ARC Review – We Are Still Tornadoes

ARC Review – We Are Still TornadoesWe Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun, Susan Mullen
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on November 1st 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it’s the 80’s after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they’ve graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams. During their first year apart, Scott and Cath’s letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that’s clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond. This funny yet deeply moving book–set to an awesome 80’s soundtrack–captures all the beautiful confusion and emotional intensity we find on the verge of adulthood…and first love.

 

 

My Review:

We Are Still Tornadoes follows a year in the life of Scott and Cath, lifelong best friends who are now separated because Cath has gone off to college, while Scott has chosen to remain at home, where he works at the family business while simultaneously trying to pursue his own passion, which is to be a singer/songwriter in a band. Set in the early 1980’s, the story is told through alternating letters that Scott and Cath are mailing each other throughout their time apart.

What I Liked:

I have to say I really loved this book. It was cute and entertaining, even laugh-out-loud funny at times, but it was also quite moving as well as Scott and Cath each experienced highs and lows throughout the year. We Are Still Tornadoes is also one of those books where once you get started, you really can’t put it down so it made for a quick read as well, which is often nice (especially when your “To-Bo-Read” stack of books is becoming mountainous!)

What appealed to me most about this book is the authentic quality of the friendship between Scott and Cath. I’m a big fan of books that portray beautiful friendships and Scott and Cath’s friendship perfectly fits the bill here. The authors skillfully capture all the little nuances that make up the special bond that best friends share – the constant poking fun at one another that only best friends can do, those long-running inside jokes that no one else could possibly understand, and also, most importantly, the steadfast devotion and loyalty. Even though they’re hundreds of mile apart, Scott is always there for Cath when she needs him and vice versa. Whether it’s a death in the family, parents getting divorce, a bad breakup, or anything in between, they have each others’ backs. Looking at Scott and Cath, I could easily see similarities between their relationship and my own relationships with my best friends.

The letter writing format was a lot of fun to read as well and really took me back to my own college days back in the dark ages before we had email, smart phones, and all of those other forms of instant communication. I could very easily relate to the reality of having to rely on snail mail and shared hall phones as the only way to keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Reading We Are Still Tornadoes brought back a lot of good memories from college for me and so the nostalgia factor was very high.

The discussion of music throughout the novel was entertaining as well. Scott loves music, knows almost everything there is to know about every popular singer of the time period, and loves to let Cath know how utterly clueless and in need of a musical education she is. Their discussion of music was hilarious at times, but more importantly, the songs chosen by the authors were so iconic – just thinking about them transported me right back to the 1980s. I swear I was singing Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean for days after I finished reading!

Anything I didn’t like?

My only real complaint about the story lies in the ending. I didn’t particularly care for the direction the story took in the closing pages and felt like the ending wrapped too quickly and therefore a bit awkwardly. I understood why the book had to end the way it did based on the direction the story took; it just wouldn’t haven have been my first choice for an ending. It may not bother others though so please don’t let that deter you from what is otherwise an awesome book.

Who Would I Recommend this to?

I would highly reccommend We Are Still Tornadoes to pretty much anyone from high school age on up. I think high school and college students would enjoy the friendship and the fact that Cath and Scott are so relateable, while readers like me who are older, would enjoy the story because of the nostalgic quality.

If you’re looking for a quick and entertaining read, I’d say give this book a shot.

 

Rating: 4 stars

 

 

four-stars

About Michael Kun

Michael Kun lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife Amy and their daughter Paige. He practices law when he is not writing, or vice versa.

About Susan Mullen

Susan Stevens Mullen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband, Kevin, and their two daughters, Hannah and Haley. She practices law in the Reston office of Cooley, LLP. Sue was born and raised in Chicago. Her family relocated to Northern Virginia when she was in the 7th grade. A graduate of Langley High School, Duke University, and the University of Virginia School of Law, Sue loves reading fiction and running with the family and their dog, Griffin the Boxer.

Waiting on Wednesday: Spotlight on The Upside of Unrequited

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli.  I think everyone who read and fell in love with Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is chomping at the bit to get their hands on Albertalli’s next book and from the blurb, it sounds like it’s going to be an equally charming, relatable, and entertaining read.  Wish I didn’t have to wait six months though!

The Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli

upside-of-unrequited-th

Publication Date: April 17, 2017

From Goodreads:

From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.  There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.  Right?

Check out this Advance Praise for The Upside of Unrequited!

