Word by Word

Creating myself one word at a time.

SayYoureSorryIt’s been a crazy, busy week–both in the book world and in my other worlds. I read a couple of great books this week. You’ll be able to read my review of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, which I both found hard to read and loved. So many emotions!

I also got the first book in a new series by Melinda Leigh and I can’t wait to dig into that one! She always offers up an exciting story that makes for a quick, page-turning read.

My posts this week included reviews of The Story Thieves by James Riley and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. You can read my thoughts here.

 

Here’s what I was reading this week:

On audio-                                                                 On e-book-

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In hard back-

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Here are the articles that caught my attention this week:

 

I picked up a book from one of my favorite authors: 

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Happy Reading!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

download (1)True confession. Before reading this book, I hadn’t read anything by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve heard the buzz, but I just hadn’t gotten to Fangirl and Landline. When Attachments popped up in my Kindle Daily Deals, the premise sounded intriguing and I couldn’t pass it up. I’m really glad I hit the “buy” button!

Not only is this a sweet story about taking a risk and trying to make a connection, it’s practically historical fiction with the Y2K drama and the early email/Internet workplace rules. I snickered more than once at the reminders about how paranoid 1999 leaders and IT people were about people not working and spending all their time on the Internet.

Here’s the gist of the story. Lincoln is almost 30 years-old and he’s back to living with his mom after finishing several college degrees and a heartbreak that still has him in shock. He’s landed a job he hates, reading the employee emails at a local newspaper. That’s right. He’s the creep who works nights and reads the emails for policy violations. He then sends out warnings to violators. He also happens to be working just as the calendar is switching from 1999 to 2000. One night, the emails of two female friends hit his violations folder. Jennifer and Beth send funny, charming and totally against policy emails to each other. And Lincoln can’t bring himself to get them in trouble. Instead, he begins reading them and he slowly develops feelings for Beth.

Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body. –Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

What I loved: While we get to know Jennifer and Beth through their emails, we’re really in Lincoln’s story. I loved getting the guy’s perspective in this sweet love story. As Lincoln’s back story is slowly revealed, it becomes clear that this hulking man is hurting. He’s been scarred by his last relationship and doesn’t know how to come back from it. And as we discover all the wonderful things about Lincoln, who struggles to see he’s worth something, we begin to inspect all of the relationships he has. His group of D&D friends, Doris his dinner companion at work, Eve his sister and his mother. I loved learning about all of these, but I believe the mother/son relationship was the most interesting to me. Now, a few years ago I would have been all in for the Beth/Lincoln story…and it was great. But, Lincoln’s relationship with his mother fascinated me. As a mom of a 9 year-old boy, I struggle with learning about his inner emotional world and how to have him share that with me. I may have over-identified with his mother when she said the quote below. In the end, there isn’t much I didn’t love about this book.

Why do you think I can remember that,” she asked, “when you can’t? Why does nature do that to us? How does that serve evolution? Those were the most important years of my life, and you can’t even remember them. You can’t understand why it’s so hard for me to hand you off to someone else. You want me to act casual.” –Rainbow Rowell, Attachments

Would I recommend?: Absolutely! Do you love a tender love story? This is for you. Do you like to read about someone overcoming hurt and loss? This is for you. Do you like funny characters and witty dialogue? This is for you. Do you want just a quick, heart-warming tale? This is for you. If you don’t want to be up late reading. This book isn’t for you!

Back list bonus: Honestly, this made me think of my guilty pleasure rom coms. While You Were Sleeping. You’ve Got Mail. It also made me think of Kristin Higgins, who writes some of my favorite funny romance. The characters were funny and witty, but vulnerable. Want a specific Higgins to read? Read them all! Trust me. You’ll thank me later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22546584._UY475_SS475_Imagine being able to jump into any one of your favorite books and watch the story unfold. Want to drink tea with the Mad Hatter? Want to run into Jane and Elizabeth Bennett on a walk in the countryside? Or maybe you have a taste for Wonka Bars? That’s no problem for Bethany, one of the main characters in Story Thieves. As a half fictional character and half human kid, she has a special talent. But, it isn’t one she uses very often, until now.

