Library Danger Zone!

I am next in line for SIX of my NINE holds at the library. I like to refer to this as the Library Danger Zone. It’s my nightmare that I get all the books I’ve been waiting for all at the same time! While I do get to keep them checked out for 21 days, and consider myself a fast reader… There’s no way I can read 2 books at the same time!


I am really really excited for some of these books. I hope that I have enough time to read and savor each one fully – I have been waiting for some of these titles for a MONTH, and for Missoula over 2 MONTHS!

sept-holds2The one redeeming factor is that I’ve already read a third of The Vacationers – my library loan ended before I finished, and the ebook was taken away from me.

This is one benefit of borrowing ebooks – you can’t keep them past their due date. It keeps me motivated to keep on reading – especially when I’ve been waiting for months to get a book, there is no way it is going to languish on my end table! And then be taken away before I’m done with it!! Oh hell no.

I will keep you updated if Library Book-pocalypse happens…. I really hope it doesn’t, and that I get a few days head start on each before they start rolling in. Keep your fingers crossed for me!


Ask the Internet and you shall receive! POC Reading List

After my disappointment over Sue Monk Kidd being a white lady, I did a quick google search for “historical fiction written by poc” and I am so thrilled to have found an awesome list by Marilyn at Me, You, and Books.

Here is her list of historical fiction, memoirs, and mysteries by people of color, mostly women of color. WOW. I am SO GLAD that google brought me to her blog. I am blown away by her knowledge, breadth of reading, writing style… I pretty much want to read each one of her recommendations, and start a fan club for the lady herself….,  here are just a few books from the list that caught my eye and are going straight onto my “to read next” list:

The Moor’s Account, by Laila Lalami.   A fine retelling of the story of Cabez de Vaca and three other survivors who explored the southwestern United States in the 1500s, as told by a Moroccan author from the perspective of Estaban/Mustafa, a slave.

Evening is the Whole Day, by Preeta Samrasan.  An intricate novel about a family of Indian descent in post-colonial Malaysia; a family, like their country, full of secrets, anger and long-held resentments.

The Palace Walk, by Naguib Mahfouz. A novel about a family in Cairo at the time of World War I by the first Arab writer to win the Noble Prize in Literature.

Black Star Nairobi, by Mukoma Wa Ngugi.  A detective story set against the backdrop of violence in Kenya that raises political and moral questions about “doing good.”

A Far Horizon, by Meira Chand. An historical novel set in Calcutta in 1756 about events in the British colony leading up to its conquest and destruction by a native ruler.

Ancestor Stones, by Aminatta Forna.   The interwoven stories of four wives of the same man in West Africa whose lives span the twentieth century.

I left the links active to Marilyn’s magnificent reviews – I just went down the rabbit hole of her blog, I am LOVING every post, and have some overlap of books with her… I’m a little obsessed to say the least.

For me, reading is about exploring the world both past and present, and trying to soak in as much as I can. I don’t need to steep myself in the world I already know and experience. I want to push the boundaries of my perspective and experience by purposefully seeking out perspectives that are different, that challenge me, that shake up my world, that even contradict what I know. I hope you guys do, too.

Reading Challenge 2015 update: 41 of 60 books

I’m about 2/3rds of the way complete towards my goal of reading 60 books this year! I started really tracking my reading in 2014, with no set goal in mind. I ended up reading 54 books. For 2015, I upped my goal to an even 60.

I read every night before bed for anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. On my days off (I work part time), I can get in a couple hours of extra reading time, and on the weekends I sometimes spend mornings or afternoons reading.

I am pretty broke, so my partner and I don’t go out all that often, leaving me with a lot of time to spend reading. He is in law school, so he spends a lot of time studying, and I don’t want to watch our shows without him, so I usually read or surf the net while he is studying. Ha, I don’t think anything is more frustrating than wanting to watch the next episode, but your tv partner is busy!!! I’m very serious about my shows…

Also, I work part time, which gives me extra time to dedicate to reading that I know not everyone else has. If I could afford to, I would work part time forever! It’s so wonderful. I think those European countries with the 4 day work week are really onto something. I was unemployed for 5 months before getting hired at my current job, which I love – its an amazing institution, with great coworkers, and I’m doing productive work. I want to stay in this position and show some growth/development, and get some longevity on my resume – I’ve jumped around a lot the last few years, so all my positions are only for 1 or 2 years. I think scraping by on a low salary is worth establishing myself a little – plus my job title sounds prestigious (if I do say so myself), which I think will help a lot whenever I move on. My current plan is to wait until Spring/early Summer 2016 to look for a better paying job, either with the same institution as an internal applicant or elsewhere, after I’ve reach an official year in my current position. Plus, I’ve heard rumors of people retiring in my department, meaning that positions could open up or roles could change… you gotta be patient sometimes.

Sorry for a detour into personal details – but I get a lot of questions about how I have so much time to read, or how I’m able to read so much. It’s a combination of having the time to do it, and making it a priority. I always read at night. Reading during the day is an added bonus, especially if I’m in the middle of an amazing book. If I’m really into a book, I’ll take my kindle to work and read on my hour lunch break.

