Reading Challenge Update Apr 2021 – #52Books52 Weeks #readingchallenge

I’ve made quite a lot of progress on my 52 books reading challenge, hosted by Rachael over at The Booklist Queen. In April and this first week of May I’ve been able to successfully catch up so that I’m no longer behind. Here are the edits to my progress thus far.

1. A Productivity BookStop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves – completed
2. Book Becoming Movie in 2021
3. Goodreads Winner in 2020 – The Midnight Library, the #1 fiction pick in 2020 – to pick up ASAP
4. Biography
5. About a Pressing Social Issue – The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison – completed
6. A Book About BooksThe Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – completed
7. Set in the 1920s
8. An Author Who Uses Initials – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – completed
9. Poetry
10. A 2020 BestsellerAnxious People by Fredrik Backman – completed
11. Recommended by a Colleague
12. With a Number in the Title – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut – completed
13. Bottom of Your To-Read List
14. Reread a Favorite Book
15. Own Voices Story – March by John Lewis – in progress 50%
16. Published in the 1800s
17. Local Author – Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen – completed
18. Longer Than 400 Pages – The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – completed
19. A Book Turned Into a TV Series 
20. A Book That Makes You Think
21. A WWII Story – The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott – completed
22. A Highly Anticipated Book
23. Eye-Catching Cover
24. A Summer Read – Faye, Faraway – in progress 20%
25. Coming of Age Story – Homegoing – On Deck to pick up next
26. Bestselling Memoir – In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado– completed
27. Book Club Favorite
28. A Book About FriendshipSouthern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – completed
29. An Audiobook – Walking With Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne – completed
30. Set in Australia
31. By a Nobel Prize winner
32. About an Immigrant – Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende – completed
33. Time Travel Novel – Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi– completed
34. An Author You Love
35. Childhood Favorite
36. Classic Read in High School
37. Borrowed from the Library – The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – in progress 40% on Overdrive
38. Nonfiction New York Times Bestseller
39. From an Indie Publisher
40. Fantasy
41. A Sequel
42. Recommended by a Librarian
43. Psychological Thriller
44. Oprah Winfrey Book Club Pick
45. A Book About Technology
46. Title with Three Words – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager– completed
47. Debut Novel of Famous Author – The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – on deck to be picked up ASAP
48. Genre You Don’t Usually Read
49. A Book Everyone Is Talking About
50. You Own But Haven’t Read
51. Borrowed from a Friend – The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty– completed
52. A 2021 New Release – The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – completed

Current progress: 17 completed of 25, ON TRACK!, 3 in progress

Happy Reading!

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The Willow Wren by Philipp Schott – a Book Review

Philipp Schott is a small animal vet and the author of two prior books, The Accidental Veterinarian: Tales from a Pet Practice and How to Examine a Wolverine: More Tales from the Accidental Veterinarian. This is his first novel, and it’s based upon the true life story of his father, Ludwig Schott, growing up in Nazi Germany during WWII. Ludwig’s father, Wilhem, was a high-ranking official in the Nazi party in Leipzig. This meant he was always away from home on “important Nazi business” leaving Ludwig’s mother to care for Ludwig and his siblings by herself. This novel is told in the form of a memoir from Ludwig’s point of view from his early childhood up to the age of 15. At age 9, Ludwig was sent to a Hitler youth camp for young boys to be programmed as a loyal Nazi soldier. Think of this as an overly aggressive preschool primer for potential Nazis before they are sent to the real Hitler youth camps at 14. We stay with Ludwig through his tenure in the camp and follow him back home to Russian-occupied East Germany where things continue to get worse for the family. This all culminates in a desperate attempt at escape to West Germany in pursuit of a better life.

A Willow warbler, or willow wren, which acts as a symbol and an important metaphor in Philipp Schott’s novel that bears its name. Source: Adobe stock photo.

Review

This is a fantastic new perspective that’s rarely portrayed in literature or film of this era. It’s easy to ignore or forget entirely that German citizens were fed loads of propaganda and were forced into party loyalty. Those who didn’t agree with the Nazi’s ideas and methods generally lay low so as not to draw attention. If they didn’t, they were carted off to camps or summarily executed for some trumped up crime, which could be as petty as having chocolate when no one else did.

