Reading For The Heck Of It

Gosh, I love books. I love the way they feel in my hand, the way they smell, the way they look piling up all around me as I drown amongst their pages...I really, REALLY like books.

 

Favorite genres: nonfiction (especially science), sci-fi/fantasy, classics, and children's literature.

 

Unread/unloved genres: romance and seafaring odysseys.

Whodunit: Horror edition

The Outsider - Stephen King

The Outsider is the newest notch in the belt of one of the most prolific writers of supernatural horror, Stephen King. It's been a good long while since I've sunk my teeth into a King novel but when I read the premise (and saw the ultra rad cover) I knew that it was time to take a bite. (That metaphor got away from me.) The very beginning launches the reader into a graphic description of the murder of an 11 year old boy named Frank Peterson. [A/N: As this is literally the first two pages I don't consider this a spoiler. I do want to point out that it is very graphic and involves a sexual element so if this is in any way triggering to you please steer clear.] It seems to be an open and shut case because of the preponderance of evidence which points directly to a prominent member of the community...who also happened to be the coach of the Chief Detective assigned to the case. Can anyone say conflict of interest? However, things are not so cut and dry because it turns out that this man has an alibi with witnesses. So how was he in two places at once? What next occurs is a roller-coaster of police procedural drama with a heaping dash of supernatural horror thrown in for good measure. I wrote tons of notes about this book after I had read it but because they are mainly about the plot and super spoiler-y I don't feel that I can enumerate them here. Suffice it to say that in trademark King style there are always more twists and turns just when you think there couldn't possibly be any more. I enjoyed it thoroughly right up until the very end which I felt was not up to King's usual standard. With that being said, I did really like it and immediately lent my copy to another coworker with my recommendation so I can't help but give it a 9/10.

 

What's Up Next: The Figure in the Shadows The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring by John Bellairs

 

What I'm Currently Reading: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

For whom the clock ticks

The House With a Clock in Its Walls - Edward Gorey, John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs is the first in a series which (mainly) revolve around a boy named Lewis Barnavelt and his adventures living with his uncle who is a magician. I originally searched this book out because I saw the trailer for the upcoming film and got that familiar itch of "I must go to there". Then I found out that Edward Gorey was the illustrator and that clinched the deal. Bellairs blends mystery and magic to tell the story of a lonely little boy who is suddenly orphaned and thrust into the custody of a man he has never met before. Uncle Jonathan is unlike any person that Lewis has ever known and that's not only because he's a magician. Uncle Jonathan's house (a character in its own right) contains a mystery that all starts with the man who originally owned the property and who was himself a magician...a dark wizard in fact. With the combined forces of Uncle Jonathan and their neighbor (and witchy friend) Mrs. Zimmerman they begin a desperate search for the source of a mysterious ticking inside the walls of their house because they are certain it was magicked their by the original owner who no doubt created it with nefarious intentions. Our main character, Lewis, is at the same time struggling to fit in at his new school and while trying to impress his new friend he finds himself going against his uncle's wishes and trying a little magic of his own. Surely nothing could go wrong... This was a strong start to a series which began in 1973 and ran until 2008. [A/N: Books 4-6 were written after the death of John Bellairs from outlines and notes he left behind. The remainder were written entirely by Brad Strickland.] This book was a solid 8/10 but (as a heads up) I'll be reviewing 2 & 3 in the not too distant future and they didn't quite live up to this first book.

 

Check out the trailer which initially piqued my interest: The House with a Clock in its Walls.

 

 

 

One of the Edward Gorey illustrations from inside the book. [Source: Pinterest]

 

 

What's Up Next: The Outsider by Stephen King

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The ultimate reading resource

