Book Review: Neverhome

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

I find myself often gravitating towards period/historical fiction, typically of the World War 1 or 2 eras. I picked this book because it was based in the American Civil War time frame; something different for me!

Neverhome was written by author Laird Hunt, and published in 2014. Mr. Hunt has written several other novels and books of short stories.

The main character and narrator of his story is Ash, a married woman with a farm in Indiana. (A fellow Midwesterner!) She is not very educated, both by her own admission, and as we are led to gather via her manner of speaking and delivery, which Mr. Hunt mimics in the writing.

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Book Review: Wool, Shift, Dust (The Silo Saga Series)

Wool: Book 1 of Silo Saga

Wool: Book 1 of Silo Saga

Shift: Book 2 of the Silo Saga

Shift: Book 2 of the Silo Saga

Dust: Book 3 of the Silo Saga

Dust: Book 3 of the Silo Saga

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon Wool, a New York Times Best-seller that began life as a self-published short story on the internet by author Hugh Howey.  (My mother, blessing that she is, is known to send me boxes now and again with books that, to my chagrin, often include only one part of a series…typically, the 2nd book. So she would be my guess on this one!) Frankly, it sat on my bookshelf for quite some time as it was an omnibus version and I knew I’d need to be ready to take on the commitment of such a weighty tome (500+ pages). But once I started, I had a hard time putting it down!

It takes place in a “silo” that, unlike the traditional grain storage buildings I remember from the rural landscapes of Indiana, stretches hundreds of stories underground rather than soaring above it. It is a self-contained world because, as soon becomes a key element of the story, the world outside the silo is no longer fit for human life. But amidst the hustle and bustle of what seems to be a remarkably functional new world, there is heartache and tension and some potentially silo-shattering secrets.

Book Two of the series, Shift, actually represents a flashback to the creation and early years of life in the Silo. Here we will discover (sort of) how it all began. And Book Three, Dust, returns to where Wool left off, bringing the series to what I found to be a surprising and dramatic resolution.

I enjoyed Mr. Howey’s writing. It was straightforward, fluid and approachable…he is a very good story-teller. If there were gaps in his narrative, or loose ends that remained untied, I can’t bring any to mind at this time. Not being a huge reader of the Sci-Fi genre- and I question this categorization given that many of the technologies described already exist or are close at hand- I found his take on the oft-told, post-apocalyptic plot line to be refreshing. But more knowledgeable readers are welcome to chime in to the contrary!

Bottom line is that though it was a slog in the sense that these are now omnibus editions and thus quite lengthy, you will not be sorry once you embark on this journey. In many ways, these are characters that, unlike in typical “aftermath tales”, are average folk like you and I. This versus the extraordinary heroes and villains we often find among those who have been surviving in a harsh world. If there are lessons to take away, or points upon which to reflect, I think for this reason one will find these much more digestible, and therefore, also more profound.

Have you read the series? Tell me what you think!

Book Review: The Skeleton Road

Skeleton Road: Courtesy of Amazon

Skeleton Road: Courtesy of Amazon

I picked this book up at the library on a whim. It was a murder mystery and I tend to like a good mystery story, in general. As well, based on the jacket blurb, part of the story was set in present-day Oxford- a place I had some great memories from myself- and also during the Balkan war of the 1990s. During that time period, I was aware there was a serious war being waged in that area, but was still young enough not to understand the nuances. So I thought I might gain some insight into this portion of world history as well.

The Skeleton Road was written by Scottish author Val McDermid. McDermid has been very prolific, churning out more than 30 books over the course of her career. This one was her most recent.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

The Invention of Wings

I know that many people swear by Oprah Book Club picks. I, on the other hand, tend to shy away from “what everyone” is reading. At least until I joined a book club last year which focused solely on New York Times Bestsellers. Though The Invention of Wings, by acclaimed author Sue Monk Kidd, was not one of the books we selected to read for that club, it was one that I had stumbled upon when doing research to make suggestions for our group. It ultimately wasn’t chosen (we use the sophisticated method of picking our next book via paper slips placed in a hat), but I was intrigued enough that I opted to put it on my library request list. Continue reading

Book Review: Ysabel

Ysabel Book Cover

Ysabel Book Cover

So though I haven’t posted a book review in awhile, I’ve actually been reading voraciously! In fact, I can’t seem to check books out fast enough at our local public library. (Or return them…pretty typical of me, actually.)

