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2017 Book Challenge: A Book with a Blue Cover

A Man Called Ove by Fredric Backman

A Man Called Ove

Synopsis: Ove spends his days patrolling his neighborhood, making sure the bikes are placed in the correct area, that cars obey traffic signs, and that his garage is locked. But when new neighbors move in, they prevent Ove from carrying out his plans. As Ove’s solitary existence is challenged by neighbors left and right, Ove realizes that he still has more to fight for.

I love this book. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think of my grandpa. Ove is the quintessential grumpy old man, but as the story progresses; we get a glimpse as to why Ove ignores some basic social rules. What we, as the reader, begin to see is that Ove is not a modern man. He is a man who only says what he will do—little more, little less. What’s also amazing about this book, besides Ove as a character, is the love story that is revealed through flashbacks. It’s always a little annoying when a male author writes a male lead character that the novel isn’t characterized as anything other than fiction. But, in my opinion, this is one of the greatest love stories. Rich and deep, it is poignant and bittersweet. Love, not just romantic love, is represented in all of its forms. A great picture of the beauty of life. I can’t say enough about this book.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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Synopsis: Nella Oortman can’t help but be offended by the wedding present from her new husband; what eighteen year-old woman, newly married wants to play with a toy? Nella quickly feels neglected and lonely as the new Mrs. Johannes Brandt but can’t help but be captivated by the exquisite details and beauty of the miniature home, their home. Nella begins to believe that the miniatures, and the miniaturist that supplies them, are much more in tune to her household than she.

I picked up this book at a store in a mall in England (yes, in England their malls still have bookstores) because the title and the time period interested me. Although the cover is not completely blue (the back cover and spine are solid blue), I am going to cheat and use for the challenge because it is set in Amsterdam and everyone is familiar with Delft Blue. In this plot-driven story I kept finding myself thinking it was getting “curiouser and curiouser”. And to its credit, I only mildly suspected one of the many twists and turns throughout the novel, but was more often sitting on the couch with my eyebrows raised making my surprised face. So put away your verkeerspel, put on your patterns, get your favorite puffert or oliekoechken, and spend some guilders for this story.

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The Singer and the Charlatan

The Wicked Instruments Series by D.C. Fergerson

Fantasy

 

The Singer and the Charlatan (book 1)

Singer and the Charlatan

Overall Rating: 3.5

 

Quick & Dirty summary: Leanne Moonbeam doesn’t know much, but what she does know is that she is determined to be a famous singer, the most famous singer known in Newland. When she gets entangled with a rag tag group on a flawed quest, hilarity ensues.

This is a light-hearted, funny quest. The primary conflict of the novel is finished in book one, but there is a larger story arch that isn’t revolving around Leanne’s identity prompting me to search out and read book two. Since book one delivered in sketching out interesting secondary characters and a possible love-interest, I’m looking forward it.

Leanne is talented, neurotic, and easy-going. The secondary characters are alternately bloodthirsty, naive, insane, and ridiculous. All of the characters together form an odd rendition of Dorothy and gang in the Wizard of Oz. I’m not terribly clear if there is a deeper meaning to this book or series, but regardless, I think it’s great to take the book as it is. An entertaining book well outside of what I normally read. It’s a blessing, but above all, it is (really, really) funny.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle FREE)

Yes, right now the book is free. I’m not clear on whether this price is temporary or not, but it’s worth getting at that low, low price.

Something else you might enjoy:

I don’t know. Do you have any suggestions?

My Antonia

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Literary Fiction

My Antonia

Overall Rating: 4.5

Quick summary: When Jim Burton’s parents die he is sent from his home in Virginia to the Nebraska prairie to live with his grandparents. His nearest neighbor is Antonia, another child new to the difficulties of farm life. As he and Antonia grow up, they discover the simple joys and heartaches in America’s heartland.

 

This is a literary classic that is an American pastoral. Cather extolls the virtues of farming, hard work, and the pioneering spirit of immigrants. This novel is especially poignant now that we’ve gotten so far from those first Americans who tamed the prairies to grow corn and wheat. Some may find the descriptive passages a little boring, but if you think of them as analogies for Jim’s emotional state and his relationship with Antonia, it might make them more interesting.

 

While there are compelling arguments to make about Native Americans and patriarchy, this is a fine example of feminist writing. Cather takes a male narrator and chronicles the immigrant girls who become women as strong, flawed characters who defy simply stereotypes. Jim himself experiences a near rape, as he is mistaken for a woman, and is ashamed and embarrassed. And Jim himself acknowledges the double standard to which women are held. The female immigrants in this novel work hard at farming, going so far as to get jobs in town when doing so caused people to question their virtue. They make sacrifices few town women would make so they can see their younger siblings have a more comfortable life.