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition - Jim Trelease

Every now and again when I receive new books to shelve, I come across one (or quite a few) that I pull aside to read for myself. That's how I stumbled upon today's book. The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Edition) by Jim Trelease immediately caught my eye for no other reason than I'm a giant nerd for my profession. :-D The first half of the book is a discussion about the importance of reading and more specifically reading aloud to children from birth to...forever. This is not just Trelease's personal opinion but is backed up by extensive research and a plethora of data on the topic. However, it's not all technical jargon replete with charts and numbers. He uses examples from his own childhood which he describes as 'print rich' with a father who modeled reading habits as well as read to him on a regular basis. He was also fortunate to have a teacher that read aloud to the class each day. (This is a rarity in schools because of the rigorous standardized testing schedules and something I strongly contest.) He also received encouragement from a teacher who sent a note home to his parents praising his behavior and writing capability. (That really can make all the difference, folks!) Trelease also talks about the rearing of his children and their nightly routine of book reading.  Perhaps the most compelling parts of this book are the firsthand narratives of the significance of reading aloud throughout childhood and the benefits gained from it. It is chock full of anecdotes from principals, teachers, parents, and librarians and how they did their part to guide the children in their lives to become lifelong learners and readers. I've used quite a few of the 'tips and tricks' that he discusses like using ebooks and audiobooks for visually impaired and illiterate parents in the workshops and one-on-one discussions I've had with parents in my community. (P.S. Wordless picture books are another great resource.) Whether you're a professional in the field of library sciences or education or simply trying to create a love of reading in your own children this is a must have. I bought a copy for myself before I'd even finished reading it! 10/10

 

Oh and did I mention that the second half contains a Treasury of books subdivided by reading comprehension, age group, genre, and best books for reading aloud? WHY AREN'T YOU READING THIS YET? 

 

What's Up Next: The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

So much hidden meaning

The Intuitionist - Colson Whitehead

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead is included in the list of 100 titles chosen by American citizens for The Great American Read hosted by PBS. (More info on the books on the list and how you can vote for America's favorite novel can be found here.) In an effort to read more diversely (and to have the ability to recommend books for the adults in my branch) I started with this book as I had never heard of it despite it being listed as a 'classic'. The story follows Lila Mae Watson who is the first female person of color to be an Elevator Inspector. In the world created by Whitehead elevators are the height (ha!) of technology and the majority of the population see them as somewhat mystical and beyond the realm of ordinary comprehension. (There are even guilds which seek to elevate the status of Elevator Inspectors in society to those in political office.) Even more confusing to discern are the two distinct sects of theory as to the maintenance and future of these machines. One school of thought is firmly rooted in the reality of the technology while the other views them as metaphysical creations that can be 'sensed'. Lila Mae belongs to the second school of thought which further compounds the problems that she faces among her coworkers and the public that she encounters on her daily rotations. This sci-fi novel is rooted in the reality of race. What drives the story are the veiled discussions of race but it is told through the lens of technology innovations. It is ultimately a story of hope for a better world where we are 'elevated' from the weaknesses and barbarisms of our current reality. Whitehead challenges our perceptions of our accepted reality as he argues that established views are not solely based on what we see with our eyes. This is a book with a seemingly simple premise about elevator manufacture and maintenance in a world so very similar (and familiar) to our own but instead what we get is a complex discussion of race and how we can (hopefully) rise above. 9/10

 

What's Up Next: The Read-Aloud Handbook (7th Edition) by Jim Trelease

 

What I'm Currently Reading: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

When bad guys go good...mostly

The Bad Guys: Episode 1 - Aaron Blabey

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey originally had me quite frustrated because I felt that the labeling (the library's call number) misrepresented the content of the book. [Essentially The Bad Guys was labeled as a Young Reader meaning that the intended audience was anywhere from 2nd-4th grade depending on the reading level of the child. I feel that it was more accurately categorized as an Easy Reader (1st-2nd grade) which is quite different and generally means there are less words and more illustrations per page. I'm mentioning all of this because while it might not matter to some (like if you're not picking up books for your kid(s)) it may have an impact on others.] This is the first book in a series (6 so far) which follows a crew of 'bad' animals: a wolf, snake, shark, and piranha (who is the funniest and fartiest). The wolf decides to round up fellow bad guys to change their image and reform their behavior. He is initially met with skepticism but throughout the book the other members of the club start to come around to his side and become quite enthusiastic about the enterprise. Their first mission is to break 200 dogs out of an animal shelter but from the outset there are large obstacles in their path...mainly how 4 dangerous animals are going to get in the front door of an animal shelter. Cue the shark coming up with a rather camp solution... The appeal of this book rests mainly in its silly humor and quick pacing. Young audiences will surely gobble this up and ask for the next in the series immediately. 7/10 because it didn't totally blow me away but I could see myself reading more for a quick palate cleanser (I may or may not have read the #6 already).

