Wednesday, October 18, 2017

You Can Help!

One of the best parts about reading, in my opinion, is that it gives you the opportunity to view the world through a different lens. I enjoy reading books from perspectives that are vastly different from my own, and I find that I am more thoughtful, more patient, and more empathetic because of it. The ability to read is a gift. It is often squandered, neglected, or unappreciated. Reading opens doors that often hard to open.

Take 30 seconds to think about all the benefits you derive from reading.

Pretty easy to come up with several, wasn’t it? Reading is something that we, in the first world, take for granted. There are a lot of our peers (probably not those of you reading this blog because you are enlightened and understand the beauty of reading) who look at reading as a chore, punishment, or necessary evil. And that is okay… not something I relate to at all, but okay. If, however, you are excluded from quality education, from learning to read well, by race or socioeconomic status, that is a different story.

One of our (Lesley Anne’s and mine) best friends lives in Romania. Her family moved over there when we were seniors in high school (a looong time ago). She came back for college, married, paid off her student loans, and left for Romania permanently. She and her family run an after school program (among other things) for the poor and the Roma in their village, as well as a couple of others. The quality of education available to Romanians is pretty low, even in the cities. The people of Sintelec, our friend’s village, are either too poor to afford the daily bus fare to a better school or are Roma. The Roma are one of the most heavily persecuted people groups in Europe. The first time I visited, I watched as cars would literally speed up as they passed through the village; they did not slow or stop for children in the street.

Belief in Motion, the organization our friend’s family started, works tirelessly in many areas to fight poverty, injustice, and lack of education. Belief in Motion is the feet of Jesus in its small corner of Romania. There are many opportunities to help, but one that is near and dear to my heart is the book drive. You can donate books, written in Romanian, to the after school program. That might not seem like a lot, but the cycle of poverty the children are caught in is the stuff of nightmares. BIM seeks to give these children exactly what the need to help break this cycle- Jesus and education.*

I urge you to check out Belief in Motion here. You can find more information about the book drive here. Look around the website. There are plenty of opportunities to help. Even if you do not have the ability or inclination to help, thank you for looking. Just being aware of the problem is a start.

*BIM in not concerned only with education. They have programs for literally everyone, from grandma down. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Series Spotlight: Flavia de Luce

  Release Date: 28 April 2009
  Page Count: 374
  Genre: Historical Fiction; Mystery
  Target Audience: Anyone 11+
  Series: Flavia de Luce
  Source and Format: Borrowed :: Paperback

  I was introduced to this series this past summer by my aunt. She
  said they were quirky and fun—perfect beach reads. I tried the
  first one and finished it in one day while laying out by the pool.
  Flavia, the protagonist, all but leaps off the page right from the
  start. She is definitely in my top 5 favorite female protagonists of
  all time.

  The series takes place in 1950s England. The country is
  recovering from the horrific events of WWII and every member
  of Flavia’s family has been affected in some way. Flavia herself is 11 and I would not be surprised to find she is Hermione Granger’s grandmother. Flavia is curious, intelligent, stubborn, and young. (Side note - Alan Bradley does an amazing job of keeping her true to age. She lacks self-awareness the way all children do). Flavia uses all of these qualities, plus an astonishing understanding of chemistry, to solve murders that happen around her.

It is a long series— book 9 releases next year— but worth it. Some of the middle books are slower and not as engaging, but the pace picks back up as a new story arc is unfolding. I highly recommend them. Flavia is a character that I do not want you to miss out on! 

Friday, October 6, 2017

We're Back!

Long time no see, friends! Jenny and I just got back from the most incredible girls trip to Universal, and we spent a lot of time talking about our goals for the blog while we were together. We definitely want to get back in the habit of blogging, and we've got some fun plans in the works! Stay tuned for recaps of what we've read so far this year, books we want to read this Fall, holiday gift guides, a full review of our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and more!

