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review 2017-11-29 23:16
Stranger Than FanFiction by Chris Colfer @chriscolfer
Stranger Than Fanfiction - Chris Colfer

I won a fabulous package from Chris Colfer that included the book, Stranger Than FanFiction, a pair of sunglasses, a notebook for travel , and a keychain of America. I would have missed this wonderful story if I hadn’t been lucky enough to win it.

 

Stranger Than Fanfiction

 

Goodreads  /  Amazon US  /  Amazon UK  /  Amazon CA

 

MY REVIEW

 

This is a wonderful adventure novel about a group of nerdy high school kids traveling from coast to coast with their childhood idol, stretching their horizons and growing as individuals, learning the true meaning of friendship. Stranger Than FanFiction by Chris Colfer surprised me by being so much more than just kids on a road trip, with the writing drawing me in slowly and the ending hitting like a punch to the gut.

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos 4 Stars

 

Read more here.

 

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review 2017-11-29 21:21
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

This is a lovely collection of interrelated short stories. It begins in Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, and when it ventures further afield, it’s to follow characters whose stories are suggested by the previous ones. The protagonists are mostly older people – grandparents or old enough to be – and a common theme is dealing with loss: of livelihood, of a spouse (to death or divorce), of parents or siblings who move away.

It is a melancholy book, and getting a little too caught up in the stories and reading them all in two sittings got to me a little. But it is also a book full of compassion and understanding for its characters (most, though not all, of the protagonists are compassionate and understanding people themselves), of human connection and love, of wisdom about what makes people tick. It is very well-written and got me quickly invested in the characters and their situations. In some cases I wanted to know a lot more; this was especially true of Patty’s story, though Abel’s sticks in my memory as well. Though I thought highly of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the story about the title character’s reappearance underwhelmed me and was probably my least favorite. But I am tempted to re-read that book now that I’ve read this one.

In sum, this is an excellent collection, rather quiet and sad, featuring complex and believable characters. I recommend it.

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review 2017-11-27 22:49
The Ballroom - Anna Hope

Who knew that Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw were proponents of eugenics? I didn't.

 

Here we have the story of three people in a mental institution in 1911 when forced sterilization was a popular topic among doctors and politicians; a story inspired by the experience of the author's great-great-grandfather.

 

It's a book about madness, yes, and eugenics, and the British class structure, and love in several forms... all that, but it's also about what happens when power is abused by those who wield it, and how it corrupts. A tale that is perhaps all too relevant today, particularly when it comes to the way women, the poor, and the marginalized are treated.

 

So, not only is it a damn good story -- I read it over the course of two delightful afternoons -- but it's also a beautifully written, and well-researched piece of fiction.

 

Highly recommended.

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review 2017-11-24 17:45
The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
The Hearts of Horses - MOLLY GLOSS

It’s too bad about the title and cover. This is a lovely work of literary historical fiction, which happens to feature a protagonist who trains horses, but which neither anthropomorphizes nor is sentimental about them. Really it’s a story about the hearts of humans: how they live together and love one another. It’s the first winter of America’s involvement in WWI, and the shy but tough 19-year-old Martha Lessen arrives in a rural Oregon county looking for work. Which she finds gentling horses for eight local families; this allows the author to dip into many lives, with a strong sense of compassion and understanding of people and relationships.

So Martha is the protagonist, and hers is a fairly standard though well-told story of finding community and love after a rough childhood. But she’s also the catalyst for other characters’ stories, which occupy just as much of our time. There’s the “German” couple ostracized by many of their neighbors (they are German in that his family immigrated from there, and she married him). There’s the woman who splits wood to feed her three young children and alcoholic husband. There’s the educated farmer dying of cancer – which at the time had no real treatment – and the stalwart wife who must confront the reality of his illness and death every day.

This is a very well-written book, told in a measured, contemplative way; when there is excitement, the book is more interested in how the characters manage their situations and how those situations affect them than in action for its own sake. The omniscient narrator drops into the heads of various characters in a natural way, and also fills us in on local history and on the times. Writing 90 years later during another overseas war, the author seems particularly interested in the culture of wartime America.

Overall, this is a wise, warm and observant character-driven novel with social commentary. Be warned that it takes awhile to get going; I wasn’t hooked until somewhere between pages 50 and 75. But it was well worth the investment, and I enjoyed it as much as Gloss’s stand-out epistolary novel, Wild Life, though they are very different books. I look forward to reading more of her work soon.

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text 2017-10-30 00:51
Books I Read in October 2017
The Diamond Empire (A Diamonds Novel) - K'wan
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward
Brazen - Katherine Longshore
The Longest Memory - Fred D'Aguiar
The Tragedy of Brady Sims (Vintage Contemporaries) - Ernest J. Gaines
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

I read 6 books in October and am pleasantly surprised. I thought I'd only read 2 or 3. Has that ever happened to you? My highly anticipated read was The Tragedy of Brady Sims by Earnest J. Gaines. It was also my biggest disappointment. I was not wowed by it and the interest I had for the build up in this short novellla wasn't and was what I thought it would be. The other shocker was Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I connected with only one of the characters (the son Jojo) and the story was a bit of multiple stories I'd read before. I didn't enjoy Salvage the Bones by her either. I think I stopped 75% through. I don't think her style of writing is for me. However, she is well regarded, loved and accoladed. 

 

The Nightingale and The Longest Memory were the "show stoppers" this month. These stories gutted me. Oh, the pain I felt. These two books I would highly recommend to anyone. It doesn't matter if you pick them up today, next month or years from now. Put them on your tbr or wishlist and read them! You won't regret it, I promise. I'm clearing out my YA shelves and have donated hundreds to date. This last purge I decided to keep some series that I started and loved, but didn't finish. Brazen (Royal Circle) is one of those I decided to keep. I had already read Guilt and Tarnish and enjoyed them. Brazen didn't disappoint. I do love historical fiction. Longshore wrote these in a style I could enjoy as well as her intended audience. 

 

 

 

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