 

Blabey's website with the total list of books in this series (as well as his Pig the Pug series which is great fun): Aaron Blabey books.

 

 

What's Up Next: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett & When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Contemporary fiction meets supernatural thriller

Graveyard Shakes - Laura Terry

Continuing the trend of reading books selected for the Summer Reading program, I read Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. The reader follows two very different storylines that at the outset have no correlation to one another. The first revolves around two sisters who have newly arrived at a boarding school and are struggling to come to terms with their change of environment. The second focuses on a little ghost and his friend Modie (I don't know either) who as best as I can tell is a reanimated corpse. So on the one hand we are rooted in reality with a situation that seems very familiar: wanting to fit in yet also wanting to be recognized as the individual that you are. On the other hand, the supernatural elements of ghosts and zombies are compacted with horror because the only way that Modie can stay 'alive' is to absorb the soul of a dead (i.e. murdered) child. Yes, this is a middle grade graphic novel. (It is at this point that I have essentially 'sold' this book to the reluctant child reader standing in front of me while the parent stares at me open mouthed.) The good parts: The illustrative style was excellent and I really enjoyed the character journey of Victoria, the older sister. The not so good: It was way more disturbing and graphic than I expected plus the ending was entirely too predictable after all of the narrative build-up. While I did thoroughly enjoy the illustrations, I don't know that I'll be rushing out to read Terry's next work (unless the cover draws me in again). I didn't overwhelmingly dislike this book but I also didn't love it with all of my heart and soul (get outta here, Modie!). The little guys and ghouls in your life that love a good ghost story will probably fall head-over-heels for this one. 5/10

 

An example from the inside. [Source: A Kids Book A Day]

 

What's Up Next: The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

On a roll but not the good kind

Escape from the Lizzarks (Nnewts) - Doug TenNapel

Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel is another summer reading selection for middle grade readers. This is the first in a series of graphic novels which follow the adventures of Herc, a Nnewt, who is on both a literal and figurative journey of self-discovery. From the beginning, the reader is launched into this fictional world of creatures called Nnewts and their enemies the Lizzarks. There was a sense that one should already be familiar with characters and backstory. The narrative seemed to be all over the place which compounded the issue. I feel like the author was trying to put a spin on the classic 'underdog who surprises everyone to come out on top' but it was all a bit rushed in my opinion. Also, if this is a series I see no reason why the pacing had to be so hurried.  I went into this one with fairly high hopes as the first couple of pages seemed quite interesting but this is one of those books that just didn't work for me. However, I'm betting it will appeal to a younger audience. (It is after all not marketed for me so this makes perfect sense.) It will probably come as no surprise to any of you that I have no plans to continue this series but I have recommended it to some of my younger readers who like a lot of blood, guts, and gore. No complaints thus far. :-) The best thing I can say about this particular book is that the color illustrations were very imaginative but the rest of it left quite a bit to desire. 2/10

 

Spoiler: Straight out of the gate most of the characters are killed off and I feel like this was a lazy way to move the hero's journey ahead. Also, because it happened so early on there was really no emotional attachment or buildup so it served very little purpose (at least from a reader's perspective).

(show spoiler)

 

An example from the first couple of pages. [Source: Scholastic Canada]

 

 

What's Up Next: Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

I'm here for the illustrations

The Royal Rabbits Of London - Santa Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore

If you've come here hoping for your next read of the summer then I'm afraid I have to disappoint you (unless this sounds up your street for some reason). The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa Montefiore & Simon Sebag Montefiore caught my eye because of the fantastic cover illustration of rabbits in various outfits. This is the story of Shylo, an extremely small bunny that is ridiculed and bullied by his peers (and siblings). He gets roped into a bit of intrigue and derring-do which takes him away from all that he has ever known and into the very heart of the Royal Rabbits of London. Much shenanigans ensue especially when they are confronted by Ratzis. I feel like this book was given very little thought or care (except for the illustrations which were really great and liberally padded the story) so it shocked me to learn that this is the first in a series. (Spoiler alert: I won't be reading the others.) It wasn't particularly well-written but would probably appeal to 2nd or 3rd graders who really like rabbits. For me, it was disappointing to say the least. 1/10 only because of those excellent drawings.

