Winter Reads, 2017 {QuickLit with MMD}

winter-reading

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately” – in this case, what I’ve read so far this month.

We were supposed to be hit by a catastrophic Midwestern ice storm over the past three days. Catastrophic, y’all. I was so prepared. I stocked up on food, water, candles, etc. But most importantly, I charged my reading devices: My Paperwhite, my Fire, my iPhone, and even my ancient android tablet for backup. I was not going to run out of reading juice on this watch, no-sirree-Bob. And then – and then – nothing. Well, we got a little bit of ice, I suppose. But it barely dipped below freezing for most of the time. Mostly, it was just enough ice to make the trees and surrounding structures look stunningly beautiful in the morning sunlight and to keep the sidewalks and porches slippery for part of the day. But you know what, y’all? I still read like there was a raging blizzard out there. I holed up in my house with my blankets and my Ruby and I read and read and read. It was great!! Can’t wait for the next storm…

I’ve read twelve books so far in January, 2017 and have many more waiting in my haul. I’ve been on a winning streak, as well – haven’t hit a dud yet! I told y’all 2017 was going to be a charmed year! Let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading:


born-a-crimeBorn a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s intense and unforgettable memoir of growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa is beautifully written. Full of tales both hilarious and heartbreaking, Noah takes readers from his birth to his early adulthood with grace and humor far beyond his age. In addition to learning about his own experiences and life, I also learned much more about Apartheid than I previously knew – I clearly need to do some more reading on this – while I knew it was awful, I had no idea of the magnitude of its systemic evils.


endless-numbered-daysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

When a prepper Dad abducts his eight-year-old daughter, they abscond to a derelict cabin deep in the woods. Daddy Dearest tells his daughter that there has been a cataclysmic event and that they are the only two surviving humans on the planet Earth. Peggy offers a unique narrative in this compelling coming-of-age novel that will hit you in the gut when you least expect it. The shocking ending is something you will never see coming – I wanted to go back and re-read several chapters of the book so I could relish the brilliance of this twist.


the-underground-railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s interpretation of the Underground Railroad as an actual, brick-and-mortar railroad, is nothing short of brilliant. As Cora flees the Randall plantation in Georgia, she travels the rails to South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, and further yet.  At each stop, Cora experiences a different aspect of the times, each of which magnificently mirrors racial issues/attitudes in America to come as history moves forward as well as those present today. Whitehead’s portrayal of slavery and the cultural exploration visited upon in this novel are its greatest strengths, creating an atmosphere of grief, hope, and longing. While the stark and difficult subject matter precludes me from saying this book was a pleasure to read, I will say that I am glad that I did. {Thanks to Doubleday Books & NetGalley}


i-am-the-messengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger is a beautiful tale from beginning to end. Following Ed on his journey from going-nowhere, underage cab driver to quiet champion of the people is an honor. As he moves from mission to mission to save the underdog of the day, Ed grows in leaps and bounds. Zusak’s writing is hypnotic; the sharp, emotional impact of the way he breaks his sentences is poetic. His humor is on point throughout the novel. This story is truly a lesson that anyone, no matter how ordinary, can be strong, be courageous, be mighty. This one has all the feels, y’all.


how-it-always-isThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This emotional and compelling novel takes on subject matter that is both timely and so, so important for us to read about. Frankel’s sharp and witty dialogue perfectly complements her deep exploration of tough personal, family, and societal issues. Powerful and captivating, Poppy’s story – and that of her family’s – will leave you doing some serious soul-searching, while giving you insight on the multitudes of ways children’s minds are at work. Each character is exquisitely drawn and woven into this tale, bringing them to life such a way that you cannot help but see yourself and those you love within them. Everyone, especially parents, should read this book. {Thanks to Flatiron Books & NetGalley}


the-wolf-roadThe Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

In this postapocalyptic  psychological thriller, a young girl is lost in the wilderness and is taken under the wing of a woodsman she calls “Trapper.” Now a young adult, having learned a terrible secret about her adopted “father,” Elka strikes out on her own in search of her birth parents. Lewis has created a strong – no, a badass – female lead here, who narrates in a stark and frank manner. Her journey across a dystopian wasteland brings her across more discoveries, experiences, and interactions than she had ever imagined existed. It took me a bit to devote myself to this one but once I did, I was hooked.


