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The Overstory

The cover of “The Overstory” by Richard Powers

Back in March, at the beginning of the quarantine, I got this idea that I would read every book that has won The Pulitzer Prize for fiction/novel. I undertook this venture because of Keanu Reeves. I watched an interview with him last year. When he was asked what his favorite book was, he replied that he would go with the book he had most recently read, The Overstory by Richard Powers. Since I’ve had a crush on Keanu since I first saw Bill and Ted in high school I immediately logged in to Amazon and ordered it. Then I promptly forgot about it, until during a fit of quarantine madness I organized all my books and came across The Overstory. I decided to make it my next read, not even knowing it had won the Pulitzer last year. It was so fantastically good that when I found out it had won the Pulitzer I thought, “I must read ALL the winners.” I’m well known that I lack moderation. I’m a go big or go home type of person.

Now about The Overstory. It is a little bit hard to describe. The book is about trees, and it follows the lives of several different unrelated characters who are passionate about trees. One is a tree hugger, another is a scientist, yet another is a video game developer, one is a man and his son who took a picture of the same tree at the same time every day for decades. Each character has a fascinating story to unfold, and I was left with a much deeper appreciation of trees.

If I could I would have rated The Over story ten out of 5 stars on Goodreads. So, thank you Mr Reeves for introducing me to this books, and giving me a lifetime journey of reading all the Pulitzer Prize winners.

Wendy

Categories
book review fiction

The Heirloom Garden

In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.

Expected publication: April 28th 2020 by Graydon House

What did I think?

Despite the fact that I am no way an excellent gardener this story inspired me to get to know the plants in my yard. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a goal of the author, but here we are. Every chapter focuses on a flower and I loved that. It was such a unique way of framing both stories.

The two timelines are equally heart wrenching. Both 1944 and 2003 life presents challenges for our two main female characters. It’s sort of a romance/ kind of like historical fiction and completely binge-able.

Categories
book review fiction

The K Team

Note: Despite the cute dogs this isn’t a kids book.

In David Rosenfelt’s newest series – a spinoff of the much beloved Andy Carpenter mysteries – Andy’s wife forms an investigative team with a former detective and his German shepherd partner.

Andy Carpenter’s wife, Laurie, was a cop, a good one. Now she helps out on Andy’s cases while also raising Ricky, their son. But she’s been chafing to jump back into investigating on her own, and when her former partner and his German shepard K-9 partner come to her with a proposal, she’s in.

From the author of the bestselling Andy Carpenter mysteries comes a spectacular new series with a K-9 main character.

Published March 24th 2020 by Minotaur Books

What did I think?

What a cool premise! I enjoyed reading this first installment of the K Team. The cop turned private investigator is one of my favorites in the mystery genre. Throw in the canine partner and I was sold. This one is perfect Stay at Home reading. I’m looking forward to a sequel.

Categories
book review nonfiction

The Lost Family

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives

You swab your cheek or spit into a vial, then send it away to a lab somewhere. Weeks later you get a report that might tell you where your ancestors came from or if you carry certain genetic risks. Or the report could reveal a long-buried family secret and upend your entire sense of identity. Soon a lark becomes an obsession, an incessant desire to find answers to questions at the core of your being, like “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” Welcome to the age of home genetic testing.

In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. Copeland explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.

The Lost Family delves into the many lives that have been irrevocably changed by home DNA tests—a technology that represents the end of family secrets. There are the adoptees who’ve used the tests to find their birth parents; donor-conceived adults who suddenly discover they have more than fifty siblings; hundreds of thousands of Americans who discover their fathers aren’t biologically related to them, a phenomenon so common it is known as a “non-paternity event”; and individuals who are left to grapple with their conceptions of race and ethnicity when their true ancestral histories are discovered. Throughout these accounts, Copeland explores the impulse toward genetic essentialism and raises the question of how much our genes should get to tell us about who we are. With more than thirty million people having undergone home DNA testing, the answer to that question is more important than ever.

Gripping and masterfully told, The Lost Family is a spectacular book on a big, timely subject.

 Abrams Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2020)

What did I think?

I joined Ancestry and started my family tree at Christmas and it is my number one new hobby. This book couldn’t have come into my hands at a better time. Each year, thousands of people send their DNA in to find out about their past, health, and as you’ll read in this book- verify their familial DNA.

It wasn’t textbookish and the narrative story of one family’s quest to find out why their DNA results didn’t match their family lore was intriguing. I fully enjoyed it and liked learning about the history of the various DNA companies.

Categories
book review Graphic Novel

Book Review- Science Comics: Crows

That’s something to crow about! Learn all about these genius birds in Kyla Vanderklugt’s Science Comics: Crows , the latest volume in First Second’s action-packed nonfiction graphic novel series for middle-grade readers!

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic—dinosaurs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, robots, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you’re a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!

Did you know that crows make their own tools, lead complex social lives, and never forget a human face? Scientists are just beginning to unlock the secrets of the crow’s brain to discover how these avian Einsteins can be as smart as some primates, and even perform some of the same cognitive feats as human children! Crows have problem-solving skills that will make you you rethink what it means to be a bird brain!

Published March 24th 2020 by First Second

What did I think?

I feel like this series and this volume goes over best in the second and third grade crowd. They label it as middle grade, but it’s on the lower end in my opinion. However, older kids and adults interested in crows are in for a treat as well. I can tell you that the crows in our yard hate our cat. They make so much noise that she runs inside when they’re around.

