Monday, November 5, 2018

October Roundup

It's hard to believe October is at a close and we're starting to get into Thanksgiving mode. The fall is my absolute favorite season, and October turned out to be a fairly decent reading month.

Here's a list of the books I've read this month and affiliate links if you'd like to pick anything up!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This won a Pulitzer and I'm not surprised in the least. I really enjoyed this, my first Colson Whitehead, and I look forward to reading more of his work!
Click here for my thoughts and here to get your own copy.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
This was a thriller - not my absolute favorite, but it was really fast paced and that's exactly what I needed at the time!
Click here for my thoughts and here to get your own copy.



And here is a list of the comics I enjoyed this month. I have a handful of comics I read as single issues (I have a subscription box at my local comic shop - they're great, and although I don't live quite as local anymore I still make the trip every few weeks because I just couldn't bear to stop shopping there!). In addition to the single issue comics, I have a few titles I prefer to read as trade paperbacks (mainly because I first started reading them in trade after starting the series a little late). I've included affiliate links to many of these titles on Amazon, but it really can't beat finding your own shop.

Lumberjanes Vol. 9
This is a great series about a group of girls at summer camp - it's a lot of fun, they have adventures, they encounter supernatural and mythological creatures and people, and the characters are really diverse. One of my favorite comics! If you're interested, here's a link to pick up Volume 1 and start at the beginning!

Ms. Marvel #33, 34, and 35
Ms. Marvel is one of the only "superhero" comic series I subscribe to. She's a really great character - trying to figure out the balance between being Ms. Marvel and being herself - Kamala Khan. Kamala has a lot of heart, she's nerdy, she's deeply connected to her Muslim family and traditions, and she loves her friends and family. Click here to grab Volume 1 - it's one of the first comics I got into and I'm really glad I did!

Rat Queens #11 and 12
A group of lady mercenaries who are badass, have horrible language, and like to party. This is a fun comic. There was a little controversy surrounding the artist a couple of years ago, but I ultimately stuck with the series because I really enjoyed the characters. If you're interested, click here to get Volume 1.

Oblivion Song #6, 7, and 8
A section of Philadelphia was sucked into Oblivion and hundreds of thousands of people were lost. A decade later, Nathan Cole continues to risk his life to go to "the other side" and search for survivors, namely his brother. This is a new series and you can get a trade of issues 1-6 by clicking here.

The Seeds #1 and 2
This is a new series that someone from my awesome comic shop recommended. The art is really neat - black and white and and light green. The land seems to be divided in half, one of which is called Zone B and is tech-free. There are aliens who are trying to collect seeds of humans for some kind of embryo storage, and there's a reporter who wants to go to Zone B to get her big story. I am glad I picked this one up. Click here and try to get a paper copy, or you can get a digital copy.

Blackbird #1
Another recommendation from my local comic shop. Nina survives an earthquake when she was a girl - an earthquake she knew was going to happen. As an adult, she's convinced that in LA there is a secret underground magic world. Everyone thinks she's crazy, but she's not. I loved this. Great story and great art. I picked up #1 on a recommendation and texted the shop later that afternoon to ask them to add it to my subscription list! Click here to try and snag a paper copy or get it digitally.

Stranger Things #1
I'm a big fan of the Netflix series, so I added this to my subscription right away. This issue was great - you get more from Will Byers' perspective. Can't wait for #2! It looks like paper editions are sold out (at least on Amazon) but you can get it for Kindle!

Aside from reading, we've had a great month. The biggest news is that we're going to move to our new house in 5 days!!!!!! We've been at an extended stay hotel since the first of August and we are more than ready to get to our home. The first picture was a few weeks ago and the second picture is inside - almost done, just a few minor things they're pulling together before our closing this Friday!

Dominic is still loving Kindergarten. We're working with him on figuring out that he can't just not do his work because he's too tired or doesn't feel like it. It's been a process but he adores his teacher and he's happy going to school every day. He suddenly wants to write everything and is sounding out road signs. His question asking has increased by about 1,000%, and we love it. He can't wait to get to the new house, be only a short drive from his school, and finally see all his old toys and bedroom decor that's been in storage for almost 6 months!

Zach is doing so well at his new daycare. They're doing amazing things with those kids! His new thing is the alphabet and it's adorable. His language has exploded these past couple of months and he's got such a cute little personality!


The big thing for us has been the house and getting into the routine of school. The time change has thrown us all for a loop (4:22 wake-up for Zach this morning, turning on all the lights). We try not to "wish the time away" but we can't wait to get through this week and finally move to our dream home. But first, I need to get to bed because I'm presenting at a conference tomorrow! See you at the end of November, readers.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough


Author: Sarah Pinborough
Pages: 340
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Thriller
Format: Hardcover

Summary: (back of the book)
Lisa lives a very quiet life. A single mother nearing forty, she values her privacy and devotes herself to raising her sixteen-year-old daughter, Ava. Wary of men, Lisa doesn't speak of her past or Ava's absent father. Her best friend and coworker, Marilyn, wishes she would open up more and maybe finally go on a date - especially with the sexy new client who's obviously keen - but maybe Marilyn shouldn't be handing out dating advice given her own problems.

