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Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I hope all my fellow Americans had a great 4th of July and everyone else had an excellent weekend as well! My husband and I decided to ride The Virginia Creeper Trail again and spend the weekend camping. We had a good time--the trail is beautiful--but, other than when we were actually on the trail and when we were watching fireworks, it rained the entire time. At least it stopped raining when it really mattered, right? We've spent the afternoon trying to dry everything out at home. Oh well.

Posted:
Review: The Places in Between by Rory Stewart--3 Stars

Review: My Ántonia by Willa Cather--4 Stars

Read:
Cover of Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier


Cover of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, read by Kate Reading

Currently Reading:
The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith--I was offered a review copy of this book now that the paperback release is coming up. When I saw that it's set in my home state of North Carolina, I had to give it a try.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown, read by Grover Gardner--It's taking me forever to get through Undaunted Courage, so that's killing my nonfiction reading for the year. I thought I'd add a nonfiction audiobook to make up for it. When I saw this one was available, I thought it would make a nice counterpoint to the Lewis & Clark book. All the reviews say it's very depressing, of course, so we'll see how I do with it.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose

Up Next:
I'll be surprised if I finish any of these.

What are you reading this week? Did you do anything fun for the holiday and/or weekend?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cover of My Ántonia by Willa Cather
4 Stars

Young orphan Jim Burden is sent from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents. There is a Bohemian family on the train with him. None of them really speak English. They all get off at the same station in Black Hawk. It turns out that the family has just bought the farm next to Jim's grandparents. Neighbors are still far apart back in 1800s Nebraska but Jim still spends a lot of time with the Shimerda family, especially Ántonia, the oldest girl and closest to his age. As he watches Ántonia grow, he realizes that she has an indomitable spirit and admires her for it.

I liked Ántonia. A lot. She's smart, feisty, hard-working, loving, and full of life. As she grew older, I got more worried for her. This is a classic after all. I expected it to take a Thomas Hardy turn. I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't.

More than that, Ántonia embodied the American immigrant spirit. Her family starts out living in a dugout, basically a cave dug into the earth. They were comfortable back home in Bohemia so this is an adjustment for them, but rather than complain about it, as her mother does, Ántonia does her best to help raise the family out of that hole in the ground. She has setbacks of course, and people talk about her and her unfamiliar ways, but she just keeps doing what needs to be done.

Ántonia lives in the town of Black Hawk for a while and becomes friends with a group of other immigrants. The wider group shows just how much these new settlers have to offer the country. Some become successful businesswomen, others become farm wives, some are content to just keep working in hotels and laundries. They all make some kind of mark on the world, no matter how faint.

My one complaint is the framework of the book. The author (I'm unclear whether this is supposed to be Cather herself or an unknown "Author") meets an old friend and they start talking about Ántonia, whom they both knew. They both remember her as being a strong character and agree to write down what they remember about her. The "Author" forgets but then she receives Jim's notes. He says, "I didn't arrange or rearrange. I simply wrote down what of herself and myself and other people Ántonia's name recalls to me. I suppose it hasn't any form. It hasn't any title, either." And then the author says that the following is Jim's manuscript, essentially unchanged. There follows a completely finished novel. There's no mention of the "Author" who supposedly knew both Jim and Ántonia from childhood. It's a small thing but it bothered me. Why not just write a book from Jim's point of view without all this business of an unfinished manuscript and deferred authorship?

Anyway, the book is very readable, with language that evokes the plains. I haven't spent any time in the Midwest but to me it just brings to mind mile after mile of corn and wheat fields. I hate to say it, but that sounds pretty boring to this mountain girl. Willa Cather showed me her plains, with rolling hills; amazing light; beautiful, life-giving streams and rivers; rich land; and people who are the salt of the earth. I won't think of the Midwest the same way again after reading this book.

I highly recommend this for a beautiful read about the pioneering spirit on which America was built.

Read an excerpt.

