A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

A Single Thread by Tracy ChevalierTITLE: A Single Thread
AUTHOR: Tracy Chevalier
LENGTH: 318 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2019
GENRE: fiction/historical fiction (1930s, England, embroidery, single women)
ISBN: 9780525558248
REASON FOR READING: I’ve read a handful of books by Tracy Chevalier and enjoyed them
RATING: 3/5

SUMMARY (book jacket):

1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a “surplus woman,” one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother’s place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England’s grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers–women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.

Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren’t expected to grow. Told in Chevalier’s glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.

My Thoughts: I feel fairly indifferent towards this book. Firstly, it took a good 50-60 pages to grab my attention. The story was slow and winding; not exactly boring, not exactly enticing. Violet did indeed grow more confident throughout the story, especially at the end when she became that female lead we always hope will do what we want her to do, regardless of the time and place of her story. What drove my interest was the building tension between her and another character–I was interested in what would happen, if anything. However, if I hadn’t had the free time to spend reading, I’m fairly certain this book might’ve ended up sitting by my bed for days, unopened, because it wasn’t enticing enough to pick up too often.

I should like this book more than I did. A female lead with pretty feminist sentiments back in the 1930s–that should be something I’m very interested in. Maybe embroidery and ringing church bells, fairly boring activities in my mind, overtook any excitable feelings I had about the characters and their lives (outside those activities). Bored by context, excited by the storyline? Averaged out to indifference in the end, I suppose.

I imagine, years from now, I won’t remember anything about this book other than the two big things, if even those. It was fine to pass the time, but was unremarkable.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

TITLE: Ayesha at Last
AUTHOR: Uzma Jalaluddin
LENGTH: 346 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2018 (Canada; 2019 US)
GENRE: fiction/romance (Pride & Prejudice reboot)
ISBN: 9781984802798
REASON FOR READING: the cover caught my eye at the book store & the summary sounded great–months later, it caught my eye again at the library and I found it’d been on my TBR list for a few months; a Pride & Prejudice retelling always interests me
RATING: 5/5

SUMMARY (book jacket):

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and who dresses like he belongs in the seventh century.

When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this so much. I read it in practically two sittings, because I just didn’t want to put it down. I know Pride & Prejudice like the back of my hand, but this reboot was different and piqued my interest. By “different”, I mean the setting and characters aren’t similar to much I’ve read before. True, Toronto probably isn’t too different than any major city in the US, but still. The cover of this book is what first caught my eye. The woman in hijab attracted my gaze, so I knew it would be different than much of what I’ve read. But after reading it, I can say there was a lot of familiarity in there too, and not just the P&P storyline.

A “modern-day Muslim Pride & Prejudice” is the perfect description for this book. Add in a dash of Bollywood, and there you have it. Because the storyline is familiar to me, I couldn’t help but keep reading because I just wanted to see how this author would put in her own details to make it all work. The tension was there and I just wanted to see how it would resolve itself. I was especially interested in seeing what the villains were going to do to make them so…villainous. I think that the themes of pride and prejudice will never go out of style–these are traits people will always have, and it’s a classic you-know-what-happens-when-you-assume situation that spirals out of control.

Quotes I Liked

“Love sought is good, but given unsought better.” (This is actually a quote from Shakespeare, but I don’t know what work)

“Flowers are so often mistaken as superfluous, yet their purpose is intricate and clever. They attract pollinators, ensuring their survival, and in turn they are consumed for their nutritional value. Never underestimate a flower.” (p277-8)

“Always dream together, Raja. Always leave space in your life to grow and soften.” (p340)

Dear Girls by Ali Wong

Dear Girls Ali WongTITLE: Dear Girls–Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life
AUTHOR: 
Ali Wong
LENGTH: 214 pages
PUBLISHED IN: 2019
GENRE: non-fiction (autobiography, memoir)
ISBN: 9780525508830
REASON FOR READING: Ali Wong is hilarious
RATING: 5/5

SUMMARY (book jacket):

Ali Wong’s heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.

