REVIEW: Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

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Silver is 13 when her mother disappoints her for the last time. The plan had been for the two of them to go abroad and see the world. Instead her mother is taken in by Miller, and the three of them relocate to Hope Farm, a failing commune. At Hope Farm Silver sees things no 13 year old should, but also finds a friend, and finally starts to feel for the first time she has a home.

This book kept me on the edge of my seat, hoping that Silver would be okay. Although this book has very little actual violence the threat and fear is always there, and this story spoke to the mother and daughter in me. This is a powerful coming of age story, and I recommend it.

This book was provided in exchange for an honest review by Library Thing Early Readers. It comes out in the U.S. on August 20th.

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One Book Per Decade

I was reading something the other day, and got it in my head that I should pick one book per decade in the 1900's to read this year. Here is the list I came up with:

1900-1909

1910-1919

1920-1929

1930-1939

1940-1949

1950-1959

1960-1969

1970-1979

1980-1989

1990-1999

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Books that are saving my life right now...

I've been in a funk since December. Nothing major has happened to me personally, but there has been a churning persistence of drama that seems to follow me wherever I go.  I got robbed, I've been sick for weeks, too many nice people in my life have died, and then there is the news. Thank goodness I have books to keep me going.

I've been incapable of sticking to any sort of reading list. Instead I have been turning to some old favorites for escape.

The Martian by Andy Weir - I've been embracing the spirit of Mark Watney lately when faced with tasks that seem impossible. If he could get off Mars, I can get my work projects done.

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - This is, of course, a pretty grim book. But McCourt tells it with a sense of humor, something I've lost, but am trying to get back right now.

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani - I really like Ave Maria, the main character in this book. My favorite thing about her is that she doesn't see her life set in stone. She considers herself an old maid, but is willing to change it all. The audiobook read by the author added another layer of greatness to this book.

Any books saving your life lately?

Note: This post is linked to Modern Mrs. Darcy's mid-winter list of things that are saving her life.

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What happened when I tried to do a read-a-thon

Since I joined Litsy I've been reading about all sorts of intriguing book clubs and read-a-thons. I decided it might be fun to try the 24 in 48 read-a-thon, and since I live near DC I had a 3 day weekend for the Inauguration. The essence of the thing is you should spend 24 out of 48 hours reading. I figured since I had an extra day that weekend I could spend it reading.

Here's what happened:

Saturday:

4 am - My plans were dashed almost right away when I found out I would have to work on my 3 day weekend. Still I gave it a go with 103 minutes of audiobooks and programming before the kids got up.

7:30 am - After the kids were fed and the husband left for the day I spent 90 minutes reading on the couch

9 am - We had a ton of errands to run, so I spent 40 minutes in the car in between listening to audiobooks with the kids

1:30 pm - Husband is back home, we eat lunch, and putter around. I listen to more audiobooks while I clean, and spend some time on the couch reading a guide book. This amounts to 127 minutes.

5 pm - I cuddle in the bed downstairs and read out loud to the kids for 50 minutes.

6 pm - Our day is over, no one is hungry for dinner, and the kids are settled in with Minecraft. Now is when the real reading starts. I read for an estimated 300 minutes before I fall into a deep sleep and don't wake up again until the next morning.

I ended my read-a-thon though I realized that I probably needed sleep more than reading, and gave up tracking my reading time on Sunday. Still I enjoyed what reading I did do. By forcing myself to sit and read, I had a renewed energy the next day. Sleeping 13 hours might have helped too...

Books I read at least part of:

There's another read-a-thon in July. I think I'll do it again.

Have you ever done a read-a-thon?

Note: my computer keeps changing read-a-thon to read-a-thin. I wish!

Quotable 2016

One of my favorite things to do is to write down quotes from my favorite books in my reading journal. Here are some of the best from 2016.

