic Book Minis





I've got a bunch of these to cover, as they've made up a lot of my reading in the past few months, so I'm going to do several mini reviews over the coming months as I try to catch up on reviews and keep you posted on what I've loved and what I haven't enjoyed as much.  I'll just jump right in with the first batch:
Snow Blind

This one is about a teenage boy who has a distant relationship with his parents that becomes even more strained when he learns that they aren't who he has grown up believing them to be.  The artwork here is beautiful.  I love watercolors and I love the muted palette and style used here.  The story wasn't as gripping as I had hoped it would be and I didn't care all that much about the characters or for the writing, but it was amazing to look at.

Brave New Girl: How to Be Fearless

This is probably better characterized as a gift book or inspirational book than a comic book or graphic novel.  It's a series of drawings featuring Brave New Girl, a character who inspires us to be powerful, fearless, and to overcome every obstacle.  It's cute and was fun to flip through and would make a good graduation gift to someone who enjoys this kind of book.  It's not something I would probably purchase for myself, but I enjoyed looking through it.

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

I've read M.T. Anderson's novels before and knew I'd want to try out his first graphic novel, especially when I saw some of the gorgeous artwork.  This is his take on the tale of Sir Yvain, one of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table and his adventures.  I loved that the style of the artwork reflected the Middle Ages and I loved the story itself and the research the author had obviously put into his story, while still making it his own.  I have lots of raves for this one and few quibbles.  If you're a fan of the Arthur stories, if you're a fan of graphic novels or this style of art, or if you're a fan of the authors, this is a solid choice.


The Creeps

This is the second book of cartoons published by Krause and it follows the same simple premise as the first - Krause takes people's odd and unusual, but entertaining, fears and illustrates them.  That's it.  It's delightful to read and the best part is not seeing the strange fears of strangers (although that is definitely fun) but stumbling across something you are secretly and oddly afraid of as well.  I highly recommend this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with digital copies of each of these for review!

Monday, June 5, 2017

What I Read in May


May has been all about learning new things for things me - making new discoveries about myself and what I'm capable of, where I can go and what I can do.  I spent a lot of time with my parents this month, which was lovely, and a lot of time with friends.  My church family has blessed me in ways I can't begin to describe.  They've truly been Jesus to me in difficult times and I got to spent lots of time with them in the past few weeks, which is always a joy.  I also made a trip to Ohio with my best friends, Jacki and Jennie, for the Nowhere Else Festival, where we heard some amazing folk music and, most importantly, had quality BFF time.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, closeup and outdoor

I'm also slowly and steadily starting to read again after a terrible year of almost no reading (for me at least) last year.  I'm turning to books more and more as I feel more and more like my old self and as I'm relearning who I am on my own.  Books are so much a part of me and I feel like they are my old friends, gradually coming back into my life.  Lots of people and things that I had abandoned are returning and becoming part of my life again, and it's a change I'm thrilled to see happening.  

Here's what I read in the month of May:

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott
milk and honey by Rupi Kaur
Celebrate Everything! by Darcy Miller
Real Sex by Lauren Winner
The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
The Big Book of Tiny Art by the Walter Foster Creative Team
Yvain: The Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson
The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris
One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

It's a long list, but a lot of these are graphic novels or essay collections, even art books.  I'm not pushing myself into anything I'm not in the mood for at the moment.  I've signed up for a few TLC tours this summer and that's all as far as committing to a book goes.  I'm letting myself read as I feel led and enjoy everything I pick up, bringing back the friends that feel right and passing up the ones that I think need more time.  

