Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the BardoThis is one of these hauntingly beautiful reads that sticks with you even after you walk away. But I want to be upfront about a couple of possible triggers that some might find disturbing.  Mentions of suicide, rape, and incest, are a couple of things that come directly to mind. And while they aren’t flushed out in explicit detail, they are there. I just want it to be known that these types of heavy and dark subjects are mentioned.

Lincoln in the Bardo was an autumnal recommendation from another bookish friend of mine, Ellen. You should check out this post for her recommendations for this time of year, and also just check out her blog in general. She reads some really interesting things!

It is set shortly following the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie. And without giving too much away, the story is really creatively laid out. There are short snippets within quick chapters, which makes this a really quick read. It will also help if you’re someone like me who recently experience a major reading slump. This gave me back my reading grove.

Anyway, the narration inserts real life clips from various historical sources about the private lives of the Lincolns during Willie’s death, and the early days of the Civil War. It also switches over to the ghosts of a nearby graveyard where Willie has recently been interned. This is where this story begins to tug on your heart strings.

Learning the back stories of the various ghosts and how they came to be in the graveyard was interjected with the perfect amount of sadness and humor. Sometimes you even forgot they were no longer ‘human,’ because Saunders really takes great care to accentuate those mortal qualities that make us all one in the same, even in the after life.

Bevins, one of the primary ghosts who narrated the graveyard parts, really struck me. Two of the quotes that I marked fairly early on in my reading belonged to him. The initial one where we learn of his death really was too much for me to put in here, but if you ever do read, you will understand which passage I’m referring to. But based on the reason behind his death it really isn’t surprising that he is the one who also states:

“We were perhaps not so unloveable as we had come to believe.”

Even as a stand alone quote, it sounds so beautifully sad. In the afterlife, they all begin to believe that they are no longer deserving of love or recognition. This idea especially becomes apparent whenever a grieving Abe Lincoln appears to pay respects to his son Willie’s grave. Just thinking about it all brings a tear to my eye.

For fans of creatively written tales like The Book Thief, and for those who are intrigued by history, this marries those two concepts in a brilliant way that will simultaneously break you down and give you hope for a better place once we depart from this one.

The foreshadowing of future events at the end is another brilliant incorporation of history into a ghostly tale. I gave this an easy if_star-4_47965if_star-4_47965if_star-4_47965if_star-4_47965if_star-0_47961

Any other ghostly reads out there I should be aware of? Let me know! I would love to add to that part of my shelves!

Until next time bookish buds!

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Ruth Ware, Everywhere!

I am SO excited to talk about Ruth Ware’s latest novel: The Death of Mrs. Westaway!!

But first, I wanted to share something a little personal with you all.

Ware’s books are really special to me because my one aunt, the one who has always fostered and supported my love of reading and writing, introduced me to them!

Two years ago for my birthday, I was living in a pretty dingy, dirty apartment. I felt depressed more often than not, and really craved anything that would either literally or mentally transport me to another place.

I don’t know if she ever knew that or not, but she definitely made a point to talk to me about books, my writing projects, and everything that kept me centered in my life. And then, one crisp day in fall, in a rundown coal town in Pennsylvania, a brown package arrived.

It wasn’t anything special really. My husband and I furnish our hobbies and home with stuff from Amazon. I thought it was just another piece of sports memorabilia or one of the hundreds of books that I purchased that year. But no, it was a birthday package from my aunt.

As I opened it and read the card, it became pretty clear that she had taken the time to really think this gift through. I was, of course, touched, In her card she wrote about how Ruth Ware started out working all kinds of jobs that weren’t really her passion (definitely the previous chapter of my life, and often at times the present too) before she wrote two books and made a name for herself.

And then she went on to gush about In A Dark, Dark Wood, saying it was one of the best books she read in a long time. And alongside it, she included The Woman in Cabin 10.

Now, I believe The Woman in Cabin 10 was once offered as a BOTM option because the title sounded familiar to me. For some reason, I didn’t select it that month. But it hardly mattered to me because my aunt generously gifted it to me.

Now I feel compelled to return the favor. You see, my aunt’s son passed away this year. He, like myself and a few others in our family, suffered from depression. Unfortunately, he lost his battle with it and took his own life shortly after the new year.