In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.

The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she’s learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal singles life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong’s letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and disgusting) for all.

My Thoughts: If you don’t like Ali Wong’s comedy, you probably won’t appreciate this book. At least if you dislike her comedy because of it’s crude & crass presentation. I could easily envision her speaking these words, assuming that her stand-up is a decent representation of her real personality. Which, after having read this, I can say is definitely the case.

Each chapter of the book focuses on part of her life and is its own “letter” to her two daughters, still toddlers today. It is mostly in chronological order of her life up to this point, and I definitely learned about her as a person. I know not every person that comes off as blunt or crude is that way 100% of their lives, but in writing this, we get to see a bit about her thoughts and emotions at a more intimate level that definitely round her out as a person, rather than just the part most of us know as the comic. I mostly feel similar to her in the motherhood arena, given that she grew up in a different time & place–how can her life seem so much different at only 5 years older than me?? I “got” much of what she said about her formative years, but people born in 1982 and 1987 seem to have had such different childhoods. Plus, let’s be real–San Francisco and rural Ohio aren’t exactly the same…

But I digress. I enjoyed reading about her time traveling during and after college, which I wouldn’t say surprised me, just that I hadn’t ever considered her to be such a serious person (although, travel doesn’t make one “serious”, as her antics abroad clearly display). It just goes to show you not to judge a book by its cover.

One of my favorite parts of this was reading about her relationship with her husband. Her husband wrote the afterword, and even from his perspective, it appears they are remembering their story similarly. I gotta say, she is definitely lucky she “trapped his ass” as she so loving states because, while they don’t have a perfect relationship (newsflash, no one does), they both seem to understand what they need to do to make it all work for them. And he does sound like a catch in the super-supportive-partner category. I loved learning that the four of them tour together–I think that is such a sweet thing to do and is sort of humble, if that’s the right word to describe it.

I might have a sort of odd “rating system” in that I only give books a 5 of 5 if they are books I would read multiple times, but this is one I could see putting on my shelf at home and just picking up and reading it, in whole or in part, at any given time. It’s funny because I didn’t pay any attention to the book jacket for this book, and just thought to myself that “heartfelt & hilarious” was the best way to describe this book. Apparently so does whoever wrote the book jacket.

Quotes:

“The best word to describe parenting is ‘relentless.’ It’s a tennis-ball-launcher machine of tasks and mind puzzles and compromises and poo and pee and spit and barf with unlimited balls loaded. It’s always something.” p132 (I feel this to my core!! Really, p132-138 is probably felt across-the-board by all parents.)

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

TITLE: Give the Dark My Love

AUTHOR: Beth Revis

LENGTH: 368 pages

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

GENRE: young adult fantasy (alchemy, plague, undead/zombies)

ISBN: 9781595147172

REASON FOR READING: love this author

RATING: 4/5

SUMMARY (Goodreads Summary):
When seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island’s wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn’t quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her.

All, except for Greggori “Grey” Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that’s for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it’s making its way toward the cities. With her family’s life–and the lives of all of Lunar Island’s citizens–on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague.

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy’s most dangerous corners–and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, honestly within the first few sentences, I was like, “Ugh, really? A zombie book?” But it didn’t take long for me to realize the zombies weren’t as big a thing for the whole story as I anticipated. Yes, by the end–which is actually revealed in part in the prologue–the undead are important to the story. But they gradually become important as the story progresses.

I’m no expert on the history of alchemy, but I always thought it was the quest to change other elements into gold. If that’s the kind of alchemy you’re expecting in this book, well, you’ll be introduced to another version.

After the beginning, I was skeptical, but I’ve loved all four of Revis’ books I’ve read before so it was worth giving it a go. The four other books are sci-fi–this introduction to her fantasy world turned out quite gripping. I found the book harder and harder to put down the further I read. It appears to be the first in a series, and I’ll definitely be reading future installments.