What did you read in May?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is the story--told entirely in hilarious emails--of fraternal twins Harry and Matilda Goodman as they fumble into adulthood, telling lies and keeping secrets, and finally confronting their complicated twinship. 
Matilda Goodman is an underemployed wedding photographer grappling with her failure to live as an artist and the very bad lie she has told her boyfriend (that she has a dead twin). Harry, her (totally alive) brother, is an untenured professor of literature, anxiously contemplating his publishing status (unpublished) and sleeping with a student. When Matilda invites her boyfriend home for Thanksgiving to meet the family, and when Harry makes a desperate--and unethical--move to save his career, they set off an avalanche of shame, scandal, and drunken hot tub revelations that force them to examine the truth about who they really are. A wonderfully subversive, sensitive novel of romantic entanglement and misguided ambition, Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is a joyful look at love and family in all its forms.
I'm going to skip the two part review on this one because I didn't love the book and the reason why pretty much covers both the writing and the entertainment value.  I honestly just never found a reason for this book to exist.  It isn't particularly well-written and the plot isn't much of anything.  Harry and Matilda are twins who sent each other improbably witty emails about their messy lives, but they never really amount to much of anything in the way of a plot or a point.  I ended the book wondering why I read it.  Why did the author choose these snippets of life to show us?  I have no idea.  

I didn't love either character, and didn't feel like they were well-developed enough to stand on their own as just a book about interesting people.  The story itself never seemed to go anywhere, so it certainly wasn't plot-driven.  I just don't understand why it was written or published and I was kind of mad that I spent the time on it.  The best I have to say is that it's short and reads quickly, so it wasn't a huge amount of time wasted.  

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club: Reader's Choice


Now that I'm back on the blog, I'm happy to be bringing back my posts about who read what each month for the Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club.  As a refresher, since it's been a very long while, CYOA reads by theme rather than by book.  We came up with a list of themes, tossed them in a Tardis cookie jar, and each month we draw out a new theme.  Everyone chooses any book they want to read based as loosely as they want around that theme and then we get together and discuss what we chose and if we liked it the next month.  It means that there's no pressure to read a specific book that you may or may not be in the mood for.  It never feels like homework and we always come away with a full TBR after hearing what everyone else chose for the theme.

This month we had a new member join - our friend Ann, who we met through our Forever Young Adult book club branch, where we discuss assigned young adult titles.  We also let this month be considered a Reader's Choice month.  I got busy and forgot to draw a theme for us, and didn't realize it until it was too late for anyone to have time to choose based on a theme.  We decided just to discuss whatever we had recently read and loved.  Here's what we talked about:

  • Stephanie read A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas and she can't stop talking about it. It's a definite rave from her and others in the group have also been enjoying the series.  It's one I hear about all over the place, but I'm waiting because of my "series has to be finished rule".
  • Rachel read Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner (squeee!).  We've both been waiting for this one for ages.  The group is divided on the series - some of us love it and others don't. Rachel and I are firmly in the "devoted to Eugenides" camp and she highly recommends Turner's latest addition to the series.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!
  • Courtney is in the midst of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Her raves about it have led me to bump it up my TBR list.  I'm reaching back for my creativity, which was misplaced somewhere in the last year or two, and now that I'm starting to find it again, I think this book could be a great jumpstart.  Courtney definitely agrees.
  • Ann read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood in anticipation of the upcoming adaptation on Hulu.  Her mention of it immediately made me realize that I have no idea which shelf my copy is on and also that I need to read it immediately.  A search is underway.  She loved it and said, like I've heard from many other sources, that it's timely and beautiful, and worth reading. As soon as I find my copy I'll be reading it as well.
  • As for me, I'm currently listening to The Fireman by Joe Hill on audio and loving it.  The narrator is excellent. I've got a road trip planned for this weekend and hope to knock out a significant portion of it because it is quite a long one, but once you start it's hard to turn it off.
The last new adjustment to CYOA is that we decided to start trying on a food theme each month.  This month we did ice cream sundaes.  I had the ice cream and everyone else brought toppings.  We wrote down a whole list of other ideas and we're going to try making it a food and book club since we had so much fun with the sundaes!  

How about you, Reader Friends?  Are you currently reading anything spectacular?