She was upbeat and harmless as an educational toy, and it was never insincere - in fact, she was a one-woman plague of sincerity, the Patient Zero of earnest zeal.
— Kitchens of the Great Midwest
If we want to see people take risks, we have to be prepared to sometimes see them fail.
— Leaving Orbit
She had such a demanding relationship with her own reflection. Rosaleen challenged her looks, and they rose to meet her.
— The Green Road
The miracle was a quiet thing: I open my eyes and was given a chance to try.
— Left for Dead
Never discount the possibility of turning up an answer none of the current theories predicts.
— The Secret Keeper
Whatever else they may be, weeds are optimists.
— Plenty
Truth was never the point.
— The New Tsar
And the good news is that for most of us, most of the time, better times do come around eventually.
— Walking With Plato
‘Well,’ Mary said contentedly. ‘Now we can save the next part for tomorrow. Every day we can read one part, and that will make the stories last longer.’
’That’s my wise girls.’ said Ma.
So Laura did not say that she would rather read as fast as she could.
— By the Shores of Silver Lake
I don’t care who you are or who you saved, you are a constant curse on my family Harry Potter.
— Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The real gift of the holiday season, A.J. thinks, is that it ends.
— The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

What a good reading year! I can't wait to see what 2017 brings.

The Best Summer Brain Candy

I try to read with a purpose, but in the summer I need some brain candy. Here are three I loved this year.

In the audiobook version of The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza the narrator reads out the emojis at the end of emails in an awesomely crazy voice. An can't miss audiobook if you need a laugh.

If you generally like Sittenfeld's books you'll smile at her take on the classic Pride and Prejudice. If you don't you will think it's horrible racist dribble. I fall in the first camp.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a delightfully gosippy book with a satisfying ending. Get ready to google search everyone in this novel based on the life of Truman Capote.

What was the best brain candy you read this summer?

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September Quick Lit

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

Summer reading season always ends too quickly...

It's mid-September, and I think we can all agree summer reading time is over. Here's what I read in the last few carefree weeks of summer.

I'm not sure what to think about The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng. The subject, WWII, was brutal, but the cadence of the book was soothing. This is the first book I added to my TBR when I started my LibraryThing account. Now that I finally read it I'm sure it will stay with me for a long, long time.

I read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume in order to fill in a few blanks for some reading challenges. I'm glad I took the time, because this book is still a masterpiece. I was the same age as my son is now when I first read this book, and re-reading it this summer brought back a lot of my 3rd grade feelings. It was a timely reminder.

Walking With Plato by Gary Hayden tells the story of a walk. He reads and he thinks as he goes, and this book is a simple yet satisfying unpacking of his thoughts. He wasn't trying to write a book as he set off, and the reader gets a much better story for it. This was a five star read for me, and may end up as my favorite of the year.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin made me want to drop everything and read Truman Capote books all day and night. I had no idea that this was a fictional retelling of his relationships with the Fifth Avenue elite until I started, and it was such a lovely surprise. Sometimes when you pick a book by its cover it works out for you.

Brush Back by Sara Paretsky is the latest V.I. Warshawski novel. It's not the greatest in the series, but it was still worth reading. True story - when I was finally allowed to take books out of the adult section of my local public library growing up I randomly grabbed one of the first V.I. mysteries, and I haven't stopped reading them since.

Walking The Amazon by Ed Stafford was another book about walking -kind of a theme for me lately. This was a solid adventure story. It wasn't the best written of the bunch, but it was enough to make you want to run away from home and do something crazy.

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

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Happy birthday, Gatsby

Last weekend The Great Gatsby turned 90. Now I don't pick favorite books, but if I had to Gatsby would be in consideration for top dog. I love the concise descriptions -  they tell you so much with just a few words.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
”Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.
They’re a rotten crowd’, I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.
I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
It takes two to make an accident.

REVIEW: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I do not like postmodernism, postapocolyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be - basically gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other magical world tragedy to be distasteful - nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and cross breeding rarely results in anything satisfying.
— The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

It only took me until page 13 to fall in love with A.J. Fikry, the grumpy bookseller main character from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Really, isn't it every bookworm's dream to find someone who can talk so eloquently about what they do or don't like in a book?

