Review: A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lonesome Lily Turned Scandalous Siren

Miss Lillian Hargrove has lived much of her life alone in a gilded cage, longing for love and companionship. When an artist offers her pretty promises and begs her to pose for a scandalous portrait, Lily doesn’t hesitate…until the lying libertine leaves her in disgrace. With the painting now public, Lily has no choice but to turn to the one man who might save her from ruin.

Highland Devil turned Halfhearted Duke

The Duke of Warnick loathes all things English, none more so than the aristocracy. It does not matter that the imposing Scotsman has inherited one of the most venerable dukedoms in Britain—he wants nothing to do with it, especially when he discovers that the unwanted title comes with a troublesome ward, one who is far too old and far too beautiful to be his problem.

Tartan Comes to Town

Warnick arrives in London with a single goal: get the chit married and see her become someone else’s problem, then return to a normal, quiet life in Scotland. It’s the perfect plan, until Lily declares she’ll only marry for love…and the Scot finds that there is one thing in England he likes far too much…

My Thoughts:

I thought the plot of A Scot in the Dark to be a refreshing change of pace. Instead of a typical virgin falls for friend turned lover plot, our heroine is decidedly not innocent. She makes a series of dumb choices in the name of love and now must live with the consequences. It was fun to read about Lillian and Warnick working together to save her reputation and her lack of ignorance made for some fun romps in the bedroom…and in a carriage.

Sarah MacLean always gives her female characters plenty of agency, and Lillian Hargrove is no exception. I appreciated the repetitive refrain that Lily chose to sit for the scandalous portrait. It was a conscious decision that she made, albeit a foolish one. Much of Lily’s journey is focused on owning up to her mistake and developing the courage to stand on her own two feet. And Warnick is certainly a different romantic lead than usual. His being from Scotland reinforced how little he fit in with the English aristocracy, which led to several hilarious encounters, usually him bursting out of his clothes!

Curiously, this book was a little slow in the beginning. It felt like a bit too much talk and not enough action. But the story moves along about halfway through, particularly with the addition of more characters. Other reviewers pointed out that the solution to this book’s central problem is obvious: steal the infamous painting back to protect Lily. But that never even occurred to me until it occurs to the characters in this story! Plot developments might seem obvious to some but are not so to others. This is a fun and witty novel that charms from beginning to end.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! Yes, romance novels can be a bit predictable, but that’s another reason to enjoy them. I like knowing what’s coming! This is the second book in a series and I look forward to reading the next one. Sarah MacLean books are always entertaining and I highly recommend her as an author.

This book is…

witty

charming

predictable

sexy

funny

Publisher: Avon

Genre: romance

Page Count: 342

ISBN: 0062465848

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read A Scot in the Dark? What other romance novels would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Women in Translation Readathon TBR

Hi, readers!

I’m excited to participate in a readathon that starts August 25 at midnight and ends on August 31 at midnight, with all times being in your time zone. I discovered this readathon on YouTube and you can watch the announcement video here. There are four prompts for this challenge and two bonus prompts. I sincerely doubt I will read six books in seven days. But I enjoy putting together TBRs for readathons and finding new to me books!

My TBR for this challenge includes…

Read something that is not a novel: Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

In these wildly imaginative, devilishly daring tales of the macabre, internationally bestselling author Mariana Enriquez brings contemporary Argentina to vibrant life as a place where shocking inequality, violence, and corruption are the law of the land, while military dictatorship and legions of desaparecidos loom large in the collective memory. In these stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortázar, three young friends distract themselves with drugs and pain in the midst a government-enforced blackout; a girl with nothing to lose steps into an abandoned house and never comes back out; to protest a viral form of domestic violence, a group of women set themselves on fire.

But alongside the black magic and disturbing disappearances, these stories are fueled by compassion for the frightened and the lost, ultimately bringing these characters—mothers and daughters, husbands and wives—into a surprisingly familiar reality. Written in hypnotic prose that gives grace to the grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a powerful exploration of what happens when our darkest desires are left to roam unchecked, and signals the arrival of an astonishing and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.

Read a book about childhood: The Impossible Fairy Tale by Yujoo Han

The Impossible Fairy Tale is the story of two unexceptional grade-school girls. Mia is “lucky”―she is spoiled by her mother and, as she explains, her two fathers. She gloats over her exotic imported color pencils and won’t be denied a coveted sweater. Then there is the Child who, by contrast, is neither lucky nor unlucky. She makes so little impression that she seems not even to merit a name.

