The act of reading is an escape from everyday life, transporting you to another place. At least, that’s what’s I’m hoping for; especially this summer when we are all facing the possibility of foregoing planned vacations and sheltering in place. Yes, I had a trip planned for June 1st to go to Washington State to visit my family, and yes, that said trip has been canceled. I also had a work trip to Vermont planned for mid-July, which I was going to turn into a mini-holiday to celebrate my 35th birthday. Well, plans changed, and I’m sad, disappointed, and alone with my dog Ella Rose for the summer. But maybe something positive can come from it as well.
Every summer as a child, I was so excited for school to end and for three blissful months of summer vacation! But I wasn’t excited about the sunshine, hanging out with friends, swimming in the pool, going to the beach, or the traveling. I was looking forward to the sweet, uninterrupted hours of reading I would do. This was heavenly to me. I would wake up when I wanted to, and read. I would stay up late, and read. I didn’t have anywhere to be in the morning. The whole summer ahead of me was just a vast sea of reading possibilities.
Now, as an adult, I obviously still have my love of reading. And I am trying to put a positive spin on my canceled summer plans. Of course! I will get so much reading done! Yes, I have a 9-5 job, and responsibilities. But the shelter in place orders and travel restrictions mean I can revert back to my 12 year old self, who longed for the uninterrupted hours of reading.
In preparation for my summer reading extravaganza, I made a new reading nook in my office. I spent a lot of time researching expensive chaise lounges and reading lamps, until I realized it’d be fun (and much cheaper) to make a reading nook made of comfy pillows and blankets. A kind of reading fort. Some place cozy I could read and stay cool inside during the humid summer months.
Well, I made my reading nook and I’m looking forward to spending many hours drinking tea or coffee while I read my summer reading books in my cozy reading nook. Happy reading!
The Dreamers is story that intrigued me from the beginning. A virus spreads through a small town in California where people go to sleep, and don’t wake up. They are still alive, but only survive with medical intervention such as IV fluids and feeding tubes. The novel opens up in a college dorm room, where patient zero stumbles into her dorm room after a night out, and doesn’t wake up again in the morning. I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic novels, and this one was right up my alley. It is fascinating to wonder what people would do if their world suddenly turned upside down and became a dangerous place.
The key theme in this novel was not survival. There really was no way to survive the virus or protect yourself against it. The key theme is humanity. How do people deal with a crisis? Some people in the book hide themselves away, some people help others. Another key theme is dreams. People who had the sickness dreamed, and people who were not sick dreamed. Some people dreamed of their future, some of the past, and some felt like they lived another life in their dreams, when in reality it had only been a few days. The author’s writing about their dreams is beautiful and one of my favorite lines of the book was towards the end, when discussing how the differences in people’s dreams were “as if each dream contained its own unique physics.”
My favorite character in the novel was Mei. The author accurately captured the awkwardness and vulnerability of being a college freshman and not quite fitting into dorm life. I felt sorry for her and wanted to be her friend, all at the same time. It would have been interesting for the entire book to be told from Mei’s point of view.
One part of the novel I found challenging was the short chapters. They made it easy and quick to read the novel. However, it was especially confusing in the beginning, with each chapter shifting back and forth between different characters, frequently. It wasn’t until halfway through the novel that the main characters were apparent, and more character development took place.
The book ended with many of my questions still unanswered. The author gives multiple possibilities and reasons for the dreams; why some people woke up and some didn’t. It’s left up to interpretation by the reader. The novel felt too short to me. I enjoyed reading it and wished it was a bit longer.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes post-apocalyptic fiction and general fiction. It was an excellent story full of how good humanity can be in a crisis. I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone with severe germaphobia. It’s stories like these that remind us how vulnerable our bodies are to sickness and disease. It’s impossible not to compare the Santa Lora Virus to viruses like the flu, ebola, measles, whopping cough, etc. It’s a little too real, and feels like it could happen in the real world.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House for an advanced copy of the e-book in exchange for an honest review. This book is available today, January 15!!! Get your copy on Amazon (click on the image below):
Happy New Year’s Eve! This year, I did not reach my reading goal of 60 books, but I got oh so close. I read approximately 50 books, so I still think that was a decent attempt. I’ve reflected on and decided on my top 5 favorite books I read this year. Here they are:
What do these 5 books have in common? They are all by authors I’d never read before. They all stood out to me, even months after reading, as memorable and unique. Most are fiction, but one is non-fiction. They encompass my favorite genres to read: literary fiction, psychological/domestic thrillers, historical fiction, true crime non-fiction, and horror/post-apocalyptic fiction.
