Book Review: “The Nightingale”

I read this book from a recommendation and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. I have never been a huge historical fiction person, but I really enjoyed this story and got to a point where I couldn’t put it down. I even ended up purchasing the book after my library borrow time had expired and I hadn’t quite finished the book yet.

I was not the best history student in school and didn’t retain much about World War II which made me look up a lot while reading this book. It’s fictional in the individual stories but the history is accurate and I genuinely learned more about the war and how truly devastating it was. I obviously knew it was tragic, but didn’t fully grasp the personal stories outside of those in camps. In school you don’t really get to hear about personal stories, what you learn are mostly general, broad ideas and timelines.

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale follows the personal stories of two sisters living in World War II occupied France. One sister, Vianne, and her young daughter are living in a small town that becomes host to several Nazi captains, one of which requisitions her household while her husband heads to the front line. The other, Isabelle, continues her teenage rebellious tendencies and joins the resistance determined to undermine the Nazi regime and operate right under their noses.

The best element of the book was the emotional tone that came through and made the narrative so engaging. It was the two personal stories that made it great. I felt for the characters and every up and down they had. I felt the emotions they were feeling and that’s what kept me reading nonstop for hours on end. I didn’t want to put it down because I had to know what was next and I think that quality in a book is a sign of a great author.

I think many authors can go wrong when writing fictional novels that are based on major historical events. I think there is a fine balance to writing the history and writing your own story. I’ve been afraid to read historical fiction because I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a textbook that drones on and on about the facts. I’d much rather have a story that plays into the facts of the event or time period with personal stories that are easy to follow and that the reader can latch on to.

I also think it’s important in these types of novels to really develop the characters and illustrate how they are reacting to the events transpiring around them. If you don’t have an interesting character then it’s going to feel like a textbook with little to no emotion. I think the best stories about historical tragedies encompass the heartache, the struggle and the thinking or decision making of a character living through that tragedy. And I think Hannah did that with not just one character but two very well. I also find it really enthralling because the two characters are females that are dealing with having to become strong individuals. It’s a bit different than other WW2 novels too because the majority of the ones I’ve seen or read about focus on the soldiers at war or those imprisoned in camps. This story was different and I think that’s why I chose to read it.

Overall, I was very happy reading this book and pleasantly surprised about how I couldn’t put it down despite it not being a genre I usually gravitate towards. I’ve started to recommend it to others because it is a fantastic historical fiction read and I hope those that I’ve recommended it to enjoyed it as much as I did.

World Book Day Recommendations

In honor of World Book Day I want to give my top five book recommendations. I could recommend a long list of books but these are five that I find to be great reads for anyone. I realized just the other day that I ask people for book recommendations a lot and I’m always grateful for whatever gets recommended so I might as well return the favor out into the universe. I’m definitely not a genre-specific reader, I generally like most out there and will pretty much read anything.

Here are five of my top book recommendations:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic is by far one of my favorite reads. I just love the story and the writing style of Fitzgerald. I read the book in high school for the first time and then had to read it again when I was in college for my comparative literature class. When I was in high school I definitely didn’t appreciate the story and the poetic depiction of the 1920s. When I read it again I just couldn’t believe how dense and unappreciative I was the first time reading it. Needless to say I still pick it up from time to time to read just for fun.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This is the newest addition to my favorites list. I just read it a few months ago from a recommendation and after struggling just a little to get into the story I quickly fell into the lives of the characters and couldn’t put the book down. I just loved the way it was written with historical accuracy and true emotion. I will be writing a book review for The Nightingale soon so stay tuned for that post.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another read from when I was younger that I actually enjoyed and appreciated at the time. If I remember correctly I actually read this book when I was probably too young to understand it completely but read it again when I was in high school right before the movie adaptation came out. It’s just one of those books that I really enjoyed because of the seemingly normal story that isn’t as normal as you think in the beginning. The story definitely parallels modern ideology and I think that’s what I liked about it most. It’s the similarities in stories that reflect the story of modern life in unconventional ways that make them relatable and hard to put down.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
One of my favorite books and surprisingly also one of my favorite book-to-film adaptations. I love a good mystery/drama and this one just tops my list. It’s a great twist and turn type of novel that certainly keeps you on your toes chapter after chapter. It’s a suspenseful story that you can’t stop reading.

