Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Book Review: Nevermoor and Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend



Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #2)


Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she's blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks--and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It's then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city's most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart - an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests - or she'll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Writing
Oh man. I couldn't love the writing in these books any harder.  They both got 5 star ratings from me on Goodreads and I am anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.  The author's style is whimsical and magical and just perfect for filling the Harry Potter void in your heart. I picked these up because of all the recommendations that compare it to good old HP (particularly Lauren and the Books on YouTube) and I was absolutely thrilled when the writing lived up to the hype.

Entertainment Value
Again, Harry Potter feels left and right. Don't get me wrong, this is its own distinct story and is certainly not derivative of JK Rowling's work.  I love that Townsend has her own unique style and voice, and the story stands on its own.  But the magical whimsy of the Harry Potter universe is felt here. Townsend's magic system of Wunder is, I would say, less traditional than others I've read.  I appreciate that she's developed her own thing and steers clear of witches and wizards to make something fully and uniquely her own.

Overall
I never ever read middle grade, so this was a stretch for me.  That said, I'm so glad I ventured out of my comfort zone for this series. I can't rave about it enough and I plan to force it down the throats of all my Reader Friends on every occasion I get.

**I read both of these books via my local public library before immediately purchasing copies for myself and my nephew**




Friday, February 1, 2019

What I Read in January 2019


January was a pretty slow month for me - I didn't read just a ton of books.  I'm definitely behind on my Goodreads challenge, but for now I'm not stressing over it.  I've read when I felt like reading and that's what I want for my reading life.  I've picked up cross-stitch as a fun new hobby and did Yoga With Adriene's yearly 30 day yoga challenge, although this year wasn't as successful as others have been due to a shoulder issue.  It was also my birthday month, and I spent a full week celebrating with my family and various friends.

On to the books!  Here's what I read:

It's All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot (a reread that I was somewhat disappointed in this time around)

Courage, Dear Heart by Rebecca K. Reynolds

On Being 40(ish) edited by Lindsey Mead

Camouflage: The Hidden Lives of Autistic Women by Sarah Bargiela

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton

Your Idea Starts Here by Carolyn Eckert

Women Talking by Miriam Toews (not released until April, so look for the review closer to time)

And that's it for the month of January.  Not my best month, but not a terrible month either. I'm reading several books at the moment and hope that February will have a few more on the list.  What did you read in January?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Audiobook Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Last year I listened to and loved Big Little Lies (and watched and loved the TV show), so this year I made it a priority early on to get to Moriarty's latest book about nine strangers who are thrown together at a health spa with, shall we say, questionable health practices. It's one that's better to go into with as little information as possible, so I'll leave the summary at that.  

I can't say I enjoyed this one as much as Big Little Lies, which I found myself listening to compulsively, but I also didn't struggle to finish it.  I think it's a little bit longer than it needs to be - we could have done without quite so much back story on every single character, but then again, characterization is what Moriarty is best at.  

With twelve (I think?) points of view, there is a lot of jumping around in people's heads that can be a little bit overwhelming at times.  I'd find myself just starting to connect to a character when we'd jump to another character's point of view.  That may have been intentional, but I didn't love it.

I did enjoy the narrator quite a bit.  I appreciate that they had an Australian reader read an Australian set novel and I quite like the narrator's voice and intonation.  

Overall, I think if you're a fan of the author's this one is probably one you'll want to read, but be prepared for it to be long at times and to drag a bit in places.  I kept expecting it to get off the ground and the pace to pick up and it just never quite does.  That said, I loved the narration and didn't find myself avoiding it, even though I also didn't go to it as readily as I have others.

*Checked this one out from my local public library*

Monday, January 21, 2019

Book Review: The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton

From Goodreads:
For the twelve daughters of King Alberto, Queen Laurelia's death is a disaster beyond losing a mother. The king decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs, and for the girls, those costs include their lessons, their possessions, and most importantly, their freedom.

But the sisters, especially the eldest, Princess Frida, will not bend to this fate. She still has one possession her father cannot take: the power of her imagination. And so, with little but wits and ingenuity to rely on, Frida and her sisters begin their fight to be allowed to live on their own terms.

The Restless Girls is a sparkling whirl of a fairy tale--one that doesn't need a prince to save the day, and instead is full of brave, resourceful, clever young women.

Writing
What a stunning read!  I was enchanted by this retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses, even reading a NetGalley copy without illustrations. I can only imagine how Angela Barrett's gorgeous drawing enhance the reading experience - but I plan on purchasing a finished copy so I will soon find out.  Burton does an excellent job of presenting a tale of female ingenuity, courage, and daring without making the book feel like a life lesson. I loved her style and characterization of the princesses, especially Frida.