The writing was beyond superb in all of these books, and kept me engaged and interested. They made me think about life, especially about the seedier and sketchier elements of humanity. These books taught me ways the human mind attempts to cope when put in impossible situation. I would read all of these books again in the future, to enjoy the experience of reading them again, but also to analyze the plot and characters in more detail.
I look forward to reading more amazing books in 2019 and discovering more new authors!
My favorite genre of books is thrillers, therefore I am always on the lookout for new ones. I had seen Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan advertised several times on e-mail lists I receive, such as Off the Shelf. It was advertised as “the most explosive courtroom thriller you’ll read this year.” I haven’t read a courtroom thriller in a while, so I was intrigued. I was called to jury duty at the end of September this year, but wasn’t chosen after a day of waiting around the courthouse. Still, it peaked my interest in learning more about the justice system.
The story alternates between four character’s perspectives (Kate, Sophie, Holly, and James), as well as alternates in time between modern day London and Oxford University in 1992-1993. I was pleasantly surprised by these settings because I originally assumed that the novel takes place in the United States. The location added an extra element of intrigue for me, because I love thrillers set in London and England, in general. English thrillers are full of descriptions of the rain, the tube, and the endless cups of tea to deal with the stressors of life. It is the perfect, cozy setting for a thriller.
I myself attended university in England in the mid-2000s, so I could relate to the university life described in the novel. It brought back some good memories for me of my own university studies, and I enjoyed re-living the days when I studied physics in rainy York in northern England. That first formative year of university life can be traumatic and life-shaping, and Sarah Vaughan accurately captured all those emotions in her characters of Holly and Sophie. The reckless privilege enjoyed by young males is accurately captured in the character of James.
The first 50 pages or so of the book contained a lot of legal jargon and switched frequently between several different characters, making it hard to get into at first. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to continue to read it with so many other books on my TBR list. Maybe I was a little distracted when I first started reading it. However, I told myself to pick up the book one more time and give it a go. If I couldn’t get back into it, then I would quit. I picked it up again and that’s when things got juicy and I was hooked. It was the storyline going back in time to explain some of the characters’ backstories that hooked me. I’m glad I gave it another chance.
Sarah Vaughan wove a believable and timely story with this gem of a novel. Her strength in story telling was most apparent in her telling of life at Oxford University. I was not surprised to flip to the back cover biography and see the author had attended Oxford in the mid-90s. For readers in the United States, and other international readers with an interest in US politics, this story hits close to home and reminds me of the recent Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh scandal. As I watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford give her testimony in early October, I wondered what other bad deeds Kavanaugh had gotten into during college. This novel explores a Brett Kavanaugh type of character and how those college years were just a precursor to bad behavior later in life. And it asks the question, why are men allowed to get away with such horrible things?
I know this novel is advertised as a thriller, but after reading it, I’d say it’s more of a piece of feminist fiction. Maybe it’s a new genre we all need in the #MeToo era: feminist thriller? I enjoyed the strong female characters, as well as the alternating time frames. I think this would be an excellent book club pick for people who are interested in the scandals that often rock the political world. If you followed the Kavanaugh case as closely as I did, then you will enjoy this novel. I give this novel a 4 out of 5 stars, and am looking forward to reading Sarah Vaughan’s next novel coming out in 2019.
