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.

WWII History Part 4 of 4

Stranger in the House:  Women's Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War - Julie Summers

Funnily enough, I read this book last even though it was the first one that Summers wrote on the subject. Stranger in the House focuses on the men returning from the war and the effects that the war and separation from hearth and home had on themselves and the women in their lives. In the early 20th century, there was no real understanding of PTSD of which many POW (especially those who were imprisoned in the Far East and worked on the Burma Thailand Railway) suffered. On average, they were only expected to live a further 15 years because of the severity of their wounds and the maltreatment that went on for such an extended period of time. Those that lived beyond this were not considered 'lucky'. Most of the men who returned from war never again connected with their families because they were so changed and nothing of their experiences was ever discussed. Because Summers used secondhand accounts from the wives, daughters, and granddaughters coupled with primary written sources this is a unique perspective on a much discussed topic. 8/10

 

 

What's Up Next: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever by Gavin Edwards

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

WWII History Part 3 of 4

When The Children Came Home: Stories Of Wartime Evacuees - Julie Summers

By the time I got to this book I was starting to get a bit fatigued with the topic of WWII but once I got truly stuck into this book and discovered just how much I didn't know on the topic...I was hooked. Children were evacuated to the countryside during WWII (this much I knew before) but I learned that they were also sent to America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Parents weren't especially picky as long as they were away from London. This book is chock full of recollections which recall the 'waves' of children which would leave suddenly only to be called home again especially during the Phoney War when the prejudice against 'townies' coupled with the desire to see their children again prompted parents to yank their kids back to the city. Understandably, the uncertainty of the situation created a lot of anxiety among children and adults alike. The psychological trauma of abandonment had a lifelong effect on most of the children which manifested itself in a variety of ways. Some children never reconnected with their biological family while others felt their foster family was their 'true' family (some were eventually adopted and stayed in their new homes). I had never really given much thought on the intricacies of the evacuation scheme and what kind of result it had on the children and their families so this was an eye-opening reading experience. 9/10 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

WWII History Part 2 of 4

Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War - Julie Summers

While I enjoyed reading all of Summers' books, Jambusters: The Story of the Women's Institute in the Second World War was my favorite of the lot. This volume was specifically about the role that the Women's Institute (WI) performed on both the national and county levels. These women played hosts to evacuees, took over the role of primary household manager, assumed the responsibility for the nation's food production, and so much more. Not only was the WI important during the war for the nation but even more so for women who made up its membership. The main goal of the WI was to provide a space for women to socialize (there's real value in this) and educate themselves on everything from how to preserve food and stretch out their meager rations to animal husbandry. (Many local chapters kept farm animals which they then sold to raise funds for war work.) I knew that they were a social group but I had no idea just how large of a role that they played. This just reinforced how amazing women truly are. 10/10

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

WWII History Part 1 of 4

Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 - Julie Summers

This book explores the history and uses of the country estates that were requisitioned by the British government for use during World War II. These uses ranged from training facilities for spies, invalid homes for injured servicemen, hospitals for pregnant women, and boarding facilities for children evacuated from London. Not only does it delve into the minutia of what the houses were used for but also what kinds of changes occurred to them (the houses that is). For some, they were never again used by their original owners. For others, the buildings much like the people themselves, were forever changed (or completely destroyed). The only thing missing from this book was an annotated bibliography (you know how much I love those) even though it is clear that Summers did her research. 8/10

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Predictable part 2

The Hidden Witch (The Witch Boy #2) - Molly Knox Ostertag

The Hidden Witch picks up where the last book left off but we see that Aster is not the only one in his family unsatisfied with their lot in life. And to make matters more complicated, Aster's non-magical friend Charlie is being hunted by a dark piece of magic called a Fetch. Major themes: gender norms, nefarious plots, finding your way, and being authentically yourself. 5/10 from me as I found it predictable and slightly boring.

 

What's Up Next: Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by Julie Summers

 

What I'm Currently Reading: It Takes One by Kate Kessler

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Predictable part 1

The Witch Boy - Molly Knox Ostertag

The Witch Boy serves as a basic introduction to the characters and their world. The boys in Aster's family have started going missing, so he decides to buck against tradition and learn the magic needed to find his cousins and stop whatever is hunting his family. Major themes: gender norms, nefarious plots, finding your way, and being authentically yourself. 5/10 from me as I found it predictable and slightly boring.

