2019 Goals

I am going to keep it simple. I am participating in the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge and I would like to focus on reading more nonfiction this year.  I have two personal goals, which just so happen to be the same as last year’s!

Total: 50

Nonfiction: 12

I’d like to finish all the books I started but didn’t finish in 2018….there are sooooooo many.

It looks like 2019 is going to be a fun reading year! Please tell me all about your personal reading goals.
Lindsay
 
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2018 Reading Review

I fell quite short of my reading goals in 2018. You may ask…am I disappointed in my reading performance? No 🙂

See…2018 was a good year. A year that found me struggling to take on new hobbies, rediscover old passions, and push myself through some rather strenuous personal growth. Sadly, my reading volume just didn’t keep up with the rest of the year. The good new is I read some fun books and am looking forward to 2019’s reading list! So without further ado……here is my 2018 Reading Review.

Total Books Read

Goal: 50       Read: 22

Nonfiction Books Read

Goal: 12      Read: 6

 

Mystery: 12

NonFiction: 7

 

Historical Fiction: 3

Paranormal: 1

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ReRead: 3

Do Not Finish: 1

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All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Erich Maria Remarque


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Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

The latter half of 2018 has found me struggling to finish books. I have a stack of a dozen half-finished books sitting next to my bed; it has just been a rough reading year. So it may seem understandable that I was hesitant to cater to the overwhelming urge to reread All Quiet on the Western Front. I mean….I had all these other books that I needed to finish. And I didn’t even own All Quiet on the Western Front. Good thing I broke down and picked up a copy at my local used bookstore because All Quiet on the Western Front is the first book I have finished in months.

I love this book. 

I am a firm believer that you need to read specific things during certain times in your life. December 2018….I needed to read All Quiet on the Western Front. I was struggling folks because 2018 has been a year of necessary personal growth. I couldn’t read. I was stuck dealing with the typical stresses of the holiday season and having to deal with a significant amount of petty bullshit at work (I’m not even going to apologize for the language. It is what it is.) I was stuck in my own head desperately trying to identify my source of frustration. All Quiet on the Western Front brought me some much needed perspective. It starts:

“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even through they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”

For those who don’t know….All Quiet of the Western Front is the fictional story of a German soldier, Paul Baumer, and his experiences on the Western Front during World War I. It was written by Erich Maria Remarque, a German man who fought in World War I. But it doesn’t matter that it is told from a German perspective because Paul’s experience (as I expect Remarque’s) is the same story told by other survivors of the Western Front be they German, British, Canadian, American, South African, Australian, New Zealander, Belgian, or French. It is a story of young men struggling to survive a life in mud filled trenches. Men covered in lice. Men gasping for breath as toxic gas rolled over shell holes filled with bloody water. Men desperate to go home only to struggle wth the banality of everything once back.  

Remarque’s writing style effortless pulls readers through the emotional waves experienced by Paul. The prose is long and complex with an air of casual indifference when Paul is relaxing with his mates behind the front line. He happily describes his free time killing lice, hunting for extra food, and discussing with his friends the great mysteries of life. The prose subtly shifts to a choppier style as they near the front line. You can not help but feel the dull worry that Paul forces himself to ignore. And then he is on the front, crouching the mud and cringing at the whistling sounds of the artillery. The prose loses all sense of order; just choppy thoughts making it through the chaos and on to the page. You sit there on the edge of your seat, anxiously clutching the book, and willing Paul and his mates to make it through this fight. Then the writing slowly shifts back, and it is all done so effortlessly!

I laughed…I cried..and more importantly, I took a step back an reevaluated all the things in life that were making me feel stressed. None of it really seemed that important anymore; not compared to what I had just read. 

READ IT. Just read it. And then go watch Peter Jackson’s documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. Take a moment to appreciate how these soldiers talk fondly of moments that us readers would find appalling. Their mindset, and that of Paul, helped me find the perspective I needed. To embrace the simplicity for as Paul says:

“I often sit with one of them in the little beer garden and try to explain to him that this is really the only thing: just to sit quietly, like this.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on All Quiet on the Western Front. Please share them here or on Instagram. And Happy New Year. 