She’s doing all that she can to get through it. And while I cannot begin to understand her grief, I know what it’s like to feel depressed and like you’re stuck.

So I’ve decided that I am going to repay her for her generosity and gift her with her own copies of The Lying Game & The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I’m hopeful she likes them as much as I did, and this is an author we can gush over whenever we  get together.

Also I can totally pass it off as a thank you gift because she’s letting me stay at her house for a couple of days this summer while I pick up & drop off my Belgian bestie at the airport. But that’s a story for another post. 🙂

Now onto my thoughts and feelings on Ware’s fourth read, The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

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“She had the truth. And that was all that mattered.” 

As you read this, you are probably going to ask yourself more than once: “What is the truth? What is real?” 

Ware creates another heart pounding tale built on deception & lies. Which is pretty typical for a Ruth Ware novel. However, she deploys the use of the unreliable narrator in a different manner than in her previous novels. Something I greatly appreciated whenever I noticed it.

Our protagonist, Hal, is a bit of an underdog. She’s been dealt kind of a raw deal in life, and is barely hanging on whenever we first meet her. You definitely feel for her, and even when she does some morally questionable things (to ensure her own survival), you feel she truly is a good person whose been thrust into a hard life.

And things just keep getting harder for her, right up until the very end of the novel. But it makes you as a reader commit to seeing her story through. Because in typical Ruth Ware fashion, you have some idea of how things will end, but not everything.

I also felt like Ware has grown a lot as a writer. Once again, we see a host of unique characters, all with well rounded out personalities. Her writing is descriptive when necessary, and heart pounding through nearly all 368 pages. There’s also a lot of literary elements that make this a well crafted read.

Like the nods to Agatha Christie. It’s almost like she’s accepted the title the bookish community has given her.

I really enjoyed this one, and thought it deserved 5 stars! I highly recommend to anyone who likes suspense and mystery, even if you’re a first timer to Ware’s novels.

Anyone else out there a Ware fan? What’s your favorite novel? Or are there any good mysteries your recommend? Let me know! 

Until next time, bookworms! Happy reading!

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Week 24 Reading Update!

Since it is an ungodly hour on my side of the world this Saturday morning, I thought I might as well make myself useful and post a weekly reading update! As far as my reading goals that I outlined in my BuJo go, I did accomplish (or will shortly accomplish) them!

Yay! I actually set a goal and finished one of them! *pats self on the back*

They weren’t lofty. I merely wanted to finish my current read: Small Country & to start a new book, which I will here shortly with The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

I also discovered this week that I think I need to take a hiatus from my Throwback Thursday: Classic Reads Edition. I got about 66% through my current read for this (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), and then I decided WHAT AM I DOING?

I really just don’t think I have the mind for classic reads. I struggle with focusing, retaining information, and not allowing my mind to wonder a lot with reading as it is. The classics just seem to amplify these deficiencies, and as a result I am continuously frustrated and disappointed. I might try again later in the year, but I am relieving myself of that pressure to do one classic read a month.

And also, as I discussed with my bookish bestie, classic novels are a bit outdated for our modern minds. We’re used to short snippets, or direct communication. The circumspect style of writing doesn’t really suit the modern reader, unless one is on point with focus and lives and breathes for this sort of writing.

So I am up to 7 on my list of abandoned books. But this is only the second book I abandoned in 2018, and it was also, my second classic read.

Anyway, onto the book I DID finish this week. Small Country: A Novel by Gaël Faye is actually originally in French, but the translation in English read beautifully to me.

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A coming of age story set against the backdrop of a country on the verge of civil war. Our protagonist is ten year old Gaby, a quiet, thoughtful as well as mischievous boy. His childhood is full of pranks he pulls with his friends on their neighbors as well as secret meetings where they smoke cigarettes and drink beer in their fort built out of an abandoned van.

Except the small privileges of childhood that he enjoys are on the verge of ending as the first democratic election has dire consequences in his mother’s homeland of Rwanda, and eventually, in his rather picturesque cul-de-sac.

Told through the eyes of a child, Gaël Faye’s story is full of innocence and humor. His writing style uses rich, descriptive language that makes you feel transported to the suburbs of Burundi.