“Heart-fluttering, honest, and hilarious. I can’t stop hugging this book.” —Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss

“I have such a crush on this book! Not only is this one a must read, but it’s a must re-read.” —Julie Murphy, New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books About Witches

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Halloween Related Freebie:  ten scary books, favorite horror novels, non-scary books to get you in the Halloween/fall mood, bookish halloween costumes, scariest covers), scary books on my TBR, etc.

I love Halloween so I really love this week’s topic! Next to Christmas, Halloween is probably my favorite holiday.  I loved dressing up and trick-or-treating when I was a kid, and as an adult, I love taking my son out trick-or-treating and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters who come to our door.  My birthday is also in late October and so my parties were often Halloween-themed.  Just thinking about Halloween therefore brings back lots of fun memories.

For my top ten list, I decided to share 10 of my favorite books that feature witches.  Some are scary, some are funny, and some are geared towards children, while others are clearly not.  Some are about good witches, while others are about wicked ones. And while it goes without saying that the Harry Potter series features some of my favorite witches of all time,  since I’ve featured that series in several of my recent top 10 lists, I’ve decided to share some books that I haven’t shared before. Enjoy!

witch

 

Top Ten Books About Witches

1. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

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Goodreads Synopsis:  The bestselling author of Second Nature, Illumination Night and Turtle Moon now offers her most fascinating and tantalizingly accomplished novel yet — a winning tale that amply confirms Alice Hoffman’s reputation not only as a genius of the vivid scene and unforgettable character but as one of America’s most captivating storytellers.

When the beautiful and precocious sisters Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age, they are taken to a small Massachusetts town to be raised by their eccentric aunts, who happen to dwell in the darkest, eeriest house in town. As they become more aware of their aunts’ mysterious and sometimes frightening powers — and as their own powers begin to surface — the sisters grow determined to escape their strange upbringing by blending into “normal” society.

But both find that they cannot elude their magic-filled past. And when trouble strikes — in the form of a menacing backyard ghost — the sisters must not only reunite three generations of Owens women but embrace their magic as a gift — and their key to a future of love and passion. Funny, haunting, and shamelessly romantic, Practical Magic is bewitching entertainment — Alice Hoffman at her spectacular best.  (Read more…)

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2. The Witches by Roald Dahl

05

Goodreads Synopsis:  This is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. Real witches don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, cunning, detestable creatures who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies. So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Well, if you don’t know yet you’d better find out quickly-because there’s nothing a witch loathes quite as much as children and she’ll wield all kinds of terrifying powers to get rid of them. Ronald Dahl has done it again! Winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award, the judges’ decision was unanimous: “funny, wise, deliciously disgusting, a real book for children. From the first paragraph to the last, we felt we were in the hands of a master”.   (Read more…)

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3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

06

Goodreads Synopsis:  Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.   (Read more…)

 

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4. A Discovery of Witches (from The All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness

05

Goodreads Synopsis:  A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.  (Read more…)

 

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5. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

04

Goodreads Synopsis:  “I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history,” Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts” in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, “Political opposition… is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.”  (Read more…)

 

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6. Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

08

Goodsreads Synopsis:  From the author of the highly addictive and bestselling Blue Bloods series, with almost 3 million copies sold, comes a new novel, Melissa de la Cruz’s first for adults, featuring a family of formidable and beguiling witches.

The three Beauchamp women-Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid-live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret-they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there’s Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache.

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it’s time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.  (Read more…)

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7. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

09

Goodreads Synopsis:  On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking. And the witching hour begins…

Demonstrating once again her gift for spellbinding storytelling and the creation of legend, Anne Rice makes real for us a great dynasty of witches – a family given to poetry and incest, to murder and philosophy, a family that over the ages is itself haunted by a powerful, dangerous, and seductive being.

A hypnotic novel of witchcraft and the occult across four centuries, by the spellbinding, bestselling author of The Vampire Chronicles.  (Read more…)

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8. Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Daughters of the Witching Hill brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching account of a family sustained by love as they try to survive the hysteria of a witch-hunt.

Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow living in Pendle Forest, is haunted by visions and gains a reputation as a cunning woman. Drawing on the Catholic folk magic of her youth, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future. As she ages, she instructs her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft, as well as her best friend, who ultimately turns to dark magic.  When a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate, eager to make his name as a witch finder, plays neighbors and family members against one another until suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights.

