Tag Archives: book review

Living My Best Life: The Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

Well, that was a fantastic day, readers!

It’s the first day after the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and I am still feeling the afterglow.  I mean, I am a solid reader, with a capital R.  I tend to read at a minimum 2-3 books a week.  But even I was delighted and overwhelmed in the best ways possible about how fun it was to push everything aside to concentrate on the goal of reading as much as I could in 24 hours.

Here are my results:

  • Five books completed
  • Three physical books (one was a galley/ARC, and one was a library book), and two ebooks
  • A mix of genres:
    • One graphic novel
    • One African fiction
    • One thriller
    • One noir translated from Japanese
    • One gay YA romance
  • 943 pages finished
  • 17 hours completed before passing out cold
My Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Experience
My Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Experience

 

Things that I discovered-

  • I already read a lot, but a challenge put me into “beast mode”/hyper drive.
  • I love, love, love getting a reflexology session while I read.  It may be the most decadent luxury I can image (that is still productive). It was worth every single penny, and more.
  • Audiobooks aren’t good for readathons because they are so slow compared to how fast I can read.
  • I don’t like rules.  Even the ones I make myself.  I had a whole group of books that I thought I would limit myself to for the challenge.  HA! Nope.  I added the Anne Frank in at the last minute and didn’t feel bad for a moment about it.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey's Readathon.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey’s Readathon.

 

Here were the books I read:

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith.

This is the 16th book in the endlessly charming No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, set in Botswana.  Mma Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the first detective agency run by a woman in the southern African nation.  She is aptly served by her extremely efficient secretary, Mma Makutsi, who is apt to remind people that she graduated secretarial school with 97% grades. They are very funny together as they solve cozy crimes.

What I love most about the series is the tiny glimpses into southern African life as it brings back the most poignant of memories from when I was raised in the area as a little girl.  Small references will create floods of memories, so these books are an exceptional joy to me.  (And I enjoyed the HBO version of the stories.  The casting was fantastic, as was the set.) So while the characters are wonderfully drawn, the setting has an equal weight in the story.

My husband had to ask me what I was reading because I would frequently let out a giggle or HA! while reading the story.

Good for: I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cozy mysteries, who wants to get a glimpse into daily life in Botswana, or anyone who likes humorous palate cleansers in their reading mix.

Anne Frank: the Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

I am of the mind that we cannot understand this story too deeply and that the multitude of formats (autobiography, play, movie, graphic novel, etc.) only helps us get to the heart of this tragedy.  Last year, my husband and I went to Amsterdam and one of our key moments was the tour of the Anne Frank House.  It affected us profoundly, as I noted in the previous post.

This graphic novel was wonderfully done.  I found the backstory of her maternal and paternal families and the political backdrop context very helpful to understanding the results and how it impacted the family.  And see the previous post for the surprise I found in the book.

Good for: anyone who wants a new way of approaching the Anne Frank story, history buffs, families that want a way to engage their middle grade and above kids into the story.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn

Few people are unaware of the name Gillian Flynn from her NYT bestseller and the subsequent movie for Gone Girl.  She has a gift for the fast paced and interesting thriller.  I wanted to take a completely different course for the read after the Anne Frank book, and thought this would be a good choice.  Plus it’s a novella so it would be a quick read.

This story was engaging from the very moment it opens- bawdy and seedy that let me know immediately this was no middle-grade book! We were back in the land of adults and all their foibles in search of solving the mysteries of what the fates held in store for them.   This had allusions to some of the eerie books of the past- The Woman in White by Wilke Collins, as an example. It was thrilling and perfect to get my blood racing.  If I had to do it again, I would have put it later in the readathon as I was starting to fade.

Good for: anyone who liked Girl Gone, fans of the spooky Victorian novel set up, those who like con artist themes, fans of noir

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

After getting my blood pressure up with The Grown Up, this book pushed the boundaries of how far my heart could expand before bursting.  It’s such a great example of how the YA genre being published today is rich, diverse and engaging.  Simon is a 17-year-old who is struggling to determine when and how he should come out to his friends and family.  He is involved in an email relationship with a boy who goes to his school, but they are anonymous to each other out of fear of public ridicule for being gay and also that the other will reject them.  But when they email, using secret email addresses, they can be honest and share the same struggles that they are having. Through these emails, they fall in love.  But because it’s a YA, things are never that uncomplicated, so there are the trials and tribulations as expected in a bildungsroman.

Good for: someone looking for a great gay romance story, anyone who likes YA or wants to see it done very well, those who love a good bildungsroman (as I do).

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

This was the last book I completed.  I could have just stopped after this one, and been perfectly happy with such a strong collection of books for my first readathon, but I pressed on anyway (unsuccessfully).

This was a stark, cold, distant Japanese noir telling of a young man who finds a gun.  The fact that it is next to a body of a dead man is of no concern to him.  The gun becomes his passion and obsession.  I won’t spoil anything except to say that I found this book similar in style to The Stranger by Albert Camus with it’s bleak, emotionless telling.  I thought it was fantastic and will probably read it again.

Good for: those who love the noir genre, readers of existentialism, anyone who likes Japanese novels in translation


Ultimately this was one of the most fun days I have had in a long time, and I cannot wait to do it again.  I may even try to get a small group of friends together for a weekend retreat to do something similar!

