Reading Challenges

Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist Vol. 2

Hello and welcome to another check in for one of my reading goals for 2021. Every year I make it a goal to read the International Booker Prize short list, so far this year I have done one update, Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist Vol. 1 Update, where I talked about my thoughts on The Memory Police and Hurricane Season. In this update post I am going to be sharing my brief thoughts on Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann.

The Book

Image
Picture of Tyll

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Honestly, this book gave my some serious Loki vibes with the tricker that we follow and hear tales from. There was magic, lore, and a court jester. Following the adventures of Tyll was a very interesting ride that was woven with historical events and was a bit of historical fiction. I have to say, it is hard to pin down what this book is, but I did very much enjoy it. It was fast paced, kept me engaged from page one till the end. I honestly would have kept reading about Tyll if the book went on a few more hundred pages.

Tyll himself was a very interesting character and has a very interesting personal history. I really enjoyed learning about him. From my little research I found that this Tyll is apparently based on a Till Eulenspiegel from German folklore. I want to explore this more, because I feel like it could be really interesting. I have always loved reading folklore from different places around the world.

The only thing I can really see as difficult about this book is the way it jumps around in time. It was an adjustment for me at first, after the first few jumps I was fine.

Overall, I am very happy with how this challenge is shaping up this year. I have read books about places I heard of, but didn’t really know about. This years shortlist involves quite a bit of magical elements, but I feel like even with the fantastical elements of the books I have read so far, they cover serious topics from a life changing events, historical events as well as sharing legends and myths from the authors culture. At this point in time I have few more books to read from this list.


Have you read either of these books? Would you add either of these to your TBR?

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Hauls & Unboxings

Books I Bought at an Indie Bookshop While Visiting Family

Hello and welcome to a very specifically themed book haul. I have not done a standalone book haul in a while, but I recently traveled a bit to spend time safely with family in the middle of the woods. Side note, being in the middle of the woods and away from huge crowds of people did wonders for my reading. You can see this in my post called, Books I Took On Vacation and Did I finish Them?. Anyway, when I was there I decided to stop at an independent bookstore to support them, but also buy some books that take place in the general vicinity or state I was in. That way when I miss my family or want to trick my brain into thinking I am somewhere else relaxing I can pick of one of these books/souvenirs.

The Books

Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine. by Earl Brechlin, is a nonfiction book that accounts the “out there” history of Maine from ghost stories to aliens, Inventors to interesting people. It just sounded like a fun look at the legends, myths, and the not so known facts and stories about Maine.

The House at Lobster Cove by Jane Goodrich, this historical fiction novel follows a wealthy man named George Nixon Black who wasn’t very social, but liked in a house known by many. It seems like while it is know by many, the house was not visited often by others. This story seems to lift the veil of this mans private life in this beautiful house.

The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine by Robin Clifford Wood, is a nonfiction novel following the life of an author by the name of Rachel Field. She was a very prolific author who won tons of awards, but her name has been lost to history. The author of this book takes a look at her life and her home to get to know Field’s.

Writing on Stone: Scenes from a Maine Island Life by Peter Ralston, his nonficiton novel takes a look at Gott’s Island and its history, but also the story of a family. At least to the best of my knowledge from the description.

A Haunting Fog by Heidi Martin Washburn, is a fictional novel that follows Madelyn Davis during a tough time in her life. It is affecting her in every where to the point her boss tells her to take a break. During this break Madelyn becomes a caregiver of an older women who has secrets of her own and mystery begins to unfold.

I am really looking forward to all of these books for different reasons, but each one just sounds like a story I can easily fall into depending on my mood. Darn being a mood reader! I really do like how I picked up a wide range of books, fiction and nonfiction so I can explore Maine in various ways while I remember the memories I shared with my family while in that state. Also, helping support indie bookstores is another huge bonus!

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Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Whit Reads Lit | Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon

Hello and welcome to the second Someone Picks My Books within the past week! If you are are new to the blog, this is a series where I have other book lovers pick a book for me to read and I give it a try! I love it because I always end up reading books I might not have read otherwise. This month Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com picked a book for me to read. As someone who loves historical fiction, I was thrilled with her choice!

Description

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a spellbinding and moving story of enduring love, remarkable sacrifice and unfaltering resolve that chronicles the true exploits of a woman who deserves to be a household name.
It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.
As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border. Her success and her remarkable ability to evade capture earns her the nickname THE WHITE MOUSE from the Gestapo. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, her new comrades are instructed to call her HÉLÈNE. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉ, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, armed with a ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and the ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces.
But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she–and the people she loves–become. –goodreads

What I Liked

This historical fiction novel is both a story of a really awesome woman, but also a love story of sorts as well. I really like this balance that is was not one or the other, but we got two stories working side by side. I would have to say that throughout this book there were times that were lulling a bit, where other times there was so much tension I had to actually get my muscles to relax. This was an interesting thing to be because when I read a book it is usually one or the other. It really shows how this book is almost two stories in one.