Sharratt interweaves well-researched historical details of the 1612 Pendle witch-hunt with a beautifully imagined story of strong women, family, and betrayal. Daughters of the Witching Hillis a powerful novel of intrigue and revelation.   (Read more…)

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9. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

07

Goodreads Synopsis:  Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean island she left behind. In her relatives’ stern Puritan community, she feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely. The only place where Kit feels completely free is in the meadows, where she enjoys the company of the old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, and on occasion, her young sailor friend Nat. But when Kit’s friendship with the “witch” is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear, and anger. She herself is accused of witchcraft!  (Read more…)

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10. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackle’s Academy, and she’s making an awful mess of it. She’s always getting her spells wrong and she can’t even ride a broomstick without crashing it. Will she ever make a real witch?  (Read more…)

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Question:  Do you have any favorite reads about witches?   Have you read any of these? What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?

halloween

 

Book Review: Transcendent by Katelyn Detweiler

Book Review:  Transcendent by Katelyn DetweilerTranscendent by Katelyn Detweiler
three-half-stars
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Pages: 448
Source: Press Shop
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Press Shop in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

A beautiful work of magical realism, a story about a girl in the real world who is called upon to be a hero.
 
When terrorists bomb Disney World, seventeen-year-old Iris Spero is as horrified as anyone else. Then a stranger shows up on her stoop in Brooklyn, revealing a secret about the mysterious circumstances surrounding Iris’s birth, and throwing her entire identity into question. Everything she thought she knew about her parents, and about herself, is a lie.

Suddenly, the press is confronting Iris with the wild notion that she might be “special.” More than just special: she could be the miracle the world now so desperately needs. Families all across the grieving nation are pinning their hopes on Iris like she is some kind of saint or savior. She’s no longer sure whom she can trust—except for Zane, a homeless boy who long ago abandoned any kind of hope. She knows she can’t possibly be the glorified person everyone wants her to be… but she also can’t go back to being safe and anonymous. When nobody knows her but they all want a piece of her, who is Iris Spero now? And how can she—one teenage girl—possibly heal a broken world?

 

My Review:

Katelyn Detweiler’s Transcendent is definitely one of the most unique books I’ve read this year.  I’ll admit that I almost changed my mind about reading the book once I saw that it was about terrorists bombing Disney World and killing tens of thousands of people, many of whom were children.  I just didn’t know if my heart could handle going there.  I’m glad I gave it a chance thought because Transcendent turned out to be an incredibly thought-provoking read that resonated with me on many levels – both as a parent and as someone who has occasionally questioned my own faith when horrific events happen in the world.

What really intrigued me was that the terrorist attack itself is not really the focus of the novel.  Instead, Transcendent focuses on the power of hope – what it takes to move people past grief and despair when tragedy strikes so they can begin the healing process and start to live again.  In the case of Transcendent, that sense of hope comes in the form of a young lady named Iris Spero.

Seventeen year old Iris is living in Brooklyn at the time of the attack and, like the rest of the world, is going through the motions of her day-to-day routine, but all the while trying to wrap her head around what has happened – what kind of monsters would choose a target like Disney World, where the bulk of the casualties would clearly be innocent children?

Then as if the world hasn’t been thrown into chaos enough by what has happened, a stranger named Kyle Bennett enters the picture and drops a bombshell on Iris.  Kyle and his family were at Disney World when the terrorists struck; one of his children died there and his remaining child was critically wounded.  Desperate to save his daughter, Kyle has latched onto an old story from his hometown about the “Virgin Mina”, a young woman who turned up pregnant even though she claimed to still be a virgin.  Though he didn’t believe the story at the time and gave Mina and the rest of her family a hard time because of it, Kyle has had a change of heart and has searched far and wide looking for Mina.  He shows up on Iris’ doorstep, proclaiming that Iris is the “Virgin Mina’s” miracle baby and that she has the power to heal his daughter.  Even though Iris’ family tells him he is mistaken, Kyle becomes more and more insistent that Iris is the miracle he needs, and when he doesn’t get what he wants, he outs Iris to the world and turns her world upside down as the media and every other person seeking a miracle begin coming at her from all sides.

What shocks Iris even more than Kyle Bennett and his seemingly ridiculous claim, however, is that Iris’ parents actually confirm Kyle’s story.  Iris’ mom is, in fact, the famed “Virgin Mina” and they’ve been in hiding for Iris’ entire life in an effort to protect her identity and allow her to live a normal life.  The bulk of the novel deals with the psychology of what Iris goes through as she tries to cope with, not only the issue of learning that her entire life up until this point has been a lie, but also the pressure of having so many people desperately clinging to the idea that she is some kind of miracle worker.

