My Favorite Read of January 2018

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3)The Waste Lands by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reflecting back on 2018, I have decided to pick my favorite book I read per month to officially come up with my ‘best reads of the year list’. ((Inspired by an Instagram challenge – #bookstabest2018 – check it out if you are on Insta)). For January, it was an easy choice. This book blew my mind.

The incorporation of all the riddles and the story of Blaine the Mono. I mean, who comes up with this stuff?

The King, that’s who. Stephen. Freaking. King.

Original: Okay, well, I finished this over a week ago and I still don’t know how I can possibly review this adequately. What more can I say besides the fact that I freaking loved it?! As you know if you are reading this, this is the third book in King’s epic Dark Tower series. This book knocked The Drawing of Three out of the top spot for me – it was that good! Most compelling was the resurgence of my favorite character of this series and it just made me so, so happy!

There is really nothing else I can say about this that would be any more creative or insightful than what countless others have no doubt written in their reviews. For me, one thing I always think when reading a book from this series is how absolutely EPIC this story is. The detail, the atmosphere, the artfully drawn characters – it is truly astounding to me that all of this, ALL OF THIS, came out of one man’s brain!

I have already started the fourth book in the series and it is equally amazing, although the pace is a little different thus far. I look forward to seeing this series out to its conclusion.

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Recommendation: Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

Hallowe'en Party (Hercule Poirot #39)Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hello Reader Friends!! Are you still trying to find that perfect Halloween read?

Maybe you aren’t a fan of horror or don’t want to be afraid but still want the feeling of the Halloween season? If this is the case, than this may be the perfect book for you!

I read Hallowe’en Party last year on Halloween night and I had a lot of fun with it. This is one of the Hercule Poirot books and if you are a fan of him, his calm and efficient manner in solving mysteries, than what are you waiting for? Pick this one up!

The main plot revolves around a children’s Halloween Party and what one child claims to have witnessed during that party. A murder ((dun dun dun)) Is this kid full of it or what? The atmosphere is definitely Halloweenie but without being frightening and intimidating. Perfect for fans of Christie’s classic ‘whodunit’ formulaic (not meant as shade, I personally find them relaxing) mysteries!

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Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost (Letters to the Lost, #1)Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I feel like a bad friend, but I can’t help it. I can’t force what I’m feeling to fit between chapters two and six in some handbook dealing with the death of a loved one.”

Vivid and heartbreaking, Letters to the Lost, follows the lives of two teenagers in the wake of personal tragedies. Through very odd circumstances they begin a correspondence, initially through handwritten letters left in a local cemetery, and eventually through dummy email accounts. Since they are unaware of the identity of the other, they feel completely able to be open and honest about their feelings and what they are going through and what transpires is absolutely stunning.


Juliet
– After the loss of her mother in a tragic car accident, Juliet shuts herself off from pretty much the entire world, except her best friend, but even their relationship is not as it once was. She is struggling with an overwhelming sense of grief combined with guilt and fear of never being able to live up to her mother’s legacy. Every day she goes to the cemetery and visits her mother’s gravesite and even leaves letters there for her.


Declan
– Declan is the quintessential ‘bad boy’ or so he would have you believe. He is dealing with his own personal tragedy, the loss of his sister and his father ending up in prison for the drunk driving incident that killed her. Declan, feeling abandoned by his mother, who has since gone on to remarry (a prick), struggles with his own feelings of guilt and isolation. He is holding onto a lot of anger as well and tends to lash out at those around him without necessarily intending to. Declan, forced to do community service work for his own drunk driving incident, ends up working at the local cemetery where he stumbles upon on of Juliet’s letters.

Watching the relationship between these two develop is absolutely beautiful. I cannot express it any better than that. I was completely blown away by Brigid Kemmerer’s writing. She is so talented and I already picked up the companion novel to this one, More Than We Can Tell, which follows one of my favorite characters from this book, Declan’s misunderstood best friend, Rev.

If you have been on the fence about picking this one up, please do. It is really just so stunning and for anyone who has lost anyone under tragic circumstances, I think a lot of the text surrounding those feelings of grief and guilt are just so relatable and really, cathartic. That’s the way it felt for me anyway. This is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone and will probably end up reading again someday. Well done!

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Nonfiction Recommendations

Do you read nonfiction books?  I do, quite a bit, and always enjoy them! As you may recall, a while back I posted that The Radium Girls by Kate Moore was my favorite nonfiction book this year and I am definitely sticking to that.  However, today I thought I would write a little about two other great nonfiction books I read in 2017 – both of which I gave five stars and both of which relate to Labor relations in America – much as The Radium Girls did.

