Audrey (a.k.a. Oddly) Flowers is living quietly in Oregon with Winnifred, her tortoise, when she finds out her dear father has been knocked into a coma back in Newfoundland. Despite her fear of flying, she goes to him, but not before she reluctantly dumps Winnifred with her unreliable friends. Poor Winnifred.
When Audrey disarms an Air Marshal en route to St. John’s we begin to realize there’s something, well, odd about her. And we soon know that Audrey’s quest to discover who her father really was – and reunite with Winnifred – will be an adventure like no other. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
I don’t even remember why I originally put Come, Thou Tortoise on my TBR list. But it eventually ended up in my possession, and I absolutely loved it.
This book has a very quirky writing style–there are no question marks or quotation marks, which gives it an understated feel, even when emotional things are happening. And there is a ton of wordplay, which I am almost always in favor of. Audrey herself is an odd character; there’s no need to question why her nickname is Oddly. She does some pretty crazy things in order to help the people she loves. Audrey may not be the brightest, but she’s full of love and stubbornness, which endears her to the reader. Memories of her father in her childhood intermingle with scenes from the present day and slowly build to form a picture of Audrey’s father, her uncle, and Audrey herself. (The story is also interspersed with chapters narrated from Winnifred the tortoise’s point of view, which is pretty hilarious as well.)
On the whole, Come, Thou Tortoise is cute and touching and funny and understated. All these aspects combine to make a story that is surprisingly powerful and entertaining. Even if the summary doesn’t draw you in (or if it does and then you forget all about why you put it on your list…), I hope you pick this book up and give it a try.
Note: I received free digital copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All summaries are via NetGalley.com
Several of the ARCs I requested earlier this year had to do with girls and women throughout history and around the world. I love supporting and learning about my fellow women, so I knew these books were going to be good. And not a single one disappointed!
Good Girls, Bad Girls of the New Testament
Good Girls, Bad Girls of the New Testament invites readers to take a more nuanced look at twelve stories that feature women, to explore their lives more deeply in historical context, and to understand the real story that includes both men and women. The book goes beyond simply telling the story of a particular biblical woman to challenge readers to explore the enduring lessons the ancient writer sought to impart. These timeless lessons are as important for us today as they were thousands of years ago.
This book is not quite a devotional. It’s more a scholarly study of Biblical history and characters, focusing on twelve women who are discussed in the New Testament. I loved how knowledgeable the author is about the cultural and historical aspects of these stories, and I found myself being surprised by stories that I’ve known since childhood.
If you’re interested in how Jesus talked to and acted around women and what lessons we can learn from the “good girls” and the “bad girls” (those categories aren’t always as cut and dried as they sound) of the New Testament, this book will not disappoint. It’s chock full of historical information as well as applications for the lessons learned from each of these fascinating women.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good
In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest research to reveal the seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions.
So the description makes this book sound terrible, I have to say. But please don’t pass this one by! Out of all the ARCs about women I’ve read so far this year, this is definitely my favorite.
I spend a lot of time teaching and working with adolescent girls who are becoming young women, and I absolutely love it. They’re thoughtful, smart, and ready to test their boundaries. This book describes the different transitions these girls go through in their teenage years, from friendships and romantic relationships to school and relationships with parents. In each chapter, the author provides examples of what a healthy transition might look like and when you should worry about your daughter in that area. It’s an enjoyable, interesting read, and the author’s suggestions on how to interact with teenage girls–when to push, when to require compliance, and when to be flexible–are spot on. (As they should be–Dr. Lisa Damour is an experienced psychologist and school counselor.)
I’m sticking this book in a file marked “later” and pulling it out when I have a teenage daughter. I highly suggest you do the same.
Rating: Re-read Worthy
For more than a decade, Katherine Zoepf has lived in or traveled throughout the Arab world, reporting on the lives of women, whose role in the region has never been more in flux. Today, young Arab women outnumber men in universities, and a few are beginning to face down religious and social tradition in order to live independently, to delay marriage, and to pursue professional goals. But their voices have not been heard. Their stories have not been told.