Ludwig is, perhaps, the perfect narrator for such a story. We see all events unfold through his eyes. He’s no more than a child at the beginning of the war, and he finds himself confused by illogical and unfeeling human behavior. Ludwig is quite different from his peers. He’s extremely intelligent, introverted, and he’s much more interested in being out in the forest with the birds than he is in being with other boys his age. Ludwig knows he is different, and today we can glean from the information that Ludwig is almost certainly on the autism spectrum, but in the 1930’s and 40’s, this wasn’t something parents, peers and educators would have understood. Being so different makes Ludwig the target of the other boys’ cruelty. Not only does he have to grapple with finding his own place in a world unsympathetic to boys like him, but he’s also tasked with literal survival in a country that’s being led into war by a tyrannical maniac and his boneheaded minions. He is forced to contemplate and conceptualize death before any child should have to do so. I found it fascinating the way Ludwig’s mind turned to logic, sometimes humorously, no matter the situation or how dire it truly was. He is a refreshingly unique protagonist. While I’m going to classify this one as my WWII book for the reading challenge, it could also be deemed both a coming of age story and an Own Voices story told from the perspective of someone in an under-represented demographic.

Ludwig is caught in the middle of a dichotomous relationship between his mother and father, the latter of which spews the Nazi propaganda with a vociferous glee while the former takes a much more skeptical approach. Of course, a woman’s opinions and desires carried much less weight during this time whether or not she was in possession of more functioning brain cells than her husband. I positively adored Ludwig’s mom. By far, she was the character with the most depth. I internally celebrated every time she stood her ground and verbalized her disapproval of the party to her husband. Perhaps I could relate to her the most. As a mother of young children, I can place myself in her shoes and imagine the breadth of human emotion that would overcome me when faced with such a situation.

Aerial view of historical market square in Leipzig, Germany. Leipzig is the setting for part of the novel, The Willow Wren, by Phillip Schott. Source: Adobe Stock photo.

Mama Schott deals with more than any individual ever should. She’s tasked with the sole care and protection of her children while war looms, she’s pregnant during a time when food is scarce, and her philandering husband cares more about pleasing his various girlfriends and the fuhrer than he does whether or not his family is safe from bombs. I felt very deeply for her throughout the book, and I thought Schott did a wonderful job presenting her internal struggles and her descent into depression, which accurately became more acute as events in the novel unfolded. And Ludwig’s all encompassing love and worry for his mother was very authentic. In a boy so driven by logic, it was wonderful to see the emotional vulnerability that peeked through the surface as he contemplated his mother.

A prime example of one of the most memorable moments of Ludwig’s internal contemplation of big adult concepts was his dissection of grief. Upon seeing a peer dissolve into a heap of hysterical wailing after learning of the loss of his father on the battlefield, Ludwig begins to quantify the amount of grief he would show if his father were to die versus that he would show if his mother were to die. He realizes these are very different amounts of grief, and he doesn’t really understand what this means or if it is normal, but he understands that it’s a fact, and it is interesting, to say the least. Like I said, he’s a logical kid. Moments like this are representative of Schott’s impeccable character development.

When Ludwig arrives at the Hitler youth camp, the bullying he’s always endured intensifies and thrives in the more militaristic environment, but we see how he’s able to use his resourcefulness and cunning to his advantage. What sets this book apart from many other WWII novels is that it doesn’t end with the close of the war. For the German citizens in Russian-occupied territory, they were merely transferred from one despotic regime to another. They were on the losing side of the war and had been deemed either monsters or cowards, as unfair as that latter designation may be for people who had been victimized by deceit and threats of violence. The true test of this family comes with their final attempt at escaping what was once their home in search of an opportunity to thrive.

Overall, this is a lovely book. It’s very character driven. It doesn’t hold back with the harsh realities of war, and it doesn’t verge into sickly-sweet sentimentality. It’s a very authentic and personal account that is aided by the fact that it is based upon a real life story, a story to which the author holds a family claim. That fact makes the story much more powerful. Philipp also takes over the narration in the end so that he can give a bit of insight to his methodology, and he gives a lovely personal account of his perceptions as a child of the people whose story we’d just heard.

