Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2020 First Quarter Update!!


I set my 2020 Reading Goals on December 31st of 2019 as follows:
My goal is to read 52 books in 2020. All 52 books to be read will come from my current 'to be read' pile. No specific titles at this time have been decided upon. However, I do plan to read 13 books that I've acquired through Goodreads Giveaways, 13 books that I acquired prior to May 2014, and the 26 remaining books will be chosen at random from my 'tbr' pile... These could be books added  to my collection after May 2014, more of my older books acquired prior to May 2014, or more books I acquired through Goodreads Giveaways.
I've read 19 books so far this year and am seven books ahead of schedule at this point! 

Here's the break down of my reading so far in 2020.

Goodreads Giveaways books as follow:

1. Where the Lost Girls Go by R. J. Noonan
2. The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel
3. A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy
4. The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic

Books read that were acquired prior to May 2014 as follows:

1. You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam
2. The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger
3. The Haunting of Charles Dickens by Lewis Buzbee
4. The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
5. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
6. Jackie as Editor: The Literary Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Greg Lawrence
7. Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Books read that were acquired May 2014 or later as follows:

1. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
2. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
4. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani
5. Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
6. Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan
7. The Sellout by Paul Beatty
8. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Here's the further break down of the books I've read this year so far.

* 12 books were written by women and 7 by men. 

* 7 of the books are nonfiction and 12 are works of fiction. 

* 9 books fall into the mystery/thriller genre or have a mystery element to them, making mysteries/thrillers the go to genre for me thus far this year. Not that my plan was to read mostly mysteries/thrillers, it just worked out that way!

* Lots of good reads for me so far this year... Too early yet to pick my favorites.

How is your year of reading going? I hope you have read many great books to date. 

Stay safe and healthy during this time of shelter in place and social distancing while COVID-19 is going on... Hopefully, we can flatten that curve!!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Largest Chain of Bookstores in St Petersburg, Russia


Social distancing and sheltering in place is the perfect time to take virtual tours of bookstores!!

I so want to visit this bookstore in St. Petersburg, Russia some day.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien


I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien and narrated by actor, Bryan Cranston. Listening time for The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is 7 hours, 47 minutes.

The Things They Carried is a work of fiction written in essays that reads more like a memoir to me. The essays are about serving in the Vietnam war and how it effects the lives of those that served.

The following essays are the ones I enjoyed reading the most:

1. The Things They Carried
2. On The Rainy River
3. Stockings
4. The Man I Killed
5. Ambush
6. Good Form

Tim O'Brien's writing is really well done. I never thought I would enjoy reading a book about the Vietnam war as much as a I did. I usually tend to stay away from books about the harrowing effects of war.

Young men of my parents generation were drafted into the Vietnam war. My parents married in 1968 right out of high school and I was born 11 months later. Marriage and a baby were my father's way out from having to serve during Vietnam. Others were not so lucky. One of my father's close high school friends was drafted into the Vietnam war and as expected, he came back changed from the experience. I can't imagine having to fight in a war, especially one that seemed as unpopular as the Vietnam war was. 

It's also very sad to think that at 18 years of age the US Government drafted young men to fight and possibly die in combat, but these same young men were not old enough to vote until the age of 21. How was it possible that these young men were thought responsible (dispensable?) enough to fight for our country in combat, yet not allowed to vote for government officials and laws that effected the society they lived in? It wasn't until March 23, 1971, that the 26th Amendment was passed lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. 

I thought Bryan Cranston did an excellent job of narrating The Things They CarriedI also enjoyed the added bonus track at the end of The Things They Carried where Tim O'Brien reads his essay 'The Vietnam in Me', which is not part of the written version of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. 'The Vietnam in Me' recounts "the author's trip back to Vietnam in 1994, revisiting his experience there as a soldier 25 years before."