I was fascinated by this book. Compelling and disturbing, it tells the stories of women in many Arab countries. The author spent years living in Syria and traveling around Middle Eastern countries, interviewing young women and getting to know their worlds. Through her eyes, we get to experience the wildly varying lives of these Arabic women.
I have to say, this one was a little hard to take in. I went in with an open mind, hoping to see what women’s lives were like in this totally different part of the world, ready to accept their various experiences. But when I read about how little freedom many women have in the Arab world, and how many of them accept and defend that, it was a bit painful to read. There are descriptions of honor killings and guardianship that are difficult to swallow, alongside the descriptions of women going to college and traveling the world.
I definitely recommend this book. It’s well written and eye-opening. Just don’t expect to seamlessly connect with all the viewpoints presented.
Note: I received the following books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All summaries are via Netgalley.com.
I’m still working my way through the bundle of ARCs I requested from NetGalley at the beginning of the year, so get ready for a slew of ARC roundup posts! Today I’m reviewing two of the latest adult fiction novels I’ve read, one of which was all right, and the other which was amazing.
Tears in the Grass
At ninety years of age, Elinor, a Saskatchewan Cree artist, inveterate roll-your-own smoker, and talker to rivers and stuffed bison, sets out to find something that was stolen almost a lifetime ago. With what little time she has left, she is determined to find the child taken from her after she, only a child herself, was raped at a residential school.
It is 1968, and a harsh winter and harsher attitudes await Elinor, her daughter, and her granddaughter as they set out on an odyssey to right past wrongs, enduring a present that tests their spirit and chips away at their aboriginal heritage. Confronting a history of trauma, racism, love, and cultural survival, Tears in the Grass is the story of an unflagging woman searching for the courage to open her heart to a world that tried to tear it out.
Do I know whether or not this book is an authentic representation of a Native American woman’s experience in turn-of-the-century to late 1960s Canada? Absolutely not. I can’t say I know a huge amount about either the Native American experience or Canada. Still, I found this book interesting and sweet.
Elinor, her daughter Louise, and her granddaughter Alice all have secrets they are hiding, but as Elinor reaches the end of her life, she has a strong desire to set things right. Although the three women are very different from each other, each one grows to have a deeper respect for the others and for their Cree heritage.
Rating: Good but Forgettable
When Tanya discovers her husband’s dead body at the foot of the stairs, she doesn’t scream for help or call the police. Instead, she pours herself a shot of bourbon, packs a bag, and leaves town. As Tanya travels, it becomes clear that this isn’t the first time she’s taken on a new identity, and it certainly won’t be the last. Tanya becomes Debra, Emma, Sonia, and many other people as she runs from her past. Is she innocent? You’ll have to find out for yourself.
The Passenger is what Girl on the Train should have been and wasn’t. Whereas Girl on the Train was predictable and a bit boring, The Passenger will keep you hooked from beginning to end, trying to guess what will happen next. I read this book in two big gulps, only putting it down because I had to get back to work. When I got home, I picked it up and didn’t put it down until it was finished. That’s the way a thriller should be.
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life–the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues. (Summary via Goodreads.com)
The Age of Miracles is one of those books that I didn’t expect to enjoy nearly as much as I did. When I was overseas, my husband and I took a train from Budapest to Vienna for a day trip. The journey takes about three hours each way–just long enough to spend some quality time with a book. The Age of Miracles is the book I chose for this journey, and I enjoyed it so much that I could hardly wait to get back on the train at the end of the day and finish it.
Even if you’re not normally into apocalyptic novels, I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a coming of age story as much as it is a story about the end of the world, and it’s crazy how quickly the longer days and nights become a matter of fact. It’s a fascinating concept, and Julia is a lot of fun to follow into this strange new world. There’s not much more I can say about The Age of Miracles, other than read it! It’s definitely worth your time.
Winter is the conclusion to one of the best series I’ve read in a while (you can see my reviews of Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest by clicking the links). I thought it was an incredibly satisfying end to the series and, other than Cress, my favorite installment in the series. [Note: If you haven’t read the previous installments and wish to avoid spoilers, don’t read this review until you’ve read the other books!]