Riley’s first installment in the Story Thieves series is about Bethany and Owen. One day at school, Owen discovers Bethany’s secret and it isn’t long before they are both on fictional and real adventures. Quick recap.

Bethany has a secret. She can jump in and out of her favorite stories. Her fictional father has disappeared into a book and she’s on the hunt to find him, unknown to her mother who would totally disapprove. Owen, a classmate, discovers her secret one day when she comes back from Willy Wonka’s factory with chocolate treats. All Owen wants is to jump into his favorite book series about Kiel Gnomenfoot, especially with the seventh–and final book–being published. Bethany has strict rules for her travels through tales. Owen talks her into jumping into the sixth Kiel book to get a “finding spell” to help her find her father. That’s when all the things go wrong. Bethany has to try to stop a magician from turning the real world upside down and Owen is stuck in the final Kiel book trying to keep the story from changing.  

As I’ve read with my son, one of our nightly routines, we’ve read a lot of shorter books. This was one of our longer books to read together. It took us some time to finish it, but we really enjoyed it and my kiddo was always eager to “read just one more chapter.” There was adventure, magic and funny quips for the kids. There was a lot for an adult reader as well; references to great works of literature, challenges to long held beliefs and what it means to challenge yourself to see things through. And, who am I kidding, I was there for the adventure, magic and funny quips.

Once a couple of chapters into the story, Bethany finds herself in our world with Kiel Gnomenfoot attempting to stop a powerful magician from bringing all the mythical monsters out of their stories. Owen, though, is stuck in the Kiel Gnomenfoot books with a half-robot girl named Charm trying to see the book series through to the end.

Bethany, who has strict rules about books and not messing up the story, finds herself up against a tough magician. She joins forces with Kiel and through him learns some valuable lessons about her power and how to think on her feet. Even when faced with the possibility of spending time with her father, she chooses to take the harder route. She chooses to fight a hard fight.

Owen, who was sure there would be nothing cooler than being Kiel, is, at first, totally stoked to be fighting the fight with Charm, Kiel’s friend. He’s disguised as Kiel, using magic, and gets to go up against Dr. Verity, the evil scientist bound on ridding the fictional world of magic. Charm isn’t so sure about this Kiel at first. He isn’t as fearless and quippy as usual. Over the course of Owen playing out the final Kiel book, he learns fictional characters can become best friends and sacrifices, even fictional ones, can hurt just as much as those in the real world.

After all, books were the truest form of magic that existed, in a lot of ways. If he’d learned nothing else in the last day or so, it’d been that. –Story Thieves

There are big themes in this kid’s book, some of which I’ve already mentioned. The one that impressed me the most though was learning that people aren’t always what we think they are and we can learn things from them. Bethany and Owen were both challenged by the characters from the Kiel Gnomenfoot books. Charm challenged Owen’s ideas of who he though Kiel was and who Owen needed to be to see the story to its end. Owen learned that Charm was much more than just a fictional character.

In a similar fashion, Bethany and Kiel pushed each other. In the end, I think Bethany probably showed the most growth. Kiel forced her to view who she was a little differently. Half fictional? Embrace it and start thinking more like a fictional character.

It was fun to talk about these changes in the characters throughout the book with my son. It prompted good conversation about being open to those around us and knowing that we can often learn new things in surprising places.

We’re excited to read the next installment of this series and see just where Owen, Bethany and maybe even Kiel might be headed.

 

 

 

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This weekend’s reading is the choice from my What Now? post. Ready to dive in. 

Summer weekends have so much promise and I’m ready to dive into this one. One of my planned events is to hit my new favorite bookstore, Commonplace Books, with my daughter. She got a gift card for her high school graduation and is dying to spend it! If you’re in the Oklahoma City area, I highly recommend visiting this charming bookish place. I find that bookstores have personalities and each one has a mood it evokes. Commonplace is like the Malibu of bookstores. Laid back. Cool without trying. Muted in a nice way.

This week felt like an onslaught of new books to add to my TBR. Between my podcast episodes loading me down and some great blog posts, my list grew by about 20. Now, to actually get them read. There were a couple I heard about repeatedly. I will certainly be adding Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. I love books about bookstores!