I thought the author did a great job when it came to really sharing the characters with the reader. I felt that I really knew their motivations and why they did things. I was really connected to them and was emotionally invested because they were written in such a way that made them feel real. This is especially apparent when exploring Nancy and her husbands relationship, but really apparent throughout. Can I just say here and now that Nancy was just a total badass? Because I can’t think of another word to describe her. She was/is a badass.

What I Didn’t Like

While I really loved exploring the role of Nancy in her relationship as well as her role as being a spy, at times I felt like it was in the way. It was not that I didn’t enjoy these aspects, but I found myself wanting to get through them because I wanted to read more about this very strong female protagonist in the context of her espionage.

Overall

Overall, this was a really engaging read. I read it quite quickly because I was sucked into the story when I did pick it up. This surprised be because it is not on the short side with almost 500 pages. Sometimes historical fiction can be long winded and at times I did feel this, it was not a constant in my experience. I felt like this was a very well done historical fiction set against the backdrop of WWII. Not only did it highlight that atrocities, it also showed the story of female spies that helped get many to safety and the dangerous choice that some made to put their own lives at risk to safe the lives of others. With this there is discussion of violence and other dark themes, here is a full list of trigger warnings compiled by Book Trigger Warnings.

Up Next

The next round of Someone Picks My Books is actually picked by a family member who doesn’t have a blog or anything, but we often talk about books so I thought it would be fun to read a book picked by my cousin! I am really excited about her picked because I have read a book by this author in the past and really enjoyed their style.

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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Hauls & Unboxings

Book Haul | April 2021

Hello and welcome to a bit of a haul from the month of April. I went on my first day trip this past month after getting fully vaccinated. It was my first time doing so in over a year and it felt so great! On this trip I went to a really awesome bookstore that was new to me and found some gems to bring home with me and picked up a few books from my local bookstore and sent one by a friend. Anyway, here are the books!


The Books

Record of A Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami and Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami I picked up on a day trip to a Japanese market. They have a really awesome bookstore there and I always find gems like this I would not have found otherwise. Record of A Night Too Brief caught my attention because it seemed to have so much packed into such a small package. Ms. Ice Sandwich caught my attention because of its talk of starting something new and possible love.

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox, was a gift from the amazing Adrianna. I am really excited to get to this historical fiction novel with a possible paranormal twist to it.

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, I also picked up from the Japanese market. But, I have read this authors work quite a bit. He is a known horror manga writer. This book tells tales of his own life experiences as a dog person then owning two cats. It is quite funny and it was fun to read.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, this book has been on my radar for quite sometimes and I finally picked it up. I am really excited to get to it this month as well.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella, I will be honest the cover of this book really pulled me in. The cover alone has such a great atmosphere for a thriller and sets the tone so clearly. Then, when I read the description I added it to my pile before checking out from the store. This books talks about a girl going to Harvard to try and figure out what led her brother to suicide. There also seems to be ghosts possibly present in this story as well.


What book have you recently added to your shelves from the library or the store?

What book have you recently read?

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To Be Read

To Be Read | May 2021

Hello and welcome to my May TBR! This month I am going to be keeping my TBR on the smaller size to hopefully give me the opportunity to do some mood reading, which really helped out the second half of April.


The Books

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, I have been reading The Discovery of Witches series on my ereader and really enjoying it. I ended up walking into my local indie bookshop and I was talking about really enjoying it and the seller recommended this book to me. It is a historical fiction, but all about sisters joining the suffragist movement with a twist of witchcraft from my understanding.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, I have heard nothing but great things about this book and I came across it being on sale on a recent trip to the bookstore, so I thought it was the best time to pick it up and give it a go. I am really interested in this because it is multigenerational from my understanding and is historical fiction.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, I picked this book up on a total whim if I am being honest. I saw a youtuber I enjoy watching get this book and they were so excited about it I just couldn’t help myself. I have no idea what it is about, but I feel like that it is kinda fun and will make it all the more interesting when I read it this month.

The Agonist by Shastra Deo, not pictured, I am reading this book digitally. This is a collection of poems by an author who was born in Fiji. Reading the blurb and reviews I have come across say that it is beautifully written as well as being food for thought and conversation.

What do you plan on reading this month?

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To Be Read

To Be Read | April 2021

Hello and welcome to my April TBR, if you have read my March wrap up or have seen my on twitter, you will know that I didn’t really get through many books last month. So, due to this my TBR for this month will be to finish the books I am currently in the middle of, anything more will be a great bonus in my eyes.