 

The back. [Source: Amazon.com]

 

I mean this is really great stuff. [Source: katehindley.com]

 

What's Up Next: Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions by Russell Brand

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

All the world's a stage but thank goodness I'm not a Winged Monkey

Short - Holly Goldberg Sloan

One of the things I regretted last summer was that I wasn't more in touch with the books selected for the Summer Reading program. So I decided as soon as the list was given to us that I would read as many books as I could so that I'd be better prepared for recommending them to our patrons. This is why I picked up Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan. The story is told through the eyes of Lydia, an 11-year old girl, who is super sensitive about her height...until she is chosen to be a Munchkin and Winged Monkey in her town's production of The Wizard of Oz where it suddenly becomes an advantage. She discovers that her height is just a small (no pun intended) part of her. She makes friends with a fellow cast member named Olive who is herself a dwarf as well as an older neighbor named Mrs. Chang who turns out to have many years of experience with the theater and costume making. My favorite part about this book was the main character, Lydia, who was absolutely hysterical. 

 

An example from page 26-7 as she describes the director of the play she's performing in:

He is for sure older than my parents, who are old, because they are forty-two and forty-four. He might be super-super-super-old. Is he fifty-five? I have no idea.

Sloan totally gets the 'voice' of a child. They have zero concept of age (I've been told I'm 84 so I know from experience) and they also have zero reason to lie to you. Lydia is a well-rounded character who not only makes hilarious asides but also conveys depth of feeling.

 

When confronted with an awkward conversation about death:

My voice is small. I whisper, "Life is a cabaret." I don't even know what this means, but I heard Shawn Barr say it to Mrs. Chang a few days ago and they both laughed. It works, because she smiles. I'm guessing a cabaret is a kind of wine. I hope she'll have a tall glass. - pg 240

Overall, this was a delightful little read and I've been more than happy to recommend it to the children and parents at my library. If you're a fan of the theater or looking for a book full of heart (or both) well I think you've found your book match. ;-)

 

A/N: If you're triggered by repeated mentions of pet death then don't come near this book. It's not a spoiler to tell you this is a running theme throughout the book beginning in the first couple of pages. Grief is a large theme explored in this book but I didn't find it as compelling as the self-discovery/acceptance experienced by Lydia. 

 

There are 2 different covers for this one and honestly I like them both quite a bit.

 

Source: Barnes & Noble

 

 

What's Up Next: The Royal Rabbits of London by Santa & Simon Sebag Montefiore

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

#46 Follow Friday with book bloggers: Reading For The Heck Of It

Reblogged from BookLikes:

 

Hello Friday! Hello Follow Friday with book bloggers! Meet Alicea, an avid reader and blogger who lover the non-fiction literature.

 

Follow Reading For The Heck Of It blog: readingfortheheckofit.booklikes.com

 

 

What are you reading right now? How do you like it?

 

I’m currently reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison   and while I’m enjoying it it’s quite a heavy read and I don’t always want to pick it back up. :-/ It’s actually one of the 100 titles from the Great American Read list (I’m using it for inspiration to read books I might not necessarily pick up on my own.). 

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison 

 

 

When have you discovered you’re a book lover?

 

I think it was pretty clear by the time I was in middle school that I was a big book lover. I would always carry books around with me and when everyone else was watching TV I’d have a book ready to read during the commercial breaks. Also, I was the only kid in my high school that continued the Accelerated Reader quizzes just because I enjoyed taking the tests. That’s when you know you’re a book nerd!

 

 

readingfortheheckofit.booklikes.com

 

Why reading is important to you?

 

I love learning about new things so nonfiction books are especially interesting to me. And I don’t think I’m unique in saying that reading is a great escape from reality so if you need to de-stress what better way than picking up a book and losing yourself in a character’s life?

 

 

Which books are you most excited recommending to your followers?

 

This answer changes quite frequently but right now there are 2 that immediately come to mind. The first is The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford  which is all about the death industry in the United States. Funeral industry practices as well as the stigma surrounding death in our culture are extensively discussed. It totally blew me away. 