Happy Halloween everyone! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading some spooky books this month, and learning about even more spooky books on Twitter thanks to all my new book blogger friends! I even wrote a creepy short story this month called ‘Pointing Fingers’ that I am super proud of. I went on a ghost tour of the Tampa Theatre and watched a lot of creepy movies. It definitely was an inspiring month! I hope y’all have a creepy and safe Halloween!
Thrillers because they are so realistic. I absolutely love psychological thrillers with a good twist. The scariest things are ones that can actually happen.
Ghosts or Zombies?
Ghosts, for sure. I’ve always been obsessed with ghosts. Ghosts can be people you have known in your life, and that is super creepy.
Vampires or Werewolves?
Vampires because they are better dressed and less hairy.
Witches or Demons?
Witches because they are intelligent and have powers. Demons are pure evil with no real reason behind it.
Would you rather read a book with 13 chapters or a book with a black cat on the cover?
I do occasionally judge a book by the cover, and I doubt if a black cat on the cover would be intriguing enough for me to pick it up. I would rather read a book with 13 chapters.
Would you rather read a spooky book in the dark with only a candle for light or by yourself in a locked brightly lit room?
Reading a spooky book in the dark with only a candle for light is the ultimate way to read a spooky book! That would be so creepy, and it would enhance the spookiness of what I am reading.
Would you rather face your worst fears or be trapped in the mind of a killer?
I would rather be trapped in the mind of a killer. How people can be so evil is a mystery to me. I’d be curious to explore the nature vs. nurture argument.
Would you rather watch a scary movie or read a scary book?
This is a really tough one, since I LOVE watching scary movies and reading scary books. Scary movies visualize the creepiness really well, and can make you jump up in your seat and scream. Scary books tend to be a slow, creepy burn that settle in your mind and won’t let you go.
Would you rather read spooky books during the fall time or all year?
I love spooky books all year round. However, the Fall is a particularly fun time to read spooky books. Cooler temperatures in the air makes reading so inviting. And I do love a cozy reading nook.
Would you rather read 10 spooky books in October or 10 spooky books all year?
I would rather read 10 spooky books in October, of course!
Here are my top 10 recommendations for spooky novels:
Several years ago, I was fortunate to receive an email advertising the author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, coming to a local high school that day to do a talk/book signing. I immediately called my mom and told her to cancel any plans she had that evening, because we were going to meet the author of one of our favorite books! It was an evening I’ll never forget. We listened to this incredible man talk about his inspiration for the book, and stories of him growing up in Australia. He was funny, and his stories were entertaining and laugh out loud hilarious! His Australian accent just added to the entertainment, and I was enthralled and inspired by his genius. He told a memorable story about pranking his brother by switching out the boiled egg he ate for lunch everyday for a raw egg, causing his brother to break a raw egg on his own face. Zusak was making a point in that telling a good story, you need the key elements of humor, detail, and suspense to keep the readers engaged. He set the bar high for author talks, and I was slightly disappointed when I met other authors after him, as they weren’t as entertaining or gregarious. That evening we waited in line for over an hour for Zusak to sign our books, and the personalized, signed edition of The Book Thief is still one of the most treasured books on my bookshelf.
Fast forward to a week ago, when I was browsing Facebook (actively procrastinating from doing actual work), and saw the magic words, “Markus Zusak in Kissimmee.” I could not contain my joy when I realized I could easily drive there and back in an evening. I had heard he had a new book out called Bridge of Clay, and of course was excited to read it. I read some recent interviews with him and found out it took him 13 years to finish this book. As I am currently struggling through the 6th year of my never-ending PhD journey, I felt I could relate to Zusak’s struggle to write. He might be able to teach me a thing or two about work perseverance.
Before attending the event, I wanted to make sure it was more than just a book signing. Remembering how entertaining his talk was, I was only going to the event if he was also going to speak to the entire group and not just sign books. So, I decided to post a message on the facebook event page asking, “Will Mr. Zusak be speaking at the event or is this only a signing?” I waited patiently for an answer from the event’s sponsor, Books-A-Million. A day or so later, I saw they had replied, and clicked on it. It was Markus Zusak himself who replied with a humble, ” Hi Danielle – I will be speaking and then signing. Hope you can make it.” EEEEKKKK! Fangirl freakout! I definitely HAD to go to the event now, and was even more excited. I couldn’t disappoint my favorite author.
