Book Reviews: Commonwealth and Hag-Seed

I’ve almost completed my reading list for January! If you haven’t checked that list out, it’s posted here.

The only book I have left to read is All the Light We Cannot See, which I’m very excited to finally read.

I’ve decided that I’m going to post at least 2 book reviews each month, and I plan on reviewing books I have the most to talk about. I LOVED The Bronze Horseman (a historical fiction that takes place in Soviet Russia), and I may do a short blurb on it, but I’ve decided to focus on these two books instead.

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

4.5/5 stars

This is a contemporary novel that debuted in September 2016. The novel spans five decades, following the intertwined lives of two families, brought together by an affair, a separation, and several remarriages.

What most intrigued me while I was reading this novel, was how the various connections between the siblings and step-siblings played out throughout the years. The step-siblings only ever spend a handful of summers together, but their actions and relationships have a lasting effect on everyone around them. Caroline and Franny Keating are sisters, the daughters of Fix and Beverly Keating. Cal, Holly, Jeannette, and Albie Cousins are the children of Bert and Teresa Cousins. When Bert and Beverly begin and affair and then marry for several years, the six children become family, until that marriage dissolves as well.

There is an especially poignant moment towards the end of the novel, when Franny Keating cares for Teresa Cousins, in her old age. What an interesting coupling–Teresa is the mother of Franny’s ex-stepsiblings. Teresa and Franny had only ever seen each other once, at a funeral decades ago. The two are basically strangers, but Franny spends Teresa’s final moments with her, and when a nurse asks about their relationship, Franny calls Teresa her step-mother, even though there is no name for what Teresa really is to her. But Teresa is the mother to people Franny loves and sees as brothers and sisters and that’s enough to deeply connect two strangers.

The story is a nonlinear one. Each chapter dances between decades as Patchett slowly reveals more and more about the sibling’s lives. We learn that while in her twenties, Franny dates a famous novelist who writes a book based on the lives of her and her extended family. This fills her with regret, because she has given away a deeply personal story that may not be hers to tell, one that focuses on her ex-stepsiblings and once the story is out there is a struggle and an examination on the ownership of stories and memory.

“All the stories go with you, Franny thought, closing her eyes. All the things I didn’t listen to, won’t remember, never got right, wasn’t around for. All”

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

4/5 stars

The Tempest by William Shakespeare tells a tale of magic, fantasy, desire and revenge. Hag-Seed is such a layered retelling of the tempest, it is a play within a play. The book itself parallels The Tempest: Our main character, Felix is cunningly wronged and deposed of by a power-seeking individual. He is ousted as the Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival after a praised career. His wife and daughter have both tragically died, and at that moment he is betrayed by his protege who stages a coup and has Felix fired and physically removed from the theater. Felix than completely disappears from the world and spends years living in a shack, growing mad all whilst planning and obsessing over his growing plot for revenge. His daughter, Miranda, has now been dead for 12 years, but she grows up with him in that shack, and ever more real ghost he resurrects as his companion.

A decade into his obsession on revenge, he creates a new identity and gains a job as a teacher at a correctional facility. Years go by as he teaches the Literacy Through Theater class, until the time comes for him to produce The Tempest and enact his revenge. The reader gets to see the production The Tempest and the progression of Felix’s madness.

Hag-Seed is a fun read. It is dark and dramatic, and it pulls you in to Felix’s plot. You both understand him and hope for him, but you also understand that he cannot sustain this life he has carved out for himself, that Miranda cannot be tethered to him forever. I also found the chapter length to be a great set-up. Most chapters are only three pages long which allowed for quick reading and I felt it really fit the feel of the book (it made it more play-like). I would really recommend this to both fans of The Tempest and people who were never able to get into Shakespeare, because this is a really accessible way to jump in.

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Happy New Year and January TBR List

Happy New Year!!

It’s officially 2017 and my reading goal for the new year is a big one. I’m aiming to read 50 books in 2017. That will be 14 more books than my 2016 total of 36. It’s almost one book per week and I’m excited to get through many books that I’ve been dying to read for months and even years.

Here is my To Be Read list for the month of January:

  1. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett–Fiction, Contemporary
  2. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood–Fiction, Contemporary
  3. The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons–Historical Fiction
  4. The Thief’s Daughter by Jeff Wheeler–Fantasy, YA
  5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr–Historical Fiction
  6. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson–Fantasy, YA

 

2016 Wrap Up, Germany trip, and What’s Ahead

Total Books Read in 2016: 35

Total Comic Volumes Read in 2016: 11

I am really happy with having read 35 books in 2016. I started reading more heavily last May and it has been a pleasure to fall in love with reading once again.

