Book Review: “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops”

Book twenty five of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Jen Campbell’s Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

I’m officially halfway through my 2019 Reading Challenge! I know I’m a little behind, but I’m still confident I will finish 50 books before the year is over.

To celebrate my halfway point I read a book of collected quotes and conversations from bookstore customers. As an avid reader and purchaser of books, I’ve spent a decent amount of time in bookstores. I’ve certainly overheard my fair share of strange questions in bookstores and regular stores for that matter so I found this collection very entertaining and worth the read.

One of my favorites:

Customer: I just don’t like my Kindle. I like real books. They are like cozy blankets to me.

Mary Jane Reed – G. J. Ford Bookstore, St. Simmons, GA

I relate to that quote so much. I was given a Kindle for my birthday a couple years ago and haven’t touched it in probably a year and a half. One day I’ll pick it up again, but for now I have plenty of physical paper page books.

Stay tuned for my next review and the rest of the 25 books of my challenge: The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Book Review: “The Last Battle”

Book twenty four of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle

The seventh and final book in the Chronicles of Narnia brings closure to the entire series. We get to see all our favorite characters once again in Narnia which wraps up the seven books nicely.

The story focuses on an impostor Aslan that is beginning to destroy Narnia with the help of the Calormene, Narnia’s not-so-nice neighbors. The current king of Narnia, a decedent of Prince Caspian, attempts to thwart the fake Aslan but cannot do so without help. Here is where we see Jill and Eustace from The Silver Chair return.

Jill, Eustace and the king gather what faithful Narnians they can find to expose the fake Aslan and revolt against the army of Calormene. Unfortunately, the land is divided and many Narnians perish at the hands of other Narnians. All that Narnia stands far begins to crumble and Jill and Eustace begin to realize the fate of their favorite land is dismal.

I don’t want to give away too much or what happens in the end, but we get to see the Penvensies and even Polly and Digory, the children from The Magician’s Nephew. The return of characters from past books really brings together the story of the series as a whole and creates an all-encompassing ending.

I really enjoyed reading this series and recommend it to anyone that enjoyed the movies. The movies didn’t tell the whole story and the whole story is worth telling (reading).

Stay tuned for my next review: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell.

Book Review: “I Was Here”

Book twenty three of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Gayle Forman’s I Was Here

Forman, the author of If I Stay and Where She Went, brings another coming-of-age novel to the YA genre with I Was Here.

I don’t think I will ever get out of the YA genre. Maybe when I’m in my 60s, but right now I really like reading YA and Forman is a great YA writer. I read If I Stay and Where She Went when I was in high school and really liked the books and style of writing. I Was Here is another great addition to Forman’s novels.

The novel is about Cody, a young adult, who has recently lost her best friend to suicide. She spends the novel investigating her death and coping with the fact that she never saw it coming. In her investigation she finds new friends and learns a lot about more about her best friend. And like all coming-of-age novels the main character learns more about herself as well.

I really liked this novel because Cody’s character showed tremendous love and dedication to her best friend and also grew throughout the novel because of that love and dedication. I really enjoy character development and Cody’s character developed throughout the story in many different ways. It kept me engaged and I wanted to keep reading after every chapter.

The topic of suicide is always touchy no matter what medium you’re talking through. I think Forman handled it very well considering teenage suicide is a topic that is hard to talk about in an appropriate way. She handled the overall situation with a story about what happens after someone is gone and how friends and family have to handle it. The actual suicide was only mentioned as a past event and had very little detail which I think is the best way to approach it.

Another non-plot related aspect that I really liked in Forman’s novel was the short chapter length. I think having shorter chapters keeps the reader in focus and it makes reading easier in a way. I also think it’s a great approach to YA writing.

Overall I really enjoy Gayle Forman’s novels and her writing style in particular. I recommend this book with caution of course. If you’re sensitive to the topic of suicide I’d consider another book.

Stay tuned for my next review: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Book Review: “An Age of License: A Travelogue”

Book twenty two of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Lucy Knisley’s An Age of License: A Travelogue

With this reading challenge I am trying to expand my ‘read books’ repertoire and read more than just novels. If you’ve been following along you’ll know that I’ve been reading poetry collections a lot lately. In addition to the poetry books I’m also trying graphic novels. Enter Lucy Knisley, a New York Times best selling cartoonist and her amazing graphic novels.

