Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh Howey

After sharing my slightly ambitious reading list for the Memorial Day weekend, I only managed to finish one book from the list: Wool by Hugh Howey. And I’m glad I finished it!

The morning after I finished reading Wool by Hugh Howey, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters from his post-apocalyptic world. Never mind that I had only read the last few pages a mere 6 hours ago, staying up well past my usual bed time. Sure enough, I had a book hangover. I have no idea what the remedy for a book hangover is, but it must involve purchasing the second book of the trilogy: Shift.

Let me backtrack a bit. Wool takes place in the “silo,” a self-sufficient city-state filled with citizens who have never been outside it. In fact, they are raised to be afraid of the outside. The ultimate punishment for its people is to be sent outdoors as a “cleaner.” The cleaner only survives long enough to clean the outdoor cameras. Throughout the novel, our main characters sense that something is wrong in their way of life. Humans aren’t supposed to live completely indoors. Why aren’t they allowed to send electronic messages but written ones are ok? Why do the cleaners look so happy to be outside even if they are being sent to their death?

The novel unwinds slowly, offering its readers little breadcrumbs. We eagerly peck at each word and rush for more. This can be good or bad, depending on your level of patience. Howey takes the time to build the silo-world for his readers. Just enough for me to feel like I’m living among the sheriff or a mechanic, but leaving out clues that keep me turning its (virtual) pages.

While it’s obvious that the book was written and published in parts, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Howey’s writing improves with each installment. His characters become more complex and the story becomes more engrossing.

It’s been several days since I finished reading Wool and I’m still wondering what happens next to Juliette and her friends. Guess I better pick up a copy of the next book in the series.

I’m at Book Expo America this week. Follow my Twitter stream for updates and nerdy bookish stuff!

Book Review: The Unchangeable Spots Of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

 

There are very few books that I want to read again immediately after turning the last page. That’s exactly how I felt after I finished reading  The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma. I was hooked from the opening paragraph. My friends even warned me the novel would be a wild ride.

I usually write my own synopsis for each book I review but I doubt I can do it justice, so here’s what the book blurb tells us:

From as early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator of this ambitious debut novel has wanted to become a writer.

From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend, Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.

Right away, we learn that our narrator will be unreliable; we cannot trust everything he tells us. Still I cannot resist the way he tells the truth, but “with slant,” as he is taught in his college writing class.  Personally, I’m not a fan of unreliable narrators in my books, but I felt challenged after reading  the Author’s Note. It’s as if he dares us to call him a liar. Dares the reader to find the discrepancies throughout his pages over which he’s toiled.

So I read each chapter, knowing full well it is full of half truths, yet I’m sure I can decipher the truths. Each chapter throws me in a new setting of new slants and disarms me with this new and semi-improved version of the narrator. As soon as I settle into the chapter, I realize, Hey, this character has a new name, new history but the same heartache as the previous chapter. . . I want to read it again, slowlier this time so I can connect the dots. I’m not sure if it’s even possible, but I’m sure going to enjoy trying.

I’m sorry for such a vague review, but I don’t want to give anything away. You have to discover it yourself.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma will take you on a wild ride and leave you begging to jump back on for more.

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a copy of Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli. It ends May 15.

I received a review copy of the novel. This post contains affiliate links.

Book Review + Giveaway: Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

It takes skill to write a novel that weaves together ghosts, the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and a lost child. In her debut novel Glow, Jessica Maria Tuccelli whisks her readers from urban Washington, DC in the 1940s to the rural Georgia mountains. Eleven-year-old Ella McGee goes missing on a bus ride from DC to her mother’s Georgia hometown. Ella’s disappearance becomes the catalyst that stirs up memories of life in the mountains. Not only is there so much history and hurt in those mountains, but they are full of ghosts and haints who are searching for a home of their own.

When the pitch for Glow arrived in my inbox, it was described as “fans of The Help, this one’s for you.” I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding The Help (both book and film), but I thought its portrayal of racism in the south honest and realistic. More so in the book than the film. That one sentence made me curious enough to read Glow.