At school, their fellow students, whether lucky or luckless or unlucky, seem consumed by an almost murderous rage. Adults are nearly invisible, and the society the children create on their own is marked by cruelty and soul-crushing hierarchies. Then, one day, the Child sneaks into the classroom after hours and adds ominous sentences to her classmates’ notebooks. This sinister but initially inconsequential act unlocks a series of events that end in horrible violence.

But that is not the end of this eerie, unpredictable novel. A teacher, who is also this book’s author, wakes from an intense dream. When she arrives at her next class, she recognizes a student: the Child, who knows about the events of the novel’s first half, which took place years earlier. Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale is a fresh and terrifying exploration of the ethics of art making and of the stinging consequences of neglect.

Read a book with red on the cover: The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami

Objects for sale at the Nakano Thrift Shop appear as commonplace as the staff and customers that handle them. But like those same customers and staff, they hold many secrets. If examined carefully, they show the signs of innumerable extravagancies, of immeasurable pleasure and pain, and of the deep mysteries of the human heart.

Hitomi, the inexperienced young woman who works the register at Mr. Nakano’s thrift shop, has fallen for her coworker, the oddly reserved Takeo. Unsure of how to attract his attention, she seeks advice from her employer’s sister, Masayo, whose sentimental entanglements make her a somewhat unconventional guide. But thanks in part to Masayo, Hitomi will come to realize that love, desire, and intimacy require acceptance not only of idiosyncrasies but also of the delicate waltz between open and hidden secrets.

Animating each delicately rendered chapter in Kawakami’s playful novel is Mr. Nakano himself, an original, entertaining, and enigmatic creation whose compulsive mannerisms, secretive love life, and impulsive behavior defy all expectations.

Read a book translated from a language you haven’t read before: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

Bonus Prompts!

Read a book that was translated posthumously: Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang

Shanghai, 1930s. Shen Shijun, a young engineer, has fallen in love with his colleague, the beautiful Gu Manzhen. He is determined to resist his family’s efforts to match him with his wealthy cousin so that he can marry the woman he truly loves. But dark circumstances–a lustful brother-in-law, a treacherous sister, a family secret–force the two young lovers apart. As Manzhen and Shijun go on their separate paths, they lose track of one another, and their lives become filled with feints and schemes, missed connections and tragic misunderstandings. At every turn, societal expectations seem to thwart their prospects for happiness. Still, Manzhen and Shijun dare to hold out hope–however slim–that they might one day meet again. A glamorous, wrenching tale set against the glittering backdrop of an extraordinary city, Half a Lifelong Romance is a beloved classic from one of the essential writers of twentieth-century China.

Read a text written by a Nobel Laureate: Secondhand Time by Svetlana Aleksievich

In Secondhand Time, Alexievich chronicles the demise of communism. Everyday Russian citizens recount the past thirty years, showing us what life was like during the fall of the Soviet Union and what it’s like to live in the new Russia left in its wake. Through interviews spanning 1991 to 2012, Alexievich takes us behind the propaganda and contrived media accounts, giving us a panoramic portrait of contemporary Russia and Russians who still carry memories of oppression, terror, famine, massacres—but also of pride in their country, hope for the future, and a belief that everyone was working and fighting together to bring about a utopia. Here is an account of life in the aftermath of an idea so powerful it once dominated a third of the world.

That’s all for today! Will you participate in this readathon? What books by women in translation would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!
Posted in TBR

Review: Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea knows everything about her mother, Laura. She knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one would ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The police want answers and Laura’s innocence is on the line, but she won’t speak to anyone, including her own daughter. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumb trail of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

My Thoughts:

First and foremost, whatever you think will happen next in this book, won’t. Any guesses or theories you might develop as you read will inevitably be wrong. Despite being almost 500 pages, Karin Slaughter’s writing kept me on the edge of my seat and hardly wanting to set this book down. Although the premise initially felt over the top, Slaughter took the story in an unexpected direction that somehow grounded the story. It’s always difficult to discuss a mystery novel without giving away the ending, but through the use of well placed flashbacks, the story ultimately comes together nicely.