Below is the plot summary for The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien from Amazon:
This modern classic and New York Times best seller was a finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award and has become a staple of American classrooms. Hailed by The New York Times as "a marvel of storytelling", The Things They Carried's portrayal of the boots-on-the-ground experience of soldiers in the Vietnam War is a landmark in war writing. Now, three-time Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston, star of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, delivers an electrifying performance that walks the book's hallucinatory line between reality and fiction and highlights the emotional power of the spoken word.
The soldiers in this collection of stories carried M-16 rifles, M-60 machine guns, and M-79 grenade launchers. They carried plastic explosives, hand grenades, flak jackets, and landmines. But they also carried letters from home, illustrated Bibles, and pictures of their loved ones. Some of them carried extra food or comic books or drugs. Every man carried what he needed to survive, and those who did carried their shattering stories away from the jungle and back to a nation that would never understand.

This audiobook also includes an exclusive recording "The Vietnam in Me," a recount of the author's trip back to Vietnam in 1994, revisiting his experience there as a soldier 25 years before, read by Tim O'Brien himself.
Below is an author interview with Tim O'Brien talking about his book, The Things They Carried which I found to be good.



I am giving The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!

Fabulous Bookshops in London to Visit!!


These look like fun bookstores to visit in London!! What do you think?

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Sellout by Paul Beatty


The Sellout by Paul Beatty is definitely one of the most unique reads I've read in a longtime! Paul Beatty is a good writer. I can see why he won the Man Booker Prize for his novel, The Sellout in 2016... In fact, Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize.

I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which was narrated by Prentice Onayemi. Listening time for The Sellout by Paul Beatty is 9 hours, 35 minutes. I loved the sound of Prentice Onayemi's voice and felt his voice was perfect for this novel. However, the audio production could have been better as you could sometimes hear the narrator inhale or exhale and sometimes hear him swallow throughout the novel.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty is a satire. It is a tightly written novel without a wasted written word. Be prepared to be dazzled when reading it. I enjoyed reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

The following is a plot summary for The Sellout by Paul Beatty from Amazon:
A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.
Born in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens—on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles—the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class.  Californians: "I'd die in the same bedroom I'd grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that've been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.
Fueled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
I am giving The Sellout by Paul Beatty a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next, post happy reading!!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Evolution of Science Fiction


Love science fiction? Check out this video about the evolution of the science fiction genre.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic

                                                                                                                                       

I chose to read The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic during Women's History Month and I am glad that I did!

I received an advanced reader copy/uncorrected proof of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic from the Goodreads Giveaway program. 

Below is my honest, unbiased review of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic.

I enjoyed reading The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic. This nonfiction book comes with an introduction, eight chapters, and a conclusion. Topics discussed include women and friendship, women's history, motherhood/parenting, marriage for women, women in the workforce, food and body image, identity and feminine sacrifice.

I found that The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic focuses largely on how things are for women in the US currently and the history of how things came to be for women in the USA. The conclusion chapter, which was short, is just that a conclusion. It discusses the areas we need to change in order to improve the quality of life for women. 

The following is a summary for The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic from Goodreads:
What do women want? The same thing men were promised in the Declaration of Independence: happiness, or at least the freedom to pursue it. 
For women, though, pursuing happiness is a complicated endeavor, and if you head out into America and talk to women one-on-one, as Jill Filipovic has done, you'll see that happiness is indelibly shaped by the constraints of gender, the expectations of feminine sacrifice, and the myriad ways that womanhood itself differs along lines of race, class, location, and identity.
In The H-Spot, Filipovic argues that the main obstacle standing in-between women and happiness is a rigged system. In this world of unfinished feminism, men have long been able to "have it all" because of free female labor, while the bar of achievement for women has only gotten higher. Never before have women at every economic level had to work so much (whether it's to be an accomplished white-collar employee or just make ends meet). Never before have the standards of feminine perfection been so high. And never before have the requirements for being a "good mother" been so extreme. If our laws and policies made women's happiness and fulfillment a goal in and of itself, Filipovic contends, many of our country's most contentious political issues--from reproductive rights to equal pay to welfare spending--would swiftly be resolved.
Filipovic argues that it is more important than ever to prioritize women's happiness-and that doing so will make men's lives better, too. Here, she provides an outline for a feminist movement we all need and a blueprint for how policy, laws, and society can deliver on the promise of the pursuit of happiness for all.
I am giving The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness by Jill Filipovic a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next posy, happy reading!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett


Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett is a cozy mystery novel and the first novel in 'A Booktown Mystery Series'. I've had this cozy mystery novel since October 2012 and am glad I finally read this book in an effort to read many of my older books stacked in my 'tbr' pile.