I put off reading about Mr. Fikry for ages because for some reason I thought this book was about time travel. I'm so glad I finally picked it up last week, because it ended up being one of those books that I loved so much I could only read magazines for a few days after I finished. There was a satisfying love story, a great father daughter relationship, just enough drama to make it a story, and an emotional ending that was sad but not in a manipulative way. And that is what I love in a book.

Other books that were so good I could only read magazines for a while:

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REVIEW: The Green Road by Anne Enright

I read about The Green Road on Library Thing, and thought it sounded like the perfect book for me. I love Irish family sagas. Then I picked the book up from the library, and saw it had been longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. I avoided it for a while then because I assumed that meant unlikable characters with an unresolved ending. It was only a looming library due date with a holds list three people deep that kept me from renewing this book that got me to give it a try.

An old picture from a trip to Western Ireland I took in college. The trip that started my love for Irish family sagas. 

An old picture from a trip to Western Ireland I took in college. The trip that started my love for Irish family sagas. 

You know what? The characters were pretty unlikable, and the ending was a bit unresolved, but I still loved this book. Despite their total selfishness, the characters read true, and Enright's writing was beautiful and efficient. She used just the right words. She let you know what was going on in the way F. Scott Fitzgerald told you all about Jordan Baker just by the way she drove.

Don't be scared off by this book's success. The Green Road is exactly the Irish family drama you were hoping for.

REVIEW: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a love story between a town and some books. Yes, actual people fall in love too, but the love story between people and books is more believable and satisfying. It's not that there's anything wrong with the person to person love stories. It's just that the example of a run down town that starts with almost nothing, but is completely transformed into a place people want to live once it gets a book store is so satisfying. It's economic and social policy that makes more sense than anything you'll see in a presidential debate.

The story starts off simply enough. A Swedish girl goes to visit her pen pal in Broken Wheel, Iowa. The only problem is she shows up just as her pen pal's funeral is ending. The town puts her up, because it's the right thing to do, and they take care of all her needs. However, it doesn't seem right to come all the way to Iowa only to let others make hamburgers for her and make her coffee. All alone, and without purpose, she decides to pay back the town's kindnesses by opening a book shop. The town is doubtful, but as all bookworms know, a small bookstore can solve everything.

If you love reading you'll love this book.

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REVIEW: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

This book left me completely gutted. It's a short book - I read it in under 24 hours during one basketball practice, two metro rides, and a long, weepy lunch. It's a good thing I was working from home that day because I was a wreck.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is the story of a girl who was picked on in high school, and what happens when she finally begins to stand up for herself. You'll like her daughter Polly better, but you'll relate more to Caroline. This book is full of wacky characters, but winds up with a wholly satisfying ending. If you ever dreamed of catching up with the kid who picked on you in high school this book is for you.

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My favorite quotes from books I read in 2015

I started keeping a written reading journal this year precisely so that I would have a good way to record quotes from the books I'm reading. Here are my favorite quotes from books I read in 2015:

From First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen:

"Motherhood is hard enough without judgment from others who don't know the whole story."

From How To Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donohue:

"And then I was alone in the tapering crowd."

From Who Could That Be At This Hour by Lemony Snickett:

"If someone wanted to torture me until I gave them critical information, all they would have to do is get my socks wet."

From Life Is a Wheel by Bruce Webster:

"One day you're a Jetson, the next you're a Flinstone."

From Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote:

"I felt in my pocket the key to this apartment; with all its gloom, it still was a place of my own, the first, and all my books were there, and jars of pencils to sharpen, everything I needed, so I felt, to become the writer I wanted to be."

From A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote:

"As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

From The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver:

"There are more words in the world than no and yes."

From Yes, Please by Amy Pohler:

"I'm tired of being tired, and talking about how tired I am."

From A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

"Never forget what you are, for the world surely will not. Make it your strength. Then it will never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you."

From Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich

"My hair was out of control by birth. Hers was by design."