 

But more than that, what I love about this novel is that it gets at the dichotomies that make up the truth of life, the bitter sweetness of love. The closing scenes explain so eloquently the way we live in the present alongside the past. It has beautiful lessons that still speak to me today, which is the hallmark of any work of classic literature.

 

Is it worth buying? (Kindle FREE)

I think it goes without saying that if a book is free, and I’ve given it a 4.5 rating, you should “buy” it.

 

Something else you might enjoy:

If you’d like a more traditional literary romance, and by that I mean you want a marriage at the end of the novel, try Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. It too is about a boy and a girl who grow up together and learn some difficult lessons as they realize the constraints of society. It is also free as an ebook.

First Book in The Hundredth Queen Series

The Hundredth Queen Series by Emily R. King

Fantasy

 

The Hundredth Queen

 

This is the first book in a new series. The ending leaves the story unresolved. The second book is scheduled to release on Sept. 26, 2017.

 

Overall Rating: 4 (xoxo)

 

Quick & Dirty summary: Kalinda has spent her entire life in the care of the temples. As an orphan, she’s lucky that she was taken in by the Sisterhood, especially since she’s afflicted with mysterious fevers. When King Rajah Tarek selects her to be his 100th queen, she has no choice but to accept. But before she can wed the king, she must fight any challengers who want to take her place. Her only ally is her guard, Captain Deven Naik. But her challengers are not the only threat looming and Kalinda isn’t sure she’ll be able to survive.

This is an exciting introduction to a new series. It took me a bit to settle into the story, but there is a lot of intrigue and mystery involved. It’s true to the genre in that there are magical things that happen which adds a lot of excitement.

I enjoy Kalinda and Deven together. They make a good couple and there is a slow burn between them. There is quite a bit of political commentary throughout the novel, as the social structure in the book’s world is very patriarchal. The interesting thing about it, though, is that it’s recent.

I have high hopes for the rest of the series. Emily King seems to have laid quite a bit of groundwork, so I think future books will be even better.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle $4.99)

I was able to get this as a Kindle First book, meaning I got it for free. Since this is just the first book in a series, five dollars is a lot to pay knowing that there’ll be more books. I’d recommend petitioning your library to buy the book or waiting until the series is complete to buy it as a box set. But it’s a very fun series and well worth the read.

Something else you might enjoy:

This book really reminded me of The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon. Harmon’s book, though, is much more about language and fate, than this one, giving it a bit more depth to its imagery.

I, Robot or I, Human?

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Science Fiction

 

Overall Rating: 4

Quick summary: Artificial intelligence has been around for many years at the beginning of Asimov’s book. In a collection of short stories tied together by an overarching theme, this book explores how far humans could go with artificial intelligence.

So I started this book because one of my romance novels refers to it. Dating-ish by Penny Reid is about robots and after reading Dating-ish, I decided I needed to read I,Robot. I was a little leery at the beginning, though, because of the movie. I didn’t see the movie, but I remember liking the trailer, but any book that’s been turned into a movie is immediately suspicious to me. Don’t ask me why, it’s completely illogical.

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. In fact, I probably would have read it more quickly, had I not been reading a few other romance novels at the same time. But I thought the writing style was engaging and the characters in the novel very well developed.

Since this book is probably more of a “classic literature” title than just “science fiction” I was prepared for it to be more inaccessible. But the language is very accessible, the science is understandable, and the setting in the future very believable.

One of my favorite components of this book is thinking about what makes us human. Asimov makes a compelling argument that humans are very flawed, and perhaps less human than we’d like to admit. By that I mean, in trying to “save” ourselves from imitators (i.e. Artificial Intelligence) we reveal the weaknesses in our humanity. Indeed, by the end of the book, I think it’s difficult to tell which species exhibits the best of humanity—humans or robots.

Is it worth buying? (Kindle$7.99)

You should definitely read this book, but I recommend borrowing it from the library, like I did, or, buying it from a used bookstore, which I also did. Yes, that means I had two copies of the book, but since I had to give the library book back, it was worthwhile.

Something else you might enjoy:

Reading this book reminded me how much I love classic science fiction. If you haven’t read some of the earlier stuff, I highly recommend Ender’s Game. I read it in high school but it convinced me that any book can be amazing, regardless of genre! I have never shied away from any book, since then, simply because of its genre.

Book Challenge: A Great First Line

2017 Book Challenge

 

A book with a great first line

 

Shopping Series by Julia Kent

Shopping for a Billionaire (Book 1)

 

First line: “I am eating my ninth cinnamon raisin bagel with maple horseradish cream cheese and hazelnut chocolate spread. Don’t judge me.”

Shopping for a billionaire

Synopsis: Shannon Jacoby meets Declan McCormick in the men’s room. With her hand down a toilet. In clothes that belong on a homeless person or a college student. Somehow, they keep running into each other and sparks fly.