An Age of License: A Travelogue is both a graphic novel and journal from one of Lucy’s trips to Europe. It’s a very insightful book that focuses on the unknown that a young woman faces when starting her adult life. Lucy is experiencing heartbreak but also seeking adventure and questioning what the next step is for herself.

Besides having the funds to disappear to Europe for a vacation, Lucy’s life mirrors that of someone my age. That’s what made me really enjoy the overall story and ultimate conclusion about being true to yourself and doing what you want to do. Each day in Lucy’s graphic journal she gets to not only explore the area of Europe she’s in but she learns something new about herself in a way.

The small stories about Lucy’s adventures were great and because of the graphic novel style the reader also got to see a bit of what Lucy saw. It adds to the reading experience in a different way. Lucy’s experiences were obviously genuine and it was nice to read about someone’s more vulnerable life incidents to learn from in a totally different way.

Overall I really enjoyed the graphic novel and would recommend it to any young girls who are just trying to figure out what the next step in their life is.

Stay tuned for my next review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Book Review: “The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One”

Book twenty one of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Amanda Lovelace’s The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One

This collection of poems is book two of Amanda Lovelace’s ‘Women Are Some Kind of Magic‘. The first is The Princess Says Herself in This One, which I reviewed earlier this month.

I enjoyed this collection more than the first installment because of the content and overall message.

I think empowering women is a great subject to write about in today’s climate. Poetry can be a powerful medium to speak out about what’s happening in society and Lovelace does it in a beautifully artistic way.

I’m slowly falling in love with poetry and I’m itching to write some of my own. I think reading poetry can really boost someone’s feelings in a positive way. I’ve needed a little bit of a pick-me-up recently and this book did exactly that, it gave me something to look forward to, something to strive for. Thank you Amanda Lovelace.

I’m hoping to finish off this trio of poetry books and I recommend you pick it up as well. Especially if you’re a woman in need of a little inspiration.

Stay tuned for my next review: An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley.

Book Review: “The Silver Chair”

Book twenty of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair

The sixth book in the Chronicles of Narnia brings a new adventure and new characters to the series. I remember this being one of my favorite movies from the BBC film adaptations because of the characters and the different style of adventure it brought.

In this book we see Eustace, cousin to the Penvensie children, again with a new character, a schoolmate named Jill Pole. Eustace and Jill are summoned to Narnia by Aslan to help find and return Prince Caspian’s son who has been missing for 10 Narnian years. And if you’ve ever read the series or seen the movies you’ll know that in Narnia time moves differently. So when Eustace arrives again in Narnia he doesn’t realize the old frail king about to board a ship is his old friend Caspian.

After arriving and missing the chance to speak with his old friend, Eustace and Jill head out to find the lost prince with four key clues given to Jill by Aslan. Now this is where another new character is introduced and the adventure begins. Jill, who has just been introduced in this book, plays a key role in the journey that encompasses the book’s plot. Even though Jill is a new character I found that she fit well in Narnia. I liked that even though Eustace was the returning character the plot was focused on her and her own challenges. Her character really made or broke the individual tasks that made up the entire adventure.

The adventure in this book is similar to all the other books but with different challenges, tasks and settings for the characters. This was an aspect of the book that I really enjoyed because it took the characters outside of the areas we readers have already learned about in other books of the series. The tasks and challenges presented to the characters were unique compared to others thus keeping my interest.

In addition to the new characters, tasks and challenges and settings, the book was very fast paced which kept me interested and engaged. This cannot be said about the other books in the series so I found this refreshing.

I’m happy to have continued reading this series and with only one book left I am actually a bit sad about it all ending. Overall the series is an easy read and I enjoyed being able to read the books in only a few settings. I still recommend reading this series to anyone who is okay reading YA.

I won’t be jumping straight into the final installment of The Chronicles of Narnia quite yet, but I will read The Last Battle soon and post an overall series review.

Stay tuned for my next review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace.