The Poet by Michael Connelly
I absolutely love Michael Connelly’s writing and his large collection of novels. My first taste of Connelly’s books was The Poet. I think I first picked it up at the library and read it and really, really enjoyed it. I knew I liked crime novels because there’s a mystery that as a reader, I always try to figure out before I finish the book. Connelly’s writing usually keeps me guessing until the very end. I specifically resonated with this novel because it’s the introduction of a new character to Connelly’s world of crime. Instead of the original perspective of detective Bosch, it’s from the perspective of a reporter that covers the local beat in Denver. Always a great read and I hope he keeps writing so I can keep reading.

Of course there are many more books that I could recommend and a fair few series *cough, cough Harry Potter*. I’m also always open to recommendations. I find myself gravitating more towards fiction crime/suspense and then fantasy which can arguably be placed at two ends of the spectrum but alas, I still like reading any type of genre. There are more than 130 million published novels in this world and it’s honestly a shame there isn’t enough time in a life to read them all.

As always, stay tuned for more posts and more book reviews.

Day 2 of 5 Days of Love

In case you didn’t already know from reading this blog, I love getting cozy with a book and getting lost in another world.

I Love Reading

I love reading and in the past year I’ve even expanded my reading repertoire and have been using Goodreads like a social media platform. I grew up without internet until I was in high school so instead of surfing the web or playing games, I read. My mom always had a book on her nightstand and when I was old enough to read chapter books on my own she made sure I did too.

I was one of those kids that got super excited when the Scholastic Book Fair came to my school and I’d gather up all my savings just so I could buy all the books I wanted. I also borrowed books from my school’s library when I could and when I got the chance to go to the next town over where there was a public library, my mom made sure I was able to get what I wanted. I would definitely say that my love of reading came from her and I’m so thankful for that.

Reading is far different from watching a TV show or movie and I think teaching kids early that reading is fun and not just something you have to do for school is important. The accessibility to books is astonishing and I personally think that everyone should take advantage of that accessibility. When I was in middle school I babysat all summer for a family that didn’t have TV or internet in their house so I spent a lot of my Friday afternoons grabbing as many books as I could at the library so I had something to do the next week. If it wasn’t for that easy access I don’t know what I would have done for those eight hour days.

Reading for me means constantly learning and keeping my creativity alive. I love getting settled with a book that I can read for hours and get lost in the story. I don’t just read novels either, I’ve become more interested in books of poetry, graphic novels and educational books. I just finished a book on how to get organized in every room of your house and I loved it! Right now, I’m rereading the Harry Potter series because why not?

Reading is what you make of it and I know some people don’t read at all and that’s okay, but I don’t think I could ever be that type of person. I hope to read as much as I can for as long as I can because it’s part of my lifestyle and I absolutely love doing it. AND I’m always open to book suggestions so if you have any drop them in the comments below.

Stay tuned for the next three days of love!

Book Review: “The Last Time We Say Goodbye”

Book thirty nine/forty of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye

This book was a little hard to read mainly because of the central element of the story being about a teen’s suicide and how it affects those close to them. I think Cynthia Hand handles the touchy subject very well and really tells a genuine story about a sister who unexpectedly loses her brother. High school is hard enough but when your brother becomes “the kid that committed suicide” everyone starts to look at you differently and walk on eggshells whenever you enter the room. Lex faces a lot in this novel but that’s what makes her a great character.

I’ve said it multiple times before and I’ll say it again, I love character development. Lex’s character development is so well done in this novel. Saying it’s tough to deal with suicide is an understatement and you really see that through Lex’s eyes which made it kind of hard to read at times. Hand really did a great job in making the reader feel the pain Lex felt throughout the entire book so I was personally hoping that she would eventually get closure because I needed it too.

