Tome Topple Update & Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon TBR

Hi, readers!

Today I’m covering two topics: my Tome Topple project for 2018 and the upcoming Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. That’s right, I finally (finally!) finished The Odyssey! I’m also really looking forward to the readathon this weekend as a means to make some serious progress on my reading for the month. In April, as you’ll see in my forthcoming April Wrap Up post, I finished two big books this month, each of which were over 500 pages. While I’m definitely proud of this accomplishment, it has impacted the quantity of books I read this month. I’m hoping to boost that number this weekend!

But first, let me share some thoughts on The Odyssey. I am not at all ashamed to admit this book took me months to read given its impressive page count and detailed story. I especially enjoyed this translation because Emily Wilson provided fantastic notes and book summaries that really went a long way to help me understand the story and countless references. Also, Wilson’s text is very straightforward, which made the language much easier to understand. I definitely recommend Wilson’s translation for these reasons. The Odyssey is lyrical, epic, tumultuous, moving, and intense. If you’ve never read it before, you should definitely try reading it soon!

As for my next Tome Topple choice, I think I’ll read Jane Eyre. To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve never read this one! I’m looking forward to reading it at last. You can also read my Tome Topple TBR post here, in which I highlight the four big books I want to read this year.

Finally, I’m sharing my TBR for the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. It starts this Saturday, April 28 at 8:00AM EST. The goal for this readathon is to read as much as possible in 24 hours! This weekend I plan to read…

American Panda by Gloria Chao

I’ve had an ARC of this for awhile now and am excited to finally read it!

Every Other Weekend by Zulema Renee Summerfield

This is a newly released library hold that I discovered courtesy of Book Riot’s Ready, Set, Hold series.

She Caused a Riot by Hannah Jewell

This is also an ARC. It’s full of short entries about famous, infamous, and not at all known women throughout history. I think this book will be a great way to break up my reading throughout the day!

That’s it for today! Are you participating in the readathon this weekend? What book(s) will you read?

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: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the premise of The Belles, and how Dhonielle Clayton blends our reality, fantasy, and folklore in order to craft this unique world. This book had a number of twists and turns that I never saw coming! I’m hopeful that Clayton can continue the suspense in future Belle books. The level of detail in this book is astonishing. Clayton takes the time to name exact shades and hues of colors used in clothing and beauty treatments. While this attention to detail certainly enhanced the richness of this fictional world, I sometimes found it distracting. I wanted Clayton to move slightly faster with the plot or a tumultuous scene and be spared every single detail. The pacing of The Belles ultimately led me to rate this book four stars instead of five. At over 400 pages, some of the details could surely have been spared.

This book is a wonderful reimagining of our society’s obsession with physical appearances and beauty. Clayton makes a number of jabs at forced unrealistic body modifications and the desire to look like someone else. Camellia, and presumably the other Belles but the reader is not privy to their inner thoughts, hesitates to alter someone’s appearance drastically or negatively. She believes that humans should look different from one another. In The Belles, the characters most obsessed with beauty are portrayed negatively, which again serves as a criticism of our culture. On the positive side, I loved that Clayton showcased a wide variety of hair colors and textures, skin tones, and facial features without privileging a specific look. This choice not only proves that diversity can be this easy, but also emphasizes that beauty is not one look only. Humans come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and all of which are beautiful.

I really liked Camellia as a protagonist. And this may seem odd, but one of my favorite things about Camellia is that she always acts her age. By this, I mean that Clayton knows how a sixteen year old girl behaves. Despite the enormous pressure Camellia faces, we see her real age and self as she interacts with boys for the first time, learns to stand up for herself, and has lots of impulsive reactions. I also loved the strong female-female relationships showcased in this book. While not all of these relationships were positive, a number were. Camellia and Bree, her servant, are honest and trusting of one another. And Camellia has a beautiful sisterly relationship with her Belle sisters that feels realistic and heartfelt. Clayton clearly prioritized having well-defined characters, and it shows.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! The Belles is a fun read that I would definitely recommend for some light weekend reading. I think this book serves as a great introduction to the as yet unpublished books in this series, and this one ends on a nice cliffhanger. This is a YA book, but I don’t think that should stop adults from reading The Belles!

This book is…

detailed

surprising

diverse

lengthy

a great first book for this series

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Genre: YA fantasy

Page Count: 440

ISBN: 1484728491

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read The Belles? What YA fantasy book 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!

Book Series I Love

Hi, readers!