Ava, meanwhile, is getting tired of her overprotective mother. She wants to live like a normal teenager - chill with friends, go to swim practice, study for exams, have a boyfriend. Her mom would freak if she knew that Ava's already got someone special, someone exciting and mysterious, who makes her feel sophisticated - and wanted.

Lisa has spent a long time looking over her shoulder, but lately she's been especially uneasy. Just when she starts to let her guard down, small things from the past begin to intrude upon her carefully constructed life, feeding her anxiety. As her world begins to unravel, Lisa knows that the only way she can protect herself and her daughter is to face her fears. Yet courage won't be enough. She'll need help from the only person she can trust - Marilyn. Between them they have to save Ava, and to do that, they have to be honest with each other. Truly honest. Marilyn did promise she'd do anything to help.

But a long time ago, Lisa made a promise too. Then she broke her word. And that betrayal hasn't been forgotten - or forgiven. Now someone is going to make her pay for her sin. A captivating and hair-raising psychological thriller, Cross Her Heart is a masterful tale of obsession, intrigue, and suspense that will leave you reeling.

Review:
As a thriller, there were things about this that I enjoyed and things I thought were just okay. 

Overall I thought the premise was interesting, but there were definitely some plot holes that got under my skin. It's difficult to write about these qualms without giving away too much of the plot. Mostly, the circumstances surrounding Lisa's past left me with a lot of unanswered questions. There's a lot of distance between the Lisa of the past and the Lisa we meet at the start of this book, and I wanted more explanation as to how the transformation occurred. In addition, and I don't think this gives too much away, when Lisa's past finally comes out, I truly don't understand the reactions and the circumstances that led to her past being such a mystery.

There were moments when I was able to predict what was going on, and a few moments that caught me off guard. Of the moments that caught me off guard, only a few of them were completely out of left field, meaning there were a few where you could connect the dots after knowing the whole story. When it comes to thrillers, I'm always more excited to read stories where you can go back and see all the little clues after things are laid out. 

The biggest thing that was difficult for me is that this book violated a rule I have about avoiding books where bad things happen to little kids. I just can't do it. And this book was a big violation - I'm not sure I would have picked it up had I known more about this part of the storyline. There were a few paragraphs I had to skim - and then put the book down to hug and kiss my two-year-old son.

I didn't dislike the book, but I didn't love it either. It was a really fast read, which I kind of needed last week. Who else has read it? Drop your thoughts below! And if you want to grab a copy for yourself, consider using this link to do so and support Kate's Library!

PS - I received this book from Book of the Month Club. If you haven't looked into this service, I highly recommend it!!! It's one of the few treats I reserve for myself! Click here for more information!


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Title: The Underground Railroad
Author: Colson Whitehead
Pages 313
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Copy

Summary (back of the book):
Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood - where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

In Colson Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is the gripping tale of one woman's will to escape the horrors of bondage - and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

Review:
This book has received so much attention, I was a little nervous when I began. It's never fun when something doesn't quite live up to the hype. I think all the buzz surrounding The Underground Railroad was completely warranted and well-deserved. This was a fantastic book.

When I read the description on the back of the book I was expecting the "railroad" aspect of the story to play a more prominent role. I love a good historical fiction novel, and the idea that there was a literal railway system leading people to freedom is such an imaginative idea! Even though I would have loved the railroad scenes to be a bigger part of the story, I understand that the railroad was a way for Cora to pop up in different parts of the United States during this particular time period, therefore giving her a wide range of experiences. I found the story to spend less time on the journey than on the places Cora inhabited for periods of time. I liked these snapshots.

I loved Cora as a character. I found her to be strong and constantly attempting to find peace and expand her knowledge despite her horrific circumstances. I thought she was a beautifully developed character. Whitehead does a beautiful job helping the reader understand Cora's heart right from the beginning. There is never any doubt about her integrity and character.

My only complaint is that I wish some secondary characters had been developed a little more. That's not to say there wasn't any development at all, but I was left wanting a little more, particularly about Caesar. This is, however, a small and picky complaint for what is a wonderful book.

This was the first book I've read by Colson Whitehead. I thought his writing was captivating and beautiful. Looking at his catalogue, it appears that his books span a very wide range of genres. I'm always impressed when I read authors who are able to access parts of their imagination to create works of science fiction, historical fiction, etc. Such a wide range! I have Zone One on my phone as an audiobook, so I'm going to have to move it to the front of my list.