At the beginning I struggled to like Andrea. At 31, her actions and attitude felt unrealistic. Maybe I’m biased because I don’t know any 31 year olds who are utterly floundering, but Andrea seemed too helpless to be real. Ironically, she really matured quickly and steps up to the plate once certain events unfold. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I liked her by the end, even though I think you’re supposed to, but she was significantly less annoying by the book’s conclusion. Laura was by far my favorite character, though. At the beginning, she is the kind of mother that everyone wants to be or have, and only becomes more fascinating as her story unfolds. Slaughter grounds Laura’s character in familiar tropes, which keeps her story from becoming a soap opera. The relationship between mother and daughter felt real, which is great as theirs is the central dynamic in this story.

I was really impressed with the pacing of this book. This story got inside my head and I never wanted to put the book down. There are some pop culture references that do date this writing and pulled me out of the story each time. At almost 500 pages, I do think some parts could have been cut, especially in the middle and at the end. But Slaughter obviously knows how to write a thriller, and I’m sure her other books are equally as good.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Pieces of Her is the first Karin Slaughter book I’ve read but I think I’ll start to work my way through her backlist soon. This book makes a great summer, vacation, or weekend read due to the fast pace. I would definitely recommend this book.

This book is…

shocking

suspenseful

well written

engaging

full of twists and turns

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 480

ISBN: 0062430270

Available here from IndieBound.

Will you read Pieces of Her? What other Karin Slaughter novels would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Review: Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Connor family is one of the few that is still left in their idyllic fishing village, Big Running; after the fish mysteriously disappeared, most families had no choice but to relocate and find work elsewhere. Aidan and Martha Connor now spend alternate months of the year working at an energy site up north to support their children, Cora and Finn. But soon the family fears they’ll have to leave Big Running for good. And as the months go on, plagued by romantic temptations new and old, the emotional distance between the once blissful Aidan and Martha only widens.

Between his accordion lessons and reading up on Big Running’s local flora and fauna, eleven-year-old Finn Connor develops an obsession with solving the mystery of the missing fish. Aided by his reclusive music instructor Mrs. Callaghan, Finn thinks he may have discovered a way to find the fish, and in turn, save the only home he’s ever known. While Finn schemes, his sister Cora spends her days decorating the abandoned houses in Big Running with global flair—the baker’s home becomes Italy; the mailman’s, Britain. But it’s clear she’s desperate for a bigger life beyond the shores of her small town. As the streets of Big Running continue to empty Cora takes matters—and her family’s shared destinies—into her own hands.

In Our Homesick Songs, Emma Hooper paints a gorgeous portrait of the Connor family, brilliantly weaving together four different stories and two generations of Connors, full of wonder and hope. Told in Hooper’s signature ethereal style, each page of this incandescent novel glows with mythical, musical wonder.

My Thoughts:

At its heart, Our Homesick Songs has a simple plot: the fish have fled the village and now families must relocate. But this book is actually about much more. Because the family must find alternate sources of employment, Aidan and Martha’s marriage is put to the test. But we also learn how they met and fell in love, which is just as creative, memorable, and endearing as one could hope. Because they live in a remote village, Cora yearns for travel and adventure, seeking it out anywhere she can make it. Because the fish are gone, Finn finds his own ways to preserve hope and lure the fish to return. It is through the straightforward plot that Hooper can focus on the characters and the threads that weave them together.

In many ways, the Connor family’s story is told through Finn. He asks to hear stories from his all-knowing accordion teacher, and thus we learn about his parents’ childhoods. Through these stories, we learn that Martha adores her family and Aidan feels the weight of providing. When Aidan and Martha talk on the phone, Finn picks up and eavesdrops. It is clear that Aidan and Martha adore one another, as well as their children, making their current employment situation unbearable. Cora crafts marvelous displays and allows Finn to see the completed project. I loved Cora and found her to be clever, tenacious, and determined. But most of all, I loved Finn. He is incredibly hopeful and goes about his plans with a childlike determination and certainty. He takes care of his family however he can and in his own creative ways.

I was struck by the lyrical writing of this book. The opening line, “There was a mermaid, said Finn,” really sets the tone. Hooper uses folk songs and folklore to connect each of the Connor’s stories in both the past and the present. Beautiful imagery of the sea, ships, and mermaids cast a ‘tale as old as time’ light on this story, signifying that this has all happened before and will all happen again. Mrs. Callaghan’s stories also add to this, for she is presented as a beloved recluse who has seen all this before.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down and finished it within 24 hours. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who enjoys quiet stories about family life.