We're so excited to be back and spread the bookish love!
Lesley Anne and Jenny       

Friday, May 26, 2017

Top Ten Characters I Can't Even

This post is inspired by my previous post (found here), and I have had a lot of fun writing it. I think we can all think, off the top of our heads, of at least 3 characters that immediately set our blood boiling and/or we wish would fall into a wormhole, never to be seen again. I am slightly disturbed by the glee I take in hating these characters. This is a post that I really, really want y'all to respond to; I'm dying to know who y'all loathe with your entire being.

I Can't Even With...

1. Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. I do not like this book, and 90% of the reason why is freakin' Daisy Buchanan. She is awful and blind to her awfulness. Sure, she is a product of her society, but come on. You can't even go to the funeral?

2. Rosamond Vincy from Middlemarch. This girl literally exists in a world of her own making and refuses to let reality alter her ideas of who people should be and how they should act. Her poor husband views her as a special snowflake of a burden to endure by the end of the novel. I was choking on indignation (literally- I had to stop eating my cookie) at her reaction to needing to cut back on her spending.

3. Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights. I wish she would have made up her mind who she wanted, rather than pitting two men against each other. I realize she is not wholly at fault, but once she was married she was so unfair to Heathcliff. She is the definition of weak willed.

4. Tamlin from A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. This guy was closemouthed, overbearing, selfish, irrational, condescending, and a coward. He could not see things from anyone else's perspective and was unwilling to change.

5. Oonagh from the Sevenwaters series. This woman is cruel and selfish. There is nothing redeemable about her. She does not love anyone- other than herself. She puts character after character through gut-wrenching trials and just does not care. (Caveat- I am glad that Marillier keeps her as a villain and not as a conflicted character. I like a good villain that is truly evil.)

6. Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series. I know I will get a lot of crap from this one, but seriously. He is a grown man who takes out his grievances on a boy who has no idea of the history between Snape and James. Why not try and befriend him for Lily's sake? It seems to me that his love for Lily was trumped by his hatred of James (except at the end).

7. Lissla Lissar's Father from Deerskin. I do not think I have to explain this one at all. He breaks several foundational bonds- emotional, relational, physical, spiritual- and is repulsive.

8. Bob Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird. The man is a drunk. He beats his children. He has entitlement issues fueled by willful ignorance. He knowingly wrongfully accuses a black man of crime he and his daughter committed. He. Is. Repulsive.

9. Achilles from The Iliad. He is a whiny baby. For being the greatest warrior of the Trojan War, he sure is a diva. When he doesn't get his way? Watch out. He is going to throw a temper tantrum until he gets what he wants. Then, in The Odyssey, he has gotten what he wants but is unsatisfied.

10. Bella Swan from the Twilight series and Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy. I could not decide between these two, so I chose both. For one, freakin' love triangles. I hate them. Literally. Thoroughly. Completely. Bella's single-minded determination to hang on to Edward (while using Jacob as an emotional crutch) is creepy and selfish. Katniss's wanting to bury her head in the sand is selfish and impossible.

Man. This post was kind of cathartic. It was nice to get some of my frustration out. Please, let me know y'all's can't even characters. I really want to know!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reading Goals Update

I (Jenny) thought it would be a good idea to do an update on the books I've been reading rather than a half way update. I don't know about y'all, but if I do not write about a book fairly soon after I read it, I will forget a lot. Even books that made strong impressions are hard to talk about if I wait too long. It starts sounding like, "It was so good! I loved... everything. The characters were awesome." Details, anyone?

If you are not familiar with my reading goal for this year, you can read about it here. I have 30 books I want to read this year. I think I am doing pretty well so far. Some I have loved, and some I am glad I do not have to pick them up ever again. I am trying to decide which ones to bring on vacation; I am always a much more inspired reader at the beach. Probably because the setting is my idea of perfection.

— Nonfiction —

1. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert — This book is one of my new favorites. It is about an English professor's journey to knowing Christ. It is well written AND thoughtful. Her logical working out of a) what being a believer means and b) what being a believer will cost is particularly searing in its honesty. I wish everyone who has had any contact with any type of faith whatsoever would read it. Its mirror-like properties are unavoidable; it challenges as it encourages.