The Books

I am currently in the middle of and enjoying both The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein and An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon. I have to say, I read the first four chapters of The Color of Law already all I can say is wow, I have annotated so much and a lot of it has been me writing at people of the past for being complete and utter racist morons if not worse. This nonfiction dives into the history of how housing policy set by the government segregated America following the end of Reconstruction. On the other hand An Echo in the Bone is a historical fiction fantasy book that is the 7th in a series, in this series the current time period is right before the American Revolution. I don’t want to say too much about it because it is in the middle of a series.

I do have two more books on my TBR that are not in the picture because they are an ebook and an audiobook. The first being A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, which I am currently reading with a friend from work. This is a modern day fantasy novel that is filled with witches, vampires, and daemons that revolves around a historian at Oxford. Just right up my alley honestly. The next is a Someone Picks My Book pick, so I don’t want to give that away just now, but keep your eyes open for what Tee picked for me!



What do you plan on reading this month?

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Wrap Up

Middle Mark | March 2021

Hello and welcome to my middle of the month reading check in! This month my reading is kind of slumpy. I think because I have so much going on this month I am just so exhausted when I do have some down time. But, I have managed to make some progress in quite a few books. Anyway, here is what I read and what I am in the middle of.


This Little Dark PlaceThis Little Dark Place by A.S. Hatch
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A long winded dark tale told through letters that jumps around in time. I did a full review on this book as a separate post earlier this month. I was not a huge fan overall, but it had some good aspects to it.

View all my reviews

Royal Assassin: The Illustrated Edition by Robin Hobb, I am currently at 22% through this book and I am still enjoying this series very much. I might even pick up the second book in the series right after I finish this one. It is a very interesting world and I really like the characters as well. I am truly invested in this trilogy!

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, this is the 7th book in the Outlander series and what a tome it is! I am currently 13% into it this one and I invested it this one as well. I keep switching between the two of my current reads. Since this is the 7th book, I don’t want to talk about what is happening, but this series really is a blast because it touches on so much history.


What have you read so far this month or what are you currently reading?

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To Be Read

To Be Read | March 2021

Hello and welcome to my March TBR list! I cannot believe I am already planning my reading for March, I still feel like February just begun and I have a ton of time to keep reading my February TBR. Nope, not the case at all. I will have to move a few books from February to March since I just ran out of time…oops! Anyway, this month quite a few of the books I don’t quite have a physical copies for so they are not in the picture. Some are ebooks and another is a preorder I can’t wait to get my hands on.


The Books

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, ebook not pictured. This is a book for my read a shortlist challenge for 2021, if you want to see the details you can see that in my post called, Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist 2021. I am excited to get to this one because it was awarded the International Booker Prize so I have high hopes especially since I have enjoyed the other books on this list so far.

The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary by Catherine Gray, audiobook not pictured. I am really excited to get to this book, I have not read a book quite like this one is described in some time and I think it will be very refreshing and uplifting.

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb, pre-ordered not pictured. This is the book I currently and waiting for release day, which is early on in March. This will be the third book I have read by Hobb this year and I am really enjoying her style of writing and the world she has created.

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, pictured. I started this tome in February and I really want to continue and finish it up over the next month. As always I am curious as to what Clair and Jamie will be getting into. I am actually crocheting a few Outlander inspired things as I read this book, which has really added to the fun.

Dead Blonds and Bad Mothers by Sady Doyle, pictured. I have had this non-fiction on my shelf for a bit and I am really feeling the urge to read it now. The second part of this title is “Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power”, I mean that alone just draws me in.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, pictured. I am reading this with Jenna this month so we can discuss it as we read, which I think will be really good and spark some very good discussions on systematic racism.


What do you plan on reading this month?

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Hauls & Unboxings

Book Haul | January 2021

Hello and welcome to my January book haul. This past month or two I ended up being gifted quite a few books that I am very grateful for and would like to share with everyone to see if you have read them and if you have any thoughts on them. Following this month I am going back to my Read 5, Buy 1 Challenge since I made it down to 0 books last year and now I am in the 30s again. Ooops. Anyway, here are the books I most recently added to my TBR!


Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman, I am honestly not 100% sure what this book is about if I am being honest. Any insight would be really helpful. I received this as a gift from a family member and I have seen a lot of people mention it over the past few years. But, I kind of avoided all of the reviews etc.

Lady Killers by Tori Telfer, I was gifted this really interesting book by Heidi you can find her on twitter as @TIMbookshelf or over on her blog This is My Bookshelf Blog. She really is vey sweet and kind and I am so happy she picked this book off of my wishlist because I have been in such a nonfiction mood. It moved pretty quickly to the top of my TBR. This non-fiction book discusses various lady killers throughout history.