Something that I don’t like in books about touchy subjects is when an author leaves out details to “spare the audience.” I think if you’re writing a novel that has sensitive elements, it needs to be written correctly, no filter. Hand did that. If you sugar coat things or make them unrealistic, it’s not enjoyable to read. She didn’t sugar coat the story and it made it harder to read sure, but it also made in more enjoyable. Death isn’t an easy topic, but then again neither is life. The Last Time We Say Goodbye is about those not-so-easy topics. Lex deals with a lot of inner turmoil that in a way, buries her in a grave of her own thoughts and she has to find a way to dig herself out. Even though she’s alive, she’s dealing with death and how the moments leading up to her brother’s will never leave her.

I would recommend this book purely because of Lex’s character development and the emotional draw that Hand manages to accomplish with the story. It’s a hard subject matter, but it’s something that everyone has or is going to experience in their lives. Unfortunately, suicide is prevalent all to much in our current society and it’s not going to help anyone avoiding the topic. Of course, proceed with caution if this subject is too close to home.

This book completes my 2019 Reading Challenge. I technically finished the book in 2020, but I began reading it in 2019 so I’m counting it towards my challenge. I also listened to an audio book (Michael Connelly’s Two Kinds of Truth) back in August that I wasn’t sure about including in my challenge total, but after thinking about it, I did listen to the entire book and ultimately thought it still counted (if you disagree, keep it to yourself). So with that, my goal to reach 40 books was a success!

Thank you to all that have followed along and have read my reviews. I’m anticipating wanting to write more book reviews as I add to my “Read” list on Goodreads so head back here for more this year.

Book Review: “Pumpkinheads”

Book thirty eight of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Rainbow Rowell’s Pumpkinheads

I’ve really enjoyed reading Rainbow Rowell’s novels and when I found out she had a graphic novel coming out that was fall oriented I was very excited.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Rowell’s writing paired with the illustrations is witty and fun and everything you want in a graphic novel. Even though the intended audience is young adults, I loved the story and the adventure across the pumpkin patch. I didn’t read any sort of graphic novel aside from maybe an excerpt or passage for a school assignment so this year when I decided to challenge myself with reading I wanted to expand my reading array. Hence the addition of graphic novels.

I always thought graphic novels and comics were not my thing, but I really like the idea of a story being told with the added bonus of images (and it not being a TV show or movie). The images help create the story and show the reader exactly how the characters were intended to be visualized by the author. An added benefit to graphic novels is that the writer doesn’t have to spend time explaining settings or what a character looks like and can focus on the story and the dialogue which is arguably the best element of novels.

The very talented artist, Faith Erin Hicks, brought the characters and the setting to life with beautiful colors and composition. I really liked the story, but I appreciated the illustrations even more. It’s difficult to show so much in a small square on a page but Hicks did just that and she did it very well. The emotions conveyed on the page made the writing pop and the story flow so easily. I really enjoyed the novel and hope that Rainbow Rowell continues to write both traditional novels and graphic novels.

Stay tuned for my next review: The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

Book Review: “The Photography of Game of Thrones”

Book thirty seven of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

The Photography of Game of Thrones

So I became a Game of Thrones fan a little later in the game than most and you can read more about that in my blog post here. I managed to get the first seven seasons finished before the eighth premiered so I was able to suffer with the rest of the world while watching the series finale. I not only fell in love with the stories, the heroism and the phenomenal acting, but I also fell in love with the cinematography, the set and the beautiful imagery that brought the whole series to life.

All of that is beautifully put together in the coffee table book The Photography of Game of Thrones. Series photographer Helen Sloan captured many wonderful shots of the acting and behind-the-scenes creation of GOT throughout its 10-year run. Each of the 850 photos was especially chosen and placed in a chapter to highlight the seven new gods of Westeros. Each chapter is also introduced with a synopsis of the god’s connection to the story and how certain characters and their behavior embody what that god symbolizes.