What I Liked about Transcendent:

Iris:  I loved Iris and was immediately drawn to her kindness and her compassion.  This is a girl who volunteers at the local soup kitchen to feed the homeless, plays her violin in the park for anyone who wants to listen – strangers, children, and yes, even homeless people.  This is a girl who can’t stand to hear people spew hatred toward the Disney attackers, not because she doesn’t believe that they should be punished, but rather because she doesn’t think more hate is the answer. Hate won’t heal what has happened to their world.  In some ways Iris almost seemed too good to be true, but regardless, she was very likeable and therefore I felt very sympathetic for her when Kyle spilled the beans about her.  I thought the author did an amazing job here of conveying all of the conflicting emotions Iris experienced as she tried to make sense of what has been dropped in her lap – the initial denial, followed by the feeling that her parents have betrayed her, and ultimately her confusion about who she even is anymore.

Even if you’re hesitant to buy into the whole ‘immaculate conception’ scenario itself, Iris’ reaction to it is easy to relate to since she herself starts out skeptical. I was especially sympathetic to her need to disappear for a few days so that she could have some private time to come to terms with what she has learned about herself and decide what she wants to do about it.  I mean, seriously, who can think when, through no fault of your own, the media and basically everyone in the world are suddenly standing there with their hands out wanting a piece of you and trying to make you into something you don’t think you are.  Talk about pressure!

It Poses Big Questions:  The power of Hope is a big theme in this novel, and a powerful one.  Is hoping that someone or something is a miracle enough to actually bring about a kind of miracle – or in the case of this story – enough to heal those who are suffering so that they can live again?  This is one of the questions that Iris ponders as she tries to decide what the right answer is – flee again as her parents did before she was born, or stand up and try to actually help people.  Although I was very skeptical about the virgin birth angle initially, and like Iris, was wondering what a DNA test would show, by the end of the novel, I started thinking about the bigger picture – just because something seems to be impossible based on accepted laws of science, is it really impossible?  Or can miracles actually happen? Should we be open-minded to that possibility?  I always enjoy a book that gives me something to think about afterwards and, with these kinds of big questions, Transcendent did just that.

Magic or Religion?  I really liked that although the idea of the virgin birth has obvious religious connotations, Detweiler seems to leave it open to interpretation as to whether this is a religious event or if something magical or supernatural has taken place.  It seems like readers are free to interpret it in whatever way makes it best align with their own beliefs.

Issues I had with Transcendent:

Iris’ Family:  Since I mentioned my skepticism earlier, let me go ahead and elaborate on that here.  What nagged at me for most of the book was that I found it a little hard to believe how easily Iris’ grandparents and aunts bought into the whole idea that Mina was a pregnant virgin.  I know my parents would have been like ‘Yeah, okay, whatever.  Who did you sleep with?  Tell us the truth.”   What I learned after receiving this book from Press Shop, however, is that Transcendent is actually the second book in this series.  The first book Immaculate, deals entirely with Mina’s story and how her family and her town reacted to the idea of a modern day virgin pregnancy.  Although I think Transcendent works fine as a stand-alone novel because enough detail about Mina’s story is given so that you’re not lost, I still would have liked to have read it first so that Mina’s family’s lack of reaction and suspicion wasn’t an issue for me while I was trying to read and appreciate Iris’ story.   I definitely enjoyed Transcendent enough that I do plan to go back and some point and read Immaculate.

Who Would I Recommend Transcendent to?

I would recommend Transcendent to anyone who enjoys reading uplifting books that make you think.  I also think you have to have an open mind to the possibility of miracles, in particular, of a modern day virgin birth.  If you’re not even remotely open to that idea, I think you would find the story so far-fetched that you wouldn’t enjoy it.

I read somewhere that the target audience for Transcendent is ages 14 and up and I agree with that assessment. I think the themes presented and the questions raised are on a level that high school students can appreciate.