Each section is short, and employs meaningful anecdotes that drive the action of the plot forward. The story was heartwarming, horrifying, and beautifully written all in one.

It is rare for me to give a story five stars, but this one felt entirely deserving. It’s one of those stories that stays with you and touches your heart deeply after you finish it.

What are some of your 5 star reads for 2018? I am always looking for recommendations! Well if you stumbled upon my blog post, thanks for reading! 

Catch you later, bookworms!

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A Mathematical Mystery & My June TBR

Firstly, I want to talk about my latest read: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy.

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This one surprised me. Sure, I chose it as an extra Book of the Month selection, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The characters were complicated, all going through their own personal struggles, while this mystery of their patriarch’s last equation unfolded.

The novel opened with the death of Isaac Severy. While a shock to his family, he was entirely prepared to die. And with this tragic event, the relations of Isaac Severy find themselves brought together. Their relationships are strained, and different facets of the characters are slowly revealed to us in purposeful ways.

Told from three points of view from within the Severy family, we get a fuller picture of the mystery. Each of them have something that connects them to it, even if we don’t know it straightaway. Which allows for the story to come together at the end nicely.

The pace of this was steady throughout. There were a few twists, which then urged me to read several chapters more in one sitting, but it wasn’t heart pounding where you needed to finish the entire thing in a single setting. The mathematical concepts in this were well explained for people with little to no knowledge of it (like myself haha), without the writing becoming heavy with technical terms. And there were references to today’s culture, making you as a reader feel more connected to the story.

All in all, I thought this one was worthy of a 4.5 rating. I highly recommend this one to those who like a good mystery + family drama.

And now onto the second part of this post. My June TBR list!

Honestly, I can’t believe we are halfway through 2018! Time sure flies when you’re having fun 😉

Sadly I am not even halfway through my Goodreads Challenge. Yes, it shows that I practically am, but I am not counting The Lying Game & I accidentally clicked the “I’m finished!” button besides Sherlock Holmes on their website haha. So technically, I am only 12 books in 2018.

But I will not give up, even if I sound a bit defeatist. There are 6 months left in the year, and I only need 18 more books to complete my challenge, and I just need to keep reminding myself of that I can handle 3 books per month (if not more).

The three for June I will push myself to finish are….

37781941Burundi, 1992. For ten-year-old Gabriel, life in the comfortable expatriate neighborhood of Bujumbura with his French father, Rwandan mother, and little sister, Ana, is something close to paradise. These are happy, carefree days spent sneaking cigarettes and stealing mangoes, as he and his mischievous gang of friends transform their tiny cul-de-sac into their kingdom.

But dark clouds are gathering over this small country – and their peaceful idyll will soon shatter when Burundi, and neighboring Rwanda, are brutally hit by war and genocide.

I’m looking forward to this one. I love reading stories set in different places of the world during parts of history I am not familiar with. Knowledge is power, whoop whoop!

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Kim Lord is an avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Who doesn’t love a promising sounding thriller? Set in another unique community, I’m looking forward to diving into this one, and holding on tight!

36373481On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

I am so excited to have my hands on the latest Ruth Ware novel! I know she’s becoming a pretty big deal in the bookish community, and I’m not really in the “in crowd,” to have received this in advance. But I’m really excited for this one! She has a lovely way of writing, and also finds ways to shock you with various plot twists.

I might add some more to this list, especially those “classics,” I am supposed to be reading, but am really struggling to force myself to haha. Although The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a pretty good read to be in the middle of at present.

Anyway, what is everyone else reading this month? Link your posts to your blog/social sites below for me to check out! 

Until next time bookworms!

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The Pro’s & Con’s of The Book Thief

I have a feeling there will likely be unpopular opinions for this post. And that’s ok. Diversity is what makes the world go round, ja/yeah?

19063I really wanted to love this book. I wanted to rave about it in this review. I wanted to proclaim my undying love to it. And maybe it’s because I am reading this so late in life. Maybe because I saw the film first my opinion of the book was slightly tainted. (Although truthfully, it wasn’t even that memorable, so I didn’t have too many spoilers that came from the film to the book.) I could probably come up with more reasons/excuses to try and place blame on myself for not LOVING this book, but we would probably be here all day.

We’ll start with the bad & the ugly.