In Winter, the gang takes their battle against Levana to Luna itself. They stow away on Kai’s ship when he finally consents to marry Levana and form her disastrous alliance with Earth. Meanwhile, the crazy Princess Winter is doing her best to rebel against Levana in her own way, along with Jacin, the guard she’s been in love with since childhood. Despite losses and setbacks, Cinder and her friends are determined to rid Luna–and Earth–of Levana’s manipulation once and for all.
Let me mention first the number of viewpoints that you receive in this book. The 800+ page book has plenty of room to allow Cinder, Cress, Jacin, Winter, Wolf, Levana, Iko, Kai, and practically everyone else from the series at least a chapter or two for themselves. And although I don’t usually like to read books that switch so constantly from viewpoint to viewpoint, it works here. Meyer has worked so hard to create a strong background for each character in her previous books, and we know each character so well that it doesn’t feel dizzying or jerky to switch from person to person; it feels natural. I am flabbergasted by this, but it is awesome.
Secondly, and kind of related, we get to catch up with all our favorite characters from the rest of the series! We all know that my favorite is Cress, and we get plenty of chapters about Cress being afraid and doing the thing anyway, along with tons of Cress + Thorne, which is by far my favorite couple in the series. Cinder, of course, is kicking butt, and Kai is doing his part, even though he’s trapped in Levana’s clutches. I liked Scarlet a lot more in this book than in her own, although she is still the stereotypical “strong female” character, and her romance with Wolf hasn’t gotten any less Twilight-y. Iko is back and loving her new escort body, and Levana has the control freak manipulator vibe cranked up to eleven.
Winter herself is an interesting character, although I can’t say I necessarily liked her. She has gone mad because of her decision to suppress her Lunar gift, which, while an admirable choice, I don’t exactly agree with. I think she could have been a lot more help to the group if she had chosen to make small concessions to use her Lunar gift in order to keep her sanity. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jacin, either. I get his impulse to protect Winter above all else, but it did make him an awkward addition to the already cohesive group. Although the fairy tale that Winter retells is (of course) Snow White, not a favorite of mine, it’s pretty subtle, and Meyer keeps it from taking over the entire story.
I loved that we get to enjoy all of our favorite characters one last time. Each character maintains their own unique personality, and Meyer never lets them blend into one another, even when there’s a crowd of them. The struggles and hard decisions that Cinder and her friends face at the end of their quest to get rid of Levana are a great conclusion to the series. The overly happy endings might be a problem for some, but hey, it’s a fairy tale! What did you expect? A super fun book and a satisfying conclusion to a great series. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever Marissa Meyer puts out next.
This next installment in the Reading to Distraction book pairing challenge (you can read the previous posts here and here) includes two of my favorite books ever. I seriously love both of these books, and I read them even before I had ever heard of this challenge. So go ahead and put both of these books on your TBR list, and then sit back while I explain why!
The books in this pairing are The Westing Game, a Newbery book by Ellen Raskin, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. According to BuzzFeed, here’s the connection:
What was great about The Westing Game wasn’t necessarily the mystery, but the characters involved in it. It was suspenseful, for sure, but it was fun and at times even funny. Robin Sloan captures that feeling in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a fast-paced and heady mystery that follows a former web designer who suspects there’s something more to the bookstore he’s taking shifts at. As he delves into analysis with his eclectic friends, he uncovers a world of secret societies, mysterious literati, and a web of technological riddles.
The Westing Game
A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game! (Summary via Amazon.com)
This is the most amazing book. I read it several times as a kid, each time feeling a little creeped out, but in a good way. The book is full of puzzles that an eccentric group of characters (adults and children) must attempt to solve in order to inherit Sam Westing’s fortune. The whole thing is intriguing and very well written. It’s easy to see why this book received the 1979 Newbery Medal.
Rating: Re-read Worthy
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything―instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave. (Summary via Amazon.com)
This book is also full of intriguing puzzles that the quirky characters have to solve, and it has the benefit of being set in a mysterious bookstore complete with a secret society. I’ve highlighted this book before, but I’ll say it again: This is a must read.