Lindsay

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I needed something lite to read after finishing In the Woods. (worst book hangover ever!) I picked up Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for three reasons:

1. It was spooky and perfect for October.

2. It promised to be a quick YA read.

3. I already had it on my shelf.

I liked it. The main characters were well developed. The setting was fantastically detailed, with the sunken ship being my personal favorite. It was a good story about the relationship between a grandfather and grandson, discovering personal strength, and embracing one’s differences. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a solid young adult story with a fantastic setting. The story seamlessly jumps between 1943 and modern day. I personally loved how Rigg’s utilized old photographs to enhance the story. It was just good.

I don’t really have any complaints, though I would have preferred if this was a stand-alone novel. I enjoyed the setting and the characters but I didn’t turn that last page feeling invested enough to read the rest of the series. This is a personal issue I have with most young adult stories, and is the primary reason I steer clear of them. I just don’t want to dedicate my reading time to a YA series. I don’t have issues with adult series (I fully plan on reading all of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad books). I just feel that most YA stories don’t necessarily need a full series…or that multiple books can be combined into one story….. I’m not out to start any arguments; YA series just aren’t my thing.

Anyway, I decided to watch the 2016 movie and I liked it as well. There are a number of changes, of course, to the characters and the latter half of the storyline, but I was totally ok with them. I felt the changes stayed true to the tone of Riggs story. I actually adored the end of the movie; it gave me the closure I was looking for in the book. Let me know what you thought of the book and/or movie!

November is here so the next month will be dedicated to reading all the Nonfiction and gritty murder mysteries. My tentative TBR will be up in a few days. Let me know if you have any suggested reads.

Lindsay

In the Woods

In the Woods

by Tana French

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The bestselling debut with over a million copies sold that launched Tana French, “required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting” (The New York Times), who is “the most interesting, most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years” (The Washington Post)

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric and stunning in its complexity, In the Woods is utterly convincing and surprising to the end.

I picked up In the Woods because I wanted to read the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, The Likeness, and I can’t read the second book in a series without reading the first..first. I just can’t. So In the Woods was pushed to the top of my TBR.

I’m going to do everything I can to avoid spoilers but guys…whew.

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I sat on this review for a solid 2 weeks because I’m just not sure where to start. I’m still not sure how to accurately express my feelings for In the Woods. So here it goes.

Tana French has made the list as one of my favorite authors. In the Woods is one of my top five favorite reads of 2018. And around page 300 I was yelling (out loud) at the characters. I finished this book feeling drained, angry, sad, frustrated, and still amazed. This story left me so upset that I contacted a few of my closest friends just to remind them they are loved. I still find myself fondly thinking about it on a near daily basis. In the Woods will stick with me for a long time.

I’m not going to provide any story details because it would definitely ruin the reading experience. Just know that Tana French is a FANTASTIC character writer. I didn’t realize how invested I had become in Rob and Cassie until it was too late to pull back. French provides a startling decent into the mind of a victim, the manipulation of psychopaths, and the flawed logic of humans. She doesn’t insult her readers by switching traits of her characters. Rob is no Mary Sue; he sticks to his guns for better or for worse. I appreciate this in a writer; French made these characters real!

Oh..and there are multiple murders, some archaeology, and other amazing parts that make it the perfect fall mystery. Just read it. (but make sure you have a puppy or best friend to hug afterwards ☺️)

Anyone else a Tana French fan? Please please please tell me what you think of In the Woods. Happy Reading.

Lindsay

The Altar Girl

The Altar Girl

by Orest Stelmach

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The daughter of uncompromising Ukrainian immigrants, Nadia was raised to respect guts, grit, and tradition. When the events around the seemingly accidental death of her estranged godfather don’t add up, Nadia is determined to discover the truth—even if she attracts the attention of dangerous men intent on finding out what she knows through any means possible.

Her investigation leads her to her hometown and to the people least likely to welcome her back: her family.

In this thrilling prequel to the Nadia Tesla series, Nadia must try to solve the mystery surrounding her godfather’s death—and his life. The answers to her questions are buried with the secrets of her youth and in post–World War II refugee camps. What Nadia learns will change her life forever.