The first, Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle, tells the harrowing story of the disaster at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the Greenwich Village industrial area of New York City back in 1911.  The fire, that started close to the top of the building swept through three floors and ultimately took the lives of close to 150 people – mostly young, immigrant women. This book tells their stories, the events of that infamous day and the results that such a catastrophe set into motion. An amazing and tragic story- one with lasting effects for worker and workplace safety. Somewhat surprisingly, I had never come across this historical event before and I am so glad to have read this book. Best described as an in-depth examination of the Labor movement, immigration and politics of the time; this book is intimate and startling, as well as fiercely moving. I loved it and learned so much!

The next, Trapped Under the Sea: One Engineering Marvel, Five Men, and a Disaster Ten Miles into Darkness by Neil Swidey, focuses on the waste treatment plant project on Deer Island in Boston Harbor back in the 1990s. Due to a massively polluted Harbor the Commonwealth of Massachusetts undertook this enormous project that required multiple different companies, teams and specialties. This is mainly the story of the tunnel under the Harbor and the 5-men sent in at the end to remove plugs prior to use. I really enjoyed this book although I found it depressing – the truth is sometimes depressing. I think it is an important read, especially for the people of Massachusetts (of which I am one). I think the author did a great job of memorializing the “ordinary heroes” -the men who took on this project; two of whom didn’t make it out alive. A classic David versus Goliath tale but unfortunately in this one, Goliath wins. I loved the engineering and science aspects of this story as well. A good reminder to us all that behind the infrastructure of our country, that we often take for granted, are the lives of thousands of men and women who risk their lives to make it possible.

Another great thing about 2017….

Happy Saturday my bookish friends!  Earlier today I was watching a few different booktubers and it is definitely the time of year for wrap-ups!  While I was thinking back over the books I have read this year (73 books in all, if you’re interested in that sort of thing), I tried to pull together my top 5 to 10 books. This is a much harder task to do than one would think.  I haven’t decided what exactly those will be for now so decided to write a little bit today about an author, new to me, that I discovered in 2017.

Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006) is a phenomenal American science-fiction writer who I certainly wish I would have discovered earlier in life.  Her writing is intelligent, heartfelt and oddly prescient of today’s political climate, e.g. The Earthseed Series, (please look this up on Goodreads if you haven’t heard of it).

Kindred, originally published in 1979 was the first Butler book I read and I am very glad I started with that one.  In fact, I feel that is a good starting point to anyone new to her writings. I’m not sure I can properly convey in words how much I enjoyed this book. First person slave narrative portrayed by a person not of that time, seeing that time with fresh eyes; a true examination of American history. Categorized as a science fiction novel, the only sci-fi element really was the time travel that allowed Dana, our protagonist, to travel back through time to antebellum Maryland. It was seamless and simple and worked very well with the story. I was moved to the point of tears in the last portion of the book and my brain was still running in circles hours after finishing it. I loved everything about this book. It didn’t shy away from harsh topics: rape, slavery, race relations – I found it real and meaningful. I would recommend this book to anyone, everyone – get your copy today!!

The Glory of The Hunger Games

Happy Friyay Bookstaverse!!!  I recently began a reread of The Hunger Games.  By this point, pretty much the entire globe has either read the books, watched the movies, or both.  I read the series for the first time not long after it was published and really enjoyed all of the movies.  By far one of the best adaptations from book-to-screen for a series I have ever seen.

I wanted to reread them in order to refresh my memory as to how close the movies actually are to the books.  I am about a quarter of the way into the first book and it is blowing my mind all over again!  The introduction to the country of Panem, the way it is all controlled by the capital and meeting our kickass warrior princess, Katniss Everdeen (that’s how I think of her anyway) – it is just a delicious reading experience.  I think we all take for granted now how cutting edge this story truly was when it was published in 2008.  It was unique and grabbed people’s hearts and minds, young and old alike.

My favorite aspect of the stories is the competition.  I love stories that have some sort of competition (hency why Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favorite in the series); newer examples of this would be Throne of Glass or Warcross.  There is something about it that just makes a story seem that much more harrowing; your favorite hero or heroine on the brink of losing or worse losing their lives in some sort of action-packed death match!

One thing I had forgotten since my first read was the strain in the relationship between Peeta and Katniss going into the Games.  I had forgotten they were not really friends in the beginning and that Katniss feared early on that Peeta had betrayed her to the career tributes.  Reading it again, all I can picture is Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson (and of course Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks) – they did a really exceptional job casting the movies.

What are your favorite book-to-screen adaptations? I’d love to hear if you thought that they did The Hunger Games well or did you expect more?