2017 TBR Challenges – Beat the Backlist!

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I will be participating in NovelKnight’s Beat the Backlist Hogwarts House Challenge for 2017! In addition, each year I always participate in the TBR Group Challenge at Library Thing.

My minimum goal for 2017 is the first 24 books on this list. Quite a few of them are definitely large, chunky books…I’m looking at you George R.R. Martin and Ron Chernow!

I happen to have a few themes for 2017. The two biggest themes are Agatha Christie and Series reads. In 2017, I plan on starting my goal of reading all of Agatha Christie’s books in order of publication; I only listed the first 8 on this post, but consider all of them on my backlist (except for the 5-6 I have already read)!

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My second theme of 2017 is to tackle a few series that I have been meaning to read for a while: Game of Thrones, Divergent, and Throne of Glass, to name a few.

I also have quite a few books on the list that further my goal of reading more diversely in 2017: George, Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Sympathizer, Timekeeper are just a few that fulfill that category.

And finally, quite a few books make an appearance by authors I have read in the past and loved, and want to read more of their work.  Jacqueline Winspear, Agatha Christie, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Neil Gaiman and Gregory Maguire all fit into that category.

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As for the Hogwarts House Mini Challenge, I am a proud Ravenclaw!

The Top 24 TBR/Beat the Backlist Books:

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – Review Coming Soon!
  2. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
  3. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
  4. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
  5. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
  6. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  7. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
  8. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
  9. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  10. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  11. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  12. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
  13. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin Review here.
  14. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  15. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  16. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  17. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  18. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  19. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
  20. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
  21. John Adams by David McCullough
  22. George by Alex Gino Review here.
  23. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead Review here.
  24. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Extra Credit:

  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
  • Swallow by Sefi Atta
  • Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub Review here.
  • The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Rising Strong by Brene Brown
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Vicious by VE Schwab
  • Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
  • A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
  • Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven
  • Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland
  • Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by River and Joyce Higginbotham
  • The White Goddess by Robert Graves
  • The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
  • The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Timekeeper by Tara Sim
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Are you going to try the BTB challenge? What’s on your list?

2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge

I participated in POPSUGAR’S reading challenge this year purely for fun, without truly aiming to complete the challenge. I’m quite happy with how many categories I have been able to cross off; I will be posting my wrap-up closer to the end of the year.

I have already decided to participate in the POPSUGAR 2017 reading challenge, which they have made even more challenging by adding additional categories! For those who want to participate, there is also a very active Goodreads group dedicated to the challenge.

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And here are just a few books I’m thinking about reading for this challenge:

  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – a book more than 800 pages
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – a book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you
  • The Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig – a book about food
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – a story within a story

I haven’t gotten any further than that so far!

Books Completed for the 2017 PopSugar Challenge

Total Completed: 18/52 (Last updated 2 April)

  • A book recommended by a librarian:
  • A book that has been on your TBR list for way too long: Dawn by Elie Wiesel. Review here.
  • A book of letters:
  • An audiobook: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
  • A book by a person of color: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.
  • A book with one of the four seasons in the title:
  • A book that is a story within a story: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Review here.
  • A book with multiple authors: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Review here.
  • An espionage thriller: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
  • A book with a cat on the cover:
  • A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket.
  • A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Review here.
  • A book by or about a person who has a disability: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia.
  • A book involving travel: Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K Vaughan
  • A book with a subtitle: Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian F. Haney-Lopez.
  • A book that’s published in 2017: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. Review here.
  • A book involving a mythical creature: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  • A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile:
  • A book about food: A Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub. Review here.
  • A book with career advice:
  • A book from a nonhuman perspective:
  • A steampunk novel:
  • A book with a red spine: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Review here.
  • A book set in the wilderness:
  • A book you loved as a child:
  • A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Ms. Marvel, Volumes 2 – 5. Review here.
  • A novel set during wartime:
  • A book with an unreliable narrator: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. Review here.
  • A book with pictures: Why I March: Images from the Women’s March Around the World by Abrams Image, New York
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • A book about an interesting woman:
  • A book set in two different time periods: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  • A book with a month or day of the week in the title:
  • A book set in a hotel: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
  • A book written by someone you admire: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
  • A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017:
  • A book set around a holiday other than Christmas
  • The first book in a series you haven’t read before: Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan. Review here.
  • A book you bought on a trip:

Advanced:

  • A book recommended by an author you love:
  • A bestseller from 2016: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family or Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Review here.
  • A book with a family-member term in the title:
  • A book that takes place over a character’s lifespan:
  • A book about an immigrant or refugee:
  • A book from a genre/subgenre you have never heard of:
  • A book with an eccentric character: The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot) by Agatha Christie.
  • A book that’s more than 800 pages: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Review here.
  • A book you got from a used book sale: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • A book that’s been mentioned in another book:
  • A book about a difficult topic: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Review here.
  • A book based on mythology:

Do you plan on participating in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge? Do you have any recommendations for the reading prompts?