Rating: Re-read Worthy
Both of these books are unusual mysteries–unusual in that they’re not really murder mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie–set in unusual locations. They both have a great cast of characters, and both leave you longing for more. Unlike my last disappointing pairing, I couldn’t have picked a better pair myself. For a mystery-loving kid, The Westing Game was just creepy enough to make me want to re-read it several times, and as a mystery-loving adult with a thing for quirk and for books themselves, Mr. Penumbra was an amazing follow up. You absolutely must put both of these books on your reading list!
When I was a kid, I read Saffy’s Angel, not knowing that it was the first book in a series. So when I discovered the rest of the series a couple months ago, I promptly checked them all out from the library and consumed them over the course of a few days. The Casson family series is comfort food in book form. This British family is delightfully silly and sweet, and despite their individual problems, they are each lovable in their own ways (with one possible exception…). I’m not going to review each individual book, since they’re all so short (and because there is a prequel that I have not yet been able to get my hands on!). Instead I’ll provide an overview of the Casson family, which beyond any plot or events that may happen is the real focus of these books.
Cadmium, called Caddy, is the oldest of the family. She’s a bit scatterbrained and can’t seem to stay focused on one thing, but she is the loving older sister (who just happens to let her hamsters and guinea pigs run wild through the house and yard).
Saffron, or Saffy, is the next oldest. She is sarcastic and fiercely protective of her crazy family. She and her friend Sarah take care of business, whether Saffy’s siblings want them to or not.
Indigo is the third child and the only boy. He is quiet and introspective, and he loves reading and music.
Rose is the baby of the family. She is artistic like her parents (although she tends to use unusual mediums and canvases for her work), and she is strong willed in a way that many readers dislike, but I don’t mind at all. Rose tends to cause trouble, so thank goodness her older siblings are willing to go to bat for her.
Eve is the mother. She is an artist who tends to be scatterbrained and sometimes lives in her painting shed for days on end. Despite her shortcomings and her utter lack of cooking ability, her children love her dearly.
Bill is the father, and he is the one character in these books who comes off as absolutely terrible. Bill is disdainful of his wife, her inability to cook or keep the house in order, his children’s escapades, and especially Eve’s art, which he deems “not exactly art” as compared with his own Art that he paints in London. Bill has basically deserted his family, only coming back on the weekends (and later in the books, not at all) and always being glad when he can leave his messy, crazy family. Later on in the series, some even more questionable information about Bill is revealed, and I think he is forgiven far too easily. What a jerk!
If you can get past Bill’s bad, irritating behavior, I think you’ll find a lot to love about this series and the family that populates it. Great for a rainy afternoon, a sick day, or anytime you want some sweet, comforting, slightly quirky characters to keep you company.
Note: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world.I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. (Summary via Amazon.com)
Before I picked up Everything, Everything, I had already heard mountains of good things about it. I couldn’t believe it was still available on NetGalley, so I immediately requested it and devoured it in one day. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t say a word to my husband when he got home, because I was 85% of the way through the book! He had to wait patiently until I had finished the book, and I immediately began describing the whole plot to him. And then I told my sister and my sister-in-law and my bookish friends on Facebook that they absolutely had to read the book.
If you haven’t gathered already, I adored this book. It lived up to the hype 100%. I won’t describe too much of the story to you (unlike what I did to my poor husband), because part of the fun is discovering Maddy’s world for yourself. But here’s the gist of it: Maddy has a very rare immune disease that basically makes her allergic to everything. She lives in a bubble world, where her house is completely airtight, the only people allowed in and out are Maddy’s mom and her full time nurse, and Maddy is protected in a sterile room full of books and bland foods. But when Olly moves in next door, he starts communicating with Maddy, and, of course, they fall in love. With Maddy unable to leave her house, she must decide what it means to truly live.
The romance in this book was very sweet. I’m not usually into books centered on romance, but this one was pretty adorable and believable, and there was enough plot happening to keep it from getting sappy. The style of the book was also kind of unexpected–scattered throughout the book are Maddy’s drawings and worksheets, which are funny and/or cute additions to the plot. And the drama! Again, I usually don’t go in for drama like this book has, and I know a lot of people will dislike the ending of this book for that very reason, but somehow it worked for me.
