Go Set a Watchman

Go Set A Watchman
Go Set A Watchman

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on July 16, 2015.

It’s not often that I can sit back and devour a book but yesterday, I did exactly that with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.  When this book was announced earlier this year, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon and have

been waiting on it to arrive anxiously.  I loved Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t wait to dig into Go Set A Watchman.  And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Over the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of controversy over this book after it was revealed that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist.  Atticus, for many, has come to represent that epitome of humility, equality, and respect.  In To Kill a MockingbirdAtticus stood up for what was right, taught his children valuable lessons about people and race, and became one of the most beloved characters of American literature.  So for many, Atticus as a racist was a hard pill to swallow.  Lee absolutely does portray Atticus with racist characteristics in Go Set a Watchman and that was hard for me to read at certain points in the book.  However, I think it is a dose of reality.  To Kill a Mockingbird is very much a story about Scout’s childhood and a child views her father very differently from the way an adult would.  This novel is set two decades after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird so of course Scout has grown up and now sees things differently.  She sees Atticus differently and notices things about him that she probably wouldn’t have noticed as a child.  Atticus still wants to do what is right but I think Scout is just able to finally see a different side of him as an adult.  I still found Atticus respectable even if I didn’t always agree with everything he said.  Also, just like many readers, Scout also has a lot of trouble rectifying the father she once knew with the new things she finds out about Atticus in this novel.  Scout’s struggle with this is one of the main plot points of the entire novel.

What I think is most poignant about this novel is that it very much pertains to all that has been in the news lately.  The difference between Atticus and Scout in this novel really highlights the conversations that are still taking place in our country.  The conversations between Atticus and Scout are still very relevant.  I think Scout’s plight in this novel is reminiscent of what many people of my generation are dealing with right now.  With all the talk about race in our country right now, I think many younger people are seeing elders that they always respected suddenly showing a very racist side.  Sometimes it is hard to grasp that the people you respect the most are not on board with what you think they should believe.  This book very much seems to me a big dose of truth and reality.

As far as writing, I really enjoyed the writing style.  Lee did a fantastic job.  There were some spots that were clearly not her best writing, however, that is something I could overlook considering that Lee wrote this years ago without the intention to publish it.  She supposedly requested that it finally be published without any changes or input from an editor and I think that has to be considered when judging her writing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was hard at times to read, especially if you are attached to the Atticus everyone knows from To Kill a Mockingbird like I am.  However, it is well-written for the most part and I believe it is a poignant and timely statement about racial relations in the U.S.  I gave it a four out of five stars and would definitely recommend it.

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

1066: What Fates Impose

This review was originally posted on The Wordy Nerd Books on February 12, 2015.

In high school and college, I had several instructors who required their students to memorize dates for the history courses that I took.  One date that was always required was 1066.  As history major, I am very familiar with the

What Fates Impose
1066: What Fates Impose

Battle of Hastings so this book made it to my “to-read” list pretty easily. It probably would have stayed on my list of books to read for a bit longer, but when the author, G. K. Holloway, contacted me about reviewing the book I jumped on the opportunity.  Mr. Holloway provided me with a copy of his book which I greatly appreciate.

The first part of the book sets up the background history to the actual battle very nicely.  There is a lot of politics and history in this portion of the book.  The narrative follows several members of several families.  Holloway includes a character list at the beginning of the book which I was grateful for during the first half of the book.  It was nice that I was able to refer to the character list to help keep all the families and characters straight in my mind.  The first half of this book went a bit slow for me. I’m not sure if it was the actual book or the fact that I was studying for the GRE test and preparing to start my master’s degree in history.  Once I took the GRE exam, this book really picked up for me so I tend to think that the slow start was due to my own personal time management issues rather than the book itself.

The second half the book was a much easier read for me.  I was very engaged in the book by the second half and it just seemed to fly by.  Even though I knew how the story would end, I was still eager to keep reading.  Holloway did a fantastic job of vividly painting a gripping narrative of the Battle of Hastings.