Buy My Ántonia at


I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Places in Between by Rory Stewart

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cover of The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
3 Stars

Rory Stewart walked through India, Pakistan and Nepal in 2002, a time that was very unstable given the events of 2001 and the subsequent war. He decided that he wanted to walk through the heart of Afghanistan as well. He met with a lot of bureaucracy, but he was eventually given permission to undertake his journey on the condition that several soldiers accompany him. He sets out across Afghanistan in winter, towering mountains and layers of snow between him and his final destination of Kabul.

I was a little disappointed in this and I'm having a hard time putting my finger on why, exactly. I think I expected more interaction with people? He's on foot and relies on the kindness of strangers for shelter and food. It's not like there are Holiday Inns on every street corner in Afghanistan. Heck, for that matter, there aren't even any streets to form corners in the rural areas he travels through. Just spending a night or two in one place, I felt like I didn't get a good sense of what the average people were really like. Which is kind of stupid to say. People are people. Afghans are like people everywhere--mean or kind, religious or not, apathetic or passionate. The one thing they are is crushingly poor. The country has been at war for so long, and I believe there's been a terrible drought that has dried up everything, so there's no chance to grow crops or lead a normal life. Anyway, I guess I didn't get a feel for what an average day in the life of an average Afghan is really like. Mr. Stewart mostly saw other people at night, when they'd settled in the house for what little dinner they could scrape together. What do they do with their time? I have no idea. What do they hope for or dream of? I don't know that either. It just felt like a lot of, "I walked, begged for shelter and food, then we all fell asleep. I left early the next morning, dragging my dog behind me." I'm not being entirely fair, but that's closer to the truth than I hoped for when I picked this book up.

There were a few things that stood out. There's an ancient civilization based in Afghanistan that archeologists haven't been able to find traces of. Mr. Stewart believes that villagers have found the ancient capital city and are looting it mercilessly. He describes untrained people digging through rubble, breaking what are probably priceless antiquities in their ignorance and rush to get items sold on the black market for a little more money to survive a few more days. Who can really blame them? He says that he tried to bring attention to the site when he left the country but no one was interested. I guess it's just too unsafe. Meanwhile, the knowledge and history to be gained is lost. There are other sites where the same kind of thing is happening, either due to unintentional harm or neglect.

Overall, the book was easy enough to read and I did learn about a country that is very foreign to me and the different ethnic groups that live there. I just somehow wanted more out of it.

Read an excerpt.

Buy The Places in Between at

Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net















I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Our dreadful heat finally broke this weekend. It's been beautiful and right around 80 degrees, which is perfect for me! My husband and I spent most of the afternoon out in the hammock, reading and napping. What a perfect day.

Last night we went to our local community theater to see The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Oh my goodness, we laughed 'til we hurt! If it's ever onstage anywhere near you, go check it out!

Posted:
Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George--3 Stars

Review: I Am One of You Forever by by Fred Chappell--4 Stars

Read:


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, read by Steven Crossley, translated by Rod Bradbury

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Currently Reading:
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, read by Kate Reading

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose

Up Next:
I don't expect to finish any of these this week.

What are you reading? Any 4th of July plans?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cover of I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell
4 Stars

Jess, his mom, dad, grandmother and farmhand/adoptive brother, Johnson, live a quiet life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They farm, visit with relatives, play some baseball, and get up to a whole lot of no good, as my grandmother would say. Jess's dad is a mischief-maker. He just can't help it. Johnson and Jess adore him and follow his lead in everything. Whether it's Halloween tricks or trying to find out exactly how long Uncle Gurton's beard really is, they are always up to something.

I laughed so hard reading this! My poor husband might as well have read it with me; I read all the good parts out loud to him anyway, and they were all good parts. He's not much of a reader and it just blows his mind when I start guffawing out of the blue at something I've read, but even he let out a few chuckles as I read to him.

I read and enjoyed Brighten the Corner Where You Are by this author several years ago. It was funny and then all of a sudden it had this serious message. It was also written from a child's point of view, so the kid's missing what's going on but the older reader really sees it. Well played, Mr. Chappell. I waited for something to come out and hit me in this book too. It didn't really happen. There was a bit in there about the cost of war, and I guess you could even say something about what soldiers in WWII were fighting to protect, but mostly this felt like a bunch of good family stories of the sort that tend to take on a life of their own.