Book Review: “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin”

Book nineteen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

To give you a bit of background for this collection of sonnets, Hayes wrote them during the first 200 days of Donald Trump’s presidency. Each poem is titled ‘American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin’ hence the name of the collection.

Each poem has its own unique story and meaning and sheds light on how Hayes interprets what has occurred during the presidency. I found each poem to be very detailed and very well put together. I am not a political person by any means. I learn what I need to know and I leave it at that.

I can’t say whether or not I’d recommend this collection of poems because even though I enjoyed the deep meaning and poetic writings I’m not sure how others would feel about the interpretation.

So this review is going to be short and sweet.

Stay tuned for the next review: The Silver Chair, book six in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I promise this will be the next book review. I know I’ve been reading it for a while now but I am still determined to finish the entire series.

Book Review: “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered”

Book eighteen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark’s Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered

If you are a fellow murderino and haven’t read this book yet, you need to go out right now, buy the book and dive into it. Right now. This is not a drill.

If you have no idea what a murderino is, then this book, and subsequent review, might not be for you. In that case, I suggest you go to wherever you listen to podcasts and start ‘My Favorite Murder‘ which is categorized as a True-Crime Comedy podcast that will forever change your perspective on murder. It’s a fantastic podcast that I discovered about a year ago and have become (minorly) obsessed with. This book is a dual autobiography from the podcast queens behind ‘My Favorite Murder’, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.

I never thought I would be a fan of biographies but after reading two in the past seven months (the first was Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody) I can say that they are worth the read. A large portion of published biographies are from people that have become famous in one way or another and so my first impression was always that the stories they were going to tell were only going to be about how famous they were and how fame has been the best thing to happen to them, blah, blah, blah. So far though, I’ve been proven wrong.

I’d say that my favorite part about biographies and this dual one in particular are that they are so real and genuine in their stories and experiences and it’s refreshing. There is a lot of vulnerability when it comes to writing your own biography and usually the writer is selective in the stories they tell. If a writer decides to tell a story that is extremely personal they usually leave out a few details or make it a short story. Karen and Georgia didn’t follow this model. They let it all out and I loved it.

Their stories followed a less than traditional style because it was an autobiography for two people rather than one. Instead of starting at the beginning of their lives and following a timeline, they chose specific lessons that they had learned and both wrote about their experiences respectively. The chosen theme or lesson of the chapter was broken down with two different experiences (one from Karen and one from Georgia) that helped me realize that even if you don’t have the same background as someone else, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t had to learn the same things and usually the hard way. And that hard way can be unique to the individual. It truly melded together the two authors lives’ pre-podcast.

One thing that I expected was that there would be a lot of stories from the post-podcast conception year and how the podcast has changed their lives, but there were very few tidbits about that time. A lot of the stories came from growing up, becoming an adult and living as an adult who has no idea what they are doing in their lives. Those stories are what really drew me in and kept me reading.

Plus who doesn’t love honest, no bullshit chapter titles like “Buy Your Own Shit” and “Fuck Politeness”. All the chapter titles are quotes from their podcast and they truly encapsulate some wonderful life lessons while tying back into the podcast.

And truly all those life lessons ultimately tie back to ‘The Definitive How-To Guide‘ portion of the book title. Staying sexy is important because who doesn’t feel on top of the world when they feel sexy? And the not getting murdered part is simple: there are a lot of situations in life when you are getting murdered in a “not-actually-dying” way. I know I’ve definitely used the “that test murdered me” exaggeration a time or two. Life can be murderous and sometimes you just need a little insight from someone else to know that it’s not the real end.

Having people that have your back and can understand your mood swings and quirks can be so much more help than you realize. Kilgariff and Hardstark’s honestly about this and not being afraid to ask for help got me thinking a lot about how I can help myself. Their openness about seeing a therapist both in this book and on their podcast really shows that it’s okay to see someone and I think a lot of people need to see and hear about those experiences because having that type of outlet really can make a difference in someone’s life. The general honesty and openness in this book was what made it so relatable and I loved every page of it.