This book is…

quiet

beautifully written

engaging

lyrical

memorable

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 336

ISBN: 150112448X

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Our Homesick Songs? What quiet family life novel would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

25inFive Readathon TBR

Hi, readers!

I thought I’d share my TBR for the next few days. I’m participating in the 25inFive Readathon! The only ‘rule’ for participation is to read for 25 hours over the course of five days. The readathon begins today and ends on August 13. You can find more information about this readathon on their Instagram page. I enjoy readathons as a way to read more than usual or to read books I normally wouldn’t choose. Will I read 25 hours in the next five days? We shall see!

And the books on my TBR are…

The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes–and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil’s inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship–its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses–and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester

The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead—an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family—especially his wife, Elda—to let him redeem himself.

Isabel and Martin settle into married life in a Texas border town, and Omar returns each year on the celebratory Day of the Dead. Every year Isabel listens, but to the aggrieved Martin and Elda, Omar’s spirit remains invisible. Through his visits, Isabel gains insight into not just the truth about his disappearance and her husband’s childhood but also the ways grief can eat away at love. When Martin’s teenage nephew crosses the Mexican border and takes refuge in Isabel and Martin’s home, questions about past and future homes, borders, and belonging arise that may finally lead to forgiveness—and alter all their lives forever.

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor was working on Everything That Rises Must Converge at the time of her death. This collection is an exquisite legacy from a genius of the American short story, in which she scrutinizes territory familiar to her readers: race, faith, and morality. The stories encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque; each carries her highly individual stamp and could have been written by no one else.

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander

The bride and groom cordially request the presence of…

The bride’s sister, Delilah, the very proper widowed Lady Hargate, and Samuel Russell, the groom’s friend, a very eligible, slightly improper bachelor, at their upcoming wedding.

Lady Hargate and Mr. Russell, previously acquainted during one unforgettable night in New York City when caution–and clothing–were thrown to the wind will choose to pretend they have never met before.

The lady plans to avoid love and its complications at all costs.The gentleman intends to change her mind.

Guests are invited to enjoy the many diversions of Millworth Manor–delightful grounds, lavish drawing rooms, secluded corners–and the chance to discover that one night may have been only the beginning. . .

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

That’s it for today! Will you participate in the 25inFive Readathon? What are you reading this weekend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!
Posted in TBR

Review: The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

My Thoughts:

I love that every time I pick up a Louise Penny book, I feel like I’m returning to my favorite place. Penny eloquently captures the look and feel of such a small town, and highlights its charms and its drawbacks. Three Pines is very much its own character in this series which adds to the warmth and heart of these books. Frankly, every returning character feels like running into an old friend.

The Brutal Telling stands out from the previous stories in that the prime suspect is one we’ve all grown to love! Olivier is a wonderful character, and I especially enjoy reading his interactions with his partner, Gabri, and the descriptions of the wonderful food he makes. I was shocked that Olivier fell under suspicion and that the plot ultimately unfolds the way it does. I trust that Penny has a larger plan for the following novels and that everything will ultimately work out.

I also appreciated that Penny featured Indigenous persons in this book. While I admit to not knowing much about Canadian history, I do know that Canada treated Indigenous tribes and persons horrifically. And the characters in The Brutal Telling do not shy away from these facts. Reading this book has inspired me to learn more about Indigenous communities and how both Canada and the US got so much wrong. I’m specifically looking to read from the Indigenous perspective and from #OwnVoices authors. If you have any recommendations, leave a comment below!

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The Brutal Telling has some shocking plot developments that really shake up Three Pines. It’s no surprise here that I’m a big fan of Louise Penny. If you’re looking for a great mystery series, I’d highly recommend this one. While you can read this mystery series in any order, I do suggest you begin with the first novel, Still Life . You can also read my reviews of the first three Penny novels here.

This book is…

cozy

shocking

beautifully written

full of new and beloved characters

educational

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: mystery

Page Count: 386

ISBN: 1250161665

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Brutal Telling? What cozy mystery novel would you recommend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Weekend Reading: 8/3/2018

Hi, readers!