One final thing about Mama Schott, and I swear I’m done with this terribly long review. This might seem to verge into spoiler territory, which I swore I’d never do, but it’s really quite mild and I have to give credit to this badass woman by sharing my own anecdote. At one point, Mama Schott walks across rough terrain in the face of terrible peril weighed down with starvation, heaps of worries, fear of being shot, and a sleeping 3 year old. I have a 3 year old boy. A couple of weeks ago, my wee Henry wanted to take a walk with me around the block. We did one pass and he decided he wasn’t done, so we walked a bit further. Halfway around the block, he decided he was tired and needed me to carry him. Granted, my 3 year old hasn’t been nearly starving since birth and he is fairly sizeable, but I also haven’t been starving for the past several years like Mama Schott. I’m a bit out of shape, but I can certainly carry my kid. Still, by the time we got to the house my back ached, and my arms and legs were on fire. We hadn’t even gone that far! Anywho, mad respect for the mamas (and daddies) who literally carry their children many miles to deliver them to a better life than that to which they were born. Especially if, like Mama Schott, they’ve also battled their own internal demons in a fierce depression and found one final ounce of physical and emotional strength in order to save their children. Parents have been doing this for years, and I guarantee you that at this very moment, there is someone pushing through the pain, carrying all manner of physical and emotional burdens, simply to deliver her children to the life they deserve. The villains and the context may change, but no reason is more or less valid than another. Keep walking, mama, because you’re going to make it.

This is a fabulous work of character-driven historical fiction. 4 1/2 stars.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pub. date: March 2021 by ECW Press; ISBN 9781773057545; Runtime 10 hrs, 17 mins, Read by Brian Webber.

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Stop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves – a Book Review

“It’s time to direct your energy to the things you love, the things that allow you to thrive, and the things that make you human and allow you to feel what it means to live a life on purpose.”

It has been ages since I’ve read anything besides fiction and maybe the occasional memoir or biography. I can’t remember the last time I read a self help book besides this one. So when I saw that “A Productivity Book” held the number 1 spot on my 52 book reading challenge I did a bit of internal grumbling. Don’t I feel silly now, because not only did I enjoy this book very much, but I needed this book. Let’s just start with the opening lines:

“How the hell did I end up here?

This is the question you might ask yourself when you look in a mirror and attempt to evaluate where you are (or aren’t) in life.”

-Antonio Neves, “Stop Living on Autopilot”

Wow, do I feel simultaneously impressed while also feeling personally attacked (only mildly). This first page made me feel uncomfortable, because, yes, he was speaking to me. Directly to me. Because I’ve had these very thoughts. How many of us haven’t had those feelings at some point in our lives? Neves poses these uncomfortable questions for a reason, and he doesn’t hold back throughout the rest of the book. It’s a series of uncomfortable questions and statements that leave us feeling a bit vulnerable and questioning just about everything. However, what Neves does that’s important is he gives us the tools for grappling with the answers to these questions.

To be honest, while I read this book, I had my post draft open so I could make note of notable quotes I might want to use. I wound up with 15 of them. 15!!! No, I’m not going to throw 15 quotes at you in this review. The point is, that’s how many statements I deemed poignant and important enough to share with potential readers who might pick up his book. And really, if you at all feel a little stuck in your existence or, perhaps, wake up dreading the day or maybe even just some little facet of your day, this book is something you should read. For my part, I’m tired. Tired of wishing I had made one decision over another. Tired of feeling like I don’t really live up to my potential. And tired of blaming other people for things I didn’t reach for and didn’t achieve in life. And I’m tired of not being present for the things that are truly important.

While I can’t relate to every aspect of Neves’ story, there’s a lot I can. For instance, I’m not internet famous. I’m probably not viewed as even remotely successful by any stretch of the imagination, but I still grapple with fears and inadequacies and regrets. I tend to look nostalgically toward the past as the best time in my life to which I surely will never return, and that’s not fair. That’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to my family who deserves the best of me every day. The best advice I got from Neves in this book is to live every day as if the best thing to happen to me hasn’t happened yet.

“I believe that the best thing to ever happen to you is ahead of you – not behind you. The secret: when you start to believe this, everything begins to change.”

-Antonio Neves

Neves’ approach is all about adjusting your attitude so that you are your own advocate, that you invest in your own future and believe in yourself in a meaningful way. But he doesn’t just encourage these things with memorable quotes. The book is full of written exercises that he encourages you to actually do so that you can gather your own thoughts in a journal form that you can look back on. These all encourage digging deep and really getting to inner truths you maybe have been ignoring for some time. If you don’t hold yourself accountable, who will? But it’s also pinpointing what you actually want for yourself and encouraging you to prioritize that and recommit yourself every day to that intended purpose.

