Eternal Life by Dara Horn: my thoughts

Hello again 🙂 I am back with some thoughts on another book I just finished. I heard about this book while listening to one of my favorite podcasts not long ago. The premise sounded fascinating so I went and bought it immediately.

A brief synopsis:

Rachel is a young 2000 year old woman (seriously) who cannot die. As a young mother living in Jerusalem, she had made a pact with God to spare the life of her son. The book follows Rachel mainly throughout her modern life with several flashbacks into former years of her life. Having raised many different families over 2000 years (because yea she can still have kids) she struggles in the modern era with a granddaughter who is a renowned scientist specializing in genetics. Will she find out Rachel’s secret and expose her? And what would be the consequences if she does?

My thoughts:

I really loved the idea of this book. I always love books that take place over multiple generations or that tie together events from different millennia. There was some beautiful writing in the book during particular scenes and the flashbacks to earlier times in her life were particularly well written. Dara Horn seems to be familiar with and done a decent amount of research into daily life in ancient Jerusalem. But despite all this, I found there to be something lacking- especially in regards to the ending. I disliked most of the characters and I really didn’t care for any of the relationships between characters, whether between parents and children or between lovers. The one character I was rather fond of was the one that Rachel kept at arms length for the whole book and it frustrated me quite a bit. So the bottom line is, yes I enjoyed the book but no I did not love it. I give it 3.5/5 stars. This is a book I would recommend when it comes out in paperback and not a shiny new hardback.

Advertisements

Warning labels on books: A controversial discussion

bookishdiscussion

I’d been intending to discuss this topic in a future post and had been holding off due to the fact that some may consider it a bit controversial, but I came across a great post at Pages Unbound and it addressed a lot of the same topic.  So while it is fresh in my mind, I’d like to throw in my humble two cents.

If you are a reader of middle grade or young adult fiction, it will come as no surprise to you that these books, YA in particular, are featuring more and more mature content. And that’s great. Readers can find all kinds of stories to suit all tastes.

But here is my dilemma.

While I would never want to be Nazi book mom, and call for removing books from libraries or angrily snatch books from my kids’ hands, I struggle with how I should handle these kinds of books in regards to my oldest who is soon to be 11 years old. When I was his age I was reading Judy Blume books and the Boxcar children. He on the other hand has a lot more to choose from. I encourage reading in our household and I know he is capable of reading at a level beyond middle grade books… but I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with him reading about things like rape just yet. After all, though he’s almost 11, he is quite naive in regards to a lot of things. His reading level may be advancing quickly but he is still a little boy who thinks the word “butt” is funny. Not quite ready to fully understand things like sex trafficking and torture. Now I know the simple answer would be to just monitor what he reads, but that becomes a little difficult when I don’t know the content of every single book that’s out there and he is fast approaching the “target age” for most YA.

I recently read an article where college students at several different colleges had called for “trigger warning” labels to be placed on books that dealt with distressing content. And while I admit I was sort of dismissive of the idea, it has gotten me thinking. Would it be feasible for publishers to publish future books with a small label? Something along the lines of “contains graphic violence” or “contains sexual content”. I’m curious to know what other readers think of this.

Now my dilemma may resolve itself. I may just be worried about nothing. He may decide “ewww this book is weird” and decide not to read it of his own accord until he is ready (or ever). In which case I will have another few years before I deal with the same issue again with my daughter. I know that for myself, I was around 12 when I started looking for more mature things to read. And I found them. I turned out okay, but I also think I was a little more mature and more prepared to handle difficult content than my son is now.

So I am curious to know what other readers and other parents think?  How do you handle mature content in books with your kids, siblings, students etc?

The Little Prince: my thoughts

If you have a Netflix account, you’ve probably seen the trailer for The Little Prince recently. It looked so adorable that I wanted to watch it and since one does not simply watch the movie first… I had to read it of course.

A brief synopsis:

A pilot who unfortunately has grown up crash lands in the middle of the desert. There he meets a little boy from another planet. The boy tells the story of how he fled his planet because of his love for a rose. In telling his story, the little boy reminds the pilot of the magic of seeing the world through a child’s eyes and the dangers of losing that magic when you grow up.

My thoughts:

So I really loved this book.  The entire book was just whimsical and magical.  I love how even though the pilot is a grown up, he remembers the feeling of drawing a picture that the adults just didn’t understand and the feeling has stayed with him.  When he meets the little prince, he meets a child who understands perfectly.  The pilot is an adult who hasn’t fallen into one of the typical categories that other adults in the story have.  The little prince is just charming and I fell in love with him as a character.  He lives alone on his planet and his only friend on his planet is a single rose.  After having a disagreement with his rose, he leaves his planet and passes through many other planets.