Can you believe it’s already the first Friday in August? I swear, the months just fly by as I get older. Last weekend I shared the books I planned to read, and I had so much fun with that, I think I’ll continue this as a series! Below are three books I’m planning to read this weekend. I’ve chosen three books as a I think that’s a nice solid number and will also offer some variety in my reading.

This weekend I’m reading…

The Last Thing I Told You by Emily Arsenault

Therapist Dr. Mark Fabian is dead, bludgeoned in his office. But that doesn’t stop former patient Nadine Raines from talking to him — in her head. Why did she come back to her hometown after so many years away? Everyone here thinks she’s crazy. And she has to admit, they might have good reason to think so. She committed a shockingly violent act when she was sixteen and has never really been able to explain that dark impulse, even to Fabian. Now that Fabian’s dead, why is she still trying?

Meanwhile, as Detective Henry Peacher investigates Fabian’s death, he discovers that shortly before he died Fabian pulled the files of two former patients. One was of Nadine Raines, one of Henry’s former high school classmates. Henry still remembers the disturbing attack on a teacher that marked Nadine as a deeply troubled teen. More shockingly, the other file was of Johnny Streeter who is now serving a life sentence for a mass shooting five years ago. The shooting devastated the town and everyone — including Henry who is uncomfortable with the “hero” status the tragedy afforded him — is ready to move on. But the appearance of his file brings up new questions.

Maybe there is a decades-old connection between Nadine and Streeter. And maybe that somehow explains what Nadine is doing in Fabian’s office nearly twenty years after being his patient. Or how Fabian ended up dead two days after her return. Or why Nadine has fled town once again. But as Nadine and Henry head toward a confrontation, both will discover that the secrets of people’s hearts are rarely simple and even in the hidden depths of a psychologist’s files, rarely as they appear.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway –a day that is taken up with running minor errands in preparation for a party and that is punctuated, toward the end, by the suicide of a young man she has never met. In giving an apparently ordinary day such immense resonance and significance–infusing it with the elemental conflict between death and life–Virginia Woolf triumphantly discovers her distinctive style as a novelist. Originally published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s first complete rendering of what she described as the “luminous envelope” of consciousness: a dazzling display of the mind’s inside as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

That’s it for today! What are you reading this weekend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Reading Wrap Up: July 2018

Hi, readers!

It’s that time again! As July comes to a close, I’m sharing the books I read this month. All things considered, this was a pretty good reading month. I really enjoyed so many of these!

This month I read…

Books: 8

Books by women: 8 / 8

Books by PoC: 1 / 8

Favorite pick of the month: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Now, onto the books!

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy – an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (read my review here!)

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (read my review here!)

January 1946: Writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (read my review here!)

Set in modern-day India, it is the story of two compelling and achingly real women: Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife whose opulent surroundings hide the shame and disappointment of her abusive marriage, and Bhima, a stoic illiterate hardened by a life of despair and loss, who has worked in the Dubash household for more than twenty years.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (read my review here!)

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

At thirty-six, Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.

Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery.

Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and the sweet tastes of home. As Hope pieces together her family’s history, she finds horrific Holocaust stories mixed with powerful testimonies of her family’s will to survive in a world gone mad. And to reunite two lovers torn apart by terror, all she’ll need is a dash of courage, and the belief that God exists everywhere, even in cake…

Unthinkable by Helen Thomson

Our brains are far stranger than we think. We take for granted that we can remember, feel emotion, navigate, empathize, and understand the world around us, but how would our lives change if these abilities were dramatically enhanced–or disappeared overnight?

Helen Thomson has spent years traveling the world, tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders. In Unthinkable she tells the stories of nine extraordinary people she encountered along the way. From the man who thinks he’s a tiger to the doctor who feels the pain of others just by looking at them to a woman who hears music that’s not there, their experiences illustrate how the brain can shape our lives in unexpected and, in some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.

Story by remarkable story, Unthinkable takes us on an unforgettable journey through the human brain. Discover how to forge memories that never disappear, how to grow an alien limb, and how to make better decisions. Learn how to hallucinate and how to make yourself happier in a split second. Find out how to avoid getting lost, how to see more of your reality, even how exactly you can confirm you are alive. Think the unthinkable.

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

When Wicked Comes Calling…

When a mysterious stranger finds his way into her bedchamber and offers his help in landing a duke, Lady Felicity Faircloth agrees—on one condition. She’s seen enough of the world to believe in passion, and won’t accept a marriage without it.

