Thursday, April 4, 2019

Book Review: Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Women Talking
One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm.

While the men of the colony are off in the city, attempting to raise enough money to bail out the rapists and bring them home, these women—all illiterate, without any knowledge of the world outside their community and unable even to speak the language of the country they live in—have very little time to make a choice: Should they stay in the only world they’ve ever known or should they dare to escape?
Writing
I really appreciate Toews style choices in this book.  It's told as meeting minutes taken by the only man left in the colony (and the only one who knows how to write), who is also somewhat of an outsider.  I really enjoy stories that are told in an unconventional manner, so the minutes format appealed to me from the beginning and I think Toews was very successful in its use.  I enjoyed all of the characters, although I feel like characterization was secondary to the philosophical side of the book. 

Entertainment Value
This isn't really a character-driven or plot-driven novel, so if you're looking for one of those things, you'll probably find it slow.  It is, as it says, made up only of women talking.  We're listening in on their discussion of how to proceed given their horrific circumstances, which leads them to discuss what I think is the best part of the book - a very philosophical look at the nature of forgiveness and the responsibility for protecting oneself and one's children.  Toews addresses these big ideas from a religious standpoint, which is something that I don't think we see often in any writing and which I really enjoyed. Being put in the place of the women who are struggling to decide how to proceed really highlighted the ethical and moral dilemma (not to mention the practical dilemma) of how to protect themselves in a patriarchal colony where women have very little voice.

Overall
I ate this book up.  I think I read it in two sittings. It's not that it's a page turner in terms of plot, but I was just fascinated by the author's take on a very conservative and patriarchal religious sect in an extreme situation and the ethical side of the women's dilemma. If you're interested in religion or the topic of forgiveness or philosophical novels, this is one you must read.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What I Read in February


I'm late posting this, but I'm trying to be more relaxed about the blogging thing right now, so I'm not going to stress over it too much.  Instead I'll just give you the rundown of what I read in February, which felt like it lasted about three whole minutes.

In February I read:

Art Matters by Neil Gaiman
Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend
The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein
Fiercehearted by Holley Gerth
The Cuckcoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
A Woman's Battle for Grace by Cheryl Brodersen
The Unwanted by Don Brown
The Mental Load by Emma
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krasoczka
Why Art by Eleanor Davis

The two big standouts for me were Wundersmith and The Cuckcoo's Calling, which are both reviewed on here.  The others were generally pretty average across the board, nothing stood out as spectacular or particularly bad, which makes it hard to post reviews. I'm reading a couple right now that I'm really enjoying and plan to review in the near future though!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Audiobook Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
Writing
I've seen some criticisms that I feel basically boil down to "this isn't Harry Potter" and others that I feel may have a valid point regarding length and setting issues.  It's certainly not Harry Potter, so if you go in looking for magic and whimsy, you will definitely be disappointed.  It's a crime/detective novel through and through and though it was a little bit drawn out to me in places, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery.  I loved the characterization and fell in love with Cormoran Strike and Robin, his newly found assistant.

Entertainment Value
This was a good, solid listen.  I immediately put the second book in the series on hold, which is evidence that I am taken with the characters and enjoying the storyline.  I like detective stories that don't delve too deeply into the hero's troubled past (although all good detectives have a troubled past) and that focus mainly on the story at hand.  I think The Cuckoo's Calling does well with this.  It is a bit slow to start, but once I was into the story I had a hard time putting it aside. I did see the ending coming, which was a bit of a disappointment, but I was intrigued enough into the how-dun-it that the who-dun-it was less important.

Narration
Love the narrator of this one!  I hope he sticks around for the rest of the books because I thoroughly enjoyed his reading.  He does just enough variation in voices to make them distinctive without being distracting.  I think I'll probably finish this series out on audio, just because I enjoy the reader's voice and style and I think it helps me get through slower points in the books.

**Checked this one out from my local public library's Libby app**

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!