 

Rating:  3.5 stars

 

Thanks so much to Viking Books for Young Readers, Katelyn Detweiller, and to Press Shop for allowing me the opportunity to preview Transcendent.

three-half-stars

About Katelyn Detweiler

Katelyn Detweiler was born and raised in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, living in a centuries-old farmhouse surrounded by fields and woods. She spent the vast majority of childhood with her nose in a book or creating make-believe worlds with friends, daydreaming about how she could turn those interests into an actual paying career. After graduating from Penn State University with a B.A. in English Literature, emphasis in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies, she packed her bags and made the move to New York City, determined to break into the world of publishing. She worked for two years in the marketing department of Macmillan Children’s Group before moving in 2010 to the agency side of the business at Jill Grinberg Literary, where she is currently a literary agent representing books for all ages and across all genres.

Katelyn lives, works, and writes in Brooklyn, playing with words all day, every day, her dream come true. When she’s not reading or writing, Katelyn enjoys yoga, fancy cocktails, and road trips. She frequently treks back to her hometown in Pennsylvania, a lovely green escape from life in the city, and her favorite place to write.

Waiting on Wednesday: Spotlight on Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick.  I know I just said last week when I spotlighted Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can that I’m normally not really all that into books written by celebrities, but what are the odds that two of my favorite actresses would both have books coming out this fall?  I’m excited about this book because I think in addition to being a fantastic actress, Anna Kendrick is also one of the funniest celebrities out there.  I especially love following her on twitter because you just never know what she’s going to come up with next, but it’s always a guaranteed laugh and I have the same expectations for Scrappy Little Nobody.

Scrappy Little Nobody

by Anna Kendrick

scrappy little nobody

Publication Date: November 15, 2016

From Amazon:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Characters I’d Name a Pet After

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Characters I’d Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc. After.  I decided to to go with pets even though the topic is bittersweet for me since my 13-year old beloved Golden Retriever passed away last year.  I’m still heartbroken about the loss, but I’m a huge dog person — truly can’t imagine not having one in my home — so I hope to get another dog someday, hopefully sooner than later.

I’m a cat person too though so meet Ninja.  (I guess you can tell from how he got his name based on how hard it was for me to get a photo of his whole face, haha!)

Anyway, on to my list! I then to think of these names only in terms of cats and dogs since those are the only types of pets I ever own, but feel free to think of them in terms of your pet of choice 🙂

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Top Ten Characters I’d Name a Pet After

 

1. Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird

I think it would be quite fitting to name a pet after my favorite character from my all-time favorite book.  I think it would make for a great dog name.  If I ever get another Golden Retriever pup, I would seriously consider naming it Scout.  Come to think of it, Atticus would be a pretty cool name for a cat or dog too.  Or maybe I should change Ninja’s name to Boo Radley? I’m kind of kidding on that one, but this book has some great possibilities. 🙂

2. Simon from Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

I think Simon would be a cool name for either a cat or a dog.  If I had read this book before Ninja came into my life, I probably would have named him Simon.

3. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff is another of my favorite literary characters, plus I also love the Heathcliff the Cat cartoons.  I actually even remember having a Heathcliff lunchbox when I was in elementary school, so needless to say, I’d be cool with naming a cat or dog after Heathcliff.

4. Minerva (after Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series)

I think naming a cat Minerva would be a fabulous way to pay homage to one of my favorite characters from the Harry Potter series.

5. Sansa (after Sansa Stark from “A Song of Fire and Ice” – the Game of Thrones series)

If I get a new dog and it’s a girl, I think Sansa would be a lovely name.

6. Rhett after Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind

I have no idea why, but I always picture this as a perfect dog name for an Irish Setter.  The mind works in mysterious ways…

7. Oliver from Oliver Twist

Another of my favorite characters and I could see this being a great name for a dog or cat, although I imagine we would all end up calling him Ollie for short.

8. Levi from Fangirl

I think this would be a great name for dog and, if memory serves, I think Cath even occasionally described Levi as being like a Golden Retriever.

9. Emma from Jane Austen’s Emma

I can’t decide if this would be a better name for a cat or a dog, but I love the character and the name.

10. Dickens after Charles Dickens

Yes, I’m cheating on the last one and going with a favorite author because I seem to have forgotten nearly all of the names of the characters in every book I’ve ever read. I think Dickens would be a fantastic name for a new kitten.

 

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Question:  So what fictional characters would you consider naming a pet after?  Would any of my choices make your list?  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Waiting on Wednesday: Spotlight on Talking as Fast as I Can

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between).  Okay, so I don’t normally much many celebrity-authored books. They’re, generally speaking, just not my thing.  I’m making an exception for this one, however, because I ADORE Lauren Graham. I loved her as the fast talking Lorelai in Gilmore Girls and I thought she was equally amazing as Sarah Braverman in Parenthood.  Between this book coming out and the Gilmore Girls revival coming to Netflix in November as well, I’m just over-the-moon excited!

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)

by Lauren Graham

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Publication Date: November 29, 2016

From Amazon:

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge onProject Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Books Recommended to Me by Fellow Readers

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is All About Books You Read Because of Recommendation (Ten Books I’ve Read Because Of Another  Blogger (Or Book Person) or Ten Books I Read On Recommendation From People Outside Of This Community or you could talk about recommendations of books you read from other sources — a magazine, a podcast, a “because you read this” algorithm.)


After consistently being disappointed by so many books on all of those ‘Books You Must Read’, ‘Most Anticipated Books’ etc. buzz lists, I’m becoming more and more convinced that my best source for great book finds are, in fact, the recommendations that I get from fellow bookworms.  Between school, work, various TV and movie fandoms, and now the book blogging community, I’ve met a lot of readers in my day and can rarely think of a time when I’ve been disappointed in a book someone has recommended to me because they thought I would enjoy it.

The books on my list this week are actually all books that I’m pretty sure would have never even made it onto my radar if not for a recommendation by a fellow reader and now they are some of my all-time favorite reads.

Top Ten Books Recommended to Me by Fellow Readers

1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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This book is probably one of my favorite recommendations from the book blogging community. I had never even heard of Sarah J. Maas prior to starting my blog but kept hearing about her on blog after blog that I visited. Once I realized it was a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, I had to read it and fell in love. And from what I’m hearing around the blogosphere, the second book in the series is even better than this one so that will be something to look forward to, hopefully before the end of the year 🙂

Goodreads Synopsis: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.   (Read more…)

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2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder is honestly a book I probably would have never picked up if not for the praise that I’ve seen heaped on it by my fellow book bloggers.  I mean, Cinderella as a Cyborg?  At first glance, not really my thing.  But I trust my fellow bloggers and decided to go for it anyway. I actually just read this book last week and I’m so glad that I did too because this book was AMAZING!  Seriously. Hands down one of my favorites of the year.

Goodreads Synopsis: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  (Read more…)

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3. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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Yet another book I probably never would have given a second glance if not for the book blogging community.  I’m very late to the party in reading V.E. Schwab but immediately fell in love with her writing style and her characters when I read ADSOM.  I’m now seeing a lot of praise for both the second book in this series as well as This Savage Song so thanks to you guys and your amazing recs, my TBR is filling up with V.E. Schwab goodness.

Goodreads Synopsis: Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to take her with him for her proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save both his London and the others, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — a feat trickier than they hoped.   (Read more…)

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4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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I love it when I join a TV or movie fandom and come across fellow bookworms.  Since we have similar tastes in film and/or TV, I’m always open to accepting book recommendations from them as well, which is how I came to read and love Ready Player One.  Again, a book I probably never would have chosen on my one but am so thrilled that I took my friend’s advice and gave it a try because it was riveting.

Goodreads Synopsis:  In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.   (Read more…)

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5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Two completely different kinds of books, but the same friend who recommended Ready Player One to me also recommended The Book Thief.  After reading this book, which has become one of my all-time favorites, I’ve sworn that no matter what book this friend recommends to me, I’m darn well going to read it because she has incredible taste in books.

Goodreads Synopsis:   It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.  (Read more…)

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6. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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Another recommendation from a TV fandom friend that ended up being an awesome read.

Goodsreads Synopsis:  A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism. (Read more…)

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7. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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I feel so very fortunate to come from a family of readers and especially to have a younger sister who loves to read as much as I do.  We book swap all the time and some of my all-time favorite books are ones that she has recommended to me, with The Snow Child topping the list.  A truly magical read.  Eowyn Ivey has a new book out now that I can’t wait to get my hands on because I loved this one so much.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning, the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.   (Read more…)

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8. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

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I taught English for a number of years after I first graduated from college and became great friends with a fellow teacher.  She and I share a love of historical fiction and so I read The Kitchen House on her recommendation.  I was unfamiliar with Kathleen Grissom but fell in love with the characters in this book and in its sequel which came out earlier this year, Glory Above Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House.

