Summer Reading – 2019

Summer is almost here! I will be continuing to read for my Reading the Classics Challenge and my 2019 Focus on Authors Challenge. Titles are mostly based on giveaways, book club picks, and books set in Ireland, as I get ready to travel there in August. What are y’all reading this summer? Any read you are most looking forward to? Here is my list:

Book Club Reads

  • The Plague by Albert Camus
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman
  • Tigerman by Nick Harkaway
  • Recollections of Things to Come by Elena Garro

NetGalley Reads

  • Once Upon a Bad Boy by Melonie Johnson
  • A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell
  • The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
  • The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
  • How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul; Maria Russo

Readalongs

  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

2019 Focus on Authors

  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  • Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life by Laura Thompson

Other

  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand- audiobook
  • The Children by David Halberstam – audiobook
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama – audiobook/book
  • Made for This by Jennie Allen – audiobook
  • The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy – audiobook/ebook
  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt – audiobook
  • The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich – audiobook
  • The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein – audiobook
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas – book
  • 1916: The Easter Rising by Tim Pat Coogan – ebook
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Reading Margaret Atwood – April 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). April was spent reading as many works by Margaret Atwood. Previously I had only read The Handmaid’s Tale, which I loved.

I got to start my Margaret Atwood month off by seeing her live at Jones Hall in Houston. She talked about her life and career, which was just fascinating. She read aloud a collection of alien poetry, which was amazing. Unfortunately, she could not give away any spoilers for her upcoming sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Needless to say, seeing her live just made me want to read her books even more.

 

The following are the books I managed to complete:

StoneMattress
Title: 
Stone Mattress
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Short Stories
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publication Date: August 28, 2014
Pages: 273 pages
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: April 6, 2019

Goodreads Description: A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy.
A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire, and a crime committed long ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite.

In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood ventures into the shadowland earlier explored by fabulists and concoctors of dark yarns such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier and Arthur Conan Doyle – and also by herself, in her award-winning novel Alias Grace. In Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 

atwood
Title: 
The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd.
Publication Date: September 2, 2000
Pages: 637 pages
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: April 14, 2019

Goodreads Description: Margaret Atwood takes the art of storytelling to new heights in a dazzling novel that unfolds layer by astonishing layer and concludes in a brilliant and wonderfully satisfying twist. Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms and clichés of the 1930s and 1940s, The Blind Assassin is a richly layered and uniquely rewarding experience.

It opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge.” They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister Laura’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.

For the past twenty-five years, Margaret Atwood has written works of striking originality and imagination. In The Blind Assassin, she stretches the limits of her accomplishments as never before, creating a novel that is entertaining and profoundly serious. The Blind Assassin proves once again that Atwood is one of the most talented, daring, and exciting writers of our time. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, it is destined to become a classic.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

1297481929797_ORIGINALTitle: Oryx and Crake
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication Date: April 22, 2003
Pages: 378 pages
Format Read: audiobook & book
Standalone or series: MaddAddam series Book #1
Where I got the book: Library Libby app & library sale
Date finished reading: April 23, 2019

Goodreads Description: Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ¾

My Review: I only managed to make it through three Margaret Atwood books this month. Atwood’s books are ones that you tend to take your time with and read thoroughly. You don’t want to miss any detail or description.

Margaret Atwood creates characters that really explore the dark side of human nature, that there is a fine line between love and hate and good and evil. Everytime I finished one of her books, I found myself unable to truly express my thoughts about it. The characters, the scenery, the plot, and the message are always so complex in her writings. You always think you know what will happen and then feel disbelief that that is really what is happening but ascends anything that you could have imagined. I am in awe that Margaret Atwood can do this.

You can tell based on my ratings, that I prefer a more literary genre, since The Blind Assassin was most like that and also my favorite Atwood read of the month. While most of Atwood’s books of a mixed-genre (sci-fi, dystopia and humor) are not necessarily for me, I will always adore Margaret Atwood’s writing style and descriptions. She is a definite one-of-a-kind writer.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

24 Hour Readathon – Goals

readrat

It’s that time!!!! Time for the semi-annual Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon!!!! Check back on Saturday, April 6th to see my progress. This is officially my 6th time participating. Here are some questions to help me prep and set goals for this round.

Are you participating for the whole 24 hours? I really wish I could participate for the whole 24 hours. Unfortunately, I will be hosting a garage sale that morning as part of our community yard sale. It is my opportunity to Marie Kondo my house, so I can’t pass this up. I am hoping to still read during slow moments or have the Harry Potter Book 4 audiobook blaring on our outdoor speakers. I also don’t believe that I’ll be able to stay up all night as I will have a late night on Friday. We are taking my mother-in-law to: A Night with Margaret Atwood. Super excited for this! So I believe my ultimate goal will be to read for: 15 hours.