In short, it was long. The protagonist wasn’t all that interesting. Sure, she’s a little girl, and it’s a coming of age story, so I get there is a lot of development & realizations of “this is the world we live in, how terrible and unfair,” but I just didn’t feel a connection to her. Her suffering didn’t move me for the majority of the book. It wasn’t until the end when I felt anything for her, and again, most of my sad feelings were directed at other characters.

Another thing I noticed was that my mind drifted off several times when reading this, and I felt the full 547 pages of this book. It felt really, really long to me. And I get we need more connections with the characters, so perhaps that was why the length was what it was, but I just felt like COME ON, IS ANYTHING EVER GOING TO HAPPEN? too many times.

There were a few moments where I would breeze through chapters, anticipating what was coming next, but those moments were few & far between for me.

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Now onto the good things that redeemed this for me & made me want to finish.

The writing was beautiful. It was lyrical and wrought with personification at every opportune moment. Everyday feelings, objects, etc., were given human dispositions that made sense, and added to the quality of writing.

The choice of narrator was unique and made for creative storytelling. I felt like having an ‘impartial,’ or ‘unbiased,’ narrator might have played into my lack of feeling for certain characters. But otherwise, I thought it was a creative aspect of the story. It made the pages go by quicker.

Another thing I liked about this, is something that I often struggle with as far as WW2 books goes. And that is the emotional toll a story takes on you. For me, this one this wasn’t super heavy on the emotions.

Sure, there were parts of it that were sad. And the descriptions of certain things were intended to be heartbreaking, but it wasn’t horrific or super dark like other books set in this era that I’ve previously read. It was just like “meh this is depressing,” but not debilitating where I would need a break from books set during this time period.

I did feel a certain prickling behind my eyes during Part 10. However, the resolution was kind of rushed and glossed over. Which is fine, it served it’s purpose. So there were some redeeming qualities in the final few sections.

I would probably recommend this to people. But I have read other books from this time period that I have enjoyed more, so this one would be just an “if you have the time,” or “if you want to read more experimental type writing,” sort of recommendation from me.

Anyone else not a fan of this one? Or do I stand alone? Any other good recommendations from the WW2 era? Or any other good books in general that you’re reading?

Let me know bookworms!

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Review: The Fiery Cross

“When the day shall come, that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’—ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

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For fans of the Outlander series, Jamie & Claire are at it again. Taking our breaths away with the beauty of their words in a poignant manner that doesn’t at all feel cheesy.

Their relationship has literally stood the test of time, even if we always aren’t sure just how much time passes in these books due to the infrequent pacing. And they have not only a love that is one of kind, but a mutual respect and friendship between one another that others for this time period wouldn’t have.

But enough gushing about this crazily strong power couple. Onto the actual content of this book.

So anyone who picks up this book is undoubtedly well invested in this series. At 1,000+ pages a novel, you kind of have to be once you reach the fifth book. Needless to say, this book was more or less filler than anything else to me.

Diana Gabaldon, or DG as I affectionately refer to her, had so much action, suspense & adventure packed into novels 1-4. This one had some elements of action, but the drama was more domestic than anything else.

And I suppose it could be argued that we needed a book like this at this stage in the series. The four main characters really haven’t had an opportunity to live together (that we have seen at least), so it kind of made sense that this one showed the mundane happenings of everyday life.

Even so, did we really need 1443 pages of it? I don’t think so. I know she is big on the details. But come on, there were at least 100 pages where she described Breanna’s love for her child through the way her breasts felt.

Like it’s fine to do it a couple of times to emphasis her bond with him, but this was so excessive to me that it literally became an inside joke between Emma & I. There are other ways to explore feeling and emotion between characters. I mean, she finds new & exciting ways to keep us engaged with Jamie/Claire, and they have been prominently attending to their maternal duties for approximately 5,000 pages. You would think she could do the same with a mother & her child.

That wasn’t the only thing that kind of set my teeth on edge.  Like Fergus and Marsali are Jamie’s adoptive children, and that part of the family were hardly mentioned throughout this narrative. I get that they are more minor characters and we needed the Jamie/Roger scenes in order to establish their importance because up until this point they haven’t interacted a whole lot. But still! Fergus & Marsali have a uniqueness to them that kind of mirrors Jamie & Claire. Whereas, Breanna & Roger’s scenes just feel awkward for me.