2. The Land of the Green Man — This book was incredibly entertaining. Even though it is nonfiction, the content most often reads like a story. Larrington does an excellent job of describing the British Isles (almost too excellent — I am ready to pack my bags right now). She basically sets down the majority of folk tales floating around the British Isles. It makes me wish I lived in a place with such a long history.

3. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church — I. loved. this. book. It is a presentation of two ways of thinking theologically and practically about homosexuality. 4 scholars wrote 4 short essays defending two views of the issue. The scholars were highly intelligent and, more importantly, compassionate. This is a book I am still wrestling with (in a good way). My only complaint was that there was not a recommended reading list. I think a list would have been a really great- and helpful- addition.

4. Four Views on Hell — This book was not near as good as the one on homosexuality, in my opinion. The scholars were much more antagonistic and the writing harder to follow. I do not regret reading it and I did learn things, but I probably will not read it again.

— Classics —

1. Middlemarch — George Eliot is one of the most astute writers I have ever read when it comes to understanding human beings. The whole book is about a small town in England with, quite frankly, not the most interesting characters or plot. Her insights into human nature, however, kept me coming back for more. (Side note: Rosamond Vincy has joined Daisy Buchanan on my Can't Even list)

— Fiction —

1. The Enchantress of Florence — I was really enjoying this book until about 3/4 of the way through. I cannot tell you my feelings on it with spoiling things, so just know I was extremely disappointed by the way everything happened and I feel that all of Rushdie's lovely, insightful thoughts got washed away in the yuck of the ending.

2. Silence Fallen — This is number 10 in the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. It is one of my favorite series and this entry did not disappoint. It was somewhat hard to follow because of how the story is told, but I did enjoy it. I really liked how Briggs expanded the world with a glimpse into Europe. 

3. Shylock Is My Name — This is a retelling of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. This is one of the most thought-provoking fiction books I have read in a long time. Jacobson wrestles with Shylock's Jewishness and its implications for Shakespeare's audience as well as the modern audience.  This is one of those books that I do not know whether or not to recommend it; it should be read, but not everyone would enjoy reading it. Conundrum. 

4. The Burning Page — I reviewed this book in a different post; check it out here.

5. A Court of Wings and Ruin — I was so disappointed by this book. It is the third in the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy and it was... dare I say it... kind of boring. The second book (A Court of Mist and Fury) was really good, YA at its finest good. The third one was definitely a let down. The main characters were kind of flat, there were some plot holes, and one deus ex machina moment was too much for me. If the second book hadn't been SO good, then the third would not have been as much of a let down.

Wow, looks like I need to do some work on the Classics category. I have picked up the Iliad and am about a quarter of the way in. It is more different from The Odyssey than I thought it would be. So far I am really enjoying this challenge I have set for myself. Hopefully I make much more progress this summer. How are y'all's reading challenges going? 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Series Spotlight: The Invisible Library

I (Jenny) discovered a hidden gem of a series this past November, thanks to the daily bombardment of Amazon kindle e-mails I receive. The name instantly caught my attention - The Invisible Library. Promising start. Couple the title with a lovely cover and an intriguing blurb, and I thought it was definitely worth $1.99 (and let's be honest, a book has to be really terrible for me to regret $1.99). I read it in two days and immediately bought the second. As soon as I finished the second, I preordered the third. This is a series of books about books... or rather, books about bookish things. What is not to love?

Some background information to begin. The main character, or protagonist in bookspeak, is a woman named Irene. She is a Librarian who works for... the Library. Her job is to retrieve books for the Library. This is where it gets interesting. Come to find out, there are tons upon tons of different worlds and the Library has doors to many of them. The Library itself is out of time —if you live there you do not age— but houses an untold number of books from various worlds. If a book is rare, dangerous, mysterious, or unique the Library needs the book for itself. That is where Irene comes in. She is one of an untold number of Librarians who retrieve books from different worlds. Some of the worlds are high chaos, some are high order, but more about those things later. Librarians have a superpower —they can command things in their secret Library language— and the work is often very dangerous. Books + Danger + Witty and Emotionally-Stable Heroine = WIN