I’m a fan of photography and I’m a fan of Game of Thrones and this book was a wonderful Christmas gift that I didn’t waste any time leafing through. The never-before-seen photographs and candid shots were not only fun to see but also showed all the hard-work that went into the creation of each and every episode.

I’m hoping this year that I’ll be able to read the first book of George R.R Martin’s series that inspired it all so stay tuned for that.

Stay tuned for my next review: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: “The Paper Menagerie”

Book thirty six of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Short stories are always great to read because they’re short and a quick to finish for most readers. They let you get a taste of a story without the commitment of an entire novel. Unfortunately, for me, a book of short stories wasn’t so great. I was excited to read this book and immerse myself in several different worlds but after I finished one story I wasn’t really motivated to pick up the book again for another story. It was like starting a whole new book again, but every day.

I really liked the stories that I did get to read from this collection but I didn’t get to read them all. I borrowed the book from the library and it was actually sent from another library so when I went to renew it (for the second time), it wouldn’t let me because someone else was waiting for it.

I hope that I can possibly pick up the book again and read more in the future as the stories were really engaging and interesting. I enjoyed the fantasy, futuristic story lines and the characters that were developed so quickly but in a tasteful way.

I was really surprised that it was so difficult for me to read and keep going but I think I just learned that short stories are okay in smaller doses for me and not in a full 450 page book.

Stay tuned for my next review: The Photography of Game of Thrones by Michael Kogge

Book Review: “Yes Please”

Book thirty five of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Amy Poehler’s Yes Please

I didn’t think I’d like non-fiction and biographies in particular but with this reading challenge I wanted to try some new things. Amy Poehler’s biography about her life as a comedian and mom was one that I enjoyed a lot. I mean, who doesn’t like comedy? Add some candid writing from one of the best female comedians of this time and you have a greatly unique read.

Yes Please is Poehler’s autobiography about her life before comedy, her marriage (and divorce) and of course her life now as a working comedian and mother. Her style of writing is very blog-like with little quips and real honest writing which is always a great touch in my opinion. If a celebrity is going to write their own book it needs to show their character through the writing and I think Poehler did exactly that. I really felt like I knew her because of those little “breaks in character”.

Some of her stories from before SNL and stardom were so real and made me respect her as a celebrity. I always respect a celebrity more when I see or read about how hard they worked to get to where they are now. Of course reading about these little skits she did with other “not yet discovered comedians” and other things like the Upright Citizens Brigade made me fall down a YouTube rabbit hole of old videos after reading a chapter. So in addition to getting to read the book, I also got to watch a few standup routines and SNL skits.

The other side of her book parallel to her career is her personal life. Poehler talks openly about her life as a mother and as someone who has been divorced and it shows how celebrities have lives outside of their career that you don’t normally see. Right now, as a young adult, I like reading about other peoples’ lives because it gives me different perspectives and lets me take in life lessons that other people have learned. And that includes non-fiction and fictional stories. And obviously when it’s a real person’s story and lessons learned, it’s more impactful.

I highly recommend this book to anyone that’s a fan of Amy Poehler. Her writing is from the heart and genuinely candid and fun(ny) to read.

Stay tuned for my next review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Book Review: “Turtles All the Way Down”

Book twenty eight of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Before I get into the my most recent book review, I thought I’d let you know I’ve decided to lower my goal for the 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge. Instead of reaching for the 50 book goal I will be trying to get 40 books read instead. 50 books has proven to be a challenging goal that I cannot reach this year, but I’m hoping to continue and at least get 40 read. So here is the review for book 27:

John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down

I have always been a fan of John Green’s Crash Course videos, especially when I was in high school, and then when he published The Fault in Our Stars when I was a sophomore and it gained a ton of popularity, I began reading his books. I read The Fault in Our Stars first, watched the movie, and then read some of his earlier novels. I recently got to read his latest novel Turtles All the Way Down and I really enjoyed it.

