Book 343: Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

Brooks, Geraldine - Year of WondersI picked this novel up back in November 2012, and as is usually the case, I’m sad I didn’t read it sooner. I enjoyed Brooks’ March, but apparently not enough to buy and read the rest of her works immediately. Check out the synopsis here (Amazon link).

Zombies may be all the rage these days, but plague has been around and written about for so much longer. Zombies, according to Wikipedia at least, didn’t appear in popular culture until the 1800s, whereas plague has been a stark reality off-and-on since the 1300s.

Now imagine three hundred years after the Black Death ravaged Europe, you live in a small village with fewer than 500 people in central England. In less than a year more than 2/3 of the people were dead and you were one of the survivors to witness this and all of it is because of the plague. What would you do? How would you respond? Well this is that villages tale and the flashback to what happened in this “plague village,” and it is not the only one.

Click here to continue reading.

Book 342: The Anxiety Toolkit – Alice Boyes

Boyes, Alice - The Anxiety ToolkitMy friend Caitrin (of podcast fame) sent me an article from Refinery 29 and after checking it out I knew I needed to read this book. I reached out to the publisher, Perigee Books (Publisher’s site), and they generously provided a copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. In addition to the book (Amazon link), there is an amazing free resource at theanxietytoolkit.com!

Last year I had a panic attack which resulted in a hospital visit when the lingering effects didn’t go away. I was already in therapy for stress, so I was convinced I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t. That experience resulted in my researching more about anxiety and ways to deal with it. Between therapy last year, I “graduated” :-D last month, and reading this book I’ve come to realize I’ve always experienced a lot of anxiety but I’ve developed really good coping mechanisms throughout the years. Now on to the book!

Click here to continue reading.

Book 341: Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

Hornby, Nick - Funny GirlThe only other Hornby I’ve read is High Fidelity (the film adaptation was meh). And I loved the film adaptation of About A Boy, so I wasn’t sure where this novel would go. I hadn’t planned on reading it, but one of my favorite podcasts, Pop Culture Happy Hour, announced they were going to do an episode a few months ago so I put it on hold and timed it almost perfectly to listen! (I missed the exact episode by a little less than week.)

I think the podcast hit the nail on the head when they talked about the story (Amazon link) being more focused on “the show [Barabara (and Jim)] rather than the funny girl of the title, Barbara/Sophie. But what Hornby didn’t do, was show us the show; he only ever referred to specific gags, situations or dialogue. Someone on PCHH said it should’ve been called “The Show” and I can’t agree more. It would be a better title and I would definitely have chosen to read it if that were the title too!

Click here to continue reading.

Book 340: Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) – Rachel Hartman

Hartman, Rachel - Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2)Ever since I read Seraphina back in 2012, I’ve been patiently waiting to the conclusion of her story! It was well worth the wait and I couldn’t be happier about this book. I received a copy from the publisher in return for my honest opinion, and honestly, it’s EXCELLENT!

I wasn’t sure how Hartman would go about improving on the story (Amazon link), but she definitely did. She made it more inclusive, more exciting and a lot more enthralling. I have no idea how she did this, apart from taking almost three years, but it was definitely worth the wait. I know I talked about her amazing story telling and character building in my response to Seraphina, but Hartman brought it to a new level in Shadow Scale. If anything, I wish the book were longer to flesh out more of the “grotesques” and what happens after the story ends.

Click here to continue reading.

Book 339: Emma – Jane Austen

Austen, Jane - EmmaFor book two of our Jane Austen Book Club, my friends and I decided to conquer Emma (Amazon link). It has always been my least favorite of the six and reading Deresiewicz’s A Jane Austen Education both confirmed that and helped me get around this problem. His talking about Emma and it’s belief in the importance of every day trivialities, as well as Margaret Drabble’s excellent introduction led me to think about the book differently.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still boring as anything in most points, but Austen wrote it this way. According tot Drabble, Austen wrote this novel in such excruciating detail in direct response to the detractors of her previously published novel Mansfield Park, which I love. Drabble says, “This is domestic realism almost with a vengeance.” (xix) AND it is! The hyper focus on every detail, the incredibly limited scope of setting, characters and even conversation topics is overwhelmingly mundane. It is an assault on the senses, and as a fellow JABC member said “i’m diagnosing myself with ’emma-induced narcolepsy.'” (Thanks Dalton!)

Click here to continue reading.