White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad, recommended by Amy who you can find on twitter as @SalieriSin and over on her blog The Book Siren. I was so happy when I saw a book from the list of books I compiled from a thread of nonfiction recommendations on twitter. I scooped this one up no questions asked. This book discusses how feminism is actually white feminism and does not include black women and women of color in their fight for equality. It does this by going throughout history to modern times and across many continents from my understanding.

Sons of Cain by Peter Vronsky, Once again I wanted a nonfiction and I was in my bookstore. I ended up coming across this book that talks about the history of serial killers and how we actually started using that title. It is almost like a historiography on how we view these individuals and also goes into what their crimes are. This is a perfect read for me because I love to see how a topic has been viewed over a period of time and how that view has changed and reading and watching true crime.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, this is a classic that has been on my list for some time and I saw this edition on sale so I decided to finally pick it up. I have never read any of Woolf other works from my memory, so this could be very interesting to see if I enjoy her writing style or not. I also find it interesting that this novel follows a singular person over a singular day while they are trying to set up for a party.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I was gifted this book by Reg who you can find on twitter as @BookishinBed or on her blog that goes by the same name, Bookish In Bed. I was so delighted when this showed up in my box. Taylor Jenkins Reid has quickly become one of my favorite authors and this is one of her books that I have yet to read so I am super thankful!

World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, this book I picked up at my local bookstore as well and saw the beautiful cover and then I read the description and I needed to have it! I love when a “cover buy” is more than just a cover buy. This 100 pages or so is a collection of non-fiction essays surrounding the author and focuses on the natural world that surrounds us.

The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs, This non-fiction novel was recommended by local bookstore owner in my area. I did not have a lot of nonfiction on my shelf and I was in the mood for some so I asked the owner to recommend me one and this is the novel they picked. This is about a small own where many were trying to seek asylum to aviod the Nazi party in World War One. I think it is going to be a very well done book, but heart breaking because it focuses on how these people were stuck trying to get the proper paperwork that would literally save their lives and the bureaucracy they had to deal with.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas, I was gifted this book by Misty who you can find on twitter as @mistymichelle30 or over at her blog entitled, Misty’s Book Space. She sent me a message in early January to ask if I have read this book yet and I let her know that I have not and she was super kind and sweet to send this to me. So, I can check out more of this series.


What books have you recently added to your TBR or taken out from your library?

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Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Misty @ Misty’s Book Space | Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Hello and welcome to the first installment Someone Picks My Books for 2021! This year I am starting off by reading a book picked by Misty where you can find on twitter as @mistymichelle30 or on her blog called Misty’s Book Space. This is the second time Misty has picked a book for me, you can see the first book she picked for me on the post called, Someone Picks My Books | Misty’s Book Space. Misty decided to pick another book by Ruta Sepetys, so without further adu, here is my review and thoughts on her pick!


Salt to the Sea ebook on iPad placed on bed.

One Sentence Review

This novel gives light to all the horrendous things people had to deal with during WWII outside of the horrible concentrations camps, mistrust rampant and anxiety high while the reader follows well written characters.

Description

While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.

Sepetys (writer of ‘Between Shades of Gray’) crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks. –goodreads


What I Liked

I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. As I said in my one sentence review, I felt that this was a great topic to cover for WW2. A lot of the stories I have come in contact with mainly deal with the jewish perspective, those trying to get jewish people out of occupied areas and those in concentration camps. I felt that this highlights another experience that was sadly common during WW2. You could not trust anyone, even if they were the allied forces. Many people operated out of fear and self preservation, it was rare to find a stranger to help and trust.

The writing was done well for the most part, I thought it was a good idea to give this novel multiple perspectives to tell the story of many more people and their experiences. While this is a fiction novel, it does draw a lot on true events and overall I think the author did a good job of this. The characters were well done and I thought the author did a good job of highlighting their motives and feelings while being in these horrible situations. I will say, I was kind of surprised that I was invested as much as I was because of an issue I will talk about in a bit. I think the fact I had such a reaction to events was the story telling ability in creating an atmosphere more so than the characters.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly, the one thing that really was difficult was the frequency of the point of view switching. It took a while for me to easily be able to switch between them and get the characters straight. This led to their voices and stories being jumbled at first. I did eventually figure it out, but at the start I feel like the switches needed to be less frequent.

Overall

Overall, I am really glad that Misty picked this book for me to read this month. It was a heart breaking read because of its content, but I also think it is important to understand and see what these people had to endure, not just these characters. The content was good historically speaking and the author ability to create an atmosphere so quickly pulled me in is a talent that not all writers have. I think if you have the chance to read this novel you should give it a try, but keep in mind that difficult topics are dealt with that are common themes in WW2.


Next month I am reading a book picked by Nicky, who you can find on twitter as @cre8ive_nicky. I am a bit nervous, but also looking forward to reading the thriller she picked for me. I either love a thriller or it falls flat so I am curious to see how this is going to work out!

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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