This is a short book. It’s only 236 easily digestible pages. It’s simply put, but it packs a lot in. Neves doesn’t waste any time waxing poetic. He gets straight to the point with useful but poignant advice. Many of his stories are also quite humorous or touching, and that helps make his book more relatable. Neves is also a life coach and keynote speaker on leadership and career success, and he has a podcast called The Best Thing. This podcast would be a great companion to this book. In it, per his website, he talks to other people about the best thing to happen to them outside of “the traditional markers of success like getting married, having kids, graduating from college or buying a house.”

Overall, I thought this was a fabulous and important book for anyone to read, no matter how successful or not you feel in life in your public or internet profile. We all need a little something even if it’s just a shift in perspective.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Supporting Local artists – #theride #indiefilm

This is something a bit different for my blog, but I want to take a moment to support a friend of mine and his creative endeavors. Elliott is someone I know personally and I’ve always admired his talent, passion, and creative potential. Whether we exist in the world of written, spoken or visual artistry, the same passion drives the true artist, and we can find the most support within our own community that celebrates and promotes big ideas! So I hope you’ll visit and support his project like I did. Without further ado… “The Ride.”

To support Elliott and Dancing Fox Pictures on this project, you can visit their Indigogo campaign at : https://igg.me/at/theridefilm/x#/

Look for my review of Stop Living on Autopilot to post in the new few hours. I have a couple of things on deck, so I may be busy today and tomorrow.

Happy Reading, friends!

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Celebration of Milestones!

Today is a day that brought a fabulous surprise! I finally hit 100 Followers! And on the very same day I surpassed 500 Likes. So thank you, dear readers, for taking the time to share some love for my little labor of love. Years ago I would have told you by now I’d still be in a college classroom talking about literature, but I’d be doing it from the other side of the room. Words have always been my passion, and reading and writing are a form of therapy for me. Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you want, unfortunately. Though I’m grateful for the job as a law librarian, at one point I realized that I missed the passion I had for the kind of books that help you escape. Sure, I was still reading in my spare time, but I wasn’t talking about the things I read as much as I’d like. I rarely felt the rush of really analyzing something. I wasn’t sharing my thoughts or my ideas. I wasn’t celebrating the inspiration I got from the pages of a book.

Upon realizing that I was missing something important in my life, that’s when I started my blog. Or, I guess I should say restarted my blog, which was originally a project for library school. I can safely say that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I found a community of wonderful, like minded people on here who are passionate about the same things. I’ve loved being able to share insights and to gain insight from other blogger’s posts. While I still feel like I’m learning how to be a better blogger every day and working toward doing better at networking, it’s something I greatly enjoy and has helped to fill that void. So again, thank you for sharing your own words with me and for showing an interest in mine! Onward now to new milestones.

Much love and wishes for a good book to find its way to you!

Happy Reading!

Amy, Librarian and her Books

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WWW Wednesday – April 28, 2021 – #wwwwednesday #bookishmemes

Welcome to a new week of WWW Wednesday. This is a meme now hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, we answer three questions and leave a link in the comments sharing our own posts for other bloggers to view.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is www-1.jpg

The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

Call me an overachiever, but because I forgot one of my books at work one evening ***gasp!!*** I wound up starting another one in the evening and getting halfway through it before the night was done and I had no choice but to make myself sleep. So I now have not 2 but 3 books I’m currently reading including my audio.

On audio, I’m listening to a new-to-me author. He’s actually a small animal veterinarian who previously published a couple of collections of short stories from his veterinary practice. How wonderful, and I mean look at these! I want to read these!

Though I’m adding these to my To-Read list, I am reading a book of Schott’s that is incredibly different. The Willow Wren is a historical memoir based upon the stories his father, Ludwig Schott, told about spending some of his most formative years in a Hitler youth camp for young boys. The son of a senior Nazi leader, Wilhelm Schott, young Ludwig has no interest in towing the party line and has nothing but apathy for Nazi propaganda at the age of 10. The novel, though a coming of age story about a young boy, doesn’t hold back with the horrors of WWII. I’m loving this book so far. Ludwig is a charming and wonderful narrator with a strong and wise voice, but it will make you weep for the small children who were forced to grapple with intense fear and who struggled to understand the concepts of war and death at such a young age. This is also a wonderful perspective on the war, as we see first hand the twisted message that was fed to citizens in Germany in the 30’s and 40’s. This is a brand new book that was published March 23, 2021.