Happy Friday! This week was pretty busy doing things with family, preparing for some upcoming life shifts, and reevaluating this blog. You may have noticed there was no blog post yesterday. This was a conscious choice as I’ve moved to posting three times a week instead of five. This change will allow me to focus on longer and more informative posts, which is important to me, and is also in anticipation of some upcoming life changes. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy this week there hasn’t been much time for reading! I’m hoping to read a lot this weekend to play catch up and get back in the swing of reading.

As for what I’ll be reading this weekend, I’m hoping to make some more progress on The Odyssey, as translated by Emily Wilson. I only have 139 pages left! I’ve been very slowly reading this book for the longest time now and am determined to finish it before the month is out. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about it! I am really enjoying it but am finding it difficult to fall into the book, which has led to my picking it up in small segments. One book that is not difficult for me to read is The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. This is the first book in what will be a YA fantasy series (and is therefore relevant to today’s post) and I’m loving it so far! I’m about 180 pages in and I really appreciate all the world building that Clayton did, as well as all the luscious detail that really makes the story come alive.

And finally, today’s post is all about book series. By the way, in my opinion, for it to count as a series, there must be at least three major books. Smaller prequel and in between novels are excluded from this. I always love starting a new series. There’s something so exciting about knowing an entire world awaits you! However I sometimes forget to keep up with a series. I find it’s easiest for me to play catch up and read several books in a row, knowing that the next book I’ll need is ready to read. So there are a number of series of which I’ve read one or two books and stopped!

Today I’m recommending several book series, broken up in two groups. The first grouping are series of which I’ve read all the books and loved them. I may not necessarily have read each and every little mini book that accompanies the main books, but I’ve definitely read the main ones. The second grouping are series that I’ve started and loved but haven’t finished. Here’s hoping this post inspires me to revisit them!

And now, onto those books!

Series I’ve Finished

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

There are currently three books in this series, but many more are already planned. This is, quite possibly, my favorite fantasy series. I love that they’re inspired by Beauty and the Beast and are full of surprising twists and turns. My favorite book is the second in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury. But this is definitely a series you should start from the beginning.

Lady Sherlock by Sherry Thomas

This is a fun mystery series that reimagines Sherlock Holmes as an alias for a young woman cast out of society due to some unfortunate choices. I love the ways Thomas plays with the Sherlock Holmes stories. While only two books are published thus far, the third is coming out this fall. And I’m counting this series in this category because I’ve read the first two books!

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

There are four major books in this series and a number of smaller in between books. The Lunar Chronicles is a fun YA sci-fi series that is inspired by fairy tales. We see updated versions of those original stories that are fun, clever, and more feminist in tone. These books do get progressively longer throughout the series but they’re all quick reads and very engaging.

Series I Haven’t Finished

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache by Louise Penny

It’s no secret that I’m in love with Louise Penny, Armand Gamache, and all that Three Pines has to offer. As of right now there are thirteen books in this series and I’ve only read three! While I definitely want to keep reading, I also want to savor these delightful mysteries. My very rough goal is to catch up with this series by the end of the year.

Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French

French crafted a fantastic mystery series with the Dublin Murder Squad. These books are dark, psychological thrillers that will keep you on the edge if your seat! French’s books can be read out of order as they follow the same detective squad, but the events within each book are not sequential in the larger series. I’ve only read two out of the six books in this series and am looking forward to reading the rest.

Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

I love Miss Marple! Actually, I love all things Agatha Christie and the Miss Marple books are always a delight. There are a whopping fifteen books in this series, of which I’ve read five. The Miss Marple mysteries are clever, funny, short, and sweet, so I highly recommend giving them a go. I always try to guess the solution but am always bested by this elderly detective!

That’s it for today! What series would you recommend? What will you be 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!

On Rereading Books

Hi, readers!

As you probably saw in yesterday’s post, I recently reread Little Women. It was great to revisit that classic novel and remember why I love it so much. While writing my review of Little Women, I got to thinking more about rereading books

I know some people think that rereading books is a waste of time. There are so many books to read and never enough time, so why “waste” time rereading? In my opinion, rereading books is fantastic. I don’t do it often, but I always enjoy it. Rereading a book is actually easier for your brain because your brain doesn’t have to work as hard to process entirely new information. When you already know the plot and characters, it’s more fun to focus on smaller details, broader themes, and other details.

I also think that when we reread books at various times in our lives, we can have different responses. For example, reading Little Women as a teenager might elicit one emotion and one favorite March sister, versus reading it as an adult. As we move through life, we as readers can better connect to various books.