Holloway’s writing was excellent.  The book flowed well and I found I could almost relate to some of the characters.  It is also very evident that he did his research.  It was not hard to see that he spent a lot of time delving into the history of this time period and the events in the book.  It is the first historical novel that I have read in a long time that I felt as if I was also getting a commentary on life during the time period.

If you are interested in historical fiction or British history, I highly recommend this book.  I gave it a solid four star rating.

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

2017 Reading List

Making Plans and Setting Goals

I am obsessed with setting goals.  Always have been.  So every year I make a New Year’s resolution to read a certain number of books.  I set my yearly reading goal in January and track it throughout the year.  I typically aim to read a book a week so I usually set my goal around fifty books per year.  My reading goal has been much lower the last couple of years thanks to grad school.  My graduate studies require me to read a great deal but I usually don’t count those books towards my yearly reading goal since I almost always don’t finish the required books or I skim a large portion of the book.

I graduate in May and I am so excited to be finished with required reading for college.  I am looking forward to being able to read the books that I want to read instead of what needs to be read for class.  As I do every year, I have set a yearly reading goal.  My goal for 2017 is to read fifty books.  That is roughly a book a week and I am already behind.  I have faith that I will easily catch up once I graduate in May.

I had intended to share this list in January but life got in the way. This list is in no way comprehensive.  I will undoubtedly pick up random books at bookstores and grab new releases throughout the year.  Also, many of the books on my list for this year are not recent releases.  While there are some current and new releases that I am looking forward to, grad school has kept me from reading the past two years so I plan to catch up on some older books this summer.

2017 Reading List

So, without further ado, the beginning of my 2017 reading list:

  1. The first book on my list is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.  I bought a hard copy of this book when it came out last summer and then the babies arrived.  It sat on my nightstand patiently waiting for me to pay attention to it.  I included it on this list since this is a list of books that I plan to read in 2017 but I actually ended up reading this book in January. (Review coming soon!!)
  2. I have jumped on The Fixer Upper bandwagon.  Chip and Joanna Gaines seem to be so genuine so their book The Magnolia Story is on my list. My husband bought this book for me for Christmas since he knew it was one that I wanted to read this year.  I started it right before my spring graduate classes started but I haven’t had time to finish it.  I’m hoping I will get to finish before the end of February.
  3. Wonder by R. J. Palacio is about a young boy who was born with a facial deformity and how that deformity affects his experience as the new kid at school.  This book is geared towards young readers.  My nine year old daughter recently read this and has been begging me to read it as well.  My daughter is quite a reader and she enjoys it when I read the same books as her.  I think she is starting to appreciate having someone who can discuss books with her.  I think this book may also work for some of my students who have lower reading levels.  I’m sticking it on my list to read this year so I can discuss it with Emily and make genuine recommendations to students who I think it could work for.
  4. The fourth book on my list is one that I’m not sure how I feel about.  A couple of years ago, the school I work for hosted a program for our students called Rachel’s Challenge based on one of the victims of the Columbine shooting.  The program was geared towards encouraging students to be kind to one another and help end bullying.  As I was sitting in this program, I realized that I really don’t know that much about the events that happened at Columbine.  I was only 12 when the shooting occurred and I’m sure the adults in my life sheltered me from that event.  However, now that I am an educator at a high school, I often feel consumed with the possibility of a school shooting.  On a weekly basis, I find myself running through my own personal plan of action and how I would react to help my students if something were to happen.  As a historian, I believe that some of the best preparation is studying what happened in the past.  I bought Columbine by Dave Cullen after that program was held at our high school and it has sat on my bookshelf for two years.  This year I am finally going to read it.  I’m hoping that, while it may be a difficult read, it may make me more aware of my students and my own kids.
  5. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb is next on my list.  I intend to read this one shortly after I read Columbine.  The subject matters of the two books are related.  While Columbine is nonfiction, The Hour I First Believed is a fictional account of one of the school nurses at Columbine High School that fateful day.  I have heard good things about this book and about Wally Lamb as an author.  I have never read any of Lamb’s work so I am excited to check his writing out.
  6. My mom text me a few days ago and told me that I needed to read The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck.  I had honestly never heard of this book until I received that text but it was published in 2012 and has TONS of positive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.  The book summary compares this book to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help, two books that I love so I’m hoping that I will love this one as well.  Sometimes, you just have to trust your momma!
  7. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Yance is a memoir of the author’s experience growing up in a middle-class, white, working family that started out poor.  I have heard many people discussing how this book relates to America’s current political climate and provides insight to how the current president won the election.  I’ve heard and read rave reviews on this book so I’m looking forward to digging into this one.
  8.   Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone is about a junior high school suffering from mental disorders that she hides from those around her.  Samantha’s mental struggles are intensified by the social struggles that many high school girls often face until Caroline befriends her and introduces her to a group of misfits that help Sam to begin to feel more “normal.”  I think mental health is such an important topic in our culture right now.  I’m excited to read this book.  I have several students who have read or are reading this book and I think it resonates with so many of them.  I’m hoping that by reading it myself I will better be able to identify students who might need a book like this in their lives.
  9. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney was published last year and I’ve heard quite a lot of chatter about this one.  This book is about four adult siblings who share an inheritance.  Even though all four are at different places in their lives and have different goals, they must work together to decide what to do with their shared inheritance.  This seems like an interesting story about a dysfunctional family which has been the premise of some of my favorite books.
  10. Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy, is at it again.  The first book of her newest series, Carve the Mark, was released in January.  I honestly haven’t heard much about this book but I really liked the Divergent series so I’m excited to see what else Veronica Roth has to offer.