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy reading young adult novels and I find that the real reason behind it is that I’m still a young adult. I may be 22 (almost 23) but I still relate to the characters in YA novels. In addition to associating to the “not so mature, still learning the ropes of life” aspect, in this novel I also related to the main character Aza and her pronounced anxiety. She lives with this “ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts” that I’ve experienced myself in recent years.

As someone who constantly fights with my own train, or spiral of thoughts, I empathized with Aza and her struggles. I think Green’s raw portrayal of her mental state might come across as dark and not appropriate for younger readers, but in reality it’s accurate to what a lot of young people are going through. Being in high school is tough. Being in college is tough. Even being a young professional is tough. Having the opportunity to connect with a character who is experiencing similar things assures you that you aren’t alone.

I personally escape my reality by reading books and entering a world that isn’t my own. Having a character like Aza that I relate to brings that world a little closer to home. In this case, it was a good thing because it shows that with hard work, love, help and faith you can overcome your own demons. I think a lot of those in my generation and the ones after me could use a little encouragement and a little help from reading a book that gives them hope.

With Aza’s anxiety, Davis’s love for his brother and Daisy’s perseverance to live her best life there can be a lot learned from this fictional novel. The plot may seem a little extraordinary and the characters may only be 16, but the mentality and drive that keeps the characters going is valuable to any reader of any age.

I personally connected with this book more than I thought I would and for that reason I recommend it to anyone that might feel a bit lost, anxious or just stuck in a rut.

***If you are someone who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, mysophobia, or intense anxiety take caution before reading this book.

Stay tuned for my next review.

Book Review: “Displacement: A Travelogue”

Book twenty seven of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Lucy Knisley’s Displacement: A Travelogue

I enjoyed Knisley’s first travelogue about her adventures in Europe when she was in her twenties so I thought I would look into some of her other travelogues.

I was not as impressed with this graphic memoir as I was with Knisley’s Age of License. I think I related more with the “traveling Europe while I’m young” novel which made it more interesting to me. I really commend her actions that spurred this travelogue though. Taking the time (and having the patience) to be with your grandparents on a cruise for a week is super hero status.

Like her first book though, it is inspirational and empowering to read about her travels. For this novel it was a different kind of inspirational. It’s a beautiful story about how she grew closer and really began to understand her grandparents throughout the time she spent with them.

I wish I had a stronger connection with my grandparents and I definitely liked that aspect of the book. It just fell a little flat when it came to story arc and interestingness. But still a good story in the end.

Stay tuned for my next review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Book twenty six of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

I have been wanting to read this book so I can start watching the series on Hulu. I knew the premise was different than the average dystopian novel, but I really liked the story and message it conveyed.

Offred’s character is a very strong female lead that is relatable in a world where everything is falling down. She faces many challenges that are not directly connected with today’s common challenges but fall within the same vein. Her thoughts, mannerisms and whole experience is detailed with both moments of the present and moments of the past which I really enjoy. This blend of the past and present is character development at its finest and if you’ve been following along with some of my other reviews, I love a good character development.

Offred’s story, though in an alternative universe, was written in a time of conflict (during the peak of the Cold War). Conflict will never go away in our society so being able to escape to a conflicted world that isn’t the same as my own is oddly refreshing. The way Atwood tells the handmaid’s tale is unique and attention-grabbing because of the parallels and metaphors related of modern America.

In addition to tying to today’s societal flaws and changes, the story also touches on ideas and practices of the past. The mix of past, present and dystopian future, makes the novel a great read. I never used to appreciate stories like this in the historical sense but have come to enjoy it most likely because of the sense that history has and will probably continue to repeat itself in many shapes and forms during my lifetime.

I recommend this novel to anyone that is interested in a dystopian-style story that also comments on events of the past. I do plan to read Atwood’s sequel The Testaments soon (it’s being released this month) so stay tuned for that review.

Stay tuned for my next review: Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley

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.