And speaking of rereading, here are three books that I’d love to reread this year:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

That’s it for today! Do you like to reread books? Which ones 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: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

My Thoughts:

One of the things I love about Little Women is that the story follows the March family through many years of their lives. Over time, we see the March family experience all sorts of different situations as they grow up together. Their trials run the gamut from sisterly quarrels, standing up for oneself, disagreeing with a husband, and learning to love. I find Little Women to be such a comforting book, for Alcott crafted the March family with considerable care and love.

Each and every character in Little Women is well rounded, charming, and fun to read. I always love reading Jo’s struggle to overcome her quick temper. As I myself suffer from the same fiery tongue and easily provoked emotions. I think many people would benefit from taking Mareme’s advice to heart, and think before speaking. Jo is often the favorite of the March sisters, but I’m also a big fan of Meg. She is bright, well mannered, and kind. But more importantly, I love Meg for her faults and how she tries to overcome them. The March family is poor and Meg, despite her overflowing love for her family, is tired of being poor. She wants to have nice things and not have to worry about paying for them. I really appreciate reading Meg’s struggles with this as I think that it’s a common feeling for most people. We all want the luxury to buy nice things when we want without breaking the bank. Meg works hard to be more patient and considerate when it comes to making purchases.

At times this book can feel a bit preachy with some of its religious overtones. But the lessons learned in this book are always well intended, helpful, and more about having a bigger heart, loving one another, and honoring one’s family. I enjoy these lessons, even as an adult. I think many of the lessons preached in this book could be beneficial to many people and there’s always something to learn from Little Women.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I loved this book! This was my second time reading Little Women and I loved it even more the second time around. I think this book is a classic for good reason and is definitely a book that everyone should read. This story would also make an excellent read aloud!

This book is…

heartwarming

lovely

enlightening

touching

endearing

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: classics

Page Count: 504

ISBN: 0143106651

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Little Women? What classics 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!

Page Turning Recommendations

Hi, readers!

Happy Monday! Did you read anything fun this weekend? I made some great progress on Little Women and now only have about 100 pages to go! Today’s post is for anyone who loves to get lost in a good book. I especially love to settle in with an engaging read on the weekends, when the weather is bad, when the weather is nice and you can open a window…actually, pretty much anytime!

Today I’m sharing five books with you that I found incredibly difficult to put down. They’re so enticing, you’ll read them in just a few sittings and find yourself constantly thinking about the storyline and what the characters will do next. Let’s get right to these recommendations so you can choose your next great read for this weekend!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

If you haven’t read Big Little Lies by now, this should be your very next read. This book beautifully weaves several storylines following a group of women and mothers, the choices they must live with, and the lies they tell. Plus, there’s been a murder! I also highly recommend the HBO series, but please read the book first. And don’t be fooled by the long page count. You’ll read this in an afternoon.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is the first book in Meyer’s YA fantasy Lunar Chronicles series that is, broadly, a retelling of some classic fairy tales. Cinder is a fantastic start to this series and begins as a modern/futuristic retelling of Cinderella. This book is funny, smart, high energy, and enthralling. If you read this one, you’ll definitely want to continue with the series!

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

This is the first book in MacLean’s Rules of Scoundrels series. It’s a super quick read that will have you laughing, blushing, and practically inhaling the story and these characters. The characters in this book appear through the rest of the series, and I promise you’ll fall hard for this duo as they move from friends to lovers. I previously reviewed this book and you can read my review here.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

This book is a reimagining of what happened to the infamous Borden family. If you don’t know, Lizzie Borden was arrested, tried, and exonerated for the brutal axe murders of her father and stepmother. Talk about an unputdownable read! By shifting points of view, this book will have you on your toes and eager to learn more about this unsolved mystery. I previously reviewed this book and you can read my review here.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Last but not least, we have another mystery recommendation! This book came out earlier this year and has remained popular. Inspired by Hitchcock films, this story will devour you. Page after page will leave you wondering who to trust and questioning what’s actually going on. I read the whole thing in one day because I couldn’t put it down! I previously reviewed this book and you can read my review here.

That’s it for today! Have you read any of these books? What page turner 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!

5 4 3 2 1 – #14

5 Articles I’m Reading

Book Riot has a mystery giveaway!

Modern Mrs. Darcy shared 20 books in translation.

“Reading About the Worst Parts of Motherhood Makes Me Less Afraid.”

Stop reading mediocre books. Just stop.

YA Women of Color Authors to Add to Your Reading List, brought to you by Shondaland.

4 Shows/Movies I’m Watching

Cocktail

Frasier

Mad Men

A Series of Unfortunate Events

3 New to Me Books

Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan by Chloe Coscarelli

Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face by Lauren Toyota

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

2 Books I’m Currently Reading

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

1 Quote

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

Louisa May Alcott

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!