Now if you thought that this book was going to get gruesome about some actual murders, you’ll be disappointed. But if you are someone who enjoys honest advice given from two women who have seen quite a bit in their lives, then this is definitely the book for you. With both of those things being said, if you have not listened to ‘My Favorite Murder’ then you need to check it out first. That way you get the gruesome murders you were probably hoping for in this book and then you can understand the handful of inside jokes that you might not get if you’ve never heard Kilgariff and Hardstark on the podcast.

A must read for all murderinos and please, please, please check out ‘My Favorite Murder’ wherever you listen to podcasts.

Stay tuned for the next review, it will be either: The Silver Chair, book six in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis or American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes.

Book Review: “Fierce Fairytales”

Book seventeen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Nikita Gill’s Fierce Fairytales: Poems & Stories to Stir Your Soul

Keeping with the poetry theme, I decided to put a couple of books of poetry on hold at the library and of course all three came at once and I’m loving reading them all. This particular book is the best of both worlds because it includes both poems and short stories.

Gill’s take on classic fairytales is unique and gives the meaning to the stories a whole new perspective. I honestly couldn’t put this book down because I wanted to keep reading the different adaptations of the stories I’ve know since I was a child.

The interpretation of each story wasn’t just different from the classic tale. It told the story with elements of today’s societal flaws in between the lines. A lot of modern poetry has deeper meaning and tells a story that many can relate to and these certainly did. I found the poem below in particular to be very powerful.

If you ever want to have
a look at the way a word
can totally demean and destroy
the entire worth and value of a woman
just look at what the word ‘ugly’
did to Cinderella’s two stepsisters.

Two Misunderstood Stepsisters

Even though there are only a few words in the poem it talks about something millions of women can relate to. It also speaks on a historical literary level. Almost every young girl has read, been read or seen the classic fairy tales so isn’t it possible that the literature we read to entertain and excite creativity also perpetrates a sense of demeaning oneself? It’s certainly something to ponder.

This book of poetry was not only a fantastic read, but also encouraged a new way of thinking about the classic tales we all loved as children. I highly recommend the collection to anyone that loves poetry, short stories and the classics. And I encourage those of you that read the book to think a bit more about the stories’ meaning.

Stay tuned for the next review: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by podcast queens Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.

Book Review: “The Princess Saves Herself in This One”

Book sixteen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Amanda Lovelace’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One

I’ve been trying to get into poetry more because there’s just something about reading exactly how you feel in words that you would have never chosen to use. I love reading books and escaping to another world, but poetry keeps you in your own world and usually says so much with only a few carefully put together words.

If you’ve been keeping up with some of my other book reviews you’ll know that I read both Rupi Kaur’s poetry books and fell in love with her writing. It was the connection I made with her poetry that I really enjoyed. When a piece of writing is relatable it’s more interesting to read. Lovelace’s writing wasn’t that of Kaur’s, but both developed that relation. The poets have different styles (as most should in my opinion) but they both had powerful poems that told similar stories and had impactful meaning.

One of the poems for this book that I found so powerful summarized a feeling that’s hard for most to describe and did so with only 16 words. The style of writing that Lovelace uses in this poem, and the entire collection, is unique and I really enjoyed it.

A review of The Princess Saves Herself in This One on Goodreads criticized the multiple lines of single words and how it wasn’t considered poetry and “anyone can do it”. I disagree. I think poetry isn’t just about the words written on a page. There’s a style choice when it comes to the layout of those words. It gives the poem itself character and I think this style for Lovelace’s collection in this book is spot on for the character and message of the poems themselves.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and will certainly look into some of the author’s other collections. Lovelace’s style is short and sweet but packs a lot of emotion which is the best aspect of poetry. If you haven’t dipped your toe into the poetry pool I suggest you do. It’s usually a quick read but gives you perspective on how others are interpreting things you are also experiencing.

Stay tuned for the next review. I’ve been jumping around reading a few books, which I don’t do often so it could be any of these: Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by podcast queens Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark; The Silver Chair, book six in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis; Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill; or American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes.

Book Review: “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

Book fifteen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The fifth book in the Chronicles of Narnia was the third movie made by Disney. It follows Prince Caspian in both the book and movie.

I have to admit I am getting a bit burned out on these books, but I am still determined to finish the entire series.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader had similar plot differences with the film adaptation as Prince Caspian did. Some details were different and some order of events were swapped around. But, of course, that is to be expected with film adaptations of books.