I suppose my personal bias and preference of characters really played a role in this review as well.  But you can’t connect with every single character you’re presented with, especially in an epic length series like this one.

In the end, I gave this 3 stars because I felt it was fair. DG clearly put a lot of painstaking details into this novel, and reveals that some seemingly insignificant ones you read earlier and in book four, really are significant. She also leaves a couple of loose ends to keep you guessing where the major conflict in book six will end up.

All in all, you need to approach this series with the mindset that there are going to be books that you enjoy more than others. I am of the belief that if you find a character or two that you love, and want to see where they end up, that you should try to stick to a series until the end. So that is what I think I will be doing with this series.

Also, it’s become a mutual interest for my Belgian bestie & myself. And it’s fun to discuss, and to also vent your frustrations to someone who is reading alongside you. I don’t know that I would have been able to forge ahead as quickly as I did with this book if it wasn’t for me having a buddy to do this with. So for those slow readers out there, I would vote you pair up with a buddy who can help support you through this one.

In terms of ranking the Outlander Books, below is mine, and you can deduce from it where I saw this one. (Side note: I had a bit of a laugh because it is almost in chronological order hah).

  1. Outlander
  2. Voyager
  3. Dragonfly in Amber
  4. Drums of Autumn
  5. The Fiery Cross

How does your ranking of the first 5 books compare? Am I totally off base with my thoughts and feelings? 

Until next time bookworms! Happy reading adventures!

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Coming Up: A review of The Secret Garden 🙂

Review: Angela’s Ashes

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This book held a special meaning to me prior to me even cracking the spine and diving into the first few pages. It was a birthday gift (from last year) from my Belgian bestie, and she was extremely thoughtful in selecting it for me.

Like most American’s, my family was one of immigrants. Although in most cases, I am three generations removed from wherever “the homeland,” was. Even with this in mind, my family is often prouder of our Irish heritage than of any other. Probably because our name has survived, and that part of my family is the most vibrant and exciting. No offense, to my Mom’s family.

Anyway, she chose this book knowing of my interest in learning more about “my people,” and the struggles they might have faced. Unlike Frank McCourt’s family, my great-grandparents remained in America during The Great Depression, and after reading this I’ve started to wonder what would have happened if they went back to Ireland? It was apparent McCourt wondered something similar as far as if his family would have stayed in America.

I’m not trying to pretend to have a similar experience to him at all. My childhood was uneventful, sheltered, and happy. Whereas McCourt’s was chaotic, harsh, and even at times tragic. But I couldn’t help but feel a sense of kinship with him on some level as I read this story.

The aspects of growing up in poverty I cannot relate to. Thankfully I never experienced a parent with a substance abuse problem that thrust us into poverty. We are historically a family of drinkers, and I am always diligent in monitoring just how much we imbibe for the above reason. While my experiences with this are on an infinitesimal scale, my heart went out to Frank’s family whenever his father was on one of his binges.

And then there was the harshness of being Catholic and coming from an Irish Catholic family. Yes, even seventy or eighty years later, I still feel the weight of Catholic guilt and teachings that are kept alive in my part of the world today. Going to a Catholic school, being mentally ridiculed (I think they banned the physical ridiculing after McCourt’s time), and basically always believing you were destined for hell, along with having a larger family and constantly being involved in their business.

McCourt makes the gravity of these situations almost comical. Because well, they are. Anyone who has been belittled or punished at the hands of church officials can relate to the ridiculousness of their teachings at times. If you’re looking for opportunities to be amused by Catholic-ism’s, you surely won’t be disappointed by what you find here.

I also really enjoyed McCourt’s writing style. He begins telling it with the innocence and curiosity of a young child, and his voice matures as he grows up in the novel. He has a way of seamlessly blending external actions and dialogue into internalizations of his personal experiences. 

He questions a lot of what takes place in his life, posing simple solutions to grave issues. And I suspect that is a coping method, given the circumstances in which he was brought up.

All in all, this was a great read. I’m not usually one for memoirs, but I felt this one was special. I gave it four stars, and would highly recommend to anyone looking for a real life story of triumph in the face of adversity.  

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