1. The Invisible Library. The first book hits the ground running and does not slow down. The book opens with Irene out on assignment to retrieve a book from an alternate universe. She succeeds, is assigned a mysterious assistant named Kai, and is then sent out to her next mission. Irene and Kai are sent to a chaos-infested world, meaning that the fae and other supernatural creatures can live there — the more chaos, the more ability to work magic. Irene must find the book she is sent for while not blowing her cover. Too bad she runs into that world's version of Sherlock Holmes...
This book is so entertaining. If you love books and stories and story craft, you will love the many ways the author (Genevieve Cogman) plays with and incorporates them into the story. Irene is a down to earth, true to character protagonist. She is frighteningly efficient and her grammar is perfect. She is not an unfeeling robot or a Library patriot who cannot think for herself. She is simply a woman who does what needs to be done and values her friends.

2. The Masked City. The second installment finds Irene and Kai in a world similar to Venice during Carnival. Kai has been kidnapped by the fae and taken to a high world where the fae rule. This is bad on several levels, the main one being that Kai is a dragon prince and dragons are beings of order. Kai will not be able to function properly on a chaos-infested world, so Irene must act quickly to find him and rescue him. The only problem? The Library won't let her. Irene does not let this stop her. She gathers allies, makes bargains, and follows the clues to retrieve her assistant.
This book was not quite as fast paced, though the blurb makes it sound like it will be. It takes quite a lot to even get to Venice, and once there Irene has to do a lot of reconnaissance. It is interesting to see how a high chaos world functions and how the fae are bound to narratives. Very, very unique and creative characterization and world building in this one. The pacing is just a little slow. But still worth the read!

3. The Burning Page. The third book finds Irene and Kai recovering from the aftermath of the previous book. Irene is on probation after rescuing Kai without the Library's permission. This means they are getting the crap retrieval jobs. While on one of these jobs, the door to the Library they are trying to use goes up in flames, forcing them to find another door. Turns out, this is happening to Librarians across the worlds. To add insult to injury, someone is trying to kill Irene and her friend (remember the Sherlock character I mentioned?) is sick. Irene basically is trying to save everyone and everything. Good thing she is such a clever, capable, and determined lady.
I have to admit, this was my least favorite. I think because it is the middle book in the series (supposedly there will be 5) it is suffering from having to set up the rest of the series without itself being super interesting. Honestly, not a lot happens in this one. And that is okay. Sometimes you need to sacrifice one book for the greater good. And by sacrifice I only mean it cannot be as good so others can be great. That never means destroying a book.

I highly recommend this series. It is fun, engaging, and the main characters are wonderful. Irene is a no-nonsense, save myself heroine. The secondary characters are well developed and provide wonderful foils to each other and to Irene. There is a little romance, and I mean little, but it is very minor and is still developing. Maybe. Potentially. That is not the point. The point is the books. And this series. And how you should read it. Hope you will give it a try!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Jenny: 30 Books in 2017

I (Jenny) do not know about y'all, but my To Be Read pile is borderline ridiculous. And when I say pile, I  mean an actual, physical pile of books. I cannot seem to figure out the reading:purchasing ratio. Honestly, I think it stems from the movie The Day After Tomorrow and all the books that are lost due to the new ice age. I feel compelled to buy books just in case they stop being available. And if a book has a beautiful cover? It is impossible for me to walk away from it.

All that being said, my focus this year is to knock out some of those books that have been in the pile for way too long. I have chosen 30 books that I have to read in 2017. The majority are books that I have owned for at least a year; some are books that were recent purchases and want to prioritize; the last are a few books that are new releases in series that I love and it would be silly to act like I might read another book ahead of them.

As you can see, I am being pretty ambitious. Some of these books I have started to read and then did not finish them. Rather than trying to read a certain number of books this year, I am hoping to read these certain books. Of course I will read more than these but these will be my focus. Wish me luck. I am going to need it!