Reviewing the 41 books I’ve already read, I’m really proud of myself! I’ve read some amazing books this year, and I hope that the fall and winter have even more good reads in store for me. Click here to browse my 2015 Reading Challenge on GoodReads. You can always add me on Goodreads, I love seeing what everyone else is reading!!

Favorite World War II Novels

I was so excited thinking about other novels of WWII that I had to dedicate a whole post to it..

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer – try not to become entranced as a young German soldier and French teenage girl’s fates become more and more entwined.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

  • Charlotte Grey by Sebastian Faulks – a Scotswoman joins the French resistance – but is it to help the cause or to find the MIA airman who she loves? I love Sebastian Faulks! Birdsong is another great war novel, but set during WWI.

In blacked-out, wartime London, Charlotte Gray develops a dangerous passion for a battle-weary RAF pilot, and when he fails to return from a daring flight into France she is determined to find him. In the service of the Resistance, she travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. Here she will come face-to-face with the harrowing truth of what took place during Europe’s darkest years, and will confront a terrifying secret that threatens to cast its shadow over the remainder of her days. Vividly rendered, tremendously moving, and with a narrative sweep and power reminiscent of his novel Birdsong, Charlotte Gray confirms Sebastian Faulks as one of the finest novelists working today.

  • Suite Française by Irene NemirovskyConsidered Nemirovsky’s unfinished masterpiece, Suite Francaise is about the fall of Paris from the perspective of various characters in part 1, and then life in a small village outside of Paris under Nazi occupation in part 2 – this book is unfinished because Nemirovsky was deported and sent to Auschwitz where she died during the war. Her daughters discovered the manuscript in the 1990s and it was published in 2004.

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.

  • THE CAZALET CHRONICLES by Elizabeth Jane Howard – Read these 5 amazing books immediately. The story starts in 1937, and continues through the war and after it, chronicling the life of a large English family through the generations. My mom turned me onto this series, and it is beautiful and engaging and sad and inspiring. Ugh! One of my favorite favorite series ever. While it is set during WWII, the story takes place on the home front.

Here is a summary of Book 1, The Light Years:

In 1937, the coming war is only a distant cloud on Britain’s horizon. As the Cazalet households prepare for their summer pilgrimage to the family estate in Sussex, readers meet Edward, in love with but by no means faithful to his wife Villy; Hugh, wounded in the Great War; Rupert, who worships his lovely child-bride Zoe; and Rachel, the spinster sister.

This family will become your own. I have laughed and cried with these characters, oh I just love them.

  • Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning – this series became my life – I read these SIX novels as 2 trilogies The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy, which I believe is how they are published now. When Manning first published them in the 1960s, I think they came individually.

The Balkan Trilogy is the story of a marriage and of a war, a vast, teeming, and complex masterpiece in which Olivia Manning brings the uncertainty and adventure of civilian existence under political and military siege to vibrant life. Manning’s focus is not the battlefield but the café and kitchen, the bedroom and street, the fabric of the everyday world that has been irrevocably changed by war, yet remains unchanged.

At the heart of the trilogy are newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest—the so-called Paris of the East—in the fall of 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland. Guy, an Englishman teaching at the university, is as wantonly gregarious as his wife is introverted, and Harriet is shocked to discover that she must share her adored husband with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Other surprises follow: Romania joins the Axis, and before long German soldiers overrun the capital. The Pringles flee south to Greece, part of a group of refugees made up of White Russians, journalists, con artists, and dignitaries. In Athens, however, the couple will face a new challenge of their own, as great in its way as the still-expanding theater of war.

Not only is this about the war, but it is totally a book about marriage. I need to reread these, I think I was 18 or 19 when I first read them. Now I’m 26 and about to be married… isn’t it funny how differently you connect with a book when you read it at different ages?

And in part 2, The Levant Trilogy:

In The Levant Trilogy Olivia Manning returns to the story of the young English couple Guy and Harriet Pringle, last seen, at the end of The Balkan Trilogy, departing from Athens ahead of the invading Nazi army. Now, in the spring of 1941, they arrive in Egypt as Rommel’s forces slowly but surely approach Cairo across the Sahara from the west. Will the city fall? In the streets the people contemplate welcoming a new set of occupiers, while European refugees and well-heeled Anglo-Egyptians prepare to pack their bags. And at night, everyone who is anyone flocks to the city’s famed hotels and seedy cabarets, seeking one last dance before the tanks roll in.

Manning describes the Pringles’ ever complicated marriage and their motley group of friends and foes with the same sharp eye that earned The Balkan Trilogy a devoted following. And she also traces the fortunes of a marvelously drawn new character, Simon Boulderstone, a twenty-year-old recruit who must grapple with the boredom, chaos, and fleeting exhilaration of war.

Whew! What a post! But I just had to share these amazing novels. Some of these reads were (dare I say?) life changing for me. They are all very tied up in my sense of self, I think because I read most of them for the first time between the ages of 17 and 21. I have reread The Cazalet Chronicles many times, the books are like visiting old friends, or returning to a favorite vacation spot. The Fortunes of War I need to reread. All the Light We Cannot See has a lot of hype surrounding it, but it is completely deserved.

Someone, please read some of these so I have a friend to talk about them with.