The Spy (Paulo Coelho)

Hello all…It’s been so long!

This final semester kicked my butt. I managed to read just two books in January/early February (which I did not review but would 100% recommend as they were both excellent – A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf and Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin) before having to turn all my attention to schoolwork. BUT I just moved into a new apartment, where my stack of to-be-read books is nicely organized, and a new library card has been secured so I am back with a vengeance! The current plan is still to read 26 books within the year; right now, that means I’ll need to read about 3 books a month, which is a pace I’ve done before, so I think we can make it happen.

TitleThe Spy

Author – Paulo Coelho

Page count – 186

Year Published – 2016

Recommendation – I want to read this one again to know for sure how I feel about it. My initial impression was that it’s an intriguing story (based on real events, which is pretty cool) that makes you think about narrative (un)reliability. From whose perspective a story is being told can greatly change what we hear and what we are encouraged to believe is true.

**CW for the book: suicide, rape/sexual assault, a firing squad scene**

This book is based on the true story of Mata Hari, a famous exotic dancer who was (wrongly?) accused of being a spy for Germany during World War I. The book opens with her final moments of life. The rest is a series of letters, mostly from Mata’s perspective, recounting her life and the events that led to her being accused of espionage.

While “innocent” isn’t necessarily the first word that comes to mind to describe Mata Hari, the “crimes” for which she was actually tried in the court of public opinion – and which were used to justify her espionage accusation – were her hunger for power and fame, and use of sex to manipulate men into providing for her lavish lifestyle. People love a beautiful woman for entertainment, but she crosses a line once she asserts her own desires and fails to pretend she’s ashamed of her sexuality.

The following is a snippet from Mata’s lawyer, to Mata Hari, addressing this:

“[I wrote] a book telling the injustice of which you were victim for the sin of being a woman, for the greater sin of being free, for the immense sin of stripping in public, for the dangerous sin of getting involved with men whose reputation needed to be maintained at any cost.” (p. 168)

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Lioness Rampant (Tamora Pierce) + Year-End Review

Well, friends, it’s that time of year. My 2017 Reading Challenge goal of 36 books in the year has been met! I’ll list a few of my favorites at the bottom of this post. I’m not going to dedicate a separate post to what next year’s Reading Challenge parameters will be. I anticipate moving around April/May, and I have a stack of books I want to read through rather than pack in a box to take with me so I can’t be quite as particular about reading certain subjects or authors. BUT I will nonetheless keep the reviews coming! We’ll end the year with this gem:

TitleLioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness #4)

Author – Tamora Pierce

Year Published – 1988

Page Count – 384

Recommendation – A great way to end my year! The difficulty/complexity of these books has grown with each installment of the series, as if Pierce was writing these books to match the growing age of her target audience.

(If you haven’t read my reviews for the first three books, you can find those here, here, and here.)

This is the final book in Alanna’s “Song of the Lioness” series. Continue reading “Lioness Rampant (Tamora Pierce) + Year-End Review”

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Tamora Pierce)

If you haven’t read my reviews of the first two books in this series, you can find those here and here. In full disclosure, I’ve actually already finished the fourth and final book in this series and LOVED it. (Which also means I reached my Reading Challenge goal of 36 books for the year…YAY! I wasn’t sure I was going to make it for awhile there, but this series pushed me over the top.)

Title – The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Song of the Lioness #3)

Author – Tamora Pierce

Year Published – 1986

Page Count – 284

Recommendation – This installment impressed me less than the first two. It wasn’t bad…Just felt out of place. Like, this part of the story didn’t fit with the rest. I almost think you wouldn’t miss anything important if you just read the last three chapters (which were enjoyable and took me back to what I liked so much about the first two installments).

This book picks up where the second left off, after Alanna’s knighthood ceremony. She and her man-at-arms Coram (who has watched over her since she was a child and traveled with her to the palace when she first began her training) are traveling in the lands that make up the edges of Prince Jonathan’s kingdom. Continue reading “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Tamora Pierce)”

In the Hand of the Goddess (Tamora Pierce)

If you haven’t read my review for the first book in the series, you can find that here. This review won’t make as much sense if you don’t have some idea of where the story left off.