I’m also reading our next book club selection, a fascinating and unique time travel tale called Faye, Faraway, in hardback. I’ve just started this, but so far it’s quite captivating and I’m enjoying it. This book is the debut novel of the author, Helen Fisher.

And for my productivity book, I picked one up on a whim from the library simply because I need to read a productivity book for my book challenge and OH LOOK! THERE’S ONE! Librarians are so intuitive! Someone must have known that I needed to read this book, because they set it on a display right there in the middle of the library for me to find. I chose Stop Living on Autopilot by Antonio Neves. This is the book I read half of in one sitting two nights ago. I expect to finish it today. I expected to be bored to tears by reading a productivity book. I’m not into self help, and I just don’t gravitate toward non-fiction in general. However, I needed to read this book. The first page smacked me in the face with some truths I needed to hear. There are some exercises throughout the book that really are quite helpful, and Neves has some pretty great and, often, humorous stories to share about his quest for rediscovering a “bolder, happier” self. At 236 pages, it’s a short and sweet book that packs a pretty big punch. I’ll have more thoughts in the coming days.

What have I just finished reading?

I just finished reading Walking With Ghosts by Gabriel Byrne, a pretty great and moving memoir by a veteran stage and Hollywood actor. It’s a very personal memoir that deals more with his journey from boyhood in Ireland to the stage and screen and talks about the pivotal moments in his life that have shaped who he’s become. You can see my full review of this book here:

What Will I Read Next?

Oh my, choices choices!!! I have absolutely no idea on audio, as I typically visit hoopla or overdrive and see what catches my eye. I do have a couple on hold from overdrive with no idea what might come available, so I’m keeping that one up in the air. In paperback, I plan to pick up Agatha Christie’s debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I have chosen this one for my reading challenge pick for debut novel of a famous author. I haven’t read enough Christie and I’d love to see the introduction of her famed detective Hercule Poirot.

So, there you have it! I’ve actually been rather busy lately and was pretty excited to have so many fresh updates for this week. Feel free to comment on any of these you’ve read or want to read and share with me what you’ve been up to lately.

Happy Reading!

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Walking With Ghosts: A Memoir by Gabriel Byrne – Book Review

“Here I stand now, a man longing to see as a child again, when every smell and sound and sight was a marvel.”

-Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne is possibly not a household name to you. Perhaps you looked at the cover and said, “oh yeah, I remember that guy!” As a very prolific actor, odds are you’ve seen a handful of films spanning over the past 40 or so years. Many of those have been great films. The Usual Suspects, The Man in the Iron Mask, and Hereditary to name a few. Though his role had very little screen time, I first grew to love Byrne after seeing 1994’s Little Women. For some reason, his kindly portrayal of the quiet, unimposing but fiercely intelligent Friedrich Bhaer stuck with me. Perhaps because it seemed like such an authentic character for this man whose entire demeanor seemed to seethe with intelligence and introspection.

Byrne will turn 71 coming up in May, and his memoir is a thing of beauty. I haven’t read a great many celebrity memoirs, but some of the ones I have read simply feel like a recitation of their careers. I’ve acted in all these movies, let’s recap, yay for me! There’s nothing really wrong with that, but I believe that lacks an air of authenticity. Acting is your job, and maybe you’re very good at it, but I want to peel back the curtain and see a little vulnerability. If you feel the same way about memoir, then this book is something you should read. It’s not without its faults, but it is exceptionally moving and lyrical. Byrne has a way with words. He’s a natural storyteller, though his style takes some getting used to.

Byrne’s debut role was as Uther Pendragon in 1981’s Excalibur with Helen Mirren, Nigel Terry and Liam Neeson

This memoir feels like sitting down with someone older and wiser than you and just letting them talk (especially if you listen to the audio narrated by the author like I did.) It’s very personal. It’s very stream of consciousness. He tends to jump around from time to time as if one story simply reminds him of another point in his life. Oh, by the way, let me tell you about the time I looked like an idiot in front of Olivier. These stories are raw and contain an intense vulnerability. They are alternately humorous and tragic. He quite candidly talks about his boyhood experiences with abuse and molestation at the hands of Catholic officials during the period he was convinced the priesthood was his calling. He talks about loss and shame, challenges to his introversion, and the utter fear and panic that accompanied the sudden onset of fame.