Okay, so it’s a great first two lines, but still, who wouldn’t want to continue reading, if only to figure out what the heck is going on?! I happened upon this book by chance. I received it for free from the author. I think I may have won it on Facebook… maybe… I can’t remember. In any case, it was really fun to read. So funny and interesting! One of those books that you can just relax into. However, I’m sad to learn this is just the intro to a 10 book series. Yes, you read that correctly—10 BOOKS!! Now, I’m not afraid of a long series; I did read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books, after all, but still. I’ll have to figure out how I can fit 10 more books into my schedule because these light-hearted, sassy stories need to be in my life.

 

1984 by George Orwell

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First line: It was a bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Winston Smith (party member #6079), knows that there was a time when Oceania was at war with neither Eurasia nor Eastasia. Unfortunately, he can’t find anyone old enough to confirm and he doesn’t want to risk Big Brother overhearing. Winston knows that the past/his memories don’t lie, he only needs to find evidence that the Party hasn’t already destroyed.

I thought 1984 was required school reading for anyone who went through the American school system. Somehow I was never assigned either of Orwell’s most famous novels, and having read Animal Farm on my own, it was time.

The idea of the clock striking thirteen was eerie and mystical to me; the reality that the line merely refers to a society that goes by military time, written in an era before digital clocks was disappointing. There is no question that the themes in this novel are impactful and may serve as an introduction in critical-thinking towards government, but I couldn’t help myself from thinking Orwell wrote this novel as an excuse to have his 30-page essay on socialism and totalitarianism (Goldstein’s The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism) read on a mass scale. However, I hope that my sons are required to read it in school so they understand the importance of questioning those in a position of power (except my authority, which is unquestionable). How else are they going to understand why the reality show is called Big Brother?

Did you join us in this book challenge? Have you ever picked up a book simply based on the first sentence? Tell us about it!

Up Next: A book with a lion, a witch or a wardrobe. We’ll let you know what book we chose and how we liked it on May 26. Pick your own book so you can read along with us!

2017 Book Challenge Book by Its Cover

2017 Book Challenge

A book you pick solely because of the cover

Fit Trilogy by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Sated (Book 3)

Synopsis: Keira Kenney knows she’s an odd duck. While she teaches kickboxing during the day, she geeks out at night and that can be something of a turn off in the romance department. All Keira wants is to find someone who loves her for her. When her friend sets her up with Daniel Song during a science fiction conference, she’s not expecting anything but a fun day geeking out. So she’s surprised when she’s not only attracted to the sexy Korean-American pyrotechnics expert, but he seems interested back. But Daniel has a life behind closed doors and Keira’s not sure she can keep up, or keep Daniel interested when all she knows and likes is vanilla.

I actually was gifted this book from the Ripped Bodice Bookstore on Twitter. I can’t believe I won it! What happened was they tweeted a picture of some books they were giving away and all I had to do was reply with the title of the book I wanted. Obviously I picked Rebekah Weatherspoon’s book because of the cover. And I am really glad I did. Rebekah was so sweet, she even signed it!! I enjoyed this book so much! It made me laugh and giggle and swoon. I also really love that Keira has mocha skin and Daniel is Korean. It is erotica, so be forewarned about that, but it was some of the lightest and sweetest erotica I’ve ever read.

Fallon’s Book

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

By Aimee Bender
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Rosie was able to uncover her mom’s secret, her brother’s dispassion for everything, and a one-sided friendship all by taking a few bites of food. Pre-pubescent Rosie discovers she can taste the feelings and emotions of whoever makes or prepares the food she eats. She finds this, well, distasteful and is caught praying to the vending machine and its heavily processed, unsentimental, machine made meals. She never eats anything she makes herself.

I love lemon cake, though I’ve never tried it with chocolate frosting. This cover was very appetizing and that is the simple truth on why I chose Bender’s novel. (Hey, did you notice that the shadow looks like a person’s, because I didn’t until right now.) The narrative took me to a very different place than where I expected Rosie’s special talents would go. I was about 75% of the way through the novel (thank you Kindle app) before the Rosie I wanted to read about finally appeared. Then at around 90% complete, the timeline jumped and literally left me saying, “Huh?” Not two pages after that, the story ended because I wasn’t taking into consideration the eight pages of book club questions. In-depth discussion about character relationships would probably improve my opinion of the book (no, please just explain Joseph!), but as it was just me and my thoughts, I’m left with a sour taste, tinged with my own thoughtlessness.

Did you join us in our challenge? What book did you pick based on the cover? Did you enjoy it?

Our next book challenge is a book with a great first line… we’ll be revealing our picks on April 28. You should read along with us!