I don’t celebrate Christmas, and that is okay!

There are loads and loads of Christmas-themed posts popping up on my Reader this month, and it is nice to see the joy of all those who celebrate Christmas get into the holiday spirit. I delight in visiting friend’s homes and looking at all of their cheery Christmas trees and decorations.

Maybe this post is a gentle reminder that there are lots of people out there who don’t celebrate Christmas, and that is okay, too.

Because what really gets me, and drives me batty sometimes, is the idea that I am somehow missing out on things because I don’t celebrate this holiday. Some people don’t understand how insulting that is!

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I am agnostic, and my husband is Jewish. We are raising our daughter Jewish, so we are a Jewish family. And I can’t tell you how many times during the month of December, each year, we have to deal with some variation of a kind-hearted gesture rooted in ignorance. Or sometimes, just plain rudeness.

Such as the neighbor who, every single year, drops off an Advent calendar for my daughter, with the following remark, “I know there’s the Christian thing and all, but I don’t want her to feel left out.” My mother-in-law was visiting during this scenario last week, to which she responded, “Do you know how insulting that is to a Jewish person? We don’t have a ‘Christian thing’ or a ‘Christian problem’. We’re just not Christian.” Oy vey.

Or, the “Where’s your Elf on the Shelf/Christmas Tree/Christmas outfit/Picture with Santa? I don’t understand why you can’t do that, its cultural, not religious!” Umm…okay. The average Jewish person isn’t too interested in celebrating a holiday on a regular basis that is a part of someone else’s religion. Jews don’t do Christmas. Muslims don’t do Christmas. Buddhists don’t do Christmas.

Of course, Jewish families can now buy this:

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Mensch: a person of integrity and honor. We’ve passed on the Elf on the Shelf replacement toy, LOL.

Then there was the time I was berated for wishing someone Happy Holidays. Apparently, it was rude not to say “Merry Christmas”.  Hmm…interesting take on things. I am not offended when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” – I usually just nod politely and continue on my way – but suddenly, I’m rude if I don’t say it in return?

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Or the time that our Chanukah flag was stolen from our front yard, and swastikas were graffitied on the street sign. That is certainly not embracing the holiday spirit for anyone.

And when M was younger, the constant refrain, “Doesn’t she believe in Santa Claus?” Followed closely by, “I certainly hope she doesn’t ruin it for the other kids!” comments. Those are the worst. For the record, M is going on 9 years of keeping that secret from her Santa-believing friends, as we ingrained into her long ago that Santa is a very important tradition for many of her friends, and we should respect their beliefs and traditions.

One of the weirdest things I’ve heard in response to my lack of Christmas celebrations is, “But Christmas is not about religion!” I think my devout Christian friends would take issue with that perspective! As would some of my Wiccan and other pagan friends. Considering the holiday was co-opted from pagan celebrations!

Our family personally does not inflate Chanukah, a minor holiday, to Christmas levels. Others do, and that is totally cool, too. Instead of exchanging a large number of gifts (8 nights!), we choose to spend time with each other doing various activities: board game night, movie night, and latke making night are just a few of the things that we do during Chanukah.

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I have been accused of not being able to get into the holiday spirit. Quite the opposite, I take great joy in sharing our family traditions with those who are genuinely interested in learning about them. As I do in sharing in the holiday traditions of our diverse group of friends and family.

For those who celebrate Christmas, it is seen as a time to be kind and generous. To contribute to peace on Earth. A great way for a person to do that would be to open their mind to experiences that are different from their own. Take the time to appreciate and learn about the diversity that surrounds you!

And for those who sincerely wonder what a Jewish family does on Christmas Day when everything is closed? I can’t speak for all Jews, but for us, that week of December is often filled with a lot of: movies, Chinese food, binge book reading, board games, Legos, hot cocoa and cookies, and a lot of chillaxing. It’s delightful. And certainly not anything to be pitied (yes…we get that, too!).

Now that you have a glimpse into what a December looks like for this family, here is a list of various holidays that are celebrated in December around the world! As you can see, December is about so much more than Christmas, and I always love to learn more about the diverse holidays celebrated on this beautiful planet. And if I have the incorrect information for anything below, please let me know!