Frankly, this is what a memoir should be. It’s a collection of memories of the moments that define a life. Not just the good, happy memories, but the ones that traumatized and twisted the self. The ones you want to push to the back of your mind so that the world never knows they exist. It’s bearing the weight of the things you did for which you aren’t proud, and the weight of the things that were done to you that you still carry like dents in your armor. Power is in embracing the truth of your life. And courage is in putting them on paper for the world to see.

It’s easy for us to look at celebrities and think they have it all. But money and fame often bring isolation and loneliness. Memoirs like Walking with Ghosts show the very human side of fame. The only quibble I had was that sometimes I had trouble viewing everything in chronological order due to the narrative style. It was hard to pinpoint exactly when in his life and career some events happened. However, I listened to this while I was majorly multitasking by cleaning and organizing a room at home, and I sort of regret that. It means I finished it in two days, but I don’t feel I gave it 100% of the attention it deserved, as it’s one of those that deserves to have every word savored. So, if you get to read this, really pay attention. There is 70 years worth of wisdom packed into this book, and it’s worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pub. date: Jan 12 2021 by Recorded Books; ASIN B08NTW1BND; Runtime 6 hrs, 57 min, Read by the author.

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – A Book Review

Three words, large enough to tip the world. I remember you.”

V.E. Schwab, Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

V.E. Schwab, who has also published under Victoria Schwab, is a very busy author. In the past decade, she has gifted the world with more than a dozen books ranging from middle grade fantasy to adult lit and even comics. Unfortunately, Addie LaRue is my introduction to her *gasp*, but it definitely won’t be my last of her books. I am intrigued now.

Synopsis

Adeline LaRue is a free-spirited 23 year old in France in the year 1714. When she’s promised to be married to a newly eligible widower as a mother to his children, she immediately feels as if she’s being thrust into a life of misery. Out of desperation, she prays to the most dangerous of deities as a last resort for gaining her freedom, the gods who answer after dark. A mysterious dark figure answers her call and grants her wish for freedom, but it comes with a terrible price. In true Faustian fashion, Addie is granted immortality, but she surrenders her identity and her soul. Her name can never once be said, and her face will never be remembered by another human being. Addie is doomed to walk the Earth as a shadow, just a fleeting presence enjoyed for a moment and then lost forever, never leaving a mark upon the world. Until she meets Henry Strauss, the manager of a second hand book store in New York City. Henry remembers her. And their meeting will change both of their lives forever.

Review

This book is charming, captivating, and lyrical. I picked it up because of all the high praise I was seeing from other reviewers on WordPress, and I definitely get it. This book is the perfect blend of darkness and light. I thought both Addie and Henry were brilliantly crafted and believable characters. Addie experiences such amazing things over her 300 years. She has a fascinating character arc drawn from unique experience. Henry is an incredibly authentic character, someone who can’t see his own value and exists within a sphere of misery, desperate to find approval and affection. Luc, as well, the demon darkness incarnate, was a brooding presence that brought so much excitement and intrigue to the story. Though Luc is a god, he’s not impervious to the perils of loneliness and human emotion. As much as Addie loathes him, the two are inextricably linked and tethered to a world no one else can understand. This relationship between Addie and Luc was complex and fluid, and I found myself having similarly complex emotions about him. I greatly enjoy growing to like a villain while simultaneously rooting for their downfall.

We see Addie’s life in a series of moments. We vacillate between the present in 2014, where we’re introduced to how she navigates the modern world, and her history spanning the years from 1714 to the present in chronological order. In each past flashback, we see Addie’s interactions with Luc as he visits in an attempt to get her to relinquish her soul. We see him rebuffed as Addie gains strength and knowledge of how to survive in a world that offers her no assistance. There’s an interesting power shift as we see Addie gain a bit more control with every passing year.

A life such as Addie’s is both sad and fascinating. What would it be like to live through the most pivotal moments in human history? The intense life altering knowledge gained by human invention, technological progression, renaissance of art and music, and the fracturing of the planet by wars sparked by human greed and ignorance. It’s so much for one person to process. Especially without feeling true human connection, or having that human connection severed at the last moment. I think the taste of it followed by intense loss would be the worst part. Oh, how ironic is a life of guaranteed permanence marred by an inability to ever obtain a feeling of permanence? A life of mere existence isn’t really a life at all. Rather, our lives are measured in the moments and the experiences that matter.