I picked up The Altar Girl via the Amazon First picks deal ages ago. The book sat in my kindle library for a rather long time awaiting the perfect reading mood. That mood arrived after a couple of draining and frustrating weeks. I didn’t want my usual choice of fun and quirky cozy mystery; I needed a grittier mystery that didn’t shy away from the darker aspects of crime. I kept coming back to The Altar Girl.

It was good; it gave me exactly what I needed in a story. Nadia is Ukrainian-American. She is the estranged child of immigrants who is struggling with her muddled sense of identification when her godfather dies. Nadia knows it wasn’t an accident. So she heads home to discover the truth, confront her family, come to terms with her upbringing, and quench her need for a greater purpose.

The Altar Girl gives us a glimpse of two separate points in Nadia’s life: the first is the current hunt for her godfather’s this murderer and the second is her attempt at 14 to be the youngest teenager to complete the wilderness survival test. Stelmach utilizes different tenses in each timeline which adds a subtle depth to Nadia. The stories seamlessly entwine; her memories dragging the reader through Nadia’s modern decisions and illuminating the familial issues that haunt her.

All of the characters were fantastically developed as Stelmach doesn’t shy away from flawed and twisted traits. Nadia struggles with the guilt of no longer being a good child. Her mother twists the truth, manipulating her children in a sick expression of self hatred. And Donnie deserves his own character case study!

The Altar Girl was a fantastic read. I have a few negative points but they are too nit-picky to discuss here. This book was thrilling, gritty, and somewhat heart wrenching. Stelmach’s subtle writing techniques, such as never mentioning the godfather by his given name, entrenched readers in the unique culture of his upbringing. I loved reading about the history of Ukrainian refugees, their struggle to survive WWII, and the development of their own community in a new country.

I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty mystery full of family drama. The Altar Girl is something I would usually shy away from, but I’ve already picked up the next book in the series. Is anyone else a fan of Orest Stelmach? Let me know what you’re reading!

Lindsay

Bookish Facts

Bookish Fact #6: My dad made me a history lover.

I am lucky in that both of my parents are readers. My mom prefers fiction and reads a lot of mysteries. My dad loves historical nonfiction. My mom may have been the driving force behind my love of reading, but Dad was just as influential on my reading tastes.

We only had one TV growing up, and evenings meant watching things together as a family. The channels were often tuned to a baseball game or some random educational program (How stuff Works, Myth Busters). Dad’s favorite was The History Channel…back went the programming was actually about history.

His favorites were the history of the military, baseball, the space race, industry, and of course aviation. (I happily admit that I adore all these topics as well) We went to museums as a family on a regular basis. He’s sat through hours of me retelling my lessons learned in my college history courses. And to this day he still calls me with book recommendations and requests.

My parents are the reason my nieces and nephews get books for gifts, because can anything really beat the gift of a good story? Have your parents, or some other awesome person, influenced your reading this way? Please share!

Lindsay

Second Quarter Update/Midyear Check-in

I have decided to do numbered quarterly updates instead of using the seasons. It’s just hard to call this a Spring Update when the heat index has been over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) the last week. So here is my update for the second quarter of the year; these are the books I finished in April, May, and June.

TOTAL: 7

I struggled with my reading this quarter. I have stack of books about 15 deep that I started and just couldn’t get into to finish. I am going to blame this funk of trying to recover from surgery and the stress of changes at work. I’m hoping to double my number in the next quarter.

Mystery: 4

 

Nonfiction: 3

Reread: 1

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The best part of this quarter is that I really enjoyed everything I read. I am happy at the number of nonfiction books I sailed through and I hope to keep that nonfiction momentum going through the rest of the year. I am also hoping to at least double the number of books I read next quarter.

Mid-Year Goals Check-in

Total Books Read

Goal: 50       Current: 16

Nonfiction Books Read

Goal: 12      Current: 5

I’m already working on my TBR for the next quarter. Let me know what books you plan to read this summer!