I feel like I write this every time I read a well-written book set in Appalachia, but these characters felt like my people. I call this part of the world home and always have. The word choice, the eccentric characters, the tight-knit families that tease each other mercilessly but always have each other's backs--that describes my extended family. I just love when someone records it and gets it right. Times are changing everywhere, even in these sleepy mountains, but at least our way of life is preserved for the future somewhere.

For a good laugh and a look at a simpler time and way of life, give this one a try.

Buy I Am One of You Forever at

Southern Literature Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cover of The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
3 Stars

Jean Perdu is a broken man, not really living his life but only existing. His one great love left him twenty years ago and he's never moved on. He puts together gigantic puzzles in his spartan apartment and sells books on his book barge, The Literary Apothecary. He knows exactly the right book to sell to the lovelorn when they enter his shop, but he doesn't know how to fix his own life.

When Catherine, fresh out of a devastating marriage, moves in across the hall, they both sense that they could have a real, lasting relationship, a relationship that neither of them is ready for. In an act of desperation, Jean casts his barge off into the Seine, bestselling author Max in tow, and heads off into the sunset, or at least the south of France, to seek peace and healing.

I truly wanted to like this more than I did. I read a couple of reviews, thought it sounded like the perfect book for me, and went to request it on Netgalley. It was good, not great, and in the month or so since I finished it, I've largely forgotten it.

My biggest problem was the title. I estimate that 2/3 of the book takes place outside of Paris. So now it's The Little France Bookshop. That's misleading but still, no real complaints here. I haven't been to France but it's high on my wishlist. And while quite a bit of the story does take place in the bookshop or around books, it wasn't quite as much as I expected. Instead of a love story to books, or a love story revolving around books, I felt like it was more of a love story with a few books thrown in. That's not quite fair because there were a lot of titles and author's names tossed about but they almost felt like afterthoughts. To me, anyway.

Still, the settings did come to life for me. I'm ready to take a cruise on the waterways of France in the summertime. Especially on a floating bookstore. I want to gaze at the stars, dance the tango, smell the flowers, eat the food and drink the wine.

I liked the three men who ultimately end up aboard The Literary Apothecary and the way their lives contrast to each other. Young author Max hasn't experience all-consuming love yet and he's frankly afraid of the idea. Jean had his and can't let her go. Jack-of-all-trades Cuneo joins them later on---and I can't finish this thought because that will get into spoilers.

I personally don't read too many straight-up romantic-type books, so this turned out not to be a great fit for me. Those who enjoy romance more than I do will love this one. But even for me, it was worth the read, if only for the beautiful setting.

Simon Pare did an excellent job with the translation. If I hadn't known it was translated, I don't think I ever would have guessed. The language was gorgeous.

Thanks to the publisher for allowing me access to a review copy through Netgalley.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Nina George on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy The Little Paris Bookshop at

2015 European Reading Challenge
Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Image courtesy of
hywards at FreeDigitalPhotos.net













I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

I got two reviews written and posted last week. That's about 200,000% better than I've been doing the past few months. Let's hope I keep up the momentum! :-)

Posted:
Review: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, read by Cassandra Campbell, translated by Kevin Wiliarty--3 Stars--Beautifully written, read, and translated, this just felt a bit too much like a Nicholas Sparks novel for my taste

Review: Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët--3 Stars--Beautiful artwork, nice translation, just too choppy and reminiscent of Lord of the Flies for me

Read:
I didn't finish anything last week.

Currently Reading:
The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose (This week it is actually back in my hands after a brief return to the library)

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, read by Steven Crossley, translated by Rod Bradbury (Yes, I am trying to do better on my own Books in Translation Challenge this year)

Up Next:
I went to a different library this week to grab Undaunted Courage. They had a very enticing, very large selection of graphic novels. I just had to linger over them and choose one. I walked out with Habibi by Craig Thompson. I read Blankets by this author/artist several years ago and enjoyed it, so this one seemed like a safe bet.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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