Goodreads Synopsis:  When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.  (Read more…)

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9. City of Thieves by David Benioff

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City of Thieves was actually recommended to me by a clerk at the local bookstore a few years ago.  In the store, there is a big display full of staff recommendations and I always stop and browse the selections to see if there’s anything of interest. I was eyeing this book because I thought the cover was intriguing and the employee who had selected the book for the display came over and started telling me about it.  Within a few minutes he had me so intrigued that I just had to read it. It’s a fascinating read so I highly recommend it if you are a fan of historical fiction, particularly of the WWII era.

Goodreads Synopsis:  From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.   (Read more…)

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10. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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This was recommended to me by a friend when I was in a reading slump and told them I wanted to read something ‘deep and profound’.  I thought it fit the bill perfectly and that it was just an all around fascinating read.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.  (Read more…)

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Question:  So what are some great books that have been recommended to you by others?   Have you read any of these?  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Liebster Award Nomination!

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I’ve only been blogging for about six months now and am still firmly in the “Wow, I can’t believe people actually come to my blog!” stage of the game.  Needless to say, I was absolutely over the moon when Verushka from Editing Everything told me she was nominating me for a Liebster Award.  I never expected to be nominated for anything, and especially not from a blogger that I look up to so much.  Seriously, her blog is fabulous so definitely check it out if you haven’t already.  Thanks so much to Verushka for nominating me!

Okay, so here we go….

The Rules:

  • Acknowledge the blog that nominated you, link it to your post and display the award.
  • Answer 11 questions that the blog gives you.
  • Nominate 5-11 blogs you think deserve the Liebster Award.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.
  • Write the rules in your Liebster Award blog post.
  • Let the blogs know about your post and that you have nominated them.

My Answers:

1.  What are you reading right now and why did you pick it up?

I’m currently reading Cinder, the first book in Marissa Meyers’ The Lunar Chronicles.  I got a great deal on this series the last time I attended one of our local book fairs but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. I decided to go ahead and make it a Fall TBR priority because I keep hearing my fellow bloggers raving about The Lunar Chronicles.

2.  What is your fondest library or bookstore memory?

All of my fondest bookstore and library memories involve my son.  I just love taking him to look for new books and seeing him get just as excited as I do about reading.  Just like his mom, he will come out of the library loaded down with more books than he could ever possibly hope to read before they’re due.  Makes me smile just thinking about it. 🙂

3.  What is your favourite genre to read, but what trope in that genre would you be glad never to read again?

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but my reading tastes are very eclectic.  I’m going to go with Historical Fiction with Mysteries/Thrillers as a close second.  One trend I would love to see less of in all genres are love triangles.  I never seem to find them even remotely realistic or natural and they’re just so overused anyway, so love triangles get a “Bye Felicia!” from me.

4. What genre just doesn’t do it for you?

Horror is probably my least favorite genre. Reading is an escape for me so the idea of being frightened the whole time just doesn’t appeal to me. Oddly enough and probably at the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m not really a big fan of romance either.

5.  Is book blogging everything you thought it would be?

I’d say book blogging is harder than I thought it would be.  There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of so I’m really having to work on my organizational skills to keep up with everything.  I do enjoy it though.  I love being able to post my thoughts on books and other bookish topics and engage in discussion with fellow book lovers.

6.  Which book or movie character do you wish had a blog you could read?

Okay, this is completely random and out of left field, but since you put movies in there, I’m going to say Chewbacca from Star Wars.  He’s my favorite character from the movie franchise but since all he does is roar, we can only guess what he’s really trying to say and how he feels in certain situations. I’d love to hear it straight from the Wookiee himself, haha!

7.  Do you always read the book before the movie?

Yes, always.  I have to read it and see what the author’s intentions were before seeing someone else put their spin on it.

8.  Which movie made you way more excited than the book version?

Tough one since I rarely ever think the movie is better than the book. I’ll say Forrest Gump though.  If I can add TV shows into the mix, I’d go with Orange is the New Black. I think the TV series is far superior to the book.

9.  What country in the world would you like to find a quiet spot in and read a book?

Italy! I visited there for the first time last summer and fell in love with the country.  Everything is so beautiful and I think anywhere in Tuscany, in particular, would make for an ideal reading spot.

10.  What is the last book that made you laugh out loud?

The B.F.G. by Roald Dahl! I read that aloud with my son recently and we both laughed so hard at the ‘whizz popping’ scenes that we had tears rolling down our faces.

11.  If you had one question to ask me, what would it be?

Hmmm, what made you decide to start a blog?