Here’s what I was reading this week:

On audio-                                                                       On e-book-

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With the kid-

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There were also some great articles that caught my eye this week:

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

downloadRecently, I read a blog post about whether adults should finish a book when they aren’t enjoying it. The blogger came down on the side of closing the book and moving on, but there were plenty of comments from those who are unable to walk away from a book unfinished.

In my own experience, I have found that a book has to be REALLY not for me to cause me to walk away. As I listened to Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, which I had heard wonderful things about, I was battling myself for the first four hours. Something about the early part of this book just wasn’t catching me. I even had a conversation with my friend, Niki. To toss the book aside or not?

In end, I pushed through and I have to say, in this case, I’m glad I did. It doesn’t always work this way, but I got lucky.

Reader, I murdered him. –Jane Steele

The heroine of this tale, Jane Steele, calls back to her favorite fictional character Jane Eyre, however she is very different from Jane Eyre. She is raised on an English estate in the guest house by a French mother who teaches her to believe she should inherit the estate. Quickly, her world changes when her mother dies from overdose. She commits her first murder when her cousin attempts to molest her and she pushes him down a cliff. From there, her Aunt Prudence ships her off to boarding school where horrible experiences await her. After yet another murder, she leaves on foot for London and is followed by a classmate, who isn’t aware of Jane’s guilt, and they attempt to survive the streets of London. Through various situations and years, we find ourselves with Jane as she leaves her work of writing “gallows sheets”, the stories of those who have recently been put to death by hanging. She heads back to her home where there is a new heir, Charles Thornfield, and he is in need of a governess for his ward. Jane is not prepared for what she discovers about the new owner and his staff. Will she prove she should inherit the estate? Will she become entwined in the secrets of those who live on the estate?

What I loved: So, you may be asking yourself why was there a debate about whether to finish the book or not? It was the story of Jane’s childhood. Something about her early story just didn’t click with me. Once I reached Jane as an adult and as she prepared to go back to the estate where she was raised, I was able to really get into the story. Yet, the early story helped to frame who she was as an adult. I’m conflicted about that early part of the story. But, I loved the later part of the story. Faye weaves into her story so much wonderful information about the Punjab history in Lahore and the actions of the East India Company. I loved the religious and cultural details she included. The characters she introduces us to, Mr. Singh the Sikh butler for sure, are a wonderful addition to a gothic tale. The secrets and mysterious events that took place during the Sikh Wars are interesting and I loved how Faye unraveled those.

Would I recommend?:  Hmmm. On Goodreads I gave this 3 stars. I would probably actually do 3.5 stars. I would recommend this though to a certain group of people. Those who love the gothic would really like this book. Those who are familiar with the Jane Eyre story, but also loved Dexter, would love this book. Also, those who enjoy Victorian England’s less told stories, like the Sikh Wars, would enjoy this as well.

Backlist bonus: I would throw out Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Those gothic elements really made me think of this book. I would also add Michelle Moran’s The Rebel Queen. Strong female warrior in India.

These days we crowdfund for causes, we read online reviews of products we’re considering and we go straight to social media when we want our friends’ opinions about a topic or idea. So, I’m going to try something new here. I’m going to get your opinions for what I should read next!

I always have great options on my TBR, but sometimes choosing the one you’ll actually pick-up and read is hard! Maybe you see a book here that you’ve been considering. Whatever book is chosen, I’ll review here.

So, here we go. What’s Next?, the June edition!

Here are my three choices. Comment with their title or assigned number in the comments. I’ll tally votes on Friday, June 16.  

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imagesWhen the epilogue of the first book in the series leaves your chin on the ground, you know the second book will have all kinds of twists and turns. And Kerry Lonsdale’s Everything We Keep had a killer epilogue. The kind that made me say, “Damn, that epilogue though.”

Luckily, unlike some fans, I didn’t have to wait too long to read the follow-up to Everything We Keep. While Everything We Left Behind is a “sequel” in that it tells you what happened after the events of the first book, it had quite a few years between the books and we swap narrators. So, here’s the basic premise of the series. In Everything We Keep we meet Aimee. She’s a grieving fiance who has just buried her love on the day they were to marry. You can see my Quick Take on that story. If you haven’t read that one, you might want to stop here and read it really quickly. Spoilers and all.

