Thursday, June 22, 2017

Recently Read: West With the Night

Author: Beryl Markham
Genre: Nonfiction- Memoir
Page Count: 294
Publication Date: 1942
Rating: 4/5

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You may also like:
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain 

Beryl Markham was the first person (man or woman) to fly nonstop from Europe to America. She was born in Britain in 1902 and moved to Kenya with her family shortly thereafter. She was a renowned race horse trainer and adventurer. West with the Night is her memoir of her life in Africa.

Last year, I read Circling the Sun by Paula McLain because she is an auto-read author for me. I had no idea who Beryl Markham was, but by the end of McLain's fictionalized story about her, I knew I needed to learn more about her. 

Markham was tall, blonde, and fearless. She inhabited many male dominated spheres without second thoughts or doubts. This memoir covers a few events from her life, but Markham leaves quite a bit out. She leaves out all three of her marriages, and her various love affairs, as well as the birth of her son and her turbulent relationship with her mother. But she talks of her childhood in Africa, training horses, and learning to fly. I was taken back by Markham's writing skills and ability to create an image. 

There is a blurb on the cover from Ernest Hemingway who writes:
"Written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer... Markham can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers... It is really a bloody wonderful book."
Now if you know anything about Hemingway, and his reluctance to compliment any woman he wasn't trying to sleep with, that's high praise. The book's introduction speaks of claim's made by Markham's ex-husband after their divorce that he actually wrote the book instead of Markham, but I, along with most of those who read this book, have a hard time believing that claim.

I love the pictures that Markham creates of Africa in the early to mid 1900s and the way she speaks about the country she loved. It really has sparked an interest in me to learn more about British colonized Africa. While Markham doesn't write a linear biography of her life, she writes about events that were particularly special to her, which makes this novel, in turn, special.

I highly recommend checking this out the next time you are in the mood for adventure and a far-away setting. I'll leave you with a taste of Markham's writing. This is from one passage about the solitude of flying an airplane that stuck out to me.
"You can live a lifetime, and at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself.... The abhorrence of loneliness is as natural as wanting to live at all. If it were otherwise, men would have never bothered to make an alphabet, nor to have fashioned words out of what were only animal sounds, nor to have crossed continents - each man to see what the other looked like."  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I STILL Need to Start

This year has been the year of the standalone for me so far. There are so many series that I need to get caught up on (a post for another day) and that I need to start! So, before I get too overwhelmed with thinking about all the books I want to read, here's ten series that I would like to start! I own at least the first book in the series for all of the series listed below, so I really have no excuses here.
Hosted by: The Broke and the Bookish


1.  The Fairyland Series by Catherine M. Valente 

2. Papergirls by Brian K. Vaughn 

3. The Bronze Horsemen Trilogy by Paulina Simmons 


4. The Magnus Chase Series by Rick Riordan 

5. The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde 

6. Finishing School Series by Gale Carriger


7. The Glamourist Histories Series by Mary Robinette Kowal  

8. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency by Jordon Stratford 

9. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante 

10.  The Lois Lane Series by Gwenda Bond

Monday, June 19, 2017

Used Book Haul!

I went a little crazy in the used section of my local bookstore. I had some credit I had been hanging onto for a while as I was so indecisive as to what I wanted to spend it on. When I was browsing recently, I found a couple books that I have been keeping an eye out for, and a couple more that just caught my eye, so I went for it! Be prepared, I also made a Book Outlet order recently, so that post will be coming too... oops!

Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire by Roy Moxham
Two things I love are tea and history. I am a history minor, but since I have finished my degree, I have missed learning and studying history on a regular basis. I think this book will be a perfect fix for that learning void. I love approaching history through an object or artifact, and tea has such a long history and world-wide significance. I'm really eager to get into this one and love the images included in the book.  

On the Pleasure of Hating by William Hazlitt
I have quite the pile of these Penguin Great Ideas sitting on my shelf that I need to get to, but when I saw this one on my bookstore's shelves, I couldn't pass it up. These are near impossible to find in America, unless you buy online, and I love the compact design they come in. This is an author I know absolutely nothing about, but the concept sounds really interesting to me, and it has been on my wishlist for a while. 

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
I just finished and loved (and reviewed here) my first Water's novel Fingersmith, and loved it! So naturally, I had my eyes out for more of her works. I wasn't planning on picking up this one next, but since I found it used, I might have to. The concept of this one, oyster-girl turned music hall star, sounds really interesting. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I love historical fiction so this one has been on my wishlist forever. I decided to finally go for it when I found a used hardcover copy. I have really high hopes for this one, and plan to get to it very soon. 

Those are the books I've picked up lately! I'm really keen to get to all of them very soon. Let me know your thoughts about these ones! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Recently Read: Fingersmith

Author: Sarah Waters
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2002
Page Count: 582
Rating: 4/5

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Sue is an orphan who lives with a family of thieves in London in the year 1862. She has learned the tricks of the trade from her family around her, and when she is offered a chance to make her own fortune by a man who does regular business with her adoptive father, she knows better than to refuse. But Sue has no idea what she is getting herself into, or where she comes from. 

Ever since I have been blogging, I have heard great things about Sarah Waters. I picked this book up at my local bookstore a year or so ago, and it has sat on my shelf because of its size and my busy school schedule. I finally picked it up on a whim earlier this month and flew through it despite its size. Waters is known for her lesbian historical fiction with twists and mysteries, and this one delivered.

Waters did a great job creating the atmosphere for this novel. The atmosphere was historic, Gothic, and quite dreadful: perfect for London in 1862. The characters were done so well. Every character had multiple sides to them, as many were crooks or thieves, but were real people with messy motivations. I really enjoyed the romance element of this novel, as it was not front and center, but was natural to the story and the plot. It's great to see a well done lesbian romance set in a historical setting, as that is not something I come across too often in my reading of historical fiction. I know most of Waters books have a lesbian romance and a historical setting, so if that interests you, please check her out. 

I don't want to talk about the mystery/twist in this novel too much because I want you to be as taken back by it as I was, but I will say, I was on the edge of my seat for the entirety of this novel. I couldn't read fast enough when I got to the middle of the novel; I had to know what was happening and how it could have happened. I was thoroughly engaged and entertained by this novel from the first to last page.  

I will be picking up another Waters novel as soon as I can. I have a feeling I will be speeding through her back catalog of novels in the near future. Let me know which novel of hers I should read next! 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Theme Spotlight: Faith in Young Adult

It's been a while since I have done a theme spotlight, and I was thinking about this topic the other day before deciding it would be perfect for a theme spotlight post. I have not come across that many YA books that tackle the theme of religious faith. These three books featured in this post tackled the theme in a really interesting way. Two of the novels deal with a blind but intense faith; the third with the questioning of a faith that has been handed down to you.

Previous Theme Spotlight Posts:
Unique Form
Self Discovery
Family Relationships
Faith and Spirituality in Classics
Gender in Young Adult
Fictional Novels Featuring Real People

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley 
I really want to reread this novel this summer. The faith in this novel is so interesting. I don't want to say too much because it's tied to spoilers, but there are different kinds of faith in the novel. One character deals with faith in a kinda-sorta religious kinda-sorta just plain faith way and another deals with a really intense and obsessive faith. This is one of my favorite YA contemporaries, but it doesn't seem to get talked about very much.  

The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter
This novel also deals with intense faith and the idea of 'small-town America.' The main character's father is the leader of the religious organization that he and much of the town are a part of. This novel questions blind faith as well as the role faith plays in the lives of many people. It is neither condemning or encouraging regarding religious faith, it just deals with the theme in an honest way. 

The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjaimin Alire Saenz 
I've become a huge fan of Saenz this year, and I really loved this novel. This novel deals with many themes, but among them is the handing down of faith from parents to children. I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel and the questions that Sal asked himself. Again, the idea of religious faith felt natural in the novel and the lives of the characters.  

Leave me your recommendations for books with similar themes!  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mystery Double Review: They Do it With Mirrors and The Body in the Library

Author: Agatha Christie
Publication Date: 1952
Page Count: 202
Rating: 3/5

Add on Goodreads

Also by Agatha Christie:
And Then There Were None

In this Miss Marple mystery, our detective heads to the home (and juvenile delinquent rehab center) of her old schoolmate. Miss Marple is sent on the suspicion that something is not right, and of course, that suspicion is correct as murder ensues.

This was my third Christie novel and first Miss Marple. I picked this book up to take to work with me one day and ended up reading it in two days. I loved that this novel was so quick to read and easy to follow, which made for great work reading. I really enjoy reading (and watching) mysteries, so of course, I enjoy Christie. While I don't think this is the best mystery she has ever crafted, I was thoroughly entertained and suspicious of every character. The setting really made this novel, and I'm eager to pick up more by Christie. I have been scouring for her novels at every used bookstore and sale I've been to lately! 

If you've never read anything by Christie, I highly recommend picking her up. She's a great author to start with if you are new to mystery, and a must read for those who love mysteries.

Title: The Body in the Library 
Author: Agatha Christie 
Genre: Classic/Mystery 
Publication Date: 1942
Page Count: 207
Rating: 3/5

In this novel, Christie tackles the 'body found in the library' trope of the mystery novel, and of course, she does it in a clever and entertaining way. Miss Marple is called when friends of hers awake to find the dead body of a young girl they have never seen before in their library. 

I have come to find that I really enjoy Miss Marple. I find her to be funny and smart in her observations and village parallels. She never seems to be the focus of her novels, which leaves room for Christie's eccentric and humorous characters to lead the show. This novel, like They Do it With Mirrors, was hard to put down and very entertaining.  I find myself turning to Christie when I need a quick and entertaining read to help me pass the time during trips or slow work days. 

Christie's works also make great beach reads as they are clever and entertaining, but not overly complicated. The plot and characters are easy to keep track off, and her clever detectives can always be counted on to add wit and humor to the very series topic of murder. 

What's your favorite Christie novel?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Young Adult New Releases I'm Looking Forward To

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday in quite a while, but I'm back today with some new releases I'm looking forward to! This year has had a lot of great new releases already that I need to catch up on, but here's a look at what's coming up that I'm excited about.

Book Titles Link to Goodreads

Release Date: May 30
This YA contemporary sounds fun and poignant. It puts me in mind of Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, which makes me very interested. 

Release Date: May 30
I know a lot of people are anticipating this YA contemporary with two Indian-American main characters just as much as I am. 

Release Date: June 1
I enjoyed Fowley-Doyle's debut The Accident Season, and this one seems to have a similar magical-realism atmosphere to it.  

Release Date: June 27
This looks like a really entertaining historical fiction read! The early reviews have been pretty good. 

Release Date: July 25
I'm always interested in books that center around art! 

Release Date: August 8
I haven't read very many contemporaries with female LGBTQ characters, so this one is high on my list. 

Release Date: August 15
The first book in a duelology about a family where the women can manipulate beauty. 

Release Date: September 12
This fantasy series sounds quite interesting. The main character seems to have OCD and anxiety, and there is dragons. Sounds great to me. 

Release Date: September 12
I love Cat Winters and need to get caught up on her books before this one comes out. Her books always have a supernatural element that mixes perfectly with a historical fiction setting.

Release Date: October 10 
And of course I am looking forward to Stiefvater's newest release. Another author I need to catch up on the back-log of! 

Link me to your post so I can add even more books to my TBR!