Also, I’d like to give a quick nod to Revis for including a female general, a female governor, and a lesbian/bisexual (I’m not sure one or the other was specified–I know they’re not the same) as characters very nonchalantly. Small details that you might not even realize, and weren’t made to appear out of the ordinary at all, just like they should be.

Blast from the Past–Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

2Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
7/7/2007-7/14/2007–870 pages–fiction (fantasy, wizards, witchcraft)
Bought June 14, 2007
★★★★★

It is definitely a good thing I decided to reread this before reading the final installment because I definitely needed refreshing in this year. Many things happen in this book.

  • Voldemort is back and Harry’s called crazy
  • Umbridge wants to brainwash the students at Hogwarts
  • Fudge feels Dumbledore is raising an army
  • HR&H form the Dumbledore’s Army for those really wanting to use the Defense Against the Dark Arts
  • Ron makes Keeper, Fred & George leave school, Ginny is Seeker when Harry’s banned from Quidditch, Percy has “disowned” his family
  • Harry sees Snape’s memory of James torturing him and feels ashamed
  • Sirius dies in Department of Mysteries
  • Harry hears his prophecy and learns Neville could’ve been the one attacked by V in first place
  • All the wizarding community is told V or Harry must die at the other’s hands

Blast from the Past–Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

19302Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
6/28/2007–148 pages–children’s fiction
Borrowed from public library
★★★★

This has to be one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read. I love the movie I have, and, while some of Pippi’s adventures are only present in one or the other, the spirit and style of Pippi Longstocking is one that will enchant many children for years to come.

Definitely didn’t know before that this was originally a Swedish child’s book or that it was written 57 years ago. Learn something new every day.

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SINCE MY LAST UPDATE…
Time Spent Reading: 31 minutes (670)
Current Book: I Want My Epidural Back by Karen Alpert
Pages Read: 36 pages (366)

I’m tapping out. I don’t even know how I only read for just over 11 hours when I actually started an hour early and the readathon is well over 14 hours now. All I know is that I’m literally falling asleep right now, and I’ve got shit to do tomorrow for which I need to function. So I missed my 12 hour goal by 50 minutes. But I’m going to sleep now. Mmm’kay, g’night…

{6}

SINCE MY LAST UPDATE…
Time Spent Reading: 176 minutes   (639 minutes/10:39 hours)
Current Book: just finished The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
Pages Read: 100 pages (330)

I’m going to write a review tomorrow, but will update these posts to contain links to the review. In short, I liked it, but I liked it least off all Brooks’ works I’ve read so far (though I think the fact that I “pressured” myself into reading it in one sitting/day might’ve made me less inclined towards it).

{5}

SINCE MY LAST UPDATE…
Time Spent Reading: 21 minutes (463)
Current Book: I Want My Epidural Back by Karen Alpert
Pages Read: 30 pages (230)

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I decided to read a bit of this before getting back to my more serious book. It’s hilarious and I’m only a few chapters in 😅

Dewey’s Hour 7 Mini-Challenge: My #readblock

There are plenty of reasons why people don’t read as often as they like. I fear, my reasons are no different than many others’. I read plenty these days–though Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and But Not the Hippopotamus aren’t exactly on my reading list. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Madi has finally, at 20 months old, started to love reading books.

The toddler isn’t my only excuse, obviously. I mean, she’s barely awake 8 hours a day (she’s a sleeper!), so I’ve got the time. But then I get wrapped up in the housework or wanting to spend time with Nick in the evenings or journaling or cross-stitching or budgeting or going for a run or [insert any other possible excuse here]. I guess reading had simply just dropped lower and lower on my priority list in the past couple years. I could make time for it, I just don’t. And there’s no one to blame but myself. Not that I blame myself, until I get charged the overdue fines at the library because I haven’t even started a book I’ve had checked out for more than a month 😲

Truth be told, I’ve been a bit better the past few months. I’m going to a bookclub at the library every month, so I read three books for that this year alone–much better than in years past.