 

The second book I’m excited to review and recommend is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer. Told entirely through correspondence the protagonist of the story, a female writer, is immediately drawn into the story of a small town ravaged by the effects of WWII and the book club that came into being as a result. Utterly captivating, heart-wrenching, and hilarious this is a book that I think anyone would love. 

 

I actually just thought of another one right before I finished these questions. This one came across my desk to be shelved and I couldn’t stop myself from taking it home to read. I am SO glad that I did. The book is called The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition by Jim Trelease and it’s the perfect resource for anyone with kids, around kids, or working with kids. It talks about best practices and procedures for nurturing lifelong learners plus includes an extensive treasury of books at the back. 

 

The American Way of Death Revisited - Jessica MitfordThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer,Annie BarrowsThe Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition - Jim Trelease

 

 

 

You’re a Librarian this means you have unlimited access to all kind of books! WOW  Is that intimidating or encouraging to pick different titles?

 

It’s completely overwhelming! Hahaha Because I have access to so many titles I often bite off more than I can chew. If I sent you a picture of my desk right now you’d be absolutely horrified. I have 5 piles of books and a postage stamp sized space for my laptop. At the same time, if I’m ever in a book rut I can just go to the shelves and pick a random book to read which more often than not draws me right back into gobbling up a zillion books at once. My co-workers are always laughing at me because 4 out of 5 days in the week I have titles on request coming in for me to pick up.

 

 

Do you read one book or several at a time?

 

I generally stick to one book at a time because with the amount of books I have to look through at work and as a book blogger I get a bit scatterbrained. As it is, I keep a notebook handy to make notes about what I’ve read so that when I get set to review the book I actually remember details even if it’s weeks later. (I’m always backlogged.) The exception is when I read a book at work and then take another one to read during my commute (usually a graphic novel or audiobook since they’re faster).

 

 

Do you review all books you read? How does your review process look like?

 

The only ones I don’t review are the picture books that I read for storytime here at work and that’s because it would take me FOREVER to review all of those. Otherwise, yes, I review every single one that I read. I generally jot down page numbers as I’m reading so that I can reference back when I’m taking down notes later. Because I don’t review the books immediately after reading them I tend to take rather detailed notes so that I can reference back and get a well-rounded picture of what I thought of the book like its tone, characters, etc. I try to post every Mon/Tues & Fri to keep a consistent schedule. It can be hectic with my full-time job and the long commute that I have (2 hrs each way) but I’m passionate about it so I try my best to stick with it.

 

 

 

A library or a bookstore?

 

This is an impossible question! I love them both for very different reasons. Libraries to me are magical places and I have very fond memories of visiting my town’s public library as a child. Bookstores like the Strand in NYC are equally amazing because they not only have new titles but used books which might be out of print. (I tend to favor used books over new ones these days.) I love out of the way bookstores especially if they have a lot of ratty books lining every conceivable space. There’s a bookstore in Carnforth, UK which is absolutely BANANAS. Here’s their website because you’ll definitely want to go if you’re into unique bookstore experiences: http://www.carnforthbooks.co.uk/

 

 

Your favorite genre is nonfiction (especially science). Why non-fiction books are so special?

 

If you had asked me 5 years ago what my favorite genre of book was without hesitation I would have said sci-fi. I have a fascination with the future of science and how it could be used to either further our species or utterly destroy it. It was only natural that my interests in that topic navigate to the real deal of nonfiction science. I’m especially intrigued by Artificial Intelligence (I’m terrified of it) and Environmental Sciences (SO fascinating that I’ve thought about getting a Master’s in the field).

 

 

What are your three favorite book covers?

 

I don’t know if these are my favorites of all time but I really, really like them right now so…

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon 

 I preferred the UK cover to such a degree that I bought it from a UK distributor. So simple but so perfect…not sure why I love it so much but I really do.

 

The House of Months and Years - Emma Trevayne 

 I liked this cover so much that I went to the illustrator’s website to see if it was available as a print. (In case you’re wondering here’s the site: http://peahart.tumblr.com/post/158472539301/hey-guys-i-had-the-opportunity-to-paint-the

 

The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe - Thomas Levenson 

I saw this book cover and chose it almost entirely because I thought it was beautiful. This was right around the time I was getting into Cosmology and Astrophysics so it checked those boxes as well.

 

 

A paper book or an e-book?

 

Paper although if an e-book is the only available option I’ll suck it up.

 

 

Three titles for a holiday break?

 

My first choice is a book that I read over a Thanksgiving break and so I’ll forever remember the experience as being associated with a trip to Disney. It’s Russell Brand’s second nonfiction book, Revolution, and much like his first book the writing is excellent and the points he makes are solid and thought provoking. Highly recommend. 

 

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins is a graphic novel with a really powerful message. It’s meatier than the majority of graphic novels that I’ve read and I was so impressed by it that after I checked it back in at the library I bought myself a copy. The illustrations are DELIGHTFUL. 

 

Revolution - Russell BrandThe Gigantic Beard That Was Evil - Stephen CollinsSophie's World - Jostein Gaarder

 

My final choice might be a tad unconventional but for those wanting to know more about philosophy or who want a book they can really sink their teeth into on long-haul journeys Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder an excellent choice. It’s a middle grade novel that follows a girl who receives philosophical lessons from an anonymous source in her mailbox. This book is one of the reasons I fell in love with Swedish authors. 

 

 

 

 

Favorite quote?

 

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. - Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, Dune by Frank Herbert

 

If you could pair a book with a drink, what would you prepare to sip while reading?

 

I don’t generally drink while I’m reading but when I do it’s usually a hot beverage like tea or coffee.

 

Shelfie time! Please share your home library photos :)

 

I’m including all but one of my shelves because it’s an absolute mess and I couldn’t be bothered to clean it. Hahaha

 

#1 is less of a shelf and more of a semi-organized pile that sits in my living room.

 

#2 is a shelf that runs along one side of my bedroom and holds a lot of hardcovers and books sent to me by publishers and authors for review.

 

 

 

#3 contains my Harry Potter collection, Doctor Who/Torchwood books, and some oversized hardcovers. The messy piles on top of the shelves are mostly review copies sent to me by publishers (which is why there are so many hardcovers).

 

 

#4 and my final contribution contains my C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, & Charles Dickens books. Also, my little Pop figurines from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Sherlock, Fantastic Beasts, and Doctor Who.

 

Thanks again for including me in the bloggers that you interview. I really enjoyed the experience! :)

 

Thank you!

*

 

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A love story you won't soon forget

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

I struck gold because I didn't think I'd fall so deeply in love with a book so quickly after finishing up The American Way of Death Revisited but then along cameThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer. GUYS. This book was a joy to read from start to finish. I gobbled it up in 2 days and then felt absolutely bereft when it was over. If you enjoyed 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (this is the reason I picked it up) then you will love this book too. Told in letters and telegrams this is the story of a group of people living in a small town in the Channel Islands called Guernsey and their interactions with a Londoner (and writer) named Juliet. Juliet had made her name (except it was actually not her name but a pen name) writing a popular humor column during WWII but at its close (and the beginning of our story) we find her in a bit of a writing rut and looking for her next challenge. This is when she receives a letter from a man in Guernsey who has found a book about Charles Lamb with her name written inside the front cover. This is the beginning of her interest in the place, its people, and its creation of a literary society which saw them through the war and their occupation by German soldiers. While it starts with correspondence between Juliet and Dawsey (the man with the book) it soon blossoms into back-and-forth communication with the other members of the Society (and a few Islanders hellbent on its dissolution). A common thread runs through much of their remembrances of the occupation and the start of the Society and it seems to center around Elizabeth McKenna who while not an Islander came to play a pivotal role in so many of their lives. There were quite a few "WHOA" and "THAT explains it!" moments while reading this book (as well as quite a few tears I ain't gonna lie). I think it's impossible not to fall in love with this book and its characters. 10/10 and absolutely gutted there won't be more books written by Shaffer in the future.

 

PS Someone informed me they adapted this for film and I AM LIVING FOR IT. (Lily James is one of my faves so ya'll know I'm gonna be watching this at my earliest convenience.)

 

What's Up Next: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

 

What I'm Currently Reading: I don't even know anymore

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Is Death owned by Big Business?

The American Way of Death Revisited - Jessica Mitford

The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford blew my freaking mind. There's no other way to say it. I took 4 pages of notes after finishing it and then bought my own copy so that I could reference back to it. As you might have guessed from the title this is another book about death culture and funeral practices in the United States. (Here are 3 more on the topic: Caitlin Doughty 1 & 2 and Bess Lovejoy.) Mitford gives a comprehensive look at the funeral industry in America up to the last update of her book in 1997. (A small portion of the book compares the US outlook on death with the UK and there is a stark difference.) She does not shy away from making her points about the injustices committed by those working in the funeral industry. She discusses the methods employed by everyone from funeral home directors to gravestone manufacturers. This book was a definite eyeopener in terms of what is actually legal when it comes to the handling of the dead. (Spoiler alert: pretty much everything.) 

Alas, poor Yorick! How surprised he would be to see how his counterpart of today is whisked off to a funeral parlor and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rouged, and neatly dressed - transformed from common corpse into a Beautiful Memory Picture. This process is known in the trade as embalming and restorative art, and is so universally employed in the United States and Canada that for years the funeral director did it routinely, without consulting corpse or kin. He regards as eccentric those few who are hardy enough to suggest that it might be dispensed with yet no law requires embalming, no religious doctrine commends it, nor is it dictated by considerations of health, sanitation, or even of personal daintiness. In no part of the world but in North America is it widely used. The purpose of embalming is to make the corpse presentable for viewing in a suitably costly container; and here too the funeral director routinely, without first consulting the family, prepares the body for public display. - pg 43

I include this lengthy quote (and another in a moment) to illustrate the importance of being educated about what your rights are both as the deceased and as the loved one making the arrangements after death. Mitford includes accounts of deliberate fraud by members of the funeral industry against the grieving. (Many funeral homes even include in their pricing grief counseling!) The frauds range from offering 'package deals' with no options for opting out, non-disclosed fees prior to invoicing, refusal to provide itemized statements for services, or inflation on pre-need arrangements (example: plots purchased well before death). I think this is a book that every single person should read because it discusses in depth a topic which is considered taboo in our country but until it is talked about openly and frankly as Mitford does the funeral industry under its many guises will continue to take advantage of the average consumer. Know your rights, people! 10/10

 

And speaking of rights I'd like to leave you with this bit of advice from the last chapter of Mitford's book:

Send a friend to two or more mortuaries to obtain their general price lists and casket prices. Ask for the cost of direct cremation, including transportation costs and crematory fees. Likewise, for the cost of immediate burial. Pay no money in advance. If death has not yet occurred and you wish to pay in installments, do so by setting up a Totten Trust, naming yourself or a relative or close friend as beneficiary. Remember, above all, that many funeral homes have a "no-walk" policy, which means simply that if and when you start to walk out, the fee will come down, down, down until a level acceptable to you is reached. - pg 274

 

 

What's Up Next: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me by Condoleezza Rice

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Friendly advice

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar - Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed is a collection of the letters and responses that were printed in the advice column, "Dear Sugar", from The Rumpus. The topics range from love and marriage, cheating, identity (sexual and otherwise), parenting, relationships with parents/children, grief, and abuse. Strayed does not pull her punches and she doesn't apologize for it either. She somewhat softens the blows of her blunt advice and observations with endearments like 'sweet pea' and 'honey bun' but instead of sounding condescending it feels like it could be delivered by a trusted confidant. Lest you think that she gives this advice from a rather standoffish perspective it is often conveyed through her own personal experiences and struggles. When the column was originally written her identity was unknown which makes the intimacy and the rawness of the letter writers and her response to them such a unique and wonderful thing. If you've ever experienced turmoil in any area of your life (and you'd have to because that's just a natural part of things) then reading such real, honest advice delivered with love and respect is a welcome breath of fresh air. I laughed, cried, and goggled with incredulity while reading this book. It's an excellent palate cleanser if you're in a book reading rut or a great way to kick start your summer reading adventure. ;-) 10/10

 

The inner flap contains some great quotes. [Source: Cook, Wine, & Thinker!]