 

What's Up Next: Our Uninvited Guests: The Secret Life of Britain's Country Houses 1939-45 by Julie Summers

 

What I'm Currently Reading: It Takes One by Kate Kessler

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Just witchy

Strange Sight - Syd Moore

Strange Sight by Syd Moore, the sequel to Strange Magic, follows our main characters Rosie and Sam as they attempt to solve a case involving a vengeful spirit wreaking havoc in an upscale London restaurant. When a young woman working in her father's restaurant starts seeing a woman from the distant past (I'm talking about a ghost, ya'll) the crackerjack team from the Essex Witch Museum is called in to investigate. As with the previous book, this is equal parts supernatural mystery and contemporary fiction with a healthy dose of romantic tension. I will say that I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first but it picked up towards the latter third of the story (and the ending was really good). Rosie is a bit of an abrasive character and probably doesn't appeal to all people (though I find I like her rough edges). If you enjoyed the first in the series or you're looking for a bit of a witchy supernatural story for the Halloween season this one might just fit the bill. 7/10

 

What's Up Next: The Witch Boy and The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag

 

What I'm Currently Reading: We Were Killers Once by Becky Masterman

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Great choice for a Halloween read

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ticked all of my boxes. There's werewolves, daemons, vampires, and of course witches with the main setting of the story set at Oxford University and the Bodleian Library. (There are also side plot lines in Scotland and the U.S. but the most detailed descriptions are those that happen at Oxford.) Our main character is Diana Bishop who comes from a long line of witches but who has decided to turn her back on her heritage in order to lead a "normal life". Unfortunately, life has other plans for her. When she calls up a manuscript at the Bodleian it turns out that there are hidden messages in the pages which only she can see...because she's the only one who's been able to successfully call up the book in centuries. Suddenly the entire community of supernatural creatures is very interested in her but none more so than a vampire named Matthew Clairmont...

 

Part paranormal/supernatural conspiracy theory mystery and part burning hot forbidden romance this book hooked me but good. The only reason I haven't completely dived into the second book is because this is one hefty piece of work at over 600 pages and my TRL is about 5,700 miles long. Rest assured, I will be continuing this trilogy...even if I didn't particularly like the overly complicated plot in the last third of the book. 

 

Oh and did I mention that it's been made into a TV series? Cause it absolutely has and the guy playing Matthew is scarily accurate to what I pictured when reading this book. O_O 10/10

 

What's Up Next: Strange Sight by Syd Moore

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Guide the future by the past

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

I FINALLY read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, y'all. I absolutely loved the film adaptation of it and while I also enjoyed the book (hold on to your seats, folks) I preferred the movie version. While the book was able to go into more details in terms of world building and the puzzle solving aspect of the plot I enjoyed the storyline of the movie more. [A/N: I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy this reading experience because I definitely did but the film just has an extra oomph.] Additionally, the book's version of Halliday seemed cruel and cold whereas Morrow was a lot of fun (and mostly absent from the film's version). The hero of this dystopian novel, Wade Watts, is living in a world that has become entirely taken over by The Oasis which is a virtual reality environment where anyone can be anyone. The majority of the human race has been crammed into tiny communities that are stacked one on top of the other but their consolation is getting to live their dreams online. Even school is conducted in virtual schools! The creator of this world, James Halliday, passed from this mortal coil but left behind a grand prize (ownership of The Oasis) for anyone who manages to solve his puzzles and find the 3 hidden keys buried within The Oasis.


This is a boy's quest to pull himself from his dire circumstances while learning that he's got the 'right stuff'. (Did I mention this book is chock full of 80's references? I definitely downloaded some Rush albums after I finished reading it.) All in all, a really fun book. 9/10

 

A/N: Title courtesy of Rush "Bastille Day".

 

What's Up Next: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Reading Fatigue: A How To Manual

Amphigorey - Edward Gorey Amphigorey Too - Edward Gorey Amphigorey Again - Edward Gorey

Since I read Edward Gorey's biography, I thought it would be a good idea to immerse myself in his books which led me to Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Again. These are collections of his illustrated works and I have to be honest that I don't think I'm intellectual enough to get the 'deeper meaning' behind his grotesque little tales. While I found some of them amusing, I wasn't overly impressed or blown away. Also, I have to agree with Gorey's biographer that his books do best in their tiny format instead of lumped together like this. Reading fatigue hit me HARD while I was trying to get through these (and they really didn't capture my imagination) so it's going to be a 4/10 from me. 

 

What's Up Next: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Short but definitely not sweet

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories - Tim Burton

Ever since I knew of its existence, I’ve wanted to read Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. Unfortunately, my library doesn't own a copy so I had to order it through Interlibrary Loan. Of course, after all of that effort it was a bit of a letdown to discover that it was only 115 pages long. But this short little book did deliver on the quirky, dark humor that we’ve all come to expect from Tim Burton. Organized into small rhymes and stories, these are creepy but hilarious (if morbid humor is your thing) vignettes. A/N: Parents beware if you take issue with your kids reading about death, patricide, suicide, etc.