These are my favorite reads of 2016. When I graduated from college two years ago, I scooped up as much contemporary literature I could find. I read Lauren Groff, Rebecca Solnit, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Celeste Ng, and Emily St. John Mande, to name a few. So when 2016 began I felt a shift. The last book I read in December of 2015 was Seveneves, a sci-fi book by Neal Stephenson about the destruction of our moon and a worldwide attempt to save the human race. Only a handful of people survive and the book then jumps 5000 years and we see seven distinct races comprised of 7 million people and I loved every moment of this book. The world-building, the complex female characters, the science. I was hooked.

So 2016 became the year of science-fiction and fantasy reading. Four of my top six picks are within those genres. I also grew to love graphic novels and comics. The first comic I ever read was Ms. Marvel, which tells the story of a muslim girl outsider and boy, did I pick a great character to start my journey with comics. I read the Harry Potter series for the first time. It was, of course, incredible. I also was introduced to Sarah J. Maas’ fantasy series and even got to meet her and get all my books signed. If you love sci-fi and kickass, complex female characters, check her out.

My top book of the year was, without a doubt, Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me. I wrote an in-depth review that you can check out here. Coates paints a striking picture of racism in America and I would recommend anyone read it.

This year was also the first time my boyfriend and I traveled together outside of the United States. We spend two weeks in Germany, exploring Bavaria, and it was an awesome experience. Lots of pictures coming, as I recap my trip via my photo diary.

Our favorite moments included hiking through the Black Forrest:

Visiting breathtaking castles:

Seeing as many museums and art as possible:

Spending two days at Oktoberfest in Munich:

And just enjoying the quiet of the southern Germany countryside:

One thing I will never forget about our trip is the feeling of riding our bicycles through the pouring rain, late at night in the murky darkness that is a midnight downpour, eager to get back to our small home after a day of museum exploring and drinking with new friends. We had taken three buses and then unlocked out bikes at the local train station. It was such a distinct feeling of an unideal situation and feeling exhausted but absolutely loving the moment in this strange country that had started to feel a bit less unknown.

If you read through this entire post, I’d like to thank you for sticking around. 2016 has been a challenging and exciting year. I’ve completed my year-long internship as a Volunteer Coordinator at a Bay Area nonprofit and I’ve been officially unemployed for a month now. I’m working at my internship, and dog-walking, and babysitting while I job hunt. This is the first time I haven’t worked fulltime in about 8 years and it’s a strange experience. I’ve enjoyed my time off but it is also my greatest wish to be able to post about a new job offer at I’ve accepted (at some awesome nonprofit that’s working to combat human right’s issues and systemic racism) sometime within the next two months. I’m excited about the coming year.

Reading Goal for 2017: 50 books!

That’s about a book a week. I plan on continuing to blog and I think I’m going to do a book review once a month on the best book I read for that month. I will also be letting you know which books I’ve read and doing a super quick review at the end of  every monthly TBR list.

That’s it for now. I’ll see you guys next year!

Back From Backpacking and October TBR List

Hey everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting in a while. It’s been a crazy busy time for me, as I mentioned before. Also, I just got back from spending a little over two weeks in Germany where I was backpacking through mostly Bavaria. As I predicted, I did not read much. I have four book reviews that I will be posting this coming week, but for now, I’m moving on to my October Reading List. After the list I will post some pictures from my trip and let you guys know how that went.

October To Be Read List

  1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas. This is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series. The fifth book just came out this week, and I’ve been saving this fourth one so that I could read the two close together. If anyone hasn’t read this series, you should. Feel free to check out my past reviews but I’ll give you a tiny summary of why: kickass genuine female characters with flaws and depth along with amazing fantasy worldbuilding.
  2. The Demon King by Cindi Williams. This has been on my list for a long time and has shifted around. I don’t know much about it. Many people recommended it to me and I’m happily staying in the dark.
  3. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It’s a funny book focuses on the angel and demon worlds meeting at the prophecized end of the world. I told myself I needed to stop reading every Neil Gaimain book there was and focus on other things, but it is Halloween-time so I will read what I like!
  4. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. Classic. Sciencefiction. I love Le Guin and I couldn’t go through October without some serious sci-fi.
  5. Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. I can’t be stopped. This is another Gaiman book that has been sitting on my shelf. I may read Nevermore instead. There will be some serious Gaiman-reading going on this month.