Okay, all done? Great read, huh? In Everything We Left Behind, Lonsdale takes us into the mind of James/Carlos. And it’s a fascinating dive. We see James/Carlos through a split story. You get a chapter of Carlos dealing with the aftermath of finding out he’s been duped by those he thought he could trust and coming to grips with the fact that at any time he could come out of his fugue state and no longer be Carlos. The alternating chapters show the aftermath of James “waking up” to a life six years later and totally different from what he remembers.

Just as with the first book and Aimee’s story, we see a person broken by situation who is seeking to find healing and wholeness. If you read my Quick Take, you’ll know that I loved the way Lonsdale carefully takes Aimee through the grief of losing her life-long love. She does it again with taking James/Carlos to a point of acceptance with their shared situation. They are both James/Carlos. I think Nat says it best. One body, one heart, one soul. The brain is just confused. And just like the men handle situations differently when it comes to people and events, they each handle acceptance of what happened with the fugue differently. As I read, my one hope for James/Carlos was to learn that each was him. His brain just unlocked different aspects of himself.

In the end, though, I was still not sure what to think of the Donato family. Thomas, mom and Phil are not wonderful people. It seems to be the one thing James/Carlos agree on. Don’t trust them. Yet, Lonsdale is able to create sympathy even for these three. Victims of their circumstances and each making horrible mistakes. I’m not sure, in the end, we trust them, but I’ll go with James/Carlos if he’s able to let go of any anger and walk away.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed the follow-up Lonsdale creates with Everything We Left Behind. I wasn’t sure where she was taking me when I started, but I really loved where she landed. And the final locale in Hawaii wasn’t a bad place to hang with these interesting characters! Solid story about the human spirit and the ability for love to transcend even the most difficult situations.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Bookstagram post from this week. #kidlit 

We reach another weekend and I can’t say I wasn’t ready for this one! Short weeks at work always seem so much longer than a normal five-day. A few things made the week pass a little more quickly.

 

I caught up on my podcasts. I finally made it through S-Town. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure about that one after the first two episodes, but in the end it was a fascinating story about a fascinating person and town in Alabama. This weeks episode of What Should I Read Next? and Popcast were also great listens. The guest on WSIRN, Chelsea Humphrey, was awesome and I loved her list of books she loved and the recommendations she got from Anne.

Here’s what I was reading this week:

On audio-                                               On e-book-

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With the kid-

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Here are some great articles that caught my attention this week:

I also picked up a few reads to add to the already towering TBR:

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Happy reading!

 

 

 

CuttingforStoneMy friend and I started our book club to spend time with other friends. A time to talk about our chosen book, yes. But, also, a time to get to know each other and share a bit of our lives. What I didn’t suspect? That I would read a book that, even after three weeks, would stick with me and make me ponder giant truths about life, but also the small things that make up our daily existence.

When we ended our April meeting, someone asked what we might read for May. Shrugging, I asked if anyone had any ideas. One of the women suggested Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Having never heard of it, I was game. Another lady said she’d read it, loved it and would enjoy rereading it.

At that moment, I wasn’t aware just how deeply I would be moved by this book club pick. I don’t cry through many books. There are few. My son, when he was a toddler, would watch in wonder as I would sob-read my way through Love You Forever. He was never sure what to think, but would always pick it for me to read and watch me, not the pictures, as I neared the end. I’m sure there is some psychology interpretation of that. You can add Cutting for Stone to this list now. I was in the car, reading the last 50 pages on our drive home from a soccer tournament. Sob-crying ensued.

Make something beautiful of your life. –Cutting for Stone

What I loved: So much about this book. While the first few chapters left me wondering what I’d gotten myself into, once past a few brutal scenes concerning a birth I began to understand this was going to be an epic. I loved the amazing imagery of Ethiopia. An Ethiopia I never knew with so much nuance. Verghese peels back layers concerning the Ethiopian history, people, culture and politics. I was enamored with this Ethiopia. His evocative sense of place is only second to his character development. While we experience most of the story through Marion Stone, one of the twins born at the beginning of the book, Verghese is able to breathe life into so many different people. From the fiery maternal figure Hema to the troubled Genet to the loveable Ghosh, they all leap off the page. Then there are the twins, so alike and yet so very different. Along with the setting and the characters, Verghese delivers beautiful prose. The kind you get lost in and look up an hour later realizing you aren’t, in fact, in Addis Abba. And, I’ll admit, I was often a bit disappointed there wasn’t a plate on injera and a curry waiting for me.