I did enjoy this book more than I enjoyed the last. I think the detail and flow of this story was better and had more action and development. I, personally, like the two younger Pevensie children more and so having them be the only two in this book was more enjoyable. Lucy’s character is always ready for adventure and ready to learn new things. She develops more and more as a young lady as the books fo on and I really enjoyed her personal battles in this book.

I also enjoyed the new character Eustace, Lucy and Edmund’s cousin. He definitely isn’t a likable person at the beginning but his growth in the book is relatable and was fun to follow. His experiences were other worldly, but they parallel many things that young children experience in the real world which makes him a key character for young readers to bond with.

This one is a bit short, but as I’ve said in all my review of this series, I’d recommend reading it.

Stay tuned for the next review: The Silver Chair, book six in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis or Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by podcast queens Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.

Book Review: “Prince Caspian”

Book fourteen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian

The fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia was the second movie made by Disney, so naturally it’s the second most well known, behind The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that is.

I’d seen the movie before reading the book so reading it was easier than some that had not been made into movies. I will say, unlike the second book, first movie, the book and movie had more differences.

The book had far less detail and adventure than the movie, which was a bit of a let down. Generally speaking the books usually have more detail, more adventure and more subplots. Prince Caspian fell short of this generalization which was a bit disappointing.

Overall the book follows the same general plot as the movie. (You’d hope so considering the movie was based on the book) The main parts from the movie that were generated by the script writers differing from the book were as follows:

  • In the movie, the arrival of the Pevensie children was at the very beginning when Caspian realized he was in danger of being killed by his greedy uncle and had just escaped the castle. In the book, Caspian has already gathered the old Narnians and faced his uncle’s army in small battles before he blows Susan’s horn.

This part of the plot in the book seems more realistic to me, as Caspian’s tutor said to only use the horn in grave danger, and for those that have seen the movie, Caspian blows the horn when a simple dwarf approaches him. It however sets up a whole line of events differently from the movie.

  • With this first plot differentiation throwing things into a whole new timeline it makes sense that other’s don’t follow accordingly. The second major part is that the battle at the castle never happens in the book. When the Pevensies finally arrive to aid Caspian, the single combat battle between King Peter and Miraz, Caspian’s uncle happens within a day.

The battle at Miraz’s castle was to hopefully gain ground and avoid a larger battle in the movie’s plot line and without this battle the plot goes straight into the large battle outside of Aslan’s How. This shortens the story quite a bit and actually gives way to another difference in plots.

  • The Pevensies finally meet Caspian at Aslan’s How where the old Narnian army has been for days, fighting small battles with the Telmarine army as said above, but they do not meet him by shear happenstance, like the the movie. Aslan himself leads them which cuts out the whole chase and race for Lucy to find him to bring aid during the final battle.

This part is portrayed differently in the book. Aslan brings the children and the dwarf from one place to just outside of Aslan’s How. Here he sends Peter and Edmund and the dwarf to the How where the army and Caspian are. During this time Susan, Lucy and Aslan get all the trees, driads, etc. that have been dormant since the downfall of old Narnia. Aslan still makes a “just in time” appearance with reinforcements, but it is nothing like the suspense the movie built for the same battle scene.

Now believe me, I hate making comparisons between a book and its movie adaptation, but this was the opposite of the usual book vs. movie conversation. It worked well in a way because I watched the movie before reading the book so I got the heavier details first, and then read the book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book because it was a bit different from the movie so I didn’t expect every thing that occurred. The plot was a bit back and forth as it was told first from the Penvensies perspective and then went back in time to show Caspian’s and then eventually came together.

I’m not a huge fan of this style of writing because it can come off very confusing. It was not a single chapter going back and forth between the two perspectives it was several chapters at once and then several chapters from the second perspective and then back again.

I also thought for a book titled Prince Caspian that the book wasn’t really about Prince Caspian. It seemed like the character development I expected, and saw in other books in the series, was lacking in this one.

I will, however, continue to recommend this series as a whole. Each book is a very easy read and worth the story it tells.

Stay tuned for the next review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, book five in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.