I love how Addie is able to find very subtle ways to leave her mark as a muse for artists and musicians, people who will never remember her but whose artistic endeavors contain little whispers of Addie. There’s such power in an image or an idea.

“Art is about ideas. And ideas are wilder than memories. They’re like weeds, always finding their way up.”

– V.E. Schwab

This book is though-provoking in that regard. Most of us will never become famous, and we won’t be written about in history books or immortalized in song. Our marks on the world may be fleeting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. A stranger may not remember your face, but they may remember a smile or a kind word you gave to them. The smallest of gifts are important to the receiver who reaps the benefit. A small inquiry of “are you ok” can save a life, the same way a lone star twinkling in the sky can guide a lost traveler home.

And speaking of stars, I have not gone back to check, but I did wonder if the number of pieces of art mentioned in the book matched the number of “stars” or freckles on Addie’s face. The one thing people always noticed about Addie was the 7 freckles, and they were usually the tie between the different artistic works. Perhaps someday I will go back through and see how many different artistic pieces were profiled in the chapters, but for now I’ll leave it as a mystery. Doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but would have been a clever thing to include.

Overall, this is magical and lyrical book that has so many strengths. I love the narrative style. I love the character development. And I love the story. Not once did I get bored, and I savored every word until the very end.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty – A Book Review

Liane Moriarty is one of those novelists whose work I eagerly anticipate. Her characters are always refreshingly human, quirky, and endearingly flawed. The plots of her books are unique, and each one is typically infused with a great mix of humor and poignancy. I can relate to many of the characters, always strong women navigating the difficult aspects of life. The Hypnotist’s Love Story, was one of two novels by Moriarty I hadn’t yet read. Now I have one final one, her newest, Nine Perfect Strangers. Her upcoming title, Apples Never Fall, is slated for release coming up in September of this year. That title screams of intriguing family drama, and I’m certainly here for it, because Moriarty does that quite well. This year I plan to tackle both and finish up the Moriarty library thus far.

Synopsis

Ellen O’Farrell is a single woman with a successful and fulfilling career as a hypnotherapist. Most things in her life are satisfying. Her mother is a bit eccentric, she’s never known her father, but she has a few close friends and she lives in the beloved house left to her by her grandparents. The only thing she truly lacks is a successful love life. So when she meets Patrick, a handsome widowed surveyor and single father, she starts to believe things could change for her. Until the night he tells her about Saskia, Patrick’s stalker. Instead of being upset by the news, Ellen finds herself fascinated by Saskia’s presence. She wants to know more about her, to understand her motivations. What she doesn’t realize is that she already knows Saskia, and things are about to get very interesting.

Review

Look, most of Moriarty’s books I absolutely love. Rich, intriguing characters are the driving force of her books. And each has its own unique plot, and her prose is quite charming. This one, however, I thought was lagging behind the rest. Merely glancing at other reviews and judging by the average rating on goodreads, I’m not alone in this being my least favorite of her novels. Ellen, while I thought she was a compelling character, just wasn’t as likeable as some of Moriarty’s other protagonists. Honestly, the most compelling character was Saskia. I enjoyed how we got the story from two different angles. Ellen’s portion was told in third person while Saskia’s portion was told in first person. We toggled back and forth fairly quickly between the two perspectives. I liked this as a device, and it was much easier to tell the two sections apart because of this narrative style. But I also think that’s why Saskia was a more compelling character. I thought Moriarty handled the psychological aspect of the stalker quite well. In her case, we are able to develop a kind of empathy for Saskia. She’s certainly been through a lot, and she has her reasons for having difficulty letting go. But the book makes it very clear the dividing line between compulsion and action on those compulsions. It highlights the sickness in a way that doesn’t undercut the damage that’s done to the target. At first I was a bit worried about this, because I felt so much on Saskia’s side. I had to keep reminding myself that she was the villain in the story. But Moriarty does circle back around on this, and I think she does so in an appropriate way.