Entertainment Value
Loved the experience and I can't wait to read it to my niece.  This will appeal to a large audience, adults as well as children.  It can be read in one sitting by an adult, but I feel like it would also make the perfect bedtime read aloud with a child, especially since it contains so much meat for discussion.

Overall
I highly recommend it and can't wait to purchase myself a copy so I can enjoy it with the illustrations as well!

*Review copy provided by NetGalley*

Friday, January 18, 2019

Book Review: Courage, Dear Heart by Rebecca K. Reynolds

From Goodreads:
Our world is chaotic and often feels dark and devoid of hope.

And it’s not just the headlines we see every day. Our relationships are broken. A loved one’s health is failing. We’re disoriented and restless and wrestling with fear. These things are the reality of living in a fallen world. But our God is over that world. He is present in the midst of the daily ache of life. He loves us in the midst of that ache.

In a series of eleven letters, Rebecca Reynolds writes to the lonely, the weary, the restless and afraid - anyone who feels the ache of our broken world and their broken life, and provides perspective and hope to find where God is in the midst of it.
Writing
This is just beautifully done.  I loved the style of addressing each chapter to a different category of sufferer and writing the chapters in the form of letters.  They are very personal and intimate and give you both a glimpse of the author and a reflection of yourself.  I could find pieces of myself in each letter and I think the author did a great job of shining a light in dark places that Christian authors may avoid at times.

Entertainment Value
Again, I just adored this book. My go to is to read a chapter of whatever Christian non-fiction I'm reading at the time each night, but I couldn't limit myself on this one to just one chapter.  I had to keep going.  I'm glad I had it on my Kindle and was able to highlight relevant portions because this is a book that begs for annotations.  I plan to get a print copy to reread and annotate further.

Overall
It's Christian non-fiction, which will limit the interest range for some, but for those who read the genre this one is a must-add to your TBR.

**A short note**
I've been gone from this blog for over a year and have probably lost a good deal of my readership.  HOWEVER, the blogging bug has finally struck me again and I'm planning (hoping) on being back around and posting my reviews here, whether or not anyone actually reads them.  I miss having that record of what I thought and how I enjoyed each book, so basically, hello again, Reader Friends, and hopefully this time I'll be sticking around!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Best Christian Non-Fiction of 2017


Yes, it's been quite a while, but I can't let the year end without doing at least a few best of posts.  Only a couple this year, because it has been a really slow reading and blogging year for me, but I do have some books I want to share.  Today I'm sharing the Best Christian Non-Fiction I read this year.  I read a lot of really great Christian authors this year in various attempts to deal with my divorce and hold on to something a little bit bigger than myself.  I found a lot of really great books about dealing with pain and loss and finding comfort when you need it.  Hopefully some of these will speak to you as well.

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

I read this one while I cried on my mom's couch after a particularly devastating weekend in the spring.  It was a perfect-book-at-the-perfect-time moment, when I needed mercy for myself and for others.  And, as always, Anne Lamott has something to say for everyone and pretty much every situation in life.  Read my review here.

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

This is one my mom and I read together and discussed.  Like Anne Lamott, Voskamp has a beautiful way with words and writes about loss and death and brokenness and new life beautifully in this book.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Another I read with my mom (you can see a theme emerging here) and another by Voskamp, this one on gratitude.  It has the same beautiful words and style as her second book and examines gratitude in ways I had never considered before.

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

I loved this one so much I read it twice in one year, once during Lent and once over the summer with my church mission community.  Warren links everyday practices with each step of the liturgy we practice in church on Sunday and it is a gorgeous meditation on allowing God into the everyday moments of our lives.  Probably my favorite of the year.

When God Doesn't Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can't Live Without

I read this one at the beginning of the year when my divorce was still fresh and it helped me tremendously.  Laura Story tells her own story of how her husband was impacted by a traumatic brain tumor and how, even after his surgery and recovery, his injuries have left him a changed man.  She delves into the hard places of how to keep going when God doesn't give you the fix you were looking for and doesn't heal things in the way you imagined he would.  A very good read for trying times.

The Anglican Way: A Guidebook

I finally dug into this one in an effort to learn more about the history and theology of the church I attend and what it really means to be Anglican and wound up so impressed that I chose to become a confirmed Anglican at the next opportunity in my area.  This book is really well written and provides great information for anyone seeking more information on Anglicanism and what the church believes.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

Bolz-Weber is an author I enjoy reading and I have had this book on my shelf for ages and finally dove into it in the last few weeks.  I'm glad I did because she tells a great story of redemption and faith and doubt and ongoing struggle with what it means to follow Christ in the midst of difficulty.

Did you read any great Christian non-fiction this year?  Care to share in the comments?