unfuck-your-habitatUnf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

As a huge fan of the Tumblr site Unfuck Your Habitat, I was thrilled when I learned Rachel Hoffman had secured a book deal. This how-to manual on developing a housekeeping and organizational system for those of us who have been past failures in these areas is perfect, both helpful and hilarious. Hoffman takes a realistic approach to these tasks, addressing living situations other than that of the everyday homemaker usually depicted in most books of this genre. Her engaging manner keeps readers’ attention and breaks tasks down into their simplest forms so that even the most domestically challenged person can find success. {Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley}


lucky-boyLucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy is the devastating and haunting family saga of two women – Solimar and Kavya – both mothers, both to the same little boy. Exploring such timely issues as immigration, undocumented workers, infertility, motherhood and more, readers will be captivated by the stories of the women who give their hearts to a small boy named Ignacio.  The alternating tales of Soli and Kavya will capture you and hold you until the very end. This is an absolutely important book that adds much to the global conversation regarding immigration in today’s world. {Thanks to Penguin Group/Putnam & NetGalley}


a-perilous-undertakingA Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

After waiting impatiently for the last year, Book #2 of Raybourn’s new Veronica Speedwell series was released this January. Book #1 was a tough act to follow, but Raybourn did it with aplomb. Veronica and Stoker return only to be roped into a murder investigation with the intent of proving the innocence of the accused murderer. Their sharp and witty banter flows as they romp through each escapade, making it through by the skin of their teeth. This one wasn’t as fabulous as Book #1, but it did come close – can’t wait for its follow-up next year!!


i-liked-my-lifeI Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life is the heartwarming and clever tale of a father and daughter struggling to connect as they grieve the death of the woman they both loved. I adored this novel, narrated by Madeline, Brady, and Eve – Madeline being the late mother and wife to Eve and Brady, of course, back from the grave and working behind the scenes to help her family move on without her. Fabiaschi is a master of real, true-to-life internal dialogue. This book about survival, moving on, personal growth, and finding your family again will warm your heart – and tingle your spine with an unexpected twist at the end. {Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley}


charlie-freemanWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

This debut family saga tells the tale of the Freeman family, who have moved from Boston to live in the countryside at the Tonybee Institute while assimilating a chimpanzee into their family and teaching him sign language in an experiment that is just waiting to go awry. While sweetly titled, do not be fooled – this is not a heartwarming novel. The Freemans’ story and that of the Tonybee Institute is messy and sorrowful and wrong, and there is an underlying tension throughout the novel that eats away at your nerves. There’s no holding back in this one; Greenidge goes for broke and takes you along for the ride.


always-sarah-jioAlways by Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio is at it again in this poignant and gripping novel about love lost and love found as the past and the present collide in the most tragic of ways. Ten years after losing the love of her life, Kailey has moved on, never knowing that the past is about to catch up with her and tear her newly built world apart. As she tries to piece together the shards of what could have been, Kailey is faced with a decision – one that only the heart can make. Jio’s newest novel, while slightly predictable, is full of tragedy, love, and intrigue – a definite must-read for her fans and more!


As I mentioned above, twelve hits so far this month! Not too stinking bad, if I do say so myself. Hopefully you’ll find something on this list to add to your TBR, because really – can you ever afford to run out of good book ideas? Not on my side of the woods, you can’t. Thanks for joining me for a look at my Winter Reads so far; I’ll catch you up with my next round-up near the end of January. Happy Reading, y’all!!

What have you been reading so far this month?

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The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

the-rebellion-of-miss-lucy-ann-lobdell“The riveting true story of Lucy Lobdell, who, in 1855, left her home and family, cut her hair, changed clothes, and went off to live her life as a man. By the time it was over, she was notorious.

At a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women, Lucy Lobdell boldly set forth to earn men’s wages. Lucy Lobdell did all of these things in a personal quest to work and be paid, to wear what she wanted, and love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. In this riveting historical novel, William Klaber captures the life of a brave woman who saw well beyond her era.

This is the fictionalized account of Lucy’s foray into the world of men and her inward journey to a new sexual identity. It is her promised memoir as hear and recorded a century later by William Klaber, an upstream neighbor. Meticulously researched and told with compassion and respect, this is historical fiction at its best.” – Goodreads

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is a fictional novel. Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell, however, was a very real woman. Allow me to explain. Author William Klaber, a part-time journalist, took artistic license to tell the true story of Miss Lobdell, who in 1855 left her family and child behind, cut her hair and donned men’s clothing, and struck out to live life as a man – as Joseph Israel Lobdell, to be exact. What followed was a journey of self-discovery, discrimination, pioneering, successes and failures, and the development of an entirely new sexual identity for Lucy/Joseph.