My Nominees:

If they haven’t already been nominated by someone else, I’d like to nominate the following wonderful bloggers:

1.   Birdie Bookworm

2.  Musings of a Literary Wanderer

3.  Girl About Library

4.  Tangled ‘N Books

5.  Pore Over the Pages

My Questions for my Nominees:

1. What is your favorite childhood book? Was there one in particular that made you fall in love with reading?

2. If you could do an interview for your blog with any author, who would you choose and why?

3.  Have you ever hated a book that everyone else loved?  If so, which book and what didn’t you like about it?

4.  What made you decide to become a book blogger and what have you learned along the way so far?

5.  Aside from blogging and reading, what are some of your other hobbies?

6.  Who is your least favorite fictional character? What do you dislike about the character?

7.  If you could choose to live anywhere else in the world aside from where you are now, where would you choose and why?

8.  What is the last book that made you cry?

9.  What is your beverage of choice?

10. What are your favorite reads of 2016 so far?

11.  What is your favorite movie that was adapted from a book?

 

Review: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Review:  Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo MbueBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
four-stars
Published by Random House on August 23rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 380
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

Named one of BuzzFeed’s “Incredible New Books You Need to Read This Summer”.

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

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My Review:

Behold the Dreamers is a powerful and moving read that follows the struggles of an immigrant family trying their hardest to achieve the American Dream and create the best life they can for themselves and for their children. Aside from the gorgeous writing of the author Imbolo Mbue, the power of this novel lies in the fact that it is so very relevant right now, especially when you consider this year’s U.S. Presidential race and the two candidates’ very different views about immigrants.

I fell in love with Mbue’s protagonist, Jende Jonga, right away.  Jende is a kind man, a wonderful husband and father, and he firmly believes that the American Dream is within his family’s reach if they work hard and play by the rules. In the opening chapters, Jende is attempting to secure a job as a chauffeur for a big Wall Street executive at Lehman Brothers, a job that would be a huge step up for him as he had previously been driving taxi cabs for much less money.  I admired his persistence and determination, especially since his future in the U.S. is tentative at best until he secures a green card, and so I immediately became invested in wanting him to succeed.

Jende’s wife, Neni, is equally likeable.  She is in the U.S. on a student visa and is studying with the intention of eventually becoming a pharmacist.  Like Jende, Neni works as hard as she can and is very disciplined, her sole focus on doing whatever needs to be done to achieve her family’s dream of becoming American citizens.  In the early chapters, we see Neni pulling all nighters to make sure she gets top marks in all of her classes and she works all sorts of jobs on the side in order to bring in extra money for the family.

What I liked most about Mbue’s portrayal of Jende and Neni, however, is that she doesn’t over-romanticize the couple.  They sometimes make bad decisions, lose their tempers, can sometimes be too gullible or naïve, and therefore come across as somewhat flawed and very relatable.

Another aspect of the novel that appealed to me was the subtle building of suspense throughout the novel.  Is Jende going to get his green card? Is Neni going to be able to stay in school?  What is going on in the financial world at Lehman Brothers and is it going to affect Jende’s job security and therefore his family’s chance to achieve the American Dream? The momentum that these questions generated kept pulling me quickly through the story because I was so worried about whether or not Jende and Neni were going to make it.  I was especially tuned in to what the Lehman Brothers fall out might mean for them because I lost my own job back in 2008 because of it and ended up draining my 401k and savings to stay afloat until the economy righted itself.  As crushing as it was for me as an American citizen, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be for someone in Jende and Neni’s shoes.  Mbue did a fantastic job of conveying all of the uncertainty and unease of that time in our recent history.

Aside from the character development and the suspense, overall I think what makes Behold the Dreamers such a poignant and moving read is the message that there are people out there fighting so hard to secure the best lives possible for their family – to have even a fraction of what most of us take for granted every day.  The story puts the reader in the shoes of every immigrant that has come here in search of the American Dream and hopefully creates a sense of empathy as the reader sees firsthand exactly what they have to go through on the uncertain path to citizenship.

Behold the Dreamers is definitely a book that I would recommend to pretty much anyone who enjoys a moving story about family, dreams, obstacles, and perseverance.  Imbolo Mbue is a gifted writer and I really look forward to reading more from her.

Rating:  A strong 4 stars!

Thanks so much to Random House, Netgalley, and of course Imbolo Mbue for allowing me the opportunity to read and review Behold the Dreamers.

four-stars

About Imbolo Mbue

imbolo mbue

Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City.

Behold the Dreamers is her first novel.