To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee: A Review

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee fills prompt #31, a book mentioned in another book, on the 2018 Reading Challenge. I found it on a list, however, and not actually in a book, so I don’t know what book(s) it might be mentioned in. It was already on my list to read, so I would have found a place for it on this list somewhere.

This is the story of a black man on trial for his life. But it’s told through the eyes of the child of the defense attorney. I think this perspective shows us the gross inequities of the situation. Scout Finch sees the events of this story as it unfolds. She tells us what she sees. We hear her brother’s words, an older brother with an almost adult view on the world. We hear her father’s words, and the words of other adults around her. All of this is filtered through the innocence of a child.

While this book talks about racism and segregation, and uses words that will be offensive to many, it does so in such a way to demonstrate the ugliness of it. Lee shows her characters, particularly the children Scout and Jem, struggling to come to terms with prejudice.

Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.’
That’s what I thought, too,’ he said at last, ‘when I was your age. If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike why do they go out of their way to despise each other?’

I think the choice of narrator is perfect for this story. Too often as adults, it is easy to get caught up in “this is how it always is,” where children aren’t burdened by such cultural “norms.” It is refreshing to see the world through innocent eyes. 

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor: A Review

For #43 on the 2018 Reading Challenge, I was directed to find a book being read by a stranger in a public place. I loved the idea of this prompt, though the execution wasn’t so easy. I don’t commute to work via public transportation, and I don’t often see strangers reading in public. I often see coworkers reading in the break room, but these are not strangers. And those I did manage to see out in public, I often could not see the title of the book. Finally, one day as I waited in for my appointment with the dentist, I saw someone – a stranger! – reading Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor. I was so excited!

I loved this book!

This is the story of Lazlo Strange, a boy orphaned by war and raised in a strict monastery. He has a dream – an impossible dream – of a city lost to memory, and he wants to find it again. He becomes a librarian in the largest library of his land. Here he learns all he can about this lost city. Then one day, his dream arrives at the door.

Lazlo wanted to go and find out. That was his dream, daring and magnificent: to go there, half across the world, and solve the mysteries for himself.

It was impossible, of course.

But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming?

It’s the story of a strange city besieged by a relentless curse, and of the Godslayer’s attempt to rescue his city from it. It is the story of gods and magic. It is the story of unknowns, of forces and powers felt, but unseen.

There were two mysteries, actually: one old, one new. The old one opened his mind, but it was the new one that climbed inside, turned several circles, and settled in with a grunt—like a satisfied dragon in a cozy new lair. And there it would remain—the mystery, in his mind—exhaling enigma for years to come.

The writing style is magical, beautiful and compelling. I did not want to put this book down. It’s also very difficult to describe this book. The book blurb does it little justice. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in beautifully written, magical stories. I can’t wait to read book two!

Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell: A Review

For a book with a weather element in the title in the 2018 Reading Challenge, I chose to read Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. This was a re-read, but it’s been a really long time since I read this book. I could remember some elements of the story, but not as much as I would have thought. I also think the added perspective of age helped me appreciate this book even more.

This book is an American classic with good reason. It is a compelling look at a less than auspicious time in American history. I think that Mitchell’s decision to tell this story through the eyes of an unsympathetic character made the historical bits all the more real. Scarlett O’Hara is selfish and spoiled, but as such, she has no interest in either side of the war. Her interest is only herself, making her a more objective witness to the events taking place around her.

This is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a southern belle in the pre-Civil War state of Georgia. The book is huge, as it takes place over the course of the entire war and well into the post war Reconstruction. It is the story of Rhett Butler, a scoundrel and war profiteer who is nonetheless redeemable despite his flaws.

Gone With the Wind is called a love story, and it is that. But it is so much more. It is the story of perseverance and endurance. Of friendship and heroic acts. It’s a story of pride in the midst of defeat. And it’s also a commentary on war and its devastating effects on all those it touches.

This is a great book, well-written in spite of its wordiness. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in American history, and the Civil War in particular. But beyond that, it’s just a really great story.

Wings of Wrath, by C. S. Friedman: A Review

I chose to read Wings of Wrath, by C. S. Friedman for the 2018 Reading Challenge #22, a book with alliteration in the title. When I set about choosing the books I would read this year, my first goal was to find books from my already overflowing shelves. Secondly, I wanted to read more women authors. This book was the only one on my shelves that met the criteria. Of course, it is the second book in a trilogy, so naturally, I had to read the first one too.

I loved the first book, The Feast of Souls. The characters are fabulously flawed and terrible. I wanted to read about them even when I didn’t really like them all that well. Furthermore, there was a deep sense of urgency about the first book that was very compelling. The second one, however, lacked this same urgency, and I didn’t have the same love for the characters. Still, it’s a good book, and it moves the overall story forward. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading the conclusion of the trilogy.

Wings of Wrath continues where the first book leaves off, deepening the sense of impending doom. The magic Friedman has conjured in this series is sort of terrifying. In one sense, as I began reading, I wanted to hate these books. The world is brutal and cruel. But at the same time, it is so beautifully rendered, I couldn’t hate it.

As for whether or not I would recommend this book, I would say yes, but with caution. This is no lighthearted, feel good fantasy. It is dark and terrible. But the writing is flawless.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, October 2018: The TBR

Back in April I participated in my first Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. While I read a lot, I didn’t manage to read as much as I’d hoped. I made big plans for myself and created quite an ambitious reading list. Too ambitious, as it turned out. I’d expected as much, but it was my first readathon, and I wanted to be prepared.