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December Holidays Around the World

  • November 27 – December 24 – Advent. The season of spiritual preparation in observance of the birth of Jesus. In Western Christianity it begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. In Eastern Christianity, the season is longer and begins in the middle of November.
  • December 8 – Bodhi Day. The Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddartha Gautama, attained enlightenment.
  • December 10 – International Human Rights Day. Established by the United Nations in 1948 to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Sundown, December 11 – Sundown December 12 (dates may vary slightly) – Eid Milad Un Nabi (Mawlid). An Islamic celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
  • December 12 – Feast Day at Our Lady of Gaudalupe. A Catholic holiday in honor of Jesus’ mother Mary.
  • December 16 – 24: Las Posadas. A religious festival celebrated in Mexico that commemorates the journey made by Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
  • December 21 – Yule/Winter Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere). A pagan celebration on the shortest day of the year that focuses on rebirth, renewal and new beginnings as the sun makes its way back to the earth.
  • Sundown, December 24 – Sundown, January 1 – Chanukah. The Festival of Lights, an 8-day Jewish holiday recognizing the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
  • December 25 – Christmas.
  • December 26 – January 1 – Kwanzaa. An African-American and Pan-African holiday started by Maulana Karenga in 1966. It is a celebration of community, family, culture, and heritage.

 

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

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Book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Publisher: Little, Brown UK
Genre: Plays, YA Fantasy

It took me ages and ages to build up the courage to read this one.

Okay…maybe not ages…but at least six months.

For many of the same reasons why I struggled to read Go Set A Watchman. Because sometimes the originals are best left as is. Don’t mess with them!

I love the Harry Potter Universe, and I had heard grumblings about Cursed Child, so it took me a long time to decide that I still wanted to read it. Because….how can I not read another J.K. Rowling – approved Harry Potter book?

And you know what?

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I liked it.

I definitely understand how some HP fans are disappointed in this. Harry comes across as a bit of a douche (of course, he sometimes did as a teen as well). Delphini is a bit…shall we say, lackluster, as a new character. And it’s not an 8th HP book, not matter how many spells you cast trying to make it so.

That’s okay with me. I personally never wanted an 8th Harry Potter book. And Cursed Child has what I did want, some amazing cameos. I won’t say how those cameos come to be, but let’s just say it is glorious. It’s serious, yet funny, and an amazing romp back in the world of Hogwarts. Being a play, it also has some excellent snappy and witty dialogue. Stuff like this had me rolling:

Hermione: If some part of Voldemort survived, in whatever form, we need to be prepared. And I’m scared.

Ginny: I’m scared too.

Ron: Nothing scares me. Apart from Mum.

 There was one part of the book that absolutely breaks my heart. I don’t want to spoil anything or go into details, but Harry does a BIG father no-no in one scene with Albus, and it had me tearing my hair out. What were you thinking, Harry?!

Overall, The Cursed Child was good fun, but I do hope it rests here. It’s time to leave the Harry Potter world alone. As much I adore it, I adore it as it is.

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Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors New to Me in 2016

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme was Top Ten Authors New-To-Me in 2016. And it was definitely a good year for discovering new-to-me authors!

  1. Marissa Meyer – I know, I know. What took me so long? I read almost all of her books this year: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, Fairest, and Heartless.
  2. F. Scott Fitzgerald – It took years for me to build up the courage to read a classic I was expecting to hate. I was pleasantly surprised. I LOVED The Great Gatsby.
  3. Victoria Schwab – I thought A Darker Shade of Magic was fascinating, and quickly picked up the second one, A Gathering of Shadows. I can’t wait for the release of A Conjuring of Light in February!
  4. Jamaica Kincaid – I discovered Jamaica Kincaid when I was looking for Caribbean authors to read while on vacation in Nevis this past August. Kincaid is an Antiguan-American novelist, and I really enjoyed her novel Annie John, a coming of age novel about a girl growing up in Antigua.
  5. Rainbow Rowell – I just read Eleanor & Park recently, and I can’t wait to read more by Rowell soon!
  6.  Gayle Forman – I wasn’t in love with Leave Me when I read it, but I definitely liked Gayle Forman’s writing enough to want to read more of her books!
  7. Bryan Stevenson – I am in awe of Bryan Stevenson’s career, and all that he has accomplished as director of the Equal Justice Initiative. His book Just Mercy, along with Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, really opened my eyes this year to the deep, institutional inequalities that remain in America’s criminal justice system.
  8. Anthony Doerr – I am very selective about the World War II era novels that I read. I can only handle reading one or two a year, at the most, since it hits too close to home (my husband’s side of the family is Jewish, and lost family members in the Holocaust). I am glad All The Light We Cannot See made the cut, it was an excellent read.
  9. Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca is fantastic! It has just the right blend of gothic atmosphere and intrigue.
  10. Tahereh Mafi – I really enjoyed Mafi’s writing style in Furthermore. She writes in a way that is whimsical and fun, the way that she plays with language and words is delightful.