October’s list is smaller than other months for several reasons. First, some of these books are huge. Queen of Shadows is nearly 700 pages. Second, I tend to read Gaiman books slowly, as they are filled with fun magical things and I enjoy relishing in them a bit. Third, I’m going to be really busy at my internship as our largest annual fundraiser is coming up, so less time for reading.

Check out the lovely covers below.

Let me know what October book you suggest I read. I may need a sixth book and I’d love to read a thriller!

Summer update

Hey guys. This weekend I’m going to be writing up reviews for the books I read in June and later today I will be announcing my July TBR. So the goal was to read 8 books in June, and I knew going in that that would be pushing myself. I did not read all 8 books, but, you know what? I’m really proud of how much I ended up getting through.

In June I completed 5/8 books. I would have loved to have read more, but I was working a lot of overtime and some nights I would fall asleep the moment I got home, and well, there went my reading time. Still. I think 5 books in one month is a great month of reading.

My internship is going well, but we’re ramping up our programs during the summer, so I’ve been very busy. I spent several days at my boyfriend’s parents house to celebrate the 4th of July and that was a great break. Also, I get to go visit my family for an entire week this coming Sunday and I’m stoked. So that’s what’s going on in my life right now. Ahh now to go adjust my July TBR list. I’m going to aim for 6 books this month (a more reasonable goal) and so a few books need to get kicked off the list and I need to figure out what to do with the three books I didn’t get to this month.

Reading Update: First Half of June

Hello to anyone following along!

Yesterday was June 15th, so I should be halfway through with my reading list. Sadly, I am not where I aimed to be, but I am (possibly naively?) optimistic that I can get all of my June To Be Read books completed before the month is up.

Here are the books I’ve completed so far:

I plan on finishing Truthwitch by Susan Dennard today and The Witches by Stacy Schiff tomorrow. So I will have completed 4 out of 8 books at roughly the halfway point of the month. AND I have a three day weekend that starts this Friday, AND I have four days off during the last week of the month. I’m going to finish all of the books! 😀

Here’s a quick review of both of the books I’ve completed. A full review will be posted on the last day of June.

A Discovery of Witches

3 out of 5 stars

I enjoyed the mythology and the setting of this novel very much. I also enjoyed the characters for a lot of the book. The reason that it only received 3 out of 5 stars is because the writer fell into a lot of clichés that really took me out of the book. The female protagonist is so so special (see Chosen One definition) and the love interest is dark and broody (which I could deal with) and so protective that he ventures into controlling (and this is meant to be okay and attractive but it’s really not). The parts of the book that I loved were parts that dived into witchcraft or the relationship between the main pairing that had little to do with control and specialness. Also, this book has insta-love (love at first sight, soulmates immediately) which is something I dislike. I promise to talk about more of the things I liked in my longer review! haha.

Ufology # 1

4 out of 5 stars

This graphic novel was beautifully illustrated. I received it in this month’s Landfall Freight Box, which is a monthly graphic novel box subscription that focuses on female friendly graphic novels (they’re either written by women or feature strong female characters). I thoroughly enjoyed Ufology and I finished it in two readings. I think the pacing was great. I had trouble putting it down because the sense of mystery was so well developed that I just HAD to know how everything would end.

Okay, I’ll check in with you guys soon. Let me know what you’re reading this week in the comments!

Giveaway: Sarah J. Maas Personalized Signed Book

Hello lovely people who are following me as I begin this whole blogging journey.

As you may know, I’m currently reading the Throne of Glass series, and I am LOVING it. And as luck would have it, in about a month I get to meet Sarah J. Maas!

I will be attending an event for the release of A Court of Mist and Fury, the second book in her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I love getting to meet authors I admire and having some of my favorite books signed by them is such a great experience. So I want to open up this small gift to you guys, so that one of my followers can get a signed copy for themselves.

So here are the **GIVEAWAY RULES**

  1. You must be following my blog: https://endlesslyshifting.wordpress.com/
  2. You must live in the United States, as I will be shipping the signed copy out to you.
  3. You must leave a comment on this post, saying what you love most about Sarah’s writing, characters, books, etc.
  4. I will be allowing submissions up until April 30th. I will select one person to receive a personalized, signed copy of Sarah’s newest book, A Court of Mist and Fury.

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