Life to is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backwards. –Cutting for Stone

Would I recommend? Well, if you haven’t determined this yet, I would. Highly. I will note that there is a lot about medical practice. There are scenes that are tough to read if you play a book like a movie in your head. There are also magical scenes about surgeons and the amazing skill they have. If you’re squeamish, be prepared.

Backlist bonus: As I read this book there was something about it that reminded me of E. M. Forster’s works. Some of A Passage to India. Some of A Room with a View. It had little to do with the plot, but more with the ability to shape place with their words.

MurderLinesWhat’s a girl to do to escape the box created for the women of the 1910’s? Well, Kitty Weeks has decided to be a journalist…or at least what passes for a female journalist in the early 20th century.

Radha Vatsal delivers the second in the Kitty Weeks series, which focuses on a young woman living in New York on the eve of Word War I. Daughter of a former American diplomat father and a mother she lost early in life, Kitty is trying to find her way in the world and she has decided that being a journalist is the way to make her mark on the world. Oh, and she occasionally solves a mystery, much to her father’s chagrin.

Although I didn’t read the first book, the second book didn’t leave me feeling like I’d missed anything crucial and I was still able to enjoy the story in this book. Here’s a quick story recap.

Kitty is on her most recent assignment for the New York Sentinel’s Ladies Page at a private all-girls school, when she meets an extraordinary scientist who also happens to be a female student. So intrigued by the bright mind of Elspeth Bright (how’s that for on-the-nose naming), Kitty asks to interview the young woman when they’re in New York for Christmas break. After only one short meeting, Kitty learns Elspeth has been found dead in Central Park one cold night. Elspeth’s parents and the police chock it up to her somnambulist habits. Kitty, though, isn’t as convinced and begins probing the death of the young girl. Along the way, we learn about Thomas Edison’s efforts to help the US Navy with war looming, the fight of women to earn the right to vote and even get to hear from President Woodrow Wilson.

I want to start with the wonderful use of the word “somnambulist” in this book. My first encounter with this word was an episode of Angel. I had a vague notion of what that meant, but this book drove it home in a delightful way. Just a fun note.

The early 20th century was a frenetic time, with politics, science and all aspects of human life progressing as a crazy pace. Vatsal captures all these aspects with this installment of Kitty’s story. From the science of batteries being developed to help the US Navy run their submarines without killing seaman to the pedestrians of New York trying to figure out how to safely share the roads with the newfangled automobiles, Kitty’s story shows us the amazing developments and the huge dangers present everyday.

Kitty’s story also showed the limits on a woman’s world in 1914. It serves as an important part of the story, but also a backdrop to the events. Vatsal does a wonderful job of weaving into the novel the limits on women in an authentic way. Kitty may be working as a journalist, but it’s within the limits her father and her editor place on her. There is no choosing whatever story she wants. She is prevented from entering the male reporter’s work space. And her father only allows her to work part-time. Kitty even battles internally with the limits she believes she has as a woman and what she believes she’s capable of. Wait until you read the passages when Kitty visits the doctor about conditions plaguing the female. *eye roll*

The same can be said for the victim of Vatsal’s story. A gifted scientific mind doesn’t help Elspeth to be taken serious by her scientist father. We don’t get to know her well, but through Kitty’s investigation she reveals just how talented Elspeth was.

The limitations placed on these girls is integral to the pace and plotting of the book, but we also get a peek into the world of the suffragists and their fight for the vote. With the federal government refusing to address women’s right to vote and calling a state issue, the women are working to reach the heart of the president, Woodrow Wilson. Vatsal proves to have a great grasp of the time period and all the nuances. She even includes Wilson addressing the women upon his visit to New York.

In the end, Vatsal has an intriguing mystery wrapped in the rumbling national and international politics that threaten the US involvement in a coming war. I have a feeling Kitty and her world are about to get much darker.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

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