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2015 Reading Challenges Wrap Up

Cape Cod, a great place for reading

Cape Cod, a great place for reading

I love to take part in various reading challenges throughout the year. In 2015 I took part in two notable ones: Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2015 Reading Challenge, and the Books on the Nightstand Summer Book BINGO. I finished Mrs. Darcy's challenge, and came close to completing the square on BINGO. Here's how I filled the categories:

2015 Reading Challenge:

A book you're been meaning to read: Station Eleven

A book published this year: I Take You

A book in a genre you don't typically read: Can't we talk about something more pleasant?

A book from your childhood: Ramona Quimby Age 8

A book your mom loves: W is for Wasted

A book that was originally written in a different language: Heidi

A book that "everyone' has read but you: Me Before You

A book you chose because of the cover: Prospect Park West

A book by a favorite author: On Writing

A book recommended by someone with great taste: Game of Thrones

A book you should have read in High School: My Antonia

A book that's currently on the bestseller list: All the Light We Cannot See

Summer Reading BINGO:

Published before 1970: A Separate Peace

Cozy Mystery: The Nightingale Before Christmas (Meg Langslow Mysteries)

Set in a place you want to visit: Doctor Sleep

10 Short Stories: stories by O. Henry, Maeve Binchy, Truman Capote, and from the journal One Story

An audiobook: I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time

A presidential biography: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Nonfiction: Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space

A novella: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Borrowed from the library: Never Let Me Go

Free Square: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)

With only words on the cover: W is for Wasted (Kinsey Millhone Mysteries)

With a red cover: How to Eat a Cupcake: A Novel

Travel writing: Life Is a Wheel: Memoirs of a Bike-Riding Obituarist

By an author of a different gender: Jurassic Park: A Novel 

Started but never finished: One Summer: America, 1927

Young adult novel: The Fever: A Novel

That you've pretended to have read: To Kill a Mockingbird

Currently on the bestseller list: The Girl on the Train

Found in a used bookstore: The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel

Fantasy: Wizard and Glass: (The Dark Tower #4)(Revised Edition)

Squares I missed:
A play
With a number in the title
By an author of a different culture
Recommended by a librarian or a bookseller
With a one-word title

What book challenges are you looking forward to in 2016?

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This post is linked to The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Eight classics I want to read in 2016

I'm in the middle of a multi-year attempt to read all of the classics I missed (or didn't pay enough attention to) in high school. Here are the 8 I've assigned myself to read in 2016.

You can click on any of the images above to see a description on amazon.com.

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Because I needed more books on my TBR: what I've added lately

In my world, all of the best of books lists that come out this time of year are more exciting than Christmas morning. I've been devouring them for the past week or so, and now I have hundreds of new to me books on my to-be-read list. Here are some of the highlights:

I can hardly wait! Happy reading!

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Quick Lit December 2015

My reading this month has been pretty diverse - from cookbooks to drug dealers I've read it all. Most of the year I stick pretty closely to my reading lists, and spend a fair amount of time reading ARCs. This time of year though I just read what I want. It's kind of like my attitude towards desserts this time of year. If I see it, and I want it, I go for it!

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner isn't a fluffy chick lit novel. It takes on the serious topic of addiction. The main character makes many, many mistakes, and is a somewhat unreliable narrator. However she was likable, and I found myself rooting for her. 

I really liked Cooked by Jeff Henderson. I found it at the library when I was looking for something else, and read it on a whim. If you missed this book when it came out, I suggest you give it a try. It really gives an inside look at the life of a drug dealer, and what it takes to come back from a prison sentence.

Until we read The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz out loud, I didn't know a pig could be so inspiring. This kept my 7 year old boy and my 4 year old girl interested, and it made a great next read after Charlotte's Web.

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center wasn't the best book I've read all year, but it had some good spots. It worked as an audiobook.

I listened to All The Wrong Questions - Shouldn't You Be In School by Lemony Snicket in my car while I was driving to get groceries or running my kids around. I usually find these in the kid's section of the library, but I think a lot of it goes over my kids' heads. At least I know there's not going to be any swearing so they're car safe.

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