I had high hopes for Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett. At the time I'd purchased this novel, I was more into cozy mysteries than I am now. I still like reading cozy mystery novels, but not as often. Plus, as an avid reader, I was drawn to a novel about books and bookstores.

Although I enjoyed reading Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett, I didn't love it. The relationship between the main character and her older sister got old after a while. I also didn't care for the few weight/fat body image statements made with regards to women periodically dispersed throughout the novel. The ending of this novel was also a bit more violent than expected for a cozy mystery novel, which I found a bit surprising for the genre. Otherwise I enjoyed reading Murder Is Binding as the mystery itself was good. 

I don't plan on reading any further novels from 'A Booktown Mystery Series'.

Below is the plot summary for Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett from Amazon:
The streets of Stoneham, New Hampsire are lined with bookstores...and paved with murder.
When she moved to Stoneham, city slicker Tricia Miles met nothing but friendly faces. And when she opened her mystery bookstore, she met friendly competition. But when she finds Doris Gleason dead in her own cookbook store, killed by a carving knife, the atmosphere seems more cutthroat than cordial. Someone wanted to get their hands on the rare cookbook that Doris had recently purchased-and the locals think that someone is Tricia. To clear her name, Tricia will have to take a page out of one of her own mysteries-and hunt down someone who isn't killing by the book.
I am giving Murder Is Binding by Lorna Barrett a rating of 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

10 Ways to Support Your Indie Bookstore During Coronavirus Crisis

I came across a good article through Publishers Weekly titled, 10 Ways to Support Your Indie Bookstore Through Coronavirus and Beyond by Josh Cook. In the article, Josh Cook wrote the following:
Even successful small businesses rarely have a lot of cash on hand. Among small businesses, bookstores tend to operate on a thin profit margin, so even though we are keeping the lights on, we need money coming in constantly to stay afloat. This is why recessions hit bookstores hard. We don't have the extra cash to pay bills, rent, and employees if our income drops significantly or stops completely for three weeks, a month, or two months. For that reason, whether from social distancing, an actual quarantine, or a more general economic downturn, the new coronavirus presents a real challenge to bookstores.
Click on the above link to learn how to support independent bookstores without having to leave your home!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

12 Novels About Pandemics

If you haven't already heard enough about the growing COVID-19 crisis and pandemics in general, then you may be interested in an article I came across on Electric Literature's website titled, 12 Books About Pandemics. In the article, I read the following:
As the world struggles to come to terms with the growing COVID-19 crisis, many of us are turning to fiction as a way of understanding the scope of the danger—and, perhaps paradoxically, a way of finding comfort. If the last thing you want to think about right now is global epidemic disease, we get that! But novels can also help people wrap their heads around something that may seem too big and scary to process. If you feel like you’re living in the first pages of a post-apocalyptic story, these books about historical and speculative future pandemics might help you feel less alone. Pick one up, and then wash your hands.
I have not read any of the novels mentioned in the above Electric Literature article. However, I do have a copy of Pandemic by Robin Cook in my 'tbr' pile waiting to be read. I've thought about making this medical thriller my next read... On the other hand, maybe not as my energy has been too zapped from the endless COVID-19 media attention. I need a distraction from the sheer idea of a 'pandemic' by reading some other subject matter altogether.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy



I enjoy reading cozy mystery novels from time to time. In fact, there's nothing better than reading a well written cozy mystery novel! 

I recently read A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy, which I received for FREE through the Goodreads Giveaways program. Below is my honest, unbiased review of A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy.

A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy is the third cozy mystery novel in the 'A Greek To Me' mystery series. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book I've read by Susannah Hardy. 

I truly enjoyed reading A Killer Kebab. The characters, the plot, and writing were all really good. I'm even considering reading the two previous books in the 'A Greek To Me' mystery series. So, if you're a cozy mystery lover like myself, I recommend reading A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy!