Patrick was definitely my least favorite character. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fact that he’s portrayed as an average guy. His hair is thinning, he has issues with patience, and he procrastinates something fierce. He’s a great dad, and he has a good job and a nice family. Once he and Ellen truly become serious, however, there are a lot of red flags. Not just Saskia red flags but Patrick red flags. Honestly, his intense obsession with his dead wife would have been enough to send me packing. He talked about her constantly. Her presence was a ghost in the room everywhere they went. Keeping her memory alive for the sake of their son is one thing, but Patrick’s constant “Colleen this” and “Colleen that” and “Colleen did it this way” was just too much. My heart ached for Ellen every time he did this, and then I got angry with her for not telling him to knock it the hell off. You should not force your new partner to live in your old partner’s shadow, and the fact that Patrick was too obtuse to see that was infuriating. Even when he gave Ellen an explanation, it still didn’t sit well with me. No relationship is perfect, but theirs just had some major stumbling blocks right from the start.

Additionally, while this book held my attention, I found myself expecting more. I mean, save for one fairly difficult ordeal near the end of the novel, there really wasn’t much of a climax. It was a nice story, but it wasn’t really a great story. Trust me, I know Moriarty is capable of a great story. This is, at best, a decent book that will be forgotten fairly quickly, but I can definitely forgive Moriarty for that fact. I still maintain the woman hasn’t written a BAD book. Even superb writers put out average material now and then, and that’s ok. I will still be looking forward to the next one.

Overall, I give this one 3 stars.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Posted in General fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

WWW Wednesday – April 21, 2021 – #wwwwednesday #bookishmemes

Welcome to a new week of WWW Wednesday. This is a meme now hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. In it, we answer three questions and leave a link in the comments sharing our own posts for other bloggers to view.

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The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you just finished reading?
  • What will you pick up next?

What am I currently reading?

As you know, I always have two books going at once, one on audio and one in either hardback/paperback. Well, this week I’ve literally just finished one and am getting ready to pick up the next in line, so I’m only going to claim the one for my currently reading. On audio, I am almost finished (about 80%) with The Invisible Life of Addie Larue. This is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The sole reason I picked it up was the adoration I’d seen it receiving from other readers and reviewers, so I knew it probably wouldn’t disappoint. It possesses an inventive plot, engaging dialogue, expert prose, and vivid characters. Simply put, this book is simply beautiful, and the audio is superb. I can’t wait to reach the conclusion and then review this one. I expect to finish it tomorrow and will try to get to my review very soon.

What have I just finished reading?

Just a few hours ago, I finally finished a book I borrowed from a friend longer ago than I’d care to admit (sorry, Niki). Thanks to that fact, however, this book takes the slot on my 52 book reading challenge in the “Borrowed from a friend” category, though it could also squeeze into the “Set in Australia” category. Hmm… decisions, decisions. Perhaps I should raid a friend’s bookshelves at our next meeting. The book is The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty. At this point, there’s only one book by Moriarty I haven’t read, so I plan to add Nine Perfect Strangers to my hold list at the library so I can complete the Moriarty bookshelf in my head. I plan to post my review either tonight or tomorrow (let’s face it, it will be tomorrow). While this one wasn’t my favorite of her books, there hasn’t been one I haven’t liked. And really, Big Little Lies was explosively good. Holy forking shirtballs kind of good, so the bar is set a little high.

What Will I Be Reading Next?

So, I probably shouldn’t be allowed to enter libraries. I showed up today to pick up a book I had on hold and walked out with 5. Oops. Suffice to say, I need to stay nose in a book before the due date of May 12th comes about. Can I do it with small children and a full time job and a house that’s bulging at the seams with useless crap that needs to be sorted through? Of course! *sarcasm alert* I can at least try, that’s all I’m promising. Moving on, the two I’m most excited to pick up include our next book club selection, Faye Faraway by Helen Fisher. The good news is this one is not particularly lengthy at 296 pages of pretty standard print. On audio, I can’t wait to start Gabriel Byrne’s new memoir Walking With Ghosts. Ever since I saw the version of Little Women from 1994, I’ve been more than ever-so-slightly enamored with Gabriel Byrne. Seriously, the man could read me the phone book and my attention would stay on the lilting timbre of his impossibly gorgeous Irish accent. And yes, they still make phone books. I took one out of the mailbox and threw it in the recycle bin just yesterday! Back to Byrne, he was also favorite version of Satan. We all have one of those, right?

Watch him and Arnie in End of Days from 1999 and tell me he’s not sexy. I dare you.

All jokes aside, Walking With Ghosts has been described as a masterpiece of a memoir and is receiving rave reviews, and I’m not surprised, as Byrne is an actor whose intelligence and introspection lends well to his career on stage and screen.

Thanks for visiting, and until we meet again, happy reading!

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