I had to read this book on my phone as it wasn’t available in either hard copy or as a kindle version so I may have missed some of the details pinching and zooming- but I have read other titles in the series and there isn’t anything I’d warn parents off on.

Categories
book review fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

Published March 24th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group

What did I think?

It’s hard to know what would be good to read during these weird days. If you’re looking for an old fashioned page-turning mystery this is worth consideration. This is the same author who wrote Station Eleven. In a way. it is similar that you jump around in time. In Station Eleven times were divided into before and after the flu epidemic and in this book time jumps occur before and after a 2008 type financial scandal.

The blurb above tells you all you need to know about the story and I’m afraid to say more without spoiling the twisty plot for you. I read it in a three hour binge read and was happy I stayed up late to finish it. I’d give it 5 stars.

Categories
book review YA fiction

Book Review: Hope and Other Punchlines

Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers? 

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2019
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

What did I think?

I think that it’s about time that we got some historical fiction set on and around 9/11. It is after all, a point in history that changed everything for the world. Although, there were many understandably sad parts I loved getting to know Abby, Noah and Jack. I’m going to add it to our history reading list.

Categories
on the nightstand

March 2020- Escapism Reading List

When you are asked to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of a mysterious illness, and you are a reader, you’re going to react one of two ways:

  1. Let’s analyze real life vs. all the book plots.
  2. Let’s read about anything other than a grim future.

Shockingly, I’m in camp two. I’m as surprised as you are. And so, I collected (meaning I scrolled through Good Reads) and pulled out some books that didn’t make me anxious. In fact, they all make me smile. I included a couple books for adults, but these are mostly books that we as a family enjoyed.

I have all these books listed on Amazon, but check your library for an E-book if you can. I’ll add to the list over there as I think of more.

Whether you are replicating school at home, relaxing, already homeschooling, or just letting the kids be feral: reading aloud for even 15 minutes a day will become something that they will remember, and you’ll create some shared memories.

Categories
book review Graphic Novel MG fiction

Book Review: Sparks!

Sparks is a hero and man’s best friend, but nobody suspects he’s two cats!
This Super Dog is the Cat’s Meow!

August is a brilliant inventor who is afraid of the outside. Charlie is a crack pilot who isn’t afraid of anything. Together these pals save lives every day. They also happen to be cats who pilot a powerful, mechanical dog suit! 

Always eager to leap into danger, this feline duo have their work cut out for them as they try to thwart Princess, an evil alien bent on enslaving mankind. Don’t let the fact that Princess looks like a cute, diaper-wearing baby fool you. She’s clever, determined, and totally ruthless. So when Princess and the browbeaten fools she calls servants enact a brilliant and dastardly plan to conquer Earth, August and Charlie pull out all the stops to save the day.

Published February 27th 2018 by Graphix

What did I think?

I read this in between virus naps and then had fabulous dreams about it. I don’t recommend the virus, but I’m pretty sure this story holds up regardless.
I’m so in love with graphic novels right now. They really can be the “gateway drug” to lifelong reading.
This story, in particular, is going to resonate with readers/viewers who love The Simpsons, Powder Puff Girls, Adventure Time, or Gravity Falls. That means you, older parents, and siblings, you too will laugh out loud.
These two cats, their litter box, and the ingenious way they go about battling evil are masterful—bonus points for diversity and having main characters that do hard things. There isn’t anything not to love. Also, there is a sequel due out this Summer!

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link or the one below, as it helps pay for this site.

Categories
book review Graphic Novel YA fiction

Book Review: The Oracle Code

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp (This Is Where It Ends) and artist Manuel Preitano unveil a graphic novel that explores the dark corridors of Barbara Gordon’s first mystery: herself.

After a gunshot leaves her paralyzed, Barbara Gordon enters the Arkham Center for Independence, where Gotham’s teens undergo physical and mental rehabilitation. Now using a wheelchair, Barbara must adapt to a new normal, but she cannot shake the feeling that something is dangerously amiss. Within these walls, strange sounds escape at night; patients go missing; and Barbara begins to put together pieces of what she believes to be a larger puzzle.

But is this suspicion simply a result of her trauma? Fellow patients try to connect with Barbara, but she pushes them away, and she’d rather spend time with ghost stories than participate in her daily exercises. Even Barbara’s own judgment is in question.

In The Oracle Code, universal truths cannot be escaped, and Barbara Gordon must battle the phantoms of her past before they swarm her future.

Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by DC Comics

What did I think?

I had to read this on my phone as I didn’t have a hard copy, and it wasn’t available in kindle format. The fact that I powered through- pinching and zooming should prove my zealous love/ determination to read this new graphic novel!
I loved this backstory of Barbara Gordon of the Batman Universe. She suffers significantly after a gunshot wound, with both physical and mental injuries, and I loved that lesson that disabilities are not something that needs to be healed or fixed. It is such a fantastic and robust message to have in YA books, graphic novels, and the DC universe. The reader gets the whole story of how she became the oracle. At first, she pushes everyone away, and her story into her full potential as the oracle was great to see. I also loved the art style in this all-new graphic novel. I’m a late adopter of graphic novels, and now I can’t get enough of them.
More importantly, teens today have so many great choices in fiction. This could have been awesome as a prequel showing how Barbara Gordon became the oracle, and that would have been great. Instead, it was that along with the message that disabilities are not something that needs to be fixed.
I’m looking forward to more art and story from the dynamic duo of Nijkamp and Preitano.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link or the one below, as it helps pay for this site.