The Wallflower Makes a Dangerous Bargain…

Bastard son of a duke and king of London’s dark streets, Devil has spent a lifetime wielding power and seizing opportunity, and the spinster wallflower is everything he needs to exact a revenge years in the making. All he must do is turn the plain little mouse into an irresistible temptress, set his trap, and destroy his enemy.

For the Promise of Passion…

But there’s nothing plain about Felicity Faircloth, who quickly decides she’d rather have Devil than another. Soon, Devil’s carefully laid plans are in chaos, and he must choose between everything he’s ever wanted…and the only thing he’s ever desired.

That’s it for this month! What books did you finish this month?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

Weekend Reading: 7/27/2018

Hi, readers!

Happy Friday! Anyone have fun plans this weekend? I’m thinking maybe a movie, and definitely lots of reading time! Today I thought I’d share three books I’m hoping to read this weekend. I sincerely doubt I’ll finish all three of these by Monday, but it’s always nice to have a goal!

This weekend I’m reading…

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

The Santiago family lives in a gated community in Bogotá, safe from the political upheaval terrorizing the country. Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to this protective bubble, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation.

When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. But Petrona’s unusual behavior belies more than shyness. She is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.

If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim

When the communist-backed army from the North invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee, along with her widowed mother and ailing brother, is forced to flee to a refugee camp along the coast. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family’s makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan.

Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn’t realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi—and is determined to marry her before joining the fight. But as Haemi becomes a wife, then a mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for the security of her family sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

At thirty-six, Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.

Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery.

Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and the sweet tastes of home. As Hope pieces together her family’s history, she finds horrific Holocaust stories mixed with powerful testimonies of her family’s will to survive in a world gone mad. And to reunite two lovers torn apart by terror, all she’ll need is a dash of courage, and the belief that God exists everywhere, even in cake…

That’s it for today! What are you reading this weekend?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!
Posted in TBR

5 Star Review Predictions: Round Two!

Hi, readers!

I hope your week is treating you well. I just finished a fantastic work of nonfiction that I can’t wait to review here! Earlier this year I shared five books from my shelves that I thought I would award five stars. I’ve shared one round of 5 Star Predictions previously on the blog, and you can read my selected books for that in this post and then my reviews of those books in this post. I really enjoyed this project and am excited to announce another round today! I’ll be using this round to read some backlist books. Nothing too new to see here!

I’ll be reading…

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Two years after the events of Case Histories left him a retired millionaire, Jackson Brodie has followed Julia, his occasional girlfriend and former client, to Edinburgh for its famous summer arts festival. But when he witnesses a man being brutally attacked in a traffic jam – the apparent victim of an extreme case of road rage – a chain of events is set in motion that will pull the wife of an unscrupulous real estate tycoon, a timid but successful crime novelist, and a hardheaded female police detective into Jackson’s orbit. Suddenly out of retirement, Jackson is once again in the midst of several mysteries that intersect in one giant and sinister scheme.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

At thirty-six, Hope McKenna-Smith is no stranger to bad news. She lost her mother to cancer, her husband left her for a twenty-two year old, and her bank account is nearly depleted. Her own dreams of becoming a lawyer long gone, she’s running a failing family bakery on Cape Cod and raising a troubled preteen.

Now, Hope’s beloved French-born grandmother Mamie, who wowed the Cape with her fabulous pastries for more than fifty years, is drifting away into a haze of Alzheimer’s. But in a rare moment of clarity, Mamie realizes that unless she tells Hope about the past, the secrets she has held on to for so many years will soon be lost forever. Tantalizingly, she reveals mysterious snippets of a tragic history in Paris. And then, arming her with a scrawled list of names, she sends Hope to France to uncover a seventy-year-old mystery.

Hope’s emotional journey takes her through the bakeries of Paris and three religious traditions, all guided by Mamie’s fairy tales and the sweet tastes of home. As Hope pieces together her family’s history, she finds horrific Holocaust stories mixed with powerful testimonies of her family’s will to survive in a world gone mad. And to reunite two lovers torn apart by terror, all she’ll need is a dash of courage, and the belief that God exists everywhere, even in cake…

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

That’s it for today! Have you read any of the books mentioned above? What books on your shelves do you think you’ll give five stars?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you hoose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!
Posted in TBR