What is on your TBR pile for the Readathon? I always make sure I have a lot of options, because I never know what I’ll be in the mood for. Here are the books I believe I will finish:

Here are some other books I may start or continue reading:

What snacks am I looking forward to? Since I’m going to have an early morning with last minute prepping for the garage sale, I plan on making a 6am run to Billy’s Donuts. It is a donut shop that just opened up in my neighborhood, so I am happy to finally support a new business, which in turn will support my readathon goals (or at least my hunger). I am always up for donuts and kolaches!

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My Readathon TBR Pile

Anyone else participating in the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon? If so, what will you be reading and snacking on? Also, I’ll be happy to cheer you on if you are participating.

HAPPY READING!!!

WWW Wednesdays – March 27, 2019

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What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Time for another WWW Wednesdays, which is brought to you by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. If you too want to participate, answer the above questions and post that link on Sam’s page.

I did not have the best reading week. I keep getting distracted with household projects (trying to prepare my house to participate in the community yard sale in a week and a half), but I started my Spring Reading List and am continuing my David McCullough reads. (See my 2019 A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). I will soon be starting my Margaret Atwood month! Here’s hoping that this weekend’s #8intwo Readathon will help me catch up a little and get a good start on the beast I have to finish for next week’s book club.

Currently Reading

Finished Reading

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦

*Click on the title of the book to see my full review.*

Reading Next

Anyone else participating in the #8intwo Readathon this weekend? What are y’all reading now? Please post your WWW links below in the comments if I haven’t already visited them.

HAPPY READING!

 

WWW Wednesdays – March 13, 2019

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What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Time for another WWW Wednesdays, which is brought to you by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. If you too want to participate, answer the above questions and post that link on Sam’s page.

I am finishing up my Winter Reading List this month but am no where near completing everything on that list. Hopefully I will have better luck with my upcoming Spring Reading List. I am also making my way through some David McCullough reads. (See my 2019 A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge).

Currently Reading

Finished Reading

#HPBuddyRead Readalong: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
IRL Great Books Book Club:  The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Emily Wilson) – book = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
NetGalley ARC: The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson – ebook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½
Focus on Authors Reading Challenge: The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦

*Click on the titles for my reviews. A full review of all David McCullough reads this month will be posted at the end of the month.*

Reading Next

Have you read anything by the author David McCullough? If so, what do you think of his writing? What are y’all reading now? Please post your WWW links below in the comments if I haven’t already visited them.

HAPPY READING!!!

WWW Wednesdays – March 6, 2019

www

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Time for another WWW Wednesdays, which is brought to you by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. If you too want to participate, answer the above questions and post that link on Sam’s page.

I am finishing up my Winter Reading List this month but am no where near completing everything on that list. Hopefully I have better luck with my upcoming Spring Reading List. I just finished reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in February and will be switching to some nonfiction with David McCullough during March. (See my 2019 A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge).

Currently Reading

Finished Reading

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½
Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress by Rita Emmett – audiobook = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren – audiobook = ♦ (This rating reflects a DNF, as this book just wasn’t for me.)
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – book = ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

*Click on the titles for my reviews.*

Reading Next

Have you read anything by the author David McCullough? If so, what do you think of his writing? What are y’all reading now? Please post your WWW links below in the comments if I haven’t already visited them.

HAPPY READING!!!

Reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – February 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). February was spent reading as many works by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whom I had never read before, as I could. The following are the books I managed to complete:

we-should-all-be-feministsTitle: We Should All Be Feminists
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Nonfiction essay
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Pages: 52
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: library Libby app
Date finished reading:  February 1, 2019

Goodreads Description: What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed TEDx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

n128815Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Cultural fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: October 30, 2003
Pages: 336
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: library Libby app
Date finished reading: February 8, 2019

Goodreads Description: Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They’re completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

dear-ijeaweleTitle: Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Nonfiction essay
Publisher: Knopf Publishing House
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Pages: 63
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: library Libby app
Date finished reading:  February 13, 2019

Goodreads Description: A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a dear friend from childhood, asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response.

Here are fifteen invaluable suggestions–compelling, direct, wryly funny, and perceptive–for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. From encouraging her to choose a helicopter, and not only a doll, as a toy if she so desires; having open conversations with her about clothes, makeup, and sexuality; debunking the myth that women are somehow biologically arranged to be in the kitchen making dinner, and that men can “allow” women to have full careers, Dear Ijeawele goes right to the heart of sexual politics in the twenty-first century. It will start a new and urgently needed conversation about what it really means to be a woman today.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

americanah_book_cover
Title: 
Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 447
Format Read: book
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: local public library
Date finished reading: March 3, 2019

Goodreads Description: Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: I really enjoyed reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie this month. I highly recommend everything I read by her.

I am going to start by discussing by discussing her fiction works that I read: Purple Hibiscus and Americanah. Both novels tackle important issues. Be advised that there is a trigger warning for domestic violence in Purple Hibiscus. Purple Hibiscus was a powerful family story told from the perspective of a young girl, named Kambili. You receive a glimpse into Nigerian society and political upheaval. The political strife and violence is mirrored in the horrors that happen inside her own home. Kambili’s father is violently abusive to her mother, her brother, JaJa, and eventually to her as well. Until they go and spend time with their aunt, Kambili and Jaja believe that their home life is normal. They begin to understand that that violence is not normal. You can feel the intensity grow as it leads to the climactic ending. This is an amazing story, written beautifully, that just tears your heart apart.

Americanah is another powerful fiction novel that discusses a multitude of issues such as education, immigration, cultural differences and racism. When universities stop paying their teachers in Nigeria, the teachers go on strike. To get the education that she desires, Ifemelu applies and gets into a program at a university in the United States. She leaves her parents and the man that she loves and moves to America. There she is struck with a load of cultural differences including something as basic as language – American English expressions and terms not used in other English speaking countries. In the end, the biggest adjustment for Ifemelu, which ended up driving her to eventually create a successful and profitable blog, was her introduction to race and racism. As an American, it is hard to imagine a place in this world where the color of your skin is not something that people see when they look at you. Americanah defines and discusses issues regarding race in a somewhat aggressive and necessary way.

“But race is not biology; race is sociology. Race is not genotype; race is phenotype. Race matters because of racism. And racism is absurd because it’s about how you look. Not about the blood you have. It’s about the shade of your skin and the shape of your nose and the kink of your hair.” ~Ifemelu’s blog post “Is Obama Anything but Black”

Adichie also makes reference to a connection between race and immigration policies.

“Well, yes, but that is because countries in Europe were based on exclusion and not, as in America, on inclusion,” Mark said. “But it’s also a different psychology, isn’t it?” Hannah said. “European countries are surrounded by countries that are similar to one another, while America has Mexico, which is really a developing country, and so it creates a different psychology about immigration and borders.” ~A discussion about immigration in England (Europe immigration vs. American immigration)

I can’t help wonder in what ways Americanah would be revised if written today instead of ten years ago. The blog posts in Americanah include some of the best writing I’ve read. I kept putting post-its on every page that had a line or two that meant something to me or moved me or made me think outside of my sometimes too sheltered life. Eventually the whole book just became littered with post-its.

After writing Purple Hibiscus and Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote some essay collections that discussed another important social issue – feminism and the roles of women in the home and in society. We Should All Be Feminists (WSABF) and Dear Ijeawele are both great works that discuss this important issue. There are so many great quotes in WSABF that it was hard to choose my favorite, but here they are:

“Culture functions ultimately to ensure the preservation and continuity of a people.”

“I want to be respected in all my femaleness, because I deserve to be.”

The difference between feminism and human rights: “Choose to use the vague expression ‘human rights’ is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.”

“Gender matters everywhere in the world, and I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world – a fairer world.”

We Should All Be Feminists really spoke to me on why gender issues matter and some of the ways women are treated differently just because they are women.

Dear Ijeawele creates 15 points that I feel really touch on women’s daily roles in society. When my mother was growing up, she was taught how to care for a home and children. If she wanted a career, there were really only three options: nursing, secretarial work and teaching. She became a nurse but gave up her nursing career when she had kids. I took a very different route in my life. I achieved an advanced education and started a career working in finances. I hate housework and really cannot cook well. My husband actually does most of the cooking and is really good at it. (On a side note, my favorite quote (maybe of all time) is one that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes on this point – “the knowledge of cooking does not come preinstalled in a vagina.”) My husband and I have also decided not to have children, which is a decision that we but mostly I have been interrogated and criticized for. What I love about Dear Ijeawele is that Adichie says that all these decisions should be perfectly acceptable choices for women in society. That you should not define yourself solely as a mother or solely has a career women but all those things are equal. That you can be a mother and a career-orientated person. That men should equally be described by their careers and fatherhood. That men should have the same role in the house as women do. They should put in equal time with kids and with housework as women do. That point really resonated with me. I think we can all hope that the next generation of young women will never be told they cannot do something because they are women.

If you would like to hear more from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, please check out her TED Talk.

Please let me know your thoughts on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s fiction and/or nonfiction in the comment section below. Next month I’ll be reading David McCullough.