I signed up to participate in the next Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon which takes place on October 20 (today!). In my time zone, it begins at 5:00 a.m. (Yikes!)

As I said, my reading list last time was far too ambitious. I knew it would be, but I had no idea what to expect of myself, or what it would be like focusing on reading for twenty-four hours straight. I learned a few things from the experience, and this time I intend to do it a little different.

This time, I’m just going to plan to read whatever I’m already reading. I’ll have a book in each format – a print book for my main focus, an ebook for while I’m out and about and an audio book queued up for when my eyes get tired. Then, just in case I finish whatever it is I’m currently reading in any given format, I’ll have a back up ready to go. Finally, because on a day devoted to reading, I should be able to track all the reading I do, I’ll also have the books I’m currently reading aloud with my sons.

My list therefore, looks like this:

Current print books:
G
one With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (102 of 1024)
Assassin’s Quest, by Robin Hobb (180 of 757)
back up: Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb or Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Current ebook:
Zenith, by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings (31% complete)
back up: On Two Feet and Wings, by Abbas Kazerooni

Current audiobook:
Dune, by Frank Herbert (12 hrs 12 min remaining)

Currently reading with my sons:
The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis (71 of 211)
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card (142 of 368)
The Tiger Rising, by Kate DiCamillo (14 of 128)
Eragon, by Christopher Paolini (111 of 497)

It still looks like an overly ambitious list, but I’m not holding to any illusions that I’ll accomplish nearly so much. I’ll be reading around football and soccer games, necessary household chores and hanging out with my sons. Maybe we’ll see how many of their picture books we can read in an hour!

To make the readathon more comfortable, I’ve staked out my reading corner with a cozy blanket, a candle for atmosphere and a reading companion. Along with my books and a cup of coffee, I’m all set!

CozyReadathon

Are you taking part in Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon? What are you planning to read?

Annals of the Western Shore Trilogy, by Ursula K. LeGuin: A Review

I chose to read Voices, book two of the trilogy, Annals of the Western Shore, by Ursula K. LeGuin, for #39 on the 2018 Reading Challenge, a book that involves a bookstore or library. I had this book on my shelf already, a random purchase from a random used book source. Based on the description it involves a library. It is, however, the second book of the series so I had to read the first one before I could read Voices. In the end, I decided to read the entire series, and I’m glad I did.

All three of these books – Gifts, Voices, Powers – are written as a first person recollection. It is three individuals telling their own story. LeGuin is a master storyteller, and each book is beautifully written. These books are interrelated, but not all one story. They could each be read as stand alone novels and not lose anything.

Gifts tells the story of Orrec, a young man from the Uplands, a rural society divided into fiefs. Each fief is governed by a family that has an inherited “gift” of one sort or another. These gifts define the families and set them apart as rivals. Orrec is the son of one such gifted individual and the book takes him on a journey of self-discovery that ultimately leads him away from his own people.

Voices is the story of Memer Galva, a “siege brat” who has grown up in a home with a secret, hidden library. Her city of Ansul was overthrown by an invading army seventeen years before the story opens. The conquerors have set about destroying the written word, seeking a source of power they believe to be demonic. Memer’s story is also one of self-discovery as she must come to grips with her own place in her city and in its struggle for freedom.

Powers tells of a boy, Gavir, a slave raised and educated for the purpose of teaching members of his master’s household. When he is betrayed by the very people with whom he placed his trust, Gavir goes off on his own journey of self-discovery. Ultimately, Gavir returns to the people from whom he was stolen away as a babe, only to find he doesn’t belong there either.

These books are full of beautiful description and a wonderful sense of place. They are not high on action, however, so they do at times feel a little slow. LeGuin’s characters are compelling and interesting, and I enjoyed reading their stories. The third book, Powers, received the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Novel. Overall this series is great and well worth the read. Personally, Voices was my favorite of the three, but they are all good.

Grace and Fury, by Tracy Banghart: A Review

#47 on the 2018 Reading Challenge list is to read a book by an author with the same first or last name as myself. I had a hard time with this prompt, not really finding a book that appealed to me that met the requirements. It seems that a lot of Tracys write romance novels. Now, I like a good romance novel now and then, but it just isn’t what appealed to me right now.

So when I stumbled across Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury, I jumped on it. This book moves fast, driven forward with action and suspense. While there may not be a lot of depth to this story, it is really fun. I loved this book.

This is the story of Serina and Nomi, sisters who are as different as sisters can be. In their world, women have no rights. They aren’t allowed to read among other things, and the slightest offense can have the direst of consequences. Serina, the eldest, has been groomed her entire life to become a Grace, someone to stand by the Heir’s side as an example of the perfect woman. Instead, it is her spitfire younger sister, Nomi who catches the Heir’s attention.

Now both sisters are caught in a role they are completely unprepared for. With time running out for both of them and a dangerous plot afoot within the palace, the sisters must take matters into their own hands to save the other.

I like how Banghart has created characters who make real decisions. Poor decisions in many cases, but they aren’t exempted from the often disastrous consequences of their choices. They are forced to acknowledge their faults, learn from them and move on.

There are some romantic elements to this story, though even in this, things don’t go as expected. Ultimately, this story is about the relationship between two sisters and their willingness to fight for each other when everything is stacked against them.

If you’re looking for a light, fun read, this is a good choice. My biggest complaint is the long wait for the sequel!