Lindsay

The Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage

by Agatha Christie

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Murder at the Vicarage marks the debut of Agatha Christie’s unflappable and much beloved female detective, Miss Jane Marple. With her gift for sniffing out the malevolent side of human nature, Miss Marple is led on her first case to a crime scene at the local vicarage. Colonel Protheroe, the magistrate whom everyone in town hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shot. There are no leads. Yet, everyone surrounding the vicarage seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It is a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer without so much as a bit of help from the local police.

You may remember I raved about Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery a few months ago. I just loved reading the adventures of the snarky Miss Marple and decided I was going to read the entire Marple Mystery series from start to finish. So I picked up Murder at the Vicarage.

Sadly, it took me a while to get into the story. Murder at the Vicarage is told from the Vicar’s point of view instead of Miss Marple’s. The Vicar comes home to discover the body of a prominent individual slummed over the writing desk in his study. He then takes it upon himself to figure out what happened, with his congregation jumping at the chance to share their gossip with him. The Vicar is a kind, smart, and curious character but he doesn’t hold a candle to Miss Marple. Murder at the Vicarage lacked the level of snark I had enjoyed in A Caribbean Mystery.

The story starts slow and builds momentum as the murder investigation progresses. It was fun seeing the nuances of the small town unfold on the pages, and I became more invested in the story as Miss Marple steadily made her opinions of the investigation known. The mystery is a tad convoluted but fun, and Marple’s big reveal at the end was fantastic.

Murder at the Vicarage was a good start to the series. It isn’t my favorite story, but one I would still recommend just because of Christie’s fantastic mystery writing! Have you read Murder at the Vicarage? Let me know what you thought!

Lindsay

The Forgotten 500

The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All For the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II

by Gregory A Freeman

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In 1944 the OSS set out to recover more than 500 airmen trapped and sheltered for months by villagers behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. Classified for over half a century for political reasons, this is the full account of Operation Halyard, a story of loyalty, self-sacrifice, and bravery.

I like historical nonfiction and I particularly enjoy aviation rescue stories (you may know this if you heard me gushing about Frozen in Time last year.) So of course I was going to read The Forgotten 500. This is the story of Operation Halyard, a World War II rescue of American airmen downed behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia. I had never heard of this event and was immediately intrigued.

I have mixed feelings about The Forgotten 500. I enjoyed it. I had never heard of this event and the story has spurred me to learn more about the events occurring in Yugoslavia during World War II. To me this is the most important role of historical nonfiction; inspiring self education on new topics. With that said, I had a hard time finishing the book due excessive idealized sections of politics (a topic I find boring and tedious on a good day).

So lets start with the positive points. I enjoy the flow of the story. The Forgotten 500 is not presented chronologically, but starts with airmen landing in Yugoslavia and then jumps to events that eventually led to the Allied bombing of the county. It was engaging, and Freeman expertly guides his readers through the anxiety of surviving a jump from a downed bomber, the efforts of people trying to escape the country at the start of the war, and eventually the fantastic rescue of over 500 airmen. I even enjoyed Freeman’s brief history of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the development of Operation Halyard. The Forgotten 500 is full of personal accounts from survivors, both airmen and OSS agents. It provides a detailed account of a country and culture of which I know very little, and reminded me there is so much out there I have yet to learn.

Now for the negative points. I always read other reviews after finishing a story, especially when reading historical nonfiction. I like to see what other readers enjoy and don’t enjoy about each story and make it a point to address recurring comments. The negative reviews consistently claim The Forgotten 500 is full of historical inaccuracies. I can not substantiate or disprove these statements as I know very little about Yugoslavian history and had never heard of Operation Halyard before picking up the book. (Here there be SPOILERS) I will state Freeman provides a very one- sided view when it comes to Chetnik leader Draza Mihailovic. He is presented as a saint, while Marshal Tito and his group of Partisans are presented in a much more negative light. Little information was given about Tito’s roll in saving American airmen; instead the story is focused on the group of over 500 harbored by Mihailovic supporters. And I was especially confused by a section claiming Partisan sympathizers in England’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) attempted to sabotage the rescue operation on numerous occasions. I need to learn more about these topics.

So do I recommend The Forgotten 500? Yes, but with the following caveat: do your own research. Historical nonfiction is a vital aspect of continual education and I find it imperative that we should always look for all sides of the story. Have you read The Forgotten 500? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay