Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recently Purchased: Two Classic Memoirs by Women

You might remember this post  from earlier in the month where I showed my latest book purchases by women authors. Well, I am continuing that pattern, and here I have my latest book purchases, and one from the library, all of which are by women! I'm hoping to get to these soon because I have very high hopes for them.

From the Library

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

This is a short collection of essays based around feminism that has been quite popular since its release. Essays are not my usual genre of reading, but because these are so short, it's been rather enjoyable reading. I'll be reviewing this one soon. 


Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neal Hurston 

I haven't read any of Hurston's full length fiction yet, but I am really interested in reading her memoir. I have of course heard never-ending praise for Their Eyes were Watching God and have enjoyed the few short stories of hers I have read. I really don't know anything about Hurston's biography so I was happy to discover this existed and even happier to find it used at my local bookstore. 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

This one has been high on my need-to-buy list since I read and loved Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, which is a fictional account of Markham's life in Africa and as a female pilot. This memoir written by Markham connects with the novel Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, as Markham is one of the characters in that group of people and is featured in the movie version and possibly the book (I'll let you know when I read it.) 

I may have to make March a month of reading memoirs because I have so many that I am dying to get to.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recently Read: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Author: Frederick Douglass
Genre: Classic/Memoir
Publication Date: 1845
Page Count: 100
Rating: 4/5

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a piece of writing that I hoped, and expected, to read while getting my degree in English. Unfortunately, my American Lit. part one professor preferred the awful works of white men to any quality works by women or African Americans, so I took it upon myself to read this piece, as it is a staple of American literature. 

Douglass was born a slave and remained a slave for the early part of his adulthood. He moved from master-to-master until he escaped to freedom. What makes Douglass' story unique from other slave narratives is that Douglass was taught to read and write by an early master's wife. From there he secretly continued learning to read and write by any possible means and wrote Narrative unaided and published it in 1845. Douglass went on to be a very important figure in the Abolitionist movement and spoke against racism publicly for the rest of his life. 

I really enjoyed this short narrative. Douglass is endlessly smart and compassionate and communicates his experiences to the reader in a matter-of-fact manner that make his narrative impossible to deny or ignore. This is not an easy read, but it would be a disservice to history and the experiences of many if it was. It's not overly graphic, Douglass does not rely on shock-value or emotionally preach to his reader, he just relays his experiences and that is enough. I found Douglass' thoughts on religion and religion's role in slavery quite interesting, and I really enjoyed his writing voice. Douglass is a person I would love to learn more about as a human and in regards to his role in anti-slavery activism. 

I highly recommend checking this one out if you are interested in American history, slavery, or African American activists. I'll leave you with some of Douglass' wise words, "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence."  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unconventional Romances

I am not  fan of romance novels and never have been. I don't know why, they just aren't my thing. But I do love Valentine's Day and showing a little extra love to your loved ones. Here I've put together a list of unconventionally romantic books and poetry collections. They either have a unique romance or don't have a romance per say, but discuss the topic of romance and love in general. I would love for you to leave your recommendations below for unconventional romances or books that discuss romance and love more-so than contain romances. 


This is one of those novels that discusses romance and love without actually having a romance in the story. In fact, as the title suggests, this novel is about the end of a romance. I really loved this novel and the juxtaposition of religious faith and romantic love. 

This is a magical realism romance that has to do with dreams. I really enjoyed this one; magical realism is beginning to make its way to the top of my favorite genres lists. The magical elements kept this from being stereotypical, but the romance and high school setting, made it a quick read. 

Nothing about this novel is conventional. It's an Odyssey retelling that takes place at the end of the world. The characters are so unique they become mythical and the setting is just as unique.  

This is one of my all-time favorite novels. It deals with self-discovery and love that is on the wrong side of fate. This book is beautifully written and set in 1930s New York. I need to reread this one this year! 

Once again, this is another completely unconventional novel. In this one our main character is one the LGBTQ spectrum and battles giant man-eating grasshoppers who cause the end of civilization as we know it. The romance is not the main focus of the novel, but it was one of the most interesting aspects of the novel for me. 
6. Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote 
Another classic that deals with romance and love without the typical romantic plot line. The novel is very different than the movie (but I love both) and it doesn't have that same romantic, happy ending, which to me, is much more interesting. 


7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
This book takes place during WWIII (yes you read that right) and features an unconventional romance between two cousins. Very unconventional. 

This collection deals with heartbreak, self-love, and the rediscovery of love. I love the illustrations in this collection, and the poems aren't mind-blowing, but I did enjoy this collection. 

9. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
This collection was written by Hughes and published after his death. Almost every poem in this collection is about Sylvia Plath. If you know anything about their biography, you know they had an unconventional (i.e. unhealthy) relationship. I am still working through this collection, but these poems are raw and provide an interesting contrast to Plath's poems (although I will always prefer Plath's poetry over Hughes'.)

10. Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay 
Millay is one of my favorite poets. She writes about love, sex, and romance in a completely liberated and witty way. Her poetry is smart, sassy, and addicting. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recently Read: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime

Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Adult/Literary Fiction
Release Date: 2004
Page Count: 226
Rating: 4/5

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Christopher is fifteen years old and lives with his father. He is a math genius and logical without fail. Christopher is also on the autism spectrum. One day Christopher happens upon a crime scene and takes it upon himself to discover who has killed his neighbor's dog, Wellington, and along the way, discovers a lot about himself and his father. 

I have been seeing this book around for years and have always meant to pick it up, and I'm glad that I finally got around to it as part of my short-reads February. I really enjoyed Christopher's narrative voice and the lengths the author went to to ensure his voice was authentic. I am a new high school teacher and have had students with autism before, and of course talked about autism in my special education classes, so I really appreciated this novel. Autism can be frustrating for both the person that has it and the people around them, and this novel was honest about that. Christopher and his father were real people with real emotions, frustrations, and love. 

I enjoyed the way that the plot unfolded and found it easy to loose myself in this novel for large chunks of time, as I read it in two sittings. I thought this novel was a very accurate portrayal of autism, as far as my knowledge allows me to make that judgement, and it is a novel that I would keep on my classroom shelves without hesitation. If you are looking to diversify your own reading I recommend this novel. 

If you are interested in an 'own voices' novel about Autism, I have recently added Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet to my TBR.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Recently Purchased: Works by Women

I've been slowly spending my Christmas money on books, and of course, everything I have bought, has been written by women! I started this spree by buying volumes 2-5 of Ms. Marvel by Willow G. Wilson, and continued it by buying the books below. These books have been on my to-buy-list forever so I'm glad to finally have them.
Out of Africa, Isak Dinsen (Karen Blixen) 

 Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

I have been meaning to get my hands on something by Adichie forever now, and I'm glad to have two of her novels now. I bought both of them in the gorgeous patterned editions, and I'm hoping to collect them all because I love them. I have been wanting to read Out of Africa ever since I read Circling the Sun. Next on my to-buy-list is Beryl Markham's West with the Night, another read inspired by Circling the Sun. I have been craving books set in Africa ever since reading that novel and have rounded up quite a few for my shelves with this haul. 

What's your favorite Adichie novel? What was the last book you bought yourself? 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Recently Read: Viper Wine

Author: Hermonie Eyre
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 410
Rating: 2/5

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Venetia Stanley was known for beauty and the art and poetry it inspired great men to write. She has since married and the greatest tragedy known to human kind has befallen her: she has aged. She attempts to convince her alchemist husband to make her an anti-aging serum, which is all the rage in the court of Charles the I, but he refuses. Venetia is forced to find the tonic on her own in order to restore her beauty.

I had super high hopes for this book. I loved the cover and the premise, but I was disappointed with this one. This was such a slow read. It took me ages to read and I ended up just skimming the last one hundred pages because I just wanted it to be over with. There wasn't much of a plot in this novel, which can sometimes work out just fine as I love character driven novels, but in this case, it just didn't work.

Eyre attempts to weave together magic, science, and superstition into this novel by allowing glimpses of the future into the past. Sir Digby (Venetia's husband) can see glimpses of the future of science and serves as a somewhat 'enlightened' figure. I found that this element of the novel just disrupted the historic setting Eyre had built and really didn't add anything to the story. I think Eyre approached this novel with a unique storytelling voice and some very original ideas, but they just didn't match up with my reading style. 

However, this novel did make some interesting and relevant comments on how society views aging women and what women are willing to do to hide their aging. Women have always gone to drastic (and less drastic) lengths to change their appearance. In this novel, women paint their faces with lead paint as makeup and try a variety of superstitious and off-the-wall beauty remedies to hide their aging. It is easy to draw parallels between the market for Viper Wine (a beauty serum made from viper's venom and pregnant mare urine, among other unsavory ingredients) and today's market for diet pills, beauty creams, and surgical enhancements all aimed at women who are attempting to defy their age. I found this element of the novel to be intriguing, but it was not enough for me to enjoy the slow reading experience that this novel provided. 

I would be willing to check out Eyre's future works though, as I think she some very original ideas and a unique voice. 

If you liked this book, I think you would also enjoy All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders because the writing style and magic/science elements in Viper Wine really reminded me of this novel.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Short Reads TBR

In this post I talked about some of my short-term reading goals I have set for myself. One of those was to use February to read some of the short books that have been on my TBR for ages! I've picked out six books that are under or around 200 pages that I have been meaning to get to for ages. If you've read any of them, let me know what you thought!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman- 241 pages
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark- 128 pages
They do it with Mirrors by Agatha Christe- 202 pages
The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass and American Slave by Fredrick Douglas- 110 pages
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho- 177 pages
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon- 221 pages

I would love to get through all of these this month, as they are all well-beloved books. 

What are your reading goals for this month? For the year?