Besides their common themes of racism, I don’t really think the two books have much in common. I guess that’s how marketing works?

Glow follows are large cast of characters, each with their rich story of love, loss, and pain. Each character’s race determines the path and roles they are allowed to take in life. Ella’s mother Mia is part Cherokee and never quite fits in herr small town, but folks turned the other way because her father was large white man. Travel a little further back in time and meet Willie Mae was born into slavery and torn away from her mother at a young age. Her hair glows and she can see spirits. Her new mistress, Miss Emmaline is part Cherokee but no one speaks of it since she is married to a white slave owner. Then there’s Marse Riddle who is the overseer at Miss Emmaline’s home. He is also her brother. He’s fallen in love with his employer’s slave housekeeper Lossie. Everyone becomes connected in these quiet, yet significant ways. Even ghosts and spirits play a supporting role in some of the characters’ lives.

Each character that Tuccelli introduced enthralled me.  Each story was a gift to me. The United States’ history is very complicated when it comes to race and indigenous people. As a mother of biracial children, I felt drawn to these stories. This was how our country, my people, treated black people, Native Americans, and mixed race offspring. Sometimes it doesn’t seem so different from today.

As much as I enjoyed each character’s tale, I thought the novel as a whole was muddled. It was beautifully written; I couldn’t put down the novel. Yet as I closed the last chapter, I was not sure what message the author wanted me to take from the novel. What really happened? What was real and what was haunted? What life would Ella return to in those mountains?

Want to read  Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli for yourself? Thanks the publisher, I have a copy to giveaway to a reader. Just leave a comment letting me know why you want to read it. I’ll draw a winner via random.org on May 15th. (US addresses only, please)

Book Review: Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey

Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey

Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey

Reading literary fiction is my first love, but some of the books can be quite intense. That’s when I like to dive into the a fun, light read. Finding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey was just what I needed to relax and unwind after a hectic day.

In Finding Lucas, our heroine Jamie is stuck in a dead end relationship with her boyfriend of five years. Instead of being the cool Derek she fell in love with, now he’s worried more about his skin, hair, clothes, and his high powered job.  He’s also convinced Jamie that she’s not good enough for him and she needs to exercise more, wear make-up, and curse less. Thank goodness she finally comes to her senses and dumps her jerk of a boyfriend. As the assistant producer of a Jerry Springer-like television show, Jamie’s latest mission is to reunite people with their long lost love. Live on the air of course. During her research she becomes obsessed with tracking down her high school sweetheart, Lucas. She has convinced herself that once she finds Lucas, she’ll find happiness. Her tunnel vision keeps Jamie from seeing what’s been under her nose the entire time.

As a happily married woman whose husband loves me for who I am and reminds me of it often, I became annoyed with Jamie’s critical self-talk. Her lack of confidence in her talents and her looks made me want to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her! Still, I’m familiar with emotionally abusive relationships and the way Jamie feels is to be expected.  As a reader, I am grateful that Jamie had two strong female friends to hold her up when she’s down and encouraged her to go after what she wanted. Heck, Hanna and Lucy kept me going after hearing Jamie’s negative self-talk!

Jamie’s journey to love is fun, so I won’t give away too much of the story. The novel was funnier than I expected. Jamie is embarrassed by her nontraditional family, but I found them highly entertaining, in a granola, hippie kinda way. I know Jamie is the lead in this novel, but Hanna is my favorite character. Hanna owns a high end lingerie boutique, knows how to have fun, and refuses to settle down with one guy. I hope there’s a spin-off novel (sequel?) with Hanna as the main character in the works.

Connect with Samantha Stroh Bailey on her blog or Twitter. She’s very lovely (and doesn’t bite).

I received a copy of  Finding Lucas for review. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Mapmaker’s War by Ronlyn Domingue

The MapMaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

The MapMaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

Every now and again, I read a book that reminds me why I love reading.   The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue is one such novel. Domingue weaves a tale of love, ambition, loneliness and belonging that will resonate within all of us.