Thanks to the generous and amazing people who cheerleaded us through the hours, hosting mini-challenges and tweeted encouragement our way as we progressed through it all.  It was an absolute delight and a great way for me to bust through my TBR pile.

About Our Recommendations and Community

When I first started, I linked all books I referenced to Amazon, since it’s convenient and would allow someone ease to purchase the books I was discussing. But as I thought more about this decision, it felt like an endorsement and I want to remain company and format agnostic for now.

I have written about my approach to reading, which is all over the place- I use a Kindle, a Kobo, a Nook.  I was on Oyster and Scribd. I buy used books from local Friends of the Library stores and some of the amazing bookstores in my area.  I buy the latest hardcover from the local independent bookstores that I love to visit.  I am a library power user- I have 3 library cards because the state I live in allows me to be a member of any library in the state so long as I can prove residency on a regular basis.  And most of the work that I borrow is in digital or audio book format. But I also hunt for Kindle sales through a number of sites and on Twitter.  I get a thrill by paying $1.99 for an ebook that I am excited about and letting it sit in my digital collection until I am ready to get to it.

So I have decided that instead of linking to Amazon directly, I will in the near future link to Goodreads. (And while I know that Amazon owns Goodreads, it does off the opportunity for people to evaluate the prices that the book is being sold from some of the various companies- Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Audible, Book Depository, etc.) The reason I think this is the right thing for me to do, is that I am hoping that readers of the blog will start Goodread lists based on the discussions, and how (or if ) they purchase the book is beside the point.  I want to keep this going as long as I can, but I also know that there may be costs down the road, if the blog grows in followers and size, and that may mean that I revisit this but for right now, the biggest goal is to connect with other to build a community of readers.

Link up with us on Goodreads and let’s see each other’s book lists!

Just out of curiosity- where do most of you get your books from?

Book Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

I picked this book up after hearing about the story’s premise, which I found endearing and lovely.  Having just finished reading The Stranger by Albert Camus, I was feeling a bit unmoored and desolate.  I needed a boost of something more heartfelt.  I could not have planned this better, if I had tried.
A lovely hardcover of Our Souls at Night from the public library.
A lovely hardcover of Our Souls at Night from the public library.
It was a chance situation, in fact.  I had been forced from the coziness of my apartment to go down to the local library branch to prove that I was still alive and living in the area, as they request their patrons do every 2 years, in order to renew my library card. I primarily use the library for digital books, so I didn’t want to be without access to new reads for a weekend. (I’m a little anxious like that.) While I was there, I looked at their recent arrivals area and found The Cartel by Don Winslow which was recommended to me by a good friend, the Buddha manga series by Osamu Tezuka, and this gem of a book.  I was delighted!
The story is about a 70 year old widower, Louis, who is asked by a widow neighbor, Addie, whom he only knows in passing, to sleep with her in a surprisingly matter of fact manner. She is lonely and assumes that he is, too. She doesn’t want sex, but the comfort of talking to someone in the dark and laying next to someone as they drift off to sleep. They begin an intimate and caring relationship which is deepened by the arrival of her young grandson. I won’t go further into the plot as I don’t want to spoil the book.
What I loved about the book was it’s narrative style and the themes. One of the first things you notice when picking it up is the lack of quotation marks.  It threw me off balance at first, but once I adjusted, I found that device ended up drawing me in more closely. This is a quiet, slow and tender book. When I had to put the book down and then return to it, I was repeatedly shocked by how much of the story was compressed into a few paragraphs. The actions taken are small, but resonant.  The conversation is sparse, but meaningful.  It is a pleasure of a book to read.
The setting is midwestern Americana- a quiet suburb near the country. The descriptions of the scenery were beautiful, as was the delicate interplay of Addie and Louis. I especially loved how I felt safe to let go and falling into this story. I didn’t feel there was going to be a huge twist near the end that would shock or break me. I did worry about the characters, but I trusted that the author wouldn’t crush my soul. And my trust was well placed.
 I truly fell in love with these characters.  The widow Addie is so sensible and plain speaking while warm and loving. Louis is considerate while he is playing catch up to her idea. Jamie is a good kid who is scared and confused, hungry for parental love and Gene, Jamie’s father, is the scarred son who can’t move past failures. The town is also a big character in the story- reigning in, observing, judging, approving and disapproving, trying to set the pace for what should be acceptable of people their ages.
The themes Haruf are conveying hum clearly throughout the book- the crippling isolation of aging, the need to continue to take risks in life, and the importance of human touch and interaction. This is really a gem of a book.  I gave it 5 of 5 stars and I would recommend it for people who like life affirming stories, discerning readers who need well crafted books as well as strong substance, those who like character driven books, and anyone who just needs to get their heart muscle pumping again.
Our Souls at Night Book Cover Our Souls at Night
Kent Haruf
Fiction
Knopf Publishing Group
May 26, 2015
Hardcover
192
Public Library

A senior-aged widow and widower forge a loving bond over shared loneliness and respective histories, provoking local gossip and the disapproval of their grown children in ways that are further complicated by an extended visit by a sad young grandchild.