On each planet is a single adult and I loved how each of them embodied a different adult characteristic that children just don’t understand.  For instance, he meets one man on a planet who spends all day and all night counting the stars because he “owns them”. When the little prince asks why he needs to count them, the man informs him that it is very important to calculate numbers so he can own more.  Another man on another planet spends all his time preening and looking for someone to admire his clothes.

It is a little difficult to put into words all the things I loved about this book, but I loved both the pilot and the little prince.  The love the prince had for his rose was very sweet.  I would definitely recommend this book to children and adults.  This was one of the few books in recent months that I’ve given 5 stars.

Thank you for joining me once again and if you have read this or plan to read this, please let me know what you thought or think…

Until next time, happy reading!

The Luminaries: my thoughts

Having heard so many things about this novel, I have been wanting to read it for over a year. So I borrowed it from the library and attempted to dive in. I quickly realized that this was a book I wanted to take my sweet time with and so I returned it and bought my own copy.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A brief synopsis:

Walter Moody, a young Scottish lawyer, arrives in a gold mining town in 1866 New Zealand on a stormy night. He walks into a lounge at his hotel and disturbs… something. Inside the room are 12 men of different races and different walks of life discussing a series of mysterious events that occurred on the same day two weeks prior. A man is found dead, a prostitute is found collapsed in the street and a rich man goes missing.  When it is discovered that Moody has a slight connection to the events in question, they take him into their confidence and attempt to figure out what happened.

My thoughts:

Where to even begin?  The book was written in the style of a Victorian novel which I really really enjoyed.  It was done so well that I could really have believed it was a Victorian novel.  The structure of the novel was great.  Basically the first 300 something pages were dedicated to that night in the hotel lounge learning of the mysterious events that had taken place two weeks prior.  The whole rest of the novel takes place afterwards.  The book is divided into 12 parts and sections with a different character the focus of each.  At the beginning of each “part” there is a kind of zodiac chart that I’m afraid was lost on me but I did not find it necessary to the story. Though I did notice that the parts of the story “waned” like the moon. (Though I mean to look into it in further depth and maybe come back and amend this review) As we see a little bit more into each character’s life, a little bit of the truth is revealed, piece by piece.  It was wonderfully done in my opinion.  For a book this large – all 832 pages of it- it never dragged.  Every page was necessary to the story.

Catton’s choice of setting was spot on and she managed to bring an 1860’s goldmining town to life. She also focuses attention on the opium trade and the life of Chinese workers in a mining encampment.

I should also point out that I have never read a book with such a well crafted cast of characters.  Before this, I had considered Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express unique for its large cast of interesting characters.  Until now. There were TWENTY main characters in this book. TWENTY. I have read books with only a handful of characters that the author still manages to make flat.  I guess with an 800 page book, it’s kind of hard not to get to know the characters but Eleanor Catton managed to create 20 well rounded characters and every single one of them was integral to the story.

I guess to sum it up I’d say that there is a reason why this book won the Man Booker Prize.  I thought it was a really remarkable book.  I loved the writing, the structure, the characters, and the plot.  I highly recommend this book and I hope people are not turned off by the size.  I don’t often give 5 stars but this book I gave 5 stars, hearts, or whatever unit of measurement we are using these days.

If you have read this book, please tell me your thoughts.  I’m dying to discuss this one with someone!

You force your toddler to read?? In which Nicky rants… just a bit.

Not very long ago, someone said to me “Wow, she really DOES love books” (referring to my daughter Isabella) and I thought to myself “WTF did you think I was lying?”

For Christmas several of our relatives and friends asked what shows and tv characters she’s into so they could buy gifts and I was honestly stumped. She has never been interested in tv and to date has never sat through any toddler tv show (sometimes I envy those parents who can put The Wiggles on tv and sneak away to take a shower or make dinner). I suggested dogs (because she fangirls at any dogs she sees) and books. The response was a little depressing. I heard everything from “I don’t want to get her books…. I want to get something she’ll play with” to “You can’t give her books for Christmas!” And this really upset me because I know my children (nobody commented that I didn’t suggest books for Junior… it was only Bella) and I know that books are the one thing you can’t go wrong with her.

I know that while Junior is a casual reader, Bella is likely going to be a reader like me.

Not that I or any parent should have to explain ourselves but this is not me forcing books down the child’s throat. She is literally fascinated by stories and the pictures in her books. So I thought I would finish out with several reasons why I think she is going to be a reader so I can direct any more well meaning people to this post instead of wasting my breath.