TitleIn the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness #2)

Author – Tamora Pierce

Year Published – 1984

Page Count – 264

Recommendation – I liked this one even more than the first. The story is a little more involved, not as simplistic.

**Spoilers ahead!!** Continue reading “In the Hand of the Goddess (Tamora Pierce)”

Alanna: The First Adventure (Tamora Pierce)

Well, friends, I might actually make my goal of reading 36 books this year! This review’s book is the first in a series of four, and I am absolutely devouring them. I finished this one early yesterday and jumped right into the second, reading the entire day and finishing it before I could even get this review written. It’s been awhile since I had a book that I just could not. put. down.

Title Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1)

Author – Tamora Pierce

Year Published – 1983

Page Count – 274

Recommendation – I really enjoyed this book! It reminds me a lot of The Queen of the Tearling trilogy I read last year but geared toward a slightly younger audience.

Alanna starts this book as an eleven-year old girl preparing to be sent away from home to a school where she will learn to be a noble lady. Her twin brother Thom will go to the castle and learn to be a knight. Neither are very happy with this situation so Alanna decides they will switch roles. Thom will go to the school to develop his skills in sorcery (Both twins have the Gift of magic). Alanna will disguise herself as “Alan” and train to be a knight. Alanna plans to keep her identity hidden as she trains first as a page and a squire until she is knighted at age eighteen. Continue reading “Alanna: The First Adventure (Tamora Pierce)”

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

I’m doing something a little bit different with my “stats” section below. It seemed too crowded to put the title and year published on the same line so those are now separated out. And I’ve been ruminating for awhile on what to do with what I used to call the “Rating” line. I enjoy the Buy/Borrow/Bypass posts by Book Riot, but I don’t think it is actually as helpful in this format as I thought it would be. And just posting my Goodreads rating doesn’t feel like it’s giving you enough info. So I’m going to try a one- to two-sentence blurb about whether I would recommend this book and, if so, to whom. Any readers of this blog are welcome to comment with your thoughts about what you actually find helpful 🙂

Title – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Year published – 2007

Author – Junot Díaz

Page count – 335

Recommendation – My reaction to this reminds me of my thoughts on The Color Purple – I think everyone should definitely read this book at least once, but I don’t know that I need or want to read it again. Would be an interesting choice for a high school English class (and it would 100% get subsequently challenged/banned).

CW: the n-word, sexual assault/violence, suicide, depression – if those subjects could trigger trauma flashbacks for you, please make sure you’re in the right headspace before reading this. Continue reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)”

The Runaway Jury (John Grisham)

Hello, friends 🙂 It’s been awhile! With less than two months to go in the year, I’ve been taking stock of how I’m doing on this year’s Book Challenge. This is the 28th book, and I challenged myself to read 36 (which, according to Goodreads, means I’m two books behind schedule). That’s ok. I originally only put myself down to read 24 (two per month), then changed it to a “stretch” goal of three per month, so I’m just happy I’ve gotten this many done. My excuse is that school has been busy this semester! In fact, I probably would have gotten through the latest one faster if it hadn’t been for school stuff. It was much more interesting than the time it took me to read it would suggest.

Title – The Runaway Jury

Author – John Grisham

Page count – 550

Rating – Buy/Borrow/Bypass + Goodreads 3/5 (Liked It)

I’ve never been especially drawn to the legal thriller/crime fiction genre. Honestly, the only reason I read this one is that I’m trying to whittle down a stack of books that I currently own but don’t want to take with me the next time I move (approximately six months from now). This is a pretty thick book so getting it out of the pile made a decent dent. But it was actually interesting! I was pleasantly surprised at how it held my attention. Continue reading “The Runaway Jury (John Grisham)”