Please drop a comment and let me know what you thought of this book! And if you'd like to grab your own copy, consider clicking this affiliate link to not only get a great book, but to support Kate's Library in the process!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss


Title: On Immunity: An Inoculation
Author: Eula Biss
Pages: 216
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle

Summary:

I'm having difficulty capturing this summary in my own words while doing it justice. So I've copied this from the Amazon description:

In this bold, fascinating book, Eula Biss addresses our fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what may or may not be in our children's air, food, mattresses, medicines, and vaccines. Reflecting on her own experience as a new mother, she suggests that we cannot immunize our children, or ourselves, against the world. As she explores the metaphors surrounding immunity, Biss extends her conversations with other mothers to meditations on the myth of Achilles, Voltaire's Candide, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Susan Sontag's AIDS and its metaphors, and beyond. On Immunity is an inoculation against our fear and a moving account of how we are all interconnected - our bodies and our fates.

Review:

I grabbed this on my Kindle when it first came out and just finally got around to it. I think one of my fears was that it was going to be a heavy and dry read. It was absolutely not heavy or dry. Her writing was engaging and conversational and once I got reading it just flew by.

I love how Biss talks about her own experiences and fears as a new mother. It was very relatable to me. Not just the information about inoculation, but about all the other things we fear as new parents. At some point I remember making a conscious decision to stop clicking on every article about the newest thing that threatens to kill my child. It was too much and it was turning me into a nervous parent. And I think this was a really good decision for me.

I really loved how Biss talks about the history of inoculation - of what people were doing in the 1500's and 1600's. They didn't have a word for it, but it was happening that far back. As someone who likes history and medicine I founbd thisShe also cleverly wove facts about inoculation and the history of inoculation with other literary works. It was interesting and informative.

I don't have any real insights on this book other than I liked it. I do believe in herd immunity. I don't believe vaccinations are dangerous in any way. My favorite parts of this book were the history and the confirmation that all mothers worry after their first-born children.

for an affiliate link to get your own copy!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

Title: The Night Strangers
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Pages: 416
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Format: Audiobook (14 hours, 7 minutes)
Source: Library

Summary:

After both engines fail, Chip Linton, the pilot of flight 1611, has to ditch his aircraft into Lake Champlain. Chip survives, but almost everyone on board - 39 people in total - are killed. In the aftermath, Chip and his wife, Emily, decide to relocate to the small town of Bethel, New Hampshire, with their ten-year-old twin daughters, Hailey and Garnet.

Once in Bethel, Chip makes a discovery in the basement of his old Victorian house. In the corner there is a very old door, and it is sealed with 39 carriage bolts - the same number of people lost on flight 1611.

Meanwhile, the town seems to be home to an eccentric group of women who call themselves the herbalists. At first, they appear to be helpful and neighborly, but they begin to take an increasingly disturbing interest in the twins, Hailey and Garnet.

Are these women motivated by something darker than meets the eye? Is Chip losing his grip on reality? Is this family safe in Bethel?

Review:

I've been listening to this book off and on since the fall. I've been in an incredible reading slump, but I feel the pendulum beginning to swing in the opposite direction.

Even though it took me forever to get through, I really thought this book was fantastic.

There are really two main storylines happening here.

We have Chip battling his personal demons. The discovery of that bolted basement door really sends him down a dark path, both in his thoughts and his actions. Bohjalian does a nice job keeping the reader questioning if there is something supernatural happening or if Chip is losing his mind. This house the Linton family buys in NH hits all the checkmarks of a haunted house - they find all manner of strange things inside when they move in, there is tragedy and rumor about the previous family who lived there, there are weird corridors and stairways, odd wallpaper, electricity that tends to flicker out, and of course the creepy-ass door in the basement. The setting leans towards something supernatural being at play, but the reader gets to be inside Chip's head and it makes you question his stability.

The second storyline centers around Emily, Hailey, Garnet, and the herbalists. There's something "off" about these women right from the start. Their horticultural interests aren't about growing rosemary, thyme, and things you'd use to season a pot of soup, but rather in elixirs, tinctures, and exotic plants. They are a closed group and become very interested in Hailey and Garnet once they learn that they are twins. There was never any doubt, right from their introduction, that things would begin to take a dark turn.

Chris Bohjalian does a great job of immersing the reader both in the physical spaces in and around Bethel, and in the mental spaces of the characters. He uses small details that stick with the reader - I can close my eyes and picture the sunflower wallpaper in the Linton house as being both bizarre and somewhat menacing. I can see the greenhouses of the herbalists. And I can see that bolted basement door. The story is told from multiple perspectives, so we get to spend time within the heads of many different characters, even those outside of the Linton family.

My only complaint wasn't about the book itself, but about the narrator of my audiobook. There was a man reading Chip's narration, and a woman doing the remaining characters. She used a "little girl" voice when reading from Hailey or Garnet's point of view - I found this rather annoying, but I understand what she was trying to do. A small complaint, and one specific to the audiobook version.

This book was a delight to have in my ears while driving and doing things around the house. It was scary enough to keep me guessing and thinking about the story when I was away from it, but not scary enough to keep me awake at night. The descriptions were wonderful, and I know I'll be thinking about the herbalists, their greenhouses, and the Linton house for quite some time.

Click here for an affiliate link to get your own copy!