 

What are some of the books that you are hoping to get your hands on this year?  What does your 2017 reading list look like?  Drop me a comment and give me some more ideas and suggestions to fill out the other forty books I need to read in order to reach my goal of 50 books in 2017!

Happy reading!

 

The Sea Garden

The Sea Garden
The Sea Garden

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on August 11, 2014.

The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson is divided into three separate novellas that do not seem to be connected too closely for most of the book. The first novella begins with an award winning garden designer traveling to a small island off the coast of France to restore a historical garden. Once she arrives on the island she meets a whole host of mysterious characters and the reader starts to realize that things are not quite what they seem.

The second and third novella transport the reader back to World War II. I enjoyed these two novellas much more than the first one. Each of the novellas was a short and interesting story but none of them really grabbed me and pulled me into the book. Towards the end of the third novella the author connects all three stories together. While it makes for a beautiful overall story, it began to feel very rushed at towards the end of the book. The last fifty pages it felt as if the author was trying to just hurry and wrap the book up. I think I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if the author had flushed the ending out a bit more.

Overall, I rated this book three stars. It was not my favorite book but it was well written and an interesting story.

3 Star Rating

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See

This book review was originally posted on The Wordy Nerd Books on July 22, 2014.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr tells the story of two teenagers during World War II.  Marie-Laure is sixteen and blind.  She lives in Paris with her father. Werner is sixteen and an orphan.  He lives in Germany where he is forced into service early.  His mechanical talent with radio equipment makes him a valuable commodity to the Germans.  Marie-Laure and Werner’s paths will cross briefly in one of the most endearing ways.

When  I started this book, I did not know much about the story.  I was aware that a main character was blind and that the story would take place during World War II.  After just a few chapters, I was already falling in love with the characters.  Doerr writes beautifully and weaves delicate themes throughout this narrative.  His descriptions often made me feel as if I was in France smelling the salty sea air with Marie-Laure. For me, Doerr’s writing made this one of those books that I desperately did not want to end but at the same time I couldn’t put it down.

While this book is lengthy, each chapter is very short, often only a page or two. I think this is evidence of the author’s background as a short story writer.  If you are hesitant to start this novel because of its size, I encourage you to try it anyway.  The short chapters break it into more manageable pieces and this truly is a book that you don’t want to miss out on.

Overall, I gave this book five stars.  I enjoyed the narrative and the beautiful language in this story.  Even though things did not always end as well as I would have liked, I found myself involved in the story and rooting for the characters.

5 Star Rating