 

What's Up Next: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me by Condoleezza Rice

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Everyone's TV Dad

The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember - Fred Rogers

The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers was a no-brainer for me because his show was and still is the loveliest program made for children. The book is a collection of quotes, songs, speeches, and anecdotes from Mr. Rogers on his philosophies on the topics he knows best: children and being a good human. It's divided into sections which in my opinion did nothing for the organization of the book because the subjects very loosely corresponded to the material gathered under the headings. So much of this book is packed full of amazing lines that I immediately shared via social media while others sadly seemed to be added as an afterthought or filler.

 

A few quotes that stood out to me:

“When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”

“It's very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It's easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.” 

My favorite part was the introduction which was written by Mr. Rogers's wife and included stories of his upbringing, how they met each other, and what he was like off-camera. Turns out that he was so work-oriented that she often wondered if he was actually enjoying himself. (I really hope he was.) If you're looking for a positive lift (and I don't know why you wouldn't) then this is the perfect little book to leaf through. His message was always clear and never more so than in this little book which reminds us to always be kind and never shy away from talking about feelings with the children in your life. A simple enough concept but one which we need to hear now more than ever. 8/10

 

 

PS I have no idea why the font sizes are so screwy in this post but I couldn't for the life of me change it so...

 

 

What's Up Next: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring by John Bellairs

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

What you gonna read?

Ghostbusters: Novel (Coronet Books) - Larry Milne

Recently I re-watched the 80's classic Ghostbusters and for the first time I wondered if there had ever been a novelization of the story. Spoiler alert: There is and it's pretty weird. Much like the Star Trek screen-to-book adaptations that I've read this was written directly after the film was released and includes additional scenes and background information not covered in the original film. For example, did you know that Winston's last name is Zeddemore? And if you had only read the book I doubt you'd find Dana very charming...in fact you might think she was abrasive. While it mostly stuck to the script's dialogue, the character descriptions fell short of the mark. (Egon is still the best though.) Bonus material like movie stills, cast and crew bios, and movie credits were tacked on making this feel less like a novelization and more like a marketing ploy. (If you haven't guessed yet I wasn't overly impressed with it.) What I like about both the book and movie are all of the obvious nods to New York like the Schwarzman branch downtown. It's such a cool way to feel connected to the story. XD I can't deny that it wasn't that great though so it's a 3/10 from me.

 

What's Up Next: The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Upstaged

[Death of a Hollow Man: A Chief Inspector Barnaby Mystery] (By: Caroline Graham) [published: March, 2006] - Caroline Graham

Once more I'm delving into Caroline Graham's world of detective fiction but this time it's with the second book in her Chief Inspector Barnaby series. Death of a Hollow Man takes place primarily in the Causton theater. It begins with the death of a prominent member of the local acting community committed during a performance of their newest production. Very dramatic, eh? [A/N: I have to restate my dislike of Sgt Troy who is misogynistic, homophobic, and generally vile. I understand he's used as a literary device to highlight how different he is from the main protagonist of the novel but I really wish he wasn't in the books at all. Something I do like is the relationship between Tom and his wife Joyce which is portrayed quite a bit differently from the TV series which I am more familiar with (and like better). The reader learns more background knowledge about how they met each other and fell in love (turns out Joyce is an excellent singer while Tom possesses admirable artistic skills). In fact, a lot of relationships are explored in this sequel and the majority of them are quite ugly beneath the surface. There's quite a lot of flippant talk regarding mental illness which I didn't particularly care for especially relating to Alzheimer's. I think the only really good thing I can say about this novel is that the mystery itself is fast paced and interesting so it kept me turning the pages. Graham knows how to write a gripping mystery but I don't think she's especially adept at character portrayals (or sensitivity). All in all, I think this will be my last foray into this literary series but I will continue to watch Midsomer Murders (especially after we visited the place where it's filmed). 5/10

 

What's Up Next: Ghostbusters by Larry Milne

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Currently reading

Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson
Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans, Ronald Searle
Elfquest Archives, Vol. 1 by Wendy Pini, Richard Pini
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel by Hank Green
Calypso by David Sedaris
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale by Francesco Francavilla, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
5 Worlds Book 2: The Cobalt Prince by Mark A. Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Boya Sun, Matt Rockefeller, Xanthe Bouma
The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese
Lost Souls by David Mack