What authors have you discovered this year?

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Book Review: Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

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Title: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Norman
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Genre: Graphic Novels, Comics

The creative team behind the development of Ms. Marvel consists of two women and two men. Which, in the comic book world, historically dominated by white men, could be considered progress in and of itself. Much of the heart of the Kamala Khan story comes from the life experiences of Sana Amanat, a Marvel editor on the creative team.

Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old Jersey girl, a Pakistani-American teen who likes superhero fan fiction and like most teens, wants to feel like she belongs. I love that the first scene we see in her home is of Kamala sitting at her computer writing Avengers fanfic. When she is suddenly bestowed with superhuman, shape-shifting powers, she begins an adventure of her lifetime.

Writer G Willow Wilson said in 2013, “I wanted to make a story in which the Muslim woman narrates her own life.” But Kamala’s story is also about being a geeky misfit, and confronting the labels that have been assigned to her. In Volume 1, Kamala has to directly confront how she is seen by others, and how that influences the way that she interacts with the world around her. How she can do so while remaining true to herself.

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This inner turmoil is a big part of Volume 1. In fact, we don’t get much of a hint of who or what the villain is until the very end of the volume. Much of the story is Kamala’s conflict within herself and her family when she expresses her wish to be like other American teenagers at her school. Or how she deals with people like Zoe, a white student that passive-aggressively taunts Kamala and her friend Nakia about their “otherness”.

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The one issue I did have with Volume 1 is the portrayal of Kamala’s devout older brother. To me, I felt that it bordered on stereotypical, particularly because he seemed to be portrayed in a way that was almost ridiculed: the lazy, religious family member that mooches off of everyone else. Based on the reviews I have read, Kamala’s family and the friends and religious leaders from her mosque are more fleshed out in the next few issues. I hope that is the case.

Overall, I really liked Ms Marvel! Kamala is very relatable, and I quickly became interested in her journey, and where she will go from here. While the villain has yet to be fleshed out, I love her friends Bruno and Nakia. And I find Kamala’s family very sweet, although her dad seems to have more depth than her mom, so I hope that is improved upon in future volumes. Her parents are loving but overprotective, much in the same way that mine were growing up (I grew up in a strict Christian household).

I have also heard that fans of Agents of Shield will have a better understanding of how exactly Kamala gains her powers. Anyone out there want to help clarify that aspect? I am not that well versed in the Marvel universe…although after watching the amazing Doctor Strange last weekend I will certainly be rectifying that!

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Sunday Salon & a November Wrap-Up

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Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, and the Sunday PostI am foregoing my weekly Read, Watch, Play post so that I can do a wrap-up for November! 

November was an incredibly busy month, so I was only able to read 5 books. I’m hoping for double that in December! I will be reading quite a few books for the #DiversityDecBingo Challenge. I am also hoping to also polish off one or two more books from my 2016 TBR pile.

TOP TWO BOOKS I READ IN NOVEMBER

OTHER BOOKS I READ IN NOVEMBER

YEAR-LONG TBR CHALLENGE

I read one more book on my TBR list, The Bookseller of Kabul. 

Completed: 15/24. I always aim for 12 completed, with anything extra an added bonus!

PRIMARY LIST

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald FINISHED 22 February 2016

2. Roots by Alex HaleyReview here.  FINISHED 21 September 2016

3. Native Son by Richard Wright

4. Rebecca by Daphne du MaurierReview here.  FINISHED 30 August 2016

5. War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa

6. A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes FINISHED 21 April 2016

7. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonReview hereFINISHED 11 Oct 2016

8. My Antonia by Willa Cather FINISHED 6 June 2016

9. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri FINISHED 27 January 2016

10. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri FINISHED 17 January 2016

11. John Adams by David McCullough

12. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami FINISHED 16 May 2016

ALTERNATE LIST

1. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan FINISHED 25 April 2016

2. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler FINISHED 13 June 2016

3. Dawn by Octavia Butler

4. Autobiography: Story of My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

5. Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk

6. The Algebra of Infinite Justice by Arundhati Roy

7. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle FINISHED 7 July 2016

8. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

9. Standing Alone by Asra Nomani FINISHED 6 January 2016

10. Cataloochee by Wayne Caldwell FINISHED 15 April 2016

11. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne SeierstadFINISHED 3 November 2016.

12. Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai

How do your reading plans look for December?

Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: YA Fantasy, Retellings, Romance

There seem to be some misconceptions floating around Goodreads, and other places, about Heartless. It is not written in the same style as The Lunar Chronicles. It is not a spin-off or side story of that world. It is set in the Victorian past, Lewis Carroll’s era, not the future. It is fantastic.

What Heartless is: a wonderful prequel story about the Queen of Hearts. Marissa Meyer does an amazing job recreating Wonderland; I felt that I was right back in Lewis Carroll’s zany, twisty-turny crazy world. I highly recommend that any reader of Heartless start out by first reading both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, if you haven’t done so already. And then revel in the creative, true to the original, back stories that Marissa Meyer created for so many beloved Wonderland characters: the Mad Hatter, the household of the Duke and Duchess, the Red and White Queen of Chess. The Mock Turtle, the silly King of Hearts, the Knave, Mr. Caterpillar…Cheshire. Cheshire! And of course…the future Queen of Hearts.

I like retellings of fairy tales and classic stories, but I am very, very picky when modern-day authors take a classic story and add on a prequel or sequel. I have barely tolerated almost every single Pride & Prejudice sequel ever written (I’m looking at you, Death Comes to Pemberley). So I went into Heartless quite cautiously.

Marissa Meyer did not disappoint.

“But hoping,” he said, “is how the impossible can be possible after all.”

Catherine, daughter of a Marquis and Marchioness, is a young woman whose only desire is to open a bakery with her close friend, house maid Mary Ann. Her parents have other plans, as she also happens to be a favorite of the King, who attempts to propose to her at the beginning of the novel. At the same Royal Ball where she runs from a possible proposal, Catherine meets Jest, the mysterious and new court Joker. Cath is determined to make her own pathway through life, with the person she chooses to love, in a world that has other plans for her.

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Of course, I had to have my own tea party while immersed in the world of Wonderland and Hatta’s Tea Party (before he goes mad)! I visited Dobra Tea Shop in Asheville on Tuesday and had a lovely green tea with a ginger and sesame cake. The only thing missing was a lemon tart or macaroon! A reader must definitely be well-stocked in delicious pastries before sitting down to read this one!

“Mind my words, Cheshire, I will have you banished from this kingdom if you tempt me.”

“An empty threat from an empty girl.”

She rounded on him, teeth flashing. “I am not empty. I am full to the brim with murder and revenge. I am overflowing and I do not think you wish for me to overflow on to you.”

“There was a time” – Cheshire yawned – “when you overflowed with whimsy and icing sugar. I liked that Catherine better.”

Heartless is heart-breaking. You know where it is going, it’s like a train wreck that you can’t derail. No matter how many times you scream NO!! DON’T DO THAT!!, there is nothing that you can do to stop Catherine from becoming the Queen of Hearts we all know and love to hate.

The journey is definitely worthy of a Lewis Carroll character.

Not only is Heartless a fantastic stand-alone novel, I also seem to notice a progression in the writing. I have read and enjoyed all of the Lunar Chronicles books, and this one seems a step above. Bravo, Marissa Meyer! She strikes just the right balance without becoming too nonsensical. I hope she continues to write more stand-alone novels!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

#DiversityDecBingo Challenge

Happy December 1st!! Oh wait…that ship has sailed, it’s already December 2nd! Happy December 2nd!!

If you can’t tell, my life is running a day or two behind schedule at the moment. And therefore, so are my blog posts!

 

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I recently saw that Aimal @ Bookshelves and Paperbacks , as well as a few other bloggers, are hosting a Diversity December Bingo Reading Challenge, and I decided to participate!

This is how #DiversityDecBingo works: participants choose one line on the Bingo sheet – horizontal, vertical, or diagonal – and read one book from each category on that line. Once you finish your 5-book challenge, you are entered into a giveaway! You can follow the challenge by tracking the #DiversityDecBingo hashtag,

MY #DiversityDecBingo TBR

I have decided to do one of the vertical columns.

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These are the books I have selected for the challenge:

  • PoC Superheroes: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson
  • Diverse Non-fiction: The Algebra of Infinite Justice by Arundhati Roy
  • #OwnVoices: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • SFF w/LGBTQIA+ Main Character: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova, or Timekeeper by Tara Sim.
  • Neurodiversity: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

I hope you will consider joining myself and others on this fun literary challenge! It will be a month full of reading books by marginalized authors and/or marginalized characters.