Super nervous to meet him again, I walked into the Books-A-Million and saw a small group gathered at the back of the store. I was surprised at the small crowd, since the last author event I attended for Zusak was a large room of over 100 people. Didn’t people know this was THE Markus Zusak, genius of the written word, who wrote an entire book narrated by death?? A small, humble crowd of about 20 people had gathered. These were the most devoted fans in Central Florida, I was sure of it. My electronic ticket was scanned, I was handed a book, and as I turned to the first page, I was so excited I couldn’t even read the words on the page. The girl sitting next to me had also traveled 1.5 hours to see him in person, and was equally starstruck/mesmerized.
Zusak was just hanging around the bookstore talking to people before the event started. He was casually introduced and stood in front of the table, not wanting to use the microphone. Immediately, he was telling jokes and putting the audience at ease. He told various stories about how small details from his life made it into his latest book. One story was about how his mother dropped a basket of colorful clothing line pins on the ground one day after his siblings had played another raucous game of tennis in the backyard. He spoke about how he became a father after he wrote The Book Thief, and how that changed his writing. He said it took him this long to write Bridge of Clay because it took him that long to get the story and writing perfect, exactly how he wanted it. He gave up on the story twice, missed deadlines with his publisher, and changed narrators multiple times. You could tell he worked hard on this book and was proud of his work. He is an author that clearly values quality over quantity.
He spoke for 45 minutes, which was too short for me. If he did a podcast, I would listen to it everyday just for his storytelling and fun accent. Because the audience was so small, I only needed to wait in line for 15 minutes for him to sign my new copy of Bridge of Clay and pose for a photo. There was a guy in the audience who had a tattoo inspired from Zusak’s first book, I Am The Messenger, an intricate design of a deck of cards. There was a girl sitting in front of me with a well-loved copy of The Book Thief full of colorful, neon post-it notes. Turns out she wrote her thesis on the book, and knew it inside and out. See, I told you. His biggest fans were assembled in that Books-A-Million that day.
I left the event feeling inspired. Inspired to persevere and finally finish my PhD after dragging my feet for months. I felt inspired to write a book someday that would be meaningful to people. It was another evening I’ll never forget. I will read Bridge of Clay soon, and absorb every detail of Zusak’s writing. No doubt it will be another treasured book on my bookshelf.
Hello and welcome fellow book lovers! I have always been an annoyingly voracious reader, and someone who never goes anywhere without a book. Every night before I go to sleep, I read a little bit of a book, and have been doing that for as long as I can remember to help me wind down from a busy day. As I get older, my love of reading keeps on growing, and I often wonder how to fit more reading into my day.
In addition to reading, I also love to talk to my friends and family about the books I’m reading, and have wondered how to share this passion with the world. I joined Goodreads in 2012, and have really enjoyed using the website/app to keep track of the books I read, connect with other fellow readers, add to a growing to-be-read (TBR) pile, and win free books in giveaways. I also love going to bookstores and looking at books, and when at home, I love to peruse Amazon for my next reads. I’m always in search of a great book recommendation from a friend; a book they found unique and meaningful and that I hope to find some meaning in as well.
Twice over the years, I tried to read books on an Amazon kindle, but struggled with it because I love the feel of a book in my hand. I also am obsessed with reading in cozy reading nooks. Seriously, search for “cozy reading nooks” on Pinterest, and it will lead you down a rabbit hole of dream house redecorating. What better way to spend any free afternoon than curled up with a good book? With a book in hand, you can relax and escape for hours, and there is no need for the internet or electricity. You just need a cozy, quiet space, and some good lighting. Oh, and a good cup of coffee (I’m sure I’ll fill you in on my obsession with coffee in a later post). So, I hope you book lovers enjoy this blog and we can start a dialogue about new, old, and exciting reads!