In any case, one of the books I’ve recently read was Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. It was published in 2008 by Canadian author Kay, and is one of the 12 books  he has written. As with his other books, it can be described as mixture of history and fantasy. I love history and I also love fantasy/supernatural/sci-fi books so this seemed like a good choice! Continue reading

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See

Book cover

Book cover

I recently joined a book club, figuring that it was probably a no-brainer to combine socializing with reading. Although now that I think about it, one of the great things about reading is that it is a solitary pursuit, and thus dear to an introvert’s heart. Hmm…

Well so in any case, I’m trying something new and will let you know if it works out. The nice thing is that I do have a friend who is joining me in this pursuit. So the appeal of getting some hang-out time with someone I actually like may help me get over any other shortcomings that sharing my reading experience may prove to have.

Our book club is going to be focusing on New York Times bestsellers and the book chosen for this month is Anthony Doerr‘s All the Light We Cannot See. It is fiction, and runs on a timeline from approximately 1934 through mostly 1944/the end of WWII. There are a few chapters that track the characters beyond that, but they are more conclusion segments versus the meat of the book.

My husband and I are huge history buffs, particularly that of the WWII-era and the Civil War. I’ve never read any of Mr. Doerr’s books, and had no idea what this one was about when I received notice that it had been chosen for October. However, I was very relieved to find myself immersed in a story based during this time frame.

I think the point of book reviews, besides the feelings of empowerment that waxing poetic on the written word inspires in book nerds like me, is to pique the interest of other readers without giving the ending away. Maybe? I don’t know, so I’ll err on the side of caution with this one and try not to spoil things too badly. Continue reading

Fifty Shades of Censorship, or How to Stop Worrying and Let Kids Read

I loved this post on children and reading so much that I just had to share with you, dear readers!

Nerdy Book Club

Sometime in mid-July, I got a text from an English teacher friend at a local high school. She’d just heard, via her principal, that a parent had complained about The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s brilliant short-story collection based in part on his own experiences fighting in Vietnam.

The book was assigned as summer reading for the student’s upcoming AP language and composition class, and the parent—having looked through it—asked for an alternate text. My friend texted to ask for ideas about what she might suggest. I made several recommendations—Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels among them—but the parent rejected all of our candidates and made her own choice, John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

Given that we’re just coming out of Banned Books Week, I’d like to use my Reading Lives moment to address not the dramatic cases of book challenges, like the ongoing battle over The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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Stories to Sell, Stories to Tell

Author Monica Barnett's book cover.

Author Monica Barnett’s book cover.

Being a book nerd does not always equate to being an introvert. (Though who are we kidding? It does in my case.) However, sometimes even an introvert can be peeled away from their cozy nest long enough to get a fresh gulp of air and some recent gossip with a few of their closest friends. Because it’s birthday month, I’ve been a lot more willing to “go big or go home” when it comes to socializing. Which meant that yesterday found me at an evening book event with 60 of my not-so-closest friends. Strangers..oh, the horror! (Kidding!)

There were four, female authors in the line-up for the evening, each reflecting different genres…rather refreshing, actually. Each spoke not only to their recent book but rather prefaced their discussions with stories about their own lives, how they got their start, how the writing/publishing process impacted them, etc. I actually stayed longer than I had meant to, and there were quite a few gems to take away for reflection back at the cozy nest. Once again demonstrating why it is that sometimes leaving the house can be a good thing. Sigh.

For instance, it was really interesting to hear one author state her belief that she felt like there was, “at least one book” in each of us and that it was a matter of writing it and then finding the audience who was receptive to it. That gave me pause because honestly I began this blog less with the thought that anyone would care and more because I’ve always had a yearning to write just for fun. Committing to writing a blog about nothing in particular, even if it was absolute rubbish, has become something to look forward to in a hectic week. Continue reading

The Mighty Girl Flame

One of the few movie adaptations I actually like!Anne played by Megan Follows.

One of the few movie adaptations I actually like!Anne played by Megan Follows.

Yesterday I celebrated another turn around the sun. Not a milestone birthday by any means. But birthdays are one of the few times I gleefully embrace my “youngest child…it’s all about me!” birth order stereotype, celebrating in big ways and small the whole month. Which means that I can also usually be found indulging in a little more self-reflection/absorption as the days transition from summer to fall. This year proved no different. Here is one of the things I’ve been thinking about:

Not too long ago I stumbled upon a Facebook group/profile called “A Mighty Girl“. (Find them on the web here as well.) Per their Facebook page: “A Mighty Girl is the world’s largest collection of books, movies, and music for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls.Continue reading