The tale Klaber weaves is gleaned from actual letters, newspapers, and other historical documents passed on to him from a local historian in upstate New York. He obviously performed meticulous research and worked hard to stay true to the Lucy/Joseph he met that way. Says Klaber,

“It has taken a long time for her voice to ring true in my head. Someone else might go into the forest and hear a different voice, but this is Lucy’s story as I have heard her tell it.”

Indeed, with this novel, Klaber has given us a rare gift. So little written history is found regarding women both great and small (this brings to mind a short story collection I am currently reading, Almost Famous Women – Joseph Lobdell could well have been included in its pages). Furthermore, the respect – and yes, even love – Klaber treats his subject with comes through as one reads each page leaving readers with a reverence for Lobdell all their own.

In an age where marriage and gender equity have made enormous progress, and the rights of transgender individuals have some protections (although not nearly enough), The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell gives us an enlightening view of what life was like in earlier days for those who first bravely broke the mold and blazed a trail for future generations. Highly recommended.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber: Read it today!

4 stars

Source: Free Library of Philadelphia

Aquarium by David Vann

aquariumLike Melville, Faulkner, and McCarthy, Vann is already one of the great ones of American literature.”—ABC(Spain)

“Vann’s prose is as pure as a gulp of water from an Alaskan stream.”—Financial Times

David Vann’s dazzling debut Legend of a Suicide was reviewed in over a 150 major global publications, won 11 prizes worldwide, was on 40 “best books of the year” lists, and established its author as a literary master. Since then, Vann has delivered an exceptional body of work, receiving, among others, best foreign novel in France and Spain (France’s Prix Medicis Etranger, Spain’s Premi Llibreter), a California Book Award, and the mid-career St. Francis College Literary Prize. Aquarium, his implosive new book and first to be published by Grove, will take Vann to a wider audience than ever before.

Twelve year old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

In crystalline, chiseled yet graceful prose, Aquarium takes us into the heart of a brave young girl whose longing for love and capacity for forgiveness transforms the damaged people around her. Relentless and heartbreaking, primal and redemptive, Aquarium is a transporting story from one of the best American writers of our time.” – Goodreads

In the 1990’s, twelve-year-old Caitlin and her mother, Sheri, are living in a tiny Seattle apartment. Sheri works long hours as a manual laborer and because of this, the two thrive on routine. They wake early, Caitlin always arriving at school long before the other students. After school, because they can’t afford sports or after-school activities, Caitlin frequents the local aquarium for a few hours until Sheri is able to pick her up after work. This isn’t a problem for Caitlin, who loves the marine life and in fact yearns to become an ichthyologist as an adult. Eventually, Caitlin is befriended by an elderly man who also enjoys the fish and the two develop a friendship. When the man expresses his desire to meet Caitlin’s mother, she is more than happy to tell Sheri about her fish-loving friend – and unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will reveal long-held family secrets that will forever change Caitlin, Sheri, and the relationship between the two of them.

Aquarium by David Vann is a simple but beautifully crafted coming-of-age tale of family, forgiveness, and self-discovery. Vann’s powerful and emotionally-charged writing is sure to touch readers at a personal level. The raw emotion and anger of Sheri is palpable as we move further through the tale, as is Caitlin’s naivety and hope. There is such a sweetness to the innocence of Caitlin’s first experience with love. While I loved Caitlin, I adored the elderly gentleman; his quiet stoicism and determination. I don’t want to reveal any more about this novel than I have already, but suffice it to say that he stole my heart without even having to try.

I read Aquarium on my Kindle Paperwhite, however, I’m told that the print novel is absolutely beautiful. The blurry black-and-white photos that my eReader displayed are apparently gorgeous, full-color gems in print. For a sneak peek at what they look like, check out this review. I have read another book of David Vann’s, Goat Mountain, and the two novels are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s almost as though Aquarium is an apology for the stark familial destruction of Goat Mountain… It certainly touched me in a far different manner than the previous novel had. Aquarium has easily hit my Top 5 of 2015 so far. Don’t miss the chance to add it to yours.

Aquarium by David Vann: available at a bookseller near you on March 3, 2013!

4 stars

Source: Grove Atlantic {via NetGalley}

 

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