For those who are squeamish about such things, there is a very short, vaguely described sex scene in this book. But please don’t let that deter you from reading it! It’s very easy to skim over if it makes you uncomfortable.
This book is recommended for fans of RainbowRowell and John Green, and having read both of these YA authors, I’d have to agree. Nicola Yoon provides a fresh, unexpected ride of a novel, and I can’t recommend it to you enough.
I can’t say enough how much I loved this book. And I was not really expecting to! I love when that happens… Basically, the premise is that Mark Watney is an astronaut, one of the first to land on Mars. But his crew is forced to abandon him during a storm, and they think he’s dead, so he has to fend for himself on a hostile planet. This kind of realistic sci-fi is not usually my cup of tea, but this time I was all over it.
First of all, this book is surprisingly funny! Much of the book is told through Mark’s journal entries as he does his best to survive on Mars, and his sense of humor keeps him (and us) from despairing, even when things look bleak. Secondly, this book seems so realistic. I’m no scientist or space expert, but I could totally see these things actually happening. Fortunately, they got a real astronaut to write a blurb for the back cover, and he was pretty convinced, too.
I am so excited that The Martian is going to be a movie. Usually I hate book-to-movie adaptations, especially of books I loved, but I can’t wait to see the movie version! The viewpoint changes from Mark’s life on Mars to his fellow astronauts at the space station to the people on earth who are just realizing that Mark is still alive. It brought to mind a space version of Air Force One, and even as I was reading the book, I could totally see it as a movie.
Definitely read this book, even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy it. The technical talk is kept to a minimum, and the humor and high-stakes plot will keep you interested through the last page.
You may remember from my Hobbit review that I’m taking part in the Reading to Distraction reading challenge this year. In this challenge, based on a BuzzFeed article, you read one favorite childhood book, and then read a similar, grown-up version. It has taken me a while to get around to the next book pairing on my list, because of the “adult book” in the pairing.
The books in this pairing are Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (if you’re a long time reader of this blog, you can probably see where this is going) and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. According to the BuzzFeed article, here’s the connection:
Walk Two Moons is a story within a story, told by a girl longing for her missing mother. The tale she weaves is fantastical, tinged with spirituality, mysticism, grief, a bit of romance, and rich descriptions of the land. Marquez’s epic masterpiece widens the scope of each of those themes. In a long and entrancing history of the mythical town of Macondo, he writes about love, revolution, prosperity, loss, and the tragic rise and fall of a family.
Walk Two Moons
The Newbery book Walk Two Moons is one of my favorite books of all time. I loved it as a kid, and I continue to reread it even now. Sal is a fantastic character, and her world is populated with the same kind of offbeat but lovable characters that Sharon Creech is so good at writing. There’s a bit of mystery, some humor, and some very moving moments as Sal regales her grandparents with the tale of her friend’s missing mother, as they journey to visit Sal’s own missing mother. The story is one you won’t soon forget, and it holds up to repeated re-readings.
Rating: Re-read Worthy
One Hundred Years of Solitude Unfortunately, this book did not even come close to the power of Walk Two Moons for me. One Hundred Years left me feeling confused and often bored. First of all, all the characters have the same names. I get that the author is using that as a tool to connect the generations of this messed-up family and show that time, for them, is circular and repetitive, but I still had an incredibly hard time figuring out who was who. The book was full of magical realism–not often something I enjoy–and it was often more atmospheric than plot-oriented (if you want to see my previous ventures into hefty, atmospheric books, look here and here).
Rating: Not My Cup of Tea
Now that I’ve read both books in this pairing, I can sort of see why BuzzFeed chose to put these two together. Both have an almost magical feel at times (though the level of this magic varies wildly), and both have a sense of timelessness, in that the characters do not seem to experience time in the same way that we do. However, I was very disappointed not to find a grown-up version of my childhood favorite, Walk Two Moons. But maybe that’s okay–maybe Walk Two Moons is just as grown up as it needs to be. It certainly didn’t suffer in my latest re-reading, and I definitely recommend that you pick it up, no matter what your age.