Aoife (pronounced ee-fah) is the mapmaker in this story. Born a girl in a far away land in a time long ago, her path in life was set: grow up, marry, and produce children. Instead, at a young age she falls in love with charts and maps. A childhood friend, who also happens to be the crown prince, learns of her desire. Pretty soon, she is apprenticed to the kingdom’s mapmaker.  Aoife enjoys the freedom and privilege not common to girls her age.

In her travels to map the kingdom’s land, she discovers another land. Word spreads of the Guardians’ gold paths and various riches, and soon Aoife’s kingdom is ready for war. She attempts to advocate for the Guardians’ peaceful, almost Utopian world, but to no avail. Aoifee is eventually exiled and adopted into the Guardians’ community. While her new community is understanding and embraces her, Aoife struggles with her past, her betrayal, and her inner demons.

Wow, did that sound like I gave away the entire story? Don’t worry, there are no spoilers. The book jacket reveals even more details.  The beauty in this story is Aoife’s evolution, transformation even. The novel is told in second person narrative, which threw me off at first, but I quickly adjusted.  As Aoife retells her life story, I think this perspective gives the reader an outsider’s view, uncolored by rash emotion (as our narrator calls it).

Aoife grew up in a land that had strict expectations and roles based on your gender and class. She did not grow up surrounded by love.  When she finally finds a family, albeit non-biologicial, she does not know how to accept their love. In a world where we’re all surrounded by negativity, Domingue’s novel is a gentle reminder that there is love in the world–we just have to accept it.

The novel’s pacing might be slower than many of us are used to in other books, but Domingue allows her readers time to digest each nuance of Aoife’s journey. I imagine if I re-read The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend, I will discover different and more nuances hidden within its pages.

I’m so in love with The Mapmaker’s War, I’ve already borrow a copy of her debut novel The Mercy of Thin Air from my library.

I just noticed on the book jacket that a sequel The Chronicle of Secret Riven will be released in 2014. It’s totally on my to be read list.

Have you a read a book that makes you appreciate reading?

I received a copy of the novel for review. All opinions are my own.

I also learned that the author lives in Louisiana, where I grew up!  Totally random, but it’s a fun connection. If you want a chance to win a copy of The Mapmaker’s War and 15 other books, 16 authors are hosting a huge giveaway!

Riffle: A New Way to Discover Books

Riffle Books Logo

I recently received an invitation to join Riffle, a social media platform that helps you discover new books.  It’s very visual and has been called the “Pinterest of books.” I’m still new to Riffle and am discovering all the different things you can do with it.

Riffle Books Logo

 

It’s pretty easy to join and set up a profile and account. My only quibble is that you have to use Facebook to create an account. It wouldn’t let me set up an account for the From Left to Write Facebook page, so I’m using my personal account. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

One feature that I like a lot is that I can create lists of books on whatever theme or topic I want to. Of course the first thing I did was create a list of our favorite book club reads. Creating the list is fairly easy. I type in the name of the book I want to add and it pops up. Click on it, and it’s added to your list. I made the book club reads list in less than 5 minutes. It took more time for me to figure out what books to add to it.

Like other social media platforms, you can add friends and other people can follow you. You can recommend books to those who follow you and your friends can do the same for you.  I’m interested to see how it compares to GoodReads.

Are you on Riffle? If you are, I’d love to follow you! Here’s my profile on Riffle. I’m not sure if you can see it if you’re not a member.

If you’re not on Riffle, I have a few invites (it’s currently invite only). So just leave a comment below and make sure you leave your email in the the section that says, “Email” so I can send you an invite. Don’t worry, no one will see your email address but me. I promise not to spam you. I will only use your email address for the invite.

I ran out of invites super fast, so you can join Riffle with my referral link. The link is only good until 1/26 and is first come first served. And no, I don’t get anything if you join via my link but I hope you’ll follow me so I can follow you and see what books you’re reading!