Below is the plot summary for A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy from Amazon:
The Bonaparte House is closed for the season, and Georgie Nikolopatos looks forward to fixing up the Greek restaurant and historic landmark—until her renovation plans hit a fatal snag in this Greek to Me mystery.
With her divorce underway, her mother-in-law returning to Greece, and the tourists gone, Georgie finally has life under control—and the Bonaparte House to herself. She quickly hires a contractor for some much-needed renovations to reopen in time for a special Greek-style Thanksgiving meal. Georgie is suspicious though when former dishwasher Russ Riley arrives with the construction crew. He still has an axe to grind with the Nikolopatos family—but is it sharp enough to kill?
When Georgie finds the body of her divorce lawyer amid the construction debris and Russ is quickly arrested for murder, something about the case doesn’t add up. While Georgie is no fan of Russ, even a bad egg deserves a crack at justice.
I'm giving A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan


I don't remember how I initially discovered Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan. I had been looking to read more books written by Filipino writers and this one fit the bill. I liked the storyline, that it was a mystery set in the Philippines and it won the Philippine National Book Award. So last year, I downloaded the unabridged audio version of Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan and narrated by Ramon de Ocampo with the intention of listening to it last fall... But I didn't find the time to listen to this audiobook until last month.

I thought that Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan was really well narrated by Ramon de Ocampo. Smaller and Smaller Circles deals with a lot of hot topics like poverty, politics, corruption, child molestation, priests as child molesters, and a serial killer on the loose. I found it intriguing to have two Jesuit priests as the detectives looking into the deaths of preteen boys. 

I liked listening to Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan. But this mystery novel wasn't as spectacular as I'd hoped it would be based on it being the winner of the Philippine National Book Award.

Listening time for Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan is 10 hours, 45 minutes.

The following is the plot summary for Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan from Audible:
This harrowing mystery, winner of the Philippine National Book Award, follows two Catholic priests on the hunt through Manila for a brutal serial killer.
Payatas, a 50-acre dump northeast of Manila's Quezon City, is home to thousands of people who live off of what they can scavenge there. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in a city whose law enforcement is already stretched thin, devoid of forensic resources, and rife with corruption. So when the eviscerated bodies of preteen boys begin to appear in the dump heaps, there is no one to seek justice on their behalf.
In the rainy summer of 1997, two Jesuit priests take the matter of protecting their flock into their own hands. Father Gus Saenz is a respected forensic anthropologist, one of the few in the Philippines, and has been tapped by the director of the National Bureau of Investigations as a backup for police efforts. Together with his protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, a psychologist, Saenz dedicates himself to tracking down the monster preying on these impoverished boys. Smaller and Smaller Circles, widely regarded as the first Filipino crime novel, is a poetic masterpiece of literary noir, a sensitive depiction of a time and place and a fascinating story about the Catholic Church and its place in its devotees' lives.
I'm giving Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan 3 stars out of 5 stars,

Until my next post, happy reading!

Friday, March 6, 2020

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole


I read the paperback edition of Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole. I love historical fiction written in the form of letters as is the case with Letters From Skye.

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole alternates between two different eras... That of both World War I and World War II as this novel parallels both the lives of Elspeth Dunn and David Graham and that of Elspeth's daughter Margaret Dunn her budding romance during World War II. 

Additionally, Letters From Skye delves into the relationship between mother and daughter as there are parts of Elspeth's life Margaret knows little about prior to her birth. Margaret finds herself trying to uncover her mother's past when her mother goes missing after an air raid during World War II.

Letters From Skye is a gripping tale and takes readers on journey. I liked how the story unfolds and is told through a series of letters. There are funny moments, there are sad moments, and everything in between. 

I initially became interested in reading Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole because I enjoyed reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows so much. Although both novels have a few things in common, they are different from each other in other ways. I liked Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole, but not as much as I did The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Below is a book trailer for Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole that I discovered on YouTube!



I'm giving Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani



Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani is a comic book geared towards young adults that I chose as a read for Women's History Month as it focuses on the lives of three women primatologists.

I read Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani in a few hours as it is a quick read due to it being a comic book. It's a good first primer for teens on the lives of these three famous women.

The artwork for this book was okay... I didn't love or dislike the artwork. The text was super small in some areas making it difficult to read the words without a magnifier in some spots. 

Otherwise I felt like Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani was a great read.

The following is a summary for Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani from Amazon:
Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology―and to our own understanding of ourselves.Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.
I am giving Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani a rating of 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Until my next post, happy reading!!