The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Coriolanus Snow has fallen on hard times. Both of his parents are dead. He lives in palatial apartment in the Capitol with this cousin and grandmother but they are almost completely out of money. He has been trying to hold up the facade that everything is fine. His only chance to attend university rests on his ability to guide his tribute through the Hunger Games. He will be able to secure a scholarship and find a way to finally bring glory back to the Snow name.

Unfortunately, he has been assigned the female tribute from District 12. Coriolanus believes his chances of university are gone until Lucy Gray captures the attention of the Capitol. Coriolanus is willing to do anything to win and with Lucy Gray at his side, he just might be able to reclaim the Snow glory.

Suzanne Collins dives into the origins of the Hunger Games in her new young adult novel. For the first time, Hunger Games fans get to hear from the perspective of the Capitol residents. In previous books, Capitol residents remained a mystery. No idea about their motivations or impact of the war on them. I loved the story. I devoured the 518 page book in 36 hours. I would love to see Collins continue to add to this series but if this is her last book in the series I would be okay with that.

February 2020 Book Dump

Short month but lots of books! I’m trying to read more young adult fiction because I’m spending most of my day in-front of my computer reading budget bills or twitter trying to figure out what’s going on.

My favorite book this month was Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. It’s also one of my book club books. I can’t wait to discuss it later this week. I also read Ali Wong’s Dear Girls which had me snickering. At my coworkers insistence I read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Considering how much I hated her first book, I was really surprised how much I liked it. It was a great story with interesting characters. It was really well done. And finally, I read a young adult fantasy fiction The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. It was fabulous and a series. I can’t wait to read the next one.

What was your favorite book you read this month?

Red, White & Royal Blue (Spoilers)

At my book club, we were lucky enough to have an author join us for a book discussion. She went through the signs that you are reading a romance novel. The biggest tell is that there is a happy ending. I was on a hunt for a lighthearted book that gave me that. And boy did I find it!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is young adult fiction but also a love story. It follows Alex Claremont-Diaz, first son and Henry, Prince of England. They start off as enemies and a toppled wedding cake forces them to become friends and eventually lovers. It’s a cute story that follows the pains of a new relationship in the public eye. Considering all the public hoopla regarding Harry and Meghan’s exit as senior royal members of the family, it was really heart warming to read about love prevailing over the odds.

McQuiston said that she developed a love for stories with “big beating hearts” and she has delivered us with one. This debut novel is delightful and I’m excited to see what she comes up with next!

Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is the best. He has an insatiable curiosity which drives him to explore and examine everything. He finds something that is a little bit interesting and he dives into it to find the reasoning behind it.

His latest book is no different. He is exploring how we communicate with the people around us. He thinks that they way we have been programed to deal with strangers has led us down a dangerous path. And after his examination, I’m inclined to say he is not wrong. He uses famous examples of miscommunications to explore his ideas.

The most striking takeaway for me is the idea of defaulting to the truth. That we instinctually believe that people are going to behave as we do in a situation. This is when things can begin to go sideways. I found it to be startling simple idea that had a broad application to so many situations.

Malcolm Gladwell books are always a good read. He helps to stimulate my brain to look at things differently and to examine the world around me. I would also recommend listening to his podcast series Revisionist History. It is a one hour dive into Gladwell’s research interests.

Who has read Talking to Strangers? What did you think? What is your favorite Malcolm Gladwell book?

When Breathe Becomes Air

When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi was a beautiful book. I read it on a sunny day over the summer because I knew it was a sad story. How could it not be? A doctor diagnosed with cancer dying just as his child was born? I did not expect it to be so engrossing. I read the book in one sitting. One day would be more accurate. I broke it up by pausing to make myself some lunch.

The book is a reflection on life and death. Paul was a magnificent writer. His thoughts flowed well and had an ability to articulate his thoughts succinctly and clearly. It’s fascinating to me that Paul wrote this book in the last year of his life. To be able to examine your life and the future that will happen without you in such a thoughtful way is a gift. The world lost not only a promising doctor but an amazing author.

His wife, Lucy, writes the epilogue and that was when the tears started to come. It was hard to read it but it was beautiful. I heard a lot about the book but didn’t want to read something about someone who was dying. It seemed too sad a story but Paul didn’t allow it to be sad. It was thought provoking that made me think about my own mortality.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved this book. I highly recommend reading it if you get the chance. Everyone can take something away from this book. Who has read this book? What did you think about it?

Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate was a gripping historical fiction novel about the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The organization would abduct children from poor family’s and then have the children adopted by wealthy or famous families. They would charge families huge sums of money to adopt children who were ‘given up’ by families who could not care for them. They would create a fake paper trail or trick parents.

The book is fictional story that follows a family of four children who are abducted by the organization when their parents leave them to go to the hospital to have a child. One child is adopted out immediately. The other three struggle to survive. the story jumps to present day where a woman is discovering her own families ties to The Tennessee Children’s Home Society. While the story is fiction, all stories are based on things that have been documented to have happened to children in the home and the lasting effects after they left.

The book was very engaging. It was very interesting to read the fictionalized account and then research what actually happened. It made me think about how we have repeated this scenario again. The children of immigrants who have been deported are being adopted out because the government didn’t keep good enough records to reunite families. Instead of an organization being the bad actor, it’s now the government. It’s actually horrifying that this is happening again.

As fate would have it, as I was voting on my Goodreads best books – Before and After is up for the best history book. It is an actual research book that tells the stories of real victims of the Tennessee Children’s Society Home.

Who has read this book? I loved talking about it with my book club. I’d recommend adding this to your book club list. It’s a great discussion book and has a lot different topics for the group to examine.

October 2019 Book Dump

I was cruising through books this past month! I also continue to be a terrible library patron. I only kept one of the four books for less than 14 days. To make matters, worse I also held onto them even longer because I needed to photograph the books and write the reviews.

October 2019 Books:

  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

My favorite book was The Only Plane in the Sky. I heard a lot of buzz about You Should Talk to Someone and I did like it but it didn’t knock my socks off. It was good but I don’t understand the hype around it. It also left me with a lot of questions about sharing these sessions. And lastly, I was horror read Before We Were Yours. I cannot wait to discuss this with my book club next week.

What was your favorite book you read in October? Share in the comments below!

Book Review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

I’m not going to lie, I love a good parable. One of my favorite books is The Alchemist. I’ve sent the book to many a friend who was on their own person journey. Upon reflection, I don’t remember the last parable I’ve read. It’s funny that’s I’ve read two this year.

My love of parables led me to a TERRIBLE one earlier this year. It was a story about a woman, written by a man, who was spending her life away on lattes. Spoiler alert: the lattes are not the reason women are financially behind. It’s the males like the moron who wrote the book who make it difficult for women to get ahead.

Which brings us to the delightful collection of stories by Cecelia Ahern. Roar is the collection of parables you didn’t know you needed to read. Ahern writes short stories about women who have been smothered in one way or another and their quest to break through. 

Ahern tells thirty unique stories that fit seamlessly together or could stand on their own. At 273 pages, it’s the length of a typical novel but you feel like you are getting so much more because of the diversity of the stories. A couple of my favorites were “The Women Who Thought the Grass Was Greener on the Other Side” and “The Woman Who Wore Pink”. This will be the new book I will be mailing my friends. 

September 2019 Book Dump

September swung between freezing in the morning to sweltering in the afternoon. It didn’t’ really matter how you dressed but you would have dressed incorrectly. With that being said, I was able to take full advantage of those sweltering afternoons and spent a significant amount of time reading in the park.

The books I read in September were:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  2. The Other Americans by Lalia Lalami
  3. Roar by Cecelia Ahern

I’m lucky that I was able to get ahead over the summer because otherwise I’d be in some big trouble trying to hit my 50 books goal. As I write this, I’m at 39 books for the year.

Is anyone really behind or really ahead on their reading goals for 2019? Does anyone have any tricks for staying on top of it?

Where the Crawdads Sing

Per usual, I’m late to the party. I only picked up Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens because it was the Albany Book Club’s October pick.

The novel follows Kya as she navigates life in the swamp. The book opens with five year old Kya watching her mother walk out of the house never to be heard from again and follows her through young adulthood.

Owens tells a beautiful story of isolation and survival in the desolate North Carolina marshlands. She lives outside the world but yearns to be part of it. Against all odds, Kya is able to succeed and survive in her own way.

The reader wants to feel bad for Kya but make no mistake- Kya is a survivor and this story is a victory lap and an ode to the strength of women.

Who has read “Where the Crawdads Sing?” What did you think of the book?