  1. She loves the quality time during story time
  2. She sees that it is my main form of entertainment and she tries to emulate me
  3. Even when someone is not reading to her, she will often be sitting in her room flipping pages
  4. She sits through a whole story…and wants more
  5. She’s fascinated by bookshelves and is always pulling my books off my shelves and hers off hers
  6. She is not exposed to much television because only my son is really into tv
  7. While I am cooking she will usually bring me a book and command me to sit down and read it to her

Now by no means am I saying books are better or that my kid is some genius because she likes books. And I’m not saying that she doesn’t also play. I’m just trying to point out that it IS possible for kids to prefer books.

Oh and we received a ridiculous amount of toys from both sides of the family. I am so thankful we have family who are able to send anything at all but I can’t help thinking how much unnecessary money was spent. Only my dad and my husband’s stepmom followed my advice and sent only books while a couple of others sent books in lieu of cards which I suggested later. And while she occasionally will rock on her rocking horse or pretend to make food in her kitchen, a lot of the other toys sit largely neglected (and taking up space) and the ones she plays with religiously are the books she got. This just goes to show that parents always know their kids best.

If you have read to the end of my rant, I thank you. This was a lot rantier than I wanted it to be. Til next time.

2018 Reading Goals

Hello again! I thought I’d better discuss my 2018 Reading goals while we’re still in February before I blink and it’s suddenly November and I have no idea where I am or what I’ve done with my life all year.

IMG_0064

I am not the best at sticking to a TBR every month (but that is a post for another time).  The way that I get around this is by participating in challenges and by sticking to my yearly Goodreads goal.

Last year I didn’t have a specific TBR list that I confined myself to, instead I just set my goodreads goal to 30 books which would have been atleast two books a month.  I had wanted to set it higher but with a new baby AND going back to work, I was worried about stressing myself out so I set my initial goal to 30. One 18 book series later and I was only in April so I upped my goal to 50.  Long story short I ended up reading 92 books last year.

THIS year:

I am participating in the following challenges:

I must include:

  • 5-10 NonFiction
  • More contemporary fiction

Books I want to get to this year:

  • Don Quixote
  • The King’s Pearl
  • The Luminaries
  • Moby Dick
  • The Hercule Poirot books left in Project Poirot

For my unable-to-contain-myself-to-a-TBR list self, I think this is very doable and not too strict so as to make it a chore. My goal is simply to expand beyond my usual genres and to tackle books that may have intimidated me in the past.

I’d love to see what you think of this and hear what everyone else’s goals are. Thanks for stopping by!

TBR or No TBR: in which we discover that Nicky sucks at TBRs and uses the word loose more than is necessary

Ahhh, the big debate- to follow a TBR list or not.

There are so many pros to reading through a TBR list.

Personally I consider a TBR list more of a loose set of “guidelines”

I’ll be honest, sticking to a strict TBR makes me feel very anxious.  I am a confessed mood reader all the way.  I like to have a general idea of what I’ll be reading soon-ish, but I tip my hat to all you strict TBRers.  I am the kind of reader who feels pulled towards certain books based on my mood. Sometimes this means I might have a stack of shiny new books that I can’t wait to get to and then I have a bad day and I pick up one of my old trusty standbys and re-read that instead.  LUCKILY, I have figured out a way to trick myself into sticking to a sort of TBR.  Challenges.  And of course my Goodreads goal.

The good thing about challenges is that many of them are loose rules or include loose suggestions or a loose theme of what to read. (I promise not to use the word “loose” any more in this post) But anyway, you get the idea. They don’t say, “you must read these specific titles”, it’s more of a “read a book in this category” sort of thing. For example, in my classics club challenge, I compiled a list of 60 titles and yes it is a sort of TBR, but I can read them based on my mood since I have so long to complete this challenge.  I can pick up one of the books on my list and decide I’m not in the mood for it and not come back to it for a couple months or more.  This gives me more flexibility and the ability to read based on how I’m feeling, while still sticking to a list.

Goodreads is an awesome tool for me.  I’ve had an account for years and just recently started figuring out how to change shelves around and updating settings to better suit my needs.  One of the things that I love about Goodreads is the ability to set up a yearly goal for myself.  I love to work towards a goal and I must seriously be the biggest dork in the world with how excited I get every time a book is completed towards my goal. I just tell myself I’d like to read atleast X amount of books in X genre this year and then I’m free to read whatever specific titles I want in each genre.

When I had my old blog, I was posting a TBR every month (when before I had never really stuck to one) and I found myself stressing over it.  There were times when I just wasn’t in the mood to read something and I forced myself to because it was on my TBR.  Reading is my happy place and it should never be stressful for me.  So my intention for this blog is to have a monthly TBR but not a concrete one.  I will give myself some choices for each month and let myself be the free little bird that I am inside.

If you prefer to stick to a TBR, first off I admire you, and secondly, I am genuinely curious as to how and why you prefer to do so. So please comment below!