Currently Reading: April 2018

Hi, readers!

Today’s post is going to be a quick one. I’m in the midst of moving, which is understandably taking up most of my time. However, today I’m going to share the two books I’m currently reading.

Let’s get right to it!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This is a reread for me and I’m enjoying it just as much now as I did before! I’m reading it now for a little book club I have with two friends from college and neither has read it before. I’m really looking forward to our discussion! I’m about halfway through and need to finish this book in the next week and a half.

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

Yep. I’m still reading this one. But I am determined to finish it before April is over! Wish me luck, everyone.

That’s it for today! Have you read either of these books? What are you reading lately?

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: Happiness by Heather Harpham

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant – Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn’t want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie’s arrival, Heather’s bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, “Get dressed, your baby is in trouble.”

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled “like sliced apples and salted pretzels” but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie’s condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham’s writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions – new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it’s a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.

My Thoughts:

I’m grateful that Heather Harpham chose to write her experiences and share them in a book as a way for others to attempt to understand what she went through. I recently read an article on LitHub about the importance and power of ‘regular person memoirs’, or, essentially, someone going through something that many other people do. While having a sick child is not the most commonplace experience, it’s certainly more common than we’d like to think. It was astonishing to read about Gracie’s childhood and how her illness impacted her family.

Harpham’s writing style is simple, straightforward, and also meaningful. She writes eloquently about loss, motherhood, growing up, love, and family. I appreciate that she does not shy away from these difficult experiences. Instead, Harpham leans into them in order to better understand what happened. The title and subtitle of this book are spot on and make even more sense as the story progresses. Happiness is not always as straightforward as one might think. Instead, we must find our own ways to be happy and to find moments of happiness within more trying times. And as for the ‘crooked little road to semi-ever after’? I think it suggests that nothing is permanent and life does not always trod along as we’d expect. But despite life’s twists and turns, we can still find happiness.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I am amazed that Harpham was able to recount her experiences for others to read. She does so with grace, humility, and love. I read this book as an act of love for her family, through good times and bad. This is a pretty quick read and I would definitely recommend it. I think it would be a great choice for book clubs!

This book is…

moving

lyrical

well-written

heartwarming

engaging

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Genre: memoir

Page Count: 320

ISBN: 1250131561

Available here from IndieBound.

Have you read Happiness? What memoirs 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!

European Historical Fiction Recommendations

Hi, readers!

As you may have noticed, I love reading historical fiction. I enjoy reading about time periods other than my own, with different day to day tasks. I especially enjoy novels set either during or just after WWI and WWII. Give me a good period drama any day! And as I prepared today’s post of recommendations, I realized that many of my favorites are set in Europe. And so, without further ado, today I’m sharing eight historical fiction books set in either England or France.

Here we go!

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

You’ve likely seen my review of The Alice Network, as I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog. This book was a little slow to start for me but quickly became one of my favorite books! It’s a beautiful drama following two women, one working as a British spy during WWI and the other searching for a long lost cousin in France after WWII.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

This is a great first novel of a mystery series following a young woman working as a private investigator after WWII in England. I really enjoyed this story and found Maisie to be a bit like Sherlock Holmes! You can read my review here.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Fasten your seatbelts, because this book is quite the ride! This is one of my favorite books ever. It follows two sisters living in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. Each woman makes her own choices in order to survive the war and must learn to live with her decisions. Be sure to have Kleenex ready!

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I really enjoyed this book about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Elizabeth Hadley, and their time together in Paris in the 1920s. This is a fantastic introduction to this relationship and a great way to learn more about Hadley as a person.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

If you’re looking for a fun escape, look no further than the Pink Carnation! This book is great because it follows two timelines: one in present day England as a young woman works on her thesis project, and the other in 1800s England. It’s funny, charming, sexy, and very entertaining!

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

This is a beautiful story about two sisters searching for one another after WWI. Through a series of events, they are separated during the London bombings. I was really touched at the lengths to which they went to find one another and reunite.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

You’ve likely heard of this excellent Sherlock Holmes retelling! In this first book of a new series, Sherlock Holmes is the detective alias of a young woman trying to support herself. This book is clever, funny, and delightful if you’re a fan of the Sherlock Holmes story.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Gregory is well known for writing excellent historical fiction and this book is no exception! This story follows Elizabeth of York, her new marriage to Henry Tudor, and the missing heir to the throne. It’s exciting, fast paced, and enlightening!

That’s it for today! What historical fiction books 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!