 

Source: Goodreads

 

Source: Goodreads

 

What's Up Next: Amphigorey by Edward Gorey

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Source: http://Https://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Princess Pat strikes back

The Birthday Ball - Lois Lowry

It’s amazing to me that the same author that wrote The Giver wrote the book I'm reviewing today because they couldn’t be more different. The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry is a nontraditional fairytale about a princess who’d rather live among the people than follow any ridiculous royal decrees. (Roman Holiday, anyone?) Now that she’s turning 16 years old, Princess Patricia Priscilla's expected to marry one of the three suitors who are courting for her hand. Each man is more ghastly than the last. A lot of time is spent describing these hateful men (and the illustrations by Jules Feiffer really drive it home how disgusting and despicable her choices truly are. As in much of middle grade fiction, her parents are blind to her discomfort and unhappiness as they are caught up in their own lives and interests. (Dad is obsessed with butterflies and Mom is preoccupied with her wardrobe and appearance.) So neither takes any notice of her switching places with her maid and escaping out into the village to go to the local school. Dark humor coupled with the somewhat realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a village peasant plus the fantastic illustrations make this a quick, fun read. 7/10

 

What's Up Next: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The list maker

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus - Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant with pictures by Melissa Sweet is a biography (written for children) of the creator of the Thesaurus, Peter Roget. Some of the most beautiful mixed media art has been used to enhance a subject which I imagine many adults (not to mention kids) would consider quite dry. While the art is gorgeous, I have to be honest and say that Roget didn’t lead the most exciting life so the story itself isn't exactly edge of the seat content. From childhood, he spent much of his time making categorized lists (sounds like the life of the party) which didn't help his shyness but did help him to graduate early from school. It also helped him in his preparations to become a doctor where an ability to stay focused while learning a vast amount of information came in handy. This book tracks his life and accomplishments in an easy to digest manner for kids aged 9 and up (although younger kids could understand the content with help from an adult). If nothing else, this is an absolutely beautiful piece of art and for that alone should be celebrated. 6/10 because it didn't knock my socks off or supply me with any particularly new information.

 

What's Up Next: The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry with pictures by Jules Feiffer

What I'm Currently Reading: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Yes, this is ridiculous

Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder - Jo Nesbo, Jo Nesbo, Mike Lowery, Tara Chace

Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo (you might have seen his books for adults) is the tale of a little girl and her new neighbor (a tiny boy with a big personality). They befriend a failed scientist (suitably eccentric) with many (unsuccessful and useless) inventions to his name (all more ridiculous than the last). However, his latest invention seems to be a real winner: a powder that when ingested causes the person to fart most spectacularly and explosively. In fact, the powder is so successful that it launches the person into the sky! Can you think of anything better for a group of children? An utterly ridiculous little book this would appeal to a middle grade reader who enjoyed the Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. [A/N: This book was originally written in Swedish before being translated into English.] 5/10

 

Trigger warning: pretty intense bullying and a corrupt, abusive father. 

 

What's Up Next: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant with pictures by Melissa Sweet

 

What I'm Currently Reading: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

The transatlantic experience

Locomotive - Brian Floca

First of all, Locomotive by Brian Floca has absolutely beautiful illustrations. [A/N: It was a Caldecott Medal Winner and a Sibert Honor Book so you know I'm not just whistling Dixie.] This could be a potentially dry subject (a 19th century family's cross country journey to a new home) but the illustrations really take it to a whole other lever. This is best categorized as classic picture book meets historical fiction. It reads as if it could be a nonfiction story of a family journeying by the newest technical innovation, the transcontinental railroad, across the country. This would work best either with a child who loves trains or to a slightly older group of kids (maybe in a classroom) who want to know more about this period of American history. 8/10

 

What's Up Next: Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo with pictures by Mike Lowery (translated from the Swedish by Tara F. Chace)

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem

 

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Unique concept combined with beautiful illustrations

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems (Reverso Poems) - Marilyn Singer, Josée Masse

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer with pictures by Josee Masse contains reverso poetry based on fairy tales which when read in one direction tells one story (and from one POV) but when read in reverse is a wholly different story. An example would be Cinderella’s story on one page and the stepsister's tale on the other page. The illustrations were truly excellent and the concept unique (and well executed) but as I had hoped to use this as a readaloud it didn't quite hit the mark for me. This is more of a singular reading experience or one-to-one with just one child. 6/10

 

What's Up Next: Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo with pictures by Mike Lowery (translated from the Swedish by Tara F. Chace)

 

What I'm Currently Reading: The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem

Source: http://readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com

Currently reading

Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever by Gavin Edwards
When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People by Gaffigan, Jeannie
The 7th Victim by Alan Jacobson
It Takes One by Kate Kessler
The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters by Andrew McConnell Stott
We Were Killers Once by Becky Masterman
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty, Dianne Drake
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang